Charleroi History

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 TWP (1781).

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