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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  June, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know that while banks and trains across the country were the targets of choice of the nation’s bandits, in Uniontown, Pa. (at least for a time) downtown businesses were their prey?

From the November 30th, 1923 edition of the Uniontown Daily News Standard: “WRIGHT-METZLER ROBBERY WAS THE MOST DARING PIECE OF ROBBERY IN THE CITY’S HISTORY”

It seems a group of thieves broke into the store between 7:30 and 10:00 on Thursday morning, and they made off eight “traveling bags” full of the store’s money – leaving only $1,000 in cash.

The spectacular robbery sparked an equally spectacular account. “Never before in the history of Uniontown has a ‘mob’ so brilliantly executed a stroke as did the professionals who raided the big store building in the daylight hours of Thanksgiving morning,” the report said.

The store’s watchman encountered the robbers who were carrying “two large guns.” He told police that the men ordered him upstairs, while they took bolts of goods from the shelves.

Less than a month later, after a series of similar robberies in the region, it was reported that the gang’s ringleader had been arrested in Marietta, Ohio.
A representative of the local Wright-Metzler store had, according to the Daily News Standard on December 24th, returned to Uniontown with two suitcases full of the stolen goods from his store.

The 28 year-old man, who was safely in federal custody in Toledo, had been apprehended when he went to see his “girl” in Marietta – the story claimed.
Yet only a week after the arrest of one of the culprits in the Wright-Metzler store robbery, burglars broke into the Cohen furniture store at Broadway and Peter Street, and they made off with $2,400. On December 31st, the Daily News Standard reported that local authorities thought the burglary was either
an ‘inside job,’ “or the work of some clever and efficient professionals.”

The folks at Cohen’s, fortunately, were prepared. They’d been put on the alert by the Wright-Metzler robbery, so they’d bought burglar insurance. I don’t know if Edsel Ford had any such insurance coverage. Less than six months after the two Uniontown thieveries, in June of 1924, the son of automobile maker Henry Ford (and the man for whom the ill-fated automobile – the Edsel – was named) was the victim of cat burglars who climbed the porch of his Detroit, Mich. home and made off with $100,000 worth of jewelry.

What would that have to do with Fayette County, Pa.?

Well, Edsel Ford had just enjoyed some Fayette County hospitality at the Summit Hotel, a little over a week earlier.
He’d spent the night at the Summit before driving through Uniontown. While at the hotel (then known as “The Place Where the Sky Begins”) he was also met by a Penn-State motion picture man who captured his visit on film. So, while the local folks were delighting about his local visit, by viewing a film about it that was shown on the screen at the State Theatre in downtown Uniontown, Ford was at home in Mich. recovering from a terrible crime.
Did you know that another notable actually made three stops at the Summit Hotel?

As I’ve mentioned before President Warren G. Harding and his wife stayed there twice during the summer of 1922. But I failed to mention that after his death, his wife – Mrs. Florence Kling Harding - returned to the Summit on her way east, in July of 1923. She would die four months later.

Did you know that in December of 1923, a rather unusual mistake took place in Connellsville?

They buried the wrong man. On December 10th, the Daily News Standard reported that an aviator from Omaha, Neb. had been mistakenly buried in a cemetery in Connellsville, instead of a Connellsville native. The aviator had been shot down in Germany during WWI. The Connellsville native, Private Walter Heltmark, had really been buried in France. A three year investigation by the (verbosely named) Cemeterial Division of the Quartermaster’s Corps of the War Department discovered the mistake.
The parents of the Connellsville man opted not to have his remains returned, while the aviator’s next of kin had his body exhumed and returned to Nebraska.

Did you know that in Fayette County, back in September of 1923, some people took the notion of a “speedy trial” quite seriously? According to the Uniontown Morning Herald of Sept. 20th that year, a Lemont man was shot and killed; an investigation was “thoroughly” conducted; a coroner’s jury was convened and it rendered its verdict – all within 15 hours.“Yesterday established a new Fayette County record for speedy disposition of a case,” the article said.

The victim was shot at 2:30 in the morning. The coroner’s verdict was rendered by later afternoon. The suspect, however, was still at-large.

Did you know in the days following D-Day, a local event rivaled it for news coverage?

That’s true. I’ll explain next week.