Forging Ahead and Falling Behind: Industrial Growth in a Rural Community

Visit and Explore

Forging Ahead and Falling Behind explores transformations in agriculture, industry, and labor through stories of individual workers at West Overton.

From the early 19th to early 20th centuries, hundreds of people lived and worked at West Overton. These workers experienced firsthand the challenges and opportunities of the Industrial Revolution. New technologies and expanded facilities increased efficiency, but at the cost of jobs, new workplace dangers, and damage to the environment. Explore the nuanced ways these changes affected a variety of workers, including farmers, millers, distillers, coopers, weavers, homemakers, store owners, and coal miners.  

This exhibition, winner of a 2023 Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History, is an immersive way to discover how industry has changed over time and reflect upon our experiences with modern social and economic change.

  • Discover the variety of trades and crafts that made West Overton the most profitable farm in East Huntingdon Township.
  • Find the many ways distinct trades and industries were interconnected and relied on each other for success.

  • How does rye become whiskey? How does a gristmill work? What tools were needed to weave intricate coverlets? Explore the processes of production and the skills required to work in different industries.

  • Try your hand at interactives like the hand-operated washing machine and agricultural fanning mill and explore how technology could make tasks easier while putting people out of work.

  • View a 300,000 lb. capacity grain bin from the historic building that was previously not accessible to the public. 

  • Step inside Christian Overholt’s recreated general store and discover how small businesses operated in the 19th century. 

  • See the newly restored coal wagon that represents West Overton’s venture into the coal and coke industry.


Exploring Our Exhibitions

Explore our exhibitions in the Museum located in the historic distillery building. The exhibition is a self-guided experience. Groups of 10+ can arrange a guided tour of the exhibition. 

Visit during our open hours with regular admission.

See More Artifacts in Our Digital Archive

Explore more than 400 artifacts made publicly available for research and educational purposes thanks to our partnership with University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.