Did You Know?
By Al Owens
…One of the most celebrated Americans in the nation’s history, once made a stop
in Fayette County?
Charles A. Lindberg, America’s most famous aviator, made a “perfect landing” at
what was then called Floyd Bennett field on old Connellsville Road, on September
Lindberg’s Fayette County refueling stop took place seven years after he’d been
the first solo pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
But he was still gaining worldwide attention – no matter where he flew.
The Oakland, California Tribune even wrote about Lindberg’s Fayette County stop
(as well as his other stops) as part of his flight from Los Angeles to New York
The following day, the Uniontown Morning Herald had extensive coverage of the 15
minute milestone – right down to the license plate on the plane Lindberg flew –
He was wearing “a white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck, brown shoes and white
According to W.R. Beckwith, the meticulous reporter that day, Lindberg’s wife
Anne Morrow Lindberg, who was accompanying him on the trip wore, “a blue
traveling suit, high laced oxfords, a white waist and carried a blue turban
which she did not wear.”
There was a good reason why minute details of the visit, like Lindberg’s license
plate number, and even the serial number on five dollar bill for which he bought
fuel (A-003288) was written about, but there were no direct quotes from
Lindberg. He had more important things on his mind.
It turns out that he and his wife were going to New York to the grand jury of
Bruno Richard Hauptmann who had been arrested in the kidnapping death of their
baby that would eventually become the first “Trial of the Century.”
In fact, the day following Lindberg’s stop in Fayette County, he testified at
Hauptmann’s grand jury, and Hauptmann was then indicted.
Even Lindberg would have been impressed by the aeronautical skill of Dr.
Wolfgang Klemperer of Akron, Ohio on October 7th, 1929. Klemperer flew his
glider aloft for the 25 miles from Dunbar’s Camp in Fayette County, to
Prittstown in Westmoreland County – while setting American glider records along
Klemperer managed to keep his glider in the air for an hour which shattered the
previous American record by 44 minutes.
The July 5th, 1940 edition of the Uniontown Morning Herald reported that Jimmy
Wilburn of Los Angeles had set a new world record during the previous day’s auto
races at the Uniontown Speedway. 12,000 people had shown up to see Wilburn break
The Uniontown Evening Standard reported in February of 1953, that Tommy Simon of
Uniontown and Bill Haywood of Shoaf had broken the world duckpin endurance
record at Miers Bowling Center.
Newspapers around the country picked up the story. The San Mateo, California
Times reported that Simon and Haywood had bowled continuously for 60 hours and
eight minutes – and for a total of 322 games.
Some Fayette County records, gain national attention, but they’re hardly
anything about which to brag.
On August 30th, 1944 the Long Beach, California Independent informed its readers
that Fayette County, Pennsylvania had recently set a county record for the
number of divorces obtained. During July of that year, 31 married couples got
unmarried, and that had exceeded the all time high.
Records, so they say, are meant to be broken. But, there are some records that
simply CAN’T be broken.
Consider the case of Uniontown’s Mary Wiles. On June 17th, 1901 an Oakland,
California newspaper was so impressed with her, that it reported that Wiles had
never missed a single day of school, had never been late, nor had she ever been
reprimanded during her 18 years in the Uniontown school system.
Another distant newspaper was equally impressed with Uniontown’s Eliza
Burchfield, in early 1908. The Kennebec, Maine Daily Journal reported on March
6th of that year, that the 96 year-old Burchfield was the oldest person living
in the United States – born on February 29th.
The Daily Journal reported that Burchfield had been born in 1812, and she was
also of good “Scotch-Irish” stock. It also mentioned that her great-grandmother
was a cousin of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Eliza Burchfield had gained national attention while in her 90’s. Another
Uniontown woman gained hers at a much younger age. She staged her own funeral.
The Modesto News Herald of Modesto, California reported on its front page on
June 29th, 1933 that a Uniontown business woman, Pearl Keighley, was inviting
her friends and relatives to her funeral – while she was alive.
According to the inventive and very much alive Keighley, “If my friends are
really my friends, I would like to know it while I’m alive.”
Did you know that one man helped gather 100,000 people to Uniontown for
something that had never been done before? It happened, and I’ll tell you about
that next week.