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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  December, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that a homecoming queen at Laurel Highlands High School once made national news?

On October 15th, 1979 the Santa Fe (NM) New Mexican ran a front page story with the headline “Queen a ‘prince,’” which chronicled how a former Laurel Highlands six foot, 200 pound wrestler and football player served as the school’s homecoming queen that year.

Roy Dowdell beat out 12 female candidates for an honor he apparently took quite seriously. “It was extremely nice. I went through the ceremony in the way it was traditionally done,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell’s father, Leroy, said there were a few jeers, but they were “subdued” by the applause.

Did you know that the first plant for the manufacture of coke for commercial purposes was erected in 1841? Did you also know that it consisted of two ovens located four miles north of Connellsville?

Did you know that a fire in the mountains above Uniontown in 1892 nearly surrounded the Summit and made national news?

The Huron (SD) Daily Huronite’s November 3rd, 1892 edition carried the story of the rapidly spreading fire that was “raging along the mountain from Ohio Pike to Delaney’s Cave, a distance of twenty miles, and at more than a dozen places on the mountain range.”

The following day the Connellsville Courier reported that heavy rain on the previous day had been a “godsend.”

Still, the fires had devastated large rural areas in Fayette, Westmoreland and Somerset Counties.

A few months earlier, on July 18th, 1892, the same Huron, South Dakota newspaper ran another article about an event that took place in Fayette County.

In Uniontown, a 17 year-old girl was shot after she dared her 15 year-old friend to shoot at her with his rifle.

She’d apparently claimed the boy’s rifle “could not shoot half so far.”

According to the article, the boy “instantly turned and shot. The ball entered the girl’s side and she is not expected to live,” it said.

Did you know that the appointment of a deputy sheriff in Fayette County was such an apparent milestone, that it made the pages of the Washington Post?

On December 29th, 1910 it was reported that “a university graduate and one of the leaders of Uniontown society” was appointed deputy sheriff.

That wouldn’t have been much of a story unless you consider the article’s headline: - “WOMAN A DEPUTY SHERIFF.”

Lucy Jones was the daughter of the sheriff, and it might be reasonable to assume she was among the first female deputy sheriffs in the country.

Did you know that while such notable world heavyweight boxing champions as Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott, James J. Jeffries, John L. Sullivan and “Gentleman Jim” Corbett each paid visits to Fayette County, another world champion (a former welterweight) also visited?

The February 10th, 1946 edition of the Connellsville Daily Courier reported the highlights of the Connellsville Booster Club’s annual reorganization meeting at Pleasant Valley Country Club, in which Lawrenceville’s Fritzie Zivic was in attendance.

He’d wowed the Boosters with stories about his ring exploits.

In those days, there weren’t nearly the huge build-ups to fights with long periods of inactivity between them.

BoxRec.com (the repository for boxing records) indicates that Zivic actually fought 18 times in 1946. He’d just fought eight days before he paid his visit to Connellsville, and he fought again 16 days later. Unfortunately, he lost both matches.

While on the subject of boxing, did you know there was a bizarre outcome to a boxing match that involved a Uniontown fighter which ended up making national news?

According to the Long Beach (CA) Independent, on November 13th, 1951, Uniontown’s Arnold Curry was counted out – while he was still standing on his feet, and he was completely able to continue fighting.

Curry and an East Orange (NJ) fighter kept punching each other after the bell had sounded to end the fourth round of their fight in Newark.

When the bell rang to commence the fifth round, Curry’s manager wouldn’t permit his fighter to go into the center of the ring, because of the late punching.

The fight’s referee counted Curry out as a result. Despite Curry’s fight readiness, his opponent was awarded the knockout.

Did you know that there has been a long history of mining related violence over the years in Fayette County?

But perhaps few of them were as bloody as the rioting that took place in September of 1933.

“16 MINERS SHOT IN PENN.,” was the front page headline in the Portsmouth (NH) Herald on September 14th.

There were not only more than two dozen men shot, but “a score beaten and stoned today as rioting signalized the official start of a mining holiday in the southern Pennsylvania soft coal field.”

Picketers were said to have stoned men going to work. The rioting had taken place at the Gates Edenborn and Footedale mines.