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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  April, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that the so-called “Octomom (Nadya Suleman with her 14 children),” has nothing on a Fayette County women in the 1930’s? According to the Anniston (Ala.) Star on May 15th, 1937, a woman living near Uniontown had already given birth to 19 children – and she was only 38 years-old.

The Star reported, however, that only 13 of the children were still alive.

Did you know that the phrase “with friends like these who needs enemies,” couldn’t have been more appropriate when it came to three people named Friend in 1957?

The November 20th edition of the Panama City (Fla.) Herald reported that year that a hunting trip in Oakland, Md. that involved a Uniontown man had ended with several men with the same last name – Friend – on two sides of the law.

A charge of illegal possession of wildlife was leveled against Carlos Woodrow Friend. The Game Warden who brought the charge was Leo G. Friend. The Magistrate who heard the case was Earl C. Friend. None of the men, the paper noted, were related.

Did you know that a Uniontown man gained national attention for the mere act of getting his drivers license? The Kingsport (Tenn.) Times saw the obvious news value in telling the story of Charles W. Johnson and his license to drive an automobile.

In April of 1935, Johnson had returned to the United States after living in Cuba for 15 years. In order to drive a car, he discovered he needed to have a license. He’d actually been the very first person in Fayette to have owned a car. He’d also been one of the earliest drivers and proprietors at Uniontown Speedway.

The Times reported he passed his drivers test.

Did you know that while the most powerful bankers in America are certainly having their travails, there is certainly a long history of that sort of thing? Fayette County’s most prosperous coal baron and financier, Joshua V. Thompson, had once accumulated an estimated wealth of over $70 million.

However, after having undergone a number of personal and legal snares, he is said to have died penniless. In fact, the Hagerstown (Md.) Daily Mail reported in February of 1934, that appraisers for the county court disclosed that only two items could be listed as his personal property – a washing machine worth $15 and an electric “ironer” worth $35.

Did you know that another symbol of American wealth was nearly brought to justice by a Uniontown native? Andrew Mellon, who had served as the Secretary of the Treasury Department under three U.S. presidents and as the ambassador to Great Britain, was the subject of a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh for tax evasion in 1934.

The Frederick (Md.) News reported in its May 7th, edition that there was a claim Mellon hadn’t been forthright in filing his taxes in 1931. The foreman of the grand jury was William B. Beeson, a Uniontown bank clerk.

No indictment against Mellon was filed.

Did you know that in 1933, a Fayette County couple had engaged in a rather public conflict worthy of some national attention? On November 18th, the Hagerstown Daily Mail reported that Ewing and Margaret (Ma) Swaney of Georges Township had run against each other for tax collector.

Ma Swaney (the Democrat) beat Ewing (a Republican) in that race. The Daily Mail added that Mr. Swaney’s loss meant he’d supply the fixings for a celebratory ox roast. “Two oxen and himself to be roasted,” the article concluded.

Did you know that for a time, Fayette County had established itself as something of a murder capital? It was in the 1880’s that some newspapers began noting the rather high number of murders that had taken place in the county.

The Trenton (N.J.) Times noted on October 19th the murder rate with an article and a headline that read, “A County with an Unenviable Record.” It seems the night before, the Tasker brothers had engaged in a shooting in Haydentown. On their way home, one of the brothers threw a rock threw through the window of a home.

The man inside reached for his shotgun and fired, killing one of the Tasker brothers. He then headed for Uniontown to turn himself in. The newspaper noted it was the sixth homicide in the county within a month.

Yet, did you know were a pair of killings that took place a few years earlier that would become the most famous in the county’s history – and even more breathtaking than the 1930’s Monaghan case? Beginning in late 1882, there were a series of events that took place in Uniontown that left two men dead, that led to two murder trials and two acquittals, two families to nearly disintegrate, contained sexual innuendo, unrequited love, political intrigue, mob scenes, cheering crowds and near daily sensational headlines across the country.

Next week, I will fill this space with a retelling of the murders of Capt. Nutt and N.L. Dukes and their aftermath.