Belle Vernon, PA
Belle Vernon is a borough located in Fayette County, Pennsylvania along the Monongahela River. The population was 1,211 at the 2000 census. The town is served by the Belle Vernon Area School District, which is actually centered in Rostraver, Westmoreland County. geographical anomaly: The dividing line between them also is the boundary separating Fayette (Belle Vernon) and Westmoreland (North Belle Vernon) Counties. Bellevernon, as it was originally spelled, was laid out in 1813 by Noah Speer in northwestern Fayette County. French for “beautiful green,” this was the name chosen by both Noah Speer for his little community on the Monongahela River and later by his son Louis, who founded a town with nearly the same name just up the hill (North Belle Vernon).
Noah Speer was the father of Louis M. Speer, Esq., born in a log cabin on the Speer homestead/Gibsonton farm in 1810. The younger Mr. Speer was quite the business man and played a large role in the development of Belle Vernon. During his lifetime, the population grew to about 700 and there was a steam ferry connecting Belle Vernon with Allen Township across the river. The little hamlet also boasted 5 dry goods stores, 4 groceries, 2 glasshouses with 87 employees, a boot and shoe, cabinet, chair, wagon, saddle/harness, blacksmith/tanning shops, and 2 sawmills. Louis Speer owned a sandbank outside of town which produced the best quality glass sand. He also owned a large coal works and a large boat yard with more than 50 employees. Louis resided on the NW corner of Main and 2nd streets.
Boat hulls were built at his boatyard (owned in partnership with a man named Morgan Gaskill), located on 3rd street in the 1830s and 1840s. Several steamboats are noted to have come from the yard including the Minstrel which in 1842 fell of its building docks killing one and injuring 10. The St. Anthony bound for Galena, IL and the Cassandra headed to Knoxville, TN came from the Belle Vernon yard. Two boats bound for customers in Pittsburgh were the Alert and the Avalanche (1847).