The third annual outing of the merchants of New Castle was held on 26th August 1931 at Cascade park. Twenty-five thousand people attended the event, though there was heavy rain all day, from the races and athletics competitions in the morning to the prize waltzing contest at night.
For a reason that no one could determine, the mood of the young men of New Castle was particularly rowdy. The distribution of free hot dogs at noon and in the early evening was hampered by crowds of youths who rushed the stands and made off with most of what was on offer, and the afternoon’s pie-eating contest was abandoned when six hundred young men stormed the table, with the result that all forty-five pies were either consumed or trampled into the mud in a matter of minutes.
There was no great disapproval. It was the last large picnic of the year and high spirits were perhaps to be expected.
Around the time the final prize of the day—a brand new automobile—was being awarded in Cascade park, Warren Dewyer and five of his friends were breaking into the garage of Lilian Keder, on East Washington street, and stealing her sedan. They were all good boys, straight out of high school—two of them, Otto and Vilho Maki, were sons of the minister of the Finnish Lutheran church—and none had any previous record of misbehaviour. The theft of a car was quite uncharacteristic. High spirits were no doubt involved.
They left New Castle, heading west. After four hours and two hundred miles, they reached Columbus, Ohio, where their escapade ended in an accident that destroyed the car but left them unharmed. The next day, New Castle detectives arrived to take them back home. Their parents were either unable or unwilling to meet the $1,000 bail, so they were kept in jail for two weeks until their trial, when they were given five-year suspended sentences and ordered to pay Lilian Keder $47 each to cover the cost of the car. It was mid-September; the end of summer and the beginning of their adult lives.
Warren got a job in Johnson Bronze, which he never left. He was married at the age of twenty-two and divorced two years later, his wife claiming cruel and barbarous treatment. He played a lot of softball and basketball for the company’s teams in New Castle’s industrial leagues. In 1950, he was arrested and fined a small amount for driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated; the crime for which his mug shot was taken.
Warren’s second wife, Mary Valentine was a star player on the Johnson Bronze bowling team. They were married in 1959 and Warren joined the team soon after, competing until he retired in 1978. He died in 1988, at the age of seventy-five.Sources: New Castle News (27 Aug 1931, “Estimate 25,000 Throng Park For Merchants Picnic”; 28 Aug 1931, “Six Held In Columbus Auto Theft”; 31 Aug 1931, “Youths Jailed On Larceny Charge”; 14 Sep 1931, “Two Given Terms To Penitentiary”; 5 Nov 1937, “On Court House Hill”; 3 May 1938, “Strollers Defeat Team On Monday”; 18 Nov 1947, “City-County Floor League Organized, Five Teams In Fold”; 11 March 1950, “Jury Returns Partial Report”; 1 July 1957, “Court House News”; 9 Oct 1973, “Bowling Results”; 18 Oct 1977, “Bowling Results”; 30 Nov 1977, “Bowling Results”).
John Carlysle Stewart, a civil engineer from New Castle, Delaware, travelled to western Pennsylvania in 1798. He was a large raw-bodied man of Scotch-Irish descent, quite well educated, somewhat aristocratic, and not particularly inclined to hard labor, and he had been given the job of resurveying the plots of land that the government had granted to veterans of the revolutionary war.
He discovered that around fifty acres of land had been overlooked by the previous survey at the point where the Shenango river met Neshannock creek. The site was a sort of glade, densely covered with grass and hazel bushes, with a thicket of wild plum and crab-apple trees along the Neshannock, and clusters of black oaks scattered here and there. As the native Lenape and Erie people had long since been forced out of the area and the government surveyors had failed to record its existence, it appeared that nobody at all owned the land, so Stewart quietly claimed it for himself. He laid out a notional town plan with wide, straight streets and a market place, and then set about attracting settlers to the place that he had decided to call New Castle in honour of the town he had left behind.
One hundred and fifty years later, on 6th July 1948, the founding of New Castle was re-enacted by a local businessman dressed up in period costume as John Carlysle Stewart in front of the three thousand townspeople who were attending the opening night gala of the town’s sesquicentennial celebrations—the “Castle-Cade”—which would play to sell-out audiences at the Taggart stadium for a week. Eight-hundred and fifty locals dressed in colourful costumes and lit by huge multicoloured floodlights acted out the story of New Castle in sixteen episodes, taking the audience from the earliest days, when there were only native settlements along the river, through the construction of the first canal and the coming of the railroad, when New Castle became one of the fastest-growing cities in America as immigrants poured in to work in the mills and factories that produced tin, steel, paper and ceramics, and right up to the industrial boom years of the second world war, when New Castle’s population reached almost fifty thousand, the highest it had ever been.
The Castle-Cade ended with a glimpse of the city’s future, a vision of expansion and prosperity that suited the celebratory mood but failed to predict what would happen by the end of the coming decade, when New Castle’s fortunes would collapse as the heavy industries abandoned the north-east, the town’s factories began to close down and the manufacturing territories from Michigan to New York degenerated into the rust belt.
That would have been unimaginable to the people of New Castle on that summer evening in 1948, when the downtown buildings were decked out in fluttering banners (minus a “Welcome” banner that had been torn from the bunting across East Washington street by youths driving around in a truck) and the streets were filled with citizens wearing their special sesqui hats, which they were required to wear or else risk being picked up by one of the Crazy Kangaroo Courts and made to perform a forfeit. The New Castle News told its readers, “It’s all in fun, with the main idea of passing out some laughs. Remember, this is a week of fun!”
Larry Day’s idea of fun went further than wearing a special hat. At some point during the day—perhaps at the Castle-Cade, or later, at one of the carnival midways that opened that evening—he had so much fun that he ended up commemorating the founding of his town by being booked on a drunk and disorderly charge. He received a small fine the next day.
John Carlysle Stewart’s later life is a mystery. According to some, he sold all his land, fell into slovenly habits and wandered around in tattered clothes. Others say he moved to Ohio. He left no descendants in the town.
There is no further record of Larry Day.Sources: New Castle News (25 Sep 1924, “New Castle Settled By Son Of Pennsylvania; More Of Early History”;July 6 1948, “Sesqui Pageant With Huge Cast Well Presented On First Night”; “Farm Floats Big Feature”; 13 Feb 1958, “Who Owns The Public Square?”).
James Hall was arrested for distributing literature in the street without a permit. He had travelled eighty miles from his home town of Corry to be in New Castle that Saturday. On Monday, minus the $10 that he was fined by the mayor and however many pamphlets he had managed to hand out before the police took him away, he travelled the eighty miles back again. There is no record of the cause he was propounding, and no evidence that he ever returned to New Castle.Sources: New Castle News “Fined $10 By Mayor” 21 Aug 1944.