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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  June, 2008

Did You Know?
By Al Owens

…Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, the commander of the USS Enterprise, was given a three day “salute” at California State College (now University) in the fall of 1976?

According to the Uniontown Evening Standard’s James Pletcher, the event culminated with an appearance by William Shatner on November 23rd. Shatner showed a film and then gave a lecture on the wonders of space.

A 50 dollar prize was given to the person wearing the best Star Trek costume.

The following month, F. Lee Bailey, who’d gained fame for defending millionaire heiress Patty Hearst, and even more fame for being part of O.J. Simpson’s “Dream Team,” gave a lecture at Cal. State.

Did you know that in April of 1934, four people were hurt when four homes were bombed and shots were fired as a result of continuing violence in coal fields in Fayette County?

The Modesto, California Bee reported that local mining officials in Uniontown claimed the violence stemmed from the aftermath of a partial strike. Some miners who’d allegedly engaged in violence in previous strikes were not being rehired – and that had led to the violence in 1934.

Did you know that a hotel owner in Uniontown had made a bit of national news in the 1920’s by banning dancing in his establishment?

According to the Oxnard (California) Daily Courier of November 18th, 1921, a hotelier in Uniontown had banned dancing in his summer resort (the specific hotel wasn’t mentioned) because he felt dancing would attract “vampires and bootleggers.”

Did you know that Uniontown played a role in a milestone in the history of professional boxing – if only a tiny one?

In November of 1884, a report appeared in the Butte, Montana Daily Miner that indicated a challenge for a boxing match between middleweight Dominick McCaffrey of Pittsburgh and John L. Sullivan.

The challenge had been sent by way of a telegram from Uniontown – from McCaffrey’s manager to Sullivan’s manager.

That fight did eventually take place. In early 1885, Sullivan defeated McCaffrey in Cincinnati, Ohio in six rounds. The result itself wasn’t historic.
But it was considered the first prize fight held under the famed Marquis of Queensberry rules.

Did you know that at one time executions were fairly commonplace in Fayette County?

But none, perhaps, were as noteworthy as the one that took place in April of 1913.

The execution of the convicted murderer, John “Buffalo” Harris, was the 12th in county history.

Harris’ execution made obvious front page news in Uniontown, but the circumstances surrounding it earned it national coverage.

According to Uniontown’s Daily News Standard, Harris faced “remarkable fearlessness of death” as he approached the hangman’s noose.

(For the record, my great-grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Ford, had been one of the four preachers who had spent time with Harris before he walked to the gallows that day)

He had been among the few spectators who had witnessed what the New Castle (Pennsylvania) Daily News called “One of the most gruesome executions that Western Pennsylvania ever saw.”

The rope was placed around Harris’ neck. When the scaffold was sprung, according to The Evening Post of Frederick, Maryland, “the rope was about three feet too long.”

Instead of Harris dangling at the end of that rope, he fell to his knees. When the sheriff discovered the rope had been too long, they rushed into action.

The Evening Tribune of Albert Lea, Minnesota reported that the sheriff and his deputies dragged Harris up by the rope, until his feet cleared the floor. He then dangled in mid-air, where he “struggled and twisted” for another 18 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

Did you know that Fayette County has certainly had finer national moments than those over the years? Lot’s of them.
Consider how the people of Anniston, Alabama felt about our county when they opened their newspapers on November 24th, 1961 – and they discovered two young men from Fayette County had made the 1961 All American College Football team.
New Salem’s Ernie Davis and Uniontown’s Sandy Stephens were pictured side-by-side in the artist’s depiction of the team.

But people across the country had no way of knowing that Davis and Stephens had already been part of another All Star team nine years earlier.

On June 11th, 1952 they played before an estimated 2,500 fans at Baily Park in the first ever Midget League All-Star game.

They were both representing Benson’s Midget League team.

NOTE: Early screenings of the upcoming movie about Ernie Davis - “Express” have already been shown. The opening frames of the movie carry the caption: UNIONTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA