Leechburg founder David Leech gets state historical marker
An official state marker now stands at River Avenue in Leechburg close to where founder David Leech established a canal and other businesses starting in the 1820s.
“He founded the borough, and he made contributions to the state and the nation,” said Larry Boehm, vice president of the Leechburg Area Museum and Historical Society.
He pulled the cover off the blue and gold marker Saturday morning.
Leech arrived in the area to build a dam on the Kiski River in about 1829, Boehm said.
Leech eventually started what was likely the first freight forwarding company in the state, and possibly the nation, to link canal businesses across the Northeast to move commerce, Boehm said.
It hauled immigrants moving to the western part of the state and freight across the nation, according to Boehm.
For example, Boehm said if a Boston business wanted to ship goods to New Orleans, the “way to do it in the 1830s was to contact Leech and he got it done, with each canal company adding a little bit to the cost.”
His innovative network of freight forwarders was so successful the Pennsylvania Railroad bought the canal just to get the network, Boehm said.
By then, the railroad was transporting more and more immigrants and freight.
“From 1855 to 1955, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the most dominant,” Boehm said. “And Leech helped them to gain that dominance. It may be a footnote on history, but there are numerous footnotes about David Leech and Leechburg.”
Mayor Wayne Dobos said the marker is in a borough-owned grassy spot near the Kiski River where it can be seen by people crossing the Leechburg Bridge to enter the borough.
“Maybe some will visit to see us because of what David Leech did,” he said.
Museum President Judy Wright is hoping that the marker will help to bring people to Leechburg .
Maybe they will see it on the internet and see that it’s close, and there are restaurants and hotels in the area, she said.
“This is very significant for Leechburg,” she said.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .