Highland Histories and Mysteries

Welcome to Highland Histories & Mysteries, a brand-new podcast from GO Laurel Highlands. We are exploring the spaces, people, and events of intrigue throughout the rich history in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.

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Today’s topic is a historian’s favorite: the mysterious, debated, and significant incident in young George Washington’s military career, the “Friendly Fire Incident.” Fort Ligonier’s Director of Education, Matt Gault, takes us back to the footsteps of a young George Washington in today’s episode.

Plan Your Trip

Fort Ligonier
As summer waned in 1758, the site of a new fortification was chosen by the British army that overlooked the Loyalhanna Creek. Find out more about how Fort Ligonier made Pittsburgh possible as you explore the grounds of the finest reconstructed fortification from the French and Indian War. Be sure to visit the Art gallery to view Rembrandt Peale’s romantic portrait of young George Washington in his Virginia Regiment uniform and the George Washington Gallery to view the Washington Lafayette Pistols and a handwritten recollection of his years on the Pennsylvania frontier, known as the “Remarks.”

Special Events are always happening at Fort Ligonier to bring history to life. Check their website for upcoming events such as the Fort Kids’ Camps, Cannon Ball Club, Seven Years’ War Symposium, French Garrison Weekend, 18th Century Military Encampment, and the Leadership Institute ”Genesis of Leadership.”

Young George Washington Portrait   George's Washington's pistols at Fort Ligonier

Forbes Road Ramble: The Westmoreland Land Trust created a scenic drive that follows Forbes Road from Historic Hanna’s Town to Fort Ligonier. Visit other Westmoreland Land Trust locations at St. Xavier’s Nature Preserve and Schwarz Farm with hiking trails that are open to the public.

Springhill Suites by Marriott Pittsburgh-Latrobe is situated in the Laurel Highlands with scenic mountain views. As a guest, you'll have the opportunity to enhance your stay by adding a golf package at nearby Arnold Palmer's Latrobe Country Club. The beautiful lobby showcases Arnold Palmer’s memorabilia and achievements.  

If all your history adventures make you hungry, be sure to check out Abigail’s Coffeehouse and El Vaquero Mexicano restaurant in Ligonier. Both are in walking distance of Fort Ligonier are known for their unique and delicious offerings.

Shopping is a great way to enjoy the small-town charm of Ligonier. Celtic Culture carries a wide range of style forward products from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Gentlemen will enjoy the Post and Rail shop and ladies will love Betsy’s of Ligonier and Onyx & Ivory Boutique. You’ll find special gifts at My Honey Bee and all large and small art and gifts at the Main Exhibit Gallery & Art Center. A stop at Laurel Highland Olive Oil will help you remember your visit when you create a special dish at home.

The Loyalhanna stream was important to the building of Fort Ligonier and remains a central location of the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail. Be sure to scout your next fishing trip while you are in the area. You are sure to find the perfect spot on one of the 10 amazing streams in a 70 mile radius on the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail.


Past Episodes and Itineraries


Westmoreland County is celebrating its 250th Anniversary. We were fascinated to talk to Matt Gault, Director of Education at Fort Ligonier, about one of Westmoreland County’s most iconic figures, Arthur St. Clair. As you will hear in our conversation with Matt, Arthur St. Clair was what some could consider, a “Forgotten Founding Father.” Who was he, really? And what kind of legacy has St. Clair left behind for us to examine? Who is the human behind the legend?

Plan Your Trip

Fort Ligonier
Journey back to the eighteenth century and discover Fort Ligonier - a reconstructed and restored French and Indian War fort, with artillery batteries, cannons, wagons and buildings rebuilt on the original site. Following his service as an officer in the French and Indian War, Arthur St. Clair received a tract of land in western Pennsylvania. He settled in Bedford with his young family and was named civil caretaker of Fort Ligonier when it was decommissioned by the British army in 1766. By the end of the 18th century, he had built a home in Ligonier known as “The Hermitage.” One room of his home, the parlor, was moved to Fort Ligonier’s Museum in 1961 and remains on display. In celebration of Westmoreland’s 250th Anniversary, Fort Ligonier and West Overton Village and Museum have collaborated on a limited edition Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey called St. Clair’s Spirits.

Named one of American Bus Association's "Top 100 Events in America," Fort Ligonier Days is a three-day festival that commemorates the Battle of Fort Ligonier, a monumental affair of the French and Indian War fought on October 12, 1758. While walking around town, browse and shop more than 175 vendor booths in five different locations. Don't forget to support the local merchants in Ligonier, who will be offering Fort Days specials and sales.

Ligonier is also home to many cozy and inviting guest homes including Alice's Spring Cottage at 221 North Grant Street Ligonier that sleeps six people comfortably in the 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath home. Be My Guest on Washington Street a perfect couples retreat for exploring Ligonier and the Laurel Highlands!  This one bedroom, semi-detached apartment is located on a quiet residential street and only a ten minute walk to historic downtown Ligonier. Cottages at Millbank can be found at 238 Deeds Road, Ligonier where Shabby Chic® meets Farmer in the Dell inside these two delightful cottages nestled on a beautiful meadow neighboring Idlewild & SoakZone and within one mile of historic Ligonier. Guests will be charmed by the farm fresh, yet modern cottage-style accommodations.

Oak Lodge is an 800–acre Laurel Highlands bed and breakfast located in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania. The moment you arrive at Oak Lodge Bed and Breakfast, you will experience luxurious comfort and top of the line amenities. We tailor every stay based on your needs and offer exceptional concierge services to help you plan your stay. There are multiple lodging options on Oak Lodge’s 800-acre estate: the Main Lodge (5 Rooms), Farm House 1868 (2 Suites) and our two detached, private suites – Eagle’s Nest and Bear Cave.

Connections Café is a stone’s throw from Fort Ligonier and serves light, healthy lunches, and outrageous desserts. Stop in on Thursday evenings for grilled pizza and look for Connections Café at the Ligonier Farmers Market or or Lincoln Highway SupperMarkets during the summer.

Locals love dining in the heart of Ligonier at Carol & Dave's Roadhouse an amazing restaurant with comfort as well as unique recipes and full-service bar. Abigail's Coffeehouse is famous for its chicken salad as well as specialty or frozen coffees—called Rockets--by the locals. And for something sweet, cross the Ligonier Diamond for a stop at O'Shea's Ligonier Sweet Shoppe where you can pick from 60 varieties of chocolates and more!

The whole family will have a blast at Idlewild and SoakZone,. Be sure to visit this historic amusement park for a special family-friendly Fall themed Idlewild's HALLOWBOO!

Soak up more history at Compass Inn Museum and experience Harvest Tours, Halloween Storytelling and, Holiday Candlelight Tours at this authentically restored stagecoach hostelry and tavern in Laughlintown. From 1799 until 1862 it served as a popular inn for travelers on the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Turnpike.           


In this episode, we talk to Bob Stutzman and Jennifer Sopko from the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association. We learn about the fascinating history of the Ligonier Valley Rail Road, and we also discuss one of the rail line’s most infamous disasters and a young woman who survived it all, named Besse Hoon.

Plan Your Trip

The Ligonier Valley Rail Road Museum is in the original Darlington Train Station that was built in 1896! The Museum collection includes over 3,000 items—including the dress Bessie Hoon was wearing the day of the great Ligonier Train accident. The Museum itself houses a variety of items including lanterns, locks and keys, PRR and B&O dinnerware, and a wall map of the right of way of the LVRR. Don’t miss the 1905 Bobber Red Caboose!

Idlewild Park is family fun in the oldest operating amusement parks in Pennsylvania. Originally founded as a train picnic destination, Idlewild Park now has a SoakZone, StoryBook Forest, plus rides and entertainment for the whole family. Special events take place throughout the summer including Neighbor Days. Visit in the Fall during HallowBoo.

If you get hungry you are visiting the Ligonier Railroad Museum, head down Darlington Road to the Darlington Inn for authentic Transylvanian-Hungarian cuisine. Every dish is made from scratch at this unique and friendly family-owned restaurant.

While you are visiting, make sure to enjoy the views along Mill Creek Stream in Wilpen and the Loyalhanna Creek along Rt. 711 in Ligonier. These and other streams are part of the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail  with 10 streams popular with fishing enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Book your stay at the elegant and romantic Thistledown at Seger House in the heart of Ligonier. Stay on site and you’ll love Sweet Rust Distilling. Or walk to charming shops & enjoy many memorable restaurants, coffee shops and more. For coffee, locals love Abigail's Coffeehouse.

If you’re bringing the whole crew, choose the Ramada Ligonier. You can even pop next door to bowl a few games and enjoy some tasty snacks at The Wicked Googly/Ligonier Lanes.

Westmoreland County, one of the three counties in the Laurel Highlands region, invites you to celebrate 250 years ALL throughout 2023. Check out events, deals, celebrations, and more


In this episode, we are learning about the intriguing and exciting life of young George Washington and his journeys throughout the Laurel Highlands region. That exciting life inspired Tony Marino, Artistic Director at Westmoreland Performing Arts, to create an original show based on young Washington’s adventures. Tony also talks about how that show serves as further inspiration for celebrating Westmoreland County’s 250th Anniversary throughout 2023.

Plan Your Trip

George Washington was here! The young Washington spent many of his formative military years in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. Walk in his footsteps.

As you journey throughout the region, be sure to make stops at other locations discussed in this episode, such as Historic Hanna’s Town and the Freeport Theatre Festival.

And of course, catch one of Westmoreland Performing Arts’ incredible shows, or stop by The Palace Theatre in Greensburg for world-class entertainment.

Westmoreland County, one of the three counties in the Laurel Highlands region, invites you to celebrate 250 years ALL throughout 2023. Check out events, deals, celebrations, and more!

In this debut episode, we are investigating the rich lore surrounding the Saint Vincent College campus, its history, and the people who built the organization into what it is today. Located in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in the beautiful Laurel Highlands. Special thanks to Father Brian Boosel, O.S.B., for his expertise.

Plan Your Trip

When you visit Saint Vincent College, you could fill an entire day, or even two, just by meandering the gorgeous campus and all of its adjacent properties, such as the Saint Vincent Gristmill and the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve.

If you happen to visit during the summer, try to catch a show with the professional Saint Vincent Summer Theatre Company.

The Saint Vincent Basilica is always open for visitors, but please be respectful of worshippers, especially during mass times. The Benedictine monks pray multiple times daily in the gorgeous space, and members of the public are welcome to join and participate, or simply listen to the beautiful, hundreds-of-years-old chants.

Connected with Saint Vincent College is the Fred Rogers Institute, which houses archives and a small but meaningful museum space. You can also use the Fred Rogers Institute as a starting point on the Fred Rogers Trail, a tour that leads you on a journey throughout southwestern Pennsylvania, following significant locations in Fred’s life.

Make time to explore downtown Latrobe, making your stops at the Latrobe Art Center and the Banana Split commemorative statue just down the street! Indulge in a local restaurant, grab a refreshing cup of coffee, and take a picture next to the Fred Rogers Statue in the park.

Bonus Content

Listen here to the entire, uncut interview with Father Brian.

Listen here to a bonus interview we weren’t able to fit into the episode, featuring Jym Walters, Saint Vincent College Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach and Associate Director of Campus Life.