. . . History of Greene County, Pennsylvania
Discover Greene County and discover a world of history, agritourism and outdoor recreation
Contact for Information Requests: County Information Services Line Phone: 724-852-5399 / Toll Free: 1-888-852-5399
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m.4:30 p.m., MondayFriday
Some of Greene County's "historical greats" include General Nathaneal Greene and Mad Anthony Wayne, pictured above.
Pennsylvania's Local Government:
William Penn established Pennsylvania's units of local government when he owned all the land that is now the commonwealth. Through a charter from King Charles II of England, Penn was given the power to divide his land into counties, townships, cities, and boroughs, all of which had existed in England for quite some time. Today, these four types of municipalities still exist in Pennsylvania. And while they all share the same basic statutory powers and public service responsibilities, each retains some unique characteristics.
First Permanent Settlement:
An act of the Legislature passed on February 9, 1796, divided Washington County into two countiesthe southern division became Greene County, named for Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene. Permanent settlement began in Greene County in 1764 after the last major conflict with native Indians. Two forts were constructed in 1774Jackson’s Fort and Garards Fortwhich were built to protect the isolated homes in the area from attacks.
The next record of a permanent settlement is believed to have been the Swan-VanMeter-Hughes party from Virginia in 1767. Once the Indian hostility and Whiskey Rebellion problems had passed, Greene County was formed in order to benefit small farmers; beginning with the Merino Sheep bonanza of the 1820s, wool became a major product.
Although overshadowed by production elsewhere in the world, Greene County stills leads other Pennsylvania counties in sheep production (occasionally challenged by Washington County).
When the Monongahela River slackwater system reached Rice's Landing in 1857, it became easier to market products. Bituminous coal mining began in 1902; in recent years this being Pennsylvania's highest producing county for coal, nearly all from subsurface mines.
Natural gas was also found in abundance. Forty percent of the land is in farms, although cash receipts from agriculture are low. The tradition that it rains somewhere in the county every July 29, is a popular myth that began by a local pharmacist.
The original inhabitants of Greene County were the Indian Sachem Six Nations (Iroquois Confederacy) and consisted of the following Indian peoples: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayuga, Senecas, and Tuscaroras. The County as well as the entire state of Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn on March 4, 1681 by King William II. Greene County was established on February 9, 1796 when Washington County was divided into two counties through an act of the Legislature. The southern portion became Greene County, named after the Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene and consisted of 577 square miles. The first European inhabitants were a mix of the following: English, Irish, Scotch, Scotch-Irish, and German.
Colonel John Minor is considered the "Father of Greene" because he sponsored the bill that made the division of Washington County a reality. Between 1796 and 1860 thirteen separate municipalities were established within the county in addition to the original six municipalities. Permanent settlement began in Waynesburg (named after General "Mad" Anthony Wayne) following a deed sale on October 28, 1796. The Borough of Waynesburg was established as the County Seat in 1816.
By October 1796, exactly 201 lots were offered for sale through an advertisement in a Pittsburgh newspaper, with prices ranging from $5 to $139 per lot. A log courthouse and jail were erected (the courthouse still stands and has been fully restored). Apparently the first store was established by William Crawford, who had purchases a "load" of goods from a settlement along the Monongahela River in the early 1800s and began trading. Transportation of merchandise from Baltimore and Philadelphia was a long and costly undertaking and the local residents had to pay ridiculously high prices for necessities like salt, tea, coffee, hardware and manufactured articles.
By 1853, there were 80 dwellings in Waynesburg and the town had grown to 350 by 1906. Today (2011), Waynesburg Borough and Franklin Township, which encircles Waynesburg, has a population of 11,800.
Greene County developed its economic base historically through mining and agriculture. Gas wells, coal mining, and wool production provided the early forms of growth in Greene County. At one point the wool industry was so prosperous that the County was the first overall in total Merino wool production and was said to have more sheep than human inhabitants county-wide. Although the agricultural component of the County has diminished, the mining industry is considered the top industry operating in Greene County today. Currently, there are eight coal mines in production in the County famous for a large product turnout each year. Greene County has the largest bituminous coal reserves in the state. Today to preserve our heritage, the sheep ranching and the mining are celebrated with two separate annual events.
The Sheep & Fiber Festival that takes place in mid-May is held at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Waynesburg, and the Bituminous Coal Show held in in late August, in downtown Carmichaels.
A contributing element of Greene County history is the commitment to pursuits of higher learning. Waynesburg College was established in 1849 from two separate schools in the area: Greene Academy in Carmichaels and Madison College in Uniontown (Fayette County). Situated in the County Seat, Waynesburg College and is a positive component to the growth of the County.
The County has a rich and diverse history that can still be seen throughout the County, whether in the rural countryside, boroughs, or coal patch towns. Early industries in Greene County were mining and agriculture. Gas wells, coal mining, and wool production provided the early forms of income in Greene County. At one point the wool industry was so prosperous that the County was the first overall in total Merino wool production and was said to have more sheep than human inhabitants county-wide.
Government Waynesburg is the county seat for Greene County. The county is governed by a board of three County Commissioners; county government departments include: Finance & Administration, Law & Order, Human Services, Economic Development, and Recreation. There are boards within each department made up of interested citizens who serve in advisory capacities, enhancing the public participation aspect of county operations. Waynesburg is located in the 20th United States Congressional District, the 46th Pennsylvania Senate District, and the 50th Pennsylvania House District. There are 20 townships and six boroughs within the county. The county is divided into three magisterial districts for the operation of the lesser court system and there are two presiding judges who sit on the Court of Common Pleas in Waynesburg.
There are a state correctional facility and a county jail; as well as a local state police barracks, a county sheriff office, and home to Company C National Guard Unit.
Progression into the Future:
Change has been the hallmark of the last 65 years in Greene County Coal mining became even more important to the county's economy, and in 1986, Greene County began to lead all other Pennsylvania counties in the production of bituminous coal. Two new railroads were built to carry this coal to market.
Agriculture became less important, and by 1990, only a few hundred full-time farmers remained. Yet, hundreds of others farmed on a part-time basis, and the country's beautiful pastures continued to be home to thousands of sheep and cattle. The country's economy was diversified when many small industrial plants were attracted to newly developed industrial parks.
One of the most important aspects of change was the greater mobility brought about by the building of Interstate 79 (I-79) through the county in the 1960's. It ended Greene County's comparative isolation, because ease of access to Washington, Pittsburgh, and Morgantown, WV, made employment and shopping opportunities more available to its residents. New dams and locks on the Monongahela River improved that strategic waterway.
A significant addition to I-79 was the construction during 1994-1995 of the Greene County Welcome Center alongside the northbound lanes near the Kirby exit. The project cost over $2.7 million, and was dedicated on May 26, 1995. The plaza of the Welcome Center contains a monument to Greene County miners, placed there by the Greene County Coal Miners' Monument Committee.
The quality of life improved for most residents in the last 65 years. Educational opportunities were enhanced when the township and borough school districts were merged into five larger districts. These new school districts built modern high and elementary school, making possible a richer curriculum. Waynesburg College also improved its physical plant and modernized its courses of study. Two public libraries were founded (Bowlby Public Library at Waynesburg and Flenniken Public Library at Carmichaels) and these became important learning centers for children and adults. A broader understanding of the past was made possible when the Greene County Historical Museum moved into and restored the old County Home; the Cornerstone Genealogical Society was organized (and occupied space in the Bowlby Library); the Greene Academy at Carmichaels was restored; the Warrier Trail Society marked the ancient Indian path; and other historic sites were preserved.
In 2007, Waynesburg College became Waynesburg University and offers doctoral, graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 programs of study. With 2,300 students, the University provides education at its main campus in Waynesburg as well as three adult centers located in the Pittsburgh regions of Southpointe, North Hills and Monroeville.
The Greene County Memorial Hospital expanded and continued to provide excellent medical care for its patients, and other clinics and medical facilities were opened. Several new fire companies were formed and, together with the older companies, were indispensable community centers. In 2005, the Greene County Memorial Hospital was purchased by Southwest Regional Medical Center, which offers a wide array of services and medical specialties.
Greene County Railroad Legacy:
Source: www.narrowtracks.com by Arron Marcavitch The Waynesburg and Washington Railroad was a 28 mile 3 foot gauge subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad. From the 1870's through the 1920's the line served its namesake towns in Southwestern Pennsylvania (often referred to as the Wayynie). After the 1930's, the line did struggle on, but mostly on paper.
Click here to read more about Greene County's Railroad Legacy.
Since 1946, three standard-gauge railroads have been built in the county to serve the coal mining industry. In 1968, the Waynesburg Southern Branch of the Monongahela Railroad was opened from Waynesburg westword through Center, Jackson and Gilmore Townships into West Virginia. It was used exclusively to haul coal from mines located in the vicinity of Blacksville, West Virginia, to Waynesburg and then over the Monongahela Railroad to eastern markets. A seventeen-mile standard-gage railroad was built in 1977 by the U.S. Steel Company at the time of the opening of the Cumberland Mine near Kirby. It carried coal from the mine to the Monongahela River at Alicia.
In 1984, the 15-mile Manor Branch of the Monongahela Railroad was opened from Waynesburg to the Bailey Mine of the Consolidated Coal Company (CONSOL) at Enon in Richhill Township. This line was also used exclusively to haul coal from the Bailey Mine and the nearby Enlow Fork Mine.
In January 1990, the abandoned passenger depot of the Waynesburg and Washington Railroad at Morris and First Streets in Waynesburg was razed (demolished) by the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail). By November 1993, Conrail had completed a new brick station on the site as a division office to control rail traffic in the area.
Early Days Entertainment for Greene Countians:
The citizens of Greene County did not lack for recreational opportunities during the early years (1916-1921, World War I). Hunting and fishing were always popular in such a rural setting. Occasionally, the state authorities took steps to improve hunting opportunities, such as the release in March 1920, by Gail Sines, Greene County's game warden, of a number of pairs of Texas quail, a popular game bird. The county's leading fox chasers belonged to the Tri-State Fox Hunters' Association, which held its annual fall meeting at Mt. Morris in October 1917. John H. White of Brave was president and G. Edward Huffman of Waynesburg was secretary.
Winter's cold brought opportunities for ice skating and sledding. During the school year, Waynesburg College and the county's high schools fielded track, basketball and football teams which always attracted crowds of interested spectators. The county's fairs at Carmichaels, Wind Ridge and Waynesburg included horse racing and other exciting entertainment. During the summer months, baseball was the most popular team sport. Click here to read more details on early days entertainment.
Agriculture and Farmland:
The Agricultural industry in Greene County yields multiple benefits to residents, the environment, and the economy. At the turn of the 20th century, Greene County was the largest producer of Merino wool in the country and today ranks as the fourth largest producer of sheep in the state. The agriculture industry continues to be a strong element contributing to the fiscal health of Greene County, as it provides jobs and contributes to an additional $3,542,962 into the economy. Besides the direct economic impacts, local farms enhance the local community and the region through their very presence. Land is preserved as open space that beautifies the landscape and maintains the rural character so prized by residents. This rural character is an attraction that draws tourists to an area, which can contribute to the local economy.
The future of the agricultural industry in Greene County will be strengthened through the development of niche markets driven by community-based development strategies. The County will provide progressive rural leadership and policies to support active farms. The quality of life for its farmers and their families will be sustained by conservation-based economic opportunities and agricultural diversification.
Active Farms: The number of active farms has been increasing in Greene County. Since 1997, Greene County experienced a two percent increase in the number of farms. This indicates a strong interest of residents to maintain a working agricultural business. Additionally, the size of Greene County farms has also grown, which is a reflection of the desire to expand farm holdings. In fact, the average size of a farm in Greene County is larger than that of any comparison county in Southwestern Pennsylvania, with an average size of a farm at 161 acres.
Farmers Markets: The attraction of purchasing locally grown products can be substantiated with the success of the Waynesburg Farmers Market sponsored by Waynesburg Prosperous and Beautiful. This event features fruits, vegetables, meat products, baked goods, and jam/jellies/sauces that are prepared or grown by local farms. Initially started in 2005, attendance has grown over the years with an average spending per shopping group of $11.98. Customer satisfaction surveys revealed that shoppers frequent.
Discover a world of history throughout Greene County, with its agritourism and outdoor recreation. Greene County is where northern charm and hospitality come together with a rich history and wild, natural beauty of trails and woodlands surrounding the Monongahela River on the east to the rolling hills to the west. With its abundant festivals, events and activities, there is always something fun and interesting for the whole family to enjoy.
Mining in Greene County:
Bituminous coal mining began in 1902 and in recent years Greene County has been Pennsylvania’s highest producing county, nearly all from subsurface mines. Coal mining remains a strong factor of the character of Greene County.
Residential developments built around mining pursuits remain as small "patch towns" or villages. Examples of these can be seen throughout Southeastern Greene County, including Crucible, Nemacolin, Bobtown, and others. Unfortunately, the years of mining activity has left significant environmental and economic impacts. Environmental concerns include mine drainage, coal refuse piles, and abandoned coal structures.
Fifty percent of Pennsylvania production now comes from large underground mines in Greene County. Approximately 7,000 Pennsylvanians were directly employed in coal mining in 2004. Click here for DCNR information about coal in Pennsylvania.
The reported production for the active underground mines from in Greene County altogether, was over 37 million tons of coal were mined in 2004. Since 2004, Dunkard and Dilworth mines closed and 4-West Mine opened. Bailey and Enlow Fork remain two of the most productive coal mines in the United States. Each mine produced over 10 million tons of coal in 2004. While Bailey produced more than 11 million in 2005, Enlow Fork dropped to just under 10 million in 2005. Blacksville 2, Cumberland and Emerald mines each produced over five million tons of coal in 2004. Compared to 2005, Blacksville 2 remained consistent while both Emerald and Cumberland produced over 6 and 7 tons, respectively.
Pennsylvania Coal (Source: Pennsylvania Coal Alliance) The Keystone State mines produced nearly 60 million tons of coal in 2011, the latest year for which data is available. That trailed only Wyoming, West Virginia and Kentucky. Six counties — Somerset, Armstrong, Clearfield, Greene, Indiana and Cambria — accounted for 93 percent of the state's coal output in 2011. Greene County ranked first with 36.5 million tons. Somerset was a distant second with nearly 5.9 million tons. Pennsylvania's coal industry in 2011 provided a $3.2 billion direct economic impact and provided 8,700 jobs. Counting the indirect benefit, the economic benefit is $7.5 billion and 41,500 jobs.
For general information, please contact the Information Services at 724-852-5399 / Toll Free: 1-888-852-5399 Greene County Office Building, 93 E. High Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370