VERSAILLES, Pennsylvania — As if to emphasize that this river town of 1,200 has zero in common with the royalty that once ruled at the eponymous location outside Paris, royalty far removed from the concerns and the despair of its people, this Youghiogheny River town is pronounced in its own unique Appalachian way: Ver-sales.
That pronunciation also holds true for the towns of Versailles, Kentucky, as well as Versailles, Ohio. It has to do with the choppy way the early Scots settlers in all three of these towns tended to emphasize second syllables over the first. But one can imagine it also had a little bit to do with not having anything in common with the palace that, for centuries, symbolized a ruling class deeply out of sync with the rest of its nation.
The Versailles in Ohio is a charming and thriving little historic village. The one in Kentucky’s bourbon country is the epicenter of American horse-breeding, and it has had robust population growth for 100 consecutive years.
The Versailles here in western Pennsylvania struggles.
Last week, President Joe Biden showed what it looks like when the ruling class loses all connection with the realities of the pain and stress of