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Category:  General History
Published:  December, 2007

Abe Lincoln, A Fayette County Fan!
By Al Owens

I’ve always looked at my visits to libraries with a bit of trepidation. Not because I wasn’t fond of the experience, but because I always go there looking for one thing, and I end up finding dozens of facts not related to the purpose for which I went there in the first place.

Once, while sifting through rolls of microfilm at The Uniontown Public Library, I came across an interesting front page article that finally settled something that I’d heard most of my life, but never quite believed. It was early 1900’s newspaper article that proclaimed that Uniontown, Pennsylvania had more millionaires per capita than any city in the country….! I was elated, because I’d found the very newspaper article that confirmed all of those boastful old-timers who used to make that claim. But for one thing! That sentence went on to read “…except for Colorado Springs, Colorado”.

Oh Well! At least we were number two. I’d gone to the library that week to try to find the first ever football game played by Uniontown High School. I found that too. October 31st, 1903. Uniontown played Scottdale, but neither team scored a point! They played that game at Baily Park, in the city with nearly the most millionaires per capita than any city in country!

If you look around in libraries and on the internet you can find out all kinds of things about Fayette County. Once the Uniontown High School basketball team, for instance, got its picture in the Chicago Daily News. That’s because they’d played in the National High School Basketball Championship in Chicago at the end of the 1925 season.
Uniontown had just won the State Championship in Pennsylvania and in those days teams from across the country would play for a national championship. Unfortunately, our team lost to a team from Wichita, Kansas. But that didn’t stop our team’s picture from finding its way into the Library of Congress!

The Library of Congress has a web site (http://loc.gov) with some fascinating local information. Like the telegraph I found that was sent to Uniontown’s General George C. Marshall, from a Colonel that announced the surrender of the Japanese at the end of World War II. It’s not just the text of the telegram, but the entire thing! It even has General Marshall’s handwritten correction of the spelling of General Dwight Eisenhower’s name.

There’s another letter written by Marshall on that web site that was sent as a thank you note to Orville Wright for sending him an autographed copy of his book, “The Wright Brothers”.

If you scour Ebay, you can find a number of football cards featuring Uniontown’s Chuck Muncie and Stu Lantz, and Connellsville’s Jim Braxton when they were all professional athletes. I happened to get a pack of Muncie’s cards as a birthday present. I cherish them.
I’ve found Connellsville’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lujack on the cover of three Sport (that was its name) Magazines. He also graced the cover of Life Magazine once. All of those covers can be found on the internet if you do a little searching. A search for Time Magazines covers, can produce four with Uniontown’s George C. Marshall on them.

Uniontown’s Chuck Muncie got three Sports Illustrated covers, while Uniontown’s high jumping phenomenon Terence Jackson got his picture and a little story devoted to him while he was in high school.

If you check out Sports Illustrated online, (http://si.com), you just may able to find one of their recent features that gave honors to two Uniontown natives. It’s the one that hails the greatest jersey numbers in college football history. Uniontown’s Ernie Davis’ number 44 and Sandy Stephens’ number 15 both got mentioned!

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln wrote and received several letters involving Fayette County? Lincoln’s handwritten letters are on the Library of Congress web site. He once wrote his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, about a Uniontown resident he was hoping to get a cabinet position. “Permit me to suggest a far better man than Mr. Cameron for a cabinet office -- James Veach Esquire of Uniontown Pa. a good Republican in the prime of life.”

Mrs. Lincoln probably didn’t like the choice. I can’t find that name among her husband’s cabinet members.

In April of 1861, Lincoln later tried to get another Uniontown resident another job. Here’s the text that handwritten effort:
“Ethelbert P. Oliphant, of Uniontown, Pa. is an old acquaintance of mine; and I wish, if I can make it reasonably convenient to give him a place. He prefers a Judgeship in Nebraska, but I am to try to find something for him, either in the Departments here, or elsewhere—“.

That elsewhere became The Territory of Washington, (before it was known as the State of Washington) where he became a Supreme Court justice.

Abe Lincoln, was not only honest, he knew a few good Uniontown natives!