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Book chronicles histories of 'Murrysville and Export'

| Monday, April 2, 2012

Murrysville and Export not only have rich local histories, but stories that carry national significance.

Export was the first town to ship coal abroad. Murrysville is the home of the oldest, longest-producing gas well.

The stories are told in "Murrysville and Export," a book authored by playwright Helene Smith of Salem Township. The publication is bolstered by myriad archival photographs, each helping to weave the tale of those communities.

"Between the two places, it's not just local history, it's national history," Smith said.

Smith has had 50 history-based books published, including "Export: A Patch of Tapestry Out of Coal Country America." The history of that area has always interested her.

"When I was working on a guide book, I promised myself I would someday write a book on Export, especially with the history of the coal business nationally," she said.

"Murrysville and Export" was printed by Arcadia Publishing, which specializes in local history books. The publications focus on storytelling with photos.

"I think they're wonderful," Smith said of the books. "They are bringing out the vintage pictures from all over the United States. These pictures many times are thrown out. (People) look at these pictures and say, 'I don't know who these people are.' (Arcadia Publishing) found a niche. ... It's good for everyone."

"Murrysville and Export" has nine chapters that present a detailed description of the communities and surrounding areas. Chapters range from 'Roads and Ways" to "Good Sports, Community Spirit."

An interesting photo in the "Roads and Ways" chapter is called "Turnpike Rates of Toll" for 1819. For every 20 swine or sheep, the cost was 6 cents per 10 miles, and for every 20 head of cattle, the price was 10 cents.

Any story concerning the two communities has a solid focus on the coal and gas industries, as is evident in chapters such as "Murrysville's Wildcat Gas Industry" and "Export's First Coal to Go Global."

"The Haymaker Well is a very significant well," Smith said. "It was a mother lode. It caught on fire in 1878. When it caught on fire, it blew up. It was so intense you could see it in Pittsburgh from Murrysville for a year and a half. This tells the story."

Export Mayor Michael Calder said he appreciates Smith's efforts to tell the story of the borough, which celebrated its centennial in 2011.

"It's great," he said. "I think it's really an example of how small-town America is in vogue right now. Export really exemplifies that because of all the history recently discovered and continues to be discovered."

Additional Information:

On the Web

'Murrysville and Export' can be purchased through Arcadia Publishing on the web .

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