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Celebrating Connellsville's rich history

| Monday, June 20, 2005

Connellsville will re-establish its important ties to the French and Indian War this weekend during the re-enactment of Gen. Edward Braddock's crossing of the Youghiogheny River.

The Connellsville Area Historical Society and the Connellsville Bicentennial Committee have spent more than a year preparing for the 250th anniversary of the crossing of the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville by Braddock.

On June 29 and 30, 1755, Braddock and his army marched to attack the French station of Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio River.

To do so, Braddock led his army from Fort Cumberland and had to cross several rivers various times, especially the Youghiogheny River, with all of its twists and turns.

The army headed toward Stewart's Crossing, which is now Connellsville, to make the last crossing of the Yough. Troops camped here for two days in late June.

And on Saturday and Sunday, the Connellsville community is welcomed to remember the crossing during special activities along the banks of the Yough.

Karen Hechler, member of the Connellsville Historical Society and the Connellsville Bicentennial Committee and organizer for this weekend's special events, said much as been debated on the exact location where the army crossed. But historical society members believe they have found the approximate spot which re-enactors will cross the river.

"We will make it as safe as possible," Hechler said.

A wire will be strung across the river. Scuba divers and a rescue boat will be on hand in the event of an emergency.

The crossings will take place at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

An unknown number of volunteers will make up an encampment of French, English and Native Americans on both days of the event. There will also be period craftsmen and an authentic Conestoga wagon.

Hechler said the re-enactors will be on hand to educate the public. They will answer questions and may demonstrate a drill, a march or rifle firing.

An opening ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday. Connellsville Mayor Judy Reed will give the welcome. State Sen. Richard Kasunic will speak as will Fayette County Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink and Richard Lockwood of the Pittsburgh Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hechler said citations will also be read from state Rep. James Shaner and U.S. Rep. John Murtha.

"There will be some pretty neat things happening," said Hechler, adding the re-enactment of the river crossing is what will make the event unique.

Hechler said she wants people to know the importance of Connellsville and the city's river in the story of the French and Indian War, or what is known as the War for Empire.

"Connellsville needs to enjoy some time in the limelight," Hechler said.

The two-day re-enactment and events are free to the public, except for the raft trips from Connellsville to Adelaide Campgrounds, under the direction of Wilderness Voyageurs that will take place on Saturday.

A commemorative booklet and a postal cancellation will be available for purchase.

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