In 1800, Henry Overholt, a German Mennonite, moved from Bucks County to Westmoreland County to establish a whiskey distillery. By this time, the Pennsylvania frontier was growing more populated and economically successful, with Pittsburgh emerging as an important western city. Henry and his son, Abraham, contributed to this success by building a 1,500-acre enterprise at West Overton over the course of the nineteenth century, consisting of farmland, the family mansion, houses, barns, lumber mills, gristmills, a blacksmith shop, a cooper shop, and an impressive, six-story distillery.1
Abraham and Mariah Overholt's daughter, Elizabeth, married John W. Frick, a Swiss immigrant gristmiller. Their son, Henry Clay Frick, was born on December 19, 1849, in West Overton's springhouse. For thirty years at West Overton, young Henry learned the ins and outs of managing a large business. Inspired by his family's ambition, Frick began his own entrepreneurial career by investing in the local coke industry. By the 1890s, Frick operated 40% of the coke ovens in the Pittsburgh area and partnered with steel baron Andrew Carnegie to ensure his coke would fuel Pittsburgh's mills. Frick owned the Old Overholt distillery in partnership with Andrew Mellon until his death in 1919, when he left the company to Mellon.2
Old Overholt whiskey was distilled in Broad Ford, Pennsylvania, where it survived Prohibition but struggled as Americans' taste for alcohol changed. The business transferred hands over the twentieth century and the whiskey is now produced by Jim Beam in Kentucky. At over 200 years old, it is the oldest continually-mantained brand of American whiskey. With today's renewed interest in craft alcohol, West Overton will soon provide a taste of history by distilling Overholt whiskey on site. It will be second historic site in the United States to distill whiskey, aside from George Washington's Mount Vernon.3
Both the Overholts and Fricks were known for their philanthropy, especially in education. Henry's daughter, Helen Clay Frick, saw West Overton as a place to memorialize her father and establish a historical site.4 Today, West Overton Village and Museums continues this legacy of education by interpreting the history of the Overholts and Fricks.