MAHLS History

The Mars Area History and Landmarks Society was founded in 1980, its mission: Preserve Yesterday for Today.

Mars and the surrounding Adams Township of Butler County, Pa. are rich in history that began in the late 1790s when pioneer families cleared land and established farms near the Breakneck Creek. Because the farmers required other services, two grist mills were built (1825 & 1828) on Breakneck Creek, a general store was opened, and in 1873, a post office was established and given the name Overbrook.

In 1877 the Pittsburgh and Western Railroad laid track through Butler County and through the village. Businesses and homes sprang up on both sides of the tracks. A railroad stop on the nearby Samuel Kennedy farm, situated near a brook, was called the Overbrook stop. Mail destined for the Overbrook Post Office was delivered to the Overbrook railroad stop. This necessitated a name change for the post office. Mars was chosen. A prominent resident and associate judge in Butler County, the Honorable Samuel Marshall, was influential in getting the post office for Mars. It is generally believed that the post office and town were named for Judge Marshall.

In 1884 the oil boom reached Adams Township and Mars. Oil wells were drilled and derricks were visible on the surrounding farms and throughout the town. More growth occurred, prompting citizens to petition for the Borough of Mars to be incorporated. This was granted on March 6, 1895. The first election of the Borough of Mars was held one month later on April 9, 1895.

The Borough gave permission in 1904 to the Pittsburgh and Butler Street Railway Co. to build a track through the town on Clay Avenue. Operating until 1931 this electric street car line made commuter travel, freight and farm produce movement to Pittsburgh and Butler much easier and more affordable. The company car barn and electric sub-station were located just north of Mars and provided employment that drew new residents to the area.

On its property located at 1 Brickyard Road, the Mars Area History & Landmarks Society has an excellent display of buildings and artifacts that recount this area history. The 1897 Mars Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, an original Adams Township rural trolley stop, and a 1926 B&O Railroad caboose were all moved to this location and carefully restored. A 1928 Plymouth Gasoline Switch Engine, an operating hand car, and many other railroad related items are on display on the grounds and inside the station. Spinning forty feet overhead with an eight-foot diameter wheel is an operating windmill that was typical of those once used by the local farmers.

Located in the general purpose/workshop building are displays featuring the 1950-1960 Mars Theatre, a model oil well, old business signs, a dog-powered butter churn, and other items that depict life in Mars over the years. The Society unique gift shop, where Mars memorabilia may be purchased, is housed in an original Ronald McDonald Party Caboose.

The Mars Shortline Railroad is a small scale railroad layout designed to ride adults and children of all ages around the Mars History and Landmarks Society property. Traveling at a leisurely pace it provides the opportunity to view all the interesting buildings and artifacts around the MAHLS property.

For genealogists, a nearly complete set of Mars High School yearbooks dating back to 1916 are on file. Many historical photographs are available. There is a collection of Mars Area histories written by local citizens, a file containing folders of family histories, and information about celebrities that had association with the area.

We look forward to having you visit our campus soon!