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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  November, 2008

Did You Know?
By Al Owens

Did you know that Uniontown’s one time claim of having a large number of millionaire citizens was, for some people across the country, a mere curiosity?

That’s how the Racine (Wisconsin) Weekly Journal looked at it on February 20th, 1903.

In an article comprised of miscellaneous oddities from around the world, it was stated that “Brookline, Mass. is the richest city in America, but Uniontown, Pa., has more millionaires than any other town its size, leaving out health resorts.”

That sort of thing may have been of great importance to Fayette County residents at the time, but the people of Racine read about it in a column titled “Gossip From Here and There.”

Those same readers also learned in that same article such tidbits as “Wisconsin’s most valuable crop is hay.”

Did you know that Racine’s newspaper readers may have gotten a completely different impression of the Uniontown area, if they’d seen the following headline just four years later? COUNTERFIETER’S DEN RAIDED.

That article appeared in Racine’s Daily Journal in August of 1907. It was an item about a group of “foreign” counterfeiters who’d apparently been discovered operating out of their Smithfield headquarters.

It seems the neighborhood had been recently “flooded” with counterfeit coins. The trail led back to five people whose hideout was raided and their molds, as well as “a big quantity of spurious coin (was) found concealed about the place.”

Did you know that personal domestic strife, in case you didn’t already know this, can even inflict the highest officials of government?

That’s what happened to William Andrews Clark in April of 1903.
Clark was a U.S. Senator of Montana. He’d been a wealthy miner, an army officer and had been the president of Montana’s state constitutional convention before getting elected to the U.S. Senate in 1889 - and again in 1901.
In 1903, however, he’d gained widespread negative notoriety when he was sued for breach of marriage. The Honolulu (Hawaii) Gazette reported in April of that year, that despite Clark’s denials, “his name has nevertheless been connected with many women in connection with matrimony.”

None of this may seem to be worthy of a mention in an article that depends heavily on historical events with Fayette County origins – until you consider Sen. Clark was born in Connellsville, Pa. on January 8th, 1839.
Did you know that the grit and determination of a young Uniontown reporter - in the face of unbelievable tragedy - earned him nationwide acclaim?

Oliver William “Billy” Field had aspired to become a news reporter in 1936 when he was a senior at Uniontown High School.

He’d been preparing for his future profession while he was a senior at Uniontown High School. He worked on the school’s Maroon and White news. He also covered “assignments” as a cub reporter for the Uniontown Evening Genius and the Morning Herald newspapers, when he wasn’t busily selling daily copies of them as a newsboy.

In January, young Field’s byline could be found on a story about the end of Christmas vacation for the city’s school children. Field reported the children were feeling “low” after being away from school for 12 days.

But there would undoubtedly be more serious stories Field would cover.

One month later, while checking with firemen on the telephone about a local house fire, he discovered the man inside who had been burned was his father – Earl Field.

According to the account in the February 17th Morning Herald, young Billy hung up the telephone and told his editor – J.S. “Dad” Albright – “I’m going out there now but I’ll be sure to phone you all the details as soon as I can learn them. You can count on me.”

The story continued with Field returning to the newspaper office in a half hour, “with tears streaming down his face and chin trembling, despite brave efforts to keep his self-control, the lad turned over his information for the story.”

The account of the contentious cub reporter accompanied his picture in newspapers around the country.

But the story didn’t end there. A year later, in June of 1937, a new radio station – WMBS - went on the air in Uniontown. Field became the first “news broadcaster” for the fledgling broadcasting outlet as the “Radio Voice of the Herald-Genius.”

Did you know that a Uniontown mayor once fought for the rights of people who wanted to spit on the city’s sidewalks?

As unusual as that may seem, it happened. I’ll unravel that mystery next week.