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The Greater Monessen Historical Society held an Open House on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 to honor the sesquicentennial of the birth of industrialist and Monessen founder, William Henry Donner.

GMHS
Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis presenting the City Citation to GMHS President Daniel Zyglowicz, while board member Candis Elyanich Kelley looks on in the background.

Free cake and refreshments were served to the guests. The cake featured a photo of the National Tin Plate Company, which was Monessen's first industry that was built by William Donner.

W. H. Donner built Monessen's first industry, the National Tin Plate Company in 1897, as well as a 25-room, three-story home on Parkway overlooking the mill complex. Donner was a member of the first Monessen School Board and was instrumental in the construction of the first elementary school, the McKinley. He was one of the driving forces for the creation of the Monessen Water Company. He was also the founder of Donora, where he built the Union Steel Company.

The Greater Monessen Historical Society will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Donner's birth with various events during the rest of the year. As part of the celebration, Monessen Mayor, Lou Mavrakis presented an official proclamation from the City of Monessen to the historical society. State Representative Ted Harhai also obtained a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Citation in honor of the anniversary. United States Congressman Bill Shuster will speak in the U.S. Capitol and officially honor Donner as part of the event at the request of the historical society.

On behalf of the Donner Family, Tim Donner, the great-grandson of William Henry Donner, sent a video expressing his thanks for the tribute and thoughts on the sesquicentennial celebration. It can be seen on the Facebook page of the Greater Monessen Historical Society. Tim Donner is an honorary board member of the society.

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William Henry Donner

The Greater Monessen Historical Society is preparing for its next exhibit that will salute the veterans of the Mon Valley region. Anyone with military memorabilia and or photos is asked to contact the Heritage Museum at 724-684-8460. Photo scans can be emailed to: Monessen@verizon.net . Items can either be loaned or donated. Material covering the Spanish American War, World War I and the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are especially needed.

The Historical Society will have a booth at the Celebrate America Festival on July 19 at the Mihalich Boat Launch on the Monongahela River. GMHS will be selling Slovak foods and Museum Shoppe items. The Heritage Museum will be closed that day.

Preparations are underway for the annual Founders Day celebration on Saturday, August 16, 2014 at Monessen City Park. Vendors are needed. Please contact the Heritage Museum to reserve a booth or table. The event will commemorate the sesquicentennial celebrations of the birth of industrialist and Monessen founder William Henry Donner as well as the famous cavalry charge of Colonel James M. Schoonmaker at the Third Battle of Winchester in 1864, for which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Civil War re-enactors will camp in the park and participate in a special salute to the Colonel.

Please remember the Historical Society when cleaning out homes and deciding what to do with old photographs and items which tell the story of the industrial and ethnic history of the Mon Valley. Bring them to the Heritage Museum during regular business hours, Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.. Contact the museum if special hours are needed.

Visit GMHS on Facebook to see photos of recent exhibits and events.

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