August 7, 2011

Fayettenam (Pennsylvania)



Fayettenam: nickname of Fayette County, Pennsylvania

     This nickname was jokingly bestowed on this Southwestern Pennsylvania, county forty years ago by state police, perhaps a mockery due to its crime and references to hillbilliesit seems like the punch lines never end, with bizarre crimes fueling bloggers, radio hosts and water-cooler chats.

     My first experiences while a new resident of Connellsville supported this aspect of Fayette County.

     Two weeks after my arrival a fire erupted in a house two blocks away. I watched from my porch as a car careened through a corner parking lot, then careened at high speed down the block, narrowly missing two children playing on the edge of the road. Then I walked to the fire. Being a journalist who covered fires and accidents in my previous community, I carried a camera. When I used it, a young man holding a baby came up to me and threatened me, saying “people shouldn’t make money off a tragedy.” Had he not been holding the child, I am certain I would have been on the ground.

     Shortly after that I went out of town, where I watched the television report that a woman left her fifteen month old child with her boyfriend for the ten minutes it took her to go to the store. The baby cried and the man took the child and threw him against the wall, with fatal results.

     When I contacted the children’s services about a child living in a home where her bed was given to a “renter,” where she couldn’t bathe because the bathroom was filled with debri and animal waste, and she stank from cigarette smoke, I was told the agency would do nothing because “this was the typical lifestyle of the residents of the county.”

     Finally, I must note that when we moved to Connellsville, we landed in the midst of an arson zone. Eight years later, when we moved out of the city, we were again living in a community that was an arson zone.

     Not all was bad in Connellsville. I had wonderful neighbors, worked with a great Tribune-Review staff and also worked with the fantastic staff at the local library. But the initial incidents colored my perspective of the county.

     There is also another aspect of Fayette County—its history. While doing my novel, I had a chapter where a group of French émigrés traveled from Cumberland, Maryland to Old Redstone (Brownsville) along Braddock’s Road and Burd Road (basically, the Nemacolin Indian Trail). While researching the route’s background I learned much of Fayette County’s history. The photo below deptics a room in one of the many historical structures:

Nemacolin Castle in Brownsville, PA

     However, the county cannot sit on the laurels of the past. Yes, the history is a great heritage. Tourism professionals say the breadth of Fayette’s landmarks is unrivaled in the region… But it’s what happens today that counts now.

     I applaud the people in the county who are truly trying to pull it up from its 2000 status, when the census showed the poverty rate remains the second-worst in the state, even though it has dropped some. Persistence, time, and true change may someday allow the county to be relieved of the nickname Fayettenam.




Seeking History in Brownsville (Redstone), Pennsylvania


A Stained Glass Window in Brownsville, Pennsylvania

Youghiogheny River AKAs


  1. Please consider that the incidents you reference happen in “any county”, usa. I can think of 5 similar stories that have taken place in Allegheny County in the past week.

    Comment by Dan Oskawa — May 10, 2012 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment, Dan.
      Yes, the events can occur in any county, USA, but it seems the events were more concentrated in Fayettnam. The county in which I now live has its share of incidents, but less concentrated.
      Carolyn Cornell Holland

      Comment by carolyncholland — May 11, 2012 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

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