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Historical Overview of Dunbar, Pennsylvania

Authored by: Donna Meyers on Feb 13, 2005

Antique Street Scene -
Antique Street Scene

Very Old Downtown Picture -
Very Old Downtown Picture

Dunbar, Pennsylvania, a small town nestled in the foothills of Chestnut Ridge between Uniontown and Connellsville, has a long and varied history. The town, which was settled in the 1790's, was incorporated in 1883. Originally called Frogtown, the name was changed to Dunbar City and finally Dunbar, but no one remembers quite when this happened.

The town was named for Col. Thomas Dunbar, who was in charge of the 48th Regiment of Foot, who along with Sir Peter Halket in command of the 44th Regiment of Foot and Gen. Edward Braddock came to America in 1755, to attack and regain control of Fort Duquesne during the yet to be declared French and Indian War. Dunbar's Camp was located at present-day Jumonville,

It was toward the end of these turbulent times that Isaac Meason started his Union Furnace #1 in 1791. The establishment of this furnace marked the beginnings of what would become Dunbar's lifeblood over the next century or so. The community evolved as a result of the furnace's need for workers and community services needed by the new residents. As the iron was moved from the furnace to the creek near the area of the former Bowest Railroad yard, Connellsville Street became the main road through town and is still called that to this day. It was along this route that many of Dunbar's businesses sprang up. Evidence of some of these can still be seen today in the old buildings that still stand as testament to a more prosperous time.

For well over 100 years, "Dunbar Iron" was known far and wide for its quality and the area along Dunbar Run was rich in mineral resources. This resulted in many other industries springing up as the industrial revolution dictated changes in the needs of the time. The coal and coke era contributed to Dunbar's growth during the latter half of the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century.

Dunbar was once home to five different banks which served the needs of the tapestry of ethnic groups that made up the fabric of the town. Hotels, grocery stores, clothing stores and homes began to spring up with Dunbar's high point reached about 1915. Information from the "Old Home Week" celebration held in town that year boasted that Dunbar had the Semet-Solvay By-products ovens, the Pennsylvania Wire Glass Company, a huge sand plant with sand that was well known for its quality, bluestone quarries, coal and coke ovens, an ice plant, brick works and a myriad of smaller businesses that operated in town. Dunbar was a bustling town which was the envy of other communities in the region.

Through the years, the railroads, which cut a path through town, helped to contribute to Dunbar's good fortunes. The faith of Dunbar's residents helped to establish several churches within the community which still exist today. The town's patriotism has been evident since World War I and its Honor Roll, established in 1944, pays tribute to those men and women from the Dunbar area, who have sacrificed for their fellow citizens. Without a doubt, Dunbar's Honor Roll is one of the most magnificent in the country!

Through the years, Dunbar suffered from several floods which inundated the community and fires which almost destroyed the small town. After each, the people of the town pulled themselves up and rebuilt.

Dunbar's decline began with the collapse of the coal and coke industry in the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. The town never quite recovered from these economic insults and today is a sleepy little community, whose residents remain proud of the place they call home.

Posted: Feb 13, 2005

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