The Jefferson College Historical Society is replacing historic signs across Canonsburg following a two-year fundraising campaign.
The group of volunteers began collecting donations in 2018, trying to reach $22,500 to pay for the production of 15 new aluminum signs to mark historical sites throughout the borough. They were able to erect the first one last month at the old John McMillan Log School that sits near Canon-McMillan’s middle school.
During the unveiling of the marker, Donna Johnston, secretary for JCHS and descendent of the Rev. John McMillan, said they completed the fundraising in March and were supposed to unveil the first sign near Memorial Day. Those plans were canceled due to COVID-19, so they held a small ceremony Aug. 31.
“The log cabin is quite historical and quite prominent,” Johnston said in a recent interview. “It’s where it all started.”
The society’s president, Susan DeLost, said they wanted to start with the log cabin sign because of its strong connection with Canonsburg.
“The town and the college are tied very closely together,” she said.
According to the historical society board members, John McMillan’s log cabin school later became Jefferson College in Canonsburg, which then merged and moved to Washington, becoming what’s now Washington & Jefferson College.
The new markers will replace old, faded signs that stand at various historic sites throughout the borough. Those old signs were put up as part of a high school project in 2003, but are “in pretty bad shape,” according to Gina Nestor, a local historian and member of the society.
“We’re the only organization left that could do anything about it,” she said.
The other 14 new markers will be placed at the sites known as Blackhorse Tavern, Briceland’s Tavern, Budke House, Canonsburg Armory, Emery’s Tavern, Fort Armstrong, Jefferson College, John Canon’s Mill, Letherman House, Morgan Opera House, Robert’s House, Stone College Building, Veteran’s Statue and Watson’s Corner. For more information and history about these sites, visit the historical society’s Facebook page.
The aluminum signs are being cast one at a time by Lake Shore Industries in Erie. The signs took longer than expected because the company had to shut down amid the pandemic, according to Nestor. Each of the signs cost about $1,500. The historical society board members said they hope to get all the new signs placed by next spring.
“We rely on our local people, businesses and people who have connections to this town,” DeLost said.
The society expressed gratitude to its approximate 300 members and the many people throughout the community who donated to their “Replace the Signs” campaign. They had about 45 donors, including significant donations from two fraternities associated with the college, Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Kappa Psi.
“It’s a historical town, and people rallied,” Johnston said.