Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

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viz., on Friday moniiiiL' ; li

close you a ten-dollar note c
date 1 March, 1815.

■ the Farmers' Bank

' !■ >■ II '■^•iild get an
than this. I now in-
of Reading, No. 2392,

the United States was perpetrated in the year 1840
in the borough of Uniontown by a notorious quack
physician of the place, Dr. John F. Brad dee.

This Braddee was said to have been a native of the
central part of Kentuckj', and to have been in his
youth employed as a stable-boy in Paris, in that State.
Later (about 1830) he accompanied this employer, or
some other horse-dealer as assistant in a trip from
Kentucky with a large number of horses for sale in
an Eastern market. The horses were driven along
what was known as the Northwestern turnpike in
Virginia, and at some point on this road between the
Ohio River and Morgantown, Braddee being suddenly
taken sick was necessarily left behind. Upon his re-
covery, finding himself nearly or quite penniless, he
continued his journey on foot to Morgantown, whence
after a short stay he proceeded to Uniontown, Pa.,
where he made a permanent location, and where not
long afterwards, through the operation of circum-
stances which are now unknown, he announced him-
self a physician and commenced a practice in which,
though uneducated and wholly without training or
knowledge in the line of his pretended profession, he
achieved very remarkable success pecuniarily, if not

He vpas a man of commanding personal appearance
and fine address ; and these qualities, joined with al-
most unparalleled effrontery and consummate tact,
enabled him in a very short time to establish himself
in the confidence of the people, and to gain a wider
popularity as a physician than has ever been enjoyed
by any medical practitioner in the county of Fayette.
Patients flocked to him in great numbers; the fees
which he received amounted in the aggregate to a
large revenue, and placed him apparently on a short
and easy road to wealth.

After a few years of his exceedingly profitable
practice he purchased from the Hon. Thomas Irwin
the valuable " National Hotel" property, on the cor-
ner of Fayette and Morgantown Streets. Upon the
property at the time of the purchase, stood a good-
sized brick building, on the southern side. To this
he added a wing extending northwardly, and in this
wing established his professional headquarters. Here
his success continued unabated. It is related that
patients came to him from a distance of nearly one
hundred miles, and that their horses to the number
of more than fifty were seen hitched at one time in
the vicinity of his office. He was himself the owner
of several blooded race-horses, which he kept in con-
stant training for the course, and on which he won
and lost large sums of money, after the manner of
many Kentuckians as well as Pennsylvanians at the
present day. Whether in the of the Na-
tional Hotel property and the erection of the north
wing to the building he had in view from the first
the project of mail robbery or not is not known, but
it is certain that the place was admirably adapted to
the purpose which he soon set about systematically


to accomplish. The old Natioiml road was then in
full tide of business, as many as thirty stage-coaches
passing over it each way through Uniontowu daily,
and some of them carrying the United States mail.
Lucius W. Stockton was the mail contractor, and he
had a stage-yard and coach-factory in the rear of and
adjoining Dr. Braddee's rooms in the north wing of
the National Hotel. Into this yard, stages carrying
the mails were driven every day.

One of the drivers of the mail-coaches was William
Gorman, and this man was selected by Braddee as j
the principal tool to be used in the nefarious business ]
he had in view. He first cultivated Gorman's ac-
quaintance and secured his confidence, then finally
boldly announced his object. He told his dupe that
the robbery of the mails could be easily and safely
accomplished, and that it would yield very large
profits, which they would divide between them, with-
out the least fear of detection. Gorman, allured by
Braddee's wily representations and the prospect of
rich plunder, finally assented to the proposition. The
plan of robbery which they adopted and afterwards
carried into efl'ect was for Gorman to pass one of the
most promising-looking mail-pouches from the yard
into Braddee's rooms, or when changing the pouches
from one coach to another in Stockton's yard to leave
one pouch behind in the coach, to be taken out and
rifled by Braddee, then to be buried or destroyed.
The way in which they carried out the plan is more
fully shown in Gorman's affidavit, taken after his
arrest, as given below. Braddee had, besides Gor-
man, two other accomplices, though whether he took
them into his confidence from the first or not till
some time afterwards, does not appear. They were
Peter M. Strayer, a saddler of Uniontown, and
"Dr." William Purnell, a native of Gulpeper, Va.,
and a sort of body-servant to Braddee.

The depredations on the mail commenced about
Jan. 25, 1840, and continued at intervals through the
year. The losses of the mails were soon discovered,
and George Plitt and Dr. Howard Kennedy, special
agents of the Post-Oflice Department, were detailed to
detect the robbers and bring them to justice. Finally
the robberies from the 14th of November to the 19th
of December, 1840, were traced to Gorman, who was
then arrested on Plitt's information, as follows:

Upon his arrest, Gorman at once divulged the
names of his confederates, and Braddee, Strayer, and
Purnell were immediately arrested. Gorman's affi-
davit in the matter was as follows :

"The United States of America /■«. .Julin F. Braddee, William
" William Gorman, being duly sworn, snys that more than one
year ago John F. Braddee repeatedly urged him to let him, the
said Braddee, have some of the mail bags from the mail coach,
and that he would divide the money taken from them with said
Corman. Said Braddee said he had frequently known such
things done, and that lots of money had thus been made, and it
had never been detected. While said Corman was driving the
mail coach between Smithfleld and Uniontown last winter the
said Braddee sent Peter Mills Strayer frequently in a sleigh
after him to get a mail-hag containing a mail ; that at length
he said Strayer took one from the coach, which was then on
runners, while he the said Corman was watering at Snyder's,
east of the Laurel Hill. That Braddee afterwards told him
that there wtis nothing in it. That he knows of no other mail
being taken until within about two months past, when he the
said Corman was driving between Uniontown and Washington,
and when, at the instance and after repeated and urgent requests
of said Braddee, he commenced leaving a mail pouch or bag in
the st.Tge coach when the coaches were changed at Uniontown,
and continued to do so at intervals of (say) a week, ten days, or
two weeks until within a week or ten days before Christmas.
That the said mail bags were taken from the coach by said Brad-
dee or by some one under his direction. Thiit Braddee after the
taking of said mails would sometimes say there was nothing in
them, and again that others had but little money in them ; one
he said had but fifteen dollars. The last but one gotten, as be-
fore stated, he said had a large amount of money in it, but he
was going to keep it secretly, bury it until the fuss was over.
That said Braddee said he had a secret place out of doors where
he could hide the mail bags so that they could not be found.
That said Braddee from time to time gave him three dollars or
five dollars as he asked for it, and once ten dollars, and loaned
him forty dollars when his (Corman's) wife was going away.
That William Purnell several times after a mail bag had been
taken would take him said Corman aside and whisper to him
that the bag had nothing in it. That on the day before yester-
day he was several times at said Braddee's house, and Braddee
wished him to leave a mail bag in the coach for him when he
said Corm,an should return from Washington last night. That
said Braddee very often wished him to leave a mail bag when
he did not. That he, Braddee, requested him to leave the large
mail bag in the couch for him, but he never did do it.

" William Corma.n.

8th day of January, A.:

"George Plitt, agent of the P. 0. Department, being duly
sworn, says that the United States mail from Wheeling, Va., to :
New York, traveling on the National Road, has been stolen, to j
■wit: The mails made up at Wheeling on the 13th, 19th, 23d
and 29th of November, 1S40, and on the 5th, 12th, and 18th of
December, 1 840, and that he has reason to suspect, an d does sus- |
pect and believe, that William Corman, who on those days drove I
the Mail stage containing said Mail from Washington to Union-
town, Pa., is guilty with others of stealing said mails.

" Oico. Plitt, Ayt. P. 0. Depi.

"Sworn and subscribed this 6th day of January, A.D. 1841, '
before me. N. Ewing,

" /Vf»(. Jitihi,: \UI, .Jndldctl D!«t., Pr,:'

" Pre.t. .Tadfje of the \M, Jud. Di.t., Pa."

Braddee, Strayer, and Purnell were immediately
arrested by George Meason, sheriff of Fayette Gounty,
and their examination was had before Judge Na-
thaniel Ewing on the 8th day of January, 1841.
The following extract from the record appears to
show that Braddee, notwithstanding his high pre-
tensions and remarkable professional success, was so
completely deficient in education as to be unable to
write his own name, viz. :


of Uni^

Jolin F. Braiklee, of the borough
\% I'a.. taken before me, N. Ewing,

Whereupon the Hon. Thomas Irwin, United States
District Judge of the Western District of Pennsylva-
nia, ordered the prisoners into custod}' of the jailer of
Allegheny County as follows :

' United States of America, We


at Wlu-
1S40, a

' Take

ade u,,


id subscribed before me.

•■X. EwiN(;,
■' Prea. Jiidr/e lilli JmlUlat Uislrict „/ I'eiiim.
".Jam>aky8, 1841."

The disposition made of the prisoners on their pre-
liminary examination by Judge Ewing is shown by
the extracts given below from the minutes of the
court, viz. :

"The United States of America, Fayette County, Penn-

hc United S;t;

; of America i-.s-. John F. Eraddee, .January

s. I-H. O.derrd Ih.t .T,d,„ F. nrMddceenle.intnsecurityhim-

>, I! II, lllly lli"n.:ii|.l d"lliir.-, and livn M;irhi,.nt sureties in
.-J,,.ini ,.:,i,.: I'll.niM,- ,,.|m:iimI,mI nntll M-liday. the 11th

"The.-iini.'. .!■■.. M ^ . , i , - ^-■. i ; li . I i 1. Ordered
that Pet.T Mill- -!■ . - ^ ■ . : 111 sl5,000,

and two sutlicRiil -i.iliil.- iii cT,""' L.iLii. I'ii-jii._r remanded
until Monday, the lUh instant, at 1(1 o'clock, to aflord time to

"The same i«. William Purnell, January S, 1841. Ordered
that William Purnell enter into security himself in $10,000,
and two sufficient sureties in 85(100 each. Prisoner remanded
as above, etc.

"January 11, 1841, Monday, 10 o'clock a.m. Prisoner or-
dered belnre the Judge. Prisoners say they are not provided
with bail, and ask further time, until say three o'clock p.m.
Three o'clock P.M., no bail being offered, the defendants are
committed to the custody of the Marshal of the AVestern Dis-
trict of Pennsylvania.

" X. EwiNc;,
" Pres. Judin: 14th J. D. Pa."

.\gent Howard Kennedy we
[iroper amount of bail to be i
late amount of Braddee's la
./mber, IS40) :

"Tlie l.-liui.nv .1

0. II. .V. . ., K

President of tlir

da.vof Jaiiiiaiy, l.-n,
of John F. r.iii.M-. 1'

Dr. H.iu.ii.l K.nii-lv

"-'■■•■'■ ■

l.,.,n, II, .1 1 V 1

deposelh aii.l ..oili 'I
bags stole,,, XV lo,l,«oi

'■■'■! '"■ ''"'"


The whole wonl.l, I an

satisfied, amon,

lars. I saw the nionej

alleged to have

y. Bradd™. The amc

mt thus found

1 1

and ninety-eight dolla

sand sixty cents

,f c

probably about fifty tli

ousand dollars.




'• Taken and subscri

ed before me,




Trest. JihI



'■ The United .States of America to the Marshal of the West-
ern District of Pennsylvania and his Deputies, to any constable
of the County of Allegheny, and to the Jailer of said County
of Allegheny, Greeting.

" WnEREAS, John F. Braddee, William Purnell, and Peter
Mills Strayer are now brought before me, the Hon. Thomas Ir-
win, Esquire, Judge of the District Court of the United States
for the Western District of Pennsylvania, charged, on the oath
of CJcorge Plitt, William Corman, and others, with stealing the
Inilid .States mail made up at Wheeling on the 13th, 19th, 23d,
and 20ih days of November, A.D. 1840, and on the 6th, 12th,
and I Ml, days .d" December, 1840. These are therefore to com-
mand you the said Marshal, Constable, or Jailer, or either of
you, to convey the said John F. Braddee, William Purnell, and
Peter Mills Strayer to the said jailer of Allegheny county, and
yi.u ilii' said jailer are hereby commanded to receive and keep
-ilily II,,. -ai,| John F. Braddee, William Purnell, and Peter
Mill- -na\,i in your jail until they thence be discharged by
,liii. . ,111 -I ,,1 law ; for so doing this shall be your ivarrant.

'■ In testimony whereof the said Hon. Thomas Irwin, Esq., has
hereunto set his hand and seal this 13th day of January, a.d.



' j,o/yt, r. s:

Braddee was indicted by " the Grand Inquest of the
United States of America, inquiring for the Western
District of Pennsylvania," and his trial proceeded at
the May sessions (l.'^41) of the United States Circuit
Court at Pittsburtrh, Corman and Strayer becoming
witnesses for thr iiiivtrnimnt ; and on the 4th day of
June followino- the jtiry ninlered a verdict of guilty
on the first, scrouil, and fourth counts of the indict-
ment, and iiol -uiliy on the third count. Exceptions
were tak, n ami a motion made for a new trial by the
prisoners niiin.^cl. .bilin 31. Austin, Esq., but these,
as also a motion lin- poslpoiicment of sentence, were
overruled, and on the 7tli of June the court pro-
nounced on Braddee the sentence

1 of .lany., 1841.
. I' ; .iilinent, in
I. ..Iu-,- Ewing

f letters mailed at dates which
in the bags stolen, containing
id '-lo'clvs, amounting to one
^^aI.N; tliat every mail brings

lat ha

Wbeeling to New York.

„„„„„„ „,,.,.,„„,

"Sj,ecMA,ici,l r. O.Dept.


otli January, li<41.

■• T. Inwix, Ilithi.t Jiirfje."



"That you be imprisoned in the Western Penitentiary of
Pennsylvania, at liard labor, for and during the term of ten
years, and in all respects be subject to the same discipline and
treatment as convicts sentenced by the Courts of the State, and
that you pay the costs of this prosecution and stand committed
until this sentence be complied with. And while so confined
therein you shall be exclusively under the constraint of the offi-
cers having charge of said Penitentiary."

In accordance with this sentence, Braddee was im-
prisoned in the penitentiary, and died there after hav-
ing served out nearly the full term for which he was
incarcerated. Gorman and Purnell were pardoned
by the President. Purnell lived many years after-
wards, and is still well remembered by citizens of
Fayette and adjoining counties as a dilapidated trav-
eling peddler of Dr. Braddee's medicines.


The Fayette Gazette and Union Advertiser, an ultra- I
Federalist journal, printed in Uniontown, was the
first paper ever published in Fayette County. The
editors and proprietors were Jacob Stewart and 1
Mowry ; the office was in a building near where the ]
court-house in Uniontown now stands, and the paper .
was a four-column folio, lOJ, by I62 in size. But
a very few copies of this literary curiosity are now
in existence. The earliest, No. 33, Vol. II. (whole 1
number 85), is dated Friday, Aug. 23, 1799, which
shows the first paper to have been issued Dec. 5, '
1797. A copy of Sept. 4, 1799, contains an order 1
granted by the commissioners of the county to Messrs.
Stewart & Mowry, publishers, for one hundred and j
fifty dollars for publishing the list of unseated lands
in Fayette County. Another copy of Sept. 14, 1803,
contains a commissioners' order for one hundred and
four dollars and twenty cents, issued to them for pub-
lishing the unseated lands for the years 1800, 1801,
and 1802. The OnzMe and Advertiser oi Sa,n.2'i,\m'i,
contained an account of the receipts and expenses of
the county for 1803. This account was published four I
times in the month of February following, and the '
bill, which was thirty-nine dollars, was paid March |
8, 1804. Soon after this Stewart & Mowry sold the
office and business to other parties, and the paper was
merged with The Oenius of Liberty. \

The Genius of Liberty, which absorbed the Gazette j
and Advertiser, has experienced more changes in edi-
torial and business management than any other paper ^
ever published in Fayette County. It was the second
paper established in the county, was published in
Uniontown, and was first issued as The Genius of Lib-
erty and Fayette Adrertiser, Feb. 22, 1805, bearing for
its motto those words of Governor McKean, " The
charms of novelty should not be permitted so to fas-
cinate as to give to mere innovation the semblance of
reform." The founders of The Genius of Liberty were
Allen & Springer, who issued it in a four-column folio,
eleven by seventeen inches in size. It must have been
cut down later, as a copy of the paper dated Dec. 3,

1806, was only a three-column folio, eight by twelve
inches, but the next year, 1807, it was again published
iu the original size. The office of the paper was in a
building that stood upon the lot now occupied by the
residence of John Harah. From the hands of Allen
& Springer the paper passed to the proprietorship of
Jesse Beeson, on May 5, 1812. It was issued by him
every Tuesday, having as its motto, —

" Here shall the press the people's rights proclaim.
With truth its guide, the public good its aim."

The paper continued under this management for
some years, and the next record of a change was in
1818, when it was published by John Bouvier and
John M. Austin, in an office next door above the
court-house. At this time we find it issued under a
partially new name, and in a new series. It was then
called The Genius of Liberty and American Telegraph,
and the earliest copy in preservation bears date Aug.
29, 1818, No. 21, Vol. I. This shows the first issue
under the new departure to have been on April 13,
1818. The name American Telegraph was dropped
the following year, and the paper was again known
as The Genius of Liberty. The political opinions of
the two publishers being at variance, Bouvier used one
side of the paper to sustain his views as a Federalist,
while Austin proclaimed his Democratic principles
upon the other side. In this manner they continued the
publication of the paper until July, 1821, when they
sold the entire business to Thomas Pattoii, who pub-
lished the paper in a five-column folio, twenty by
forty-two inches in size, until 1824.

In the ensuing five or six years frequent changes
occurred in the management of this journal. In the
year 1825 the old files show Jackman & Brown to have
been proprietors, and the American Observer was a
part of the name. Again, Vol. I., No. 40, of a new
series (Vol. IX., old series), bearing date Feb. 4, 1829,
Whitton & Eedick were editors and publishers. And
on Feb. 10, 1830, the size of the paper was changed
to that of a five-column folio, fifteen by twenty-one
inches, and the name Fayette and Greene Advertiser was
added to the previous one. In August, 1831, William
H. Whitton was sole proprietor and publisher. In
the fall of that same year Alonzo L. Littell became a
half-owner of the paper, Thomas Patton purchasing
the other half. This partnership lasted but a few
months, however, Littell buying Patton's share, which
he held until 1838, when Justin B. Morris, a brother-
in-law, became his partner. In 1831, at the time of
Littell's purchase, the material and conveniences for
publishing a paper were of the most primitive and
crude kind. The office was in the corner of a carpen-
ter-shop on the back street up Bank Alley, the place
affording only the most meagre accommodations. The
type was worn out, and the printing was done on
an old Eamage press. The ink was stamped upon
the forms with two black balls, made of tanned sheep-
skin, and with these appliances a good pressman
could throw olf three sheets, twenty-eight inches



square, in two minutes. Tliis slow metliod did not
suit Mr. Littell, and lie at once began to make im-
provements. He moved all the office fixtures to the
new brick block built by Ephraim Douglass on the
public square, and afterwards to that built by John
D.iwson. He purchased new presses, type, and other
necessary printing mati'i-ial in ('incinnati, ( )liio, and
soon had the business in a prosin rou^ and nourishing
condition. He continued in connection with the paper
until the year 1840, having, some time between March,
1836, and March, 1837, absorbed a paper called TJie
Democratic Shield. The latter name was dropped in
October, 1839. In April, l.s4n, .T.,lin W. Irons pur-
chased the paper aud licld it until IMii, wln'ii he sold
it to John W. Shugart. The last-named proprietor
only kept it a year or two, when John W. Irons re-
purchased and retained it until his <leath, which oc-
curred in 18-50 from cholera. John W. Skiles, a son-
in-law of Mr. Irons, then conducted it for a short
time, when it was sold to R. T. Galloway, now of Con-
nellsville. About two months after this change an-
other took place, Armstrong Hadden and Col. T. B.
Searight being the purchasers. Hadden & Searight
controlled and published the paper until April 15, 1852,
when Hadden retired and George W. K. Minor be-
came associated with Searight. On Jan. 6, 1853,
Minor assumed entire control, which he continued
until Dee. 28, 1854, when he sold to John Bierer. This
disposal of the property was followed by another, in
February. Is'iU, ulien Col. Searight became a second
time tin- pri>|a-iit(ir, and soon associated with him C.
E. Boyle. Tliis partnership was severed in the fall
of 1860, Col. Searight retiring. In February, 1861,
Boyle sold to Col. E. G. Roddy. He in turn, in Feb-
ruary, 1863, made arrangements to sell to R. B.
Brown, of Brownsville, who was to bei;in ;i new >erie-
with his publication of the paper. Mr. r.n.wn isMied

one number,
then fheliiis
by whom it '
1867. Mr. 1
then assume
was soon pui

Feb. 19, 1S6,S, V,

■ Mr. I
th, Ji:

'.ovle, administrator of the Roddy estate,
■il ilie management of the paper; but it
relni-ed by Frederick Rock and James F.
The last-named gentleman was soon suc-
ceeded by A. M. Gibson, who also bought Rock's
share, and who remained in possession until April,
1871, when W. A. McDowell and George W. Litman
purchased the property, and in 1875 sold to Albert
Marshall a third interest.

The Genius of Liberty has been nearly all of the
time, from first to last, an exponent of Democratic
principles, and is still published by McDowell, Lit-
man it Marshall, at their office on Broadway, Union-

Tlie FaijiHe ami Greene Spectator, established by
William Campbell, was published in Uniontown, and
the first issue of the paper appeared Jan. 1, 1811.
The only copy known to be in existence belongs to
Mr. Frank Stephens, and is No. 2, Vol. Ul., dated

Thursday, Jan. 7, 1813. It is a four-column folio,
twelve by eighteen inches in size. The first page
contains news from London, England, New York,
and Philadelphia, and the leading editorial is upon
the invasion of Canada, the article occupying two
and one-half columns space. In local matters are
two wedding notices, one announcing the marriage of
Mr. George Adams, of Virginia, to Anna Maria,
eldest daughter of Presley Carr Lane, Esq., and the
second, the marriage of Mr. William Campbell, the
former editor of the Spectator, to Miss Priscilla Por-
ter, daughter of John Porter, of Washington town-
ship, Fayette Co. There is also a notice of the death

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 68 of 193)