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This is a contributing entry for Historic Hanna's Town and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

The Steel family occupied the land that was once Hanna’s Town. After Hanna’s Town was attacked and burned done to the ground, John Steel first bought the land. They used the land and surrounding acres to raise family as well as farm and live off of the resources. The Steel house is one of the only structures on sight still standing from the homestead. The house and 180 acres was deeded over to the Westmoreland County Historical Society in the late 20th century, where it now remains today. A member of the Society's board actually occupied the house after it was deeded. The man by the name of Walter Haile raised children, and even grandchildren in the home before it fell vacant. The house was renovated in 2019 and now used as offices for the Westmoreland County Historical Society with occasional programming in the building. The Steel house is a prefect example of adaptive reuse.

  • The Steel House, after being newly renovated in 2019 to contain the offices of the Westmoreland Historical Society.
  • Hannastown Courthouse Farm
  • Steel Family Farm
  • Original Steel House before renovation in 2019
  • Steel Family Portrait

The Steel house, owned by the Steel family, was built in 1910. Two years ago it was renovated by the Westmoreland Historic Society to reuse the building from residential space to office and business use. The Steel house, even though being built in the early 20th century, surprisingly enough the Steels had been connected and traced to the events surrounding Hanna’s Town as well. The Steels themselves are from Ireland, settling in and around Mount Pleasant once over here around 1772. In 1826 John Steel purchased Hanna’s Land from a sheriff sale. The land had been destroyed back in 1782 after a raiding party made up of English rangers and Seneca Tribe members burned and pillage the important landmark. John moved onto the land 9 years later in 1835. When Hanna’s Town occupied it, the land stretched 337 acres. During the Steel era, it was split up between two generations from 300 acres to roughly 180 acres. They referred to the property as the “Hannastown Courthouse Farm.” 

The Steels kept the farm in the family for a century and a half. Finally, in 1969, the land was deeded both the land and property it stood on to the Westmoreland Historical Society, thus ending the Steel Era. 

John had a son named William, and a daughter Sarah Brown, who ended up having 11 children. Along with Sarah and William, the first-born son was also named John. John’s son, John, ended up inheriting the property from his father. John worked on the farm as a kid and around the homestead but once he got old enough, he attended the academy in New Alexandria as well as the Greensburg Seminary. He entered and eventually graduated from Geneva College as part of the class of 1885. He studied and decided to practice law. In 1901 John became the first president of the newly founded Westmoreland County Orphans Court. As well as judging on the Orphans court Judge Steel also took part in business development. He helped develop banks, real estate and coal mines. John met and soon married Madge Montgomery, daughter of judge O.H. Montgomery of the Supreme Court of Indiana in 1909. From 1910-1912 John got to work building a two and a half story residence along Forbes Road, serving as a farmhouse and well needed retreat from and for his family. 

Madge ended up having 5 children, named Sarah, Ellen, Madge and Marion, according to the census in 1920. Judge Steel later passed away that same year. The only son, William, inherited the house and property after Mrs. Steel passed away. When William Passed away, his widow, Sarah Jamison Steel was the one who ultimately decided to deed the land and buildings over to the Historic Society. 

The Steels kept the farm in the family for a century and a half. Finally, in 1969, the land was deeded both the land and property it stood on to the Westmoreland Historical Society, thus ending the Steel Era.

The land itself was used as farmland while in possession of the Steel’s, a farm was built, along with a spring house and other out-buildings. The family raised beef cattle and was even rumored to use the spring house as a milk house for the cows. When turned over to the Historic Society, one of board members lived in and tended to the Steel house and the property, Walter Haile. 

Walter Haile certainly, holds a very important section of history, not only pertaining to the Historical Society and the site, but a unique glance into life at that time from a different perspective. Reading Walters Biography, he speaks of hard times, working all over Pennsylvania and South Carolina in the coal fields in his teenage days before moving into the Steel House and inhabiting it and raising children and grandchildren in the house itself. 

Now, in the hands of the Westmoreland Historic Society, the land thrives and grows with the addition of multiple new buildings and a brand new education center to help interpret the land and its rich history. Much of the land the historic society owns out of the 180 acres young forest or densely grassed fields behind and to the side of the center opposite of the Steel House. 

Pietrusza, Phylis. From the Cotton Fields to Coal Fields; The Walter Haile Story. Tarentum, Pennsylvania . Word Association Publishers, 2004.

Westmoreland County Historical Society. 2019. “Toast the Tour, Guided Tour of the Steel House”. Westmoreland County Historical Society.