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Presenting a mixed bag of unrelated but interesting items

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By John Oyler
Thursday, April 4, 2013, 1:30 p.m.
 

This week's column is a collection of unrelated items that deserve mention, even though we don't have enough information to devote an entire column to each of them.

Karen (Rosati) Ross emailed us with a question about Billy McCooch. Her mother once told her about a guy by that name who “lived in the woods of Bridgeville off McLaughlin Run Road.” Karen suggested we see what we could find out about him and then write about it.

I have heard of Billy McCooch for most of my life but never was sure it was a real person, or merely one more “Baldwin Street urban legend.” I brought up this topic at one of our recent “octogenarian brunches” and got a lot of information from Sam Capozzoli and Don Toney.

Sam reported that Mr. McCooch originally had a house on the Cook's Hill hillside close to the intersection of McLaughlin Run Road and Bower Hill Road. He was an unlicensed purveyor of beer and moonshine whiskey. At some point, a disgruntled customer, or supplier, or competitor delivered a bundle of dynamite sticks to McCooch's house, precipitating an explosion that destroyed it.

Fortunately McCooch survived this disaster and moved his operation farther up McLaughlin Run.

His new location was on the side of Fryer's Hill close to the border between Bridgeville and Upper St. Clair Township. It was described as a small frame house that extended into a cave in the hillside. We are told he stored his beverages in the cave, to keep them cold as well as to shield them from future dynamite attacks.

Don sent me a photograph of a concrete block shed that appears to extend into an opening in the hillside; he reports that is all that is left of Mr. McCooch's operation. Don remembers him regularly driving down Baldwin Street in a Cadillac, being careful not to run over any of the teenage boys playing touch football in the street, for fear of injuring future customers.

That's about all we know about Billy McCooch. We will welcome any additional information any reader can contribute.

Similarly, Kathy MacGregor wrote to us after reading about the Beadling coal mine in one of our columns, with a request for information about the Heidelberg mine where her great-grandfather, Frank Mountain, worked. I consulted fellow Octogenarian Bruncher Lou Kwasniewski regarding this question; Lou is our resident expert on everything related to Heidelberg.

A few hours later he called me. After consulting with George Milchachek and Joe Zimbicki, he determined that there was one mine opening on Collier Street, “behind the Oasis, near Hogan's Way” and another one, with a tipple, on Grant Street. He later learned that the tipple, used to load coal into trucks, was located at 619 Grant St., a property currently owned by his sister-in-law Bessie Kwasniewski, the widow of Lou's brother Alex.

I tried to research this mine on the Internet and determined that the mine probably was opened by the Consolidated Gas Coal Co. in 1878 and passed through several other owners — National Coal Company, Pittsburg Coal Company, and finally National Mining Company — before finally closing down. It is described as being “located on the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway, Noblestown, Loupurex, Allegheny Co. PA.”

Loupurex was the name of the post office established in what is now Heidelberg in 1903, during the heyday of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Chicago. I also am in touch with the local Office of Surface Mining, hoping to acquire a map of the Heidelberg mine. Again, any additional information from readers regarding this subject will be welcome.

We feel obligated to put in a short plug for the Bridgeville Public Library's upcoming fundraising event, “Taste of the Town.” If you have been looking for an easy way to support the library, this one is perfect. For a donation of $50, you can treat yourself to an evening of gourmet dining and entertainment at “the event of the season” in Bridgeville. The date is April 13, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Hall.

A dozen restaurants will be providing examples of their best cuisine while the diners are being entertained by the Savoy Truffles. Devotees of the Beatles and their music will realize that the band's name is a clue to their dedication to the music of the 1960s. In addition, a number of impressive items will be the subject of a Chinese auction. Included are a Texas Star design handmade quilt and an autographed picture of Troy Polamalu (something for every taste). Tickets are available at the library and at the door.

John Oyler, a columnist for Trib Total Media, can be reached at 412-343-1652 or joylerpa@comcast.net.

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