Elizabeth Home-coming Centennial Celebration ~ July 3 and 4

Familiar names for native Elizabethans pop up in the activities for the third of July.

Despite the heat, many athletic events were scheduled and hopefully well attended. Starting at 9:00 A.M. a ten mile marathon was held around Pangburn and Fallen Timber hollows. A golf tournament was also held at Butler’s golf course.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, I was used to the word “hollow” as a descriptive term for a hilly area with glacial indentations. I know that the same term comes up in West Virginia and many of the south eastern states that have rugged country. Typically the word means the area between two hills often containing a stream. It appears to come from a Scotch-Irish dialect but could have German backgrounds as well.

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All manner of events filled the rest of the day on the third which were mainly focused on athletics

The Pageant was replayed in its entirety that night. Episode five related the marriage of Colonel Stephen Bayard and Miss Elizabeth Mackay for whom the town was named. Episode six portrayed the first school with Washington Robison as schoolmaster.

Episode six was the telling of the tale first written by Richard T. Wiley in his book “Sim Greene”. This story was about the infamous Whiskey Insurrection that had occurred in the 1790s. Of all the ways the story was retold, I chose to share another local author’s version which is electronically stored on the Boro’s web site:

Whiskey Rebellion

from the The History of Forward Township
By Tom Headley


“Settlers in the region cleared land and began to keep animals and raise crops to feed their families. Excess grain was distilled into whiskey and bartered to obtain staples such as salt and gunpowder which they could not produce themselves. By the 1780’s a small still was a fixture on many farms on the western frontier. In 1791, the Federal Government, seeking ways to repay the debt incurred by the American Revolution, passed a tax on whiskey which was fiercely opposed by the people along the Monongahela. The disgruntled farmers held meetings, raised a militia, terrorized Pittsburgh, and tarred and feathered tax collectors. Violence escalated and in 1794, tax collector John Neville’s house in Washington County was attacked and burned by an angry mob with several killed and many wounded. President George Washington, reacting to this challenge to Federal authority, called out several states’ militia raising an army of more than 13,000 which moved west under his personal command.

On August 14, 1794 a large rally of farmers took place at Parkinson’s Ferry (Monongahela). Albert Gallatin, from New Geneva, addressed the rebels and convinced those present to lay down their arms and peacefully submit to the law thereby avoiding armed confrontation with the approaching army. At the time of this meeting, Gallatin stayed at the home of Joseph Becket located along the river in Forward, a place which now bears his name. Albert Gallatin went on to become Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison and arraigned for the funding for the Louisiana Purchase.

When the army arrived in October the rebels could not be located however the militia did arrest twenty men who were later pardoned. Federal forces established camps in Rostraver, near Fells Church, and at the former Youghania Court House staying in the region through 1795 to ensure the peace. Troops who died in the fighting as well as two officers of the Virginia Militia who died of smallpox are buried in Lobbs Cemetery near the Court House site. The private Smith Cemetery, located just above the present Lock #3 across from the Elizabeth Baptist Church, is said to contain the remains of several men who died as a result of wounds during the attack on Gen. Neville’s home. Philip Smith, a soldier who fought in the American Revolution is also buried in this small cemetery.”


The American Legion Float (Alonzo Weigel Post 553 ) The men were all painted to look like statues and remained still for the length of the parade. Imagine dong that in the heat.


1934_American_Legion_Float_2_c 1934_American_Legion_Float_3_c


On the Fourth of July, a great historical parade was held that went from The Safe Factory in Elizabeth across the bridge to West Elizabeth and return to the main part of town.



At 1:00 P. M. a collection of games was held at the Safe Factory Field. These events included:

  • Greased pole climbing
  • Catching the greased pig
  • Stealing Nickles, colored boys
  • Shoe races
  • Old men’s race, 50 years or older
  • Clothesline rush, girls
  • Tug of War, all Churches
  • Fireman’s water battles
  • Wagon races, boys
  • Scooter races, boys
  • Three legged races, boys and men
  • Seven inning baseball game, old timers vs. young men
  • Final mush-ball game for the championship

The pageant continued that evening and the final episodes included a remembrance of the Marquis de Lafayette visit, later town history and a giant melting pot display – melting pot as a recognition of the many countries that had contributed to the Borough of Elizabeth up to that point. A final fireworks display was launched at 11:00 P.M. signaling the end of the four day festivities.

The little Borough would go through many more changes in the years following 1934. The Grand Theater has recently been rebuilt and houses plays and theatrical events for modern arts fans. Businesses still occupy the main streets and the fire hall still answers the call to action when it is needed. many of the old stores are long gone replaced by more modern conveniences. Just up over the hill from Elizabeth sits a large mall and of course the ever present Wal Marts are within driving distances.  But nothing can take the place of a small town character.

Some never left. Some were forced out when the mills and mines closed down. The memories remain no matter where the person ended up. Like the kiss of a girl in one of the “hollows” on a Friday night before you leave for war. The sound of the water slapping up against the shore after a towboat passes. Crickets and locusts singing into the summers night as you try to find a cool place to sit. The smell of the asphalt of a city street after a rain produces one of its famous gulley washers.

Happy Fourth of July Elizabeth. Thanks for showing the ages what courage in the face of adversity looks like. See you at the river.

Mister Mac

Memorial Day Elizabeth PA 1988 005

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