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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  May, 2008

Did You Know?
By Al Owens

…Uniontown’s beauty shops gained national recognition, not for their hairstyles, but for how they figured in the town’s preparedness in the event of an atomic attack?

In November of 1950, according to the Fayetteville, Arkansas Northwest Arkansas Times, Uniontown’s civil defense officials helped the city earn high points (65 percent ready for an atomic attack). One of the reasons why Uniontown gained notoriety was that its beauty shops were prepared to be first-aid centers in the event of an emergency.

Did you know that some of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game were frequent visitors to Fayette County? The Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, teams loaded with baseball Hall of Famers, delighted local crowds from the 1920’s through the 1940’s.

Yet, with those living legends, there were numerous times when Fayette County’s players held their own against them. In September of 1926, for instance, a team from Dunbar defeated the Homestead Grays 4-3.

On any summer day, baseball fans across Fayette County would pack stadiums to get a glimpse of Negro League legends like Buck Leonard, Smokey Joe Williams, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson.

Gibson may have been the biggest crowd favorite of them all. His homerun exploits led some to call him the “colored” Babe Ruth.
That was his billing, despite the fact that Gibson would eventually (and unofficially) hit many more homeruns than Ruth’s 713. I’m wondering if Ruth, then, should have been called the white Josh Gibson?

Of course some of the competition was against teams formed in Isabella, Edenborn, Uniontown, or in Connellsville. But there were times when the Grays and Crawfords played exhibitions against other Negro League teams.
In May of 1942, Josh Gibson hit a homerun against the New York Cubans at South Union stadium that, wrote a writer in the Uniontown Evening Standard, “was the longest blast seen in the Uniontown district in years.”

Yet, perhaps few homeruns ever hit could match the one Gibson hit in Monessen in 1938. The Monessen Daily-Independent reported that Gibson hit one homer that traveled a tape measured 536 feet. (The record books now claim it was 575 feet)

Did you know that while the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays typified a national pastime that had not yet been integrated, the man given credit for integrating baseball once spoke at a dinner in Uniontown?

Branch Rickey, who by then was the general manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the main speaker at a banquet honoring Uniontown’s undefeated, untied football team of 1951. While Rickey had served in the same capacity with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1945, he signed a young black ballplayer named Jackie Robinson to a minor league contract. It was a move that has been considered the breaking of the “color barrier” in baseball.

During his speech in Uniontown, Rickey used words to describe Uniontown’s football team that he could have easily applied to himself – “You made your own destiny.”

Did you know that silver was once found in Fayette County, but it may have been lost to history?

According to the Gettysburg Compiler, in March of 1820, there had been a rather mysterious event that took place just outside of Uniontown many years earlier.

It seems, a young man had happened upon what he thought was silver ore about seven or eight miles of the city.

He took his find to a local blacksmith, who tested it and acknowledged was indeed pure silver.

The Gettysburg article says that the blacksmith and the eager young man worked out a business deal involving the property and the extraction of the silver ore.

The two set out to take a closer look at the new discovery. However, while they were on their way, the young man developed a severe headache, suffered a violent fever and had to be taken to bed. He died within a week.

The blacksmith had no idea exactly where the silver was found, so he didn’t wind up extracting any more silver than you or me.

Did you know that in 1919 a Uniontown doctor made a proposal that gained nationwide interest, even though there was little chance that proposal would ever become a reality.

Did you know that while the recent case of the Austrian who imprisoned his daughter for two decades in his home is a strange story, there was a similar story involving a young Fayette County child in the lat 1930’s?

The Oakland Tribune reported in its February 7th, 1938 edition that Connellsville Justice of the Peace, Fred Munk, was arranging a hearing for the mother and grandfather of a six year-old girl who had been locked in the storage room of a farmhouse for five years.

The Humane Society claimed the imprisonment was a punishment that left the child in tragically ill health.

It was assumed the little girl had been fathered by an elderly neighbor.

However, there was a happy ending to the story. In June of 1939, the same newspaper reported that the child had been nursed back to health, and was living in a good home in Uniontown.

Did you know that a future U.S. Supreme Court just, and a sitting U.S. Attorney General have paid visits to Uniontown? Those things are true, and I’ll tell you about them next week.