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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  August, 2008

Did You Know?
By Al Owens

Did you know there was once a Fayette County man who was the living embodiment of “The Little Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe?”

The Frederick (Maryland) Daily News reported in its December 8th, 1886 edition that Ubeziah Slaton of the southwest corner of Fayette County had been married twice. He’d fathered 18 children during his one marriage and another 12 during his the other.

The prolific Mr. Slaton had a hard time remembering his children by their names. The Daily News reported that he declined to engage in bets from people who dared him to name his 30 children.

Did you know that 45 years earlier, the Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, Pa.) reported that another Fayette County had a much more serious, in fact, deadly dilemma?
On August 16th, 1841, the Adams Sentinel reported that David Berg of Bullskin Township was having a bit of fun with his friends on a fishing excursion, when he decided he’d swallow a small sunfish.

The sunfish got caught in his throat and he died in ten minutes.

Did you know that there have been four presidents who were elected, despite the fact that they lost the popular vote?
The most recent, of course, was George W. Bush, who’d received 543,816 fewer votes than Al Gore in 2000.

The first time that occurred, when John Quincy Adams won the presidency, without securing the most votes, took place in 1824. Well, that has a bit of a Fayette County connection.

It seems that the now famous “corrupt bargain” was recounted by the loser in that election, Andrew Jackson, in a barroom in Brownsville.

That supposed bargain was reported on extensively in the Torch Light and Public Advertiser (Hagerstown, Maryland) on January 31st, 1828.

It seems, during the presidential election of 1824, Jackson had a plurality of the popular and electoral votes. But he still didn’t have sufficient numbers of either to be declared the winner.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Henry Clay, who was also a candidate, threw his enormous support behind Adams. Adams would later appoint Clay U.S. Secretary of State.

Jackson was apparently furious about the way he lost the election, so in 1828, when he visited a barroom in Brownsville, he told several people about the unseemly deal. Several people recalled the conversations they had with Jackson about it.

However, the following year, in February, Jackson returned to Fayette County with a decidedly different set of interests. He’d just been elected president. He stopped over in Uniontown for a “sumptuous dinner” before heading on to Washington.

Did you know that first lady Eleanor Roosevelt paid a visit to Fayette County in 1937? She was taking a close look at the experimental community known as Penn-Craft – one of the earliest “faith-based” (Quaker sponsored) efforts during the Great Depression.

She’d spent Saturday night square dancing, and Sunday morning in church in Morgantown, before her and her party were driven to the Penn-Craft community near Republic.

Roosevelt was accompanied by tobacco heiress Doris Duke Cromwell, who was called the “world’s richest girl.”
But she may not have endeared herself to many of the out of work miners and their families when she arrived in Fayette County, wearing, according to the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, “a mink coat, a gay red scarf with a red feather in her hat.” She also scolded a photographer for taking so many pictures of her and the party.

However, Roosevelt and Cromwell benefitted from the diligence of the community members. Their White House vehicle got stuck in the Penn-Craft mud. So, “12 of the miner-homesteaders pushed it out.”

Did you know that the groundbreaking motion picture “The Great Train Robbery” opened in Connellsville in December of 1903?

Did you know that particular movie opening was a very special one, because the movie was photographed and directed by Connellsville native, Edward S. Porter? (He’d later go into Hollywood history books as Edwin)

Porter was a very young man when he made news in the Connellsville Courier on May 15th, 1891. He and his friend Charles H. Balsey had gotten letters to patent something called an “Electric Current Regulator” for use in electric lights. It was that technological zeal that led Porter to eventually get into the movie business.

14 years after Porter would release “The Great Train Robbery” which would virtually revolutionize motion pictures as an art form. But Porter never forgot his roots.

In the “Local and Personal” section of the Connellsville Daily Courier, dated August 22nd, 1905, Porter (or Betty as his friends called him) returned for a hometown visit.

Did you know that in 1886 a Connellsville man was one of many, many people who applied for patents on a device that science and technology continue to claim is not possible?

That’s true, and I’ll tell you about it next week.