Fayette County History

  1. Overview
  2. Educational Video
  3. Recommended Reading

Overview of Fayette County History

A young Virginian saw first hand the importance of the area now known as Fayette County in the winter of 1753. His name was George Washington. Washington along with noted frontiersman Christopher Gist and others traveled through the area to deliver a message from the British to the French to vacate the territory. Of course the French refused to do so. The following year in 1754 Washington returned with a small force with orders to build a road to Redstone, which is at the site of present day Brownsville.

While encamped at the Great Meadows Washington learned that a detachment of French soldiers were nearby at a place referred to as the Gloomy Hollow. Little did Washington or the French know the events that would unfold the next day, May 28, 1754, would change the world forever!

Of the skirmish that occurred there between the British and the French, Horace Walpole, eminent man of letters and a son of a British prime minister, wrote, The volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire. The area then known as the Gloomy Hollow is now referred to simply as Jumonville, which is aptly named for the French Ensign who lost his life there.

Simply stated, a conflict between the British and French for control of not only the region, but for all of North America was going to occur. It just so happens that conflict would begin in the area of Fayette County not only at Jumonville, but also at Fort Necessity. The events that occurred in Fayette County would directly lead to a global struggle, truly the first world war between two super powers known as the French and Indian War and the Seven Years War.

A year later in 1755, a large force of British soldiers and provincials under the command of Major General Edward Braddock set out in the frontier of Western Pennsylvania to remove the French from their fortification located at present day Pittsburgh. Although the British would fail miserably in their attempts to eliminate the French from the area, the road they build while in route would live on. The road would be known as the Braddock Road, which was the largest engineering feat in the colonies to that point in time and would serve as A gateway to a new continent.

The Braddock Road would later be surpassed in importance with the completion of the National Road in the 1800s. The National Road which started in Cumberland, Maryland and ended in Vandalia, Illinois was authorized by an act of Congress in 1806. A strong supporter of the National Road was statesmen Albert Gallatin. Of course, Gallatin, who had large land holdings in Fayette County did not exactly mind much that the road would be constructed directly through the heart of it. The National Road which was also known as The Pike, was a toll road that would service the needs of a nation moving westward. The road would also bring prosperity, commerce and settlers to Fayette County.

The area of Fayette County was now bustling and somewhat civilized as compared to what only a few years earlier was the frontier wilderness. Although, the National Road's importance of a major transportation route would be short lived. With the advent of the railroads in the mid 1800s which offered less expensive, more reliable and more efficient means of transportation of passengers and goods, the National Road was relegated to a minor role in the westward movement.

Not long after the construction of the railroad system in the area, a revolutionary breakthrough in the coke making process was discovered. Coke, which is made from a heating process of coal is one of the key ingredients in the production of steel. Fayette County's vast natural quantities of rich metallurgical coal would truly help fuel the industrial revolution in America. A new future and outlook for Fayette County had begun. It was known as the Coal and Coke era which lasted until the mid 1900s when most of the available coal resources had been depleted.

Constant visual reminders of the Coal and Coke era live on in the villages and towns also known as Patches and a few existing Bee Hive coke ovens. But, the most important and lasting tribute of the Coal and Coke era's importance to Fayette County was the work ethics of its residents. A certain sense of pride of a hard days work for an honest days pay still lives on in the mind set of the Fayette County workforce, even to today. It is in fact that kind of mind set that has allowed Fayette County to look to the future and embrace new and exciting economic concepts which are directly related to its continued economic growth. Fayette County's rich historical heritage cannot only be related to events and economics.

The spectacular natural beauty and wonderful tourist attractions are some of the reasons why Fayette County is truly an exciting place to visit and also call home.Whether it's a peaceful walk along the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle State Park, a visit to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, The home of Albert Gallatin known as Friendship Hill, Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, or any of the other exciting natural and historic sites, one thing is quite constant.

You can feel as sense of importance, a sense of pride and a sense of true pioneer spirit. The events that would occur in Fayette County and those who would call Fayette County home would not only help shape the United States but also the World. After all, the events that occurred and the lessons learned by the young Virginian in the backwoods of America in the area now known as Fayette County would serve him well some twenty years later in a struggle for freedom for the United States. He would eventually become the nation's first President. His name was George Washington.

Fayette County is actually named for the French hero Marquis de LaFayette who fought along side Washington in the Revolutionary War.

Submitted by Robert Adamovich, Local Historian
December 12, 2005