Jim's Irish Genealogy Pages:

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is a small town in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, west of the Allegheny Mountains. Its history is called A Town That Grew at the Crossroad, a reference to the intersection of the Forbes and Braddock roads, major highways in the early years of the United States. Gen. Edward Braddock (accompanied by a young George Washington) traveled on the Indian trail that later bore his name on his way to a disastrous defeat at Fort Duquesne against the French in 1755. Gen. John Forbes took an alternate route three years later, forcing the French to abandon the fort on the future site of Pittsburgh. The spot where their paths crossed is now in Mt. Pleasant, at the corner of Eagle Street and Main.

The Forbes Road, also known as the Glade Road or the Pittsburgh Pike, was one of the main east-west routes for pioneers heading to the Midwest. Ian Frazier writes about in his book Family: "Indian war parties found the road convenient for raiding settlements in the East, and soldiers used it to pursue them. The British and then the Americans maintained forts along it. Traders carried whiskey and guns west on it, and brought back furs and ginseng. Pennsylvania spent two years improving it beginning in 1785; it has not been out of use since." Today part of it is Mount Pleasant’s Main Street, Route 31.

The Glade Road was noted for its inns, several of which were located at Mount Pleasant’s strategic crossroads. (One of them, the Jordan Hotel, was located at 768 West Main.) These frontier inns appear to have been fairly rough places, perhaps explaining why Mount Pleasant was nicknamed “Helltown” in its early years.

But travelers were no doubt grateful to get to them, because at first the road down Laurel Ridge, just east of the town, was quite treacherous. One Johann Schoepf wrote in 1783: "Over Laurel-Hill it is 12 miles from the last house in the Glades to the first on the other-side. A desolate and wild mountain it is, its ridges and western slopes exhausting for horse and man; not so much because of the steepness, as on account of the abominable rock-fragments lying in the greatest confusion one over another and over which the road proceeds." The state of Pennsylvania began to improve the road in 1785, however.

Mount Pleasant's most famous son was John White Geary, who was born in 1819 at what is now the corner of Diamond and Church streets. After fighting in the Mexican-American War with the Second Pennsylvania Regiment, he was appointed San Francisco’s postmaster in 1849, and became that city’s first mayor. (There's a street there named for him.) In 1856 and '57 he served as governor of the Kansas territories. During the Civil War, he was a brigadier general, commanding troops at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg; General Sherman later named him as military governor of Savannah. After the war, he was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania. He died in 1873 at the age of 54.

This page was created by James Kearney Naureckas. Please email him with any corrections, suggestions or questions.