Broad Ford Aerial History, Page 2
Compiled & Written by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, August 28, 2009
With Thanks To Jeffrey Antol & Penn Pilot

Aerial View #1 Over Broad Ford, PA - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

More Penn Pilot Aerial Photography

Penn Pilot Photo Centers --

Another great feature of Penn Pilot is the kind of aerial photography seen on this page, looking much like the satellite views found on other map web sites. These show the terrain and topography with or without captions, and the following examples give amazing views of the Youghiogheny River and Broad Ford area. It is plain to me why native American tribes named this site Broad Ford, and it was easy to imagine how important the river must have been to those who lived and traveled in the vicinity. Surely, this must be a prime location for archaeologists to establish digs and do research to uncover native American artifacts and settlements, along with the island and the opposite bank. So, there are at least five expansive time frames ripe for archaelogical research in this little corner of the world.

First, as mentioned above, there is the native American presence before the European influence; second, there is all the history that surrounds young George Washington and the French and Indian War; third, there is the presence of European settlers before, during and after the Revolutionary War; fourth, there is the westward expansion prior to and including the Civil War era, including the early agrarian years of places like West Overton and the subsequent establishment of the second Overholt Distillery at Broad Ford; and fifth, there is the era of coal, coke and railroads that was part of America's Industrial Revolution, including the renovations and upgrades at the Overholt Distillery site, going to roughly 1919, the year of Henry Clay Frick's death.

Okay, there is the sixth time frame, too, but mostly for historians -- the effects of Prohibition on the Overholt distilleries, its aftermath, and the big comeback. Maybe it would be difficult to get anybody interested in researching the more recent history of Broad Ford -- a seventh time frame -- which would include the demise of the coal and coke industry, and the long slide from local wealth to local economic distress, and the corporate takeover of the A. Overholt and Company Distillery at Broad Ford, leading to its demise, abandonment, and destruction. Let me end this at seven, because I really could keep going further on this.

Aerial View #2 Over Broad Ford, PA (no captions) - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

History and The Overholt Family

Henry O. Overholt Blanket, 1845

Here is where I remind everybody of the actual history of the Overholts at West Overton and Broad Ford. For the past eleven years, it has been my mission to present on my web site as much of the history as possible, weaving together stories gleaned from many sources, much as my ancestors wove blankets of many colors on their looms at West Overton.

I have carefully laid out the details as found in biographies, history books and volumes of family genealogy, featuring events from the time when Henry (Henrich) Oberholtzer packed up his sons, daughters and whole extended family into Conestoga wagons, and journeyed to Westmoreland County to join his younger brother Martin's family in a Mennonite community along the banks of Jacobs Creek.

That journey happened in the summer of 1800, and the whole family of this veteran of the American Revolution traded all the civilization the east had to offer them in exchange for the trials and tribulations (and wars yet to come) out there in the wilderness areas of Western Pennsylvania. But as sons and grandsons, daughters and granddaughters, they worked hard to build a community and keep alive a hope for a better future. No less remarkable were other families who made the same leap of faith, but this family was my family, and I am glad I found them.

Strengthened by their Swiss heritage and Mennonite theology, the Overholts steadfastly and effectively wove together their dedication to family, cooperation with neighbors, and friendship among peers, and persistently remained in the vanguard of agricultural innovation and business enterprise. The whiskey business of Abraham Overholt was only one of the family's contributions to the area. In fact, members of the Extended Overholt Family were valued so highly that their stories were recorded for posterity in many different volumes of Western Pennsylvania history. The admiration felt by their community continued well into the height of the Industrial Revolution -- the glow of it had a halo-effect on the young Henry Clay Frick (one of Abraham's grandsons), giving him many shoulders to stand on as he sallied forth to become a millionaire by the time his 30th birthday rolled around.

Only in recent times has admiration for the Overholts been lost, when citizens have forgotten to remember their own past, and when the actual contributions of the family have been eclipsed by the complicated story Frick left behind. In the vacuum of collective memory loss, West Overton has been given over to Civil War reenactments, Halloween fright nights, and other revenue-earning plans like renting out the barns for dances and weddings. West Overton has so much more to give to the community than that.

My contribution to future generations will be the work I have published to celebrate a family worth remembering. I am an Overholt. The Overholts and Stauffers, like all the other surnames recorded in our family tree -- they were my ancestors. West Overton is my home because of them, and because of their endeavors, their success at Broad Ford was my success, too. And if I am lucky, I will get to add to the history of my family, and thereby get a chance to benefit the future.

Aerial View #3 Over Broad Ford, PA - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

Aerial View #4 Over Broad Ford, PA - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

Aerial View #5 Over Broad Ford, PA - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

Curious Terrain, or "Hey! What IS that?"

While collecting the aerial photos, I found the next few shots intriguing, because they show what appears to be a huge hat floating down the river! Above and to the right of the "hat" can be seen something -- a sandbar? -- that looks like part of an aircraft, or maybe like a sarcophagus with a human face (if you look at it sideways). Surely they are perfectly natural objects, or acid run-off from local mines. Still, it all looked very strange to me, so they are included here to pay homage to the inscrutable "human face" that NASA photographed on the surface of Mars a few years ago. (Jeffrey, this hat-tip is for you!)

Aerial View #6 Over Broad Ford, PA - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

Aerial View #7 Over Broad Ford, PA - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

Aerial View #8 Over Broad Ford, PA - Penn Pilot Photo Centers

See More Photos

With a bow to those who are the real experts, I hope just looking at the aerial photographs on this page have been helpful in suggesting how much the geographic location of Broad Ford, and its easy accessibility to the Youghiogheny River, shaped the history of the A. Overholt and Company Distillery. You are invited to be enlightened further by seeing more photographs in several new web pages about Broad Ford.

Broad Ford Dismantled shows the effects of the dismantling of the last-standing bonded warehouse and other buildings that occurred this past spring, featuring the photography of cjb19772009, who publishes his work on the Flickr photo sharing web site. Currently cjb is changing his Flickr name to Mtnbiker09, but for the time being, look for his work under the cjb19772009 moniker.

In Broad Ford Distressed, cjb shows us the current conditions of what is left at the site, and two pages under a new banner, Broad Ford Forsaken, reveals cjb as a contemplative artist studying abandonment and desolation among the haunted remains of the Overholt Distillery complex. And then you should remember to visit the four new pages of Broad Ford Views, consisting of a collection of all the best bird's eye views of Broad Ford that could be found on the World Wide Web.

Go on to Broad Ford Dismantled, or the first page of Broad Ford Distressed,
or to the first page of Broad Ford Forsaken, Inside Looking Out.

Go on to Broad Ford Views 2, the first of four new pages in the Views series.

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