This Week In History: Drink to Your Health

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As this blog has been sadly neglected for a while, it seems fitting that I run a week behind with this post. So, you’re actually reading “Last Week in History.” Sorry for that.

Many thanks to PA Room volunteer Paul Davis for digging up these articles!

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The last month of 1922 was a rough one for Fayette County’s taverns. Though the National Prohibition Act (or “Volstead law”) was put in place nearly three years earlier, local speakeasies still offered a setting for “many Saturday night frolics and joyous pleasure parties,” as an article in the Daily News Standard called them. That came to an end for a few saloons on December 2, 1922, when court action forced them to close.

Two of the restaurants mentioned in the article, the Savoy and Columbo, appear in the 1921 city directory as Italian spaghetti houses. The Savoy was located at 38 S. Beeson Avenue, near the present day offices of the Herald-Standard, while the Columbo resided a block away at 32 E. Church Street.

Both were shut down after some police work by a State Trooper named Edward J. Koehn, who described his infiltration of the saloons in court.

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Savoy’s entry in the yellow pages of the 1921 city directory.

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This Week In History: Halloween Across a Decade

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Halloween has come and gone — my favorite holiday by far! Yesterday I sat at the PA Room’s desk, dressed in full pirate regalia and eager to scare any kids who wandered too far from the confines of the Children’s Library. (Actually, I had candy for them. But they still seemed to be afraid of me.)

It was a quiet day, so I delved into the microfilm to learn about how Halloween was celebrated by locals in the past. The following article appeared in the Daily News Standard on October 31, 1898 and described a particularly disruptive Mischief Night:

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Daily News Standard, October 31, 1898.

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This Week In History: The Monaghan Affair, 1936

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It’s a little remarkable to me that, being a connoisseur of all things dark and spooky, I’d never read about Frank Monaghan until I began working here. Yes, I’d heard the man’s name mentioned in passing — typically in connection with courthouse tours. But my real introduction to his case only came after I began exploring our Rare Book Room.

The “RBR” is the temperature and humidity controlled space where we store fragile or one-of-a-kind artifacts. It’s like a treasure chest, except instead of gold and diamonds we have dusty old ledgers and newspapers from the early 1800s. (Still treasures, in my book!)

On one of the shelves, I spotted these:

Monaghan Scrapbooks

These three scrapbooks chronicle the story of Frank Monaghan, a Uniontown hotelier was beaten to death by police. As noted by Richard Ball in his foreword to Screams in the Courthouse Basement, Monaghan was both “a man of notoriously shady reputation” and “a man of substance with a well-connected family.” One of his sons was a business owner in Washington, D.C.; the other was a history professor at Yale. They had the funds and the influence to ensure that the case would not get buried, but would instead gain national notoriety.

It all started on September 11th, 1936 — a particularly dark evening, lit by only a sliver of moon — when officers noticed a black Pierce Arrow weaving erratically on Old Route 119 and decided to pull the driver over.

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This Week In History: The McClelland House Fire, 1914

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This segment features a news item from Fayette County’s past. This week we examine a story from the March 23, 1914 edition of the Daily News Standard.

This weekend marked one hundred years since the burning of McClelland House, a hotel that once stood on West Main Street in Uniontown. If you’re local, you may have noticed coverage of the anniversary in the Herald-Standard and even on area news stations — particularly with regard to a volunteer firefighter named Voight LaClair.

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McClelland House’s listing as it appears in the 1913-1914 Uniontown and Connellsville directory.

It was around 9:20 A.M. when the fire was first noticed by two clerks in a store adjacent to the McClelland House.  The front room of the shop filled with smoke so quickly that they didn’t dare to retrieve their coats or pocketbooks; instead, Myra Lewellen and Edna Bowlen rushed outside to call for help. They assumed that the fire had started in the hotel’s kitchen, which shared a wall with the five and dime store where they worked. The blaze quickly grew out of control:

“With a fierceness and intensity that defied all efforts toward checking them, the flames . . . spread with alarming rapidity, great volumes of smoke poured out the doors, windows and crevices of the buildings and the onward march of the grim destroyer struck terror in the hearts of everyone.”

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This Week In History: Local Brevities, 1879

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This segment features a news item from Fayette County’s past. This week we examine the March 6, 1879 edition of the American Standard.

One interesting feature of our early newspapers are the sections devoted to minor happenings around the county. In the American Standard these blurbs take up an entire page, but their organization — or lack thereof — isn’t particularly researcher-friendly. One notice flows into the next, and apart from the paragraph breaks, there are no headlines and few font changes to guide the eye. If you’re patient enough, however, the Local Brevities can make for a fascinating (and often funny) read.

Local Brevities For those interested in family history, this section might yield great genealogical information. Apart from listing death notices, the blurbs often discuss the travel and health of Fayette County residents:

“Will J. McConnell has gone into West Virginia with his temperance crusade.”

“Albert Hollingsworth, a brakeman on the South West Railway, had one of his arms mashed a few days ago, while coupling cars at Scottdale. The injured member has since been amputated.”

While the notices in this 1879 edition are all run together, some papers separated them by locale. Smithfield might have its own column, for instance, as could Dunbar or Fairchance. Even if your ancestor is never mentioned, I encourage you to read these sections to learn about the place where they lived and the people they called neighbors.

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