Saturday, May 30, 2015

Relatives and Ancestors: My Military Uncles 'Curly' and 'Cougie'

   Happy Memorial Day, and Memorial Week ! 

   I would of preferred this post be uploaded by Monday, but there were extenuating circumstances.

 Relatives and Ancestor: Part Three

 Brothers In Arms 

   This is such a meaningful holiday, isn't it?  Yet I recently noticed that perhaps flags are not being as proudly flown as often as they once were. Oddly, I also see less of the traditional cook outs in the backyards than we use to take for granted. I spent a part of this last Monday, as I am sure, and certainly hope, that many of you do, visiting cemeteries and tombs to pay my respects. For my immediate family this would mainly be Green Ridge, north of Connellsville, where my closest relatives are buried. These are somber moments that catch me with a tear or two because they are so dearly missed in life. We took flags and flowers with us, although they were needed, since this military cemetery provides them. A little meditation on who they were, and how much they meant to me is to be expected. This is a normal ritual at their grave sides.


Heroes Of World War Two

     My Military Uncles

  Scott Hoover, known as 'Curly' and Clarence Hoover, nicknamed 'Cougie' as child, were, according to my mother and Aunt Ada and all who personally knew them, very nice, well behaved brothers and young men. Their loving mother, and my grandmother was Ida Mae Hoover; we referred to her in affectionate terms, simply, as 'Nan'. I don't really recall why, except that it's short for Nanny. Her mother was from 'the Old Country', and that meant Germany. 

   The family moved frequently in the early days, after Ida Porch had married John Hoover from Somerset. Standard Shaft, Marguerite, three localities in Kingview, etc. Our Nan, a wonderful, wise and generous grandmother, if ever there was one,  had quite a difficult time of things with the tragedy of the deaths of her precious sons, likewise much the same would be said with their father, John Hoover. A carpenter and a coal miner, rarely seen on the strrets without a suit and tie, he only lived to his early 60's before suffering a heart attack. According to my mother, Sylvia Hoover Wilson, he was one of  kind too, a very caring and indulgent father. And I could continue that tradition, by sincerely stating that I could not of had a more concerned, loving mother, either. Curly and Cougie were the grandsons of Israel Hoover, and a man who was a Civil War veteran and his story of fearlessness has made him a hard case to follow in bravery. They appear to of done exceptionally well and I am very proud of their service and exploits! They gave their all and their lives for their country. We only have one wish, that we would of known them in their brief years upon this earth.

Much of their careers can be gleaned from the accompanying photo with their story, courtesy of The Daily Courier:

   Details of Their Enlistment and Careers

  SCOTT EDWIN HOOVER: He was based out of De Ridder, Louisiana and had graduated as an aerial gunner from Tyndall Field in Florida on November 3, 1942. He was then presented with his silver wings and became a sergeant. Next...   on the 15th, he transferred to the Second Army Air Force School at the armory of Salt Lake City. Upon finishing his studies on December 26 he was promoted to staff sergeant. He then completed work at  a radio school at Birmingham, Alabama by Feb. 1943. His proficiency was as a tail gunner on the B-26 Marauder Bomber. He was on his 58th bombing mission over southern France when he was killed in action on June 25 of 1944. He received the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze and Silver Stars representing six campaigns with a citation of honor. He was 23 years old. He graduated Scottdale High School from the class of 1941. He entered the Army Air Force on August 29, 1942, a fateful day. 

  CLARENCE WILLIAM HOOVER: He left for service on June 28, 1943, desiring to follow his brother in service. He left behind him a wife and baby. He was located at Camp Wheeler, Georgia for four months before going overseas on November 18, 1943, first to North Africa and then to Italy. He was with Company B, 133rd Infantry and was in a brutal assault of Patton's where many were considered fodder and casualties even before the mission, if truth be known. That's how things were often done back in those times. He was killed on January 25 of 1944 at Cassino, Italy by enemy machine gun fire. Previously, he worked hard at the Colonial No. 3 Mine as a coal miner like his father.  They were reported missing in action, Scott on June 24, and Clarence on Jan. 25.

   The photos below are from Arlington Cemetery:


   They were survived by their sisters, Ada and Goldie and Sylvia; she was the youngest of the family, as I am, my mother of blessed memory. Tell me your stories of your favorite relatives with a photo or two, if you wish, I'd be glad to hear from you!

  There is an old saying which claims that God takes those home to Himself who are particularly special, early in life. Maybe this is so.

  May they, and yours, truly rest in ETERNAL PEACE, until the Day when they awaken to a glorious Resurrection in the Lord's new world.




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Searching Smithton, PA


  This post mainly concerns Smithton and its environs. A borough in southern Westmoreland County of the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania in South Huntingdon Township. It is here, close by Rostraver Township and the Fayette border, we find news of the life of the actress Shirley Jones and the tragedy of the Darr Mine Disaster, both of which are highlighted among other historical associations.

 Although Smithton, of the valley of Jacobs Creek Valley, has all the appearance of a 'regular' coal patch town like many others in this area of Southwestern PA, there is a few important exceptions.

 Various places in this region belie the somewhat mediocre first appearances of the obvious, leading us toward many fascinating discoveries for Southwestern Pennsylvania, and perhaps particularly so for the Westmoreland and Fayette county borders which I tend to be more familiar with. Indeed, for one, here Stoney's Beer was rather famously brewed by the Jones Brewing Company until 2002; now out of Latrobe. A site with some cool, detailed stuff on Stoney's is worth checking out for the local beer enthusiasts. The early industry included coke ovens and shipping various products by the Youghiogheny River. It is also home to the Motordrome Speedway on Route 3059.

 The U. S. Census Bureau lists the location as by the turn of the century in 2000 as having 444 persons living here in 188 households, but for 2012 we have 393. This has become a small hamlet, indeed! The Cedarbrook Golf Course is to the west of the river, roughly between Rt. 51 and Rt. 981, but there is so much more to see.

Peer Street, Smithton, Pa. Wikipedia , courtesy of canadian2006

 Shirley Jones

  Perhaps just as noteworthy, is the fact that actress Shirley Jones was born here. She was the grand daughter of 'Stoney' Jones! Her story is very interesting and, if you wouldn't mind I'd like to briefly recap her career.

  Her parents Paul and Marjorie were the owners of the Jones Brewing Co. It was first brought to the area in 1907 from Sutersville. Technically, according to Wikipedia, her birth, March 31, 1934, is claimed by Charleroi before moving to Smithton and she was named for the famous little actress of the 1930's, Shirley Temple! Shirley Jones is a show business star of stage and screen. Early in her career she was justly famous for having the first and the only personal contract as a singer with the successful songwriters Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Her musicals include Oklahoma!, Carousel and The Music Man and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Elmer Gantry in 1960.

  Shirley Jones had turned down the role of Carol Brady played by Florence Henderson for The Brady Bunch television show, instead she played Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family in the early 1970's. She is the real life step mom of actor and singer David Cassidy, the son of actor Jack Cassidy. Shirley has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

courtesy of Flicker and Greg Hernandez

 The Dam and Mines

  Starting in 1875, the Waverly Mines, (No's 1 and 2), and Coke Works near Rt. 891 and on Jacobs Creek Road to the south and to the north of Smithton at Smith's Mills were the main ones in the Smithton region; they were first owned by B. F. Rafferty. The nearby Universalist church was disapproving of the smoke and dirt and they were proved right, as the region was never picturesque again. Later, the church was used by the mine and also was a mule stable. Originally, there were 100 bee-hive ovens here. Further to the south, were the Eurkea and the Darr mines, the last of which experienced a terrible disaster covered in some depth below.

Reduction, Pa and environs, (courtesy of Google Maps)

  Recently, by courtesy of  a helpful colleague, Mr. Jamie Lambing, I have aqcuired some interesting photos acquired of the old furnace area and also of the Smithton Dam on the Youghiogheny river near the hamlet of Reduction, Pa. This sleepy location lies between Routes 31 and 70, which is about a mile and a half south of West Newton and approximately two miles north of Smithton. West to east, it is between Monessen and New Stanton:

remains of the Smithton Dam
The dam is from the 1920's and 1930's


   The photos below were taken between Reduction Circle and the Yough river near the train tracks:



furnace chimney stack

remnants of abandoned buildings



possibly, this is from one of the Waverly Mines.

   Anyone with more information on the dam and buildings at Reduction or Smithton, please contact me, or leave a message on the comment section below this post. It would be greatly appreciated, Thank You! You can follow me on FACEBOOK too at

   Darr Mine Disaster

 The Darr Mine was located just down river on the western side of the Van Meter area of Rostraver township. They experienced the worst mine disaster in Pennsylvania history with the deaths of as many as 239 males in December, 1907.

  Furthermore, this was one of the worst mining disasters ever encountered in the United States. When reopened in 1910 it was renamed as part of the Banning No. 3 mine and most of the remaining coal houses, converted from two-family to single, are from this period. At the time of the disaster, it was then controlled by the Pennsylvania Coal Company. The explosion was primarily caused by mine gas resulting from miners carrying open lamps, as well as lack of timely inspections and poor ventilation which were contributing factors.

Region of the Darr Mine from a 1902 topographical map

  According to the 'Report of the Depart. of Mines of Pennsylvania' of 1907, the deadly explosion occurred on December 19 at 11:30 A. M. and was so great and the blast so horrific, that upon a superficial investigation the inspectors were sure that none of the miners could be rescued.

 Fortunately, many of the foreign-born miners, with a fair percentage that did not live permanently in the United States, were said to be at a nearby celebration of St. Nicholas, although some from the Niaomi Mine near Fayette City were available to fill in. Over half the workers were Americans of German, English, Welsh and Irish nationalities and were generally more well trained and skilled miners. The Naomi Mine itself had an explosion just eighteen days earlier that killed 34 men. Near the location served by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, there was a cable car ferry across the Youghiogheny River to the coal patch town of Jacobs Creek to the north of the mine and later, a swinging bridge.

 The remnants of the Darr Mine are located beside the Yough River Trail on the old rail bed. This is not too far from the Fayette County line and Perry township. The mine was again closed in 1919 and once more reopened around 1950.More detailed information can be found here. Raymond Washlaski also has a Memorial page on his site dedicated to all the known deaths.

Site Marker

 On September 14, 1994 an Historic Site Marker was dedicated at the Olive Branch Cemetery at Smithton, commemorating the tragedy and those that died and the love ones left behind. Almost half of the miners are buried there. It has been rumored over the years that the mine is haunted with voices of Hungarian workers and echoing pick axes! Well, whatever the truth is, God rest there souls!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

'Superficial' Page Views and Original Research

  A Brief Post of Special Interest

  I would like all you smart observers and searchers after substance to know I truly appreciate the page views being received and the 'hits' to "Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History." This is especially so, since my most recent article, "A Scoop on the Old Braddock Road in Westmoreland County." Admittedly, there was a minor drop off in March and part of April which was kind of odd. Not to be too terribly concerned for my own sake, as the statistics meander around, and there are many 'peaks' among the few 'valleys.' Still, it is natural in warranting a healthy flow of traffic which reflects the veritable degree of the daily, weekly and monthly meaning of the blog. The site isn't in the business of cataloging small tidbits of information in a frequent wave of knowledge, so interpreted, but more so, I am delving fairly deep in the mine of history, however regional and tiny some of these places may appear. However superficial it might appear, page hits do matter a lot.

chart courtesy of Google

 This is YOUR HISTORY too, is it not? And you deserve to clearly see the stuff that should be most noteworthy. I love dealing with more modern discoveries when they are available to research. At times, this involves some tricky material and I'm not claiming it is deciphered in the best possible fashion, only that I am bringing it to you on a clean plate with a fresh perspective and for a garnish, with whatever insight can be mustered.

 The reality of this type of website doesn't allow for continuous articles that are necessarily exclusive to the inclusion of completely original research from yours truly. This kind of historical investigation does take much time, energy and some mental elbow grease! I also want to freely reveal, this type of post, for whatever conceivable faults inherent, is, by far, the most encouraging, enjoyable and interesting to participate in; thoroughly engrossing.

 Personally, although this was a post of a small area of the Braddock Road dealt with on a map of the mid-1800's, this proves I must be doing something right in the refreshing perspective shown by visitors in examining my research. You show such good curiosity. Thanks for your confidence as this helps me gauge where I stand. Here's hoping to please with continuing to provide pertinent posts, mostly of lost and abandoned places and locations. Your continued support is impressive and meaningful. I'll be back soon with another post.

  Keep the comments and e-mails coming! Follow me on Facebook HERE.

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