From the Old Overholt Whiskey to the birthplace of Henry Clay Frick, learn the fascinating history behind West Overton Village.
The History of West Overton Village
The story of West Overton Village begins with Henry Overholt, his wife and twelve children emigrating from Bucks County, Pa., to the Jacobs Creek area of Westmoreland County, Pa., (West Overton Village) in April, 1800. They settled with other Mennonites who were in the area.
The first business conducted at the village was distilling rye whiskey in a very small distillery built from logs. By 1803, Henry owned 260 acres along what is now Route 819 between the communities of Scottdale and Mount Pleasant.
Henry’s son, Abraham, was a master weaver who then became an elder in the Mennonite Church. He also began the commercial distilling operation at West Overton which included Old Farm Pure Rye Whiskey. As the industry continued to develop, the village became completely self-sufficient and there was zero waste as part of the distilling industry.
The Birthplace of Henry Clay Frick
In 1846, Abraham Overholt hired John W. Frick, a Swiss immigrant, to work in the grist mill located in the village. While working, he met Abraham’s daughter, Elizabeth, and they were married in 1847. On Dec. 19, 1849, their son, Henry Clay Frick, was born in the spring house located adjacent to the homestead in which Abraham and Mariah Overholt lived.
Henry Clay Frick spent much of the first thirty years of his life at West Overton. It was here that his grandfather taught him the importance of a strong work ethic and the inner workings of business, which included shrewd bargaining and the importance of taking risks. Frick eventually went into the coal and coke business when he established the H.C. Frick Coke Company in Scottdale and became one of the largest coke producers in the country.
Partnering with Andrew Carnegie, he eventually led the Carnegie Steel Industry as a result of the business partnership that evolved out of Carnegie’s needs to purchase coke.
This business partnership would eventually end and Frick and Carnegie became bitter enemies.
Henry Clay Frick passed away in 1919 and left his fortune to his daughter, Helen Clay Frick. She purchased West Overton as a way to memorialize her father.
West Overton Today
Today, West Overton Village consists of the remaining eighteen buildings. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a stop on the American Whiskey Trail.