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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  June, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know there’ve always been Fayette County stories that may have raised eyebrows locally, but nationally they provided newspaper readers with a lot of head scratching because of their curious nature? The following are what I call “head scratchers.”

For instance, the readers of the Lincoln (Neb.) Daily News opened their newspapers on Sept. 22nd, 1913 to discover that a Uniontown priest had been put in jail for biting off part of a woman’s thumb.

He’d apparently been caught in an intra-church squabble and he was “attacked and stripped of his vestments” before he took matters into, well, his own mouth.

The woman’s husband was also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

On April 8th, 1886, the people of Humeston, Iowa may have had cause to scratch their heads when they read the following news item in their town’s newspaper – The New Era. “The pastor of a church in Uniontown, Pa. has been requested to resign because he rode on a bicycle,” it said.

If you offer your hand in marriage, but you get rejected, I’d suggest you not take the same actions of a former Fayette County auditor and “well-known citizen” in 1891.

On March 12th of that year, the Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier chronicled the deadly mischief caused by a Uniontown man who’d failed to get a woman of “North Salem” to join him at the altar. He poisoned 30 of her sheep and cows.

According to the account of the rather drastic retaliatory measure, “She refused, and he made threats she would be sorry. The poisoning followed.” This next item is what I’d call a “triple head scratcher” – and for good reason. It appeared under the headline, “A Puzzle To Doctors” in the Newark (Oh.) Daily Advocate on July 18th, 1896.

It seems that Dr. John Riesinger of Uniontown had lost the use of his muscles and had become a “helpless invalid.”

He then attempted suicide when he “fired two bullets through his brain at the most vital point, inflicting a wound that always has produced instant death.”

The next sentence in the article was a “head scratcher.” “He’s still living, possessed of complete mental activity; talked to the doctors while they probed and dressed the wound and eats heartily,” it said.

Yet, you’d have to wonder how a supposed invalid with the loss of his muscles could even attempt such a feat. And what’s more, how could a man who shot himself in the head, still have the state of mind to pull the trigger a second time?

Those questions, perhaps, were never answered. The doctors attending him seemed more concerned about his prognosis for the future. According to the article, “The doctors think he may live indefinitely in this condition.”

In 1956, the readers of the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal learned about another Uniontown doctor, but for his outstanding accomplishments.

On August 1st of that year, a Journal writer advanced the notion that the oldest practicing doctor in the United States, was Uniontown’s Dr. John Sturgeon.

According to the article, Dr. Sturgeon was “102 and still going strong.” That in itself was something of a milestone. But if you add the fact that Dr. Sturgeon had “ushered over 4000 infants into the world,” I’d call that a real “head scratcher.”

Then there’s the strange case of William Ralph Wilson of Uniontown. He’d been inducted in the U.S. Army in May of 1918. Shortly after that he went off to fight in WWI, where he was critically injured in Sept. of that year. He was officially listed as dead in the wartime casualty lists.

According to the July 15th, 1920 edition of the Uniontown Morning Herald, he had, in fact, survived in the battle – and had spent a year in an Army hospital.

He was still listed as a casualty of war when he returned, and on July 14th he was driving his car and it was hit by a train. In effect, (at least in the eyes of the U.S. Army) Wilson had died twice.

There are many reasons why parents give their children certain names. They can be named after their aunts, uncles, grandparents and even famous people held in high esteem. But I found this “head scratcher” on the society page of the Albuquerque Journal for January 18th, 1940: “WHAT’S IN A NAME?” – Uniontown, Pa. (AP) “At the height of a windstorm that lashed this area last Sunday, a daughter was born to N.H. Mrs. McMillan. Naming the child was easy – Wendie Dae.
Did you know that a famous military leader (not Gen. George C. Marshall), became a national hero in another part of the world – hailed from Uniontown?

There had been, however, a dispute about him ever “setting foot” in Uniontown – because it was thought he was born in Holland.

I’ll try to unravel the mystery next week.