Ligonier And Hannastown
( Originally Published 1900 )
The whole mountain district west of Johnstown is filled with coal mines, coke ovens and iron furnaces, this being the "Pittsburg Coal District." The Conemaugh breaks through the next western ridge, the Laurel Mountain, and the broadening river winds along its deep valley between high wooded hills. It is a veritable "Black Country," and ten miles beyond, the river passes the finest mountain gorge on the western slope of the Alleghenies, the deep and winding canyon of the Packsaddle Narrows, y which the Conemaugh breaks out of the Chestnut Ridge, the western border of the Allegheny ranges. For two hundred miles the railroad has gone through or over range after range, and this grand pass, encompassed by mountains rising twelve hundred feet above the bottom of the gorge, is the impressive exit at the final portal. The main railroad then leaves the Conemaugh, and goes off southwestward along the slope of Chestnut Ridge towards Greensburg and Pittsburg. The river unites with the Loyalhanna Creek below, and then flows as the Kiskiminetas down to the Allegheny. The name of Loyalhanna means the "middle stream," while the tradition is that an impatient Indian warrior, anxious to move forward, shouted in the night to his comrades en-camped on the other river—" Giesh-gumanito "—"let us make daylight "—and from this was derived its name of Kiskiminetas. A branch railroad from here goes to Blairsville, named in memory of the solitary pioneer of Blair's Gap, and another northward leads to the town of Indiana. The great Chestnut Ridge which the main railway runs along, gradually descending the slope, is the last mountain the westbeund traveller sees until he reaches the Rockies. For seventy miles to the southwestward the Chestnut Ridge and Laurel Mountain extend in parallels, their crest lines being almost exactly ten miles apart, and enclosing the Ligonier Valley, out of which flows northward the Loyalhanna Creek, breaking through the Chestnut Ridge. Near this pass in 1757 was built Fort Ligonier, another of the frontier outposts which resisted the incursions of the French and Indians, who then held all the country to the westward. In the Chestnut Ridge at Hillside is the " Great Bear Cave," an extensive labyrinth of passages and spacious chambers stretching more than a mile underground, which, like most such places, has its subterranean river and its tale of woe. A young girl, stolen by gypsies, to escape from them took refuge in this cave, and losing her way, perished, her bones being found years afterwards. Explorers since have always unwound balls of twine in this labyrinth, to be able to retrace their steps.
In a good farming district of the Westmoreland region is Greensburg, another railway junction where branches go southward to the Monongahela coal-fields. Robert Hanna built a house near here in the eighteenth century, around which gathered some thirty log cabins, and the place in course of time became known as Hannastown, prominent in the early history of Western Pennsylvania. Here was held the first court convened west of the Alleghenies, and here were passed the patriotic resolutions of May 16, 1775, upon receipt of the news of the battle of Lexington at the opening of the Revolution, which sounded the keynote for the Declaration of Independence the following year. Here also first appeared during the Revolution General Arthur St. Clair, an immigrant from Scotland, the grandson of the Earl of Roslyn, who lived in an humble house on Chestnut Ridge. He served in the French and Indian wars, and was the British commander at Fort Ligonier. Horrible Indian massacres and terrible retributions y the settlers were the chief features of the Revolutionary War in Westmoreland. At its close, the whites sent an expedition in 1782 against the Wyandottes, which was defeated. The savages soon wreaked fearful vengeance, raiding the region in July of that year and burning Hannastown, which was never rebuilt. Greensburg appeared soon after-wards, however, and in 1875 it celebrated the centenary of the Hannastown resolutions with patriotic spirit. In its Presbyterian churchyard lie the re-mains of General St. Clair, who, after founding and naming the city of Cincinnati, returned here, and died in 1818, at the age of eighty-four, in his lonely cabin on Chestnut Ridge, in unmerited poverty and obscurity. The stone over his grave has this significant inscription : " The earthly remains of General Arthur St. Clair are deposited beneath this humble monument, which is erected to supply the place of a nobler one due from his country." Being in a region of fine agriculture and prolific mines, Greensburg is a prosperous and wealthy town.