May 22, 2011

Seeking History in Brownsville (Redstone), Pennsylvania





      It was a beautiful day today. Sunny. Blue skies with white clouds. Sweater thrown in the back seat of the car, not needed. Car windows open, allowing the warm winds to blow across our faces as the car drove down Rt. 40 towards Redstone—oops, today known as Brownsville, Pennsylvania.


     I had changed my plans for the day. On Thursday, I’d seen publicity for the Market Street Arts Festival in Brownsville, and mentioned it to my husband Monte. It would be an opportunity for me to make contacts with people familiar with the 1790s trail followed by characters in my historic romance novel.

Meanwhile, Monte was deciding when he would go to Connellsville (a city that could be enroute to Brownsville from our community) to have the oil changed in the car. It would be a perfect schedule had I not submitted a writing to a critique group, which meant I planned on attending.

The final decision was based on the weather. Perfect today, it was expected to return to its rainy state next week. If we waited, we would be driving over an hour in dismal weather, and the contacts I wanted to make might be more challenging.


Brownsville today is a depressing town which is attempting to revive itself on tourism and history. The town is filled with wonderful but neglected, decaying historical structures, whose walls hide fascinating stories. But for now, many of them are secreted away, waiting to be discovered.

My goal was to uncover information on the trail that French émigrés traveled enroute from Uniontown to Redstone in 1790. It was their final land-path before the water travel that would take them down the Monongahela River to the Ohio River, to a town being created for them: Gallipolis, Ohio. I’d dug out little information on that section of the road in my research.


     We stopped at the Thompson House, circa 1906, to get directions. There were two authors there for book signings. One, Dr. J. K. Folmar I, is ProfessorEmeritus of History at California University of  Pennsylvania at California. He was actually familiar with the names and locations I am writing about. No explanation needed. I gave him my card and asked for his before I left.


     We stopped at the eating booths and spoke with a woman we later learned was Norma Ryan. She sent us to the Heritage Center museum located in the Flatiron Building, which had wonderful architecture, which doesn’t show in the following photograph taken from the car window (see link to Museum article at end of post).

A patron clarified a piece of information for me. The segment of the path I’d been trying to research was a segment of the Nemacolin Indian Trail.

I’d known that the Nemacolin Indian Trail, basically the route used by a. k. a. Braddock’s Road, the National Road, and Rt. 40, began at Cumberland, Maryland. When it hit Uniontown, Pennsylvania, I thought it veered north to Pittsburgh. It didn’t. It is Braddock’s Road that separates off the Nemacolin Indian Trail at Uniontown and continues on to Pittsburgh. However, the Nemacolin Indian  continues on through the former wilderness to Redstone, where the Redstone Creek flowed into the Monongahela River.

It was also clarified that Redstone wasn’t limited to Brownsville, but encompassed an entire region.


     From the Flatiron Building we drove to the junction of the Redstone Creek and the Monongahela River, where we discovered that the water at the entrance of the creek into the river is diverted by a dam.

I took some scenic pictures, but also took pictures of the creek and the river without any modern accouterments—background bridges, structures, dams…


     A final research stop was Nemacolin Castle, a majestic structure suitable for its title. Its setting is on the former site of the 1759 Fort Burd, and the pump in the pumproom is believed to have existed during the French and Indian War—the 1750s.

The original stone house, which predates the castle served as a trading post, refuge from the Indians, and a stopping off place for westward-bound settlers, is incorporated into its later additions and updates. Its original owner was pioneer Jacob Bowman, who migrated from Hagerstown, Maryland in February 1786.

The existence of the trading post in Redstone in 1790 will allow me to incorporate both Bowman and the trading post into my writing on this section of the Nemacolin Indian Trail.

Fortunately I was allowed to take photographs of the room that was constructed so long ago, which will allow me to illustrate the scene.


     We didn’t have time to visit the First United Methodist Church at 215 Church Street. But we did learn that In 1776, the first Methodist services were held in a small log house on the same property now hosting the First United Methodist Church. It wasn’t until 1804 that a stone building was constructed, replacing the wooden structure.

NOTE: To read Tribune-Review newspaper article Museum staff runs tight ship click on



The Market Street Arts Festival in Brownsville, PA.


Marketing Quaker and Amish Goods—Then and Now


British Guiana Then: Guyana Now

The King James Bible: 400th Anniversary

Chicago’s Cloud Gate: a.k.a. “The Bean”


  1. An article on Brownsville’s transportation industry at the Monongahela River, Railroad and Transportation Museum:

    “There is so much history in Brownsville, especially with railroad and river transportation…”

    Comment by carolyncholland — February 23, 2012 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  2. You mean down the Monongahela to the Ohio (not up).

    Comment by Hypatia — June 27, 2012 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for notifying me of this error. Logically, it seems the river should flow up, but it does actually flow down. I made the correction.
      Carolyn C. Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — June 30, 2012 @ 10:48 am | Reply

  3. You can keep busy for weeks reading about Brownsville & surrounding areas here: Glenn Tunney’s articles are filled with a wealth of information, all are well researched, many from actual residents & witnesses who grew up in the area! Pictures, history, happenings – ENJOY!

    Comment by Karen Hegedus — September 5, 2012 @ 9:38 pm | Reply

    • Karen,
      Thanks for the information. I will try to review it soon.
      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — September 5, 2012 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

  4. Interesting stuff. Much different than it used to be. Quite a far fall in such a short time. This piece goes into detail about it:

    Comment by Cliff — February 17, 2013 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

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