The Extended Overholt Family Foundation
Karen Rose Overholt Critchfield, Founder

   
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West Overton
West Overton was the town created and settled by Henrich Oberholtzer (Henry Overholt) and his extended family, along with many other families initially drawn there by the work available on the family farms. Over time, the town changed from a purely agricultural community to a thriving center of business activity. The West Overton families operated successful farms, planted and harvested their crops, smoke-cured meats, wove cloth for clothing and coverlets, milled grain, operated a general store, supplied wagon trains going further west, and distilled a famous Pennsylvania rye whiskey. And this covers only the first two chapters of the whole story.

Currently known as West Overton Village, this remnant of West Overton is located on a narrow wedge of land between West Overton Road and Route 819, northeast of Scottdale, PA.

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The Story of West Overton
On April 25, 1800, Revolutionary War veteran Henrich Oberholtzer sold his well-appointed and very successful Bucks County farm in Eastern Pennsylvania. Then he loaded his wife and entire family into a train of covered wagons, and set out on a 300-mile journey to "the wild lands" of Westmoreland County, located in the southwestern portion of the wide commonwealth. The company included Henry's five sons, seven daughters, five sons-in-law, two daughters-in-law, and thirteen grandchildren, carrying with them many "goods and chattels." Like Henry, all those who had owned farms had sold them, too, and were prepared to sink their combined wealth into a new corner of the world.

Traveling along the new government road (close to today's Route 30), the family crossed the Allegheny Mountains, probably turned off the road at Greensburg, then headed southwest for East Huntingdon township, arriving in the summer of 1800. The family circled their wagons and set up camp not far from the land that Henry would purchase for his new homestead. As reported by Winifred Paul in Along the Banks of Jacobs Creek, according to Westmoreland County Deed Book 9, page 163, William and Eleanor Newell of Allegheny County, PA, sold to "Henry Overhold" 260 and one-half acres of land for 1300 pounds, on June 7, 1803. The tract was called Rostraver, and had been patented by Newell on December 18, 1801. Henry's married sons and daughters settled their families nearby and around their father's place, and West Overton became a reality.

Abraham Overholt: Weaver, Master Distiller, Entrepreneur

Abraham Overholt was his father's tenth child, the fourth of Henry's five sons. Only 6 days before Henry sold his Bucks County farm, Abraham had celebrated his 16th birthday, so he made the journey across the length of Pennsylvania in the summer of his 16th year. At the time, Abraham was already a well-trained weaver, having learned skills passed down through many generations of Oberholtzer families, dating back to their Swiss origins. His older brother Martin was also a weaver, a skill he passed down to his son, Henry O. Overholt, who became known for his beautifully woven coverlets.

Weaving was Abraham's chief occupation during the next decade at West Overton, but it was not his only contribution, for he had also learned the art of distilling from his father to the point of perfection. Abraham's distilled spirits became well-known in the region as a product worth spending money for. In the year 1810, about the time Abraham and Maria Overholt were expecting the birth of their first child, he approached his elders and convinced them to allow him to start distilling as a commercial business. Winning his case, he built a log cabin distillery and set about creating a rye whiskey worthy of legend.

The unmatched quality of Overholt whiskey, coupled with an excellent and constantly evolving business model, made Abraham's products famous, especially his Old Farm brand Pennsylvania pure rye whiskey, and his A. Overholt & Co. brand. He and Maria brought eight children into the world: Henry (farmer, distiller & father of 7 children with Abigail Carpenter), Anna (mother of 10 children with John Tinstman), Jacob (businessman, builder, entrepreneur & father of 9 children with Mary Fox), Abraham (businessman & father of 4 children with Mary Ann Newmyer), Elizabeth (mother of 6 children with John W. Frick), Martin (father of 6 children with Maria Wakefield), Christian (farmer, distiller, merchant, banker, member of the PA Board of Commissioners & father of 6 children with Katherine L. Newmyer), and John (died single, age 20).

Learn more about West Overton, The Overholt Family, master distiller Abraham Overholt, and The Extended Overholt Family at The Overholt Family Tree ~~ Karens Branches.

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