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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  April, 2008

Did You Know?
By Al Owens

…When Sen. Hillary Clinton brought her presidential campaign to Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus on March 24th, she was the latest in a long line of presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls, presidents, ex-presidents and yet to be elected Presidents of The United States - who’ve made their way to the area.

Of course, everybody knows the nation’s first president, George Washington, fought the Battle of the Great Meadows at Ft. Necessity in July of 1754.
But Washington made several more trips to Uniontown and the areas surrounding it.

According to James Hadden, the author of “A History of Uniontown” Washington also came to the area in the 1770’s and 80’s.

Hadden also wrote about the visit by Abraham Lincoln to Uniontown in 1846. He was on his way to take his seat in the U.S. Congress at the time, when he stopped in the area to conduct business with a local attorney.

All of Washington and Lincoln’s visits were before they were elected. James Monroe came to Fayette County while he was president. He stopped long enough to visit the hills above Uniontown and name a spring, “Monroe Spring.”

By the way, Hopwood had been named in Monroe’s honor, until the name Hopwood was adopted.

In 1845, President-elect James Polk made an overnight stop at the National House in Uniontown on his way to his inauguration. According to Hadden, “He was well received.”

I’ve found two visits to Uniontown by William Henry Harrison – the 9th U.S. president.
In March of 1840, a correspondent for the Baltimore Patriot wrote from Brownsville that, “Yesterday was a glorious day for Old Tip in Fayette County.” (The nickname Old Tip was a reference to Harrison’s victory at Tippecanoe in 1811)

The procession started at Brownsville with 200 hundred people, and by the time it reached Uniontown there were 3000 people ready to hear Harrison (who was still a presidential candidate) speak.

The following year, after Harrison was elected, he returned to Fayette County on February 2nd. On that occasion it was one of his final stops on the way to Washington for his inauguration. A cannon blast signaled his arrival, and he rode along Main Street to the Clinton House, where he addressed the assembled throng.

When Harrison was sworn in a month later, he gave the longest inaugural speech in history. He died just 32 days later, after serving the shortest presidential term in history.

In 1849, according to Hadden, President-elect Zachary Taylor followed the same Main Street route as Harrison to the Clinton House in Uniontown. He, too, was on his way to his inauguration in Washington.

Future president John C. Calhoun visited Uniontown while he was still U.S. Secretary of State.

Andrew Jackson was said to have made several stops in Uniontown, and always at his favorite waterhole – Hart’s Tavern. His last visit came in 1837 – after he’d been president.

Also making a trip through Uniontown in 1837 was John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the United States.

The first presidential candidate to campaign against slavery, John C. Fremont, brought his family to Uniontown in 1843. He lost in his bid to win the presidency in 1856 to James Buchanan. Buchanan, by the way, had spent the night at the National House in Uniontown 11 years before he was elected president.

The Uniontown News Standard reported that vice-president elect Adlai Stevenson (the grandfather of the presidential candidate of the 1950’s with the same name) made a stop in Connellsville on his way to Washington in February of 1893.

On November 11th, 1911, the Connellsville Courier reported that President Howard Taft had been in town overnight. He’d arrived on a train at 2:06 A.M. to very little fanfare.
His train pulled out and headed for Morgantown nine minutes later, while the president slept through the entire stop.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt made two visits to Fayette County during the 1910’s. His first visit, in 1914, came on the occasion of his 56th birthday. During that trip, according to the Tyrone (Pa.) Herald, he’d passed through California Brownsville Junction and Connellsville, before he stopped to make a speech in Uniontown.

In 1916, as part of his failed bid to regain the presidency, he spoke in Brownsville and in Uniontown.

The Uniontown Morning Herald reported, in July of 1922, that President Warren Harding was greeted by hundreds of well-wishers at the Summit Hotel. He and his wife were accompanied during the visit by General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. (The man for whom the Pershing tank was named)

Williams Jennings Bryan, a three time candidate for president, visited Fayette County on at least four occasions.

While Sam Rayburn never ran for the presidency, he was the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives when he spoke at the Dawson Driving Park, in 1938. He would later become Speaker of the House, and he would also coin the phrase “Sun Belt.”

While Herbert Hoover was still a candidate for president, he sent his “heartiest greetings” to Fayette County Republicans in a message in 1928.

In 1931, Hoover sent another message. That time it was to extend his praise to those who had rebuilt Ft. Necessity.

But in 1932, there were no messages. Hoover, himself, came to Fayette County. On October 12th, he travelled by way of train and addressed a crowd in Connellsville.

On October 16th 1952, vice presidential hopeful John Sparkman was pictured on the front page of the Uniontown Morning Herald. He’d spoken the previous night before the Fayette County Democratic Central Committee at the Summit Hotel.

Just seven days later, President Harry Truman got front page headlines in the Connellsville Daily Courier. He’d made a “whistle stop” in Connellsville that day, in support of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.

While giving his ten minute speech, according the Courier’s account, he stopped and addressed a 17 year-old Uniontown youth who’d come to heckle the president with a sign that read: H.S.T. (Harry S. Truman) Makes Waste.

Truman obviously wasn’t amused. He told the young man to, “Go home and kiss your mother.”

On August 27th, 1968 the Sitka, Alaska Daily Sentinel ran a picture on its front page of a Fayette County man named Fred Lebder. Ledber was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. He appeared in the picture wearing a papier-mâché hat in the shape of a donkey.

The following day, the lightness of the convention ended, when police waded into crowds that were chanting, “The whole world’s watching.”

Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic presidential nominee that week, but lost in the general election to Richard Nixon.

Four years later, Lebder, the chairman of the Fayette County Democratic Party, appeared on the front page of the Uniontown Morning Herald alongside Humphrey. On April 24th, Humphrey addressed 2,500 people in Uniontown. He was accompanied by the patriarch of television’s Bonanza series – Lorne Greene.

One man was held in as high esteem as most American presidents. He made a stop in Uniontown, the day before one of the most important days of his life. I’ll tell you who and why next week.