West Overton in the News
Compiled, Written & Edited by Karen Rose Overholt Critchfield, 1-10-06


West Overton News 2005
Researching Published Newspaper Articles
From December 14, 2005 back to January 2, 2005


Tower of Power has eyes on spring trip

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Town news [includes]

= Stop out at West Overton this weekend for a dose of holiday fun. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, the Homestead will be open, free of charge for all to visit and enjoy the holiday splendor of a time gone by. Tours are self-guided. However, volunteers will be on hand with stories and anecdotes. Join them for a peek of turn-of-the-century charm and a cup of hot apple cider. And for all of you who are still young at heart, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, there will also be a toy and train show. Join local antique toy enthusiasts who will be displaying their fun items, gadgets and trains. This is also a free event. For information, call 724-887-7910.


Schools update art collection

By Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, Tribune-Review, Sunday, November 6, 2005
Two high schools are expanding their student-owned art collections with new acquisitions.

Last Thursday, the Greater Latrobe School District Art Conservation Trust held its Annual Art Gala at the high school to buy new art for the collection, which began in 1936. The top five choices of students were announced.

Latrobe students selected 25 pieces from the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh's 94th annual exhibition and special exhibition at the Latrobe Art Center.

The selection represented a variety of media. This year, several quilts were brought back from the Pittsburgh show.

"Two of (the 25 choices) are quite political in nature, but it's art and it sparks conversation," said Jessica Golden, director of the Center For Student Creativity.

Selected as finalists were: "Jesus Get Your Gun," a quilt by Shawn Quinlan, of Pittsburgh; "Reflections," a painting by Kathleen Hicks, of Latrobe; "Death of Belief," a digital collage by Kim Curinga, of Pittsburgh; "Pascal Birthday," a painting by Diana Williams, of New Florence; and "Winter's Jewel," a painting by Joe Mattock, of Latrobe.

This year's theme, "A New Landscape," marks the construction of the courtyard adjacent to the center. The gala featured entertainment by student musicians for guests who viewed nearly 200 paintings already in the collection. Student docents presented a program on this year's contenders and guests voted for their choices, just for fun.

"This has been a growing event," said Cindy Busch, of Ligonier, the chairperson of the gala. "It's a lovely community event."

On Nov. 22, the Greensburg Salem Friends For Art will hold its second fund-raiser for a collection that began in the early 1950s, but was lost and forgotten until it was revived nearly two years ago.

Student representatives from Greensburg Salem Senior High School chose five candidate paintings from the 5 County Arts Association's recent juried show at West Overton Museums near Scottdale.

The contenders are "The Wanderer" by Elmer Knizner, of Youngwood; "Springtime" by Phyllis Koehler, of Mt. Pleasant; "Jungle Fever" by Bill Paxton, of Latrobe; "Almost Finished" by Karen Rice-Hunter, of Jeannette; and "Idyllic Falls" by John Barton, of Canonsburg.

Don Stohl, of Greensburg, is director of the new artists' group and president of Greensburg Salem Friends For Art, which revived the collection and helped to organize the Students For Art.

One of the highlights of this year's autumn-themed gala will be when Seton Hill University President Dr. JoAnn Boyle presents a painting from the original collection, which Seton Hill purchased for the high school art collection in the early 1950s.

"Top of the Hill," also known as "Homeward Hour," by Katherine Friedel, was the first-prize winner in the Greensburg Art Club's 1949 show. It's a cityscape of Greensburg viewed from North Main Street, on the hill descending from the middle school, which was the high school when the collection began.

The collection was taken down when the high school was remodeled. Some of the art was put into storage, then later hung in administrative offices. Other paintings were actually thrown in the trash.

Friedel's painting was rescued by one of the middle-school faculty, who recently turned it over to the school. Another teacher helped locate another painting that had made its way to Texas.

"We got nine (original) paintings back, and two more have been returned since our gala last year, plus we got two new acquisitions," said Rosemarie O'Neill, who serves with Dave Redinger as teacher advisers to Students For Art.

"It's gratifying to see that the students wish to continue this collection," Stohl said. "We're looking to have more support this year from the citizens of Greensburg and the alumni of Greensburg Salem High School."

The gala on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. at the high school will feature a carving dinner buffet with entertainment by student musicians. Students will present information about the art and the artists.

Tickets cost $25 each. For more information, call 724-837-5592.

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller can be reached at .


The halls are decked at West Overton

By Marilyn Forbes, The Daily Courier, Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Keeping in its tradition of offering the community educational, interesting and fun events, the West Overton Museum has two upcoming holiday events that will be sure to please adults and children.

"Decked Out December" will feature the West Overton Village decorated in traditional holiday decor, reminiscent of a step back in time to a classic Charles Dickens story.

The Overholt Homestead has been decorated following the German Mennonite traditions that were practiced by the original owners, the Henry Overholt family.

Decorated trees are scattered throughout the mansion, with most of the decorations handmade by the organization's administrative assistant Connie Fox, who researched and studied the traditions the Overholts practiced.

"I read a lot about making them (decorations)," Fox said. "I did some research, and now I'm also making them for home."

Some of the decorations Fox made include dozens of strung homemade cookies, in scents of clove and ginger, as well as strung popcorn with dried citrus fruit garland.

"Citrus fruit was given as gifts at the turn of the century," Curator of Education Amber Hall explained. "It was considered to be quite exotic."

Another interesting item is the "Christmas Pickle," which is hidden on one of the trees in the mansion.

"The Christmas pickle is a German tradition," Hall said. "The first one to find the pickle hidden on the tree either got a special gift or got to open their gift first."

The walk through the house is not a structured tour, but one that can be taken at visitors' leisure, and volunteers will be on hand to explain the decor and tell interesting stories and facts.

After the tour, visitors are invited to the summer kitchen located in the front yard area of the mansion for hot apple cider.

And antique toy and train enthusiasts take note, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 17, the stock barn will be opened for the Old Tyme Train and Toy Show featuring a model contest.

Brian Corcoran, of Vintage Costumes, is an antique toy enthusiast, and will be displaying many items from his personal collection.

"I have quite a collection," Corcoran said. "I have some of my mother's original toys and an antique fire truck collection."

Corcoran will be displaying many of his treasures, as will members of the Old Potbelly Gang, a group that is dedicated to collecting and appreciating antique toys and trains.

A model contest will also be held, with the public invited to enter their favorite model. First, second and third place awards will be given in the categories of auto, military, sci-fi fantasy and others, with one best in show award.

The choice of the awards will be based on visitors' votes and judges from the Old Potbelly Gang.

"We're excited about doing this," Executive Director Grant Gerlich said. "This is the first time for the toy show. We hope that the community comes out to enjoy this, remembering the feeling of what Christmas was like as a child. Memories, that's what it's all about."

The dates for the tour are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 and 17, and 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 4 and 11. Both of these events are free.

There is still time to set up tables for the toy and train show for those who have items to show.

The cost is $10 for a six-foot table with electricity access. The West Overton Village is located between Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale on Route 819. Call the museum for information, 724-887-7910.


Holiday tours feature decor, history

By Marilyn Forbes, The Daily Courier, Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A tradition for many towns in the area is to showcase decorated homes, businesses and churches for the Christmas season.

And this year promises several elegant and interesting tours.

Mt. Pleasant, Perryopolis and Scottdale are all having tours for the holidays, with each featuring local sites open for the visitors peruse. Each tour is self-guided, and many of the homes feature unique entertainment and festive refreshments.


For the second year, the Scottdale Area Chamber of Commerce will host its Christmas Elegance Home Tour.

This year the tour will feature eight homes, and each home, with the exception of the coordinator Dennis Mulligan's residence, is new to the tour.

"The homes on the tour this year are every bit as beautiful as last year's," Mulligan said. "They are all elegant and they have their own charm."

The homes on the tour will include the Peter Loucks mansion, built in the 1830s. The Scottdale historical society is in the process of refurbishing the house, and the finished area has been decorated by contributions from Collections by Marty, Levin Furniture and Perry Floral.

The Civil War-era farmhouse of Dale and Emma Lou Mills will also be featured on the tour. It's a special feature for history buffs. An additional point of interest is that members of the original family have lived in the home throughout its 142 years.

Another site on the tour this year is the home and guest house of Randy and Awanda Pritts. The guest house is also known as the Durstine house, a newly opened bed and breakfast.

The next home on the Scottdale tour is the Rush house owned by Brian and Ruth Corcoran. The home was built in the 1830s and emanates rustic charm.

The home of Cynthia and Dennis Mulligan will again be featured this year, with the train room that features Scottdale in 1900, and also an outdoor train display.

John and Becky Halfhill are also opening the doors of the their home for visitors to enjoy this season. This home features stained glass and a grand ornate staircase.

The home of Dennis and Sue Kropff will also be included on the tour, and will feature many decorated trees.

And the last site on the Scottdale tour will be the Overholt Homestead located at the West Overton Village. The home was built in 1838 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The tour will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10, and tickets cost $15 each. Tickets may be purchased from chamber members, and at Collections by Marty or Fox's Pizza Den.


Perryopolis will have its fourth annual tour throughout the area of the historic town.

This event is sponsored by the Harvest House, with proceeds from going to a different local nonprofit organization every year. The recipient of the proceeds from this year's tour will be the St. John's Altar Society.

Joanne Torruiso, president of the altar society, featured her home last year and enjoyed the experience.

"I enjoyed talking with all the people that came on the tour. I really like having my home decorated and it was a lot of fun," she said.

The alter society is planning on giving the proceeds to the church.

"We want to thank Monica Progar for having the house tour and for sponsoring this event to benefit the St John's Alter Society," Torruiso added.

Progar, owner of the Harvest House, is the coordinator of the event, and looks forward to the response.

"I got the idea to do this here from decorating a home that was on another tour," Progar said, "and I thought, 'Our town is so cute, we should try something like that here.'"

The Perryopolis tour is listed in assigned order, with the tour ending at the St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church for refreshments.

The first home is that of Pat and Al Palmer, which is a farm house. The home will showcase their many antiques, and specially displayed for the holiday season will be their Santa Claus collection, both new and old.

The next site is the home of Carol and Dan Coldren, which features Amish furnishings, hand-carved Santa Claus representations and New Geneva pottery items.

Sharon and Patrick Thompson's home is next on the list and features Lenox china and traditional Christmas decor.

The final home on the tour is that of Theresa and Frank Krall, a quaint country home filled with a unique blending of modern and antique.

The tour will end at 5 p.m. and visitors will then be treated to music by St. John's Choir, followed by light refreshments of chicken salad on croissants and Christmas cookies.

The event will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 4, and tickets are limited. The cost is $20 per person. Tickets may be purchased from any altar society member or at the two Harvest House locations, 212 Independence St. in Perryopolis or 12 Morgantown St. in Uniontown.

Mt. Pleasant

The final holiday tour will take place throughout the Mt. Pleasant area. This tour is in its fourth year and is held as a Mt. Pleasant Historical Society fundraiser.

"I think that the holiday tour that we have is something that the community has started to look forward to," said Richard Snyder, of the historical society. "It has become popular. It helps the community bring in the Christmas spirit."

There are seven homes on the tour, starting with the farm of Rose and Greg Keefer. The farmhouse has antique decor.

The next site is the three-story farmhouse owned by Kathy and Tim Fretts.

Then, the home of Donna Minick features cathedral ceilings followed by Cynthia Stevenson's quaint bungalow located in the town's historic district.

The fifth site on the tour is the Gradisek home, which is a Tudor-style house.

Sand Hill Berries will be the next stop, and will feature a lovely decorated outdoor area, complete with entertainment and a live nativity scene.

The final home is the impressive Victorian Wiltrout house, with the tour then ending at the United Methodist Church.

A buffet table will be set up at the church, and there will be several items raffled.

The Mt. Pleasant tour will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 11. Tickets cost $12 and may be purchased from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the historical society office located in the In-Town Shops or at Patty's Place, located just west of the borough on Route 31.

All tours will include maps with brief descriptions, and all three tours will have refreshments and entertainment.


Distilleries dotted region in 1800s

The Tribune-Review, Thursday, November 17, 2005

Southwestern Pennsylvania was never a stranger to distilling spirits. Historians say local whiskey-making operations big and small dominated the industry in the 1800s.

The region was home to many distilleries, including but not limited to Old Overholt whiskey, which had its beginnings near Scottdale in Westmoreland County. In 1844, Samuel J. Thompson acquired land for a distillery in West Brownsville, Washington County.

In 1856, John Gibson bought more than 40 acres to build a distillery on the east bank of the Monongahela River, across from where Charleroi is today and just north of the Belle Vernon bridge. Greensburg Distilling also made rye whiskey at a building along South Main Street.

The Alle-Kiski Valley also was home to Schenley Distilling Co., which was established in 1888 at the junction of the Allegheny and Kiskiminetas rivers in Gilpin Township. The operation was begun by Frank Sinclair on land he acquired from Mary Schenley, who separately is known for donating the land that is known as Schenley Park in Pittsburgh.

The good times stopping rolling in 1920 with the enactment of the 18th Amendment, ushering in Prohibition. Hundreds of distilleries, many with their own brands, were forced to abandon their stock and warehouses.


Scottdale Halloween parade set for Tuesday

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, October 20, 2005

The second annual "Otherworldly Weekends" will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 22 and Oct. 28 and 29 at the West Overton Museums. The crew is promising that "this event is a must for the adventuresome." While definitely not your average ghost walk or run of the mill constructed haunted house, the experience of the tour will be filled with the strange and bizarre. Visitors can "expect the unexpected." The walking tour will be conducted by volunteer guides, toting lanterns, leading guests through many different areas of the village, telling tales. There will be a wagon hayride, reading of horror stories plus more Halloween oddities. This is timed right for the Halloween season with Scottdale and Everson's trick-or-treat events to be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 30. Readers, if you are participating in trick-or-treat, please turn on your porch light. Readers, this is a time of good, clean fun for younger and older children alike.


Man overdoses on Pritts property

Daily Courier, Wednesday, October 19, 2005

[many items]


Gerlich selected to conduct assessment

West Overton Museums Executive Director Grant Gerlich was selected by The American Association of Museums to conduct a Museum Assessment Program public dimension assessment of The Florida Air Museum in Lakeland, Fla., in early November. A public dimension assessment focuses on reviewing how effectively a museum communicates with its audience and community by examining program opportunities, exhibits, visitor services, public relations and marketing.

Gerlich has served as West Overton's executive director since fall 2003. He has been a MAP peer reviewer for the AAM for three years; he is approved to conduct assessments in public dimension and collections management.

New board members

West Overton Museums' members voted to elect four new members to its Board of Directors. They include Ed Hahn, of Pittsburgh; Marilyn McSparrin and John Mickinak, both of Greensburg; and Nancy Ponko of Scottdale.

The new directors join the following in preserving and maintaining West Overton Village: Board President Dr. Mary Ann Mogus, Vice President Maynard Brubacher, Secretary Roxanne Fox, Treasurer Lynne Kendrish, Donna Dillon and Carol Tullio. New members are stepping in for former directors who are currently taking a by-law mandated hiatus. These directors are Robert Kendra, Gilbert McGurl and former board President Susan Endersbe.


Ghosts and goblins await

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ready for something completely different? From 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Oct. 28 and 29, venture over to West Overton Museums, in the historic West Overton Village, for the second annual Otherworldly Weekends. The staff promises a fun evening filled with the "strange, bizarre and unexpected." This interesting journey through time, will feature 19th century funeral practices, complete with authentic period instruments and techniques, all demonstrated for you by the "undertaker." There are haunted catacombs to be explored, cemeteries to visit and of course, the "gravedigger." There will be spooky hay rides to enjoy as you ride through the night, searching for the ghosts of the miners, who are rumored to still walk the area of the trolley tracks, swinging their lanterns to light the way. The tours last for approximately one hour and will start every 15 minutes. Cost for the fun is only $10 for adults and $7 for children 11 and younger. There will also be readings by area authors of their award-winning original works of science fiction and horror. Light refreshments will also be served. For information, call 724-887-7910.

[other items]


Scottdale Chamber board plans meeting

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier , Thursday, October 13, 2005

[many items]

The West Overton Museum's annual membership meeting will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at West Overton Museums, Route 819, Scottdale. For more information, call 724-887-7910.

Karen's Note: I read with dread this year's article (see below) regarding the activities lined up at West Overton to mark the Halloween season, especially the part describing the mock viewing and funeral services for "the newly departed Abraham Overholt." While I sincerely hoped the folks at West Overton would be sensitive to the fact that Abraham and Maria Overholt were faithful Mennonites, the picture accompanying the article did not calm my reservations about the validity or propriety of the event.

A Mennonite pastor agreed with me that Abraham and Maria would probably not appreciate their home being the center of Halloween-style activities. Further inquiries promised a presentation of historical themes with the goal of teaching visitors about funeral practices commonly used in the 19th century. It was my sincere wish to attend the event and see for myself what was happening, but I was unable to do so.


"Undertaker" Grant Gerlich, of West Overton Museums, is getting together his authentic period embalming equipment. He is shown holding a trocar, which was an instrument used in this process. All of the period equipment has been lent to the museums by Ferguson Funeral Home of Scottdale. Marilyn Forbes/For the Daily Courier

Otherworldly Weekends promise fun and fascination

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Thursday, October 13, 2005

It's that fun holiday where ghosts and ghouls are kings, and creepy crawlies are queens. And, for at least that one time of the year, adults can all be kids again.

It's a proven fact that most of us love to be scared. Many are intrigued by tales of the unknown.

With this macabre mix in mind, Grant Gerlich, executive director of West Overton Museums and his staff of volunteers, have planned another year of fun and fantasy in staging two weekends of thrills and chills.

The second annual "Otherworldly Weekends" will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 21, 22, 28 and 29 at the West Overton Museums. The crew is promising that "this event is a must for the adventuresome."

While definitely not your average ghost walk or run of the mill constructed haunted house, the experience of the tour will be filled with the strange and bizarre. Visitors can "expect the unexpected."

The walking tour will be conducted by volunteer guides, toting lanterns, leading guests through many different areas of the village, telling tales.

The walk itself begins at the entrance gate at the front of the main house, Abraham Overholt's homestead. It will proceed to the smokehouse, where visitors will be treated to cookies and apple cider as they listen to a short history of the structure and the workings of the interior features.

From there, the tour will continue across the front yard to the spring house.

"The spring house will be set up like a home in the 19th century where a person having a contagious disease has died," Amber Hall, West Overton's curator of education, said. "There will be a black curtain over the door that symbolizes that there has been a death in the family, and the body will be displayed in the window."

From the spring house, the guests will be treated to a series of tales by some of the West Overton staff and volunteers, telling of experiences of the unexplained that they have personally witnessed at the village.

"They'll hear an account of our staff's own experiences with the supernatural," Hall stated.

After a bit of storytelling, the guests then will proceed to the main house, where they will be invited to the funeral services of the newly departed Abraham Overholt.

Guided by a candle-lit window, the guests will enter the parlor of the home, where undertaker Gerlich will recreate the embalming process and burial techniques of a turn-of-the-century funeral.

Complete will authentic equipment and decor, Gerlich will walk visitors through the process that was necessary to embalm and display a body from that era.

"Everything had to be portable for the undertaker," Hall explained. "The undertaker went from house to house and had to carry everything with him."

Gerlich promises to entertain the crowd with fun and fascinating facts about the rituals that were standard procedure a century ago.

After spending time with the undertaker, guests then will be ushered to the rear yard of the house where they will encounter a cemetery complete with a cantankerous gravedigger.

"The learning channel did two movies here in the 1990s, and they left some of their props," Hall said, one of which was a graveyard set.

From this point, the tour will visit the stock barn, where local authors will read their original stories of horror and science fiction. A visit to the "haunted catacombs" is next. A haunted hay ride wraps up the evening.

"This is a great fundraiser for us," Gerlich stated. "Last year we had about 350 people. This year, I'd like to see about 200 a night."

"It will be a fabulous time," Hall said.

The West Overton Museums are located on Route 981, between Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale.

The walking tours will begin at 6 p.m. and run every 15 minutes. The entire tour will take approximately one hour, and for safety reasons, each group is limited to 15. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children age 11 and younger. Groups of 15 or more who have scheduled and prepaid for their tours prior to Oct. 14 will receive an admission price of $7. For tickets or information, call 724-887-7910.


West Overton to hold regional art exhibit

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Thursday, September 15, 2005

Area residents in the market for a new piece of original artwork, or who simply want to enjoy the talent, skill and workmanship put into paintings and sculptures, should visit the art exhibit at the West Overton Village.

The Five County Arts Association, in conjunction with West Overton Museums, will hold its inaugural juried art exhibition from Sept. 17 through Oct. 15 in the Old Distillery building in the historic village, which is located on Route 819 between Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant.

The Five County Arts Association is a new organization that will offer regional artists an opportunity to exhibit their original works at different venues in the area.

West Overton Executive Director Grant Gerlich said he is pleased to be a part of the introduction of this organization to the public, the community, and area art connoisseurs.

"I like the idea of having the show here and getting people here who would not normally visit," he said. "We always try to get more people here and to broaden the audience base."

The Five County Arts Association is led by a volunteer Board of Citizens, who share the interest of supporting visual arts in Bedford, Fayette, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

The show will feature works of oil on canvas, acrylics, works on paper, watercolors, and different forms of 3-D art, such as sculptures. Different styles and modes will be represented, with the show fulfilling the tastes of the average and most discriminate of art collectors, Gerlich said.

There will be approximately 50 different works on display, created by various artists from the participating counties. Most of the pieces on display will also be available for purchase.

"We look forward to a good turnout from the community," Gerlich added. "Some of these pieces are just wonderful."

An opening reception will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Old Distillery.

"The reception is open to everyone, and it will give people a chance to mingle and meet with some of the artists," Gerlich said. Light refreshments will be served at the reception. Award presentations will also be made at this time.

"I'm glad that we have the space to host this event," Gerlich continued. "This will be a great opportunity for local artists to exhibit their artwork."

Show hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. The show and the reception are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact the museum at 724-887-7910.


Running the range in art

By Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, Tribune-Review, Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The 5 County Arts Association opens its first juried show on Sept. 16 at West Overton Museums, near Scottdale, with 49 pieces by artists from Westmoreland, Fayette, Bedford, Somerset and Washington counties.

"The juror, Paul Krainak, dean of fine arts at West Virginia University, told me that it was one of the most outstanding collections that he has had the privilege of jurying," said 5CAA president Don Stohl, of Greensburg.

The organization was founded earlier this year to give the region's artists another venue to show their work. The show may also serve as a source for original art for student bodies that want to start or add to school art collections.

Stohl was instrumental in revising a student-owned art collection at Greensburg Salem High School, and helping to get one started at Southmoreland High School. Representatives from Albert Gallatin High School and Uniontown High School are interested in similar programs and may look to 5CAA for juried work.

The show runs the gamut of American art from primitive to contemporary.

Pamela Kamerer, of Greensburg, was inspired by America's 18th Century itinerant artists to create "Girl With Chicken," a blonde child against rolling green hills. "Angel" is in the tradition of Pennsylvania German folk art.

Gloria Goldsmith-Hersch, of Export, painted two still lifes, "Peaches In A Glass Bowl" and "Grapes In Compote," with the distinct light and shadows of the old masters.

Mark Huber, of Hunker, created a moody boy and elderly man in the oil painting, "Grandpap Steps Down." His surreal "Escape," in mixed media, is of a man removing himself from a background collage representing time.

John Barton, of Canonsburg, Washington County, saw the perfect scene for "Rt. 711 Ligonier Farm" while on a drive.

It originally was just a collection of farm buildings but, he said, "When it was finished, it just didn't look right, so I put a cow in the foreground."

His other entry, "Idyllic Falls," is a peaceful painting of a delicate waterfalls in western New York.

Bud Gibbons, of Lower Burrell, packed his canvas onto his bike rack and crossed a stream to paint "Mountain Spring." Gibbons, who teaches art at Penn State New Kensington, always paints on site.

His other entry, "Winter To Spring," is a still life of cheerful yellow chrysanthemums in a blue Chinese vase. "I started with cut flowers in the winter, and in the lower corner is a sprig from a pear tree because spring came along while I was still working on it," he said.

Ralph Welsh, of Somerset, paints on site and founded the Casselman River Plein Air Painters, who work on location twice a week. This show features "Somerset County #50," and "Carr Farm" in his Impressionist style that sometimes borders on abstract.

Welsh attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and studied with German artists while stationed overseas with the U.S. Army. While a sergeant in Vietnam, he painted scenes on plywood housing that he said "stayed when I moved out."

He put his talent on the back burner until he became ill in 1999. "I figured that if I was ever going to paint, I had to do it now, and I've done about 350 to 400 paintings," he said. "It's the greatest therapy in the world.

Bill Paxton, of Unity Township, has two floral watercolors in the exhibit. Both are influenced by his background in botany.

"Fire Pink," a little wildflower found on dry hillsides, was rendered in the technique of a very wet watercolor page, with paints to suggest the image and black marker to fill in and give more reality to the painting.

"Jungle Fever" is strictly from his imagination. "It looks like ferns dripping, and the top of the stem sort of looks like the beak of a bird, so I just thought I'd put an eye in," he said.

Rebecca Gartley, of Connellsville, drew on nature for her two hand-built ceramic pieces, "Fern," and "Dandelion Canister," a lidded container with handles and designs of dandelion flowers and leaves.

Kent Stohl, of Irwin, is showing a pen-and-ink drawing of a fisherman's hands with his catch, in "Fish II." Catherine Rosensteel, of Greensburg, painted the inviting "All American," a watercolor of a Rhode Island home washed in the sun.

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller can be reached at .


Countdown to Scottdale Fall festival

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, September 8, 2005

The countdown to the Scottdale Fall Festival is on. The festival will be held Sept. 16 to 18. If you or your group plan to be a part of the noon, Sept. 17 parade, write to the Scottdale Fall Festival Parade, P.O. Box 493, Scottdale, PA 15683.

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On Saturday, the West Overton Museums Garden Club will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the distillery room. The museum is located on Route 819 in Scottdale.

Karen's Notes: Many articles mentioning Abraham Overholt, West Overton, and/or Abraham's whiskey business, contain inaccuracies and misidentifications, all of which a little proper research would cure. If I can find this information, so can the average newspaper reporter! My question is: Why do they not bother?

The article below is another fine example of a reporter writing about something without taking the time to do proper research. For instance, Henry Oberholtzer and his extended family (predominantly Swiss Mennonites) arrived in Westmoreland County in 1800, not "the early 1800s." Henry Clay Frick was Abraham's grandson, not his great-grandson. Mere details? Perhaps the underlying assumptions laced throughout these articles are more insidious than a few botched details.

For instance, the reporter seems unaware that it was Abraham Overholt who first discovered coal in the county, and was the first to utilize coal in his community, mill and distillery businesses. Ditto that it was Abraham's financial support which seeded many of the new business ventures that cropped up in the area, including local railroads and coal and coke enterprises, long before young Frick was folded into the mix.

In short, H. C. Frick did not spring fully formed from the head of Zeus.

Some pertinent facts: Henry Clay Frick was born in the Overholt springhouse, where his family lived for a short time. Thereafter, his family moved often within the environs of West Overton. Source material indicates that at age 14, "Clay" clerked at the store of his uncle, Christian S. Overholt in West Overton. At age 16, Clay moved to Mt. Pleasant to clerk for his uncle, Martin Overholt, living and working there for about three years. After a short stint working at the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery, his uncle, Christian Overholt, secured him a position at a Pittsburgh department store, which lasted only a short time. Other than several other periods when he lived at Broad Ford, it appears West Overton was his home until (at age 26) he took up residence in Pittsburgh, renting rooms at the Monongahela House. But his departure from living in West Overton may have begun in earnest during his illness of 1878, during which time, he stayed at the home of business partner Edmund M. Ferguson, located in the city's "fashionable Shadyside."

Additonally, F.Y.I.: The HABS report indicates that Helen Frick showed no interested in most of the buildings at West Overton, allowing them to be salvaged for their bricks, or fall into disrepair and ruin for many years, until persistent locals (Karl F. Overholt is mentioned in the HABS material) finally convinced her to buy some buildings and set up a historical society to preserve them. To my knowledge, the endeavor was never properly funded, and the site has struggled over the years merely to survive.

In short, the whole West Overton project was conceived and orchestrated by others in the community, and did not spring from the maganimous soul of Helen Clay Frick.

To reiterate: If I can find this information, so can the average newspaper reporter! My question is: Why do they not bother?


Nicholas Doblick, 20, of Sutersville, an intern with the West Overton Museum, paints overtop of the original lettering on West Overton Village's stock barn earlier this week. Doblick is a St. Vincent College history major and artist.
S.C. Spangler/Tribune-Review

Sign of historic times gets overhaul

By Marsha Forys, Tribune-Review, Friday, July 29, 2005

It's been almost 180 years since an anonymous painter first left his mark on the side of the old brick barn that stands near the center of the once-thriving 19th century village of West Overton.

Time and the elements have taken their toll, as the letters, which at one time read "Overton Stock Farm," have faded to the point they are almost indistinguishable from the weathered brick that serves as the sign's canvas.

But now the sign is about to get a renewed life, thanks to St. Vincent College student and West Overton intern Nicholas Doblick, who not only has a love of history, but also a talent for art.

Established by Henry Overholt in the early 1800s in what is now East Huntingdon Township, West Overton became home to the successful Overholt gristmill and distillery business. It also was the birthplace of coal and coke baron Henry Clay Frick, who was Overholt's great-grandson.

Frick lived in the village only as an infant, but after his death and the closing of the Overholt Distillery in 1919, his only surviving daughter, Helen Clay Frick, in 1922 began to purchase the dilapidated buildings that were still a part of the then-neglected community.

In 1928, Frick founded the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society to operate and maintain the site. West Overton Museums is now operated as a nonprofit organization, which over the past two decades has dedicated itself to restoring the original buildings still standing at the site.

Doblick, a Yough High School graduate from Sutersville, began his internship at West Overton near the end of June, at first working with fellow St. Vincent student and intern Lauren Lewandowski, and West Overton curator of education, Amber Hall, on the development of education programs. Doblick also served as a tour guide for the Overholt Homestead and helped with office work.

But it was one day when Doblick was working with museums director Grant Gerlich that his artistic talents were recognized and the idea to restore the lettering on the old stock barn began to evolve.

"We were rearranging a couple things at the museum and we needed some graphics to depict the distilling process," Gerlich said. "Nick offered to look on the Internet but couldn't find anything, so he said, 'I'll just draw it.'"

The offer came as surprise to Gerlich, who was unaware that the St. Vincent history major had once planned to attend art school.

Doblick again made use of his artist skills to create a banner for the museum's living history event, which was held last weekend.

"I could see that there was more to Nick's talent than him just saying he was an artist," Gerlich said. "He actually knew what he was doing. So, I asked him if he wanted a real project -- the sign on the stock barn. ... He couldn't wait to get started."

Doblick was so excited about the project that he braved the searing heat to begin the work on Tuesday. Weather permitting, he hopes to have the project completed within a week.

Climbing a ladder placed against the south side of the barn, Doblick first used chalk to outline the faded letters and then applied a high-quality primer. He plans to finish with two coats of white paint to recreate the simple block letters that made up the original sign.

The project was made more difficult because there were no old photographs that could be used for reference, Gerlich said.

"Unfortunately, we have very little information about the village when the Overholts were here," Gerlich said.

At first, it was thought the final word in the sign was 'Barn," Gerlich said, but it was later determined to be "Farm."

Taking a break from his painting, Doblick said, "I never thought I'd be putting my art skills to use here. I usually do studio work, especially pen and ink drawings, but I love exterior painting using acrylic paints."

Doblick said his internship at West Overton has helped direct him on the career path he would like to follow.

Working at West Overton, and especially having the opportunity to view the museum's archives, has Doblick considering museum work as opposed to education.

"I've learned so much looking through the archives," Doblick said. "I got to see the actual handwriting of the people who lived and worked here in the 1800s. It was exciting."

As for the sign project, Gerlich is happy Doblick is able to leave his mark.

"We've talked about doing the sign for some time, but didn't have the money in the budget," Gerlich said.

"As time went on, it was getting more and more worn. Sooner or later it would have disappeared. Now it will be around for a long time to come."

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


New Rotary president takes the helm

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Thursday, July 28, 2005

Rob Zelmore, of East Huntington Township, has been selected as the new president for the Mt. Pleasant Rotary for the 2005-06 term.

Zelmore graduated from Southmoreland High School and went on to receive his degree in political science from St. Vincent College. Zelmore is not a stranger to local civic organizations, having served as past master of the Marion Lodge No. 562, in Scottdale, and as president of Grand Tall Cedar at Al-O-Mon Forest No. 138 of Cedar Tall, in Elizabeth Township, and as chapter advisor for the Westmoreland Chapter Youth Group in DeMolay.

He is also an active member of the Mt. Pleasant Elks and has been involved in numerous civic and local projects in the past, proudly serving his community when needed. He also serves on the board of directors at West Overton Museums and is a past board member of the Coke and Coal Trail.

Citing the wonderful community involvement of the Mt. Pleasant Rotary club throughout its years, Zelmore said he has been an active member of the organization for four years.

"My parents were very active in Rotary," Zelmore said, "I was attracted to the community involvement of the organization."

The Mt. Pleasant Rotary has been instrumental in the community and local projects in the 80-plus years of its existence.

Boasting approximately 56 active members, the Mt. Pleasant club is one of the larger ones in the area. The organization is responsible for placing flags throughout the town for 10 different yearly holidays, a tradition that it has upheld for 30 years. Community projects also include the distribution of dictionaries to third-grade students and a new heart defibrillator that was donated to the Mt. Pleasant senior center. Zelmore plans to continue this long standing tradition of community involvement and service.

Last year's Rotary president, Maynard Brubacher, feels that Zelmore is suited for the position and will maintain the high standards that the organization represents.

"Rob has great connections with the local businesses," Brubacher said, "and he has political connections. That and all his past involvement has made him sharp to pick up on the direction of Rotary."

Zelmore is anxious to start his year as president, and hopes to continue in the footsteps created by Brubacher's reign.

"Maynard got me involved with different organizations such as West Overton," Zelmore said. "He was always very involved with the community and with volunteering.

"I was very impressed with Maynard's commitment to community involvement and volunteering, and I hope to follow in his tradition."

On June 28, the gavel was passed to Zelmore during the Rotary club's regular Tuesday meeting, and Zelmore is ready to begin his year at the helm.

"I'm proud of the dictionary program that we have done," Zelmore said. "It's a fantastic thing for the kids to see that the Rotary is there, and for the community to see that we play a vital role in the area."

Rotary meetings, which are held every Tuesday at the Elks, in Mt. Pleasant, are generally closed to nonmembers, however, Zelmore is planning to invite speakers throughout the year that would have significant interest to the general public. If he is able to schedule them, he plans on opening certain meetings to the public.

"There are various speakers that I am planning on contacting, and if the scheduling of dates is successful, the meetings will be open to the public," he said. "I think it would be great for the community to see what Rotary is all about."

Zelmore is employed at Meegan Ford as a sales consultant.


Crime Watch looking for volunteers

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, July 28, 2005

[many items, including]

= The Ligonier Valley Writers Group, in cooperation with West Overton Museums, is sponsoring a Horror and Fantasy Flash Fiction Contest. The winner will receive $50; second place, $25; and third place, $15. Three honorable mentions will also be awarded. All winners will have the opportunity to read their stories during West Overton Museums second annual Otherworldly Weekends in October, as well as have their work published in the online version of the Loyalhanna Review. For full contest rules and details, contact the museum at 724-887-7910 or check out the Writers Group's Web site at: www.ligoniervalleywriters.org. All entries and fees must be received by the Writers Group by Sept. 15.


Worker House B renovations finished

By Rachel R. Basinger, Daily Courier, Friday, July 22, 2005

With renovations of Worker House B finished, the West Overton Museums village is one step closer to complete village restoration -- the goal of museum officials.

Built in the 1850s, Worker House B, located across from the current quilt shop in the village, was one of several houses constructed for village workers to live in when the Overholt Distillery was in its prime.

"It was really a planned industrial community," said Grant Gerlich, museum director.

Helen Clay Frick bought some of the village houses in the 1920s, while others continued to be privately owned. Those privately owned homes were rented out, and those owned by Frick sat empty.

Worker House B was acquired by the museum in the 1980s.

"The home was dilapidated and the owners couldn't afford to keep it up to code, so they sold it to the museum," Gerlich said.

After the acquisition by the museum, the house continued to sit empty and unused.

"When I arrived, some of the buildings were in various stages of repair, and the idea was to have them all remodeled and turned into a retail community," Gerlich said.

Both a Keystone grant and Steel Heritage grant were obtained to get some renovations started in the village, but it wasn't nearly enough.

About two years ago, the Mt. Pleasant/Scottdale Rotary pledged approximately $15,000 to renovate the Young Frick House, or Worker House A.

Almost $10,000 was left over and set aside for renovations to Worker House B. The museum also received more than $7,000 from a tourism grant for additional renovations to the house.

With the funds, contractor Don Johnson was hired to do the renovations.

Heating, air conditioning, a new roof and a renovated basement were already done before Johnson started.

His work consisted of cleaning out the house, refinishing the plaster, building steps to the basement, opening up the second floor into one big room, moving a support beam back to its original position, installing new insulation, and finishing the trim work.

"A lot of labor went into the house," Gerlich said.

He added that it would be a perfect place for someone to open up some type of flower, craft or art store.

"The second floor could be used as a studio for their work," he said.

Gerlich said that they are looking for something unique. The rent has not yet been established. He said they are meeting with realtors to establish something reasonable and within the current market standards.

The next project is the Christian Overholt House, which was attached to the general store, where the quilt shop is now housed.

"We only had enough money to get one room downstairs and the stairwell renovated," Gerlich said. "None of the rooms on the upper floors are finished."

He would like to see a high-end restaurant come into the building.

"To get the rest of that house renovated right now, we need someone to come in who is knowledgeable about the restaurant business and is well-financed," Gerlich said. "If you have a good restaurant, people will come from all over to eat there."

The other option is for the museum to fix up the building and rent it out room by room.

There are also five other buildings on the property that need restored.

"For the short term, we would like to get grants to stabilize the buildings and make them look nice on the outside," Gerlich said. "We hope to do that over the next five years."

As far as complete village renovation ... "We're probably looking at a 20-year time frame," Gerlich said.

On Saturday and Sunday, the museum will be sponsoring a living history weekend with a myriad of activities.

One will be to tour the newly renovated Worker House B. Call West Overton Museums at 724-887-7910 for more information.


Summer concert series begins Sunday in Scottdale

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, July 7, 2005

If you wish to attend West Overton Museum's barn dance/concert from 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 6, please call by Wednesday and let them know are attending. Call 724-887-7910.


Annual memorial golf tournament coming up

Wednesday, July 6, 2005 By Marilyn Forbes Daily Courier

[many items]

= Make your reservations now for the Old Farm Ball, to be held on Aug. 6 in the Big Barn at West Overton. The fun evening will feature period music provided by Home Front, a three-piece group performing 19th-century music. The evening is recommended for anyone over the age of 12. Cost for the evening is $10 per person. For information, call 724-887-7910.


Royal Reception XV

By Jean Horne, THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Monday, June 27, 2005

Photographic Memory

Armed with her camera and endless determination, Margaret Bourke-White blazed trails few women dreamed of during the 1920s and '30s. Over the years, her photos graced the covers of Life, Fortune and other illustrious publications. A stunning exhibit of her work -- "The Photography of Design, 1927-1936" -- was unveiled Friday at the Frick Art & Historical Center.

On view through Sept. 4, the retrospective highlights her superb images shot in factories of Pittsburgh's industrial giant Alcoa, whose foundation generously funded the show. Nicely framing the opening event was a cocktail reception on the tented patio, where we spotted Frick director Bill Bodine; board chair Betsy Watkins with Chuck; Alcoa's Kathy Buechel and Fred Egler; Richard Armstrong; Sarah Nichols; Carol Word; Connie and Bruce Morrison; Betsy and Bill Amis; Barb and Ken Love; Karey Joensen; West Overton Museum director Grant Gerlich; Susan and Tom Schmidt; Vicky Clark; Toni and Jake Zoller with daughter Kristie; Jennifer Pesci Kelly with Richard; and Mindy and Raymond See. -- J.A.


Farmer's market season begins

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, June 9, 2005

[many items, including]

West Overton Museums' 22nd annual quilt show will open to the public Saturday, and run through July 1 in the Distillery Museum, West Overton Village, Scottdale. This juried show features quilts made by local and regional quilters. Be sure to come out and vote for your favorite quilt to win the People's Choice award. Quilt show is open the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free with $7 paid museum admission. Museum members receive admittance to the quilt show.


Mount Pleasant lives up to its name

By Marilyn McDevitt Rubin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, June 05, 2005

MOUNT PLEASANT -- Promises, promises, promises. And all delivered. Barbara Androstic wrote to invite me to Mount Pleasant, a Westmoreland County town of about 5,000, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, approximately an hour east of Pittsburgh.

In her e-mail she promised a lot, including a great ham, peppers, mushroom, tomato, cheese and potato omelet at Bill and Andie's Cafe, 537 Main St. Bill is the cook, Andie, his pretty wife, is the waitress. At $5.25 and served with toast, one omelet proved generous enough for the three of us visiting, my friends Nancy Hanst and Gene Deskins and me.

Androstic, a staunch advocate for Mount Pleasant, joined us for mugs of the good house coffee. The cafe was clean, bright, cheerful and full of folks putting a good spin on the start of their day. Tucked down the hall alongside the restaurant are offices of the Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society. At the Historical Society, where Androstic is a volunteer, you can buy a mug printed with a town legend, a souvenir strip of wood from Mount Pleasant's first 1820 Chestnut Log House, and a game resembling Monopoly called Landmarks and Memories, which uses Mount Pleasant sites instead of the ones in Atlantic City.

My invitation to visit came in response to a column I'd written about some shopping I'd done.

If I liked shopping, Androstic said in her e-mail, her town offered some of the best. To prove it, she listed a generous assortment of shops, which included Herbalicious, which would be of particular interest to a food person because of its intention to carry every gluten-free product there is. As it happens, this includes Endangered Species chocolate bars, about which I had once written.

At Herbalicious, Joanne Prosnik, is the manager and Anne Vikartosky is the clerk. Besides being knowledgeable about gluten intolerance, a common inherited autoimmune disorder, they distribute the Herbalicious Healthy Times newsletter.

I was talking to these two women when it came to me that Mount Pleasant might be named for the pleasant people who live and work here. By the end of the day, having made more friends in Mount Pleasant, I was convinced that I was right.

Herbalicious, 612 W. Main St.; 724-542-9745; www.everythingnutritious.com.

At L.E. Smith Glass Co., both an outlet and a retail store, I went straight in and did what I intended not to do. I spent $40 on a funky, carved glass pitcher to hold the peonies that are blooming in my back yard. In the Smith collection I saw all the glass objects my dear, departed Aunt Emma kept dusted on her knickknack shelf. Nostalgia robbed me of good sense.

So shocked was I by the purchase I'd made of a wonderful pitcher I didn't need, I postponed until another time a visit to the nearby Lenox Outlet where I was certain to repeat the performance.

L.E. Smith Glass Co., 1900 Liberty St. 724-547-3544; tours available. Lenox Outlet, Route 31 East, 724-547-9555.

Lawyer Kim Michael told me she always loved candy stores. That she spoke to me from behind the counter of her own store, with a speck of candy clinging to her lower lip, added credence to this.

"They were always such happy places," she said.

As indeed this one is, a converted corner bungalow, newly renovated and freshly painted and with one mirrored wall reflecting back the assortment of candies neatly arranged in glass cases. Having given up the rigors of practicing law for spending more time near her children and having gone back to school for training as a candy maker, she makes all of her own products in the downstairs kitchen. There are lots of good things here, traditional and oddball, including many barks (white-chocolate cherry is the local best seller), pistachio clusters, chocolate-dipped Oreo cookies, Kurtles (resembling turtles and a favorite of her son Kurtis) and chocolate-covered sweet pickles, which "everyone loves," says Michael, but they didn't tempt me.

Sugar Plum, 101 N. Church St., Mount Pleasant, 724-547-6620.

At the Mount Pleasant family farm Sand Hill Berries, we watched overseer Ramone Orozco and his crew pick the strawberries that we then ate. They were still warm from the sun. On their 150-acre fruit farm, the sisters Susan Lynn and Amy Schilling with husbands Richard and Robert and their children grow strawberries, currants (black, white and red), black and red raspberries, gooseberries, elderberries, kiwis, blueberries, grapes and heirloom apples. They sell them loose, boxed or in cakes, pies, tarts, jellies, jams and cordials produced in their newly remodeled farm kitchen beside their newly enlarged farm store. Take the children to see the llama, play with the dog and have pie and ice cream in the outdoor cafe.

Sand Hill Berries, 304 Deerfield Road. Open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. For information: 724-547-4760.

We drove down the road to the nearby town of Hunker to visit the OohMahNee farm animal sanctuary, where each critter has its own harrowing history. This was an extraordinary experience as we roamed the property and met the residents, calm and curious in their various areas of abode. There were the pigs sleeping peacefully in the sun, the herd of sheep moving en masse toward the feeding trough, the bearded goat observing the activity of the sheep, the ducks and geese exploring the edge of the pond and the big black rooster among the pack of fine cats who slowly approached from every direction, cautious but wanting to be petted and satisfied by our willingness to oblige.

From Cayce Mell, co-director with her husband, Jason Tracy, we learned each animal's name and heard their history. Many had been found abandoned, and sometimes abused, when the staff at OohMahNee had stepped forward to rescue them. A visit here is an experience never to be forgotten. For tour information, call 1-724-755-2420.

On June 11, a fund-raising art gala will be held in Pittsburgh for OohMahNee at the Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St., Strip District. Mell is the granddaughter of Betty Raphael, founder of the Society for Contempary Craft. Ticket prices in advance (purchased from OohMahNee) are $10; $20 at the door. Children under 12 are free. For more information call 1-724-755-2420.

Two interesting stops in the vicinity of Mount Pleasant:

= The village of West Overton, former estate of Mennonite Henry Overholt, where Henry Clay Frick was born. For information: 1-724-887-7910.

= Miss Martha's Tea Room (and gift shop), 165 Pittsburgh St., 10 minutes from Mount Pleasant, in Scottdale where the food is good and where guests are invited to eat lunch wearing any of the wonderful hats on display. Information: 1-724-887-6574.


On the Whiskey Trail

By Jerry Storey, Tribune-Review, Sunday, May 22, 2005

Grant Gerlich, executive director at West Overton Museums, near Scottdale, would like to establish a small distillery at the site where Old Overholt whiskey had its beginning.

The curators at the Oliver Miller Homestead in South Park, and at Woodville Plantation, in Collier Township, Allegheny County, have more modest projects in the works to celebrate their whiskey heritage, building a barn to house an 18th-century still and planting rye, respectively.

The southwestern Pennsylvania museums are linked as three of the seven historic sites on the new American Whiskey Trail.

The others are the George Washington Distillery site at Mt. Vernon, Va., the centerpiece of the effort; Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York City; Gadsby's Tavern Museum in Alexandria, Va.; and the Oscar Getz Museum, in Bardstown, Ky.

Also included on the tour are four operating distilleries in Kentucky -- Jim Beam, in Clermont; Maker's Mark, in Loretto; Wild Turkey, in Lawrenceburg; and Woodford Reserve, in Versailles -- and two in Tennessee -- George Dickel, in Tullahoma, and Jack Daniels, in Lynchburg. There are also two rum distilleries, Bacardi, in Catano, Puerto Rico, and Cruzan in St. Croix, the Virgin Islands.

The Web site for the American Whiskey Trail describes it as "a cultural heritage and tourism initiative of the Distilled Spirits Council in cooperation with Historic Mount Vernon."

The three sites in southwestern Pennsylvania represent two different eras in whiskey making.

The Oliver Miller Homestead and the Woodville Plantation highlight the lives of early settlers, the importance of whiskey to commerce and the independent spirit that led to a short-lived rebellion in 1794 after the federal government taxed whiskey. The owners of the Miller and Neville homesteads were on opposite sides of the rebellion.

The homesteads are two of only eight sites in Allegheny County listed as National Historic Landmarks.

West Overton was developed after the Whiskey Rebellion. Although rye whiskey was made at the site in a log house as early as 1803, the 1838 distillery building, and the village that surrounded it, represent a tipping point in the nation's transition from agriculture to industry, according to Gerlich.

None of the three area museums have extensive exhibits on whiskey making yet. But that doesn't concern Dennis Pogue, associate director at Mt. Vernon, who invited the three museums to be a part of the American Whiskey Trail.

"There is more to the history (of whiskey) than just making whiskey," he said.

Motorists speed by 18th-century history every day on Route 50.

The Woodville Plantation, also known as the John and Presley Neville House, is hemmed in by highways and surrounded by office buildings. The plantation, once spread out over 400 acres, now encompasses about five acres of land.

"It's our little bit of Williamsburg," said Julianna Haag, the president of the Woodville Plantation Associates, referring to the restored Colonial capital in Virginia.

The original log cabin was erected by Neville in 1775, making it the oldest domicile in Allegheny County. Now covered in clapboard, two small doors can be swung open to show visitors the original logs. The original cabin's kitchen room, with its hearth and period utensils, is the most popular stop on the house tour, according to Haag.

John Neville and his son, Presley, had distinguished records in the Revolutionary War as a general and aide-de-camp to Lafayette, respectively.

John Neville had built a new mansion at Bower Hill and given Woodville to Presley by the time of the Whiskey Rebellion.

But then, his friend, President George Washington, asked him to collect the new tax on whiskey in western Pennsylvania. After angry neighbors burned his new mansion to the ground, John Neville had to move back in with his son.

Succeeding owners made several additions to the home, including, in the late 1820s, a wraparound veranda set off with latticework.

The dining room walls are painted in a bright verdigris green popular in the late 18th century. The bedrooms are papered in a replica of an 1815 pattern.

Early occupants of the Woodville Plantation made their mark by etching their names and messages in the windows with diamond rings, a 19th-century custom akin to later homeowners tracing their initials in wet cement.

There are few exhibits showing the home's direct connection to the Whiskey Rebellion, although it is emphasized in tours.

Rob Windhorst, a member of the Woodville Plantation Associates, recently added a living connection to the era by planting some rye on the grounds.

Volunteer docents, dressed in 18th-century garb, give tours of the Woodville Plantation on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

"We try to put ourselves in John Neville's era," Haag said.

Haag, who discovered the site when she helped her daughter with an eighth-grade history project, said associates emphasize educational programs, particularly for children.The group also published a collection of personal letters and documents from the Whiskey Rebellion.

One interesting outside exhibit is John Neville's original tombstone, although he isn't buried at Woodville Plantation. The most recent reconstruction project is an 18th-century privy, built by Julianna Haag's husband, Doug, who modeled it after plans from Williamsburg.

In 1976, Woodville was acquired by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. It is operated by a board made up of representatives from the foundation, the Neville House Associates, the Allegheny County Committee of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America and individuals.

In addition to the Sunday tours held May through October, appointments for private tours and school groups are available.

The Oliver Miller Homestead is in the middle of a park. Stone Manse Drive, which leads to the homestead, is just off Corrigan Drive, the main road in South Park.

According to a history of the homestead, Oliver Miller emigrated with his family to America from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1742. He purchased a tract of land on Catfish Run in 1772 and settled on the site six years later, building a two-story log cabin.

The cabin was replaced in 1830 by the current Stone Manse, which stayed in the family until the 1927 formation of South Park.

Visitors in shorts, T-shirts, sweats and bicycle helmets mingle with docents in Colonial dresses and bonnets at the homestead, often wandering unaware into the 18th-century world.

Mary Olesky, president of the associates, said neighbors who live near the homestead often don't know it's there.

But those who find their way to the Stone Manse are greeted by guides in period garb conducting tours and discussing history. On any given Sunday, visitors will find quilters, wool spinners, chair makers and blacksmiths demonstrating pioneer crafts. Volunteers also prepare a meal from the era, such as catfish cooked on the griddle on April 17, opening day.

There is a series of programs that run from opening day through a Dec. 11 frontier Christmas. On July 17, a skit titled "Serving the Writ," will be performed several times to dramatize the outbreak of the Whiskey Rebellion.

Three of Oliver Miller's sons were involved in the outbreak, according to the homestead's history, when on July 15, 1794, Gen. John Miller and a U.S. marshal went to the home of William Miller near the homestead. The officers attempted to serve a writ which imposed a $250 fine for Miller's failure to register his still.

As the rebellion spread throughout western Pennsylvania, Washington, in turn, formed an army of 12,000 men who quickly put an end to it.

Guides at the Oliver Miller Homestead retell the story of the Whiskey Rebellion to visitors.

"We try to educate people," said Noel Moebs, 78, a retired geologist who has been involved with the associates since it beginning 30 years ago.

In addition to the presentations, a number of books on the Whiskey Rebellion are on sale at the log house.

While Allegheny County owns the Oliver Miller Homestead, the associates have been responsible for operating the site and making all the improvement on it for the past 30 years. The group receives no tax revenue from the county for the improvements.

"It's all donations," Moebs said.

In addition to the Stone Manse, the property includes a springhouse, a reconstructed log house, a blacksmith forge and various heirloom gardens. The most important Whiskey Rebellion artifact on display at the homestead is the bottom half of an 18th-century still that belonged to the Millers.

"It is a real museum piece," Moebs said.

A new barn is being built to house the still and other exhibits depicting the Whiskey Rebellion.

Moebs hopes the honor of being part of the American Whiskey trail will guide more visitors to the Oliver Miller Homestead, which is open Sundays through Dec. 11 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The last tour begins at 4 p.m.

West Overton is an agriculture village founded by Henry Overholt in 1800 and expanded by his son, Abraham, located on Route 819 near Scottdale. The collection of stone buildings, the Overholt mansion, the distillery building and an enormous barn is hard to miss.

Gerlich said that Abraham Overholt, living in eastern Pennsylvania with his father at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion, was captivated by it. He said Abraham realized "that's where the future was."

Soon after the German Mennonite family moved to southwestern Pennsylvania, Henry Overholt established a distillery in a log building.

"They had a recipe they brought from Germany," Gerlich said.

[The recipe may have originated in Switzerland. -krc]

After Henry Overholt's death in 1813, Abraham expanded the distillery, bricking in the log building and erecting a gristmill. With his rye crop, the gristmill, and distillery, he had everything he needed for his product.

"You could grow it, mill it and distill it," Gerlich said.

The brand Overholt made at West Overton was Old Farm Rye Whiskey. He also made Old Monongahela Whiskey at a distillery at Broadford, Connellsville Township, Fayette County.

The name was changed to Old Overholt after his death in 1875. It became a popular national brand.

Gerlich pointed out that a true Manhattan or Old-Fashioned mixed drink has to be made with Old Overholt.

During Prohibition, the distillery was shut down at West Overton, but "medicinal whiskey" was made at the Broadford site. Old Overholt was distilled at Broadford until a 1965 fire; the brand is still made at the Jim Beam Distillery in Kentucky.

The new makers of Old Overholt have made at least one change, however. Gerlich pointed out that they've added a slight smile to the portrait of the dour Overholt on the label.

As the birthplace of Henry Clay Frick, West Overton was also at the center of the Connellsville coke industry. Frick, Overholt's grandson, was a towering, controversial figure in the coal and coke era. In recognition of this, a coke oven was reconstructed and set in front of the museum.

Helen Clay Frick, Frick's daughter, donated the West Overton site to a nonprofit association.

As important as the coal and coke heritage is to the area, Gerlich said he doesn't want the whiskey era in southwestern Pennsylvania slighted. He said whiskey also would have broader appeal to many tourists than coal and coke.

The most prominent reminder of whiskey making at West Overton is the museum building, which is the shell of the old distillery and gristmill. An exhibit inside the museum also chronicles the era.

The museum sponsors a series of programs throughout the year, including a quilt show June 4 through July 1.

Someday, Gerlich would like to set up as a tourist attraction a small-batch distillery that would also sell its product. In the meantime, he said the whiskey era would play a more prominent role in presentations and programming at West Overton.

The museum is open May through Oct. 1, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

The Jim Beam Distillery tour features a museum that shows how whiskey is made. There are also a number of historical exhibits such as old rack houses and what may be the oldest moonshine still in America, according to Doris Calhoun, who heads up the visitors center.

In addition, the tour offers an inducement to visitors that the three historic sites in southwestern Pennsylvania can't match -- at least not until West Overton gets its distillery.

Calhoun said visitors 21 and older can attend tastings of the product. The visitors are served one-half-ounce glasses of two different "ultra-premium" bourbons, which is "the maximum amount state law will allow," she said.

Samples may be available at other distilleries on the tour. Although Old Overholt rye whiskey is made at the Jim Beam distillery, it isn't offered in the tastings.

"Some do tastings, some don't," Calhoun said.

The centerpiece on the historic portion of the whiskey trail is the distillery Washington built in 1797 at Mt. Vernon, his Virginia home for 45 years.

An operating gristmill has been reconstructed at Mt. Vernon. A five-year archaeological dig at the original distillery site is complete and a reconstructed distillery is being erected there, with funding from the Distilled Sprits Council.

The council is not the first to recognize the appeal of a whiskey trail.

The Scottish Whisky Trail has been around for decades and has become a popular tourist destination. Pogue, Mt. Vernon's associate director, acknowledged that it has one advantage over the American Whiskey Trail in that there are a number of historic sites and distilleries in a small area that tourists can visit in a few days.

Even if all the sites on the American Whiskey Trail can't be taken in a few days, Pogue said that individually or collectively, they have an important story to tell.

Jerry Storey can be reached at jstorey@tribweb.com or (724) 626-3581.


Window to Westmoreland - May 13, 2005

Tourism Industry Receives $231,000 Through County Grants Program

Westmoreland County’s tourism industry recently received a major financial boost when 25 tourism-related businesses and organizations received a combined total of $231,095 through the county’s annual tourism grant program. Annie Urban, executive director of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau and a member of the grant review committee, presented the recipients with their checks at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg on May 4.

The economic impact of travel and tourism for Westmoreland County is significant. According to the current figures released by Pennsylvania’s Tourism and Marketing Office, visitors spend more than $461 million in the county, generating 11,173 jobs.

“This grant program gives me the tools necessary to bring my hidden treasure into view,” said Judith Trabbold, owner of the Mountain Herb Shoppe in Donegal, one of this year’s grant recipients. “As a recipient of last year’s program, I used the grant money to design a beautiful brochure that helped market my business that offers old time remedies to the latest scientific discoveries for holistic health solutions. With this year’s grant award, I will continue my marketing efforts with reprinting my brochure and brochure distribution.”

The Mountain Herb Shoppe is located in an authentic log cabin that was constructed with the largest logs in the county.

Seventy-seven applications were reviewed by the grant review committee, which in addition to Ms. Urban was comprised of Commissioner Tom Bayla; Andrea Cuda of Ramada Inn Historic Ligonier and a Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau Board Member; and Vince Fontana, president of Vince Building Company.

The applications selected were based on the program’s criteria that focus on two categories: marketing and advertising programs, and capital projects. Advertising programs are to be targeted to reach potential visitors outside of Westmoreland County. Capital projects include improvements that benefit tourism and the visitors’ experience by developing new or enhancing existing visitor attractions or amenities.

“This is an exciting day for Westmoreland County and the Laurel Highlands region,” Urban said. “The scope of the recipients’ projects is amazing. They represent some of the county’s long-time attractions, notable historic and cultural sites, and festivals. It’s also great to see how several of this year’s recipients are working together on joint projects.”

The annual tourism grant program is funded by one-third of the revenues generated by the Westmoreland County Hotel Room Tax – a three percent tax on all overnight accommodations that became effective July 1, 2002.

The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau is a non-profit, membership-supported organization that serves as the official tourism promotion agency for the region, including Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties.

The complete list of grant recipients is as follows:

Antiochian Village, Bolivar ($4,800) – To create an interactive, engaging and informative website for this full-service, non-profit conference center located on 300 wooded acres in Ligonier.

Braddock Trail Chapter, National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution ($2,200) – For the printing and distribution of 24,000 brochures for both the Genealogical Library and the Festival of Lights.

Borough of Ligonier ($2,000) – To develop a bus parking area, initially consisting of 10 spots, to accommodate tour groups for special events.

Casino Theatre Restoration & Management, Inc., Vandergrift, ($6,000) – To support the current project of building, installing and furnishing the two elevated private patron boxes in this historic theatre.

“Christmas in the Mountains Committee,” Donegal ($5,000)– To support a print advertising campaign to increase awareness of and visitation to this popular holiday event.

City of Greensburg – Concerts in the Park ($10,000) – To create an advertising and promotional campaign for the 2005 series, targeting areas outside of the Westmoreland County area.

“Escape to Donegal” ($15,000) – To increase weekday business in the Pittsburgh market via various media components, including print advertising and direct mail for five area businesses – Brady’s Restaurant, Donegal Highlands Golf Course, Lydia’s Lodge, The Country Pie Shoppe and The Old General Store.

Family Festivals Association, Inc., Irwin ($12,000) – To develop a television advertising campaign in the Pittsburgh market for the Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts Colonial Festival, September 2-5.

Foggy Mountain Lodge and Restaurant, Stahlstown ($10,000) – To assist in the renewal of the existing building into four suites to be utilized for family lodging and will be available for the 2005-06 ski season.

Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival, West Newton ($15,000) – To support a multi-media marketing plan to reach a broader target area consisting of print, radio, television, Internet and outdoor advertising in Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Wheeling, Morgantown and Youngstown.

Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department, Greensburg ($4,000) – To promote the 2005 Pennsylvania State Firemen’s Convention, September 21-24, to potential attendees.

Idlewild and SoakZone, Ligonier ($20,000) – To market the 50th anniversary of Story Book Forest, allowing past guests a chance to revisit fond memories and provide today’s young families with an opportunity to create new ones.

Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce ($15,000) – To develop a multi-media marketing plan targeting Cleveland-area residents area to encourage them to visit the Latrobe area this summer.

Laurel Highlands Educational Foundation ($1,500) – To assist in underwriting costs of the 2005 educational programs and seminars for training employees involved in the region’s tourism industry

Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce ($4,500) – To expand the Christmas Campaign, which invites visitors to get away from the hectic pace of the holidays and visit Ligonier’s many quaint specialty shops.

Ligonier Valley Writers ($920) – To promote the 2005 Writers Conference, July 8-9, which supports literary arts education and activities in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Mountain Herb Shoppe, Donegal ($2,650) – To be used for advertising and brochure distribution for this quaint historic herb shop nestled in the Laurel Mountains.

The Palace Theatre, Greensburg ($15,000) – To increase awareness of the Palace Theatre to potential patrons beyond Westmoreland County’s borders and to target group sales to increase attendance of motorcoach groups, corporate incentive programs and student groups to experience the performing arts in a beautiful and historic setting.

Saint Vincent Gristmill, Latrobe ($15,000) – To provide better access to the recently refurbished gristmill, which now includes a museum, classroom and general store, for vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Scarsdale Cottage Inn Bed and Breakfast, West Newton ($10,000) – To support the expansion of the current four-room bed and breakfast to include an additional facility that contains six luxury guest rooms.

Valley Players of Ligonier ($4,900) – To continue the capital improvement of the Ligonier Theatre by replacing the old black stage curtains and outdated rigging with new flameproof curtains and rigging – the final cosmetic improvements needed.

West Overton Museums, Scottdale ($12,000) – To be used for the preservation of two of the buildings in the West Overton Village that will make the site more visible and provide an additional reason for tourists to visit this 19th century industrial village and 260-acre farm.

Westmoreland County Historical Society, Greensburg ($3,965) – To make Hanna’s Town, the first county seat of Westmoreland County, more “user friendly” to the public by improving directional signs, improving access to the main buildings and providing seating that is period appropriate.

Westmoreland County Historical Society, Greensburg ($9,825) – To upgrade the kitchen garden at Hanna’s Town to provide a more accurate portrayal of a family garden in 1780.

Westmoreland Heritage, Greensburg ($9,800) – To develop a map and driving guide that will focus specifically on the French and Indian War to allow tourists to follow the approximate route of the Braddock Road of 1755 using modern-day roads.

Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg ($20,000) – To assist the museum in continuing a project to introduce more visitors from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area to visit through building awareness, audiences and appreciation.

For more information on Westmoreland County’s Tourism Grant Program, contact Annie Urban at the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau at 724-238-5661 (extension 14) or via e-mail at aurban@laurelhighlands.org.


Seminars help seniors with gardens

Staff and wire services, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Saturday, May 7, 2005

[other items]

Heirloom plant sale

Hundreds of heirloom plants will be for sale next Saturday in West Overton Village in Westmoreland County.

Heirloom plants are older, open-pollinated varieties; some of the varieties available with familiar names include Brandywine and White Wonder tomatoes, and Kentucky Wonder pole beans.

The sale begins at 9 a.m. at West Overton Village, in Scottdale.

Details: 724-887-7910 or www.westovertonmuseum.org.


St. John's school celebrating Grandparent's Day

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, May 5, 2005

[other items]

On Saturday, the Garden Club will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Distillery Room of West Overton Museum. For more information, call 724-887-7910.


Gala in Scottdale

By Rachel R. Basinger, Daily Courier, Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Members of the newly formed Southmoreland Patrons of the Arts, a blend of school and community organizations, have organized an art gala, which they hope will allow them to inform the public of their goals.

The gala will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 10 at the high school. The gala will help to raise money for the purchase and restoration of art, which will be displayed at Southmoreland High School. There will be a $25 contribution for admission to the dinner function.

Southmoreland High School art teacher Susan Kiren was responsible for the formation of the student/community group.

A board member with the Southwest Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, Kiren often got involved in getting shows ready for local artists.

"I just got the idea that Southmoreland should have its own art collection," she said.

She asked a representative from the Southwest Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, to approach district Superintendent John Halfhill concerning the art collection.

"When he said they would be interested, I started getting things together," Kiren said.

That was about seven months ago. Now things are almost in order.

"I think the students are very excited about the idea," she added.

A number of groups from the school are involved in the project, including the computer department, graphics department, student council and art council.

But what makes the Patrons of the Arts unique is the number of community members who got involved.

Kiren approached Rob Ferguson, who is involved in various organizations such as the Salvation Army, Coal and Coke Bike Trail committee and the Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce. He will be part of the group.

"This is an opportunity for the community to preserve some of the local art," Ferguson said. "I've been trying to get community leaders involved so we can sponsor the purchase of art to be added in the collection, which will be an assembly of student taste and art history of the area."

The reason for the gala is to raise money to purchase art for the collection and to maintain older pieces that might be obtained.

"There is a lot of cost involved to maintain a collection," Ferguson said. "Some of the old prints that we acquire will more than likely need restored."

The collection will be housed at Southmoreland High School, but the Patrons of the Arts group agreed the collection would be available for road shows.

"If the festival wants to display it as part of their weekend events, it will be brought to town," Ferguson said, adding that it will likely travel to numerous places such as West Overton Museums.

"We want the exhibit to be viewed throughout the community -- almost like a traveling display," he said. "Most of the art we'll be acquiring will come from juried art shows."

Kiren said select students attended the juried art show at Seton Hill University a few weeks ago and chose eight paintings.

The paintings are being displayed at the high school, and the students will vote on the one they would like to keep as the first painting in the collection. The piece with the most number of votes will be purchased and will stay at the school. The others will be returned to Seton Hill.

At the gala, the public will get the chance to view the chosen painting.

"There has been a lot of support community wide on this endeavor," Ferguson said. "We want to make people aware that this area was a hotbed for art in the turn of the century for all kinds of painting mediums, from photographers to watercolor and oils."

He hopes the formation of this group will create a general awareness of the popularity of art in the area.

"A lot of local art has been forgotten," Ferguson said. "When the next generation comes along, they won't see the value of it; so we want to make them aware of it now, so we can establish the preservation of local art."

Ferguson said the collection would probably be a hodgepodge of different kinds of art from historic pieces to the more modern art that students might like better.

Carolyn Adams, principal and member of the Patrons of the Arts, said she supports the endeavor.

"Art enhances our lives, and for individuals who are not talented enough to create their own, this gives them the ability to appreciate what others created," Adams said. "It just makes a day so much better."


Scottdale Post Office participating in Scouting for Food program

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, April 28, 2005

[other items]

If you plan to be a member of a trip to Landis Valley Museum on June 25, all money must be in by May 15. For ticket information, call the office at West Overton at 724-887-7910.

[other items]

All teaching personnel, learn more about the Civil War with an up close and personal visit of the West Overton's mobile museum. Call 724-887-7910 to set up a future time to accommodate your class.

[other items]

The Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association will hold its fourth annual "Hammer-In" and second "Plow Day" Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Fort Allen grounds, located along Route 819, near Scottdale, adjacent to West Overton Museums. The Hammer-In will feature members of Ft. Allen's blacksmith shop along with other area blacksmiths. An auction of some of the work will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday. "Plow Day" will feature the way work was done on the fields many years ago. During the weekend, there will be musical entertainment, horseshoe pitching and a kiddy tractor pull. There is free parking and no admission charge. On Friday and Saturday nights, there will be dead-weight and transfer-sled tractor pulls starting at 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for the pulls. A garden tractor pull will be held Sunday. For more information, call 724-836-3625.


Mt. Pleasant Choral Society looking for new members

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, April 27, 2005

[other items]

= The West Overton Museums Garden Club will hold a one-day bus trip to the Landis Valley Museums in eastern Pennsylvania. The trip will include a guided tour of the heirloom gardens and seed project. Those joining the trip will also be able to explore the historic buildings which include the Landis Brothers Homestead, the weaving center, and the general store. The buses will leave the West Overton Museums promptly at 6:45 a.m. June 25, arrive back at approximately 8:30 p.m. The cost for the trip is $57 a person for nonmembers and $52 for museum members. That price includes bus, guided tour of gardens, seed project, self-guided tour of the village, and lunch at the Landis Valley historic tavern and hotel. For information or to reserve a seat, call the museums at 724-887-7910.


News of our members

Daily Courier, Tuesday, April 26, 2005

= The West Overton Museums Garden Club is planning a one-day bus trip to the Landis Valley Museums, which will include a guided tour of the heirloom gardens and seed project. Participants will also be able to explore the historic buildings, including the Landis Brothers Homestead, the weaving center, and the general store. Buses will leave West Overton Village at 6:45 a.m. June 25, arriving home at approximately 8:30 p.m. Cost of the trip is $57 per person for non-members and $52 for members. The price includes the bus, guided tour of the gardens and seed project, self-guided tour of the village, and lunch at the Landis Valley historic tavern and hotel. For more information or to reserve your seat, call the museums at 724-887-7910.

[other items]

= West Overton Museums is now accepting entries for its 2005 Quilter's Competition to be held June 4 through July 1. Deadline for entries is May 13. For information, contact the museum at 724-8987-7910 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.


Scottdale Girls Softball League holds opening day Saturday

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, April 21, 2005

[other stories]

Best of luck to the Southmoreland Junior High School students who will be in Friday's kite competition to be held at West Overton Village. There is a chance they could bring back to the school's trophy cabinet the "Overholt Cup" if they win the overall competition.

[other stories]

During the May 14 opening of the West Overton Museums will be a May Mart where baked goods and heirloom plants will be sold.

[other stories]


Kites provide educational experience [one photo online]

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Kite flying has become a popular sport.

There are festivals dedicated to flying kites. There are competitions. People who refer to themselves as professional kite flyers have taken the enjoyable pastime to new heights.

Students from the Connellsville and Southmoreland school districts will be experiencing the thrill of the sport when they participate in the first kite-flying competition at West Overton Museums at 10 a.m. Friday.

"We think that this is a great idea and we hope to make this an annual event," said Grant Gerlich, West Overton's executive director. "We are pleased that Connellsville and Southmoreland are participating. We hope that more schools will become interested and compete next year."

There are three kite design categories in which the participants can enter. Kites can be of box or cellular design, flat or bowed design, or semi-rigid kites, such as a sled kite, which are flown on many beaches.

"You can build a kite out of anything -- trash or newspaper," said Jackie Polakovsky, Southmoreland Junior High School physical science teacher. "Even store-bought kites can be tweaked and used in the competition. This should be interesting because there are all different types of kites."

The students from Southmoreland will be competing on an individual basis as well as in teams. Seventh grade and eighth grade students are participating.

"I opened it up to the whole school. I'd like to get the seventh-grade students excited for next year," Polakovsky said.

Southmoreland student Syndey Stephenson likes to build kites. She's ready for Friday's competition. "I found a great design on the Internet for a dragon kite," she said.

John Tremba, instructor for the gifted class at Connellsville Area Senior High School, has his students designing and constructing kites for the competition.

Calling the kite-building project an "engineering challenge," Tremba is pleased at the interest shown by the students. In fact, he is considering doing it again next year.

"Some of these students have never flown a kite before," he said, adding that they are all anxious for the competition.

The Connellsville teams are working on different types and designs as well as different fabrics and materials. They have purchased kites that they have used as models. The students are working as individuals and as teams.

The competition will consist of two judging categories -- highest altitude and longest flight. The school with the overall most points scored will win the "loving cup," complete with their school's name inscribed on a gold plate. The cup was donated by the Grable Foundation.

"There are 18 empty nameplates on the trophy," Gerlich said. "So we need to use them up over the years."

The trophy will remain at the winning school for the year and then move to the following year's winning school.

"This will be a learning experience," Gerlich said. "Working with kites deals with usage of math, trigonometry, art and graphic art. But then, of course, it will be fun."


Civil War life experienced up close

By Michael Cope, Daily Courier, Monday, April 18, 2005 [two photos online]

Black coffee and hardtack, smoky explosions from muzzle loaders, early American campfire music -- not a typical morning for 21st century teenagers.

But more than 140 eighth-grade students from Southmoreland Middle School experienced Civil War life up close Saturday at West Overton Village, outside of Scottdale.

"We like doing programs with the schools," said Capt. John Blank, of South Park, who serves with a re-enactment corps of the 1st Pennsylvania Rifle Company. "It is important to work with the kids and give them an idea of what it was really like to fight a war back then."

The students were presented with re-enactments and Civil War-era equipment reproductions at six different sites on the grounds at West Overton, a restored 19th-century village. Blank and Lt. Ted Shepard, of Charleroi, who serves with the 11th Pennsylvania Reserve, showed the students weaponry, uniforms, rations and even how four soldiers could sleep in a small "dog" tent.

"Soldiers did whatever they could to survive until the next battle," Blank said. "It was a real hard, tough life."

Other demonstrations included a rifle salute by re-enactors from the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve as well as common 19th-century music performed by "Homefront," a period band comprised of Tom Crytzer, on guitar, and Chuck Kreply, on violin. Soprano singer Nancy Egan joined the pair to perform for the Southmoreland students.

"These are all interactive demonstrations that are very engaging," said Amber Hall, curator of education at West Overton. "This is not something they can get in a classroom."

The volunteer re-enactors hailed from different areas of Western Pennsylvania. About a dozen Union soldiers and two Rebels were there to represent several regiments.

"We get whoever is available," Blank said. "A lot of units already have their schedules filled."

Shepard has re-enacted battles and situations from the Civil War for more than 25 years.

"If we don't teach the kids this history, there will be no one to take our places," he said. "Schools don't teach kids the Civil War anymore."

Saturday marked the second time in as many years that Southmoreland students attended this event at West Overton.

"It really is a good way for students to learn history," Hall said.

West Overton will feature another Civil War re-enactment July 23 and 24 during Old Overholt Days.

Michael Cope can be reached at mcope@tribweb.com or 724-626-3537.


Civil War topic of Parlor Talk

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg, as the southerners refer to it, was one of the most bloodiest and intense battles of the Civil War. Fought on Sept. 17, 1862, the battle claimed more than 27,000 men, either killed, wounded or missing. The fourth and final presentation of West Overton Museums Parlor Talks, titled "The Cornfield at Antietam," will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the museum's distillery building. The lecture will be presented by Civil War historian and re-enactor Ken Williams, who has given many talks and lectures in the past to the delight of local history buffs, focusing on many different aspects of the war. Williams welcomes all comments and encourages questions and personal experiences and references from those attending. This is a free lecture, and light refreshments will be served. For information on the event, contact the West Overton Museums at 724-887-7910.


Pitt at Greensburg welcomes 'Coach Carter'

By Dawn Law, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Monday, April 4, 2005

[several items, including:]

Seton Hill University awards area artists
Eleven awards were presented Saturday at Seton Hill University, in Greensburg, during the opening reception of the exhibit, "History Through Art."

The show is presented by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, and co-sponsored by the Westmoreland County Historical Society.

The collection of 44 works is devoted to the heritage of southwestern Pennsylvania, and is by artists of the region.

It is available for viewing through April 30 in the Historic Administration Building at SHU.

First best of show went to Nancy Galm, of Pittsburgh, for her watercolor entry, "The Beautiful City."

J.D. Titzel, of Greenville, Mercer County, won second best of show for the tempera painting, "Straub's Ell."

Michael Rosella, of Pittsburgh earned best of show for his photograph, "Henry Clay Frick Residence-Clayton."

Awards of merit were presented to Gloria Goldsmith Hersch, of Export, for "Downtown Export;" Karen Rice Hunter, of Jeannette, for "End of the Line;" William Perry, of Harmony, for "Mennonite Homestead;" Janice Martin, of Altoona, for "May Greene's Gift;" Cynthia Cooley, of Pittsburgh, for "Shearing the Slab;" and Aaronel DeRoy Gruber, of Pittsburgh, for "Memories of Time Gone By at Dixmont."

Honorable mention awards were presented to Aaron Loughner, of Jeannette, for "Rollercoaster to Nowhere" and Dawn Sherwood, of Scottdale, for "Gate at Overholt."


Garden club plans bus trip

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The West Overton Museums Garden Club will hold a one-day bus trip to the Landis Valley Museums. The trip will include a guided tour of the heirloom gardens and seed project. Those joining the trip will also be able to explore the historic buildings, including the Landis Brothers Homestead, the weaving center, and the general store. The buses will leave the West Overton Museums at 6:45 a.m. June 25, arriving home at approximately 8:30 p.m. Cost for the trip is $57 a person for nonmembers and $52 for museum members. That price includes bus, guided tour of gardens, seed project, self-guided tour of the village, and lunch at the Landis Valley historic tavern and hotel. For information or to reserve a seat, call the museums at 724-887-7910.

[other items]


News from the MEMBERSHIP

Daily Courier, Tuesday, March 29, 2005

= The Mt. Pleasant Business District Authority has hired a new manager. Susan Dickson-Houser was chosen for the newly created half-time position and will start her duties on Monday. The new position was created after the departure of former BDA manager Ron Aldom, who had shared the position of BDA manager and Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce executive director. Please welcome Susan to the community.

[other items]

= If you are interested in gardening, you might want to consider joining the Garden Club at West Overton Museums. Curator of Education Amber Hall is working with Martha Oliver, club historian. The primary goal of the Garden Club is to maintain the historical accuracy and aesthetic appearance of the garden and grounds of West Overton. It's not all about planting, however! The club has a number of events planned for the spring and summer. For additional information, call the museum at 724-887-7910. Membership in the Garden Club is free.

The Garden Club is sponsoring a bus trip to Landis Valley Museums on June 25. Buses will begin boarding at 6:15 a.m. and will depart promptly at 6:45 a.m. Buses are expected to arrive back at West Overton between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Cost for museum members is $52; cost for non-members is $57. Cost includes bus, guided tour of gardens and seed project, self-guided tour of village, and lunch at Landis Valley historic tavern and hotel. Additional meals and services are your own expense. Registration application and fee are due by May 15. For more information, call 724-887-7910.

= The final 2005 winter Parlor Talk lecture series at West Overton Museums will be held on April 17. Ken Williams, Civil War enthusiast, re-enactor and historian, will finish the series with another talk about the Civil War, "The Cornfield at Antietam." The lecture is free and includes a question and answer session followed by light refreshments. Reservations are requested, but walk-ins are welcome. For information, call 724-887-7910 during regular business hours. West Overton is located on Route 819 between Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale.


'Parlor Talks' make for an educational and interesting afternoon

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Monday, March 21, 2005

For the last 16 years, the West Overton Museums, located on Route 819 between Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale, has been filling winter weekend afternoons with presentations geared toward life in the Victorian era, titled the "Parlor Talk" lecture series.

A discussion of the care and maintenance of heirloom and antique plants and gardens was presented Sunday.

Martha Oliver, garden historian at West Overton, focused on the vegetables and flowers that were used in Victorian gardens. Oliver has been maintaining the gardens at West Overton for eight years. This was the second year that she presented a parlor talk on the subject of heirloom plants.

"Heirlooms are becoming very popular," Oliver said. "People are becoming more interested in plants such as tomatoes in an heirloom variety because of their taste."

Oliver said that many vegetables grown today are mass produced, with shipping and long-term storage in mind.

"Tomatoes are hard, dry and tasteless," she said, "whereas an heirloom variety is much juicer."

For those who enjoy flowers, Oliver discussed different types of peonies and irises, both very popular from 1820-1880, the time period on which the parlor talks focus.

The next parlor talk will be at 2 p.m. April 17, presented by local historian and lecturer Ken Williams. This presentation will be on the Civil War battle at Antietam, with the lecture focusing on the first day's battle in a cornfield.

Williams, who resides in Connellsville, has been lecturing at West Overton for 10 years, and has given talks on different battles and aspects of the Civil War.

A former Gettysburg National Military Park ranger, he is active in Civil War lecturing and re-enacting, and welcomes an open discussion at his lectures.

"The talks usually last about two hours,'" Williams said, although sometimes they may be longer.

Williams invites those attending to ask questions and relate any information or experiences they may have that are pertinent to the talk.

"These talks bring interest to people and the general public," he said. "They are historical and cultural."

Williams added that the lectures vary, and that the talks over the years have covered many different topics, presenting a "nice mix."

West Overton's Amber Hall said that the museum tries to bring something different to the public through these talks, and that they are approached by different people who have ideas for talks.

"We focus on historical topics and presentations," she said. "We then find local experts to help with the talks. We try and hit different parts and facets of life (during the Victorian era)."

The museum, weather permitting, usually presents a series of four talks, running in the winter months.

Two previous talks this season were a discussion of Victorian clothing titled "19th Century Fashion" and a music-filled afternoon with local artists playing period music, "A Musical Trip to the Past."

"These talks are all free of charge," Hall said. "They are the museum's way of keeping in touch with the public and offering opportunities and things to do during the off season."

For information on upcoming Parlor Talks or any other West Overton Museums' function, call 724-887-7910.


Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with family fun night

By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, March 17, 2005

[many items, including]

On April 22, there will be a kite-flying competition at West Overton Village. Students teams will learn what makes a kite fly, then design and build a kite for competition. Winners of the overall competition will receive the Overhold Cup. Neighboring schools can participate in this competition. Any school interested in participating should call Grant Gerlich, executive director, or Amber Hall, curator of education, at 724-887-7910.


Starting at 2 p.m. Sunday, the next installment of the West Overton Museum's parlor talks will be a discussion on the care and maintenance of heirloom and antique plants and gardens. West Overton garden historian Martha Oliver will give the lecture focusing on the vegetables and flowers that were used in Victorian gardens. Oliver has been maintaining the gardens at West Overton for eight years, and this will be the second year that she will be presenting a Parlor Talk on the subject of heirloom plants. For more information, call 724-887-7910.


Walk to help the area parks

By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, March 16, 2005

[many items, including]

= The West Overton Museums is continuing its popular Parlor Talk series with this month's topic, "Heirloom Gardens and Plants." Starting at 2 p.m. Sunday, garden historian Martha Oliver will present a lecture focusing on heirlooms and antique plants. The lecture is free and all are welcome to attend. For information, call 724-887-7910.


Elks Hoop Shoot set for Saturday

By Patricia Walker, Tribune-Review, Thursday, January 6, 2005

[many items]

It's winter, but think spring on Saturday and be a part of the Garden Club for West Overton Museum. Meeting will start at 2 p.m. What is the cost? Just your attendance. For questions, call 724-887-7910.


Old Coal Kings

By Richard Robbins, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Sunday, January 2, 2005      [5 photos online]

For a select few, the age of coal and coke in western Pennsylvania was a period of conspicuous wealth: of lavish homes, European vacations and works by the masters of art and decor.

The names Frick, Thompson and Cochran were emblematic of the time. Leading lights whose prosperity bestowed wealth on others, these two men and one woman were also human; for as rich as they were, they also suffered their share of heartache and defeat.

Today, stirred by their triumphs and tragedies, visitors to their homes wonder: What was it like to have lived in that time, like that?


The frosty evening of Dec, 31, 1904, was a night to remember. There were 250 guests, sparkling champagne, fine food and enchanting music for dancing.

It was a New Year's Eve housewarming, and what a house it was!

"In the reception hall near the stairway is ... a magnificent screen over 101 years old from Japan," one local press account gushed. "The living room is finished in California redwood and one of the screens is from Cairo, Egypt, and is of ivory with mother of pearl and ebony wood. On the floor are rugs ... from Athens, Greece."

The opening of Oak Hill, continued the commentary, "was the greatest of all social events."

Commanding the crest of a small hill three miles west of Uniontown, the $3-million mansion was the proud possession of newlyweds Hunnie Thompson and her husband, coal baron and banker Josiah Van Kirk Thompson, or J.V., for short.

By virtue of his success in buying and selling coal lands, J.V. Thompson was the most important man in town and one of the most renowned in western Pennsylvania. His marriage -- his second -- to Hunnie made front-page news.

Everything J.V. did was big. When his financial empire crashed in 1915, the tremors were felt all the way to New York City. A reporter dispatched from the big city found the beleaguered tycoon not at his downtown office but at Oak Hill.

"I have been a worker all my life," Thompson was quoted in the New York Tribune the next day. "I am a worker now. I am going to work this through all right."

J.V. never found a way out of his financial mess.

The couple's divorce in 1913 set him back $1 million. Although some said that was the start of his decline, there were other factors. Thompson was land rich and cash poor, and so when depositors spooked by an unflattering government banking report began withdrawing money from his bank, it was all over but an endless parade of lawsuits that bedeviled Thompson to his dying day.

Thompson died a broken and bewildered man in his second floor bedroom at Oak Hill, which remained his, thanks to the largesse of former business associates.

That fall of 1933 the house was sold for $50,000 to a most unlikely group, the Sisters of St. Basil, who renamed the estate Mount St. Macrina. The Order has taken special care to preserve the mansion, which it uses as a retreat house.

When the roof sprung a leak a few years ago, the Sisters replaced the old slate roof with new slate, at considerable cost. The 100-year-old plumbing has undergone major repairs and the electrical wiring is being worked on now. Outside, the masonry has been repointed; inside, whole walls damaged by moisture have been ripped out and rebuilt.

The mansion's 13-inch-thick steel and concrete walls may be the biggest headache of all, said Sister Carol Petrasovich, retreat house director, who ruefully noted the need for jackhammers to break through to piping and wires.

In 1999, Oak Hill was named to the National Register of Historic Places. According to Sister Carol, the Sisters of St. Basil meant to "preserve Mr. Thompson's legacy."

Pat Pallini, whose parents worked for Thompson, has the distinction of being the only person to be born at Oak Hill. Maintaining a lifelong affection for the house, he complimented the sisters by noting Thompson would be "pleased" with what has become of his former residence.

A church-going Presbyterian, Thompson would appreciate the Sisters' spiritual mission, their outreach to the community, Pallini said.

When Hunnie and J.V. lived at Oak Hill, guests could try their hand at the roulette wheel and other games of chance, or refresh themselves in the detached glass-domed swimming pool.

The Thompsons strove to be the perfects hosts. When the famed Polish pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski performed a recital at Oak Hill, he had the pick of three Steinways, thanks to the master of the house. Hunnie gave away Japanese kimonos to guests.

The house is more subdued today.

The billiard room was converted to a chapel. The adjoining Louis Quartorze room was transformed into the Shrine for Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Religious objects elsewhere in the house bespeak the Order's spiritual goals.

According to Pallini, Thompson would be neither disappointed nor surprised by the virtual disappearance of coal mining as a factor in the regional economy. "He knew there was a termination point" for coal, Pallini said.

As a student of history, he would have had an easier time adjusting to changing conditions than most of his contemporaries, Pallini believes.

As for Thompson's legacy, that's tougher. Maybe it's Oak Hill, Pallini said. Or maybe it was Thompson's capacity for hard work, his sunny optimism and his open, humane character.


Few men have entered history as hard-pressed for praise as Henry Clay Frick.

The West Overton native and undisputed master of coal and coke was considered among the toughest, most competitive businessmen of his era. For many, his character was stamped for all time on the bloody streets of Homestead in 1892, when his hired Pinkerton guards killed 10 striking steelworkers.

And yet there was another, softer side to Frick.

It blossomed at Clayton, his family's estate in Pittsburgh's Point Breeze section. Clayton is where Frick's four children to his loving wife Adelaide were born. It's where he played weekly poker games with rich friends and where he teased dinner guests, asking if they would like to hear music. Turning to a butler, he would say, "Ask the orchestra leader to play something." Soon, a whole orchestra was playing, thanks to a music roll and the family's orchestrion, a huge music-making machine.

And Clayton is where he played host to President Theodore Roosevelt one memorable Fourth of July.

"Two different H.C. Fricks were emerging," wrote Samuel A. Schreiner Jr., a Frick biographer, of the would-be tycoon of the mid-1880s. One was the "tough-minded" business executive and deal-maker. The other was the refined man of art and the loving husband and father who found a "domestic idyll" at Clayton.

In many ways, it was ideal.

"There are pretty flowers and birds painted on the ceiling and walls," wrote Frick's daughter, Helen, of her bedroom at Clayton. "If all the children had such a pretty room as mine, there would not be any of them sad or unhappy."

Helen, who survived into her 90s, remembered Clayton as a place of "azure skies and green lawns."

Yet it was not always easy for the master of the house. Clayton is where Frick's namesake and second son, Henry Clay Jr., died after just a few days of life.

Clayton is where Frick, exhausted from work, frequently collapsed at the front door and crawled unaided to the nearest couch.

And Clayton is where Frick recuperated from wounds suffered in an attempted assassination brought on by the standoff at Homestead. Carried home that evening, he manfully called out to Adelaide, who was still weak from childbirth, "Don't worry, Ada, I'm all right. I may come in and say good night; how is the baby?"

Frick was a man of many facets. The tough businessman was devastated by the death of his oldest daughter Martha, who suffered a two-year ordeal brought on by having swallowed a straight pin (unbeknownst to her parents). At the same time, his reply to a conciliatory message from his estranged former business partner Andrew Carnegie was malice itself: "Tell Mr. Carnegie I'll see him in hell, where we are both going."

No wonder Robin Pflasterer, registrar at today's Clayton, called Frick "inscrutable," a puzzle to his and later generations.

According to Pflasterer, the Frick home -- the centerpiece of The Frick Art and Historical Center at the corner of Penn and Homewood avenues in Pittsburgh -- is more a reflection of Helen Frick than her father. It was Helen who orchestrated the emergence of the modern Clayton and its companion art center, gourmet cafe and car and carriage museum.

A fierce defender of her father's legacy, Helen Frick maintained Clayton largely as it was. Slightly altered following her death in 1984 to reflect more of its original appearance, modern Clayton attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Visitor Kay Maxwell, of Murrysville, was familiar with Clayton years ago.

As a child she paid frequent calls to a friend who lived close to the Frick estate. World War II was raging, and Maxwell said a "victory" garden took up most of Clayton's grounds. It was a time when neighborhood children were allowed to roam the estate, just as long as "Miss Helen" was not in residence, she said.

According to historian Joe Rishel, of Duquesne University, Frick was "an outstanding proponent of that progress which America desired" as the 19th century closed and the 20th century opened, rapid industrialization.

Frick "didn't see any contradiction between being sensitive to a beautiful painting or a beautiful child and then compartmentalizing them to a certain section of life," Rishel said. He was preeminently a man of his time.

Kevin Boyle, a labor historian at Ohio State University, said Frick was representative of his age. A businessman who rejoiced in the ethos of "unfettered capitalism," Frick saw that hard work was rewarded with "freedom and opportunity" unavailable to the average American.

"(The successful businessmen of the period) saw in their own lives confirmation of these beliefs," Boyle said. "And they saw no reason why they shouldn't enjoy the fruits of their labor."

Frick did, which was one reason he moved his family from Pittsburgh to a spacious Vanderbilt mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City early in the new 20th century. He died in 1919.


Relatively little is known about Sarah B. Cochran, the Dawson woman who built the estate Linden Hall. The home was reportedly modeled after London's St. James Park, which she'd seen during her eight-year absence from the United States after the deaths of her husband Philip Cochran and her son James.

A farmer's daughter, she met Philip, whose family were pioneers in the coal and coke trade, while serving as a housekeeper in the Cochran home. She was devoted to educational philanthropy and gave generously to several colleges, including Bethany College in West Virginia and Allegheny College in Meadville.

In fact, she was called "the Lady-Elect of Allegheny" College. On the day Cochran Hall was dedicated, the campus newspaper rhapsodized about it being a "monument to the causes of higher education and culture" and rejoiced that "Mrs. Cochran (had) opened a new era and vaster future for coming generations."

Cochran replied, "Tell (the students) I think they are all perfectly lovely. I am so glad to give this nice building to such a splendid company of young men."

According to Eugene Lint, of Dawson, a former curator at Linden Hall, Sarah Cochran had no business experience or formal business training and realized she needed help running the family's affairs after Philip's death in 1899. She evidently handled it well, because the business grew threefold under her rein, Lint said.

It sounds simple. It wasn't.

One of Cochran's few surviving letters belongs to Bill Colbert, a retired railroader from Dawson. Colbert is something of a Cochran collector and owns a dozen or more dusty Cochran business ledgers.

The letter, dated January 1936, recounts a dinner of male business partners that took place "even before" James "was laid away."

"I fought with the directors for two weeks to put you in (James') place," Cochran wrote to "M.M." -- perhaps Mark Mordecai Cochran, a Uniontown attorney, whom Colbert identified as Sarah's chief adviser. "Of course you were not in line and did not want to take it but I wanted you to have it because (James) had told me to take your advice in everything and how else could I do it but by putting you in his place?"

Cochran worried that the other directors "would take all the business to Pittsburgh and what would we know about it?" All turned out well, however, with Sarah confiding that M.M. "had been so good to me and took such good care of these properties for these thirty-five years and I thank you so much."

Colbert stated that in contrast to Frick, the Cochrans were beloved by the workers who toiled in their mines and coking facilities at Star Junction, at the Jackson Mine in Tyrone Township, the Franklin and Clinton mines in Upper Tyrone and at mines in Dunbar Township and Dawson.

James Cochran's untimely death in March 1901, while a student at the University of Pennsylvania, robbed Sarah of her only child and also robbed the Cochran business interests of their natural successor. Two weeks before succumbing to pneumonia in a Philadelphia hospital, James had visited Dawson, spending joyous moments with his mother.

Linden Hall was built between 1911 and 1913. Italian immigrant labor helped with the construction. American citizenship was one of the rewards for their work, Colbert said.

In 1927, 21 years after presenting the United Methodist Church in Dawson with a rare copy of the Sistine Chapel's Madonna, Sarah B. Cochran paid for a complete new church building, a magnificent Gothic structure dedicated to the memory of her late husband and son.

An invalid the last 13 years of her life, Sarah Cochran died at Linden Hall in October 1937.

The house has undergone many changes since -- first as a religious retreat and later as a private club with golf course. In the 1970s it was purchased by the United Steelworkers of America as a conference center.

Earlier this year the USW sold off Cochran's three large Tiffany windows for $6.8 million. Rugs original to the house but not used for years may be the next to go. It's part of a drive to pare insurance costs, USW spokeswoman Colleen Moore said.

Despite rumors that the union might try to sell Linden Hall, the estate's future is secure with the union, according to Moore, who said the conference center is always busy between April and November.

Richard Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@tribweb.com or (724) 836-5660.

[See 5 photos online.]

The exterior of Clayton, the restored home of businessman Henry Clay Frick in Pittsburgh's Point Breeze section.
Joe Wojcik/Tribune-Review

Linden Hall, an estate near Dawson, was built by Sarah B. Cochran and modeled after London's St. James Park, where Cochran spent time after the deaths of her husband and son.
Sean Stipp/Tribune-Review

The original Cochran family home sits on the corner of Main and Railroad streets in Dawson.
Sean Stipp/Tribune-Review


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West Overton News 2004b
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