Meadowcroft – Dedication to History

I have been working at the Meadowcroft Museum in Avella, Pennsylvania. The museum is approximately 35 miles Southwest of Pittsburgh. Albert Miller who owned the property was dedicated to the preservation of the history of rural Washington County, he and his brother Delvin began to gather items of historical significance to the area. The Miller’s acquired 19th century buildings that were taken down and reconstructed on their property including several houses, a church, a one room school house and a blacksmith shop. once rebuilt, these items were opened to the public to tour and learn about the history. This 1890’s village has costumed historical interpreters in the working blacksmith shop, the school house and one of the log homes. During school and youth field trip, the staff opens up two more cabins to teach candle-making and fiber arts.

The museum also has a Monongahela Cultural Village, this village represents native life in the region prior to European contact in the era of the 1570’s. Here attendees will learn about the Native American culture of the region including how villages were built, hunting, farming and trade. The village is surrounded by a palisade wall and contains two Wigwam structures. Interpreters will show recreations of native tools and farming use, and you can try your luck with an Atl-Atl. The Atl-Atl is an early hunting instrument used to throw an arrow while increasing it’s velocity.

The Meadowcroft museum also has a museum dedicated to rural farming and travel which displays farming implements of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, horse carriages and an area dedicated to harness racing, Delvin Miller was the founder and owner of the Meadows Race Track near Canonsburg PA.

The latest addition to the Meadowcroft museum is the 1770’s Frontier area. The frontier area has a Native American Trade cabin, a half-face shelter that is currently being reconstructed and another log cabin structure that is under construction. In this area you can learn about colonial life and the fur trade.

The crown gem of the Meadowcroft museum is the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. The Rockshelter was on the Miller’s property and Albert Miller had suspected that it may have been used by native transients of the area in years past. Albert Miller had no idea how right he was. In November of 1955, Albert Miller happened upon a groundhog hole in the Rockshelter, being an inquisitive guy he dug down a bit and there he found some arrowheads. He placed them back and buried them and began to seek out an Archaeologist, it would be 18 years before he was able to get an archaeologist to come and see the site. Dr, James Adavasio who at the time was with the University of Pittsburgh agreed to come out and use the site as a training ground for students from a range of scientific fields. As they dug through layer upon layer of ground they found elements of culture ranging from the modern age back 16,000 to 19,000 years.

The Meadowcroft Museum is now part of the Heinz History Center family of museums. Beginning Labor Day, the museum is opened weekends only through the end of October. The museum is opened sixdays a week Memorial day through Labor Day. You can visit their website here.

Carnegie PA and the Ku Klux Klan

On August 23, 1923 the Ku Klux Klan chose to have a march and rally in Carnegie Pennsylvania, a town that borders the Western side of the City of Pittsburgh. The new imperial wizard of the KKK, Hiram Wesley Evans had come from Texas for the rally and march. The Klan members gathered on a hill in Scott Township that overlooked Carnegie Borough, they initiated 1,000 new members and burned a very large cross.

Why Carnegie? Why Western Pennsylvania?

The steel industry and other industries needed workers, immigrants were settling throughout the region, as were African-Americans who fled from the South and a large number of Catholics were also among the immigrants. The Klan sought out “ordinary white Protestants and felt that the rise of immigrants, African- Americans and Catholics was a threat to them. Allegheny County, where Carnegie is located had a huge rise in Klan “Klaverns” a growth that continued to 1925 when there were thirty-three Klan Klaverns in Allegheny County alone, most of the surrounding counties in Western Pennsylvania had ten or less. (1) Carnegie itself had a very large immigrant population that were Catholic for the most part.

The Klan preferred to have marches and rallies at night, when it was easier to disguise their identity, hide any weapons they may be carrying and be more of a spectacle, disturbing the peace of the night. The rallies would contain fiery speeches and bands playing military style songs.

When the Klansmen reached the border of Carnegie Borough, a borough burgess John F. Conley, himself and Irish Catholic, met them and told the marchers that they had no permission to enter the town. Evans told the gathered Klansmen they were not welcome, but the marchers chose to continue the march. Carnegie Borough lacked a formal permit process for a parade, so the town had no legal standing to stop the Klan from marching.

In the planning for the march, the Klan worked with the Carnegie Police Chief, Christ Kiesling who was a Klan member to assure their ability to march. The police chief met with members of the local Klan at the Klan office in Pittsburgh. The plan was that Chief Kiesling would stop the marchers when they entered Carnegie, giving the parade marshal a chance to grandstand and state, “This is a free town, and we are going to march here anyway.” The Klan in their preparations for the march advised their members to bring weapons with them.

Before the march had even started, local constable Ira Irving arrested ten Klan guards who were carrying loaded weapons while they were directing parking for other Klan members. The Police chief was ordered by Burgess Conley to notify the Allegheny County Sheriff and County detectives know about the march and the possibility of violence, Police Chief Kiesling did follow through on Conley’s order and sheriff’s deputies were sent to the area. (1)

The Klansmen had planned to march into Carnegie over a railroad trestle that crossed Chartiers Creek, but found the trestle to be blocked. When the marchers reached the Glendale Bridge they found that a truck was blocking the bridge. The marchers pushed the truck out of the way and continued marching. When the truck was moved out of the way, the marchers remained at a stand still. They faced a crowd that was there to resist letting the Klan continue their march, for nearly a half hour the groups pushed, shouted and threw items at each other.

John Dillon, the Chief Deputy Sheriff of Allegheny County was in Carnegie after receiving the call for assistance. Dillon had received word that two of his motorcycle deputies were injured in the stand off between the groups. Dillon responded along with other deputies. Dillon climbed on top of a car and told the Klan members to disperse in order to preserve the peace, while of the marchers did honor the Sheriff’s wishes, many more chose to continue, refusing to disperse. The deputies, some police officers and citizens helped to get the opposing crowds separated. When a Klan official tried to address the Klan members from the vehicle leading the march, he was assaulted with items thrown at him, the car was vandalized and the glowing KKK letters were ripped from the vehicle. The Klansmen chose to continue marching into the borough.

The Klansmen, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” pushed through the crowd blocking them with a great deal of force. Chief Deputy Dillon was nearly pushed off of the bridge and others were trampled as the marchers continued. Bricks and stones began to fly at the the Klansmen, Townspeople began to arrive with clubs. A large battle began to rage on West Main Street, reports say that gunshots were heard several times. Constable Ira Irving arrived to try to help the Sheriff’s deputies, he rode to the front of the crowd trying to clear the streets to avoid any further violence. As the Klan marchers reached the center of town, shots could be heard from every direction, both sides were firing guns at this point.

Just after midnight on August 26, shots could be heard near Main Street, some of the Townspeople who assumed they were being shot at by the Klan members returned fire. One Klansman, Thomas Rankin Abbott of Atlasburg, Pennsylvania laid dead at the intersection of Third and Main Street. Some of the other Klansmen carried Abbot to a nearby doctor’s office, but there was no chance of revival. The crowds began to dissipate Most of the Klansmen retreated across the Glendale Bridge where they were met by cars to take them back to the farm where they rallied. Sheriff’s deputies and Police Reserve officers from the City of Pittsburgh arrived to help restore order. Many Klansmen and citizens of Carnegie were injured in the conflict. One local man and another Klansman had received gun shot wounds, they both survived. County detectives were only able to get statements from the severely injured that had been transported to hospitals.

Due to a code of silence among the Klan members, no Klan members were arrested, however many local citizens were arrested for inciting a riot. Following a lead from the a Carnegie citizen Harry Albright, an arrest was made in the murder of Abbott. Albright told detectives that he saw a popular local undertaker named Paddy McDermott fire the shots that killed. McDermott was charged with murder. Albright had been marching with the Klansmen and several of the other witnesses that appeared identified McDermott, many of these witnesses were also Klan members. Several other witnesses appeared stating that multiple Klan members had also fired weapons in the street in Carnegie. A Coroner’s inquest jury could not find reason to continue formal homicide charges against McDermott. After McDermott’s release, Klan members arranged a $2,500 reward for evidence connecting McDermott to Abbott’s murder.

The Klan used Abbott as a Martyr for their cause and as a recruiting tool. They portrayed themselves as victims of “The Mob of Carnegie.” The reports in the Klan’s newsletters blamed the crimes and violence on Irish hooligans and the town councilman Conley and Chief Deputy Dillon were partly responsible because they were Catholics. No Klansmen were ever charged with a crime from the Carnegie incident, the Carnegie citizens that were charged were found guilty.

Craig, John M. “”THERE IS HELL GOING ON UP THERE”: THE CARNEGIE KLAN RIOT OF 1923.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 72, no. 3 (2005): 322-46.

The Old Guard

In 1778, General George Washington had concerns in the West. The British Army still held a fort at Detroit. Washington needed a strong defense, and he wanted it in the Ohio Country. Washington and the Continental Congress decided to send General Lachlan McIntosh to Fort Pitt, the fort was in control of the Continental Army and McIntosh was needed there.

McIntosh was born in Scotland in 1725, his father moved his family along with nearly 100 other Scots to Georgia in 1736, the elder McIntosh led the group and founded the town of New Inverness in Georgia (later renamed Darien). Later in his life Lachlan McIntosh would find work in a counting house with Henry Laurens, McIntosh and Laurens would end up becoming great friends. Laurens would later become the President of the Continental Congress. McIntosh whose family had a long military heritage would begin to study military science. When the American evolution broke out, McIntosh, who had received strong anti- British influence from Henry Laurens would join the revolutionary cause on the side of the continental army. in January of 1776, McIntosh was appointed Colonel of Georgia’s Troops and by September he was name a Brigadier General in the Continental Army.

Lachlan McIntosh –

Upon his arrival at Fort Pitt, McIntosh was to meet with three advisers sent by the Continental Congress from York, Pennsylvania. The advisers wanted McIntosh to develop a plan to remove the British from their outpost at Detroit. The advisers also wanted a force to cut down the number of raids against settlers in the Ohio Country. McIntosh knew he didn’t have the manpower to handle such a task, and the Continental Congress did not have the funds to support sending a large amount of troops to the West. McIntosh would try recruiting troops for the Continental Army from the frontier at Fort Pitt.

McIntosh felt that a part of securing the region from attacks, and a show of force against the British was to build and garrison forts in the Ohio Country. He charges the French Engineer, Chevalier DeCambray with the building of a fort at the mouth of the Beaver Creek. Upon completion of the fort in 1778, DeCambray would name the fort Fort McIntosh, in honor of Lachlan McIntosh.

Fort McIntosh Site- Beaver Area Heritage Foundation

In January of 1785, Fort McIntosh would be the meeting place of the new United States Government and over 400 representatives of the Chippewa, Delaware, Ottawa and Wyandot nations. In the Treaty agreed to at Fort McIntosh, the native nations would agree to settlements in the areas north of the Ohio River (now Western Pennsylvania and North Eastern Ohio). The treaty carved a large area reserved for the native nations in Western and Southern Ohio. The treaty itself was essentially a failure from the beginning since the Shawnee were not brought in as part of the negotiations and much of the land being ceded was their territory. Also, most of the native representatives that were present at the negotiations did not have the authority to negotiate on behalf of their nations.

Treaty of Fort McIntosh –

After the war, the fort would remain garrisoned with some supply staff from West Point and Fort Pitt, as well as militia from the region. Colonel Joshua Harmar named the regiment, ” The First American Regiment.” The regiment also gained the nickname, “The Old Guard” a name which sticks with it today. As part of the United States Army “The Old Guard” is now the official ceremonial unit for the President and the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, they are also the force to protect Washington D.C. in times of national emergency.

Fort McIntosh itself was abandoned in late 1785, an archaeological dig in 1974 found some of the structural remains of the fort. The land it currently marked with a historic marker and maintained by the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation.


Pittsburgh’s Vintage Grand Prix

In 1982 some vintage car enthusiasts wanted a chance to race their beautiful and historic cars. Art McGovern thought that Pittsburgh’s Oldest Park would be a beautiful and challenging setting for the drivers, he and Mary Beth Gmiter began to plan, and soon those plans gathered a following that was meeting in driver Alan Patterson’s Garage. Soon adding local TV and Radio personality and the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Myron Cope to the mix.

The committee decided that the race could be used to raise money for local charities, which would be helpful in a time when Pittsburgh had just witnessed and felt the results of the collapse of the steel industry. Many Pittsburgh charities had see a fall in their contributions and a greater need for help in that time period. The charities chosen were the Allegheny Valley School which helps special needs children with basic education and activities of daily living, the other charity being the Autism Society of Pittsburgh which helped parents with autistic children and those with autism a vast amount of their needs. The groups also gained support of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA).

Because they wanted the race in Schenley Park, the idea came with one issue; Mary Schenley who donated the land for the park to the City of Pittsburgh did so with the caveat that an entry fee could not be charged for the park. Through working with the City of Pittsburgh, then Mayor Caligiuri and the Citiparks office, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix was born, with the first race scheduled for Labor Day weekend, 1983.

The First Race Poster, 1983 –

Since that first race, the activities of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Association have expanded. They have added race week activities including a Road Rallye, car shows at multiple places around the city of Pittsburgh and a Black Tie Gala on the Friday before the races. The PVGP has also added a second weekend of racing at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex (PittRace). All of these activities are organized an run by an amazing group of volunteers dedicated to the charities

Over the years that the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix has been in existence they have given over $5 Million to the charities. In 2019, the races will be held at Schenley Park the weekend of July 20-21. To find out more about Race Weekend visit their website.

Before Fort Duquesne

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I always had an understanding that the French built Fort Duquesne and when the French found out that a large British Army Contingent was on their way to take the fort, the French destroyed it. What I never learned in school was that when the French arrived at the forks of the Ohio, they found that the building of a British Fort was already in progress.

In early 1754, William Trent, a veteran of the Pennsylvania Provincial Militia during King George’s War was working for the Ohio Company. Trent was commissioned by Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia to recruit a unit of soldiers and tradesmen and meet with Half-King (Tanacharison) a Seneca leader who was allied with the British, Half-King wanted the British to build a Fort at the forks of the Ohio to help stop the French expansion into the Ohio Territory. At that same time, Lt. Gov. Dinwiddie instructed Major Washington to recruit 100 soldiers to prepare to help and defend the fort.

The Half King – Painting by Robert Griffing

Trent had no difficulty recruiting the men he needed to begin the task for which he was given. Washington had a great deal of difficulty recruiting soldiers to travel so far away and protect a fort in the Ohio Country. Trent and his men constructed a store house at the mouth of the Redstone Creek (Modern Day Uniontown PA) and continued on to build a store house and the beginnings of a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, Half-King laid the first log of the store house.

The building of the fort would be short lives as French Troops came down the Allegheny River from Fort Presque Isle (Erie PA) to take the land for France. An action that would happen in April of 1754, when the French Commander sent notice from Shanopin Town to the fort to vacate, or be besieged by the French Army. Shanopin Town was a native settlement on the shore of the Allegheny River (approximately 30th street in Pittsburgh). The next day, Trent’s third in command capitulated to the French demands and the fort was evacuated.

The story of Trent, his company and the struggles they incurred are well written in a new book by Jason Cherry, who also happens to be the commander of Trent’s Company, a living history reentactment group. You can find his book Pittsburgh’s Lost Outpost from many retail sellers. I strongly suggest that if you a fan of History, especially Pittsburgh and French and Indian War history that you pick up a copy of this book. The author, Jason Cherry, includes documents of Trent’s Company and deciphering of documents written by Trent within the book.

The Battle of the Monongahela, The Death of Braddock

As a group of nearly 1500 British and Colonial Militia soldiers make their way through the thick forest of what is now Southwestern Pennsylvania, the group met an ambush just after crossing the Monongahela river roughly 10 miles upstream from the forks of the Ohio, where Fort Duquesne sat. The ambush was the work of 300-600 Native American warriors from a variety of tribes and roughly 40 French Colonial troops.

The British forces were on their way to the forks of the Ohio to remove the French fort and set an outpost of their own. Braddock expected the men under his command to follow orders and push forward through the dense forest from Virginia to Pennsylvania. General Edward Braddock lacked command experience. Braddock was influenced by a group of young officers headed by his aide de camp Captain Robert Orme. Orme had served with Braddock in the Coldstream Guards, the regiment in which Braddock had spent most of his service. Braddock expected the men under his command to follow orders and push forward through the dense forest from Virginia to Pennsylvania.

Braddock’s Death, Washington Takes Command –

Braddock’s Campaign had blazed a trail through the forest in a short period of time. Along with the nearly 1500 soldiers also came the supplies for those men, as well as, a Royal Artillery unit of 60 officers and men, six 12 pounders, six 6 pounders, 4 howitzers and around 30 Coehorn mortars. Braddock planned to lay siege to Fort Duquesne upon arrival at the forks of the Ohio.

Braddock and his troops would not make it to Fort Duquesne. After crossing the Monongahela on July 9th 1755, the front of the train encountered a well camouflaged force of Native Americans and French soldiers. A party of some 300 – 600 Indians and around 40 French colonial troops came down the path and attacked the advance party of Lieutenant Colonel Gage and three companies of foot. Firing broke out and the Indians fanned out down the flanks of the army in a horse shoe style attack. Troops began to retreat, clashing up against the troops that were advancing causing a mass of mayhem which the native, French allies continued to fire into. The confusion caused British troops to fire on each other causing a majority of the deaths.

Braddock was shot through the lung and fell from his horse, he was aided by George Washington and Braddock’s Aide-De-Camp, Orme. The troops retreated back across the Monongahela. The troops buried Braddock in the roadway that they had cut through the forest, hiding the place where he was buried so that his body would not be recovered by the enemy.

The artillery pieces and much of the supply train ended up in the hands of the French and their Native American allies and were used against the British and Colonial troops in later battles.

The defeat of Braddock was an embarrassment to the British army and is largely remembered as one of their most notable defeats. Braddock’s defeat, however would lead to the continued rise of a Virginia Provincial officer, George Washington.

Historic Destinations in Ohio

Continuing the series of historic sites to visit for free or inexpensively, this week, we go to Ohio. The sites listed below are free to visit unless otherwise noted. The descriptions below are a mix of my words and the words of the sites.

Allen County Museum and History Center – Lima OH – The Allen County Historical Society has helped preserve the rich history of Allen County and Lima, Ohio for over 100 years. The museum has exhibits featuring transportation, industry, local art and photographs as well as a rocks and minerals exhibit.

Southeast Ohio History Center – Athens OH – The Athens County Historical Society and Museum showcase the history of Athens County. The collection features permanent and changing exhibits that explore the region’s history. Genealogists are available to assist visitors with researching family history.

Historic Bear’s Mill – Greenville OH – Bears Mill is a working grain mill still powered by hydro-motors from the waterway that passes by. Self guided tours are free during regular business hours.

Buffington Island Monument – Portland OH – The Buffington Island Monument is a monument to Ohio civil war soldiers who fought raiders from the Confederacy during Morgan’s Raid. There is no website for the site, the address is 55890 State Route 124 in Portland, Ohio.

Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis Historic Site – Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Toledo, Ohio is the historic battle site where General Anthony Wayne had a decisive victory resulting in the Indians of the Northwest Territory signing the Treaty of Greenville. The treaty gave the southern and eastern regions of Ohio to the settlers. The name Fallen Timbers was derived due to a massive windstorm knocking down trees just before the battle. The park also has a monument honoring Wayne, the soldiers, and Indians who died there.

Fort Amanda – Wapakoneta OH – Fort Amanda captures what war was like in 1812. Visitors can read the diary of Ohio militiaman Ensign William Schillinger, which provides a daily account from everything like the weather, events unfolding, personal thoughts, and other observations. The fort itself served as an important supply depot during the War of 1812. It included five blockhouses, cabins, and storage buildings. The walls of the fort were nearly 12-feet above ground.

Gnadenhutten Museum and Memorial – Gnadenhutten OH – Gnadenhutten, Ohio’s oldest existing settlement, prospered until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War when the Indians were driven from their homes. In February 1782, they were allowed to return to their village. On March 8, 1782, following a night of hymn singing and prayer, 90 men, women and children were massacred and all of the cabins were set on fire by the Pennsylvania Militia. Today, a museum, mass grave and monument, and two reconstructed log buildings commemorate this tragic event. In 1798, the village was re-established as a white settlement. A 35-foot monument was erected on the grounds of the Historical Park. The museum houses artifacts as well as an extensive arrowhead collection.

Inscription Rock – Port Clinton OH – Inscription rock has Native American petroglyphs that are dated between 1200 and 1600 BCE. To reach the island, you must take a the Kelley’s Island ferry, information for that is available on the website.

Leo Petroglyph State Memorial – Ray OH – Leo Petroglyph State Memorial has around 37 inscriptions in sandstone marking the culture of the Fort Ancient Indians, dating between the years 1000 and 1650. The drawings, who’s meanings have not yet been translated, are of Indians and animals representing the time and region. Today, visitors can view these creations as well as a scenic ravine, gorge, and cliffs.

Lima Firefighters Memorial Museum – Lima OH – The Lima Firefighters Memorial Museum is a local tribute honoring the brave firefighters of the area. It features vintage displays depicting their history of service to the surrounding community. Here, you’ll see a horse-drawn steam pumper from the 1800’s, a memorial to those who were lost in service, and of course homage paid to firefighters past and present.

Mahler Museum – Berea OH – The Mahler Museum is dedicated to the local history of women in the Berea area. The museum documents women’s history from the 1800’s through the 20th century and had women’s activist records from 1882 – 1936.

Mansfield Soldiers and Sailors Memorial – Mansfield OH – The Mansfield Soldiers & Sailors Memorial was built in 1888 and is the oldest building in Richland County. It displays artifacts of the county’s military, civil, and natural history artifacts.

Massillon Museum – Massilon OH – The Massillon Museum has a room filled with circus memorabilia. Local history and its many artifacts are found in this museum as well. The museum itself is located in the former Stark Dry Goods building, which was renovated to house the museum and its belongings.

For further free sites in Ohio, visit HERE! I hop you get out to enjoy some of these sites. Next week we will focus on New York State also a non-series post coming out on Friday.