Back in 1971, some active members of the Connellsville Chamber of Commerce, alarmed that local history, including Connellsville as the COKE CAPITAL of the world, was being ignored and lost, decided to form a local historical society. Under the leadership of William Balsley, a meeting was called for all interested parties to organize a historical society. A meeting was held with Bill Balsley being elected the 1st President. Other Officers were: 1st Vice-President Mrs. Barbara Keefer, 2nd Vice-President Hubert Reidman, Recording Secretary Karen Hechler and Treasurer Louise Balsley. A charter was applied for and granted by Fayette County Common Pleas Judge John Munson and the Society was officially in business. The Society was incorporated in 1972.
One of the first community projects was an antiques show held at the Connellsville National Guard Armory on Washington Avenue. This was so successful that it was continued for a number of years, subsequently changing from strictly antiques to antiques and crafts and finally all crafts. Its locale also changed from the Armory to New Haven Hose Fire Hall on 7th Street West Side. Finally, its novelty having worn off, the last show was held in October, 1998.
During the Bi-Centennial of the United States in 1976, it was decided to build a replica of Col. William Crawford's log cabin home and springhouse. It was built near the original spot of his residence on the banks of the Youghiogheny River. It serves as an attraction for visitors to Yough River Park on Connellsville's West Side. A view of the one room structure can be activated by a bell on the river side, giving a short narration of his life and times. Flags of the United States, England and France were flown on the Memorial Bridge (Route 119) during the celebration.
Mindful of its mission to preserve and disseminate local history, the Society decided to reprint local history books, principally "The Centennial History of Connellsville" and "Fayette County History by Ellis" together with other histories including Braddock's Trail. All are available at the Society's office in the Carnegie Free Library or by mail. (See the "ITEMS FOR SALE" tab) Along with numerous other items is a coverlet depicting Connellsville's history. All make wonderful gifts. The Society's picnic pavilion and grounds where the cabin stands at Yough River Park are available for rent. One of the newest projects is Original Prints of local sites by artist Donna Campbell Allen and sold through the Society. Our Society has also sponsored numerous National Registry of Historic Places listings such as the P & L E and Western Maryland Railroad Station, the United States Post Office and others. Connellsville is the home of six (6) listings in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The Society maintains an office at the Gibson House located at 217 West Patterson Avenue, Connellsville, PA 15425. Our telephone number is 724-628-5640. Our hours of operation are Wednesday from 10 AM to 3 PM and Saturday from 10 AM to 3 PM. The current President is Karen Hechler.
Presently, having purchased the 1870 Gibson House on West Patterson Avenue in Connellsville, the Society is trying to restore the burned out house to make room for an office, information center, West Penn Railway display, Veterans display and railroad display. We also hope to be able to hold small receptions at the house. Research has led us to believe this to be the original Ironmasters house. The house was built by a son of Joseph Gibson of Ruble stone, L-shaped, two stories high and is typical of the architecture of the period. It overlooked both Connell Run and Gibsonville, site of the present Connellsville High School Football Stadium.
The Society holds a determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) designating it a non-profit, charitable organization under Code 501 (c) (3), making your donation tax deductible. We welcome new members, safe in the knowledge that you will find some area of local history to satisfy you. A newsletter is sent periodically to paid-up members.