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'Ducking Day' an early Easter ritual

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By Robert B. Van Atta

Published: Sunday, March 26, 2006

One of the more unique historical notes on Easter in this area was the traditional ritual at Ernest, an Indiana County mining town. "Ducking Day" was held there on the Monday and Tuesday after Easter, when men and women on alternate days attempted to douse each other with pails of water.

The name Easter was rather common among the pioneer residents in Henry Clay Township, Fayette County. But it was quite rare elsewhere in Southwestern Pennsylvania as old histories and rosters of Allegheny, Armstrong, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties confirm.

One appropriately named minister led the congregation of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Dunbar Township, Fayette County, in the 1850s: the Rev. G.W. Easter. He later became pastor of the Sewickley, Allegheny County, Episcopal Church.

Unity's geology

In 1844 a geological discovery in Unity Township overturned many accepted theories on the earliest date at which "air-breathing" animals existed.

Alfred L. King, who came to Pleasant Unity from Philadelphia in 1838 to practice medicine, had seen a county newspaper that said that village was in great need of a physician. A man with a scientific mind, he was very interested in geology.

King discovered fossil remains that had distinct animal footprints in a strata, which finally led him to deduce that earlier theories were wrong. The president of London's Royal Geological Society came over from England to the Unity Township quarries, where the find was made, and in 1846 confirmed Dr. King's conclusion much to the surprise of local cynics who decried the significance of the discovery.

Your coat, please

Col. Isaac Meason, prominent pioneer landowner, was able to mix a joke with business in the early days of Fayette County.

James Rankin, one of the first settlers in the Franklin Township area, once wished to buy land from the colonel and met Meason at Mt. Braddock to tour the property in question. In route, Rankin commented, "Colonel, I am amazed to find a man owning as much land as you do will content himself with such a desperately ragged overcoat."

When they were about to close the deal, Col. Meason suddenly stopped just before signing, and said, "I don't know about signing this deed after all. I believe I have sold you the land too cheap, and upon reflection, conclude that I will sign the deed only upon the condition that you give me your overcoat, which I see is a new and excellent one, in exchange for mine, which, as you observed yesterday, is old and ragged."

Trapped, Rankin turned over the coat to the great pleasure of Meason, who considered it an excellent joke.

Cook Township mill

Weaver Mill owes its name to William Weaver, a millwright who came from Somerset County to Cook Township in 1812 and bought a mill there. In 1828, his son, William, purchased the mill from his father and continued the milling business throughout most of the 19th century. There is no record of a post office for the village along Hanna Creek.

Early station

Iron Bridge in Fayette County was an early station on the Mt. Pleasant and Broadford Railroad in Upper Tyrone Township, along Jacobs Creek. The name came from a bridge across that stream, and the village actually was on both sides of the stream. A key power and trolley substation was situated there for many years. There was no post office there.

 

 
 


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