The Robinson Township Historical Society has spent 25 years preserving the past, from the community’s early farms and coal mines to its modern malls and homes.
Members of the nonprofit will celebrate the society's silver anniversary next week by inviting the public to visit its museum of historical photos, artifacts and memorabilia.
Open houses will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through next Thursday in the Robinson municipal building, 1000 Church Hill Road.
Visitors are encouraged to bring historical items or photos to share.
The museum contains displays that trace the local history of people, farms, homes, schools, churches, cemeteries, businesses, the military, and the coal, oil and railroad industries.
Historical society member Mary Ann Hutter, a Robinson resident for 52 years, said the two-room museum fosters an appreciation of how the township has changed and grown.
“When people move into a community and all these things are here, they think it’s always been here,” she said. “But it took a lot of work and effort.”
Robinson commissioners on Monday presented a proclamation to the historical society recognizing its 25th anniversary and declaring next week Robinson Township Historical Week.
They also doubled the township's annual donation to the historical society to $2,000 for this year.
The township usually gives the society $1,000 a year for operating expenses and donates space for the group’s museum and office.
Founder and former president Millie Stinner, a township resident for more than 60 years, worked with residents and township officials to form the historical society in 1989.
She took on the effort having witnessed the transformation of Robinson from a rural community — in which her Indian Pines neighborhood had a single dirt road — to a busy hub with new houses and public amenities.
“We really never thought it would grow as fast as it has; it’s amazing,” Mrs. Stinner said. “We figured it would be nice for the township to see what [its] past was.”
Len Rider, historical society vice president, said some of the museum’s interesting objects include a coal miner helmet, children’s roller skates, a hairdresser’s curling machine and a handmade working replica of an oil derrick.
Founded in 1801, Robinson's historical borders extended to present-day Thornburg, Rosslyn Farms, Kennedy and Pennsbury Village, all of which were once part of a larger township called Fayette, according to the society’s website.
Robinson is home to two historic Indian trails — the Steubenville trail, which connected Pittsburgh to Steubenville, Ohio, and the Chartiers path, which included numerous settlements along Chartiers Creek, Mr. Rider said.
“It was an important part of the Pittsburgh region,” he said.
Early on, Robinson settlers focused on farming, initially along the Ohio River in the Groveton area. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, coal mining boomed, especially in the enormous Moon Run Mines in the southern part of the township, he said.
“Most of Robinson was farm above ground and coal mine underground,” Mr. Rider said.
Hundreds of oil wells were built, and at least a dozen oil derricks still stand in the township, he said.
As the town grew, residents began working to add amenities such as baseball fields and the Clever Road swimming pool, said Mrs. Hutter, a retired teacher at Montour School District's Forest Grove Elementary in Robinson.
About 40 years ago, Mrs. Stinner's husband, Paul, would pick up all the neighborhood kids and take them to the swimming pool on summer afternoons, she said.
All the children, including Mrs. Hutter’s five kids, fit on a single school bus.
“Now when you go there, you’re lucky if you have standing room in the pool, but then you had [only] 25 kids,” Mrs. Hutter said.
Today, Robinson has a population of more than 13,000 and serves as a retail, residential and commercial hub. It is home to regional shopping centers such as The Mall at Robinson, Robinson Town Centre and Settlers Ridge.
The historical society has about 20 active members and hopes to add younger members, said Mr. Rider, who, in his 50s, is currently the youngest member.
Mr. Rider — who grew up in Ingram, graduated from Montour High School and moved to Robinson 28 years ago — joined the group after visiting the museum to research the reason for the S-bends on Interstate 79.
He found that the highway was built to follow the curving Moon Run waterway as well as a railroad short line for transporting coal between Neville Island and the Groveton area.
In addition to learning about Robinson history through the museum, Mr. Rider often hears interesting stories from older residents.
“It’s cool to talk to them about before there was any shopping here," he said.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.