As the new century began, the area that now comprises the city of Latrobe was divided by the Loyalhanna Creek into Derry Township to the east and Unity Township to the west. These townships consisted almost exclusively of farms, with a few grist mills and saw mills. Youngstown, though, had existed as a town for several decades before Latrobe came into existence. Located along the Forbes Road, which in the early 1800s was developed as the Turnpike Road, Youngstown became the market place and post office for the area.
By 1850, the farms comprising the present Latrobe area were the Kirk farm (center of town), Walter farm (First Ward, south of the Loyalhanna), Toner farm (First Ward, north of the Loyalhanna), Brinker farm (Third and Fourth Wards), Bossart farm (Fifth Ward, near Standard Steel), Saxman farm (above Lincoln Avenue), and the Chambers and Davidson farms (Sixth Ward and the area of First Ward above the hospital).
On February 18, 1851, Thomas Kirk sold his 140 acre farm in Derry Township to Oliver Barnes, an agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which wanted to connect the eastern part of the state with Pittsburgh. The original plan was for railroad yards to be built at the newly acquired site; however, it was decided to build the railroad yards at Derry, and Mr. Barnes elected to keep the Kirk land for himself, reimbursing the railroad. Barnes laid out the streets and lots for a new town, which he named after a long-time friend and associate, Benjamin Latrobe. Three years later Latrobe was incorporated as a borough. In a meeting held in the home of David Williams on June 17, 1854, the first council was organized and David L. McCullough was elected the first Burgess of Latrobe.
Barnes donated three acres of ground to the railroad for a station, a water tower, and a hotel. He then established the Pennsylvania Car Works, Latrobe's first manufacturing enterprise. Latrobe's proximity to both the railroad and the Loyalhanna Creek gave rise almost immediately to other industries: a paper mill, tanneries, distilleries, and breweries. The discovery of coal in the region led to still more industrial growth, with the establishment of brickyards and foundries.
Education became a priority for the new town. In 1856 Latrobe's first "little red school house" was built on Main Street. Twenty-five years later the first high school in the area was built on the same site. In 1870 St. Vincent College began granting degrees.
The first decade of Latrobe's existence also brought houses of worship for a variety of denominations. The United Presbyterian congregation, the first in Latrobe, was formed in 1853, before the borough was incorporated. It was followed by Holy Family Catholic Church and a Methodist church in 1856, the First Presbyterian Church (then still a mission of the Unity Presbyterian Church) in 1857, and the Reformed Church in 1860.
The town's early residents also found time for fun. Latrobe's first venture in the field of drama was the Showalter Theater, built on Depot Street in 1882. The first modern two-wheel bike was introduced to Latrobe in 1891 and it wasn't long until bike clubs were formed. In 1895 Latrobe earned a place in professional football history when the local team paid a 16-year-old named John Brallier $10.00 plus expenses to come from Indiana to play quarterback for the local team.
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