West Overton in the News
Written & Edited by Karen Rose Overholt Critchfield, September 8, 2003



West Overton News 2003
Researching Published Newspaper Articles
From November 16, 2003 back to January 16, 2003
~~ Updated February 23, 2004 ~~

[Corrections made to URLs]

[Due to the nature of this story, I am including the whole article.]

Historical site hires new director
by Jeffry Katarski, Tribune-Review, Sunday, November 16, 2003

Grant Gerlich had heard of the West Overton Museums, but he had never visited the site prior to spotting a job posting on the Internet for the position of executive director.

After touring the sprawling historical complex and meeting with its board of directors, Gerlich had seen enough -- enough to make him want the job when it was offered to him.

A native of Pittsburgh, Gerlich will begin managing the day-to-day operations at the Scottdale area tourist attraction Monday. He replaces Mary Ann Mogus, a retired educator who has been serving in an interim capacity for several months.

Gerlich, 41, comes to West Overton from the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum in Pittsburgh, where he held several administrative positions.

"I'm eager to get started," Gerlich said during a recent interview. "I'm looking forward to it."

Gerlich said he was encouraged to apply for the job by a volunteer at the Soldiers and Sailors museum who also was involved with the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society and was familiar with West Overton. "He had a lot of good things to say about it," Gerlich said. "It was very positive."

During his visit, Gerlich said he was especially impressed with the 19th-century buildings and structures that dot the rolling landscape, including an old distillery and mill that contain a collection of household farm and industrial tools; a coke oven, barn, carriage house, smoke house and three-story brick mansion.

"It's like a scene from Currier and Ives," said Gerlich, referring to the famous 19th-century lithographers known for their slice-of-life portrayals of the day. "The buildings are wonderful."

Gerlich said his job at West Overton will be to work with the board to further develop the site, located along Route 819.

He said he and the board envision the site becoming a replica of an 1800s village that traces its evolution from a farming to an industrial community, complete with shops and people in period attire.

"What we'd like to have is a place that re-creates what as once there," he said. "We'd like to have a place that has a story to tell."

Gerlich said he also plans to focus his efforts on more aggressively promoting the historical attraction. He said he hopes to accomplish that by working closely with local and regional tourism agencies and other organizations.

"If there is something to see, and people know about it, they'll come," he said. "The idea is to get exposure."

Gerlich was selected for the position from a list of about 40 candidates nationwide, according to Susan Endersbe, board president.

She said Gerlich's professional experience as well as his education made him the best candidate for the job.

Gerlich earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., and a master's degree in history with a concentration in museum archiving and editing from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

From 1997 to 2000, he served as assistant curator for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh.

He then went to work for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum Trust as curator of collections and later for the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial as curator and director of operations.

Gerlich also worked for a time as an archivist for the John Heinz Regional History Center in Pittsburgh.

He also has experience in management, sales and customer relations from working in the appliance and commercial laundry industries.

Gerlich belongs to a number of professional organizations, including the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, the American Association of Museums, the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, the Western Pennsylvania Museum Council and the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, West Overton was founded in the early 1800s by a group of Mennonites from eastern Pennsylvania led by Henry Overholt.

Overholt's son, Abraham, built a three-story brick house as well as a gristmill and distillery at the site. Over the years, the community grew to include brick homes for Overholt employees, a general store and farm.

The site is also the birthplace of Henry Clay Frick, a 19th-century industrialist who made his fortune in the coke-producing industry. Frick was the son of Abraham Overholt's daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, John Frick.

Gerlich said he is confident that West Overton can be transformed into a first-rate tourist attraction. "I certainly believe it can happen," he said. "But it will take time."

Jeffry Katarski can be reached at jkatarski@tribweb.com or (724) 626-3503.


New Director
Daily Courier, Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The Board of Directors of West Overton Museums announces the appointment of a new executive director.

Grant Gerlich of Pittsburgh will join West Overton's staff on Nov. 17 and will oversee museum operations.

A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor of science degree in economics, Gerlich also graduated summa cum laude from Duquesne University with a master's degree in the archival museum and editing program. He is currently director of museum operations and curator at Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial in Pittsburgh.

Among his many accomplishments, Gerlich has experience in collection and inventory management, collection development, facilities planning, grant writing and program development. He holds memberships in the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, the American Association of Museums, the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, as well as regional organizations.

West Overton Museums is located on Route 819 between Scottdale and Mount Pleasant and can be reached by calling 724-887-7910; fax 724-887-5010; or on line at www.westovertonmuseum.org.


Linking five communities, their history: Ground broken for Coal, Coke Trail
by Amy Fauth, Daily Courier, Monday, October 20, 2003
[see photos online]

SCOTTDALE -- A dream to build a trail that intends to link five communities and their history is well on its way to becoming a reality.

That happened Sunday when representatives from the Regional Trail Corp., the Coal and Coke Trail Chapter, and the five municipalities the trail passes through, along with special guests, gathered at Kendi Park in Scottdale for a day many thought would never come -- the ground-breaking for the Coal and Coke Trail.

. . . . Eventually, there are plans to link the trail with West Overton Museums and the Youghiogheny River Trail.

Anyone interested in attending a CCTC meeting, they are held at 4:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the West Overton Stock Barn. . . .


Talk a ghostly walk through history
by Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Thursday, October 9, 2003

[other stories including:]

= The West Overton Museums have held several interesting, informative workshops and demonstrations in the past, and this fall it promises to continue that tradition. From 3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 23, the West Overton Museums will be holding a weaving workshop and dinner in the Museums Distillery Building. Area weavers will be demonstrating the traditonal styles of weaving, including the making of Overholt Coverlets. Tours begin at 3 p.m. followed by demonstrations at 4 p.m. Dinner will be served at approximately 5 p.m. followed by a question and answer period that will conclude the evening. Cost is $20 for the entire event. Reservations are requested. Call 724-887-7910 for reservation and information.


Bocce anyone? Laurel Highlands Chamber holds first annual tournament
Daily Courier, Tuesday, August 12, 2003

As far as they know, it has never been done in the area before, and that is precisely the reason they're doing it. The Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring its first annual bocce tournament at West Overton Museums from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 24.


[Due to the nature of this story, I am including the whole article.]

Heritage Singers alive and well
by Rachel R. Basinger, Daily Courier, Friday, August 8, 2003

SCOTTDALE - Despite the recent changes at West Overton Museums, one thing is for sure, the Heritage Singers are alive and well, but their performances will have a new location. Instead of pleasing crowds at the museum, the group's annual play will be at Scottdale Showtime theater on Pittsburgh Street.

"Since 1977, the Heritage Singers did an annual play at the museum and that venue seems to be closed to us at the moment, so we're going to continue that 25-year tradition at Showtime," said Rodney Sturtz, director of the group.

Sturtz was director of the museum, but was asked to leave in June after signing the name of the board president to a check.

"When I was told to leave the museum, the Heritage Singers didn't want to go back there, but they did want to continue with the play that we had already been working on," said Sturtz.

He added that within hours of his leaving the museum, he was contacted by board members of Scottdale Showtime theater, offering their location for the singers to perform.

"Whether we're at our normal venue or not, we continue to be a viable group," said Sturtz. "We're very pleased that the board of directors (at Scottdale Showtime) is allowing us to perform there. They've been very, very gracious to us."

Rhonda Allison has been performing with the group since its inception, and has mixed feelings.

"We've been performing at West Overton for 26 years, so to go somewhere different is a little uncomfortable, but we're happy to be performing at Showtime," said Allison.

"We just need people to know that we're still alive and still kicking and still doing what we do," she added.

Sturtz added that the whole situation has been a little awkward.

"It was sort of difficult for us, all of a sudden, to end our association with West Overton, and although the museum would probably like the singers back, they will not go back without me," said Sturtz.

Every year the Heritage Singers pick some sort of historically interesting event, person or situation, write an original play and set it to music for a performance, according to Sturtz.

This year's show, which will be held on Sept. 19, 20 and 21, is "Milltown Yank," a play about the Scottdale Cardinals baseball team adapted from a book written by Matt Miller of Scottdale.

The Scottdale Cardinals baseball team was part of the Mid-Atlantic League and represented Scottdale from 1925 to1932. Some of the players even ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It's a story about a kid who comes to Scottdale from Iowa to be a member of the Scottdale Cardinals baseball team," said Sturtz. "We took the story and adapted the story into a play and then found as many thinly disguised excuses as possible to put in a song."

Some of the songs are originals written by Sturtz, but other songs in the production include, "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame," "Button up your Overcoat," "The Trolley Song" and "Take me out to the Ballgame."

"We wanted the people in town who loyally come to our shows to know that in spite of what's happened at West Overton, the Heritage Singers still go on," said Sturtz. "And even though it's in a different place, the quality is just as good. I believe the people who attend will be positively entertained."

Rachel R. Basinger can be reached at rbasinger@tribweb.com or (724) 626-3536.


Best yet Civil War Living History weekend
Daily Courier, Monday, July 21, 2003 [see photo online]

The sixth annual Civil War Living History event held at West Overton Museums this past weekend was, in one word, successful.

With beautiful, balmy weather, more than 300 re-enactors and plenty of spectators, it was the best Civil War Living History weekend held at West Overton Museums thus far.

According to Mary Ann Mogus, interim director for West Overton museums, this just might have been the first year that it didn't rain for the event.

"This is one of the best days we've ever had," said Mogus. "It turned out to be very perfect."

. . . . Although all re-enactors have participated in battle re-enactments at other places, they all concurred that the site of West Overton Museums was wonderful because of its authentic buildings.

"It's a nice layout," said Shroyer. "I like the smaller events -- the ones that have true history to them."

"This setting is especially beautiful," said Vaughn. "It's the nicest as far as layout, and it has beautiful buildings."

"It's just a beautiful place and it's unique," said Taylor. "It just always puts everyone in the mode."

Spectators were excited by the authenticity of the battles, but Mogus said it best:

"It's like Manassas, except everybody is going to run down for snow cones and Bruster's ice cream after the battle."


Civil War re-enactors camp at West Overton
Tribune-Review, Friday, July 18, 2003

Civil War fans won't have to travel halfway across the state or to major battlefields to enjoy a weekend of battles, drills, camp life and even a mounted cavalry.

On Saturday and Sunday, a Civil War re-enactment will take place at the West Overton Museums, in Scottdale. Events chairman Robert Kendra boasts that it is "the largest and most comprehensive" staging in the area.

The site has been hosting Civil War events for about six years.


West Overton Museums plans re-enactments this weekend
Daily Courier, Thursday, July 17, 2003 [see photo online]

It's the best time of year for Civil War buffs. More than 300 re-enactors from as far away as Virginia, Maryland and Indiana will participate in the 6th annual Civil War Living History event, which will be held this weekend at West Overton Village.

This will be the first year that Greensberg resident Bob Kendra is in charge of the event. He said a lot of added activities will highlight the weekend.

"This is the first time ever in this area that we'll have mounted cavalry," said Kendra about one of the biggest Civil War re-enactments in western Pennsylvania.


[Due to the nature of this story, I am including the whole article.]

West Overton Museums hires interim director
by Marsha Forys, Tribune-Review, Friday, July 11, 2003

A Greensburg woman has been named interim executive director of the West Overton Museums in East Huntingdon Township.

The museums' board of directors met Wednesday and appointed Dr. Mary Ann Mogus to temporarily fill the vacancy created bythe dismissal three weeks ago of Rodney Sturtz, who had served as executive director for the past seven years.

Mogus holds master's degrees in biophysics and popular writing and a doctorate in biophysics. She is retired from a teaching career at East Stroudsburg State University, where she served as the Physics Department chairwoman for six years.

She also has served on the board of directors of the Monroe County Historical Society and as a volunteer archivist at West Overton since 1999. She edits the newsletters of the Old Salem Volunteer Civil War Round Table and the Westmoreland Archaeology Society and has published numerous articles, including several in Focus magazine of the Tribune-Review.

This fall, she will teach two continuing education courses at Westmoreland County Community College, one on military ballooning in the Civil War and the other on aviation history in Westmoreland County.

Since volunteering as an archivist at West Overton, Mogus said she has gained a great appreciation for the small Westmoreland County museum.

"It is identified with Henry Clay Frick, but it is really much larger than that," Mogus said, referring to the site's connection to the Overholt family and the distillery business that once thrived there.

"It also has significant archival and artifact resources," she said.

As for her, and the museum's, future plans, Mogus said, "This is not something I plan to do permanently. I'm just helping out to give them a chance to take applications and find a permanent replacement."

Except for the probable cancellation of September's planned Heritage Play, Mogus said the museum's 75th anniversary schedule remains largely unchanged.

"The museum is going to continue on as it has," Mogus said.

Work is almost completed on the Young Frick House, which is being renovated with funding and volunteer labor from the Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale Rotary clubs.

The Civil War Living History Weekend also will be held July 19 and 20 as planned, Mogus said. About 300 re-enactors are scheduled to participate in several battle re-enactments involving infantry, artillery and cavalry.

A re-enactment of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender will be held Sunday. there also will be Ladies Tea on the museum front yard each day, tours of the museum, Sutler's tents selling Civil War items and refreshments. the activities are free with regular museum admission.

The activities are being held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 19 and from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 20. The museum is located about one mile off Route 119, along Route 819, north of Scottdale.

Marsha Forys can be reached at mforys@tribweb.com or 724-626-3582.


West Overton Museums hires interim director
Daily Courier, Friday, July 11, 2003

A Greensburg woman has been named interim executive director of the West Overton Museums in East Huntingdon Township. [same article as the one above]


Save yourself a seat for the great train robbery
Daily Courier, Thursday, July 10, 2003

The West Overton Museum's Civil War train robbery will be held July 19. Call the museum for details at 724-887-7910 or the Westmoreland Scenic Railroad Office, Pittsburgh Street, at 724-887-6676. Make your reservation soon so you have a seat.


Scottdale Band to perform at gazebo
Daily Courier, Thursday, July 3, 2003

Like to sing? Join the Heritage Singers at its 2 p.m. rehearsal Sunday at Christ United Methodist Church, 203 Market St.

Did you call Sharon Yoder at 724-887-4335, about your child attending art camp at West Overton Museum? Camp will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.


Briefy speaking
TheTribune-Review, Sunday, June 29, 2003


An art camp will be held in two sessions July 7, 9 and 11 and July 14, 16 and 18 at West Overton Museums, Scottdale. A morning session from 9 to noon will be for children who have completed first through third grades, and an afternoon session from 1-4 is for children who have completed fourth through eighth grades. Registration fee is $45 per student for both weeks or $25 for one week. Deadline to register is Wednesday. Call West Overton at 724-887-7910 for more information.


[Due to the nature of this story, I am including the whole article.]

Sturtz signs president's name to check
by Richard Gazarik for the Daily Courier, Friday, June 20, 2003

The former executive director of the West Overton Museums in East Huntingdon Township said he was fired Wednesday because he signed the board president's name to a check for several thousand dollars.

Rodney Sturtz, who had led the nonprofit organization since 1996, was fired by board President Susan Endersbe, of Scottdale, shortly after he arrived for work that morning.

"There was an incident with a check that I did sign because it was expedient to get the check to the person who needed it to make sure he didn't have to lose his credibiltiy on a job that he did for us," Sturtz said.

"I just wanted to fulfill that promise. I didn't think it was such a terrible thing to do. It was a large number. It was several thousand dollars."

A board member who spoke on condition of anonymity said the check totaled $17,000.

At first, Sturtz said he "didn't have any idea" why he was fired and added, "I'm sorta in the dark." But later, he admitted he signed Endersbe's name to the check.

Sturtz also is president of the Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce and directs the Heritage Singers, a group that performs as part of the displays at West Overton. "I doubt it if the group continues," he said.

The West Overton Museums -- located off Route 119 between Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale, is operated by the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society. Established as a farming settlement in the early 1800s, the area was home to industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who was born there in 1849.

Frick's daughter, Helen Clay Frick, purchased the buildings in 1922 and founded the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society to maintain the property. The Frick Foundation contributes financially to the nonprofit organization, which relies on donations and state grants for operating funds.

In a news release announcing Sturtz's departure, Endersbe said West Overton is "undertaking a reorganization to facilitate ongoing development in the museums and village. The goal of the organization is to facilitate the restoration of West Overton Village, enhance the museum and establish a sound financial structure."

Endersbe did not respond to requests for comment.

Checks issued by West Overton require two signatures -- those of Endersbe and Sturtz. Sturtz said he simply was in a hurry and explained the check would be covered by the receipt of money from the Frick Foundation.

The board reportedly plans to conduct an audit to determine if Sturtz signed other checks in Endersbe's name. However, Sturtz said the audit has been done already and noted that the board expects the results in July.

"I'm not sure why they would want to do another one," he added.

According to a copy of a 2001 tax return that all nonprofit organizations are required to submit to the Internal Revenue Service, West Overton had net assets of nearly $800,000, total revenue of $211,161 and toal expenses of $139,868. Most of its money came from government grants that totaled $153,304.

Sturtz earned $22,505 annually, according to the tax return.

Over the years, the organization has received various state grants from the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Pennyslvania Heritage Park Program and the Keystone Historic Preservation Program.

Earlier this month, West Overton recieved $13,000 fromWestmoreland County from revenue generated by the county's 3 percent hotel tax.


Sturtz no longer with West Overton Museums
Daily Courier, Thursday, June 19, 2003

The names Rodney Sturtz and West Overton Museums have come to be synonymous over the last few years, but that changed on Wednesday morning after he was approached by board members and told he was dismissed. According to Sturtz, he went to work early Wednesday to catch up on some work before a tour group came for lunch.

"At 9:30 a.m. several members of the museum board came into the museum, but I was on the phone," said Sturtz. "When I was finished, Susan Endersbe (president of the museum board) told me that the board had met last night and decided to dismiss me.

I was to leave immediately and any personal belongings would be packed up and sent to me," Sturtz added.

In shock, Sturtz managed to pick up his address book, a grocery list from his wife and an order for some music for his church choir.

"As I was leaving, Mrs. Endersbe asked Marvin Snyder, another board member who is also a lawyer, to look at the items."

He added that he had no idea that the board was considering terminating him . . . .


Wagon Train and Fair Coming to Town
Daily Courier, Thursday, June 19, 2003

Many of us at one time or another, as children or even adults, have fantasized about what life would have been like back in the pioneer days. . . .

From 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, stop over at the West Overton Museums and help celebrate its 75th anniversary by attending the annual Founders Day. All tours, with the exception of the quilt show, will be free to all that day. Don't miss out on the opportunity to visit one of our wonderful, local attractions. The museum is opened from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Founder's day at West Overton
Daily Courier, Thursday, June 19, 2003

The annual Founder's Day will be held Saturday at West Overton Museum, Route 819, Scottdale. There will be free tours the entire day except for the National Quilt show. Speaking of the quilt show, it can be seen until June 29 and the cost is $8 per show. The quilts are on display of two floors of the distillery building. Call the office at 724-887-7190 for more information.


Simple fund-raiser turns into major exhibit at museum
Daily Courier, Thursday, June 12, 2003

It started as a simple fund-raiser, but over a 20-year span the quilt show at West Overton Museum has grown to major proportions. According to Rodney Sturtz, director of West Overton Museum, 91 quilts were entered in their competition this year. "That's a record for me," said Sturtz. "I've never had a show this big before."


West Overton Museums' 20th annual show challenges quilters
The Tribune-Review, Friday, May 23, 2003

Take a handful of quilters with different styles, methods and artistic interpretations, give them all the same three pieces of fabric and the challenge to make something nice, and what do you get? In the case of the 20th annual regional quilt show at the West Overton Museums near Scottdale, they got a surprising assortment of entries for that "challenge" category in the show that runs May 27 through June 29.


Chamber mixer set for today at Miss Martha's Tea Room
Daily Courier, Thursday, May 22, 2003

. . . . The Tumbling Block Quilt exhibit starts on Tuesday and continues until June 29. Exhibitions can be seen on two floors of the Distillery building on [sic] West Overton Museum, Route 819, Scottdale. This exhibit will be traveling across the country. These quilts were selected from 41 outstanding entries from 24 states and three other countries. Exhibit hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, 724-887-7910. There is an admission fee.


Jewelry store offers unique items
Daily Courier, Thursday, April 17, 2003

SCOTTDALE - Mary Jones has always loved jewelry but thought the desire to open her own jewelry store would be impossible. that is until she found, what she calls, the perfect location. Mary's Fine Jewelry opened on Feb. 1 along route 819 in Scottdale, between the borough of Scottdale and West Overton Museums.


Scottdale organist plays at church for 70 years
The Tribune-Review, Sunday, March 30, 2003

Ruth Sturtz, of Scottdale, describes herself as "just an ordinary person nobody would be interested in." However, Rodney Sturtz, the executive director of West Overton Museums, disagrees. He said his mother is "an interesting lady with an interesting story who is anything but ordinary." Ruth Sturtz has played piano and organ at Scottdale Church of Christ for more than 70 years, according to her son. she also has 30 piano students. "That number of students would make 20-year-olds go weak in the knees," he said.


Rotaries commended for their support
Daily Courier, Monday, March 17, 2003

For the communities of Scottdale and Mount Pleasant, the West Overton Village in East Huntingdon township offers a unique opportunity to greatly boost the local tourism industry. West Overton is the only pre-Civil War-built, original village still standing in the country. For that reason, the village has the potential to become a top tourist draw not only in the Fay-West area, but also in the entire southwestern Pennsylvania region.


Rotaries unite to help restore village houses
Daily Courier, Tuesday, February 11, 2003

SCOTTDALE - West Overton Museums in East Huntingdon Township announced last year its hopes to restore the seven village houses, located in the West Overton Village (which were originally built in the 1800s), by May of 2005. Thanks to the cooperation of both the Mount Pleasant and Scottdale Rotary clubs, that milestone is one step closer to being reached.


West Overton Museums begins Parlor Talks
Daily Courier, Thursday, January 16, 2003

SCOTTDALE - Since at least 1988, West Overton Museums has put on the Parlor Talk lecture series. According to Rodney Sturtz, director of West Overton Museums, the lectures got their name (Parlor Talks) because they were originally held in the parlor of the H.C. Frick house, when normal attendance was 10 to 12 people. It was usually reserved for museum members. But, the popularity of the talks soon grew, with more and more people coming to hear what lecturers had to say. The parlor was soon too small to hold all those who attended. Today, the lecture series is still called Parlor Talks, but it is held in the basement of the old distillery building.




END OF PAGE -- Return to the first page of Karen's Branches,
or go to the other pages in this series.

West Overton News 2002
West Overton News 2001
West Overton News 2000