In 1767 or thereabouts when Henry Beeson, Quaker, en route to Kentucky from Berkeley County, Virginia [now West Virginia], discovered the great fertility and beauty of this valley and learned of its advantages from Christopher Gist at whose home he had stopped, he gave up his plans for going farther west and returned to Virginia to gather family and household effects and build a settlement here.
The return of Henry Beeson in 1768, accompanied by his wife, infant son and household goods carried over Braddock's road in pack saddles, was the real beginning of Uniontown. He took up 255 acres lying west of what is now Morgantown Street and built his little log cabin near a splendid spring where Mt. Vernon Avenue crosses Fayette. Many tales are told of the Indians whose principal trail from north to south cut this very tract and to whom the cool, clear waters of the spring were very precious, but in every case the fact that Beeson was one of "William Penn's men" saved the little home from disaster.
Jacob Beeson soon followed his brother across the mountains and succeeded to the cabin and the Mt. Vernon Tract which he purchased from Henry, the latter having bought extensively to the east. For the next few years the little settlement grew and thrived and July 4, 1776, a most momentous date in American history, notice was posted of a lottery to be held in Beeson's Mill July 20 when Henry sold to his tenants and fellow settlers quarter acre lots at five pounds each.
There were just 54 of these lots which were in what is now Uniontown's most valuable section. Lying on Main and Peter streets between Morgantown Street and the Redstone creek, this property today is the site of all but one of the banks, all the theatres, practically all of the business houses, the new Y.M.C.A. and the Court and City buildings, worth many millions of dollars.
While Beesontown was growing eastward around "Fort Beeson," the Quakers' one concession to "preparedness," Jacob's "Addition" in the west was thriving also, what is now the Titlow Hotel corner, being the central part of Jacob's settlement. When "Beesontown" and Jacob's "Addition" were united the settlement became "Union Town" and in 1796, it was duly incorporated under its present name.
In a farming settlement like Fayette County, it was natural that mills and tanneries should be the first industries. Later, in the early part of the 19th century, fulling, carding and weaving were advertised on an extensive scale, the machinery being dependent upon the water power at Beeson's Flour mill.
Meanwhile, Congress was planning the construction of a road over the mountains to link the prosperous east with the vast resources of the Ohio valley and as there was, already, a good road to Cumberland it was logical to follow the course and improve the Braddock road, but Uniontown was not on that trail. So powerful influences were brought to bear and when Pennsylvania endorsed the project and gave permission to cross its state it was with the provision that the new road go through Uniontown.
From 1811 to 1818 the pike was building and with its completion, business in the towns along its route flourished amazingly. The stage coaches of 100 years ago, the shops that were built to manufacture them and the harness making and horse shoeing that were necessary gave new life to Uniontown, brought new industries and expanded old ones, while the town grew vastly in its own importance because of the famous men and women who visited it. It is said that all the presidents from Monroe to Lincoln were entertained at its inns on the direct route to Washington.
Henry Clay and Albert Gallatin were frequent travelers over the Pike. Gallatin having a beautiful home at "Friendship Hill" on the Monongahela, where he entertained LaFayette on the latter's visit to Fayette County about 1825. The coming of the railroad sounded the death knell of the National Pike and so strenuously was the B. &. O. fought by Fayette countians that it cut across the mountains south of Pennsylvania and thus Fayette lost both the railroad and the pike. But though we find Uniontown's citizens fighting the railroad in 1845, in 1857 they were subscribing money to finance a branch road to Connellsville and in 1860 were welcoming with every evidence of joy contact once more with the outside world.