Our County Cultural Assets
Greene County, Pennsylvania
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If the 576 square miles of Greene County could talk, they would explain the northern charm that has shaped this corner of Pennsylvania. They would tell you the rich history of stately churches that housed reverent worship services and touching family events; of distinguished homes that housed the prominent and not-so-prominent families, all of whom shaped our culture; and of quiet country roads where covered bridges sheltered travelers from blustery weather. Greene County Historical Facts date back to 1796.
Our County's fall foliage has always been a major attraction, with the foliage at its peak in mid-October. From rolling farmland in the summer to snow-covered hills in the winter, and breathtaking vistas in the spring to beauty and color fall foliage. 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. We hope you enjoy our history compilations for various aspects of our county.
Adding to our northern charm are our Covered Bridges symbolizing small-town America, most of which are more than 100 years old, and a little archaic and strange to current century eyes and certainly unfamilar to the Y2K generation, picturesque and sentimental, "kissing bridges" recall a time when life was simpler and closer to the land if only in our dreams. Our covered bridges complement autumn leaves and autumn emotions. Photogenic and often remote from the interstate highways and cities of the twentieth century, covered bridges lure the explorer to find the little streams and dirt roads that the twentieth century has almost passed by.
Like the Willow Tree Covered Bridge built in 1875, and so many others in Greene County, couldn't withstand the test of time; once these wooden shrines numbered as many as 35 throughout Greene County, but today (2013) there are just seven left standing (some functional and some have been restored). These historical landmarks and romantic structures resembling the past can be found in Cumberland, Morgan, Center, Wayne and Greene Townships. Click here to read about our Greene County covered bridges.
And we don't want to forget about our Mail Pouch Barns or barns with one or more sides painted from 1890 to 1992, in advertisement for the West Virginia Mail Pouch chewing tobacco company (Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company), based in Wheeling, West Virginia. At the height of the program in the early 1960s, there were about 20,000 Mail Pouch barns spread across 22 states.
Click here for detailed history and information. Our county charm doesn't stop there, but continues with a dozen old general stores offering one-stop shopping. And we boast about our famous Jacktown Fair which is the nation's oldest continuing fair (running non-stop since 1865). Out county is predominantly rural but overwhelmingly charming, a trip to Greene County is a return to simpler times.
Culture and Local Identity:
Long-running annual events provide the citizens of the County with recreational and social events that build a strong sense of community County-wide. It is through these social gatherings that the identity and character of Greene County is strengthened and relationships and family ties are cemented.
Two examples of traditional events held in Greene County are the Jacktown Fair and Rain Day celebrations. The Jacktown Fair is known as the oldest continuous fair in the United States. It has been running annually since 1865 and draws close to 15,000 participants each year. The Rain Day celebration is an annual occurrence in Waynesburg since the 1870s. A local man in Waynesburg noted that it rained on his birthday (July 29) every year and a festival was created to note this amazing feat. Recorded history has documented rain on 83 percent of the days ever since. While these two events reflect the strong heritage of Greene County, there are numerous other events that strengthen the framework including the Carmichael’s King Coal Show, Greene County Fair, and the Covered Bridge Festival.
Coal mining remains a strong factor of the character of Greene County. The industrial legacy has both negative and positive elements. For instance, environmental concerns include mine drainage, coal refuse piles, and abandoned coal structures. Residential developments built around mining pursuits remain as small “patch towns” or villages. One example is the village of Mather, which was built in 1919 by the Pickins and Mather Mine Company. Mather was built to meet the housing needs for the men who worked in the Mather Colliery Mine. On May 9, 1928, a methane gas explosion killed 198 men at the Mather mine site. This significant event put the region on the map as this event resulted in the most casualties from a mining accident at that time in the nation’s history.
The years of mining activity have left significant environmental and economic impacts. Evidence of previous mining activity present to this day can be found in the form of a ‘gob pile.’ Gob Piles are essentially coal leftovers that were not processed by the mine. There are a number of remediation efforts underway to eliminate gob piles and reclaim usable coal and other products; eventually reclaiming the land for other uses.
Greene County is actively pursuing a public policy to promote community and economic development by encouraging cultural activities that build community identity and cohesion. Greene County is successfully fostering partnerships among community development organizations, social service organizations, and arts/artist and heritage/ preservation groups, as well as economic development agencies. Efforts are underway to identify grants and provide technical assistance to community groups seeking to renovate space for arts and cultural projects, and to integrate arts and cultural programming into community development projects in Greensboro, Rices Landing, Waynesburg and the Jefferson Morgan Region.
Aspects contributing to the concept of “cultural” include the arts, folklife/heritage, historic preservation, and the humanities. Culture is at the essence of community and can serve as a foundation of community development, combating sprawl, revitalizing rural districts and urban centers, and improving quality of life. Culture contributes to the social capital of a community and through historic preservation, cultural tourism, and civic engagement, can have an integral role in economic revitalization efforts. Arts and culture can enliven neighborhoods and enhance the quality of life. Social values and neighborhood bonds are reinforced by participating in cultural activities. The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area is a model example of collaboration between local, state, regional, and federal agencies to establish and promote the heritage associated with southwestern Pennsylvania communities and related industries.
County's Claim to Fame:
Rain Day got its beginning in the Daly & Spraggs Drug Store, located in the center of Waynesburg. Legend has it that one day an unknown local farmer was in the drugstore (remarked to William Allison, the pharmacist, that it always seems to rain on July 29. This comment inspired Allison to keep an annual record of the rainfall on that day. William’s brother, Albert, continued recording this mystical event; then, sometime during the 1920s, the record-keeping was taken over by the late Bryon Daily.) and mentioned to Byron Daly that it would rain the next day, July 29. Mr. Daly asked him how he knew and he replied that it was his birthday and that it always rained on his birthday. He had a journal for several years in which he recorded the weather and always had noted rain on July 29. Mr. Daly thought this was too sure a thing to let pass, so he started betting salesmen who came into his drugstore that it would rain in Waynesburg on July 29.
The bet was usually a new hat, which of course he would win.
So July 29 may just be another day to the rest of the world, but to the residents of Waynesburg and Greene County, it has a major significance that is passed along from generation to generation. The bets go on and on each year, will it rain this year on July 29 in Waynesburg . . . ? As of 2010, it had rained 112 times out of 136 years. Click here for the rest of the story.
Southwestern Pennsylvania Descendants:
Indians in Greene County: The original inhabitants of Greene County were the Indian Sachem Six Nations (Iroquois Confederacy), and consisted of the following Indian peoples: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras. First permanent settlement is believed to have been the Swan-VanMeter-Hughes party from Virginia, in 1767. The first European inhabitants were a mix of English, Irish, Scotch, Scotch-Irish, and German. The earliest-known prehistoric settlers in Southwestern Pennsylvania were the Monongahela Indians.
Greene County was once the peaceful domain of these Native Americans. They ruled the area with a sense of diplomacy, equatlity and a spiritual reverence for nature. These original settlers maintained a network of trails, were involved in commerce, conducted regular tribunal sto discuss issues and celebrate common heritage. In all senses, they were a civilized and orderly society.
Later, as English settlers pushed westward into Pennsylvania's frontier and the French and Indian War began, the Shawnee, Lenape, Mingo and Wyandot moved into southwestern Pennsylvania and Greene County. The Indian tribes who had settled here took a stand against the English, who were determined to force them across the Ohio River.
The standoff that lasted for more than 50 years, ending in a large amount of bloodshed. The massacres of a number of families by the American Indians in Greene County has become part of local lore and is well documented with some of these tragedies marked by monuments.
Click here to read about Indian Massacres in Greene County.
Salome Jennings, daughter of Nathaniel Jennings, was born in Waynesburg, PA on May 13, 1797. Her father was one of the earliest settlers of the town and built probably the first gristmill in this vicinity, which stood near the forks of the road west of Waynesburg. At a later period, he erected a flouring carding fall mill, farther down the creek. Salome married Joseph Barmore, June 26, 1817, and moved to Ohio, and later to Greene County, Wisconsin, where she died in 1862. (Information courtesy of Cornerstone Geological Society Club of Greene County/Moredock Scrapbook #1).
Underground Railroad was formed in the early 19th century and reasched its height between 1850 adn 1860. The escape network was not literally underground nor a railroad; but was figuratively "underground" in the sense of being an underground resistance. It was knowas as a "railroad" by way of the use of rail terminology in the code. It consisted os meeting points, secrete routes, transportation, and safe houses, with assistance provided by abolitionist sympathizers.
Individuals were often orgainzed in small, independent groups; which helped in maintaining secrecy because individuals knew some connecting "stations" along the route but knew few details of their immediate area (... usually starting at a plantation, or other work venues where slaves were congregated).
Click here for the complete history lesson. Source of information: Clayton Kilgore, Observer-Reporter 10/12/2013, Sec. B.