History of the County
Fayette County, carved from Westmoreland County in 1783, was named for the Marquis de Lafayette, the French hero who aided the American colonists in their fight for freedom from England. Early exploration and mapping of the rich forests and fertile valleys of this region was done by Thomas Cresap and Christopher Gist in 1750-51 working with the native Americans . Gist built his home on a large tract of land known as Gist Plantation, near the current site of the Isaac Meason House, a National Historic Landmark near Mt. Braddock. He joined Wendell Brown and sons who had earlier settled in the western part of the county . Gist left the area with George Washington after the defeat at Fort Necessity, but his son Thomas Gist returned and reclaimed their property after the end of the French and Indian War. Other early settlers were Col. William Crawford, also a friend of Washington's, who came to the area in 1765 and built a log cabin where Braddock Road crossed the Youghiogheny River, near Connellsville.
Abel Colley Tavern Stew
In keeping with the tradition of hospitality of the National Road, and our facility's origin as an tavern/inn, we are sponsoring a contest to identify the quintessential menu item that represents the National Road Era. Our September meeting will be devoted to sampling and selecting the specific dish.
Peter Colley born onboard a ship enroute to this country opened his 1796 tavern to early travelers. We don't know any of his recipes, but do know of the great fireplaces he had in his tavern, particularly the one in the basement that was big enough to cook a steer. Abel, his son and builder of our Abel Colley Tavern, carried on this tradition first at his very successful Green Tree Tavern and later at the fine brick house we occupy. Because they were Irish and because soups and stews were a mainstay of colonial diet, stew was likely a standard item on their menus.
For some time we have been trying to develop a signature dish. We recently enjoyed the tasty stews made by Woody Kelly and Jo Lofstead this May, which not only fed our hungry bellies but proceeds from their sale fed our equally hungry coffers. Both could be contenders, but we want to be sure we come up with a stew that can become the featured menu item during the annual National Road Festival. The stew will be just the beginning as we will also develop a complete meal: bread, dessert and a drink.
So put on your chefs' hats, pull out your family favorites, or hunt through those recipes handed down from your parents and grandparents, or research on line for some traditional 19th century tavern fare and submit your suggestions via mail or e‐mail to us for one of us to prepare if you live too far, or come to our September meeting on the 12th to show off your skills.