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Brownsville is a borough in Fayette Countymarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, United Statesmarker, 35 miles (56 km) south of Pittsburghmarker along the Monongahela River. In 1940, 8,015 people lived here. The population was 2,804 at the 2000 census.


Brownsville is located at (40.020026, -79.889536) situated on the east (convex) side of a broad sweeping westward bend in the northerly flowing Monongahela River at the westernmost point of Fayette County. Erosion undercutting action by the river on the surrounding characteristically steep-sided sandstone hills has created several shelf-like benches and connecting sloped terrain and thereby given the town lowland areas adjacent to or otherwise accessible to the river shores. Much of the town's residential buildings are built above the elevation of the business district arrayed upslope to either side along the connecting slopes and shelves cut by the geological action of long ago when the river bed moved gradually westward leaving the lowered shelves and slopes behind.

Concurrently, the opposite river shore of Washington Countymarker is uncharacteristically for the region shaped even lower to the water surface and is generally flatter an plainlike than the more diverse geology of the towns lands. That shore holds a tightly bound mirror community of about a fifth the size, a small hamlet called West Brownsville, Pennsylvaniamarker. Historically the low height of the concave shore of the river have made the river banks at the locii of two towns attractive as a natural river crossing, ferry, bridge, and boat building site. When the nascent United States government first appropriated funds for its first ever road building project, Brownsville, was an early intermediate target destination along the new National Road. Until a bridge was built, it was the western terminus.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 1.1 square miles (2.9 km²), of which, 1.0 square miles (2.6 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²) of it (9.91%) is water. Lew Hosler was elected mayor in 2007.

Geographic factors impacting history

Redstone Creek is the name of a minor local tributary stream of the Monongahela River in the area, and was said to have taken its color from the ferrous sandstone that lined its bed, as well as that of the sandstone heights near the Old Forts of an indigenous Amerindian culture. "Old Forts" were colonial era names given to mounds and earthworks created by the early (possibly ca. 3000 BC) Native American Mound Builders Culture by early explorers and pioneers in those early days of the scientific revolution antedating the anthropologists, sociologists, and archeologists professions.

Geographically, in the 1750s the area thus known as "Redstone Old Forts" was strategically situated at the end of a natural navigable path down the extensive heavily forested western slopes of the Western Allegheny ridgeline and its western foothills (given distance by modern roads, as approximated from the vicinity not far west of the summit near Fort Necessitymarker) which George Washington had been using as a staging area while conducting road improvements to establish a fort at Brownsville/Redstone Old Forts. Geographically, the site has another virtue important in undeveloped times the northwards traveling Monongahela river makes a broad sweep curving east to west in which the river undercuts and knocks down the high bluffs characteristically lining and surrounding the riverbed; at Brownsville, this created a terrain shelf down near the water, allowing settlers or military units to reach the water as well as a broad slow moving shallows along the curve which was shallow enough to pole across using a poleboat or scratch-built timber raft.


Brownsville began as Redstone Old Fort and later in the 1760s 70s eventually became known as Redstone Fort or Fort Burd named eponymously after the officer commanding it's establishment in 1759. The fort was constructed on the bluff above the river on what may have been an fortification or burial ground of native peoples during the French and Indian War, and which stockade was later occupied and garrisoned by a force from the Colony of Virginia during the 1774 Indian war known as Lord Dunmore's Warmarker, as it was situated at the important strategic end of Nemacolin's Trail, the western part to the summit which when improved, later became known as 'Burd's Road'.

A forward thinking entrepreneur named Thomas Brown acquired the lands in what became Fayette County around the end of the American Revolution. He realized the Opening of the Cumberland Gap and wars end made the land at the western tip of Fayette County a natural springboard to settle points west such as Ohio, Tennessee, and the in-fashion destination of the day, Kentuckymarker all reachable via the Ohio River and its tributary the Monongahela. The sparse primitive settlement at the time around the fort was mostly called Redstone, but eventually became known as Brownsville, as the land became owned by Thomas Brown by the 1780s when Jacob Bowman bought the land on which Nemacolin Castlemarker was constructed, beginning his trading post and a business expansion of settler services providers as foreseen by Thomas Brown. Since Redstone had been a frequent point of embarkation for travelers who were heading west via the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers it became a natural center for the construction of many keel-boats even those heading for the far west via the Santa Fe Trail or Oregon Trail as floating on a poleboat even against hundreds of miles of river current was usually safer, easier and far faster than overland travel. The major attraction of these early settlers to Brownsville was twofold. One, Brownsville was positioned at the western end of the National Pike, U.S. Route 40. The other was the easy access to the Monongahela River where a vast flatboat building industry that later evolved into the largest steamboat industry developed during the 19th century. This access to the river provide a "jumping off" point for settlers headed into the western frontier. The Monongahela converges with the Ohio River at Pittsburgh and allowed for quick traveling to the western frontier.

Redstone Old Fort is mentioned in C. M. Ewing's The Causes of that so called Whiskey Insurrection of 1794 (1930) as being the site of a July 27, 1791, meeting in "Opposition to the Whiskey Excise Tax," during the Whiskey Rebellion, the first illegal meeting of that insurrection.[19854]


As of the census of 2000, there were 2,804 people, 1,238 households, and 716 families residing in the borough. The population density was 2,796.6 people per square mile (1,082.6/km²). There were 1,550 housing units at an average density of 1,545.9/sq mi (598.5/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 85.95% White, 11.41% African American, 0.11% Native American, 0.07% Asian, 0.21% from other races, and 2.25% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.82% of the population.

There were 1,238 households out of which 24.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.2% were married couples living together, 17.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.1% were non-families. 38.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the borough the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 25.6% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 21.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 83.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.7 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $18,559, and the median income for a family was $32,662. Males had a median income of $31,591 versus $21,830 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $13,404. About 28.8% of families and 34.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 51.2% of those under age 18 and 17.9% of those age 65 or over.


Dunlap's Creek Bridgemarker (1839), carrying old U.S. Route 40 over Dunlap Creek in Brownsville, may be the nation's oldest dateable cast iron bridge. (Capt. Richard Delafield, engineer; John Snowden and John Herbertson, foundrymen) Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) [19855].

Flatiron Building (c. 1830), built as a commercial building in once thriving 19th century Brownsville, is one of the oldest, most intact commercial structures west of the Allegheny mountains. Over its history it's housed private commercial entities as well as public such as a post office. It's the unofficial "prototype" for the flatiron buildings we see across America today. The most notable being the Fuller Building in Market Square in New York City. After nearly being demolished, the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation (BARC) saved the Flatiron Building. Throughout two decades, via private and public grants, the Flatiron building has been restored to once again be an historic asset to Brownsville. The Flatiron Building Heritage Center, also located within the Flatiron Building at 69 Market Street, currently houses artifacts from Brownsville's heydey as well as displays teaching visitors about the importance of coal & coke heritage. The Fran{k L. Melega Art Museum, located with the Heritage Center, displays many of this local southwestern Pennsylvanian's famous artwork, depicting the coal & coke era in the surrounding tri-state region. BARC Flatiron Building

Brownsville is also home to Bowman's castlemarker (Nemacolin Castle), the Philander Knox House, and the Brashear House.

Notable residents

The Brownsville Area School District serves Brownsville as well as several nearby communities. Schools within the district are:

  • Brownsville Area High School (9-12)
  • Brownsville Area Middle School (6-8)
  • Cardale Elementary School (K-5)
  • Central Elementary School (K-5)
  • Cox-Donahey Elementary School (K-5)


File:SteamboatEnterpriseHistMarker.jpg|Plaque commemorating the epic voyage of the Enterprise from New Orleans to Brownsville.File:DunlapsCreekBridge.jpg|Plaque commemorating the first American cast iron bridge.


  1. Mound builder
  2. using modern roads, not dodging thick virgin forest and unimproved steep mountain slopes.
  3. The Steamboat Industry in Brownsville Pennsylvania: An Ethnohistoric Perspective on the Economic Change in the Monongahela River Valley. Author, Marc N. Henshaw 2004

  • Brownsville Historical Society (1883). The three towns: a sketch of Brownsville, Bridgeport, and West Brownsville. Brownsville, Pennsylvania: Tru Copy Printing. (1976, second edition; 1993, third edition)
  • Ellis, Franklin (1882). History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts and Company.

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