Throwback: The Lesnett Legacy

By John Kotzuk

Cover image November 1996; This cover was underwritten by Norman Centre. The cover photo of gift ideas from Norman Centre was coordinated by UPPER ST. CLAIR TODAY Volunteer Michele Scureman and photographed by John McManus of McManus Studio.

Throwback with TODAY

The Lesnett Legacy By John Kotzuk November 1996; pages 14 & 15

A Tomahawk claim was made in 1769 on land that lies mostly in what is now South Fayette and Upper St. Clair Townships. The maker of the claim, Christian Lesnett, was a member of a colony from Hesse-Cassel, Germany, that had landed at Baltimore, Maryland, after an arduous ninety-day voyage. After moving farther west to Frederick, Maryland, Lesnett married Christianna, a widow with one child whose husband had died during the sea voyage. The union with Christianna (last name unknown) began the Lesnett families of today.

While fighting the French and Indians as a Ranger under Colonel Henry Bouquet, Christian Lesnett eventually reached Fort Duquesne, Pittsburgh. It was there, after a treaty was signed, that Lesnett decided to make his Tomahawk claim. He then brought his wife and family from Frederick over the Braddock Trail to their new home in the wilderness. Not too far from this homesite and well over two hundred years later, a first born son would be named Christian by a descendant to whom the words tradition and ancestry meant something.

Today, generations later, we sit comfortably at Terra Alta as we talk to Vivian Brownfield Lesnett and Thomas Dell Lesnett, III. Their home on "high ground" is a reflection of caring and sharing, of good neighboring and of love and respect for the environment and all nature. At the peak is their desire and dedication to be good and Christian people, secure in their ancestry and strong in faith and family.

"Ve" Lesnett is best described as a truly good person Most of her time has been spent doing for others. In her early days at school as a very good student she was always ready to help the slower learners. Throughout her nurse's training at Uniontown Hospital School of Nursing, her compassion grew and intensified and was revealed in the years when she worked at Mayview Hospital in the Psychiatric Department. After retirement, she did volunteer work in Mayview's gift shop and volunteered for the Guild for the Blind, Meals on Wheels and as a Deacon for Bethany Presbyterian Church. With her brother and two sisters, Ve helps to care for their mother who has lived alone since the death of her husband, Harry Brownfield, a former State Representative and Superintendent of Fayette County Schools.

Dell Lesnett graduated from Bridgeville High School and like many young men from the area went to work at Universal Cyclops, when steel was king in Pittsburgh. Two years in the mill and he wanted to move on. A call for help from a construction company in Missouri attracted him and he got work there operating earth-moving equipment in the building of a railroad. This experience probably formed the basis of his career with Stull Enterprises. He spent 30 years at Stull, retiring as Executive Vice-President and General Manager.

Martha Virginia Lesnett and Thomas Dell Lesnett

The Missouri experience was also most likely a factor in Dell's assignment to the Fourth Amphibian Tractor Battalion when he enlists in the United States Marine Corps on January 2, 1942, very shortly after Pearl Harbor. He saw service in the Marshall Islands, Guam and Okinawa. He joined the ranks of "Mustang Marines" when a field commission took him from Platoon Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant and then to 1st Lieutenant before his discharge in May 1946.

The union of Lesnett and Brownfield took place the following year. Ve and Dell had met at a welcoming dance for student nurses at Mayview Pavilion in the summer of 1946. It was love at first sight, but they waited until Ve's training was finished before marrying in late 1947. After a short honeymoon on the Skyline Drive in Virginia, they went to housekeeping on Old Lesnett Road.

The early days when Ve ad Dell had a pony farm with its breeding, caring, training and haying of a herd that grew to 47 ponies and four horses meant long hours of hard work. However, it was great fun for the neighborhood kids.

An all-consuming interest for Dell has been the care and training of dogs, beginning with beagles when he was a child and continuing on to bird dogs; the setters and the pointers. On the Lesnetts' three acres a strip leading to the dog pens has been named "Ben Blvd." in honor of Ben the best dog Dell ever had. He was a big strong English Pointer, liver and white in color and with a very good nose. After 13 fine years, he now "points" in peace in his own small section.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Grouse Association, Scout troops and our Township have all benefitted from Dell's work in creatinghabitats for birds and animals. On their own property, aside from the colorful flowers, foliage, evergreens, berries, holly trees and vegetable garden, a corner, exclusively for birds, is planted with honeysuckle.

Ve and Dell enjoy their active retirement keeping busy and on the go with Bethany Presbyterian Church, United Senior Citizens of USC, AARP, USC Graduates Golf Group, the American Legion, a number of sportsmen's groups and charitable organizations.

Above all is their most rewarding accomplishment, the creation of a strong family and the continuance of the Lesnett legacy exemplified by their tree sons, Thomas, Scott and Mark, and three grandsons and seven granddaughers.

At summer picnics and holiday gatherings, family and friends have enjoyed Ve and Dell's hospitality. The tradition is carried on at the Old Farm house by eldest son "Woody" and his wife, Jenny. To Ve and Dell, to their high morals and principles, to their commitment to the oldest and best values, we give the highest respect and admiration.

Footnote: Scott Lesnett's first son was named Christian.

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