Connellsville Became a Booming Manufacturing Town
The proximity to the head of navigation on the Youghiogheny River assured the new settlement of a steady business of flat boat building. As more people settled in this area, enterprising men started businesses to supply the population with the items needed for a growing economy. All the necessary supplies for daily living were beginning to be made by cottage industries. Grist Mills and sawmills were among the first industries needed.
Boat building was an important industry for 50 years, with much of the lumber being supplied by the McCormick Sawmill that had been built prior to 1794. Raw materials were found in the needed quantities to have many iron furnaces. Charcoal made from the abundant forests was needed for the furnaces.
An outgrowth of the iron industry was the nail making industry. The first spike machine made in Pennsylvania was made here by Norton & Stewart Company. James and Campbell Johnston started two nail shops soon after they arrived here in 1818.
The first tannery was built by Anthony Banning, an itinerant Methodist preacher, between 1791 and 1799. The first house made of locally produced brick was built by Mr. Banning shortly after the town was started. By 1823, David Barnes had a brickyard that made brick for the town, and Joseph Soisson started making firebrick for the coke ovens in 1865. Artificial stone was made by a company in "Dutch Bottom."
Carriages and road wagons were made in 1839. Many diverse industries have been located here: chemical products, lumbering, candy, tin plate, locks, automobiles, locomotives, safes, cotton, woolen and silk mills, aluminum coating, flint glass, breweries and distilleries.
The boat building industry had to compete with the railroad for cargoes. With the building of many more railroads, the rates for shipping soon made it a more feasible method of transporting goods to market. Shipping by river could be slow and hazardous. Over the years, many rail lines have used the Youghiogheny River valley as a route from Pittsburgh to the south and east. At various times during its history, Connellsville has been served by the following railroads: Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad, Baltimore & Ohio, Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, Western Maryland, Pennsylvania Central, Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny, Norfolk & Western, and Pittsburgh & West Virginia. The only remaining carriers are the Chessie System (Baltimore & Ohio) and Amtrak.
Provided by the Connellsville Area Historical Society. Added to the site on February 2, 2000.