Charleroi Area History must
first begin with the Paleo Indians who resided in the area
long before anyone else. After them came the Delaware, Shawnee,
and Iroquois or “Mingo” tribes who traversed the
whole area. In the early 1770’s, the Speers, Van Voorhis,
and Frye families immigrated to the Monogahela River valley
and bought property from the Indians from which they set their
large farms and established businesses. During those days,
many of “Gibson’s Lambs”, “Whiskey
Boys” and “Tom the Tinkers” came from this
area in which the Whiskey Rebellion eventually transpired.
Back then the area was a part of what was called Fallowfield
Eventually, the above named properties were under control
of other who survived after them: John Conrad; Joseph Ryan;
William MacMahan, more Frye families; James Sampson; Thomas
Redd; William Rodgers; Robert McKean. From these ancestors
the predominant Redd, McKean, and MacMahan family farms ended
up selling their land to the Charleroi Land Company in 1889
from which lots were sold to establish the town of “Charleroi”
and North Charleroi also grew like “Magic” thereafter
upon that which had been a long stretch of meadow. The Official
birth of Charleroi took place on March 4, 1890. From these
lot purchases many store, hotels, theatres, restaurants and
businesses arose quickly, by 1900 it was jumping with activity.
Many Belgium immigrant glass workers and others came to “Charleroi”
for the booming glass industry (Charleroi Plate Glass) that
had evolved before the town was even built. Many of these
people had to sleep on haystacks, tents, wherever they could
find a place until company houses were built, later called
“Brick Row” (still standing up on the hill) and
later “shovel works” (Hussey Binns Shovel Works).
Nathaniel Redd came in the 1770s, and his grandson, Thomas
Redd (who was born in 1882) married Elmira Conrad in 1851,
and eventually resided in a new home in 1881 in what was to
become Charleroi. It was sold along with his farm in 1890
to the Charleroi Land Company, this became the southern portion
of the town. The Redd Farm rested from Second Street out along
Maple Creek Road. Robert McKean came from Scotland and moved
into the area to establish his Green Valley Garden farm in
1865 and shipped produce by boat and then via railroad after
it came through. His wife died within two months after the
first lots for Charleroi were sold. He died in 1893. Andrew
McKean and James Clarke served as agents for the Charleroi
Land Company. His farm rested from Second Street to 7th; while
the McMahan Farm rested from 7th to Lock Four. Both James
Sitt McKean and A.F. Chandler (Charleroi Land Co. petitioner
and solicitor of Belgian Glass Workers) are credited with
the idea to establish a town and the name of “Charleroi”
after the leading glass giant during that era, respectfully.
Charleroi, unlike other communities, has only ever been known
as “Charleroi” and it evolved due to the needs
of those who brought it in for the glass industry.
The Post Office was established even before the town did.
Charleroi’s “mother” city in Belgium has
retained connections with it’s infant over the years
and it still does today. They share a continued predominant
glass history even today. From the Charleroi Plate Glass factory
eventually purchased by PPG. Hamilton Bottle Works, to the
MacBeth, then MacBeth-Evans to Corning to now World-Kitchen
facilities, there has been a long tradition of glass works
in Charleroi, Pennsylvania among many other industries that
existed there such as Iron and Brick “Works”,
and mining. It was also the retail “giant” for
many decades following its birth until the malls and plazas
made for devastating inroads into all town economies.
Charleroi is fortunate to have many of its original buildings
throughout its area, but many have also disappeared due to
those who did not appreciate their historic value. The Coyle
Theatre, one of the region’s only able-to-be-renovated-to-operate
theatre that is still standing in the downtown, the J.K. Tener
Library is a historic landmark, and downtown and Charleroi
area that are priceless in architectural and historic value.
Even the original water works still exists in the boro as
well as the original Elks Building (1904) which still operates
today. City Hall was built in 1917 and housed the boro offices,
jail, ambulance, police and fire departments, while on the
top floor was a large auditorium that was used for many community
functions till the 1970s. The year 2002 found the Charleroi’s
VFD celebrating their 100th anniversary year.
The Charleroi Area Historical Society along with many others
in Charleroi support the VLTF process as it pushes toward
Monongahela River Tourism as anew industry in which utilizing
local histories as a way and means to help revive local economies
with the steps of clean ups, beautification, and creation
of attractions. This includes the pursuit of a glass lighthouse
complex (Corning used to make all of the lighthouse prisms!)
that will help draw tourists into our pleasant river town.
Charleroi has many wonderful historic assets still existing,
and soon we hope to have walking and driving tour brochures
available for tourism use!
Charleroi Birthdate: March 4, 1890