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Scanning for Facts

As our digitizing crew has been scanning and storing pictures and articles, I start asking questions about things I thought that I already knew concerning where I grew up:

Westmoreland County.

The information and images being scanned, sorted, identified when possible, and filed into ever increasing virtual folders teases me that I really know very little. Several nearby churches are preparing to celebrate their 250th anniversary on the land that was set aside by some early residents for “good purpose”, thus the large number of churches, schools, and cemeteries here.

I have noticed that many landmarks have changed or disappeared. Main street Greensburg looks something like what I remember from when I was young: many of the churches and schools are still there, the courthouse now takes more than a city block, and portions of the city have universities in and around it.

So, I have questions concerning our county and our origins that these booklets and pamphlets, book excerpts and photographs from a century and more ago, questions that challenge my assumptions about Westmoreland County and “facts” that I thought that I knew about it. I would like to ask for your help. What sources have you used to learn the story of Westmoreland County or your section of it? I ask you to examine your sources. What have you used to explain how and when this part of Pennsylvania developed until we now have (I think) a nice place to live?

I am looking for facts, just facts that can be backed up with authentic images or texts to help us.

I’ll go first to make some claims from sources we have been scanning:

1. Where was Fort Allen?

2. Who was Balthasar Meyer?

3. Was the first Westmoreland County school in Hempfield Township?

4. Was there a school of sorts where the G.C.Murphy store (Main and Second Street corner) used to be?

5. What language was spoken in Westmoreland County prior to 1850?

The first question comes from a drawing made by a former resident who grew up in the area and hunted as a child on the land that later became the housing development known as Fort Allen.

The 1954 Star of The West: A Century of Educational Progress reports that Balthasar Meyer was the first area teacher who also functioned as a religious guide before ordained ministers came to stay in the area.

Reverend William F. Ulery stated that the first school was located in “The Harrold or Old Zion settlement about three miles west of Greensburg.”

A second school started by Balthasar Meyer sat on Main Street in Greensburg, where G.C.Murphy 5 & 10 used to be.

German was the primary language spoken in this area until about 1850.

The final four answers come from the same edition of The Star of The West, the 100 year anniversary edition in 1954.

Do you have sources which counter or support these claims? I would like to hear from you about them.

You can e-mail me at

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