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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  November, 2008

Did You Know
By Al Owens

Did you know that a Uniontown mayor, in 1908, launched a campaign to allow spitting on the city’s sidewalks?
According to the November 23rd, 1908 edition of the Racine (Wisconsin) Daily Journal, the town council had passed an ordinance that made it a misdemeanor to “expectorate” on the sidewalk.

The mayor at the time, Robert D. Warman balked. He claimed he’d veto the ordinance if it was sent to him. And if the veto was overridden, he’d never prosecute the offenders who were sent before him. “If they want to spit they can do it as they like and where they like,” Warman said.
Did you know the sheer joy of researching and writing these columns is in discovering otherwise insignificant events that, when examined more closely, do possess real significance?

Pardon that convolution. Here are three examples about which I just wrote.

I’d written previously about the visit to Uniontown by President-elect William Henry Harrison in February of 1841. He’d been heading to his inauguration, by way of Brownsville, where he was met by old soldiers “who spared no effort to pay him a visit,” wrote the Adams Sentinel of Gettysburg, Pa.

Yet, I’ve discovered that Harrison had encountered another Fayette County resident many years earlier, and that meeting may have even helped him become president.

In the April 13th, 1840 edition of the same newspaper, I found a lengthy letter that had been reprinted from the Uniontown Democrat.

It chronicled the struggles of an orphan who, many years earlier, had to leave his log cabin in Fayette County, and go west so that he could provide food and shelter for his younger brother and sister.

The letter writer recalled in great detail the young man’s arduous efforts to find and purchase land in Indiana where he could sustain his family.

Along his way, he encountered a horseman who took note of the fact the young lad had been hobbled by the rough trip. When the horseman inquired about where he was going, he told him he was heading to Vincennes – which was the location of the land office.

“I am also bound for Vincennes,” the horseman replied. “Here, mount my horse and ride him hither. I am much more able to walk than you in your disabled situation,” he added.

When they arrived at Vincennes, the letter claims, the horseman, who was quite familiar with the area, advised the young man about a worthy tract of land. However, the young man didn’t have enough money to buy it.

“A friend in need is a friend indeed,” the horseman is said to have told him. “You shall not be disappointed. It gives me pleasure to assist the orphan and destitute,” he concluded.

Of course, if you haven’t already figured out the end of the story, that horseman was William Henry Harrison, who, at the time the letter was published, was running for the presidency.

The letter ended with the words, “This is the man whom the ‘people’ are about to call to preside over the destinies of this great Republic. Is he not worthy of it?”
This may seem to have been a tall tale, until you consider the fact the letter was signed – ORPHAN.

Yet, there is another clue about the authenticity of the letter. Harrison’s biography indicates he’d actually lived in Vincennes, Indiana at about the time that incident is said to have taken place.

Did you know that a Uniontown man may have found a relic of the French and Indian war – without ever taking note of it?

In May of 1878, a Menallen Township man was cutting down trees for the purpose of making shingles out of them. He discovered that a lead bullet was embedded in the tree’s bark.

According to the May 2nd edition of the Indiana (Pa.) Democrat, he showed a Uniontown man, J.V. Thompson (a cashier at First National Bank and the future coal, coke and bank baron) his find.

Thompson used a magnifying glass to count the number of rings to determine the tree’s age, and therefore the year the bullet had been embedded in the tree.

He figured the tree was 166 years old. He also determined it had been 124 years since the bullet had impacted the tree. That article didn’t do the math, but 124 years before it was written was 1754.

Our history books tell us that was the year a 22 year-old Lieutenant named George Washington built Fort Necessity. There’s a chance that bullet may have been fired for purposes other than target practice.

Did you know that baseball was being played in Fayette County as early as 1871?
The Indiana (Pa.) Progress gave the account of a game of “base ball” in its March 8th, 1871 edition that in Uniontown the “Fly Dodgers” nine lost to the “Hefties” by a score of 50 to 40.

History tells us that that was the same year the very first all professional baseball league, the NAPBBP, was formed.

Did you know that thousands and thousands of pounds of Fayette County chestnuts were once quite a profitable crop?

I’ll provide the nutty details next week.