West Overton Distilling Company
Written & Compiled by K. R. Overholt Critchfield
Photographs Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016, 2017, 2018
~~ Published January 18, 2018 ~~
~ Updated September 1, 2018 ~


1867 West Overton (Detail) ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas; John Pritiskutch Productions;
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016



From Log Cabin Distillery to Distillery Complex

Long before the United States had federal laws governing trademarks, the whiskey made by Abraham Overholt (1784-1870) was sold under many company names and labels. Collected evidence from history books and period newspapers show us that during Abraham's lifetime, his distilling business was first known as A. Overholt Company, then as A. & H. S. Overholt, for a few years as A. Overholt & Sons, then again as A. & H. S. Overholt, and finally as A. Overholt and Company. At times, the chief product was advertised and sold as Pure Rye Old Farm Whiskey, West Overton Rye, Overholt Rye, A. Overholt & Co. Whiskey, Overholt Pure Rye, or simply as Overholt.

Abraham came into the world after the American Revolution (1775-1783), so he could claim to have been born a citizen of the fledgling United States of America. Only two others among his twelve siblings could claim the same birthright. Remembering this point gives a special meaning to all he achieved as an American. In the course of his lifetime, Abraham was a farmer's son, whose skill as a weaver helped maintain a successful family business of weaving coverlets. Later, he developed a beverage alcohol that neighbors thought was worthy enough to spend money to buy. Then Abraham put faith in his ability as a distiller, and launched A. Overholt Company as a distilling commercial enterprise. In his work as a farmer, while digging a well on his property, Abraham discovered coal. He was the first person to discover coal in that region, and the first there to use coal as an energy resource for his home and businesses, often used to fuel steam engines.

In the due course of time, Abraham gained a well-deserved reputation for distilling and aging a distinctive Pennsylvania rye whiskey. Eventually, he distributed his whiskey on a national scale, influencing methods of mass production for this singular commodity, building warehouses for storage and aging, and developing systems of distribution that kept Overholt whiskey in the vanguard of a rapidly developing American distilling industry. Of course, Abraham did not accomplish all these things alone -- he had a family. Just as he had been one of many, working together with his brothers and extended family in farming, weaving and other endeavors, Abraham could rely upon getting his share of help, when he needed it. But within this very large group of related people, commercial distilling was Abraham's realm, with his sons and grandsons growing up to be part and parcel of his overall success.



Abraham Overholt ~ Henry Stauffer Overholt ~ Jacob Stauffer Overholt
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2006


The Overholts of West Overton could trace their family back to a specific family named Oberholzer, and a specific village named Oberholz, located at the top of a mountain southeast of the city of Zurich, Switzerland. [See Maps of Interest to "O" Families at Karen's Branches.] During the Protestant Reformation, six sons of Marti Oberholzer (1595-1670), a Swiss Brethren preacher, found refuge in Germany, where they worked as tenant farmers in the Palatinate. While in Germany, the family surname became Oberholtzer, and when the Oberholtzer families immigrated to America, the name took many different spellings, including Overholt.

The extended "O" family tree is comprised of many variations of the Oberholzer surname, and includes many notable Abrahams. Our Abraham was the tenth of twelve children, the fourth of five sons of Henrich Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835), originally of Bucks County, located in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

Henrich Oberholtzer (aka Henry Overholt) had been a patriot in the cause of creating a new and distinctly American nation, and like many other German-speaking men, he served in a locally formed militia during the war for independency, specifically in Captain McHenry's Company of Bedminster Township, Bucks County. Many years after the conflict was settled in favor of the American cause, in the year 1800, Henrich led a wagon train of his immediate and extended family away from the settled farmlands of Bucks County. They traveled very nearly the full length of what became the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and finally arrived in the wild lands of Westmoreland County, where Henrich and his family created the village of Overton. It was known as "Overton" perhaps up through the 1860s, then identified as West Overton by the 1870s, perhaps to differentiate their community in Westmoreland County from other Overtons, like Overton Township in Bradford County (settled 1806/incorporated 1853).

Abraham Overholt made the journey to Westmoreland County when he was sixteen years old. Roughly nine years later, the day after celebrating his 25th birthday, he became a married man, when Maria Stauffer (1791-1874) became his wife on April 20, 1809. Maria (Mah-rye-ah) was the eighth of nine children, the fourth of five daughters of Abraham Stauffer (1752/3-1826) and Anna Nissley (1752-1817). Abraham Stauffer was the region's first Mennonite preacher, who became a bishop of the church. Early in 1790, the Stauffers emigrated from Pennsylvania's Lancaster County in the east, to Fayette County in the west, with their family of seven children (Barbara, Anna, Christian, Martin, Frances/Fannie, Abraham, John). Their eighth and ninth children (Maria, Elizabeth) were born in the Jacobs Creek area. Before long, no less than five Overholts intermarried with this family, beginning a long line of Overholt-Stauffer and Stauffer-Overholt genealogical interconnections.


The Abraham Overholt Family

MC720 Abraham Overholt (1784-1870)
m. (1809) Maria Stauffer (1791-1874)
8 Children
Henry, Anna, Jacob, Abraham,
Elizabeth, Martin, Christian, John.

~ ~ o ~ ~

Henry Stauffer Overholt (1810-1870)
m. (1846) Abigail Carpenter (1824-1898)
7 Children
Sarah Ann, Benjamin, Maria, Abigail,
Abraham, Henry, Jennie.

Anna Overholt (1812-1866)
m. (1830) John Tinstman (1807-1877)
10 Children
Maria, Jacob, Abraham, Henry, Anna,
John, Elizabeth, Abigail, Emma, Christian.

Abraham Overholt Tinstman = managed Broad Ford,
and later became a full partner with his grandfather

Jacob Stauffer Overholt (1814-1859)
m. (1836) Mary Fox (1816-1895)
9 Children
Maria, Elizabeth, Abraham, Isaac, Mary Anne,
Fenton, Christian, Jacob, Emma.

Abraham Stauffer Overholt (1817-1863)
m. (1844) Mary Ann Newmyer (1824-1877)
4 Children
George, John, Norman, Mary.

Abraham Stauffer Overholt = Karen's g-g-grandfather
George Washington Overholt = Karen's g-grandfather

Elizabeth Stauffer Overholt (1819-1905)
m. (1847) John W. Frick (1822-1888)
6 Children
Maria, Henry Clay, Annie, Aaron, J. Edgar, Sallie.

Henry Clay Frick = dubbed the Coal King; later
owned the Broad Ford distillery complex, with
partners Andrew W. Mellon & Richard B. Mellon

Martin Stauffer Overholt (1822-1899)
m. (----) Maria Wakefield (1827-1886)
6 Children
Hudson, James, Mary, J. Franklin, Harry, Ida.

Christian Stauffer Overholt (1824-1911)
m. (1853) Katharine L. Newmyer (1831-1894)
6 Children
Alice, Charles, Mary, Elmer, Anna, William.

John Stauffer Overholt (1826-1846)
No Issue

~ ~ o ~ ~

It was in the year following the wedding of Abraham and Maria, 1810, that Abraham began his professional career as a distiller, there in "Overton." A newly built log cabin distillery replaced an existing old log cabin distillery that came with Henrich's purchase of the homestead. The new log cabin was probably built in the Swiss fashion, with planed and dovetail-shaped logs. With more space and improved equipment, the distilling capacity increased from one and a half bushels of grain per day, to three or four bushels of grain per day. He was starting small, but was determined to make his whiskey business a worthwhile commercial enterprise. Before long, Abraham built a stone distillery that had a capacity of distilling forty to fifty bushels of grain per day. By 1829, Abraham's distillery had four stills and was worth $400, and by 1832, the evaluation jumped to one thousand dollars.

Circa 1834, Abraham built a brick flouring mill. Thereafter, grain could be chopped and milled in "Overton," relieving his sons of the task of hauling grain on poor roads to and from mills located elsewhere. One source reported that at this time, both corn whiskey and rye whiskey were being made by the Overholts, and the superiority of their brands of flour and whiskey brought them great celebrity. After 24 years in business, Abraham had shown himself to be a public-spirited man, who conducted his farm and business affairs in an energetic but orderly fashion. He was a man who never disappointed a creditor, and an employer who was gentle with his employees.

It should be remembered that Abraham erected his Homestead House in 1838, on the site of the farmhouse purchased by his father, Henrich Oberholtzer. In all probability, Abraham and Maria brought their eight children into the world while living in Henrich's farmhouse, then they raised their last few unmarried children in the new brick house. Subsequently, years later, they took their granddaughter Maria Overholt Frick (1848-1939) into their home and raised her, too. Young Maria was the first child of their younger daughter, Elizabeth Stauffer Overholt (1819-1905), wife of "Overton" miller John Wilson Frick (1822-1888). The 1870 census listed 21-year old Maria Frick, an 18-year old domestic servant named Joan Raymin, and three children named Hait, as those who were living with "Abram" and "Mariah." The same census shows tollgate keeper Margaret Hait, age 36, and her other five children were living elsewhere in the community.

As the years went by, Abraham employed more workers for the farm, the flouring mill, the lumber company, and the distillery. "Overton" grew with the addition of new tenement houses, built alongside new homes for the families of Overholt sons and daughters. Two large homes also served the needs of business.


Although the Overholts distinguished themselves as managers through their material goods and expenditures, and although their enlarged and efficient five-story mill and distillery building implied an efficient, integrated company, the seasonal nature of the distillery business prevented a highly regulated work organization. Abraham Overholt took strong personal control of the business, and ensured that family control continued after his death by entrusting all managerial positions to close family. But because of the nature of the work and perhaps the Overholts' own preferences, many of the great changes to workers' lives instituted by nineteenth-century industry were absent at West Overton. (46)

The Overholts apparently did not adhere to the intense regulation of the work day, represented by factory clock-time. Though Abraham Overholt and several other people (including workers) in the village had clocks, [they were not used] to regulate the working day. There is no evidence that there ever was a cupola or bell on the mill building -- the clearest symbol of a clock-regulated industry.

All present evidence for work patterns in 1862 indicates life still followed the irregular cycles of the organic tasks. . . .


(46) One aspect of nineteenth-century industry was child labor. There is little evidence that the Overholts employed children as labor beyond what was normal on a farm . . . There is no evidence that children could or did work in either the mill or distillery.

From HABS West Overton Survey (1990), page 17



From Farmers to Industrialists


Circa 1867 West Overton Community ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas;
#8 Henry S. Overholt House ~ #9 Christian S. Overholt Store & House;
John Pritiskutch Productions;
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


Until the final years of his life, Abraham had only two real partners in developing, growing and managing his business affairs at "Overton" -- Henry and Jacob, his two oldest sons. In 1834, about the time Abraham's brick flouring mill was erected, firstborn Henry Stauffer Overholt (1810-1870) purchased a half-interest in A. Overholt Company. The partnership prompted a change in the business name to A. & H. S. Overholt Company. It was recorded that Henry was a respected farmer, distiller and miller, who excelled as a manager and businessman. Jacob Stauffer Overholt (1814-1859) was admired as a man of great energy, and like his father, he showed a talent for distilling, and became a master distiller.

Circa 1850, Jacob earned a full partnership with his father and brother, and for a few years, the company name changed to A. Overholt & Sons. However, once Jacob was working full time on the Broad Ford distillery project, he bowed out of the "Overton" partnership to create his own business enterprise at Broad Ford, with his cousin, Henry O. Overholt (1813-1880).

Henrich Oberholtzer (1739-1813) > Martin Overholt (1772-1835) > Henry O. Overholt (1813-1880)

The separation from Abraham's company may have been necessary, since the new distillery complex was in neighboring Fayette County. The "Overton" business name reverted to A. & H. S. Overholt Company. It was not until Jacob died, at age 44, that Abraham stepped up to support the Broad Ford distillery, maintaining the partnership with his nephew, Henry O. Overholt. In 1864, when Henry O. retired from managing Broad Ford's A. Overholt and Company, Abraham's grandson, Abraham Overholt Tinstman (1834-1915), became his last new partner.

Together, Abraham, Henry and Jacob were the driving force behind the success of several Overholt business concerns, but especially whiskey production, which probably always turned a profit. However, all of Abraham's sons were involved from their youth, and they all supported the family farming and business activities in one way or another. In the future, Abraham's grandsons would move up from supporting roles, becoming full-fledged men of business in their own right, most notably A. O. Tinstman and Henry Clay Frick.


Initially both the flouring and the distilling were part of the agricultural cycle, and thus the rhythms of production followed greater seasonal cycles as well. When the grain was ready, the company bought lots of it. Similarly, the wages of all the villagers show a seasonal fluctuation characteristic of the agricultural order. This can be shown in an examination of the monthly incomes. Most of the villagers started low in March and April, rose to a peak in May and June (the spring busy period), slid a bit in mid-summer (July), peaked again in September and dropped off (some sharply) in October . . . .

Another index of the change in the social quality of life is in the nature and exactitude of the accounting system. In many aspects, pre-industrial life was based on trust, on people in face to face circumstances, all cooperating in mutual support. Rosy as this notion may be (and faltering, perhaps, in performance), it was an ideal concept of some power, and more particularly so for the Pietist and Sectarian groups of Pennsylvania, such as Mennonites. Mutual loans were numerous, and promissory notes exceedingly vague as to the terms and timetables of repayment.

In this regard, the Overton community did adhere to a somewhat informal accounting system, despite the size and modernity of the operations.(51)


(51) The books have not been thoroughly analyzed from a business point of view, so the data at this point is still somewhat impressionistic, but certain behaviors do seem to be clear.

The Overholts were the overwhelming economic force in the neighborhood and made loans and 'assumptions' frequently. It appears that the employees were credited with their salaries to the books and could make withdrawals in goods, without actually seeing the cash for long periods. The frequent annotations 'to cash' represent withdrawals from this surrogate bank (the company) to make elsewhere what purchases might be neccessary. Though the ledgers themselves were kept with exactitude, accounting amounts for flour, meat and horse feed to the quarter penny upon occasion, the time frame was vague. Wages were paid on a two- or three-month basis, but sometimes not until five and-a-half or six months had elapsed; workers also paid rent on a quarterly basis, or maybe in six months, if need be.

The bill to the C. S. Overholt store (dry goods and cloth) was also tallied on rent day, but the debt itself could slide indefinitely. There appears to be no final accounting, with people slipping in and out of the picture . . . with no grand tabulation. In some cases, records are made rather after the fact . . . or before . . . And in one case a record is finally made for something that had happened a while before: Henry O. Stauffer, by Eight Dollars, it being for the Liberty of hauling logs through his field a few years ago. There is even an occasional suggestion of barter, the ultimate in pre-capitalist economic transactions: Henry S. Overholt, to flour to [Joseph E. or Peter] Pore for cherries-10 1/2 gallons ... $2.10, or H. S. Overholt, to flour and whiskey for cherries ... $2.07.

Cumulatively, the ledgers indicate that the community present in the village, and doing business with the A & H. S. Overholt [Flour Mill and Distillery] Company in 1862, was the kind of tightly knit, face-to-face group that we can only imagine today. In a tally of the total number of transactions at the mill during the month of August, very few names (just under 7 percent) cannot be located on the local scene, with 89 of them Overholts, 169 from the village of West Overton, 208 from the township of East Huntington, and only 35 unknown. In ten of the nonlocal cases, the parties were out-of-town businesses with whom the Overholts dealt, such as Farmers Deposit Banking Co.; the Branch House, Pittsburgh; the Iron City Bank; Hailman Rahm & Co., Pittsburgh; their wholesale whiskey dealers, Shippen & Detwiler; McSwigin; or Cyrus Walton and Jeremiah Gilchrist, the wholesale hog dealers. That leaves a possible twenty-five people coming into the mill, out of 501 visits during the month of August, who may not have been either a neighbor or a regular business contact.

From HABS West Overton Survey (1990), pages 18-19



Henry S. Overholt House, West Overton, Circa 1845

Henry S. Overholt House, Historic American Buildings Survey, 1990
Tinted Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016

Circa 1846, the Henry S. Overholt House was built. It was a large dwelling, with part of the building providing rooms used by servants, guests, and likely, visiting businessmen. Eventually, Henry and his wife Abigail would have seven children in this house.

The Henry S. Overholt House is the earliest second-generation family dwelling built in the West Overton distilling complex, reflecting the growth and development of the Overholt Company and the related community of West Overton . . . (erected) circa 1845. Henry S. Overholt and family were living in their own house in 1850; it was probably built just prior to Henry's marriage to Abigail Carpenter on February 10, 1846. On May 29, 1854, Abraham Overholt, the founder of the distilling business, deeded a one-half interest in the complex to Henry, his eldest son. The deed described a plot of 253 acres on which are erected houses, outhouses, a griss marchant [sic] mill, distillery, barn, stables and the village of Overton with many other valuable improvements. The house was depicted on county atlas maps of 1857, 1867, and 1876, and is prominent in the lithographic view of the complex in the 1876 atlas. Architect: Not known.

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Henry S. Overholt House, HABS No. PA-5655; page 1

Census records indicate that the family of Henry S. Overholt lived in the house by 1850, with two unrelated people (one a laborer), and in 1860, with three unrelated people (one a teamster). By 1870, the family, then consisting of six children, was listed without boarders. In 1880 the census listed Abigail, Henry's widow, as the head of household, with all the children living there. By 1900 Abraham C. Overholt (second son of Henry) was probably living at this house. He was manager of the mill/distillery until 1907, when it separated from the village and coke works, which in turn remained under the company name of A C. Overholt. The property itself was always part of the company's holdings; Henry was never personally taxed for the property. In 1890, Abraham C. put the property in his wife Gertrude's name, and in 1929, she sold it out of the family. . . .

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Henry S. Overholt House, HABS No. PA-5655; page 3

Regarding the inset balcony on the second floor: This outside passage also devalues the function of these hinder rooms as well, leading to the speculation that they might have been servant's quarters. It was not, of course, at all uncommon for families of many economic stations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to harbor distantly related or unrelated persons within the fold, whether they be indentured servants (earlier), or apprentices, or hired hands (later), or favorite grandchildren. The Overholts, of course, participated in this extended system.

Regarding census data: At the house in question, it is quite possible that Charles Taylor, 17, "laborer," and Maria Stonecker (servant?) lived in the upper rear rooms in 1850, or that Thomas and Benjamin Carpenter (untaxed unrelated teenagers) and John Harn (a 23-year-old "teamster") lived there, whereas by 1870 and 1880, Henry S. Overholt's own family had grown to six children and the census takers list no others, even though some of the children are already "at school."

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Henry S. Overholt House, HABS No. PA-5655; page 9

Regarding the Site

General setting: The house faces southeast onto Frick Street, formerly Overholt Street. The immediate lot was originally bounded to the northeast by a short alley which connected to a second one parallel to Overholt Street, running thus behind the "sheds" or tenant houses associated with the houses on the main way (Overholt Street).

Outbuildings: The 1876 atlas view shows one outbuilding directly behind the house. It was a brick gable-roofed buildng with X-shaped ventilators. Another outbuilding was directly behind the store next door, on the other side of a lane between them. It is a three-story brick barn, with an arcaded forebay and X-shaped ventilators above. It may have served the Henry S. Overholt House; by 1866, Henry S. Overholt was also (personally) taxed for five horses and four cows, and by 1867, for four horses and six cows, so he would have needed it. In fact, that his animal assessment doubled in 1866 (from two of each the year before), may indicate that this barn was built in that year.

Landscaping, enclosures: The 1876 Atlas view depicted a line of at least seven small trees along Overholt Street in front of this house. There was also a sidewalk and a picket fence, both conspicuously absent on the other side of the street, where a tenement apparently containing several workers' families in 1880 (as well as other workers' housing) was located. The picket fence appeared to enclose the entire yard, running parallel to the street, approximately 75 yards to the corner of Felgar's Run and Overholt Street, which was then crossed by the West Overton spur of the Mt. Pleasant and Broad Ford Railroad, later acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The fence then headed northwest along the stream several hundred yards beyond the large barn and stable, almost to the coke works. Between the house and the stream, it enclosed a grove of at least fourteen substantial trees, planted in a grid formation, under which, people were playing crocquet [sic]. Beyond the grove, between the barn and the stream, were vegetable gardens.

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Henry S. Overholt House, HABS No. PA-5655; page 13



Christian S. Overholt Store & House, West Overton, Before 1854

Christian S. Overholt Store & House, Historic American Buildings Survey, 1990
Tinted Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


Christian Stauffer Overholt (1824-1911), Abraham's seventh child and fifth son, got a new home before 1854, along with an attached general store. Christian S. Overholt was Abraham's youngest surviving son. The youngest son, John S. Overholt, died in 1846, at age 20.


This former residence and store is one of the larger structures built by the Overholts and marks the family's transition from wealthy farmers to managers of an industrial hamlet. The building combined a substantial and visible general store, having considerable social and public accoutrements, with a private dwelling . . . (erected) Before 1854. Although the exact date of construction is not certain, it was before May 29, 1854, on which date Abraham Overholt, the founder of the distilling business at West Overton, deeded a 24-acre segment of his original farm to his younger son, Christian S. Overholt. This deed states that the property includ[es] the lot in Overton on which is erected the large brick store and dwelling house & other valuable improvements. On the same date Abraham conveyed to Christian a 252-acre farm just to the northwest of the village, and also transferred a one-half interest in the remaining portion of the original farm and growing distillery complex to his older son, Henry S. Overholt. This building, marked as "store" and "C. S. Overholt," appeared on the 1857 atlas.

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Christian S. Overholt Store & House, HABS No. PA-5656; page 1

The house was built, probably under the direction of Abraham Overholt, the founder of the distilling business in West Overton, for his youngest son, Christian. The 1850 census indicated he was 25 years old, and still living at home that time; the tax records indicated that he had graduated from working on the family farm (in 1848-9 he was called "farmer") to working at the family distillery (in 1850-1, he was called "distiller"). After a moment of dissembling to the tax recorder (he was called "farmer" again in 1852), he was designated "merchant" in 1853. (Farmers were taxed much less for their livelihoods than were distillers or merchants.) After several years as merchant, he was again called "farmer" in 1861 and 1862, and then sold out to his nephew-in-law, Jacob O. Tinstman, eleven years after receiving his original patrimony. Jacob Tinstman had also been working in the family business, called "stiller" or "distiller," since his first mention in the tax lists in 1858.

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Christian S. Overholt Store & House, HABS No. PA-5656; page 3


Karen's Note: A correction is in order. Jacob Overholt Tinstman (1832-1919) was a first-cousin of Christian, a son of Christian's older sister (Abraham's older daughter) Anna S. Overholt (1812-1866) and John Tinstman (1807-1877). This Jacob, who was married to Annie Leighty (1829-1909), was the older brother of Abraham Overholt Tinstman (1834-1815). A. O. Tinstman managed the Broad Ford distillery complex, then purchased a partnership with his grandfather, Abraham Overholt.]

Architectural Character: As the second major house of the "managerial" generation of Overholts, the Christian S. Overholt House and Store asserts itself in the identically crisp vocabulary of the Greek Revival vernacular that his older brother Henry's house uses next door (see HABS No. PA-5655). The dwelling sections of the house are large; if one counts the room to the rear of the store traditionally used as "office" (but here ample enough-three rooms, actualry-to have been mudroom and dwelling as well), then they are every bit as large as Henry's house . . . .

But Christian also incorporated a large public space in his house: the store. Although he (or rather, they: the family) clearly intended this venture to be profitable, it is also clear from the architectural evidence that they meant it to be a substantial social space as well. The most conspicuous evidence of this attitude is in the front steps. They are much wider than is necessary for access for either the store itself, or the house, or even both; in fact, they extend 27'-3" across the front of the house (connecting the two doors), and extend 3'-9" beyond the door to the store itself. The resulting steps, almost worthy of Odessa, are finely tooled and serve as the major gathering, viewing, reviewing and otherwise traditionally convivial space of the village.

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Christian S. Overholt Store & House, HABS No. PA-5656; pages 4 & 5

Landscaping, enclosures: According to the 1876 Atlas view, both the line of trees and the picket fence (which characterize the "family side" of the street) break directly in front of the store. The trees are replaced by two lengths of hitching posts, for store patrons, and the space immediately in front of the structure is open, for easy access. The sides of this space were also fenced, virtually forming a forecourt, but by the 1913 photograph, a picket fence has also been added down the steps, left of center, separating the dwelling from the commercial enterprise. The 1876 view depicts rail fences surrounding the property, lining the side and rear alleys (i.e., between C. S. Overholt's Store and House and Peter Cruse's, up the hill, and presumably also between C. S. Overholt and H. S. Overholt, down the hill, though that is obscured).

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990):
Christian S. Overholt Store & House, HABS No. PA-5656; page 11



1850s - When Railroads Were A Serious Business

In the decades before the Civil War, our ancestors in Western Pennsylvania were serious about building railroads. Periodically, the local newspapers would announce an upcoming Railroad Convention, calling a gathering of businessmen, lawyers, banking representatives, and public servants from local government. The men would be coming together to propose the creation of a rail branch to one of the existing railroad lines, in order to link up communities that had no existing rail service, and provide transport for local goods. Up until the appointed day, the conventions were advertised in the daily news, and then were covered by newspaper reporters, when they commenced. Anybody who was anybody would participate, coming prepared to pledge money toward the project, knowing from the onset that their names would appear in print. Afterwards, newspapers would publish the minutes of meetings and reports made by project engineers, and such. As for the Overholts, their names show up quite a lot in historic newspapers, before and during the war years, not only in whiskey advertisements, but also in serious discussions about railroads. Abraham Overholt and other members of the family and extended family are found listed as participants or stockholders in local railroad enterprises.

More Railroad Projects, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pittsburgh, PA; January 15, 1853;
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


      The Greensburgh Argus contains the proceedings of a large and spirited meeting of the citizens of Mt. Pleasant and vicinity, on Saturday, the 8th of January, of which Maj. JOHN LLOYD was President, convened for the purpose of adopting measures to secure the construction of a Railroad through that garden spot of old Westmoreland, to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

      On motion, a committee of ten was appointed to obtain releases, receive subscriptions of stocks and correspond with the officers of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad Company.  The following persons composed said committee:  Abraham Overholt, Sr., Daniel Shupe, Maj. John Lloyd, David Tinsman, Esq., Dr. Wm. C. Reiter, Dr. J. McConaughy, Jacob Overholt, Samuel Miller, Sr., Wm. Snyder, and Jonas Ruff . . . .

Henry D. Overholt (1797-1856), son of Elizabeth Detweiler and Jacob Overholt (Abraham's older brother), was especially active in railroad conventions and transportation matters. As far back as May 1838, and as close to his death as December 1854, Henry D. Overholt is listed in newspaper articles as attending and/or working at conventions. He was known as a farmer and "a lawyer notary for Fayette County."

The following article from the Pittsburgh Daily Post was interesting, because Henry D. Overholt was appointed chairman of the annual stockholders meeting of the Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad Company, and appointed to be one of a group of "judges" that were tasked with holding an election for the following year's directors of the company. Only a small portion of the long article is shown here. At the PennState web site, you can find an extensive stockholders report regarding this particular project. Search for the front page headline, Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad - Engineer's Report, in the Pittsburgh Daily Gazette and Advertiser, Wednesday, December 6, 1854; page 1.



Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pittsburgh, PA; December 7, 1854

Annual Meeting of the Stockholders

      Notice having been duly given according to law, a majority of the stockholders of the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad Company held their annual meeting in the office of the Company, Neville Hall, in the city of Pittsburgh, on the first Monday, 4th day of December, A. D. 1854, and on motion of the President, Gen. Wm. Larimer, Jr., organized at 10 o'clock, A. M.
      Henry D. Overholt, of Fayette county, was appointed Chairman, and A. Russell, of the city of Pittsburgh, Secretary.
      The object of the meeting having been stated by G. Larimer, he submitted, on behalf of the Board of Directors, their annual report to the stockholders, which was read, adopted, and ordered to be printed.
      The Chief Engineer, Oliver W. Barnes, Esq., also submitted a report of the operations of his department, and exhibited in detail the progress of the work during the past year, which was read, adopted, and ordered to be printed.
      Wm. B. Curry, Esq., Treasurer, also submitted his report, which was read, adopted, and ordered to be printed.
      It was then, on motion, resolved to proceed to the election of Directors of the Company for the ensuing year.  Henry D. Overholt, of Fayette county; Jacob S. Overholt, of Westmoreland county, and Joseph M. Kinkead, of the city of Pittsburgh, were appointed Judges to hold said election.
      The votes having been counted by the Judges, it appeared that William Larimer, Jr., Pittsburgh; Thomas Scott, Pittsburgh; James T. Kincaid, Pittsburgh; John Anderson, Pittsburgh; Henry S. Garret, Baltimore; Columbus O. Donnell, Baltimore; Thomas C. Jenkins, Baltimore; C. P. Markle, Westmoreland county; Daniel R. Davidson, Fayette county, and Peter Myers, of Somerset county, were duly elected the Board of Directors for the ensuing year.
      A unanimous vote of thanks was tendered to Gen. Wm. Larimer, Jr., President, and Oliver W. Barnes, Esq., Chief Engineer of the Company, for the energy, ability and fidelity with which the business of the Company has been conducted, in the various departments, during the past year.
     The following report was submitted by the president, General William Larimer, Jr., on behalf of the Board of Directors, and read:

For the year 1854, of the President and Directors to the Stockholders of the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad Company:

Pittsburgh, December 4, 1854

To the Stockholders of the
      Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad Company:

      GENTLEMEN:  In their last Annual Report, the Board of Directors presented to the Stockholders, at some length, a retrospect of the earlier history of the Company, by way of comparison with its then existing condition; a synopsis of the serial acts of the Legislature of our State, which had been granted as supplemental to the original charter, and also of the act of incorporation, passed by the General Assembly of the State of Maryland, at its last session; by which connections were secured, on liberal terms, through the territory of that State, with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, at the city of Cumberland, was also submitted; the amount of the various . . . .


Annual Meeting of the Stockholders of the Pittsburgh & Connellsville R R. Co.;
Pittsburgh Daily Post
, Pittsburgh, PA; December 7, 1854
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


The web site of PennState University Libraries, via Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers, provides a good source of articles that can be explored to get an inkling of the planning, building, and growth of local railroads (go to their web site: http://digitalnewspapers.libraries.psu.edu/ ). There are many other sources of historic newspapers online, including the Library of Congress, however some established sites require fees of one sort or another.


The Progressive Farm & 1859 GRAIN DRILL Advertisement

From the beginning, Overton Farm was the anchoring enterprise for the Abraham Overholt Family. The well-managed farm produced the food that sustained good health, and the physical labor kept people humble, so to speak, teaching lessons about cooperation and interdependence, lessons about freedom from want and, ultimately, a fair amount of what independence really is. The same was true for all Abraham's siblings -- most families looked forward to owning a farm. Even if the head of a family, or his sons, started working elsewhere for spending money, the family farm was always the safety net, the fall-back position, the foundation underpinning the next endeavor. However, gradually the business of business became the overriding focus of the succeeding generations.

As capitalistic and aggressive as the Overholts' economic strategy may seem to be, at the level of Abraham Overholt's farm/distillery, it can also be seen as a direct outgrowth of the Mennonite farming heritage. The German immigrants to Pennsylvania have been cited as exemplary farmers ever since the eighteenth century in America, and the Mennonites in particular as innovators and progressives, having almost magically effective techniques, for nearly a century earlier in Europe. The concept of "stewardship" of the soil runs very deep in Mennonite tradition, dating to their experience in applying alpine dairying techniques to marginal lowland terrain after the Thirty Years War in Europe. They found that in making this transition, the hay crops, which grew naturally in the mountains, needed to be seeded and nurtured with manure in order to survive in the lowlands. They also noticed the revitalizing effect of the legume hay crops such as clover on the soil. Thus the concepts of recycling wastes back into the production cycle, as fertilizer or profit, has a long heritage in the Overholts' Mennonite ancestry. Many of the processes integrated into Abraham's farm may be seen as just such recycling, especially the feeding of the waste to hogs.(13)


(13) Dr. Benjamin Rush, An Account of the German Inhabitants of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: 1794); Vladimir Simkhovitch, "Hay and History," and "Rome's Fall Reconsidered" both in Towards an Understanding of Jesus (New York: Macmillan, 1921).

Even as they were expanding and industrializing the distilling and other businesses at West Overton, the farm, of which these businesses were a part, remained important and progressive as well . . . The company also had the latest farming machinery -- a reaper. On July 10 Holmes needed a knife (costing $6) to replace one on his"Buckeye Reaper." A "Buckeye Mowing Machine" was listed in the inventory of Henry S. Overholt, along with a "bunching Machine," and a "patent boreing machine." The reapers in particular were extremely advanced items in 1862, McCormick and Hussey having gotten their inventions to work effectively and into production as recently as 1852. Ivan Glick, a Mennonite and agricultural historian in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has described its use that early as equivalent to a private helicopter today.(14)


(14) Interview with Ivan Glick, August 14,1990. See also Steveson Witcomb Fletcher, Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission, 1950-55), 29. Holmes' reaper and that listed in Henry S. Overholt's inventory were probably one and the same. Overholt's inventory included the company property, and although Holmes may have been charged for maintaining a reaper, he probably did not own it.

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990)
HABS No. PA-5654 (pp. 5-6)

In my Internet searches of historic newspapers, the advertisements of the Civil War era were really amazing, because of the language used to assure the public that their companies and products were worthy of respect, worthy of the price paid to buy their products. It appears that every publication was inventing its own advertising language for every new mechanical device, patented medicine, or experiment in government that came along. During a search for Overholt, the following nearly identical ads were among the results. They both pitch the same new agricultural machine -- a grain drill -- that included A. Overholt from "Overton" in the list of satisfied customers. The manufacturer engaged in a now time-honored method of gaining new customers by presenting the names of those who could endorse the product, doubtless men of stellar reputation, well-known in their own counties and neighboring counties. The inclusion of Abraham Overholt in these ads, along with S. B. Markle and C. P. Markle, caught my eye, because several "Overton" Overholts and West Newton Markles intermarried.

A. O. Tinstman (Abraham's grandson) married Harriet Cornelia Markle
Mary Anne Fox Overholt (Abraham's granddaughter) married Cassius Clay Markle
Emma Fox Overholt (Abraham's granddaughter) married George A. Markle
~ and there were others ~




Daily Morning Post, Pittsburgh, PA;
Tuesday, August 9, 1859;
Photograph Created & Edited by
K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


Presbyterian Banner and Advocate, Pittsburgh, PA;
Saturday, August 13, 1859; page 3;
Photograph Created & Edited by
K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016



THE UNDERSIGNED is now manufacturing at his shop, on REBECCA STREET, IN ALLEGHENY CITY, a superior Grain Drill, calculated for sowing both fall and spring crops.
      For sewing Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rye, &c., in rows, as well as grass seed, broad cast, he pledges himself that it has not heretofore been equalled, and he thinks it can not be surpassed. It is warranted to sow all the above seeds with perfect uniformity, without any danger of clogging, whether the seed is clean or foul. It is easy of adjustment to the different quantities of seed required to the acre, and is not likely to get out of order.
      Sold at fair prices and on accommodating terms.

M. D. WELLMAN, Agent.

      The following named gentlemen have purchased and used the Drills to whom the undersigned refers with confidence and pleasure:
  Capt. John Young, Robinson Tp., Allegheny Co., Pa.
A. Overholt, Overton, Westmoreland county
Dan'l Welty, Hannahstown,
Wm. Manner, Franklin Tp.,
S. B. & C. Markle, West Newton, Westmoreland Co.
David M'Clain, South Huntington tp.,
R. S. Baker, Trustee, Economy, Pa.
Jacob Ebey, Chambersburg, Cumberland Co., Pa,
George McCullough, Wintersville, Jefferson Co., Ohio
Thomas Roberts,
Martin L. Rinehart, Richmond,
W. C. Deardortf, Canal Dover, Tuscarawas county, Ohio

is now manufacturing, at his shop, on Rebecca Street, Allegheny City, a superior
....................G R A I N......D R I L L,
calculated for sowing both Fall and Spring crops.
      For sowing wheat, barley, oats, rye, &c., in rows, as well as grass seed, broadcast, he pledges himself that it has not heretofore been equalled, and he thinks it cannot be surpassed. It is warranted to sow all the above seeds with perfect uniformity, without any danger of clogging, whether the seed is clean or foul.   It is easy of adjustment to the different quantities of seed required to the acre, and is not subject to get out of order.
      Sold at $65 without the grass seed sower, and $70 with it.
      The following gentlemen have purchased and used the drills, to whom the undersigned refers with confidence and pleasure.

M. D. WELLMAN, Agent

Capt. John Young, Jr., Robinson Tp., Allegheny Co., Pa.
A. Overholt, Overton, Westmoreland do
Daniel Welty, Hannahstown,
Wm. Manor, Franklin Tp.,
S. B. & C. P. Markle, West Newton,
David M'Clain, South Huntingdon
R. S. Baker, Trustee, Economy,
Jacob Eby, Chambersburg, Franklin
George McCullough, Wintersville, Jefferson Co., Ohio
Thomas Roberts,. do do do
Martin L. Rineheart, Richmond, do do
W. C. Deardorff, Canal Dover, Tuscarawas do


Abraham's First Whiskey Warehouses

We may wonder where Abraham Overholt aged his barreled whiskey, long before the first huge U.S. bonded warehouse was built on the premises. It may be that some of the buildings still existing at the site once served as Abraham's first whiskey warehouses. The following photographs were included in the 1990 HABS report on West Overton, done for the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey. At that time, before a great deal of renovation took place, several silos were still standing, and farming equipment could be seen on the grounds. To me, the buildings look much like other barrel warehouses constructed during the 1800s, as depicted in drawings and old photographs of famous-name distilling companies. The HABS survey does not give exact dates for the following buildings, merely designating them as being constructed before 1867.


Overton Stock Barn

Designated as Hog Pen & Stables

Designated as Hog Pen & Stables


Named the Large Brick Barn

Silos & Large Brick Barn

Large Brick Barn & Closest Silo


Original Photographs From Historic American Buildings Survey, West Overton, 1990
Tinted Photographs Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016



The Loss Amidst the Gain

When a family member dies, the whole family is affected. The first time Abraham and Maria had to face the death of one of their eight children happened on September 28, 1846, and it was their youngest who was taken. John Stauffer Overholt (1826-1846) died unexpectedly, from some kind of sudden calamity. The family would have celebrated John's 20th birthday back in the spring. In the fall, by the end of September, they had to bury him. When John was born, on June 1, 1826, Maria was a month away from her 35th birthday. John would have been "the baby of the family," and it must have broken his mother's heart to have lost his presence in her life. Thereafter, Maria's devotion to her youngest son was measured by keeping a carton of John's personal belongings under her bed, until the day she died.

Abraham Overholt rapidly and consistently expanded the industrial aspect of the farm. Despite his continuing designation as 'farmer,' it is clear that the transition away from agriculture alone, and toward industrial enterprise, had begun. The mention of a grist mill in 1850 is the first example of Abraham's expanding the family operation beyond distilling, vertically integrating that business to include the tasks prior and subsequent to the distillation itself . . . .

The tax records also note a 'malt house' for the first time in 1850, which the U.S. Census of Manufacturers listed as producing 7,000 bushels of malt in that year. . . The building of the malt house gives further evidence of the increased capacity of the Overholt operation; this process would previously have been carried out in the distillery itself.

The problem of waste mash (malt after it is heated and ferments) was not solved until 1856, when 'hog pens' were added to the tax assessment line for the distillery, also adding $1,000 to its evaluation. The atlas maps show them as a long line extending south from the distillery, as built in 1859. . . .

From HABS/HAER West Overton Survey (1990), page 3


Karen's Note: Surely the problem with waste mash was solved long before Abraham put up extra money to expand the hog pens, adding the cost to the distillery ledger books. Hog pens would have been a part of normal farming life, and the mash would have fed the hogs from the beginning of distilling at "Overton." The value of the paragraph above lies in the description of hog pens shown as being in a long line extending south from the distillery.


Circa 1867 Hog Pens Next to West Overton Distillery Building
Westmoreland County Historic Atlas (1867); John Pritiskutch Productions
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016



A cooper shop to make the barrels was present by at least 1850, when it produced 12,000 casks. The company ledger records only minor numbers of barrels being sold to locals, for more than enough of them were used by the distillery (2,750 barrels in 1850) and the flour mill (10,800 barrels). In 1850, the distillery was listed as entailing a capital investment of $13,000, producing a gross income of $17,990, and employing three men. The mill required an investment of only $3,000, but brought in $32,000.

From HABS/HAER Report on West Overton (1990), page 3


Karen's Note: We should never gloss over the continued profitablity of the "Overton" flouring mill, located at one end of the Distillery Building. By 1850, Abraham's distilling operation would have achieved 40 years of production. He must have employed coopers long before the statistics above were recorded.

In 1855, just a few years after becoming a full partner, Jacob S. Overholt amicably gave up his position in A. Overholt & Sons, and the company name reverted to A. and H. S. Overholt. Jacob left to concentrate on Broad Ford, where he was developing a new village that would support a new distillery complex on the banks of the Youghiogheny River. He took as a partner his cousin Henry O. Overholt (1813-1880), previously known for weaving Overholt "coverlids" (coverlets). When the distillery was up and running, they produced Monongahela Whiskey, despite the fact that they were located on the Youghiogheny River, not the Monongahela.

At Broad Ford, Jacob was known for his business activity and personal integrity, and for charity given to those in need. He was considered to be everybody's friend. Great things were accomplished over the next few years, but then came a tragedy that impacted the Overholt family even more than it impacted Broad Ford. On April 19, 1859, Abraham Overholt marked his 75th birthday. The following day, April 20, 1859, Abraham and Maria should have been celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. However, that was the day their son Jacob died from "his last illness." He was only 44 years old.

When Jacob died, Abraham had been distilling at "Overton" for 49 years. Yet, at that point, he stepped up to purchase Jacob's two-thirds interest in the Broad Ford distillery complex, then formed A. Overholt and Company with nephew Henry O. Overholt. Henry was a son of Abraham's older brother Martin Overholt (1772-1835) and Catherine Overholt (1781-1866), a distant relative from Bucks County. Henry O. Overholt kept his one-third interest in the company that he and Jacob had built, and thereafter, he and his Uncle Abraham produced A. Overholt & Co. Whiskey at Broad Ford.

The price Abraham paid for Jacob's two-thirds interest in the Broad Ford distillery complex would have provided financial support for Jacob's widow, Mary Fox (1816-1895), and their seven surviving children (Abraham, Isaac, Mary Anne, Fenton, Christian, Jacob, Emma).

It was in 1859, that the Overholts pulled down the stone distillery and the brick flouring mill at "Overton," and in their place, built a combined mill and distillery building. Abraham's new brick building stood six stories high, and measured 100 feet long and 63 feet wide -- the building still stands and is now used as a museum. At the time the new flouring mill was put to work, fifty barrels of flour could be milled per day, and the distillery could handle 200 bushels of grain per day.

Also in 1859, one of Abraham's grandsons, Abraham Overholt Tinstman (1834-1915), known as A. O. Tinstman, augmented his managerial duties at A. Overholt and Company by purchasing 600 acres of coal land near Broad Ford, with his partner Joseph Rist, and thereby paved another road towards economic diversity. It should be noted that at the end of the year, on December 19, 1859, another grandson of Abraham Overholt would be ten years old, namely Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919).



Before & After the War Between the States


Circa 1867 West Overton Farming & Coking
1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas
; John Pritiskutch Productions;
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


The War Between the States, our Civil War, was a great watershed event in the history of the United States of America. It truly was the worst of times and the best of times, bringing death and destruction, along with rapid and amazing industrial advances. The turmoil of simultaneous worst-and-best scenarios affected everybody, young and old, whether slave or free, and the multitudes of strife suffered by the population back then, continues to reverberate into the present time.

Our Mennonite ancestors came to this continent burdened by the strife of religious and political persecution, and the overwhelming experience of witnessing the destruction of everything their own ancestors had built up over generations. The Civil War heightened old religious and political arguments that brought new waves of persecutions and the systematic destruction of everything many families had built up since the great immigrations. The Overholts kept up with the political rumblings of their time via subscriptions to newspapers, like The Herald, The Republican, and The Chronicle. Of course, back in the days of Abaham Lincoln, those who called themselves Republicans had different political views than what are supported by many in today's Republican Party, although some of the basic systems of belief still echo in the halls of local, state and federal government. However, because "a picture is worth a thousand words," we are able to learn a great deal about the accoutrements of being alive and living, back when the fabric of our history was being made.

A cursory study of the pre-Civil War era reveals historic photographs made by the first generations of photographers. In America, two immigrants from Germany, William and Frederick Langenheim, first became famous for their daguerreotype photography, making W. & F. Langenheim famous in Philadelphia (1843), then their panoramic pictures of Niagra Falls (1845) brought them world fame. Next came their patented technique for coloring daguerreotype plates (1846), their patented hyalotype glass slides (1850). They introduced stereoscopy, and were the first Americans to sell stereocards to the public (American Stereoscopic Company, 1850-1860), and then were the first to produce stereographs commercially in America. In the meantime, they took the earliest known interval timed pictures of a solar eclipse (1854). I found a great many Internet references featuring the Langenheim Brothers, and examples of their work are available online to study.

My curiosity about this subject was spurred by the following photograph, found at the new West Overton Village Digital Archive, hosted by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, launched by the folks at West Overton Village and Museums. They have been working with a number of individuals and archival entities to setup an accessible online interface to publish this new digital archive. In the summer of 2017, the staff began what will be a project requiring many years of conservation work, with the ultimate goal of creating a digital resource of Overholt-related documents and items for those students, historians, and researchers wishing to study them (see https://wovdighistory.psc.edu/items/browse?page=1).



Abraham Overholt at George Washington's Tomb


Circa 1858 ~ Daguerreotype of Abraham Overholt at George Washington's Tomb;
Original from West Overton Village Digital Archive; Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village;
Photograph Tinted & Modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018 [See New Material, below]



The archival data from the West Overton Village Digital Archive states the orginal version of this picture is a daguerreotype photograph of Abraham Overholt and "two unknown men," and the date is unknown, too. The original is very dark and has spots and dots all over it, perhaps from deteriorated silver, or even residue from mercury. Daguerreotype pictures were processed on a silver surface and developed by mercury vapor. The name comes from French inventor, L. J. M. Daguerre (1789-1851).

I spent many hours brightening the photo and cleaning away, or blurring, dots from faces and suits, and experimenting on ways to make the ghostly figures look clear and solid, with the limited tools at my disposal. Then, it was necessary to do the same job at least four more times, until the overall result looked the best I could make it. After a while, I decided to ignore most of the dots and spots, and focus on the three figures. The photo had to be tinted, because this web page series relies on tinted pictures. The tinting actually made most of the blemishes less noticeable, but my untinted version actually looks a bit better.

During my work, it seemed to me that the foreground and middlemost areas might have been manipulated by the original photographer. Perhaps some wild underbrush was cleared away by chemical means, along with a few other details that cannot be explained. For instance, exactly what is Abraham sitting on? If it is a bench, where are the supports? None of the old images I found of the site show any benches in that spot. And why, in the original, do the lower legs and feet of the central figure look contrived? In my version, the pantlegs and shoes were given special attention.

Once the offending dots were cleared away, and the most grievous distractions were attended to, the facial similarity between Abraham and the central figure was enhanced -- he must have been one of Abraham's sons. The man with the hat, and what appears to be a closed umbrella, looked like another son. A big question for me was, exactly which two sons were there with Abraham on that day? Also, what spurred the Overholts to make the long journey from "Overton" (most of the way probably by train) to Virginia's Mount Vernon, presenting themselves in what may be their best suits of clothes?

Apparently, American citizens visited the "new tomb" of George Washington throughout the 19th century. The "old tomb" was an existing family vault that suffered damage in succeeding years, and needed to be replaced. In 1831, a new brick structure was erected at Mount Vernon, and the remains of George and Martha Washington, as well as other deceased members of the family, were moved to the new brick tomb. In the 19th century, the succeeding generation was having hard times, so they sought an offer from the Virginia government for ownership of Mount Vernon, and then the U. S. government in 1848, but were refused. Ten years later, in 1858, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union bought the property, and probably commissioned the repairs shown being made in a circa 1859 photograph by William England (see pictorial references below).

One Internet source mentions a French visitor who wrote about Mount Vernon, that it had become "the resort of the travelers of all nations who come within its vicinity," adding that people were coming to the site with "veneration and respect," making "a pilgrimage to the shrine of patriotism and public worth . . . " An Internet search for images of Washington's mausoleum/tomb/grave reveals many drawings, etchings and paintings of the site from the 1800s.

Old photographs show people gathered together to observe the birthdate, the Presidency, or the death of George Washington, so there may have been an observance of that kind, in the 1850s, one that Abraham Overholt and his sons attended. I am only guessing it happened circa 1858, because that is when the property changed hands to the ladies' association, and the ladies may have staged a fund-raiser to support repairs and renovations. Also, I found two pictures of the site by photographers who, around that time, were making images of historic sites for stereocards, similar to the picture above, and one of them was made by The Langenheim Brothers (see pictorial references below).

My getting to see the original daguerreotype online was both sad and glorious. It was sad because of the deteriorated condition of the photo. On the other hand, it was a glorious experience, because I was seeing a picture of my ancestors as tourists. It looks like a summer day in Virginia, and they look hot and tired, and might have felt a bit out of place. Moreover, they looked so human. The first face I studied was Abraham's, and considering his age, to my mind, he would not have traveled to Mount Vernon alone -- he would have been accompanied by a few of his sons. Therefore, the central figure may be Jacob, and the man with the hat may be Henry, and if so, this photograph shows the three most commercially important men of Abraham Overholt's "Overton" and his whiskey business. Also, it may represent the last time Abraham was photographed together with his sons Henry and Jacob.

If the central figure is Jacob, this image was taken before April 19, 1859, Abraham's 75th birthday, because Jacob died the following day, on April 20, 1859, at 44 years of age. So, does the man in the middle look about 44 years old, or is he a different Overholt son? Abraham's next oldest son was his namesake, and my great-great grandfather, Abraham S. Overholt (1817-1863), who was 42 in the summer of 1859. If the man in the middle is not Jacob, and not son Abraham, then he may be Martin S. Overholt (1822-1899), or Christian S. Overholt (1824-1911). We need to see more photographs of the family.

And let us not forget, there is another person on the scene to ask about -- the man behind the camera. Who was the photographer? Maybe it was A. N. Stauffer, the photographer from Scottdale, or a local from the Mount Vernon area, or maybe he was one of the Langenheim brothers. To me, this was an amazing photograph of my ancestors. An original view of the artifact is included in the pictorial references below, showing how it actually appears, except for a reduction in the dpi and size. Perhaps someone who is more adept at renovating old photographs will do far better work to bring this moment in history back to life, so to speak.



Arrivals at the Principal Hotels

During another session of Internet research, I found evidence of how busy Abraham was just before the Civil War began. A newspaper in Philadelphia, published July 6, 1860, revealed that A. Overholt and D. P. Patterson from "Overton" had checked in at The Union Hotel, located on "Arch Street, above Third." On that date, Abraham was more than six months into his 76th year. As for his companion, the HABS West Overton Survey identifies D. P. Patterson, whose name appears on one of the inscriptions on the lintels of the 1859 Distillery Building -- he was the millwright who built it.


Arrivals at the Principal Hotels,
Philadelphia Press
,  Friday, July 06, 1860; Page: 3
Photo Created by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016



THE UNION HOTEL -- Arch street, above Third.

  Chas Bracht, Balt
W Lipper, Phila
A. Overholt, Overton
E G Dalton, Chester, Pa
Thos A Boult, Hagerstown
W P Hammond, Phila
A H Peacock, Reading
Wm Cree, Kansas Ter
John Faulkner & la, Pa
F O'Brine N J
Mrs Ratcliff  Altlantic City
Saml Ratcliff, Atlantic City
L M Kaufman, Troy, N Y
Wm Major, Pottsville
F M Wheeler, N Y
H J Bailey, Pittsburg
T C Worth, Wilm. N C
D P Patterson, Overton
H W Stokes, N J
A K Lyester, Hagarstown
A G Cox, Del
Col R Ratcliff, Tamaqua
F W Haines, Newark, Del
Geo Brown, Tamaqua
Geo M Odenwelder, Kaston
Jas Ralston & la, N J
Jas Ralson, Atlantic City
Geo W Lawson, N Y
A D Miller, Schuylkill co


* * * New Material * * *


1860 Ambrotype of Abraham Overholt at George Washington's Tomb;
Original Photograph by Stephen Ford © 2018, Modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018


~ ~ Abraham At George Washington's Tomb Update ~ ~

A duplicate of the picture showing Abraham Overholt and two others at George Washington's Tomb has surfaced, owned by Stephen Ford, a member of The Extended Overholt Family. Stephen is a son of Barbara B. Ford (1922-2007), the OFA genealogist who compiled and edited The Oberholtzer Book. Years ago, Stephen kindly helped me put together a web page about his mother [see Memoir: Barbara Babst Ford]. The MC line of their "O" family tree includes the following.

Abraham Overholt > Christian Stauffer Overholt > Annie May Overholt >
Katherine Overholt Law > Barbara Jane Babst > Stephen Overholt Ford

In the middle of March 2018, Stephen sent me an email, with a subject line of Photo of Abraham Overholt. Naturally, I expected him to be commenting on the 1865 Photograph of Abraham Overholt that appears on this page below. However, it was the picture taken at George Washington's Tomb that spurred him to write and attach four amazing pictures.


Abraham Overholt At George Washington's Tomb #2
Originals from the Collection of Stephen Ford © 2018
Four Small Views by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018

  Hi, Karen,

Recently, I came across your web page with the photo of Abraham Overholt at George Washington's tomb. I happen to have what appears to be an original [or original copy?] of that photograph, which is encased in a Union Case. A number of years ago, I removed the photo, glass and brass mat from the case and found that a piece of paper had been placed underneath it. I was able to remove most of the paper, which revealed the following handwritten note.

Tomb of Washington
Mt Vern... 3 July 1860 [although it's possible that it says 13 or 23, but that seems unlikely to me]
Abraham Over....
................ [another name probably, but almost entirely torn out]

The rest of the note appears to be solidly adhered to the back of the glass.

Next, in your article you mention finding the Philadelphia newspaper, published on July 6, 1860, which recorded the arrival of Abraham Overholt and D.P. Patterson at the Union Hotel. This would coincide with a July 3 visit to Mt. Vernon. I would have to conclude that this is the same D.P. Patterson in the photo.

I passed my "new" information on to the West Overton Village Digital Archive, and also referred them to your research on the photo and D.P. Patterson.

On a more technical note, my copy consists of a glass "sandwich": 2 pieces of glass with a black coating on the back of the bottom piece. Based on this, I believe it to be an ambrotype, whereas the WOVDA copy is a daguerreotype, according to them. Interestingly, the "spots" on the photos appear to be in exactly the same location, as is what appears to be a crack above the man standing at right [somewhat like an inverted "C"]. Not knowing much about the photographic processes of the 1860s, I can't speculate on how duplicate copies came to be made, but these clearly are the same photograph.

- Stephen Overholt Ford, March 2018

Presented with new possibilities, more research was necessary. For instance, what was the difference between a daguerreotype photo and an ambrotype photo?

The ambrotype . . . is a positive photograph on glass made by a variant of the wet plate collodion process.  Like a print on paper, it is viewed by reflected light. Like the daguerreotype, which it replaced, and like the prints produced by a Polaroid camera, each is a unique original that could only be duplicated by using a camera to copy it . . .

In the U.S., ambrotypes first came into use in the early 1850s. In 1854, James Ambrose Cutting of Boston took out several patents relating to the process . . . By the late 1850s, the ambrotype was overtaking the daguerreotype in popularity. By the mid-1860s, the ambrotype itself was being replaced by the tintype, a similar image on a sturdy black-lacquered thin iron sheet, as well as by photographic albumen paper prints made from glass plate collodion negatives.

Ambrotype, Wikipedia

The ambrotype process was patented in 1854 and enjoyed great popularity for a few short years, and again during the Civil War. It produced pictures on glass instead of metal plates. Like the earlier daguerreotype, each image is unique, made one-at-a-time in the camera. The glass is flowed with a sticky material known as iodized collodion. It is then sensitized by being dipped into a bath of silver nitrate, and exposed in the camera while still wet. A chemical developer is used to bring out the image. The glass plate is then backed with black material--paint, cloth or paper--and furnished in a case similar to those used for daguerreotypes. The ambrotype process was marketed as an improvement, because the finished image lacked the glittery, elusive reflective quality of daguerreotypes and was therefore easier to view. The detail and tonal range, however, tend to be less impressive than in the earlier process.

A PRIMER ON PROCESSES, The American Museum of Photography

Until the ambrotype came along in 1851, when an Englishman named Frederick Scott Archer developed an inexpensive technique to expose photographic images on thin sheets of glass, the daguerreotype was the only type of photograph available. Made of copper plates faced with silver, daguerreotypes were expensive and fragile, which is why they were housed in sealed cases to keep their polished surfaces from tarnishing due to contact with fresh air. In 1854, an American named James Cutting filed three patents for new ambrotype processes—in a curious footnote, Cutting changed his middle name from Anson to Ambrose, perhaps to more closely associate himself with ambrotypes in the same way that Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre was linked by his name to daguerreotypes.

Like daguerreotypes and some of the tintypes that came a bit later, ambrotypes were also cased to protect them. It’s not that their surfaces were as sensitive as those of daguerreotypes. Rather, it was the glass ambrotype itself that was at risk. Hinged cases, usually made of wood and covered in leather, did the trick. The ambrotype was placed within this case in layers, somewhat like a sandwich. There was the ambrotype (with or without a black background, which was required to keep the image from resembling a negative), topped by a layer of brass matting to frame the image and protect it from another layer of glass on top of that. Holding these pieces together was the preserver, also made of brass, all of which was then secured in the case, which was lined with velvet or silk.

The heyday of ambrotypes in the United States was brief, from 1854 to 1865, when uncased tintypes took over. . . .

Antique Ambrotype Photographs, Collectors Weekly

An Internet search will yield a number of web sites with detailed information about ambrotype photography, as well as many images. If you are really interested in this period of history, or this era of photography, you can easily spend several hours looking at images.

Regarding Stephen's ambrotype, it is unfortunate that the message on the backing paper is damaged, but it includes a date we can use -- 3 July 1860. It also gives us two names, Abraham Overholt and D. P. Patterson, the millwright who built the six-story "Overton" Mill and Distillery Building, in 1859. It was Patterson who checked in at The Union Hotel, with Abraham, before midnight on July 6, 1860, as published in The Philadelphia Press the following day. The seated man in the picture is Abraham, and the man in the middle looks so much like Abraham that he must be one of his sons. The figure at the right, holding the top hat and folded umbrella must be Patterson.

The backing paper includes another line of identification, but it is torn. The letters "hers" or "thers" can be seen, so we can wonder if that word is photographers or brothers. Could the photographer have been one of two Overholt brothers?


"Tomb of Washington; Mt Vernon 3 July 1860; Abraham Overholt; D. P. Patterson; ...-thers"
Original Photograph by Stephen Ford © 2018; Modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018


* * * End of Update * * *



Life and Death Transitions

There came the days when Abraham's other sons and grandsons began to take over more responsibilities as the accountants, managers, and entrepreneurs of the Overholt businesses. However, the Civil War (1861-1865) intervened, pulling away many men from the "Overton" neighborhood to serve in the Union cause. During the war, in 1863, Abraham composed his Last Will and Testament. This was the year when his third son and namesake, Abraham Stauffer Overholt (1817-1863), died in May, leaving behind widow Mary Ann Newmyer and four children (George W., John S., Norman, Mary). [This Abraham S. Overholt was Karen's great-great grandfather; his son George Washington Overholt was Karen's great grandfather.]

The following year, 1864, Henry O. Overholt sold out his one-third interest in Broad Ford's A. Overholt and Company, and retired to his family farm. At that time, A. O. Tinstman became his grandfather's partner in the firm, having earned a reputation as a successful manager and businessman, who had kept the Broad Ford distillery complex progressive and profitable.

At the close of America's Civil War, young men from "Overton" were among the casualties. Several had died in battle or from diseases contracted during the campaigns, but finally the war was over, and many sons and grandsons returned home to regain their health and renew their marriages. Some could look forward to building a future in a rapidly changing world, or simply go back to working a family farm. Others could anticipate pairing up for weddings and setting up their own households. Meanwhile, at Broad Ford, about 1866, the Overholts tore down the existing distillery and completely rebuilt it, no doubt with local labor. Then they updated whiskey production at the "Overton" distillery.

In March 1866, Abraham and Maria lost their older daughter, Anna S. Overholt (1812-1866). Anna was the wife of John Tinstman (1807-1877), and mother of 10 children (Maria, Jacob, Abraham [A. O. Tinstman], Henry, Anna, John, Elizabeth, Abigail, Emma, Christian). Anna suffered the death of 15-year old Maria on May 30, 1846, and the following month, on June 15, 1846, she lost Elizabeth, a month before her third birthday. During the war, Anna's sons Henry and John served with the esteemed 15th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, the Anderson Troops. Henry was a captain and survived the war, but John died on October 3, 1862, following the Battle of Antietam. In November 1865, Anna had to bear 19-year old Abigail's death, then four months later, on March 29, 1866, Anna, herself, died. Those were hard times for the immediate and extended family.


Circa 1867 West Overton Coal & Coke Industry ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas;
John Pritiskutch Productions; Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016

Nearly four years passed, and Abraham and Maria passed through the "elderly" stage of life, and reached the time of "growing old together," sharing the good times and the bad times that invariably came with an ever-growing family. Then one of them "passed on." In the early morning of January 15, 1870, three months before his 86th birthday, Abraham was struck down, perhaps by a heart attack or stroke, and he died at the age of 85. He was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, located in Mount Pleasant, PA, near "Overton."

1865 Photograph of Abraham Overholt;
A. N. Stauffer, Photographer;
Original from West Overton Village Digital Archive;
Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village;
Photo Modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018

On Saturday morning, January 15, at his residence in East Huntingdon township, Westmoreland county, Pa., ABRAHAM OVERHOLT, in the 86th year of his age. He arose in the morning in usual health and took the lantern and went out, and not returning, the family went to look for him and found him in an out-house and the lamp of life almost extinguished. He was buried on the 18th in the Mennonite burying ground in said township, followed by a large concourse of relatives and friends. The occasion was improved by ___ Woodbury of the Baptist church in the English language, and by Bro. Blough in German. Bro. Overholt was a faithful member of the Mennonite church for many years, and the church has reason to mourn for him. His seat was seldom vacant at public worship, and he was one of the most benevolent men the church had. When any benevolent purpose demanded it he was always willing and ready to give of his abundance. C. S.

From Herald of Truth Obituaries
Herald Of Truth, Volume VII, Number 3;
March, 1870; page 46-47

Thereafter, 78-year-old Maria remained in Abraham's Homestead House, the house he had built for her in the 29th year of their marriage. The 1870 Census was probably generated before Abraham's death, for he is listed as "Abram Overholt, 85, ret [retired] manufacturer." Along with "wife Mariah," their granddaughter Maria Overholt Frick (1848-1939) was still living in the house, as were domestic servant Joan Raymin, 18, and three children named Hait. The census also identified a woman named Margaret Hait, 36, a tollgate keeper, who lived elsewhere in "Overton" with five other children.


West Overton After Abraham


Circa 1867 The Spring House & Abraham's Homestead House ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas;
John Pritiskutch Productions; Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


When Abraham died, Maria had already experienced the loss of four of her eight children. John died in September 1846, at 20 years of age, having never been married. Jacob died in April 1859, at the age of 44 years, leaving widow Mary Fox and seven children. Son Abraham had died in May 1863, at 46 years of age, leaving behind widow Mary Ann Newmyer and four children. Then Anna died in March 1866, at the age of 53, leaving husband John Tinstman and their six surviving children.

Only six months after burying Abraham, Maria faced the death of her firstborn, Henry. On June 18, 1870, two months before his 60th birthday, Henry S. Overholt died after a long illness, leaving behind his widow, Abigail Carpenter, and their seven children to carry on without him. The following month, Maria turned 79. Since she celebrated her 18th birthday, she had never been without her husband, Abram, on her birthday.

The energy and guidance of Abraham, Henry and Jacob must have been missed, and certainly, a great many things at "Overton" changed in succeeding years. However, the surviving Overholt sons and grandsons continued the whiskey business, with new endeavors in coal mining and coke production, along with financial interests in local banking, industrial manufacturing, and railroad companies. Special note must be taken of A. O. Tinstman's work towards organizing and building the Mt. Pleasant and Broad Ford Railroad, that connected with the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad. As a testament of the strength of Abraham's distilling company, nearly a year after his death, and five months after Henry's passing, Overholt whiskey from West Overton was still being advertised in newspapers and sold in stores under the company name A. & H. S. Overholt.


Whiskies; The Evening Telegraph, September 15, 1870;
Fifth Edition, Philadelphia, PA; Page 5;
Photo Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016

During the winter of 1874, Maria Stauffer Overholt died at the age of 83. She was buried next to her "Abram" in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where many family members and extended family are buried. Only three of Maria's eight children survived her death -- Elizabeth, Martin and Christian, but we have no evidence they were all present at her burial. The winter weather may have kept Elizabeth from attending, for she was living with her family in Ohio, but Martin and his family may have been living in or near West Overton, and Christian and his family probably were living in Mount Pleasant at that time.

I believe it is imperative to get more details about this event, in order to properly tell the story. Our genealogical resources tell us Martin died on June 27, 1899, but Elizabeth and Christian lived into the next century, with Elizabeth passing away on October 1, 1905, and Christian dying on February 1, 1911.

Martin Stauffer Overholt (1822-1899) died three months before his 77th birthday, and was laid to rest in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where his wife, Maria Wakefield (1827-1886), was buried; they had six children together. Elizabeth Stauffer Overholt Frick (1819-1905) passed away in Wooster, Ohio, and was buried where her husband, John Wilson Frick (1822-1888), was laid to rest, in the Wooster Cemetery, Wooster, Ohio. They brought six children into the world, and the graves of most of them are found in the Wooster Cemetery. Christian Stauffer Overholt (1824-1911) died in Pittsburgh, but was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, where his wife, Catherine L. Newmyer (1831-1894) would be laid. Together they brought six children into the world, and for a time, their home in Mount Pleasant became the Mount Pleasant Hospital.



New Data About Maria's Death

I never managed to find a newspaper article that reported the death of Maria Stauffer Overholt. This seemed quite strange, for Maria must have been as impressive a figure as her husband, Abraham, at least in the neighborhood of West Overton. I found no obituary that told about a funeral service, mentioned the clergyman who had presided, noted who had attended, and listed the surviving family members. In several genealogies compiled by Rev. A. J. Fretz, November 1874 was given as Maria's date of death. Barbara B. Ford's The Oberholtzer Book gives the same information, 11/1874, so it appeared that we could not mark our calendars to remember the day she passed away.

The whole matter changed in September 2017, when my request to the folks at West Overton Museums for more information produced a jpg of an obituary about Maria, taken from their Archives. The obit is in the form of a narrow, single-column news story, with no information attached regarding the source of the clipping, the date it was written, or the date it was published, so it may or may not be from a local newspaper. The article was typed in Roman font, and to me, it looks like someone taped together the full text to create the single column. The margins are not uniform throughout, despite the use of justified paragraphs, where lines have extra space between words, in order to make the left and right margins uniform.

Perhaps some of the information given was taken from a newspaper article, or the details were considered to be common knowledge. Perhaps it was typed for a church bulletin, perhaps for a congregation other than the one Maria belonged to. The language used and the formulation of the message remind me of other obits I have seen from that period, but the final paragraph changes tone dramatically, suggesting that two different people contributed to the content. For many reasons then, it appears the article was written to commemorate Maria's passing, composed on the day of her burial, or perhaps after she had already been buried.

A good deal of incidental information is contained in the article, so that, in a very touching way, we are able to glimpse something about our ancestor's personal life and actual personality, as she lived her final years. The full text follows.


In Memoriam.

During the last century, a Mr. Stauffer and wife moved into the wilds of Western Pennsylvania and settled near what is now Fountain Mills, or Everson, in Fayette County, on the 18th of July, 1791.  A daughter was born to them whom they named Maria.  At the age of eighteen, Maria was married to Abraham Overholt.  About the same time, they both united with the Mennonite Church, of which they lived and died members.

Soon after marriage they began housekeeping in a little stone house in West Overton, which is still standing.  They afterwards occupied a log house nearby, and lastly the fine brick residence from which grandmother Overholt has just been borne by loving friends to her final resting place.

Jan. 15, 1870, Mr. Overholt died, after they had lived together something over 60 years.  On Sabbath, November 1st, 1874, Mrs. Maria Stauffer Overholt passed from earth, having attained the ripe age of eighty-three years, three months and eighteen days, and having lived on the same farm sixty-five years.  She was the mother of eight children, only three of whom survive her.  At the time of her death she had also forty-eight grand-children and twenty-five great-grand-children.  Her mind remained clear to the last, and her heart never lost that preeminent kindness for which her life was so distinguished.  The peace with which she waited the time of her departure was never apparently disturbed.  Just before she passed away, her life seemed to be repeating itself, and she lived over in words and thoughts her life of thirty or forty years ago.

Although feeble in body for some time, she never lost her all-controlling desire to make others happy.  As she was in life, so she remained, peaceful, tender and gentle, loving and beloved, and so she died.  It is truly a loss not to have such an one to care for.  But we must speak a word of the departed as a mother.  Although so far removed in age from the rising generation, she was their special friend and favorite, and a very gratifying evidence of it is the impress she left upon their minds for doing good.

And we must not omit the mention of one for which thousands will yet arise to call her blessed.  To her more than to any other person do we owe the existence of Mt. Pleasant Institute.  While she only gave $5,000 herself, yet it is from her children and grandchildren, and we may hope from her great-grand-children, has already come and will continue to come, at least one-half of the financial support of the Institute.  When the first $100,000 is made up, her name will be connected with about $60,000 of it.  Nor are Messrs. C. S. Overholt and A. O. Tinstman, her son and grand-son, the only subscribers, but there are a considerable number of very liberal subscriptions from others similarly related.  The marble in the cemetery will speak feeble words compared with this monument to Christian learning, which will yield its fruits as long as time lasts.

Overholt, Maria Stauffer, Obituary In Memoriam. Box 1, Folder C19.
West Overton Village and Museums, Scottdale, Pennsylvania.

Some of the data given in the article does not match information we have today. For instance, Along the Banks of Jacobs Creek reports that the Abraham Stauffer family "appears in the 1790 census of Tyrone Twp., Fayette Co. with four males under 16 and four females." Also given, "On 3-Mar 1790 Abraham Stauffer of Lancaster Co., yoeman, bought 278 acres from Benjamin Wells of Tyrone Twp. for 320 pounds . . . ." He purchased other tracts of land in the area, after that time. Maria was born on July 13, 1791, so it appears she and her sister Elizabeth, who was born January 19, 1794, were born in Fayette County.

On another point, Abraham and Maria were wed April 20, 1809, so Maria was at least three months from her 18th birthday, when she became Abraham's wife. Also, it is valuable to remember that both had been raised in devout Mennonite families. Maria's father was a Mennonite preacher and bishop, and historically, there were plenty of clergy in the Oberholtzer/Overholt families, as well. Abraham and Maria may have become Christians and full members of their church some years before becoming husband and wife. Many sources corroborate that Abraham and Maria were devout members of the Mennonite Church all their lives. In fact, their own home was used as a local Mennonite meeting house.

Let us note that the marriage was a good 61 years and three months long. If the day of Maria's death really was November 1, 1874, then she had lived 83 years, three months and eighteen days, just as reported. However, this is only a single source, and we really need more than one. Tentatively, then, perhaps we know what day Maria died, but do we know where she died?

Many years ago, my grandfather, George Frederick Overholt (1892-1966), told my mother a bit of family history about Maria, Abraham's widow. He said that after giving over the care of her house to others in the family, Maria was set up to live in the Spring House, where she was pretty much forgotten by everybody, and then she died. If true, this would be a very sad tale, but my mother was sure about it, because my grandfather had been adamant.

Because of my questions about this matter, the museum coordinator at West Overton wrote, "We are not aware of Maria living in the Springhouse [sic] prior to her death. According to a family diary, she remained living in the second floor northeast bedroom of the homestead until her death in 1874. Maria F. Overholt, who previously lived in the third story of the home, moved into the adjoining northwest bedroom following Abraham's death in 1870. The diary places the box containing John Overholt's possessions under Maria Frick Overholt's bed in the second story northwest bedroom . . . We do not have a record of Maria's funeral in our archive . . . The box containing John Overholt's possessions is mentioned in a family diary, though there appears to be no record of the box or its contents after Maria's death. Many furnishings and decorations of the house were replaced or removed after Aaron S R and Sarah Overholt moved into the home in 1874."

However, along with the testimony given by my grandfather, I have the story of the day I visited West Overton for the first time, back in the autumn of 1984. The lady who was my guide did more than show me around Abraham's House. She also opened the Spring House for me, and led the way up the steps to the loft, "to see the cot where Maria slept." Once there, the lady knelt down and pulled out from under the cot a very old, long carton, opened the lid, and let me see Maria's keepsakes. I cannot remember what was inside the carton, for I quickly looked away, feeling we were disturbing something quite private. Remembering that day, and considering all the changes made in recent years to the West Overton buildings and grounds, I wonder what became of Maria's cot, and the carton with all the things she held so dear. Moreover, how did it come to pass that the folks currently running the events at West Overton misplaced such a poignant story about Maria's last days?



They Were Great-Great-Grandchildren of Martin Oberholtzer,
Great-Grandchildren of Henrich Oberholtzer,
Grandchildren of Abraham Overholt, First-Cousins & Second-Cousins

What do we know about the Overholt families that lived in the Abraham Overholt Homestead House after the deaths of Abraham and Maria? First, it is essential to know that John S. R. Overholt (1837-1925) and Aaron S. R. Overholt (1837-1905) were twins. They were sons of Mennonite minister and bishop Rev. John D. Overholt (1795-1878) and Elizabeth Stauffer (1804-1842), who were parents of seven children. John D. was a son of Jacob Overholt (1768-1847), a son of Henrich Oberholtzer. Elizabeth was a daughter of Christian Stauffer (1778-1852) and Agnes Overholt (1773-1845), Agnes being a daughter of Henrich's younger brother, Martin Oberholtzer.

Martin Oberholtzer (ca.1709-1744) > Henrich Oberholtzer > Jacob Overholt > Rev. John D. Overholt > John S. R. & Aaron S. R. Overholt

Martin Oberholtzer (ca.1709-1744) > Martin Oberholtzer > Agnes Overholt > Elizabeth Stauffer > John S. R. & Aaron S. R. Overholt

Therefore, the twins were great-great-grandchildren of our ancestor Martin Oberholtzer, father of Henrich and namesake Martin Oberholtzer. They also were grand-nephews of Abraham Overholt. Notably, both John and Aaron honorably served three years in the Civil War, fighting for the Union. They managed to survive the war, then returned to "Overton," looking forward to building a future in their own home town, where plenty of business activity beckoned. Additionally, both men married well.

Martin Oberholtzer (ca.1709-1744) > Henrich Oberholtzer > Abraham Overholt > Elizabeth S. Overholt > Maria O. Frick

Martin Oberholtzer (ca.1709-1744) > Henrich Oberholtzer > Abraham Overholt > Henry S. Overholt > Sarah Ann Overholt

Maria Overholt Frick (1848-1939) was a granddaughter of Abraham Overholt and Maria Stauffer, brought into their home as a small child and raised to maturity. Young Maria was the first child of their daughter Elizabeth Stauffer Overholt (1819-1905), wife of John W. Frick (1822-1889). Maria O. Frick was a great-granddaughter of Henrich Oberholtzer. In Abraham Overholt's Last Will and Testament, he bequeathed to this granddaughter the sum of $2,000, which was a considerable sum in those days, and he may have set aside that money so that she could have a fine wedding one day. In 1872, young Maria married Abraham's grand-nephew, her second-cousin, John S. R. Overholt. To a community accustomed to seeing young Maria growing up in Abraham's House, it must have appeared perfectly natural to see her take over running it, sometime following Abraham's death, or sometime following her wedding, or sometime after beginning a new Overholt family.

Grace M. Overholt may have been born in the Homestead House, on October 25, 1872. Roughly two years later, sometime in 1874, the family moved to Wooster, Ohio, where many Frick family members had already relocated. In Wooster, about November 11, 1875, young Maria gave birth to Jay, but he died the following year on July 21, 1876. The following spring, on April 19, 1877, Karl Frick Overholt was born -- a birthday that must have seemed advantageous, for his great-grandfather Abraham had been born on April 19. As it happened, many years later, it was Karl who kept petitioning his cousin, Helen C. Frick, to preserve West Overton, until she decided to do so. In the deep mid-winter of 1881, Maria and John welcomed baby Lucy into the world, but she died seven days later, and was buried on February 27, 1881. One more child, John D. Overholt was born in 1886 -- I have no other information about him.

The next Overholt family that lived in Abraham's House was that of Aaron S. R. Overholt and wife Sarah Ann Overholt (1846-1921). Like Maria and John, both Sarah Ann and Aaron were great-grandchildren of Henrich Oberholtzer.

Second-cousins Sarah Ann and Aaron were married on January 6, 1869. Their wedding occurred almost exactly one year before Abraham Overholt died. Abraham and Maria probably attended the event, for Sarah Ann was the firstborn child of their firstborn, Henry S. Overholt. Henry and wife Abigail Carpenter may have provided a lovely wedding for their daughter. Among the guests must have been Aaron's twin brother John, and 20-year-old Maria O. Frick probably was there, too, with her grandparents.

At some point in time, after Maria and John moved their family to Ohio, Sarah Ann and Aaron took over the Homestead House with their son, Ralph (1870-1956), who, born June 23, 1870, must have been about four years old. Clyde (1876-1921) was born about two years after that, on June 25, 1876, which was almost exactly six years after his brother had been born.

Three members of this family died while living there -- Aaron died at age 68, the widow Sarah Ann at age 74, and son Clyde died shortly after his mother passed away, at 45 years of age. Ralph may have left the house when, on October 26, 1899, at age 29, he married Mary Etta Husband (1876-1948). At some point in time, Ralph moved to Pittsburgh, where he was a manager in the Pittsburgh office of the United States Iron Pipe & Foundry Company. Ralph, Mary Etta, and daughter Margaret (b. March 17, 1901) lived in a fine house in the same neighborhood where cousin Henry Clay Frick established his own home, called Clayton.

The Scottdale Cemetery holds the earthly remains of Aaron and Sarah Ann, Ralph and Mary Etta, and Clyde.



The John S. R. Overholt Family

John S. R. Overholt (12/13/1837 - 12/17/1925)
m (1872) Maria O. Frick (2/9/1848 - 12/24/1939)
5 Children
Grace M. Overholt (10/25/1872 - 4/4/1894)
Jay Overholt (abt. 11/11/1875 - 7/21/1876)
Karl F. Overholt (4/19/1877 - 1/29/1938)
Lucy Overholt (b. mid-Feb. 1881 - buried 2/27/1881)
John D. Overholt (b. 1886 - xxxx)

~ ~ o ~ ~

The Aaron S. R. Overholt Family

Aaron S. R. Overholt (12/13/1837 - 12/27/1905)
m (1869) Sarah Ann Overholt (12/12/1846 - 7/24/1921)*
2 Children
Ralph Overholt (6/23/1871 - 6/26/1956)
Clyde Overholt (6/25/1876 - 10/28/1921)*

~ ~ o ~ ~


* Recorder of Deeds, Westmoreland County, PA; Deed Book 197, p. 49, dated May 31, 1890,
states Sarah Ann died July 24, 1921, and Clyde died on October 28, 1921.



From the 1800s to the 1900s


A. Overholt and Company: Registered Distillery No. 3 - 23rd District, Fayette Co., Pa.
Sanborn's Surveys of Whiskey Warehouses, 1894
; Sanborn-Perris Map Company
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


The first federal trademark law came in 1881. Eighteen years after the death of Abraham Overholt, in the year 1888, the impressive A. Overholt and Company distillery complex at Broad Ford launched the brand name OLD OVERHOLT, with a label that included a drawing that represented Abraham Overholt. Today's web site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides public records with valuable information. August 1, 1888, was the First Use in Commerce date for a Portrait of A. Overholt, deceased for the name brand OLD OVERHOLT rye whiskey. Elsewhere, there is some evidence pointing to an earlier label without a portrait.

The product came out when one of Abraham's grandsons, Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), owned most of Broad Ford, including the distillery complex, adjacent coal mining properties, and coke production areas. He was a son of Abraham's younger daughter, Elizabeth S. Overholt (1819-1905) and John W. Frick (1822-1888). By that time, West Overton's "Clay" Frick would have been known as "Mr. Frick, the coal king." The year 1888 was personally significant, as well, because his father died on August 31, in Wooster, Ohio, and his younger daughter, Helen (1888-1984), was born on September 3, in Pittsburgh, PA.


1894 The A. Overholt and Company Distillery Building
Sanborn's Surveys of Whiskey Warehouses, 1894
; Sanborn-Perris Map Company
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016

Despite his regional success in coal and coke, H. C. Frick did not rebrand A. Overholt and Company with his own name. Frick retained the company name, and rebranded Abraham's rye whiskey as OLD OVERHOLT, because the name Overholt was still worthy of respect. He banked on the impressive reputation of the Overholt name in business, with their networks of distribution, and excellent sales in a nationwide market. Mostly, he banked on the distinctive Overholt rye whiskey, made famous at West Overton during his grandfather's lifetime, with the industry and expertise of his uncles, Henry and Jacob. Additionally, Frick may have appreciated the enterprise of his uncle, Jacob S. Overholt, who had built the Broad Ford distillery complex, with Henry O. Overholt. He may have appreciated the improvements made by his grandfather, Abraham Overholt, as well as the fine management given by A. O. Tinstman, and others in the family who had worked there.


1899 Advertisement From Canada; Photograph
Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2017

After a long life of business, management, entrepreneurship, and political activity, Henry Clay Frick died in his New York City residence in December 1919, just seven days before his 70th birthday. He was buried in Pittsburgh, at Homewood Cemetery, located near the home he named Clayton. Other members of his family are buried there, including his wife Adelaide Howard Childs Frick (1859-1931), their sons Childs (1883-1965) and Henry, Jr.(1892-1892), and their daughters Martha (1885-1891) and Helen (1888-1984). Many books have been written about this family.

About 38 years after Frick's Broad Ford Overholt distillery rolled out the first bottle of OLD OVERHOLT, the folks at A. Overholt and Company discovered the earliest record of a federal trademark for OLD OVERHOLT (Certificate #56,876) had been allowed to elapse. In the autumn of 1929, a New York City lawyer had to submit an application to the United States Patent Office for re-registration. The new application (Serial #291,785) was summarily rejected.

On November 14, 1929, a letter from the Trade-mark Division of the Department of Commerce declared, "Registration is refused under the Act of Feb. 20, 1905 on the ground that the mark is dominantly a surname, unless applicant is in a position to bring this case under the ten-year proviso clause of Sec. 5 (b) of the Act of Feb. 20, 1905. If he is, form "D" of the trade mark Rules should be made a part of the statment by amendment, and the statement as thus amended should be supported by a supplemental oath or a new declaration." Additionally, "A search of the office records (Class 49) shows that no trade mark like applicant's has been registered for use on the same kind of goods."

After checking the trademark records, the office was assuring the lawyer that the name "Old Overholt" was still available. The lawyer submitted another document, dated November 15, 1929, that explained, "I beg to state that the application herein is a re-registration of trademark N. 56,876, which was allowed to elapse without being renewed." This letter did not include the requested material, so another rejection was released, stating, "As presented, the application is refused." The lawyer was directed to insert "Form D of the Trade-Mark Rules" in the statement, and enter an amendment that supported the application "by a supplemental oath or a new decaration." In a letter dated December 9, 1929, a new declaration was submitted, leading to the expected result. The application filed on October 30, 1929, finally secured the registration of the OLD OVERHOLT trademark on March 25, 1930. The registration for the likeness of Abraham Overholt was secured on March 11, 1930.


1930 U.S. Patent Office ~ Statement of Registration
Trade-Mark 269,180 ~ OLD OVERHOLT
Photograph Created & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2017


At the turn of the 20th century, Abraham Overholt's combined flouring mill and distillery building at West Overton, renamed West Overton Distilling Company, was still producing the signature Overholt rye whiskey, as a product named OLD FARM PENNSYLVANIA PURE RYE WHISKEY, and it was considered a great success. Distilled and aged at West Overton, the whiskey was similar to, but not equal to, the product coming out of Broad Ford's more modern distilling complex. Even so, West Overton was producing a product that remained popular, and at some point, the name OLD FARM was painted on the broad side of Abraham's West Overton distillery building. Except for those years during America's Prohibition, Abraham's distilling enterprise had been going non-stop since the year 1810.


~ Pictorial References ~


(1) Ambrotype of Abraham Overholt at George Washington's Tomb;
Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village (reduced in size for this venue);
West Overton Village Digital Archive; Accessed January 7, 2018


(2) Photograph of Abraham Overholt (1865); A. N. Stauffer,
Photographer; Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village;
West Overton Village Digital Archive; Accessed January 7, 2018


(3) 1854 & 1856 ~ View of George Washington's Tomb in Mount
Vernon, Virginia;
The Langenheim Brothers, Photographers


(4) Circa 1859 ~ Repairs to Mausoleum; William England,
Photographer for London Stereoscopic Company;
Getty Images; See article at the following site:


(5) Tomb of George Washington, Mount Vernon (1859?)

Wikimedia.org, gives the original source of this item as the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views; Coverage: 1859?-1925. The current location is Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Photography Collection; Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs.

(6) 1883 ~ George Washington's Grave
C. Edwards Lester, History of the United States, Vol. I;
New York, NY; P. F. Collier (1883)

(7) The Tomb of Washington
Currier & Ives (1834-1907)

This hand-colored lithograph by Currier & Ives has no specific date, but notice the boarded walkway. Considering that the bricks of the tomb look brand new, and the structure was built in 1831, maybe 1834 is the original date for this picture.
  (1) https://wovdighistory.psc.edu/items/show/55
(2) https://wovdighistory.psc.edu/items/show/42 
(3) http://chubachus.blogspot.com/2014/11/view-of-george-washingtons-omb-in-mount.html
(4) www.historytoday.com/roger-hudson/where-george-washington-lies
(5) https://commons.wikimedia.org/. Search for the following file at Wikimedia:
(6) http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/63600/63633/63633_gw-grave.htm
(7) https://springfieldmuseums.org/collections/item/the-tomb-of-washington-mount-vernon-va-currier-ives/


~ References ~

1 Circa 1867 West Overton (Detail) ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas; John Pritiskutch Productions; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016. The full drawing can be purchased in various sizes, from John Pritiscutch Reproductions (www.anthracitemaps.com).
2 Abraham Overholt ~ Henry Stauffer Overholt ~ Jacob Stauffer Overholt; photograph created by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2006. This is my original creation, a work of art using drawings found in history books, created for my web pages and published articles, appearing in various sizes and tints. I have found this picture, and other pictures that are my creations, posted elsewhere on the Internet without acknowledgement, a copyright symbol, and/or without a statement that they were found at my web site, now www.karensbranches.com. If you have posted one of my pictures, please take time to add the proper identification to my work. Thank you!
3 The Genealogical Records of the Descendants of Martin Oberholtzer, which includes Descendants of Martin Overholt, Son of Martin Oberholtzer (pp. 132-198), and The Genealogical Records of the Descendants of William Nash; A. J. Fretz; reprinted in one book by Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society, West Overton, Scottdale, PA (1985); original publisher of Oberholtzer genealogical records, Press of The Evergreen News, Milton, NJ (1903); original publisher of Nash genealogical records, Press of Pequannock Valley Argus, Butler, NJ (1903)
4 Along the Banks of Jacobs Creek: A Genealogy of a Mennonite Community; Winifred Erb Paul; Mennonite Publishing House, Scottdale, PA (1990); see Overholt, Martin (p. 71) and Overholt, Henry (p. 76)
5 Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record - West Overton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Survey Number: HABS PA-5654; Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC
- West Overton 43-page report Call Number: HABS, PA, 65-OVTW,11-
- Henry S. Overholt House 15-page report Call Number: HABS, PA,65-OVTW,10-
- Christian S. Overholt Store & House 13-page report Call Number: HABS, PA, 65-OVTW,9-
6 Circa 1867 West Overton Community ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas; #8 Henry S. Overholt House ~ #9 Christian S. Overholt Store & House; John Pritiskutch Productions; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016. The full drawing can be purchased in various sizes, from John Pritiscutch Reproductions (www.anthracitemaps.com).
7 Henry S. Overholt House; tinted photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016. Call Number HABS, PA, 65-OVTW, 10-; Survey Number HABS PA-5655; Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Library of Congress, Washington, DC; 1990
8 Christian S. Overholt Store and House, tinted photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016. Call Number HABS, PA, 65-OVTW, 9-; Survey Number HABS PA-5656; Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Library of Congress, Washington, DC; 1990
9 More Railroad Projects, Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pittsburgh, PA; January 15, 1853; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
10 Annual Meeting of the Stockholders of the Pittsburgh & Connellsville R. R. Co., Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pittsburgh, PA; December 7, 1854; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
11 GRAIN DRILL, Daily Morning Post, Pittsburgh, PA; Tuesday, August 9, 1859; photo created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
12 GRAIN DRILL, Presbyterian Banner and Advocate, Pittsburgh, PA; Saturday, August 13, 1859; page 3; photo created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
13 Original photographs from Historic American Buildings Survey, West Overton, 1990; tinted photos created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
14 Circa 1867 Hog Pens Next to West Overton Distillery Building; Westmoreland County Historic Atlas (1867); John Pritiskutch Productions; photograph created & edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
15 Circa 1867 West Overton Farming & Coking, 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas; John Pritiskutch Productions; photograph created & edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


Circa 1858 ~ Daguerreotype of Abraham Overholt at George Washington's Tomb; Original from West Overton Village Digital Archive; Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village; Photograph Tinted & Modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018
reveals this is an ambrotype photograph, dated July 3, 1860.
17 Arrivals at the Principal Hotels; Philadelphia Press,  Friday, July 06, 1860; Page: 3; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


Update: 1860 Ambrotype of Abraham Overholt at George Washington's Tomb; Original Photograph by Stephen Ford © 2018, Modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018
19 Update: Abraham Overholt At George Washington's Tomb #2; Originals from the Collection of Stephen Ford © 2018; Four Small Views by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018


Update: "Tomb of Washington; Mt Vernon 3 July 1860; Abraham Overholt; D. P. Patterson; ...-thers"; Original Photograph by Stephen Ford © 2018; Modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018
21 Circa 1867 West Overton Coal & Coke Industry ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas; John Pritiskutch Productions; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
22 1865 ~ Photograph of Abraham Overholt; A. N. Stauffer, Photographer; Original from West Overton Village Digital Archive; Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village; accessed January 7, 2018; photo modified by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2018 (https://wovdighistory.psc.edu/items/show/42)
23 From Herald of Truth Obituaries, Herald Of Truth, Volume VII, Number 3; March, 1870; page 46-47
24 Circa 1867 The Spring House & Abraham's Homestead House ~ 1867 Westmoreland County Historic Atlas; John Pritiskutch Productions; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


Whiskies; The Evening Telegraph, September 15, 1870; Fifth Edition, Philadelphia, PA; Page 5; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016
26 Overholt, Maria Stauffer, Obituary In Memoriam. Box 1, Folder C19. West Overton Village and Museums, Scottdale, Pennsylvania.
27 Recorder of Deeds, Westmoreland County, PA; Deed Book 197, p. 49, dated May 31, 1890, states Sarah Ann Overholt died July 24, 1921, and Clyde Overholt died on October 28, 1921.
28 A. Overholt and Company & H. C. Frick Coke Company: Registered Distillery No. 3 - 23rd District, Fayette Co., Pa., Sanborn's Surveys of Whiskey Warehouses. PA, MD, WV, MD, NY, NJ (1894); Sanborn-Perris Map Company; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


1894 A. Overholt and Company Distillery Building; Sanborn's Surveys of Whiskey Warehouses. PA, MD, WV, MD, NY, NJ (1894); Sanborn-Perris Map Company; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2016


OLD OVERHOLT WHISKEY Bottled in Bond; 1899 Advertisement From Canada; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2017


1930 U.S. Patent Office ~ Statement of Registration, Trade-Mark 269,180 ~ OLD OVERHOLT; photograph created and edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield © 2017

~ ~

32 Original View ~ Ambrotype of Abraham Overholt at George Washington's Tomb; Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village (reduced in size for this venue); West Overton Village Digital Archive; accessed January 7, 2018  (https://wovdighistory.psc.edu/items/show/55)
33 Original View ~ Photograph of Abraham Overholt (1865); A. N. Stauffer, Photographer; Copyright © 2017 West Overton Village; West Overton Village Digital Archive; Accessed January 7, 2018 (https://wovdighistory.psc.edu/items/show/42 )


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