Westmoreland County Trivia
by Pamela Curtin, Westmoreland Historical Society
- Westmoreland County was founded on February 26, 1773, out of Bedford County. It once included all of present-day Westmoreland, Fayette, Washington, and Greene Counties and parts of Allegheny, Armstrong, and Indiana Counties.
- Until Allegheny County was formed in 1788, Westmoreland County included the city of Pittsburgh.
- The county seat of Greensburg was named after Nathanael Greene, a major general in the Continental Army. Though he had no direct connection to the area, Greensburg paid homage to his successes in the southern theater of the Revolutionary War.
- Bushy Run Battlefield is the only historic site and museum that exclusively interprets Pontiac’s War, a conflict following the French and Indian War between regional Native American Tribes and Great Britain. As the site of a decisive British victory in 1763, Bushy Run Battlefield is also Westmoreland County’s only National Historic Landmark, which federally recognizes a site’s outstanding historical significance.
- George Washington actually slept here! During the French and Indian War, the young British military officer oversaw construction of the Forbes Road through the area, visited Fort Ligonier to prepare for the taking of France’s Fort Duquesne, and was nearly killed in a friendly fire incident in what would become Westmoreland County. Today, Fort Ligonier’s museum exhibits Washington’s handwritten letters and a set of pistols he carried during the Revolutionary War.
- It is believed that folk legend Johnny Appleseed, whose real name was John Chapman, gathered apple seeds from Westmoreland County cider mills to distribute and plant.
- Westmoreland County has a long history of agriculture and industry. Visit the Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival to observe early textile production, the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum to discover an important source of transportation, and West Overton Village to learn about coke magnate Henry Clay Frick and his family’s distillery.
- Latrobe really is Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. The renowned television personality was born in Latrobe in 1928. His father was president of one of Latrobe’s largest businesses, the McFeely Brick Company, and his mother was a volunteer at Latrobe Hospital. Music lessons and hours spent playing with puppets as a child in Latrobe fostered Rogers’ vivid imagination and the Land of Make-Believe the world came to know and love.
- Idlewild Park, opened in 1878, is the oldest amusement park in Pennsylvania and the third oldest operating amusement park in the United States. Beginning as a train depot and later a stop on the Lincoln Highway, Idlewild transformed from quiet weekend getaway for people in Pittsburgh to a nationally recognized amusement park with thrill rides, roller coasters, games, and children’s attractions.
- The Lincoln Highway, among America’s first coast-to-coast highways, cut through Westmoreland County. You can still drive parts of the original Lincoln Highway – look for the roadside signs featuring red and blue stripes and Lincoln on the penny!
- Westmoreland County has been home to diverse groups of people who have made their mark on the area. Learn about Native Americans at Bushy Run Battlefield, the Scots-Irish at Historic Hanna’s Town, eastern Mediterranean people at Antiochian Heritage Museum, and countless more at local historical societies.
- Multiple presidents have publicly addressed the people of Westmoreland County, including Herbert Hoover in 1932, Dwight Eisenhower in 1958, and Bill Clinton in 1994.
- The historic town of Norvelt is named after Eleanor Roosevelt. Created as part of the New Deal’s Subsistence Homestead program in the 1930s, Norvelt honored the First Lady’s commitment to unemployed coal workers in the area.
- Saint Vincent began as the first Benedictine monastery in the United States, founded in 1848, and later became an acclaimed liberal arts college. This historic campus has welcomed not only students and religious folk, but also the Pittsburgh Steelers for their annual training camp since 1966.
- The truth is out there in Kecksburg, where a supposed UFO crashed in 1965 and gave the tiny town the nickname of “Pennsylvania’s Roswell.” Investigate all things paranormal at the annual Kecksburg UFO Festival with fun parades, conferences, and live entertainment.