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.