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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  March, 2010

Did You Know?
Did you know the political roughhouse and discordant behavior that’s on full display in Washington, D.C. these days is nothing compared to what went on in Fayette County in 1931?

That year, there was an Election Day kidnapping. Mrs. Thomas Herring, a 38 year-old poll worker, was “taken for a ride” at gunpoint by a man and a woman.

Mrs. Herring had been partial to one political faction, and she claimed she’d been warned to stay away from the polls.

According to the November 3rd, 1931 edition of the Connellsville Daily Courier, she was driving along McClellandtown Road near the Uniontown Hospital when the couple wedged her off the road.

The man forced her into his car, while his female accomplice followed them in Mrs. Herring’s car.

She was taken to a secluded wooded area, where she was bound with a cord, and gagged with a handkerchief soaked in iodine.

According to the November 4th, edition of the Pittsburgh Press, the kidnappers fled, leaving their victim in a state of unconsciousness.
When Mrs. Herring awakened, though still groggy, she drove her car to Derrick Avenue where she hailed a “negro” who drove her to a doctor.
The seven hour ordeal ended, with the woman telling reporters, “I had received several threats from a rival political crowd in the past, but didn’t pay any attention to them.”

Did you know that Fayette County once had a well-publicized practice of cockfighting?

An enterprising staff writer for the Uniontown Evening – Bryant Artis – wrote an extensive front page story about it in January of 1950.

According to the article, 150 people witnessed the “brutal battles” where betting was heavy.

Artis explained in graphic detail how the fighters circled each other until one lashed out and killed the other.

He also claimed the fights took place a 20-minute car ride from Uniontown. He was met by the “host” at a specified rendezvous location, and taken to an “arena building” to see the fights. “Eight women had ring-side seats. One was dressed in slacks and a fur coat. Another was nibbling on a jug of ‘mountain dew’ (Not the soft drink distributed in 2010, for sure.), and washing it down with beer,” he wrote.

Did you know that I always seem to come across some unexplained historical coincidences that can hardly become much more than mysteries?

Here’s an example. In early December of 1916, Frank Galvin, a racecar driver was one of three people killed during the Universal Trophy races at Uniontown Speedway.

The Hartford Courant reported that the New Milford, Connecticut native’s car had slammed into the Speedway’s press stand.

What are the odds then, that another noted racecar driver (and renowned actor) – Paul Newman – would play a character in the Academy Award nominated motion picture The Verdict named Frank Galvin?

But there’s a little more to this coincidence. Newman’s long association with auto racing was just part of his life away from Hollywood. He’d sought the seclusion of small town America, by moving to Westport, Connecticut, just 30 miles from the hometown of that ill-fated racecar driver – Frank Galvin.

Did you know that two of Uniontown’s childhood playmates and, later, fellow All Americans, Ernie Davis and Sandy Stephens were also chosen to play for the same professional team?

Back in December of 1961, it was reported that the New York Titans of the, then, fledgling American Football League (the forerunner to the NFL’s American Football Conference), held a secret 48 player draft.

The first player chosen by the Titans was New Salem’s Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis. But the league commissioner, Joe Foss, balked at the secret draft, and declared it “null and void.”

According to the December 3rd, 1961 edition of the Pittsburgh Press, Steve Sebo, the general manager of the Titans, then chose Uniontown’s All American quarterback Sandy Stephens.

Although the Buffalo Bills did draft Davis, he was later drafted by the Washington Redskins of the NFL, (He became the first African American ever drafted by that team), before he was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, Davis died of leukemia before he could play for the Browns.

By the way, while Davis was drafted by the Bills as a running back, two other Fayette County natives did actually play for the Bills.

Uniontown’s Ben Gregory played on the team in 1968, and Vanderbilt’s Jim Braxton (an All American at West Virginia University) was a running back for the Bills between 1971 and 1978.

Did you know that while the use of blood testing to determine paternity was first upheld in a court case in Uniontown in 1931, a few years later, a test to determine sobriety was initially developed by a longtime Uniontown resident, who had once been a pathologist at Uniontown Hospital?

I’ll give you the details next week.