By Cathi Gerhard
As a member of the Westmoreland Heritage Partners group which meets quarterly to discuss the latest news and events of the county’s historical and cultural sites, I take a lot of notes to use in upcoming issues of the Laurel Mountain Post. However, I have not visited many of these places since I was an elementary student on class field trips.
This summer my husband, Greg, suggested that we spend our free weekends touring the various historical sites around southwestern Pennsylvania. Starting with Westmoreland County, our first stop was Opening Day (May 2) at Historic Hanna’s Town for a special afternoon tea and tour. It is located within 20 minutes of our home, and yet we had never visited this fabulous place!
Hanna’s Town, founded in 1773 and named for its founder Robert Hanna, acted as the first Seat of Westmoreland County and the first English court west of the Allegheny Mountains. The town was an oasis for travelers, settlers and those seeking justice and order in the often chaotic environment of the western Pennsylvania colonial frontier.
The town and its inhabitants played a major role in the armed conflict between Pennsylvania and Virginia for control of the area now recognized as southwestern Pennsylvania. World history happened here!
Hanna’s Town was active in various issues associated with the Revolutionary War. The Hanna’s Town Resolves were written and signed here in May, 1775. This document is one of the most direct challenges to British authority preceding the Declaration of Independence. Before most other colonial communities took a stand, Westmoreland County residents proclaimed their willingness to take drastic measures to maintain and defend their rights against British oppression. Hanna’s Town was an important center for the recruitment of militia for the western campaigns against the British in Detroit and their Native Americans allies. In one of the final battles of the war, Hanna’s Town was at-tacked and burned on July 13, 1782 by a raiding party of Indians and their British allies. The town never recovered, and the county seat was moved to Greensburg in 1786.
The town site’s subsequent conversion to farmland in the early 1800’s preserved it as an archaeological time capsule of 1770 frontier life during the waning British colonial period and the emerging American republic, and it remains an almost unique archaeological resource in this area.
The village consists of the reconstructed Hanna Tavern/Courthouse and three vintage late 18th century log houses, a reconstructed Revolutionary era fort and blockhouse and a wagon shed that houses an authentic late 18th century wagon.
The Westmoreland County Historical Society and Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation have formed a partnership to administer and maintain Historic Hanna’s Town. It’s just one of the many historic sites we drive past every day as natives of Westmoreland County–taking for granted their existence, but hardly ever stopping for a closer look.
We are proud to devote Laurel Mountain Post pages to the re-discovery of our local history this summer. Borrowing material researched and written by staff and volunteers over the last several years, we invite you to learn more for yourself … in person, online at their beautiful new websites, or through other fresh materials brought together and promoted year-round by the work of Louise Tilzey-Bates at Westmoreland Heritage. You can tune into her monthly radio program “Heritage Happenings” on 1480 WCNS radio every 3rd Saturday at 9 am for the latest news and events.
Spend some time re-living history in your own backyard this summer. Post pics to Facebook or tweet about it! We look forward to sharing our local adventures with you!