The first Europeans in Fayette County were explorers, who used an ancient American Indian trail that bisected the county on their journey across the Appalachian Mountains. In 1754, when ownership the area was still in dispute, 22-year-old George Washington fought against the French at Jumonville Glen and Fort Necessity. British forces under Washington and General Edward Braddock improved roads throughout the region, making the future Fayette County an important supply route. During the American Revolution, Fayette County was plagued by attacks from British-allied Indians and remained an isolated frontier region. Also retarding settlement was a border dispute with Virginia; Virginia's District of West Augusta and Pennsylvania's Westmoreland County both claimed the area. In 1780 the dispute was settled in favor of Pennsylvania, and Fayette County was formed from Westmoreland County in 1783.
Fayette County settlers provided the new United States government with first test in the 1793 Whiskey Rebellion, when farmers rebelled against tax collectors to protest against a new liquor tax. President George Washington called out the militias to restore order. Fayette County continued to be important to travelers in the early 1800s. The National Road provided a route through the mountains for settlers heading west. The shipyards in Brownsville on the Monongahela River built ships for both the domestic and international trade.
As Pittsburgh developed in the mid-19th century, Fayette County become a center of coal mining and coke production. From the 1880s to the early 1900s, an explosion in steel production became nationally important. New immigrants were attracted to Fayette County to seek jobs. The Scottish and German farming communities were soon overshadowed by new populations from Southern and Eastern Europe. The region's wealth nevertheless remained concentrated in the old English and Scottish families with connections to Pittsburgh.
By World War II, Fayette County had a new unionized working class that enjoyed increased prosperity. In the 1950s, however, the coal industry fell into decline, and in the 1970s, the collapse of American steel brought hard times to the area. Industrial restructuring meant the loss of the union jobs which had brought so many families to the middle class. Only a few mines now remain, but natural resources remain crucial to the local economy. The region is slowly transitioning itself toward the service sector, with jobs in fields such as telemarketing.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 798 square miles (2,066.8 km2), of which 790 square miles (2,046.1 km2) is land and 8 square miles (20.7 km2) (0.98%) is water. The western portion of the county contains rolling foothills and two valleys along the Monongahela River and Youghiogheny Rivers. The eastern portion of the county is highly mountainous and forested. Many coal mines are located within the area.
While Fayette County is a generally rural area and is not directly tied into the interstate system, it features four-lane access to the city of Pittsburgh and several of its major suburban areas. Future state highway plans call for the establishment of direct freeway connections with Pittsburgh to the north and Morgantown, West Virginia to the south.
U.S. Route 40- a portion of the famous National Road, it connects in the west with Washington County and provides access to the Pittsburgh edge suburb of Washington; after forming part of a freeway bypass of Uniontown, it becomes a major two-lane mountain highway heading toward Maryland
Business U.S. Route 40 (Brownsville)- recent designation for a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) two-lane section of the original path of US 40 that has been replaced by a realigned route; highway runs in its entirety through Redstone Township and was kept as part of the federal highway system to prevent a decrease in traffic for area businesses
Business U.S. Route 40 (Uniontown)- bypassed by a freeway through the more suburbanized areas of the small city, the original routing of US 40 has been turned into this downtown connector; from its western expressway terminus, the route runs as a narrow four-lane street toward the business district, at which its eastbound and westbound lanes split to become East Fayette St and East Main St respectively; the road then continues with a two-lane segment through hilly but populated South Union Township, before ending as US 40's freeway stretch transitions to a mountain climb
Pennsylvania Route 43- part of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, it serves as a toll freeway currently connecting Uniontown to the southern Pittsburgh suburb of Jefferson Hills, with eventually plans to extend the route to the city limits; to the south, it provides high-speed freeway access to Morgantown, West Virginia
Pennsylvania Route 51- provides the major connection between Uniontown and Pittsburgh city limits, which functions as a four-lane route except during its final mile as a major Uniontown city street
U.S. Route 119- provides access to Morgantown in the south as a rolling two-lane highway, before becoming Fayette County's main street; serves as part of a freeway bypass of Uniontown, then functions as a four-lane route through Connellsville, before traveling toward the Pittsburgh edge suburb of Greensburg
Pennsylvania Route 166- rural connecting route between Point Marion and Brownsville Township, this highway connects small communities along the Lower Monongahela Valley
Pennsylvania Route 201- its trajectory shaped in almost the figure of an arch, this route provides access between Connellsville and southwestern Westmoreland County, and serves as a major cross-county truck route
Pennsylvania Route 711- mountain highway terminating in Connellsville and connecting with Westmoreland County, this route is the backbone of the Laurel Highlands
Truck Pennsylvania Route 711- bypass of Downtown Connellsville that is partially cosigned with US 119 near its southern terminus and follows somewhat narrow but relatively flat city streets to avoid the hilly city center
The County of Fayette is governed by a three-member publicly elected commission. The three commissioners serve in both executive and legislative capacities. By state law, the commission must have a minority party, guaranteeing a political split. Each member serves a four-year term.
The three current commissioners for Fayette County are Al Ambrosini(Democrat), Vince Zapotosky (Democrat), and Angela Zimmerlink (Republican).
Vicities is the son of a former county commissioner, and worked in the office of the state auditor general and as director of Fayette County Waste Management prior to taking office in 1996. Zapotosky formerly worked as an aide to Congressman Frank Mascara and later was an administrator at Douglas Business School. Zimmerlink previously held a career in real estate.
The Fayette County Court of Common Pleas serves as the primary judicial arm in the region. Judges are elected to ten-year terms in accordance with Commonwealth law. Additionally, district judges serve throughout the county and rule on minor offenses. Current judges are President Judge Gerald R. Solomon, John F. Wagner, Jr., Ralph C. Warman, Steve P. Leskinen, and Nancy Vernon.
Other county officials
Clerk of Courts, Janice Snyder, Democrat
Controller, Sean Lally, Democrat
Coroner, Phillip Reilly, Democrat
District Attorney, Jack Heneks, Democrat
Prothonotary, Lance Winterhalter, Democrat
Recorder of Deeds, Dave Malosky, Democrat
Register of Wills, Don Redman, Democrat
Sheriff, Gary Brownfield, Sr., Democrat
Treasurer, Robert Danko, Democrat
As of November 2008, there are 91,386 registered voters in Fayette County.
Fayette County tends to be Democratic-leaning in statewide and national elections. While Democratic politics are entrenched because of a strong union history, the county is generally socially conservative. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won 57% of the vote and Republican George W. Bush won 40%. In 2004, Democrat John Kerry won 53% of the vote and Republican George W. Bush won 45%. In 2006, Democrat Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Bob Casey, Jr. won 59% and 65% of the vote in Fayette County. In 2008, Fayette County trended Republican and went for Republican John McCain 49.62% over Democrat Barack Obama 49.21%, a difference of 215 votes. In 2010, Republican Governor Tom Corbett and Senator Pat Toomey won 55% and 50.19% of the vote. Also, in 2012, Republican Mitt Romney received 53.6% of the vote, compared to Democrat Barack Obama's 45.3%.
There were 59,969 households out of which 28.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.80% were married couples living together, 12.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.30% were non-families. 28.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the county, the population was spread out with 22.70% under the age of 18, 7.70% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 24.20% from 45 to 64, and 18.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 91.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.60 males.
A study released in 2009 by PathWays PA, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, found that 35% of families in Fayette County were economically distressed, that is, failing to earn a wage that would adequately provide food, shelter, child care, health care, and other basic necessities.
Map of Fayette County, Pennsylvania with Municipal Labels showing Cities and Boroughs (red), Townships (white), and Census-designated places (blue).
Under Pennsylvania law, there are four types of incorporated municipalities: cities, boroughs, townships, and, in at most two cases, towns. The following cities, boroughs and townships are located in Fayette County:
Census-designated places are geographical areas designated by the U.S. Census Bureau for the purposes of compiling demographic data. They are not actual jurisdictions under Pennsylvania law. Other unincorporated communities, such as villages, may be listed here as well.
General Edward Braddock's Grave is across the highway from Fort Necessity. He was mortally wounded while attacking Fort Duquesne (at the "forks of the Ohio River" in present-day Downtown Pittsburgh) during the French and Indian War. It is a unit of the national battlefield. Under an agreement with British government, the site of Braddock's grave is officially considered British soil.
Two historic fixtures from the National Road exist within Fayette County's borders. Searights Toll House in Menallen Township is one of few remaining toll collection stops along the old route. The Washington Tavern, a unit of Fort Necessity National Battlefield, is a classic example of an early 19th-century inn.
The town of Perryopolis was designed by George Washington during his career as a surveyor. It includes a restored grist mill that once served as an (unsuccessful) business venture for the future president.
Fallingwater, architect Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous home, is located atop a flowing waterfall in Stewart Township. His lesser known but equally impressive Kentuck Knob is also located within the same municipality.
Friendship Hill, the home of the little-known but highly influential early-19th-century political figure Albert Gallatin, is maintained as a National Historic Site. It is located in Springhill Township.
Fayette County's southern border is adorned with plaques that mark its significance as part of the Mason-Dixon Line