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.
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.
For those of you like old advertisements, there are plenty of them worked into the Local Brevities. (Albeit with a sort of haphazardness that seems strange to a modern reader . . . A serious notice regarding a local death might be immediately followed by an ad for painter’s brushes — as seen in this very edition!) Most of the ads are along this line:
“If you want to get a good fitting suit of clothing, or anything in the Gent’s Furnishing Goods line, call on Henry Lape & Son, northwest corner of Broadway and Main streets, Uniontown.”
“When in need of anything in the way of drugs, books, paints, oils, glass, putty, wallpaper, window shades, white lead, or anything belonging to the trade at low prices, call Moser & Ritenour’s.”
“Doc. Stewart will be in town during next week at the Spotsylvania House. Good bye toothache, if he keeps on at the rate of twenty-two teeth in a minute and forty-two seconds, all week.”
That’s a tooth about every five seconds, folks. Dr. Stewart’s services were advertised three different times on this page. Maybe he really was “peerless for correctness and quickness in the extraction of teeth,” as the Standard claimed.
For more general bits of history, look no further than the Local Brevities’ commentary on less personal developments in Fayette County. Some of the comments are critical:
“A large placard has been put up on the south side of the old Beeson mill . . . containing a dozen or more advertisements. It is headed ‘Uniontown’s Most Enterprising Business Houses,’ but unhappily the very first advertisement is one for the ‘Smith House,’ Connellsville . . . The card is very well executed, and if not for this blunder in the artist, would reflect great credit upon him.”
“There are getting to be a large number of English sparrows in this county, and they are not very acceptable visitors, either, for the reason that they drive away other birds more valuable.”
Some are informational:
“If the names, companies, regiments, etc., of soldiers whose remains are interred in any private cemetery are forwarded to the Commissioner of National Cemeteries at Washington, headstones will be furnished for them by the Government.”
“It took thirty-seven days for our Legislature to get one bill to the Governor, and that a local bill.”
While others just take pleasure in jagging Connellsville:
“Eggs are quoted in Connellsville papers at twenty-five cents a dozen, war prices, while our hens are laying them peaceably at fifteen cents.”
In sum, the Local Brevities acted as a catch-all for news and commentary that didn’t warrant a full article. The section gives you a taste of the writers’ wit and shows you what was on the county’s mind at a particular time. Stop by the PA Room to have a look!