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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  December, 2008

Did You Know?

Did you know that 65 people were killed in a tragic Christmas Eve railroad accident near Dawson in 1903?The train, known as the Duquesne Limited, was on its way from Pittsburgh to New York City when it ran into a pile of lumber on the tracks at Laurel Run.

The Emporia (Kansas) Gazette reported that after the collision, the train “plowed along for a considerable distance and the cars were torn to pieces, passengers jumping, screaming, falling from the wreck as it tore along.” Days later, there were reports that several people were arrested after they disguised themselves as “rescuers,” but they’d been caught stealing valuables from dead bodies.

But even more gruesome was the account that ran in the Connellsville Courier on December 29th. Large crowds of people visited the wreckage daily. “Some, in their efforts to get relics of the terrible accident, have carried away human skins that fell from the scalded victims,” it read.

Did you know that another tragic set of circumstances would happen a few years later in Fayette County – and at Christmas time?

The Nevada State Journal carried a dispatch from Uniontown on December 26th, 1918 that read: “More than 50 per cent of the 500 inhabitants of Mount Braddock, near here, were stricken with the Spanish influenza and about 10 per cent died. Entire families were obliterated.”

Did you know that another Christmas tragedy was averted in Uniontown when, as described in the Charleroi Daily Mail on December 26th, 1905, a fire completely destroyed the Exchange Hotel on Main Street?

Nobody was hurt in the fire, which had completely gutted “one of the finest hotels in the county.” But, as the article concluded, “Only a small amount of the furnishings was saved.”

Did you know that students from Uniontown High School once won what was called a tri-state championship? In April of 1936, Uniontown’s debate team beat students comprising 24 teams from Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. The locals, Rafail Rafail, Maurice Lipnick, David Cohen and Lawrence Sheetz travelled to State College for the competition. Cohen and Lawrence had won 35 debates in a row that year.

The Uniontown team would later join Miss Harriet Goldstein of Brownsville High School (she won in the Shakespeare reading competition) in a national high school forensics leagues competition in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Did you know that those Fayette County students were hardly the only students to compete for national high school honors? In 1925, Uniontown’s state championship basketball team, led by eventual National Basketball Hall-of-famer Charles Hyatt, came close to winning a national high school basketball championship in Chicago. That team lost in the fourth round of the tournament.

In July of 1960, Uniontown’s legendary runner Joe Thomas lost in the high school mile competition in Monterey, California by a mere tenth of a second.
It had capped an illustrious career in which Thomas had won; WPIAL mile run championships as a sophomore, junior and senior; WPIAL cross country championships as a junior and senior; WPIAL 880 yard run championships as a junior and senior; a WPIAL championship as a member of the two mile relay team as a senior; PIAA state championships in cross country as a junior and senior; and PIAA mile run championships as a junior and senior. (If your were counting, that was a total of 12 championships won by the current track and field coach at Albert Gallatin High School.) Thomas and that 1925 state championship basketball team had one thing in common - the name Everhart. A.J. Everhart, Sr. coached the basketball team, while his son, A.J. Everhart, Jr. coached Thomas.

Did you know that that old saying, “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” is something that just may bear some thought? On the same editorial page that trumpeted the state championship of the 1925 Uniontown basketball team, I found a rather interesting editorial cartoon in the Uniontown Morning Herald, printed on March 30th of that year.

It depicted a man slumped over at the bottom of a pit. (He represented the United States) The pit was labeled “Financial Hole.” The man had the words “Debtor Nation” printed on his back. He was surrounded by rocks containing the phrases, “Money Scarcity,” “Loss of Credit,” “Uncertain Business Conditions” and “Bankruptcy Dangers.”

Another example that “the more things change” could be found in the Morning Herald on April 18th, 1936. President Franklin Roosevelt seems to have had a pet peeve at the time. He went on record to decry the earmarking that he felt congress would attach to his proposed $1.5 public works bill.

At a recent news conference President-elect Obama discussed a proposed $775 billion dollar stimulus package that he vowed “We are going to ban all earmarks.”

Did you know that a burglar in Uniontown once made national news? It seems his downfall was that he had more than just an appetite for thievery. I’ll have the details next week.