History of the County
Other early settlers were Col. William Crawford, also a friend of Washington's, who came to the area in 1765 and built a log cabin where Braddock Road crossed the Youghiogheny River, near Connellsville.
Jacob Bowman established a trading post near Redstone Old Fort, in Brownsville.
Washington purchased 1644 acres of land for a community he planned. Although his grist mill was completed in 1776, the community featuring a central hub and streets radiating out like a wagon wheel was not laid out until after Washington's death. Perryopolis was officially created in 1814 and named in honor of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, naval hero of the War of 1812.
Controversy over ownership of the land between the French and British resulted in skirmishes that evolved into the French and Indian War. Fayette witnessed Washington's attack on the French in 1754 that resulted in the death of Ens. Joseph Coulon de Jumonville and the counter attack of the French on Washington's troops at Great Meadows where Washington was forced to surrender Fort Necessity on July 4 of that year. In 1755, Commander Major General Braddock was mortally wounded in a battle near Pittsburgh. His body was buried in the roadway, in Fayette County to hide and protect its location. Fort Necessity is now a National Park with an interpretive center and a reconstruction of the fort. A marker pays tribute to General Braddock at his presumed gravesite on Rt. 40 the National Road. Popular folklore has it that Tom Fossit himself murdered General Braddock. John Ritenour in his 1926 book, "Tom Fossit, A True Narrative Concerning a Thrilling Epic of Early Colonial Days," writes that Tom Fossit, a private soldier in Braddock's army had self admittedly shot and mortally wounded Braddock on the field of battle in a spirit of revengeful bitterness for the slaying of his own brother by the General. Fossit boasted about robbing Braddock's hidden grave of its bones and helped turn them over to a Philadelphia museum for public exhibition at a price. This has never been verified.
Although originally friendly, relations between Native Americans and settlers became tense. Fear of attack prompted settlers to identify places to gather for safety. These places, like Fort Gaddis, Fort Mason, in addition to the British Fort Burd at Brownsville, became known as frontier forts.
As the country grew, demand for direct access from the western frontier to the centers at Baltimore, Richmond , and Philadelphia increased. If the hearty independent spirited frontiersmen were to feel allegiance to the United States, they needed an efficient way to travel and receive goods from the east coast.
Jacob Bowman and others were firmly established in the community of Brownsville, a trading center outfitting travelers as they prepared to navigate the Monongahela River to the Ohio and on west to the Mississippi, supplying farmers and millers as they traded and moved their products to market at either St. Louis or New Orleans.
The National Road was devised to address that need. In 1806 a potential proposal to build the first federal infrastructure project was introduced to Congress. Among early advocates for a national road were Henry Clay of Kentucky.
Information for this article has been gleaned from five main sources:
"Fayette at the Crossroads" by Walter J. Storey, Jr. PA Heritage Quarterly, Fall, 1983; the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
"The Old Pike A History of the National Road", T. B. Searight
"Annals of Southwestern Pennsylvania" Lewis Clark Walkinshaw
"Cloud By Day A History of Coal and Coke and People " Muriel Earley