Settled in the 1790’s, Dunbar was incorporated in 1883. Originally called Frogtown, the name was changed to Dunbar City and finally Dunbar, but no one seems to remember when this happened.
The town was named for Colonel Thomas Dunbar, who was in charge of the 48th Regiment of Foot during the undeclared French and Indian War. Along with General Edward Braddock, Dunbar came to America in 1755 to help regain Fort Duquesne. His camp was located at present day Jumonville.
It was toward the end of these turbulent times that Isaac Meason started his Union Furnace #1 circa 1793. This marked the beginnings of what would become Dunbar’s lifeblood over the next century or so. Drawn to Dunbar by the prospect of work, the fabric of the community was and still is an ethnic-rich and financially diverse town.
As the iron was moved from the furnace to the creek near the former Bowest Railroad yard, Connellsville Street became the main road through town. It was along this road that many of Dunbar’s businesses sprang up. The remaining buildings stand as a testament to a more prosperous time.
Dunbar was once a rich industrial area which at one time had five banks operating at the same time. The area has been home to a wealth of industry from its earliest days. Between the time of Meason’s first iron furnace through the 1950s, Dunbar has been home to the following industries: Dunbar Furnace, Semet-Solvay By-Products plant, the Pennsylvania Wire Glass Company, Bluestone quarry, sand plant, brickworks, ice plant, woolen mill, Bowest rail yards and several mines and coke oven sites including: Hill Farm, Ferguson, Atlas, Mahoning, Watt and Uniondale. Several of these oven sites still exist.
A quote from Dunbar: the Furnace Town book sums up the significance of the Dunbar industry as it relates to the Pittsburgh area. "For years, Dunbar's iron industry must have been an amazement to Pittsburgh industrialists. Here, iron was made with coke on a continuous basis since 1854. Pittsburgh did not have a successful iron furnace until 1859; for they had no local iron and they encountered problems with their large capacity furnace, which Dunbar had seemingly solved."
Dunbar, as part of the Connellsville Coke Region which extended from Latrobe to south of Fairchance, was vital to the development of steel in Pittsburgh. In addition, at the height of the coke era in 1899, there were over 19,900 coke ovens in Fayette County. All but fifty of these ovens were the beehive type coke oven. Those other fifty were the Semet-Solvay byproduct ovens located in Dunbar. These byproduct ovens were the first ones in the United States!
The below sign for Dunbar Pennsylvania was created by the partnership between the Dunbar Historical Society & The Fayette County Cultural Trust.