Charlie Tilden’s great grandfather, Charles, was born a slave on a southern tobacco plantation. He was over fifty before he was freed at the end of the civil war and immediately came north to New Castle, where he lived for the remaining thirty years of his life, long enough to raise a son, Charles Jr—who worked in downtown barber shops and was arrested every so often for burglary, drunkenness, gambling and carrying concealed knives and razors—and to see the birth of his grandson, Commodore, who served in a Negro labour regiment in France in the first world war and died of a heart attack in 1942.
Commodore’s son, Charlie, was fourteen when his father died. A few days after Christmas the following year, Charlie broke into the Croton avenue apartment of Izora Boggs, the proprietress of Boggs Beauty Shoppe, and stole $1,700 in cash, which he had in his possession for less than an hour before he was picked up by police. Mrs Boggs did not press charges, and Charlie was spared punishment.
Charlie left high school at the end of world war two and spent five years in the navy, where he learned how to box. When he returned to New Castle, he was taken on by a local boxing promoter, Bob Latera, who touted him as a potential heavyweight champion but did not have the necessary connections to secure fights in which Charlie could display his talents. After four years, Charlie had fought in only a few competitions, so Latera sold his distribution business and took Charlie to Los Angeles on a make-or-break trip. They arrived in California just before Christmas, a quiet season for boxing. They returned two months later, having failed to book a single fight.
That summer, Charlie went to Pittsburgh to fight before a crowd of seven thousand people—his first public engagement in two years—and was knocked out in the first round of a scheduled six-round fight. Latera was furious. He told the sports writers, “He didn’t box the way he was instructed. He did not do anything right. He simply got knocked out. There is no alibi for his defeat.” He quit as Charlie’s manager and retired from the boxing world to open a car showroom.
Charlie never fought professionally again. He trained young boxers at the Shenango YMCA for a few years. After he was arrested in 1957—during the opportunistic round-up of loiterers that also netted Floyd Armstrong—he left New Castle with his brother, Commodore, to get work in Chicago. They later retired to a place near Modesto, California, where Charlie died in 1999, at the age of seventy-two.Sources: New Castle News (2 March 1898, “Charles Tilden”; 17 October 1898, “Barber Shops Were Robbed”; 1 May 1903, “Charles Tilden Arrested By Wife”; 25 May 1915, “Butcher Knife And Razor Found On Man”; 13 March 1942, “Deaths Of The Day”; 28 Dec 1943, “Hold Youth For Theft Of Money”; 7 Dec 1950, “Here And There In Sports Land”; 13 Nov 1952, “Here And There In Sports Land”; 15 Nov 1952, “Here And There In Sports Land”; 12 Jan 1953, “Here And There In Sports Land”; 18 June 1953, “Tilden Wins By ‘TKO’ In First”; 24 Nov 1953, “Here and There In Sports Land”; 15 Oct 1953, “Advertisement”; 11 Nov 1955, “Seeks Fame In California Boxing Ring”; 10 July 1956, “Greaves Wins; Tilden Kayoed”; 19 July 1956, “Surprise Knockout”; 21 July 1956, “Here And There In Sports Land”; 12 Oct 1956, “Here And There In Sports Land”; 23 Jan 1957, “Gray Teaches Boxing At Elm St YMCA”; 9 Feb 1957, “Boxers Train For Golden Glove Journey; 3 Jan 1958, “Here And There In Sports Land”; 22 April 1965, “James Tilden, 34, Dies In Roxbury”); Locategrave.com.
The Bowens, an old couple who lived next door to the Clover Farm store on East Washington street, were awoken at almost two in the morning by the sound of someone prowling around outside. Mr Bowen went out with a flashlight to see what was going on while his wife called the police.
Samuel Webber and Frank Vanasco—two boys in the middle of their last year of high school—had broken into the store using a key that Samuel had stolen two weeks before. They had filled a sack with $40-worth of candy, cigarettes, gum and canned chicken when Mr Bowen’s flashlight shone in the front window. Frank ran out of the back door and drove off in his car. Samuel hid behind the candy counter before following Frank out the back and running to his house two blocks away.
Frank was caught when he circled back to try to find Samuel. Samuel was arrested in his home an hour later, after Frank gave the police his address. They pled guilty and were rewarded with a fine instead of jail. The following year, they both attended their graduation ceremony, where a local pastor delivered a commencement address entitled, “The Choices We Make”, in which he advised the boys—and the rest of the school—that certain choices in life have irrevocable consequences and that they should give thought to God before making them.
Frank joined the army and was sent to Korea. Samuel went to teachers college in Slippery Rock, joined the army when he graduated and spent a few years in an anti-aircraft unit outside Pittsburgh.
After the Korean war, Frank opened a nursing home in Mount Vernon and Samuel became a teacher in Butler County. There is no further record of their lives.Sources: New Castle News (22 Jan 1949, “Two Youths Held On Charges Of Entering Store”; 28 Jan 1949, “Plead Guilty To Burglary”; 31 May 1950, “Diplomas Are Presented To 506 Graduates”; 18 March 1952, “S-FC Venasco Sent To Camp Rucker, Ala”; 2 June 1955, “Webber Is Selected Anti-Aircraft Unit ‘Soldier Of The Week’”; 29 Nov 1960, “Mt Hermon”; 14 Jan 1963, “Mrs B Webber Services Tomorrow”; 15 Sep 1973, “Deaths Of The Day”).
In the twenties, hundreds of thousands of people visited Cascade park every summer from across western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio to enjoy its amusements, its man-made lake and its carefully presented scenery. The park suffered during the depression, never to regain its former popularity, but the second week of August, 1946, was busier than normal for that period. Large family picnics were held every day by bible study classes, the Lawrence County Red Cross chapter, former pupils of Mahoningtown school, Lutheran women of the western conference of the Pittsburgh synod, the Grace Bible church, the Christian church and the Daughters of Rebekah. Everyone agreed that there were fewer mosquitoes than there had been in previous years, perhaps on account of the long dry spell.
During one of those picnics, a man took a four-year-old girl into the woods and repeatedly molested her. The following week, Joseph Dando, a fifty-one-year-old man from Hamilton street, was arrested and charged with open lewdness and indecent assault of a minor. He spent a month in jail in default of $1,000 bail before being released. The case was eventually abandoned without a trial.
That year, the dam across the Big Run broke and Cascade park’s lake ran dry. In the fifties, after the dam was repaired, the park was given an overhaul and enjoyed better attendance than it had for years but before long the lake began to silt up and had to be repeatedly dredged over the next two decades. In 1972, the dam broke again and the lake drained away for good. The town had no money to pay for the repairs. The park’s rollercoaster and other rides fell into disuse and were torn down in the eighties. The public buildings, paths and facilities were in disrepair by the end of the century, when the dilapidated open-air swimming pool was shut down. An annual nostalgia weekend featuring classic cars and oldies cover bands, called “Back to the ‘50s”, is Cascade park’s only significant remaining attraction.Sources: New Castle News (“Section C YLB”; 7 Aug 1946, “Lutheran Woman To Picnic At Park”, “Loyal Band Class”; 8 Aug 1946, “Edenburg”; 9 Aug 1946, “Section C Families Picnic At Cascade”, “Mahoningtown School Reunion Attracts Many”; 10 Aug 1946, “Section F Picnics At Cascade Park”, “Rachel Rebekah Picninc At Park”, “First Aid Club Has Picnic Supper”, “Old Mission Picnic”; 9 Aug 1946, “Pa Newc Observes”; 15 Aug 1946, “Arrest Suspect In Park Assault”; 17 Aug 1946, “Delay Hearing Of Man Held In Cascade Assault”; 11 Sep 1946, “Returns Are Made by Grand Jury”).
Blackberries sold for about 25 cents a quart in the summer of 1921, when Frank Heckathorn and his cousins made a few dollars a day collecting them from the roadsides north of New Castle and selling them in the city. On the afternoon of July 15th, they had driven some miles out on the Pulaski road and Frank was searching for huckleberries in the bushes and trees by a lane on the old Greer farm when he came across an almost naked, battered body. He could not tell if it was a man or a woman. Frank heard “a slight noise” and ran back to his cousin and his cousin’s wife. He told them what he had seen and one of them suggested that it might be a case of murder. If it was, the murderer might still be nearby. They returned to their car and drove two miles around the farm to the lane, so that they could investigate in safety.
Parking at a spot near where Frank had seen the body, they shouted into the wood—“Hello? What’s the matter, buddy?” and “Are you sick?”—but received no reply. The men told each other that it was probably a passed-out drunk and they drove off. Frank’s cousin’s wife began to cry, and didn’t stop until they pulled over at a friend’s house on the Wilmington road and called the sheriff, who drove out to meet them.
Frank took the sheriff to the lane and led him to the place where he had seen the body. It lay on a patch of torn-up ground, wearing only a torn undershirt, one stocking and one shoe. A hat, broken glasses and blood-soaked clothes were scattered all around. The sheriff said, “My God, it’s the Lennox girl!”
Frank and his cousins had not heard the news but a fourteen-year-old girl from Moody avenue, Clara Bell Lennox, had gone missing the previous morning. Her parents had contacted the police some hours after she should have returned home. A description of her had been issued—she was “of quiet disposition”, she looked like a girl of sixteen, her shell rim glasses gave her a mature appearance, she had a squint in one of her eyes—and at that moment, groups of police and volunteers were searching the city and its environs for any trace of her.
The sheriff examined the body. Clara Bell’s back was covered in deep scratches. Her skull was cracked. Her left eye had been knocked out of her head. But she was still alive. Frank was sent to the nearest house to borrow some sheets to wrap her in but, by the time he returned, the sheriff and his cousins had left, taking Clara Bell with them to the hospital.
After Clara Bell recovered, she identified a local forty-one-year-old man named Thomas Verne Ryhal as her attacker. He had met her on Highland avenue, near her home, and offered to drive her into town. She had accepted but, instead, he had driven her out to the lane on the old Greer farm, where he told her that his wheels had become stuck in a rut. When she knelt down to see what the problem was, he hit her with a monkey wrench.
Four months after the attack, while Thomas Rhyal was on trial for assault, Clara Bell collapsed with convulsions. She died soon after. The autopsy discovered an abscess at the base of her brain, caused by an infection that had entered when her skull was fractured. The charge against Thomas Ryhal was changed to murder.
Frank’s role in the trial was small—he was twice called to tell the story of his discovery of the girl—but his description of the scene helped the prosecution to convey the callousness of Clara Bell’s killer. Thomas Ryhal was found guilty and sent to the electric chair in Rockview penitentiary one year later.
Frank and his family moved to a farm near Volant, in the north of Lawrence County, in the thirties. In 1943, just after midnight on July 10th, six boys who were parked near Graceland cemetery, on the eastern edge of New Castle, were frightened by what they described to police as a half man, half beast that scratched on the car’s window and waddled away when they shone a flashlight on it. The canine control officer examined the area but could find no animal tracks. The police suspected it might be a pervert.
The next night, posses of youths roamed the Graceland and Oak Park cemetery districts looking for the creature. State, county and city police were out in force, too. They arrested half a dozen boys and girls for trespassing in the cemeteries and one man—Frank Heckathorn—for indecent exposure. Frank was given a $1 fine and four months in the county jail. The half man, half beast was never seen again.Sources: New Castle News (15 July 1921, “Clare Lennox, 14, Disappears While On Trip To Store”; 16 July 1921, “Persons Who Found Lennox Girl Tell Story Of Discovery”, “Girl Battles For Life”; 16 Dec 1921, “Clara Lennox’s Testimony Is Read To Jurors”; 25 July 1921, “Ryhal Now In Custody”; 26 July 1921, “Davies Girl Identifies Ryhal”; 25 Oct 1921, “Verne Ryhal Given Hearing”; 14 Nov 1921, “Clara Lennox Near To Death”; 28 Nov 1921, “Charge Ryhal With Murder”; 30 Oct 1922, “Ryhal Pays Death Penalty”; 1 April 1937, “Personal Mention”; 10 July 1943, “Mystery Creature Is Being Sought”; 12 July 1943. “Police Warn All Amateur Posses”; 14 July 1943, “Around City Hall”; 17 July 1943, “Sentence Court”).
Three hundred and nine bottles of whiskey were carried out of the state liquor store on Liberty street at three in the morning on 8th May 1945. The pinch bar that had been used to force the door was the only trace left by the burglars.
A month later, Archie Shoup, the chief of police in Bessemer, ten miles west of New Castle, was making a patrol at three in the morning when he saw two men behaving suspiciously near the state liquor store on Poland avenue. He was too far away to tell what they were doing, so he made his way toward them behind a row of houses, and watched as they carried cases of liquor from the store and piled them up beside a Buick coupe across the street.
Shoup shouted at them to halt and they started to run. He fired six shots and both men fell to the ground. One was hit in the arm and the shoulder, a bullet passing through his chest just above his heart; the other was not hit at all. He ran to the car while Shoup was distracted and drove off before he could reload.
John Parks, the wounded robber, was taken to New Castle, where he was kept in the hospital under armed guard. James Manseur, the other, drove to Cleveland, where he and John came from. He was arrested there two weeks later. John pled guilty to the Bessemer robbery. James was charged with the Bessemer and New Castle robberies. There is no record of the outcome of the cases.
Archie Shoup was Bessemer’s chief of police for twenty-two years, from prohibition to the second world war. He shot a handful of other men as they attempted to flee arrest, none fatally, and died of cancer in 1955.Sources: New Castle News (15 Jan 1931, “Pair Captured After Robbery”; 28 May 1945, “State Liquor Store Is Robbed”; 11 June 1945, “Believe Pair In Bessemer Robbery Shot”; 12 June 1945, “Man Wounded By Bessemer Chief Is Under Guard”; 20 June 1945, “New Arrest In Robberies Here”; 13 May 1955, “Archie A Shoup Dies Early Today”); Youngstown Vindicator, 13 June 1945, “State Police Guard Suspect”.