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Series XXV. Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society, 1906-1987

Historical Background

Throughout her life, Helen Clay Frick, daughter of Henry Clay Frick, was dedicated to her father’s legacy and determined to preserve the Frick family history. Following her passions in history and philanthropy, Helen decided to preserve the site where her father and great grandparents once lived. After the death of her father in 1919, Helen began to purchase the original Abraham Overholt family homestead located in West Overton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, as a way to memorialize her father. Helen would further reinforce her interest in preserving the historic site by creating the Westmoreland – Fayette Historical Society, a subsidiary of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, to maintain the historic homestead. The original homestead was founded by Henry Overholt, his wife and twelve children, who emigrated from Bucks County, Pennsylvania to the Jacobs Creek area of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (West Overton Village) to settle the land with fellow Mennonites in the spring of 1800. The Overton’s operated a small farm in the village which included a grist mill and distillery for the production and sale of rye whiskey and grain.

Helen purchased the Abraham Overholt homestead and six adjacent buildings, including the spring house where her father was born and 12.7 acres of land, for $14,000 in 1922. By the mid 1920s, she purchased the mill/distillery property across the road from the homestead for $7,500 and turned the building into a museum. To maintain the property, Helen created the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society in 1927 with the founding mission to “increase and diffuse knowledge of the history of Westmoreland and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania, in particular, and of Western Pennsylvania in general, and to these ends to collect, arrange and preserve historical material; to maintain a historical museum; to conduct and to encourage research into and to publish material relative to and illustrative of the history of the region; to hold meetings, encourage pilgrimages and visitations and to engage in other appropriate activities.” The property was leased to the historical society free of charge for a period of ten years with additional support annually from Helen under the stipulation that the society must follow the guidelines of the mission statement. Once the lease expired, Helen would observe whether the society met its original mission and if it met her standards, she would convey the estate to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

The historical Overholt house was the first renovation to be completed and was known as Abraham's Homestead at its public grand opening on June 16, 1928. The rooms of the house were redone to reflect the pioneer heritage of Western Pennsylvania. The next building to be renovated was the distillery which was opened as a museum in 1930. However, even with these achievements, the society did not meet Helen’s expectations when the lease expired in 1937. She did not turn over the real estate to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, but renewed the lease for an additional five years. The second lease expired in 1942 and Helen refused to renew the lease, halted all contributions, and ended all affiliation with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania and the branch she created.

Even though the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society lacked the funding, its membership continued to grow, eventually arguing for its independence as a society. In 1948, the society won its independence and split from the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society. Helen admired the society’s initiative and leased the Overholt property to the independent society. The society’s name and objective were still based on the original 1928 branch mission. However, the society instituted an annual meeting called “Founder’s Day” where they assembled in the mill museum on the third Saturday in June to vote and elect officers. Additionally, there are two other meetings which take place during the year that are open to the public whom are interested in the society. The Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society now operates under the name of West Overton Museums and is still funded through the Helen Clay Frick Foundation. In 2008, West Overton now owned all 18 of the buildings that were part of the original village and a strategic plan has been laid out for their preservation. West Overton Village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district and is one of just two pre-Civil War villages still in existence today.

Scope and Content Notes:

This series consists of records pertaining to the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society and the Abraham Overholt family homestead at West Overton. The records include correspondence, minutes, memoranda, newspaper clippings, forms, contracts, and agreements. There are also promotional material that consists of announcements, brochures, maps, flyers, negatives, and photographs.

The majority of the materials consist of correspondence that are arranged by subject. A large portion of correspondence relates to the property that was a part of the original West Overton homestead, including the family home, mill building, tearoom, and the springhouse. There is also information pertaining to furnishings, roads, fire extinguishers, signs, trees, renovations, insurance, and surrounding lands. Within the correspondence, most letters are addressed to and from Helen Clay Frick. Other individuals that are frequently referenced are Henry Clay Frick’s niece and nephew, Karl F. Overholt and Lula F. Taylor. Karl was one of the founding members of the historical society and was very active in the society. The correspondence from Lula F. Taylor pertains to the time when she was the custodian of the historical house. Helen asked Taylor to take up residence in the house to serve as its hostess and caretaker. Taylor remained at the Overholt homestead until her death in 1966. Her letters were addressed to Helen, Karl, and other persons involved in property and society matters.

This series also highlights some of the society’s missions, one of which was to increase knowledge of western Pennsylvania history, especially in Westmoreland and Fayette Counties. Folders labeled Fort Necessity and Jumonville document the society’s interests and contributions to historical Fayette sites in western Pennsylvania. Karl F Overholt was a chairman of a committee that dealt with the restoration of Fort Necessity while Helen Clay Frick helped finance the Jumonville historical marker on the site where George Washington and his men skirmished with the French that ignited the French and Indian War. The materials are arranged in alphabetical order by subject and within each file folder are in chronological order. The materials in this series date from 1906 to 1987.


Box 661
Folder 1 Armor Collection, December 9, 1929-September 19, 1933
Folder 2 Aurand Book Store, February 14, 1927-January 14, 1930
Folder 3 Avinoff, Andray, December 10, 1929-June 12, 1930
Folder 4 Carriage Museum, June 4, 1934-September 9, 1941
Folder 5 Citizen Water Company, October 17, 1925-August 15, 1931
Folder 6 Conestoga Wagon, April 17, 1930-June 28, 1931
Folder 7 Contributions from Helen Clay Frick, January 23, 1936-August 17, 1942
Folder 8 Demolishing Buildings, November 23, 1928-September 14, 1932
Folder 9 Donations, February 24, 1928-December 16, 1935
Folder 10 Donations and Purchases of Historical Objects, January 31, 1929-August 19, 1937
Folder 11 Employees, June 23, 1923-August 20, 1931
Folder 12 Employees, August 24, 1931-February 2, 1940
Folder 13 Employees, February 3, 1940-January 14, 1943
Folder 14 Executive Committee, October 14, 1937-March 15, 1938

Box 662
Folder 1 Expenditures and Contracts, March 30, 1928-June 2, 1928
Folder 2 Fire Extinguishers, October 28, 1925-September 28, 1935
Folder 3 Forbes Road, March 11, 1930-June 20, 1933
Folder 4 Fort Necessity, Newspaper Clippings, April 26, 1931-December 15, 1931
Folder 5 Fort Necessity, September 11, 1931-June 10, 1932
Folder 6 Fort Necessity, September 29, 1931
Folder 7 Founders Day Meeting, Newspaper Clippings, March 1, 1929-June 16, 1938
Folder 8 Founders Day Meeting, December 7, 1928-December 18, 1929
Folder 9 Founders Day Meeting, January 10, 1930-December 1, 1930
Folder 10 Founders Day Meeting, January 30, 1930-December 16, 1931
Folder 11 Founders Day Meeting, February 23, 1932-December 15, 1932
Folder 12 Founders Day Meeting, January 31, 1933-November 21, 1934
Folder 13 Founders Day Meeting, May 23, 1935-February 18, 1937
Folder 14 Founders Day Meeting, March 16, 1937-July 11, 1942
Folder 15 Founders Day Meeting, November 23, 1929-July 5, 1941

Box 663
Folder 1 Friendship Hill, June 1928-April 19, 1929
Folder 2 Furnishings, January 9, 1928-April 17, 1929
Folder 3 Furnishings, January 29, 1929-April 27, 1939
Folder 4 Furnishings, Inventory, August 15, 1928
Folder 5 Furnishings, Stoves, undated
Folder 6 Habitat Groups, January 10, 1929-February 4, 1933
Folder 7 Historical House, January 3, 1927-December 15, 1927
Folder 8 Historical House, January 12, 1928-March 26, 1931
Folder 9 Historical House, Newspaper Clippings, June 21, 1928-July 5, 1946
Folder 10 Historical House, Copyright Matters, November 2, 1927-July 18, 1928
Folder 11 Historical House, Copyright Matters, July 20, 1928-September 26, 1942
Folder 12 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, February 10, 1927-September 23, 1927
Folder 13 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, September 27, 1927-December 27, 1927
Folder 14 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, January 6, 1928-May 18, 1928
Folder 15 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, May 31, 1928-July 30, 1928
Folder 16 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, October 15, 1928-June 14, 1934

Box 664
Folder 1 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, August 23, 1934-February 5, 1963
Folder 2 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, April 28, 1964-December 12, 1972
Folder 3 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, February 7, 1973-December 27, 1974
Folder 4 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, January 21, 1975-December 30, 1975
Folder 5 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, March 3, 1976-December 1, 1976
Folder 6 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, February 16, 1977-December 6, 1978
Folder 7 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, March 7, 1979-December 30, 1980
Folder 8 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, March 4, 1981-November 3, 1982
Folder 9 Historical Society of Western Pa., Memoranda and Meetings, February 2, 1983-December 5, 1984
Folder 10 Historical Society of Western Pa., Newspaper Clippings, December 8, 1932-July 16, 1934
Folder 11 Indian Chiefs of Pa. Article, December 1, 1927
Folder 12 Indian Excavations, June 22, 1931
Folder 13 Indian Excavations, Newspaper Clippings, September 13, 1932-February 22, 1950
Folder 14 Indian Excavations, Correspondence, December 18, 1928-June 27, 1929
Folder 15 Indian Excavations, Correspondence, July 5, 1929-September 5, 1929
Folder 16 Indian Excavations, Correspondence, October 3, 1929-March 30, 1930

Box 665
Folder 1 Indian Excavations, Correspondence, April 16, 1930-June 15, 1933
Folder 2 Insurance, Automobiles, November 22, 1928-April 23, 1940
Folder 3 Insurance, Property, July 16, 1928-December 8, 1941
Folder 4 Insurance, Workmen Compensation, and General Liability, August 26, 1929-August 31, 1936
Folder 5 Insurance, Workmen Compensation, and General Liability, October 10, 1936-June 23, 1965
Folder 6 Iron Industry History, November 14, 1935-September 3, 1936
Folder 7 Isaac Meason House, November 16, 1928-November 12, 1931
Folder 8 Jumonville Marker, March 29, 1932-October 28, 1933
Folder 9 Maps, December 14, 1940
Folder 10 Membership and Applications, undated
Folder 11 Membership, Applications, and Invitations, June 22, 1928
Folder 12 Membership, June 16, 1928-August 12, 1937
Folder 13 Membership, List, December 11, 1930
Folder 14 Mill Building, March 28, 1929-August 30, 1930
Folder 15 Mill Property, March 26, 1924-April 1, 1950
Folder 16 Mill Property, Photographic Negatives, April 5, 1929

Box 666
Folder 1 Misc. Notes, December 21, 1926-June 17, 1968
Folder 2 Misc. Notes, July 9, 1986-April 2, 1987
Folder 3 Misc. Notes, undated
Folder 4 Mural Painting, March 16, 1928-July 26, 1928
Folder 5 Mural Painting Pamphlets, 1928
Folder 6 Museum Cases, August 20, 1928-April 14, 1930
Folder 7 Objects offered but not Purchased, September 5, 1928-January 17, 1935
Folder 8 Overholt, Karl F., Memorial Award, May 4, 1939-January 2, 1942
Folder 9 Payroll, January 5, 1929-February 19, 1929
Folder 10 Pennsylvania State Library and Museum, December 1928-January 1929
Folder 11 Persons Invited to Dedication, June 6, 1928-June 8, 1928
Folder 12 Picture Rock, September 26, 1929-September 24, 1930
Folder 13 Pocket Book, September 27, 1927-December 30, 1930
Folder 14 Property, June 24, 1925-June 18, 1930

Box 667
Folder 1 Property, March 15, 1943-December 24, 1945
Folder 2 Property, February 5, 1946-December 8, 1949
Folder 3 Property, January 30, 1950-December 1, 1953
Folder 4 Property, January 3, 1954-September 4, 1956
Folder 5 Property, October 3, 1956-December 11, 1959
Folder 6 Property, February 1, 1960-March 18, 1966
Folder 7 Property, Relating to Coal Rights, April 23, 1906-February 26, 1922
Folder 8 Property, Relating to Coal Rights, March 11, 1922-March 13, 1922
Folder 9 Property, Vicinity, February 28, 1930-November 30, 1930
Folder 10 Property, Vicinity, November 7, 1930-June 16, 1933
Folder 11 Renovations and Decoration, March 26, 1924-March 31, 1928
Folder 12 Renovations and Decoration, April 2, 1928-April 27, 1928
Folder 13 Renovations and Decoration, May 1, 1928-May 31, 1928

Box 668
Folder 1 Renovations and Decoration, June 4, 1928-June 13, 1938
Folder 2 Roads of West Overton, September 17, 1931-October 20, 1941
Folder 3 Roads [Photographs and Negatives], August 3, 1940, August 6, 1940
Folder 4 Rules and Regulations, June 30, 1928-August 1, 1928
Folder 5 Secretary Matters, February 6, 1937-October 26, 1939
Folder 6 Signs, July 4, 1928-May 18, 1933
Folder 7 Spring House, May 2, 1933-March 17, 1934
Folder 8 Taylor, Lula F., August 21, 1928-December 10, 1929
Folder 9 Taylor, Lula F., February 20, 1930-December 21, 1931
Folder 10 Taylor, Lula F., January 1, 1932-December 22, 1932
Folder 11 Taylor, Lula F., January 13, 1933-March 13, 1936
Folder 12 Taylor, Lula F., February 1, 1937-December 18, 1941
Folder 13 Tea Room, June 29, 1928-November 21, 1929
Folder 14 Treasurer Matters, January 30, 1936-March 26, 1937
Folder 15 Tree removal, May 29, 1923-April 22, 1952
Folder 16 Washington, George, Letter [Correspondence relating to], July 2, 1930-December 11, 1930
Folder 17 West Overton School Library, undated
Folder 18 Western Pa., Architectural Survey, March 30, 1933
Folder 19 Western Pa., Historical Survey, May 14, 1931-May 13, 1932

Box 669
Folder 1 Western Pa., Historical Survey, May 4, 1933-September 30, 1934
Folder 2 Western Pa., Historical Survey, Newspaper Clipping, April 3, 1933
Folder 3 Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society, March 11, 1948-June 9, 1949
Folder 4 Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society, June 10, 1949-March 15, 1952
Folder 5 Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society, March 27, 1952-June 18, 1958
Folder 6 Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society, January 18, 1960-December 16, 1963
Folder 7 Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society, February 7, 1964-December 11, 1968
Folder 8 Western Pennsylvania Classical and Scientific Institute of Mt. Pleasant, June 3, 1932
Folder 9 Historical Souvenir of Scottdale, Pa. Booklet, 1910
Folder 10 Monument Number Historical Souvenir Westmoreland County, Pa. Booklet, undated
Folder 11 Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society- Catalog of Museum Exhibits in West Overton, undated
Folder 12 Historical Booklets, 1930-1933
Box 670 Printing Plate, undated