History of Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Uniontown, Pennsylvania, holds a pivotal place in the story of the National Road and the expansion of the American frontier. Let’s delve into the intertwined history of Uniontown and its relationship with this landmark route.
Origins: Uniontown, the seat of Fayette County, was laid out on July 4, 1776, a date symbolic with the birth of the United States. Founded by Henry Beeson, it was initially known as “Beesontown.” The town’s growth was steady, but it was the construction of the National Road that accelerated its prominence.
Economic and Social Development: Situated at a strategic point along the National Road, Uniontown blossomed in the early 19th century. The traffic along this major artery brought with it a diverse array of travelers, and Uniontown positioned itself as a center of commerce and hospitality. Hotels, inns, and businesses were established to cater to the needs of travelers.
The town’s affluence during this period is evident in some of its historic architecture, from stately homes to public buildings, many of which still stand as a testament to its prosperous past.
Uniontown and the National Road:
A Pivotal Junction: Uniontown served as a crucial junction on the National Road. Its location made it an ideal stopping point for travelers, be they settlers heading westward, traders transporting goods, or simply people on the move for myriad reasons.
Tollhouses and Inns: The Searight’s Tollhouse, located just outside Uniontown, is a preserved piece of history from the era when tolls were collected to maintain the National Road. It’s one of the remaining tollhouses that dotted the road and offers insight into the day-to-day operations of the route.
Several inns and establishments in Uniontown, such as the historic National House, were frequented by notable figures of the era, from politicians to writers, further highlighting the town’s importance.
Decline and Resurgence: Like many towns along the National Road, Uniontown saw a decline in its fortunes with the rise of the railroad in the late 19th century. However, the 20th century brought a renewed significance to the road, especially with the rise of automobile travel. The National Road was integrated into the U.S. Highway System, and Uniontown once again benefited from its strategic location.
Today, Uniontown is more than just its association with the National Road. It’s a town with a rich tapestry of history, from its early foundation days to its role in the coal and coke era, which further fueled its growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
However, the legacy of the National Road remains deeply embedded in its identity. Many of the town’s preservation efforts are centered around structures and stories from that golden era. The Fayette County Historical Society, for instance, works diligently to maintain and showcase the town’s rich past.
In conclusion, Uniontown serves as a microcosm of American history, reflecting the nation’s growth, the challenges of progress, and the ever-evolving nature of transportation and commerce. Its relationship with the National Road is just one chapter in its rich narrative, but it’s a chapter that offers a window into a transformative period in the country’s development.