Baron Dettmar Basse (1762-1836), a German of culture, held a diplomatic post in
Paris during the Napoleonic wars. With changes that occurred after that war and
the death of his wife, he decided to come to the New World. After considerable
travel, in 1802 he purchased 10,000 acres at 25 cents each, in what is now known
as the Zelienople-Harmony area. He planned a town and named it after his eldest
daughter, Zelie. He
returned to Germany to bring Zelie and her brother to their new home. When he
arrived there, Zelie was betrothed to Philipp Louis Passavant; they were married
in June 1807. Extensive preparations were made to establish their new home and
town in America where they arrived in September 1807. The Zelienople
Historical Society maintains a museum in Passavant House that contains many of the
original articles brought by Zelie.
Harmony.In order to raise funds to build his home, bring his
establish an iron foundry and create a town, Basse sold 4,000 acres to
Johann George Rapp in 1807 who, in turn, established the Harmonist Society and what is now the town of Harmony.
In 1815 the Harmonists left the area and sold their town to Abraham Ziegler, a
Mennonite leader, who further developed the area. The
Society maintains a museum on the Diamond that contains a wealth of their history.
Early Zelienople commerce supported the local agriculture community as there was
no viable means of transportation. In 1840 Zelienople was incorporated as a
Borough. In 1878 a railroad was built through Zelienople. From this time there
has been moderate expansion of industry, residences and local government.
A full-time Borough
Manager was hired in 1994. The growth of Pittsburgh northward along with the
building of Interstate 79, provides a challenge to Zelienople in coping with
these changes through the 21st Century. The growth of the
Zelienople - Harmony area was also reflected by the growth in neighboring
townships and the county.