Braddock's Crossing Re-Enactment in Connellsville Continues to Enlighten Visitors

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
29 June 2014
By Karl Polacek
In 1755, a young Virginia militia colonel named George Washington crossed the Youghiogheny River as a volunteer with Major Gen. Edward Braddock's expedition on June 29 and 30. The point where the British Army crossed was then called Stewart's crossing, in today's Connellsville.

On Saturday and Sunday, re-enactors and area residents made the crossing from a point just down river from Crawford's Cabin in Connellsville's Yough River Park.

Before that 11th annual crossing re-enactment, sponsored by the Connellsville Area Historical Society, society president Karen Hechler led a list of people who spoke, including Bryan Cunning of Washington, Pa., as Col. George Washington.

Cunning told the story of Washington, Braddock and people like Daniel Boone, also a member of the expedition.

Cunning said Boone may have been influenced by the rich land he saw in Western Pennsylvania. Later, Boone explored in Kentucky.

Tom and Christopher Rosselot spoke about the Cobblestone Hotel project, which Tom Rosselot said would soon ramp up at a site just outside the park near the boat ramp.

“It was just a year ago when we (Hotel d2 Services) approached the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority to look for opportunities,” Tom Rosselot said
The Connellsville area seemed the perfect site for a new, smaller hotel. He said a lot of local people became involved, adding another person, Linda Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, who should also get special recognition.

“(Connellsville area residents) will be starting to see more activity soon,” Tom Rosselot said. “I'm proud of Cobblestone. Cobblestone really embodies the community spirit.”

His father, Christopher Rosselot, managing partner of Grant Forbes and project representative and spokesperson, said the surveys have been completed and the project has closed on the land.

“There were no coal beds, no voids found,” Christopher Rosselot said.

He added that the next step would be to complete the environmental work, so filing for a demolition permit for the old bottling works can be done. He said that could take place in three or four days.

Christopher Rosselot said he was happy to find a local contractor, Fairchance Construction of Fairchance.

Afterward, someone in the crowd joked that the French — Rosselots — had returned to Connellsville.

The rest of afternoon was given over to the re-enactors.

Various tents were located around the field in front of Col. William Crawford's cabin.

Chuck Haines, a member of the Redstone Living Historians of Brownsville, was decked out in what militia rangers wore. The rangers were tasked with scouting the areas between the forts.

“The captains of the units were among the rich,” Carl A. Garofalo Jr., captain of the re-enactors, said. “They were able to spend the money to supply the units.”

Tom Wetzel, a lieutenant of the volunteers, is a direct descendant of one of the rangers. He said many were Indian hunters who kept the areas around the forts clear by killing the Indians.

In front of another tent, Todd “Ghost in the Head” Johnson of McKeesport, a historical re-creationist and member of the Huron people, was quick to express his anger at his problems with the federal government.

He appeared at Connellsville in complete Indian dress, which was not much more than a loin cloth and moccasins, face paint and a cross on a wire through his nose.

He and Aaron Bosnick, historical interpreter from West Virginia, said Johnson's costume is now barred from Fort Necessity and from Freedom Hill.

An official at Freedom Hill said she was ashamed of the costume after the re-enactor had put on a performance, even though Johnson had received letters from members of Congress praising the work of the re-enactors and the authentic costumes.

Johnson said the “politically correct” attitude of the federal government is an “official insult” to his culture.

“Mine is a totally separate culture,” Johnson added.

A flagpole featured a red banner with the letters “IPLF,” which flew over the site where his tent was located. Johnson said the letters stand for Indigenous People's Liberation Front. Johnson and Bosnick said people from all over the world, including government officials from Europe, have become members of the organization.

Cunning, dressed as George Washington; Clay Kilgore, dressed in a costume from the same period; and William “Wild Willie” Frankfort were in another tent, seeking cover from the hot sun.

Cunning said he is an archeologist for Michael Baker. Kilgore is director of the Washington County Historical Society. The two have done work for National Geographic TV.

The river crossing featured about a dozen area residents who signed up, together with several re-enactors. Firefighters from New Haven Hose Company, Connellsville, provided security, stretching a rope across the river and stationing themselves to help anyone who might struggle.

Jim Lauffer, 59, of Eighty Four, Pa., drew the job of carrying the flag across the Youghiogheny.

“It is nice,” Lauffer said of the water on what had become a hot afternoon, adding that the crossing was shallow and sometimes slippery. “Not too bad.”

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3538.