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History

An act of the Legislature passed on February 9, 1796, divided Washington County into two counties—the southern division became Greene County, named for Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene. Permanent settlement began in Greene County in 1764 after the last major conflict with native Indians. Two forts were constructed in 1774—Jackson’s Fort and Garards Fort—which were built to protect the isolated homes in the area from attacks.

Colonel John Minor, a sponsor of the bill that gave birth to the county, is called the “Father of Greene County.” A board of trustees was authorized to buy a tract of land near the center of the county to establish a county seat and to build a courthouse and jail. According to a deed dated October 28, 1796, the trustees bought 158.5 acres of land called “Eden” from Thomas and Eleanor Slater for $2,376. The board named the new seat Waynesburg, after General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, to honor his success in leading the army in claiming the Northwest Territory (Ohio) in 1794.

On October 27, 1796, exactly 201 lots were offered for sale through an advertisement in a Pittsburgh newspaper. Prices ranged from $5 to $139 per lot. A log courthouse and jail were erected (the courthouse still stands and has been fully restored). Apparently, the first store was established by William Crawford, who had purchased a “load” of goods from a settlement along the Monongahela River in the early 1800s and began trading. Transportation of merchandise from Baltimore and Philadelphia was a long and costly undertaking and the local residents had to pay ridiculously high prices for necessities like salt, tea, coffee, hardware and manufactured articles.

There were 80 dwellings in Waynesburg in 1853 and the town had grown to 350 by 1906. Today, Waynesburg and Franklin Township, which encircles Waynesburg, has a population of 11,800. Greene County contains 577 square miles and has a population of 40,672 in six boroughs and 20 townships. Mining and sheep ranching were the major industries of Greene County and were responsible for the county’s days of prosperity. Before World War II, Greene County was the largest producer of merino wool in the country. The steep terrain was better suited for sheep than cattle and there were said to be more sheep than people in the county at that time. Today, that history is celebrated with a Sheep and Fiber Fest that takes place each May. Live demonstrations, crafts, entertainment and food abound, along with a breed pavilion, herding demonstration and a “Sheep to Shawl” competition.

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