July 23, 2009

Ten Mile Trivia # 3

Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an early official of the federal government, once owned 41,000 acres of land in Greene County. Much of his widespread acquisition of land was accomplished with borrowed money. That helped lead him into financial difficulty and eventually bankruptcy. Earlier, George Washington was the largest landowner in this section of Pennsylvania, some in Greene.
The first Boy Scout troop sponsored in Pennsylvania, it is believed, was that at Waynesburg Presbyterian Church in 1911, organized by future state governor Gen. Edward Martin.

In the late 1790s, one of the gun factories that supplied the young United States with weapons was established at New Geneva in Fayette County, shortly before the national armory was placed at Harpers Ferry, then in Virginia. However, the government competition was too much for private industry, and the New Geneva plant went out of business. The course of U.S. history would have been greatly changed had the government installation been placed at New Geneva instead of Harpers Ferry.

Former President Richard Nixon had a Western Pennsylvania heritage through his mother's family, the Milhouses, and other maternal ancestors. As early as 1795, Anthony and Lydia Smith took up residence along the south branch of Tenmile Creek near Waynesburg. Several generations of descendants lived in Greene County before the president's mother's ancestors moved westward in the mid-1800s.

An earlier version of today's illegal parking towaways was the regulation in Washington, Pa., that prohibited hitching horses to shade trees. Constables were empowered to impound the horses in public stables until a storage fee was paid.

The first telephone company to operate in Greene County was the Waynesburg and Blacksville Telephone Co., organized Jan. 20, 1887. The first two telephones were placed in the Strosnider Hotel in Blacksville and in the J.T. Rogers drug store in Waynesburg. By the spring of 1889 Jefferson, Charmichaels, Waynesburg and Rices Landing were joined by telephone. Within the next several years, several other small independent phone firms were started. Patrons on one system could not call those on another, which caused quite a bit of dissatisfaction. At one time, there were 38 different small companies within Greene County alone, all of which were ultimately merged into the South Penn Telephone Co.

A cemetery inscription at the Greene County-West Virginia border area near Blacksville reads:
"Some women have children,
And some have none,
But here lies the mother of twenty-one."

An English geologist, Sir Charles Lyall, who came to Southwestern Pennsylvania in April 1846, wrote after his study of geological formation:
"I was truly astonished, now that I had entered the hydrographical basin of the Ohio, at beholding the richness of the seams of coal which appeared everywhere on the flanks of the hills and at the bottoms of the valleys, and which are accessible to a degree I never witnessed elsewhere. The time has not arrived when the full value of this inexhaustible supply of cheap fuel can be appreciated. To properly estimate the net advantages of such a region, we must reflect how the three great navigable rivers, the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio, intersect it and lay open on their banks the level seams of coal. I found at Brownsville a belt 10 feet thick of good bituminous coal, commonly called the Pittsburgh seam, out in the river cliffs near the water's edge."
The accuracy of his statements has been borne out by the later appreciation of this vast coal supply and what it has meant to the area in the years since.

Sept. 30, 1939 -- Waynesburg College played Fordham at New York in the first experimentally televised football game. Although the Yellow Jackets lost, Bobby Brooks of Greensburg scored the first touchdown on TV.
In 1875, Waynesburg College President Alfred B. Miller and some of the students began the process of making bricks to build what became the main college building -- Miller Hall. Clay was obtained from a campus site and another nearby point, and three kilns were constructed on campus to "burn the brick." They were able to produce as many as 4,000 bricks daily, during which time the boys hauled "hundreds of barrels of water." Miller explained that to mold the 803,000 bricks made there "almost exhausted Ten Mile Creek for water to moisten the clay." Masons then erected the structure as money permitted, but it wasn't completed until more than a decade later.

Miller Hall courtesy of Waynesburg University

One Saturday in 1888, 11 male Waynesburg College students went to Masontown and indulged in "drinking beer and other liquors." Brought before the college faculty, they acknowledged their offenses and were allowed to remain students on condition that they sign a pledge of total abstinence.

The last survivor of Braddock's infamous 1755 defeat by the French and Indians was reputed to be one Boon Buchanan, who died in Washington County in 1846 at the alleged age of 113. He was a black man who, it was said, served as a waiter with the British army.

Lone Pine in Washington County was originally called Pleasant Valley, along the south fork of Ten Mile Creek. Twin pine trees once towered there, but one was erased by lightning shortly before a post office was established there in 1869. When the Pleasant Valley name, already in use elsewhere, wasn't available for post office use, Lone Pine was chosen.
A son of Albert Gallatin, James, supervised construction of his father's Friendship Hill mansion near New Geneva in Fayette County while the latter was in France in 1822-23. When Gallatin returned and saw the structure, he was quite unhappy with it but made the best of the situation. Shortly afterward, writing to a daughter, he described part of it this way: "The outside of the house, with its porthole-looking windows, has the appearance of an Irish barracks, whilst the inside ornaments are similar to those of a Dutch tavern."

Albert Gallatin's home, Friendship Hill
Perhaps the most significant of Albert Gallatin's accomplishments came as the result of his friendship with U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. In the early 1800s, Gallatin persuaded Jefferson to change the route of the National Road and take it through southwestern Pennsylvania. As originally planned, it would have gone around the state through Virginia ( West Virginia ).
A Greene County man is claimed to have been one of the first people in the U.S. to use natural gas for light and heating fuel. L.R. Strosnider, of Mt. Morris, shortly after the Civil War noticed gas escaping from an abandoned oil well on the property where he had a confectionery and restaurant. He placed a half-barrel over the well shaft, bored a hole in the barrel for a pipe, and ran the pipe into his building. He used this gas for cooking and frying oysters and later for light .
Zadok Cramer's 1814 book tells of a "curious cave" about a mile below Fredericktown in Washington County, along the Monongahela, called the "Panther's Den." It was described as entering the hill "about halfway from its base by a small fracture or rent in the rock. After going through a narrow or descending passage, you enter a wide but low room in which you can walk nearly upright. To the roof of this room, we found bats hanging in a stupid kind of sleep."
Near Clarksville, about half a mile upcreek from the Yablonski stone house, is a cave on the side of the high escarpment above Ten Mile Creek. This was also known as Panthers Den, likely named after the more well known one described above. Directly below it there is a large rock in the creek known as Clover Rock that was always a popular spot for fishing and swimming. This entire area is now posted as private property.

During a period of religious fervor between 1800 and 1807, a woman evangelist in the Washington-Greene border area was Rhoda Fordyce. She proclaimed "that if a person would abstain from all animal food and live on parched corn and sassafras buds ... his body would become so ethereal that he would be translated to heaven without passing through the gates of death." One man named Parker tried her theory. Instead of being "translated," he starved to death. Rhoda would not allow the body to be buried until after the third day, insisting that it would then ascend to heaven. At the end of three days, neighbors interposed and buried it. Nothing was heard thereafter of the Rhodianites, as her followers were called.

This from The Charleroi Mail of June 8, 1908 : Charmichaels Pa. In the center of prohibition Greene County (Temperance advocate) Carrie Nation today delivered her first speech since the Republican Presidential nomination. She scored the candidates. Mrs. Nation complimented the assemblage in the fact that the Merry Widow hat has not seriously inundated Greene County. In spite of the dry condition of Greene County enough ardent liquor was imported for the day to make a number of citizens loud, and the usual interruptions occurred. In a big grove 2,000 people listened to Mrs. Nation between showers. When it rained she sold her hatchets.
Last night, waiting at Rices Landing on a train, a young man lit a cigar and blew the smoke into Mrs. Nation's face. She tried to get the cigar and the young man threatened to throw her over the lock wall. The Kansas woman made an information against him before a justice of the peace, but later dropped the case.

These tidbits were taken from various books and internet sources including Robert B. Van Atta of the Greensburg ( Pa.) Tribune-Review.

No comments: