Connellsville, Pennsylvania, (population 9,200) is located at the edge of the Youghiogheny River, which General Edward Braddock crossed in his historic march to Fort Duquesne in 1755. Connellsville is named for Zachariah Connell, a surveyor and land agent who secured a charter for the borough of Connellsville in 1793. The heavily forested area and the Youghiogheny River contained many fur bearing animals, which led to the development of the fur trade. The boat building industry developed because the borough became a natural stopping point for travelers heading west.
In the early 20th century, Connellsville became one of the wealthiest cities in the country because of the abundant bituminous coal in the region. The borough boasted the title “The Coal and Coke Capital of the World.” At one time, more than five different rail lines passed through the area. The fortunes of Connellsville changed with the decline of the steel industry in the United States. Today, Connellsville serves as an entrance to industrial southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Fayette County Cultural Trust planned and implemented a heritage walking trail through Connellsville. The trail includes 11 poster-sized signs explaining the history of Connellsville through pictures and text. Signs are located at key historic sites in the community, including the Carnegie Library, armory, Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Station, and post office, all National Register of Historic Places-listed properties. The route was chosen to draw visitors off the main roads to help support the local businesses in Connellsville.
“Braddock’s Crossing” is an annual event in June to commemorate Braddock’s army crossing the Youghiogheny River in 1755. British, French, Colonial, and Native American re-enactors camp on site during the event. Visitors have the opportunity to cross the river each day of the event. “Art on the Yough” a festival featuring local and regional artists and hosted by the Fayette County Cultural Trust, occurs in conjunction with the annual reenactment.
Connellsville is one of the Pennsylvania towns along the Great Allegheny Passage, a biking and hiking trail running from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The trail is 318 miles long and aims to promote heritage tourism in the towns located along the trail.
The Connellsville Area Historical Society sponsors an annual “Pride in Connellsville Area Poster and Poetry Contest.” Students in grades four through nine create projects using Connellsville area history as the subject matter. Prizes are awarded, and the winners present their works to members of the community.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2009.
For more information
Connellsville Area Historical Society
The Great Allegheny Passage Trail
Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan: Carnegie Libraries: The Future Made Bright