History Transcends Through Time

Recollection of a Location, 100 Years Apart

Sometimes ones curiosity about a place may have them ponder a little deeper about it’s historical significance. This was the case with Kevin McIlwain, who spent time in a place that had more historical meaning than he even thought. Kevin’s era at this place was in the 1950’s and 60’s. Also, there was something very important happening at this place in the 1860’s, which by then 100 years had past. This is Kevin’s recollection of his time spent there in his era, and then someone a few generations back recalls her time there.

Taylor House
1904 Directory indicates Benjamin Taylor resided here at 420 S. Jefferson St. He was a foreman at the Steel Works located across the street from his residence.

Having known Pete Harmon for quite a few years I asked him if he had any information or pictures of a house that I knew to be my grandparents’ at the southern end of Jefferson St. It was a red brick house that sat on property that abutted the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was my impression that it was a railroad hotel.


The house had a large yard with a garage that was long enough for several cars parked behind one another. The house had 4 rooms and a bath on the second floor. The rooms ranged from very large to very small. One was used by my aunt Anna Lee and the smallest was used by my grandmother as a sewing room. The first floor had 3 rooms and a large kitchen, which is where my grandmother spent her waning years after not being able to climb stairs.
The house was drafty and several of the rooms upstairs were closed off, but still had beds in them. The center hallway that had the staircase was also closed in by a carpenter later on, in an effort to keep from heating the whole house unnecessarily. The original source of heat was a coal furnace, and the basement always had a large pile of coal in in it, coal trucks would back in across the lawn to dump their loads in the chute. The banister of the stairs had a bend in it large enough that a person could start all the way at the top and slide the whole way. My sister taught me that, and with a little waxed paper, we had some great times on it. There was a large steel pipe in the yard that had the highest TV antenna I can remember in the neighborhood. We would typically watch the 3 Pittsburgh channels (2,4, and 11) but if you wanted to change the direction we had to go out with a pipe wrench and turn the bottom which also turned the top.
The neighbors were Clair Bowser’s North American Van Lines warehouse and Dean Phipps warehouse too. I would visit the loading dock of the outgoing trucks at Dean Phipps frequently. Les Simpson of Wick City was the foreman of this area.
My aunt sold the house to The Urban Redevelopment Authority in Kittanning after Gram passed away and she moved to the northern end of town. It was a nice house and I remember many happy times there with the family. I did go back once after it had been sold and was sitting empty, the grass had grown so tall that it had fallen over, the back door was standing open, so I ventured inside and had a look like before, but obviously there was no one home. Just goes to show a house needs a family before it can become a home.

By Kevin McIlwain

Showing Kittanning Brewing Company

The residence shown in the bottom center in a 1913 Sanborn Map. The Kittanning Brewing Company now is the location of the truck parking lot of Noel Ford.

2015 Location of Former Residence at 420 S. Jefferson St.

Looking north from S. Jefferson St. towards town from the front of the residence former location.

Taylor house


In 1922 an article was written in the Simpson Daily Leader Times of this same residence. Describing it at this time the railroad just came to Kittanning in the late 1850s, and as stated right at the edge of town not through it. This made me think of other historical journals regarding the accounts of the Civil War soldiers in Kittanning which I thought were interesting. One of them was the fact that for soldiers entering the service from the farms and country side, this would be their first time of ever seeing such a things as a train. It must have been an awe inspiring experience to see a complicated piece of machinery. From television accounts we don’t comprehend Civil War soldiers being in Kittanning, but with Camp Orr being south of the current YMCA, this is were several prepared before leaving by train from Kittanning.

Below is an early map of Kittanning showing the residence at 420 S. Jefferson St. which is listed as occupied by C. Rider. Without the date of the map, it is unknown which time period this is, but more than likely later than 1867 after the Reiters moved to Rosston, and due to the completion of the railroad tracks continuing through town.

Map of Lower Kittanning before the 1900’s with the C. Rider residence. The Rolling Mill was in the area of the current PennDot building. The rolling mill remained in Kittanning till 1926.

Note – All photos can be clicked for an enlarged view.

Strived to Win for His Country

Local Hometown Boy Goes Across the Atlantic

This is a story about Olympic Hometown Hero Fred Boylestein, a Bronze Medal Winner in Olympic Boxing. *Note – The spelling of the last name appears in two versions and was wrote as it appeared at the time(dates) of the information received. Even spelled two different ways in the same article

What seems like a spectacular event when it occurs today for local boxing, was a common event in the 1920’s. Matches and exhibitions occurred almost on a weekly basis. A remarkable feat took place with a local boxer that today only a few have heard about, that is Kittanning’s Local Boxer Fred Boylestein.

1924 Bronze Medal Winner at the Olympics which was held in France.

Fred Boylestein 1924 Bronze Medal Winner

Fred Boylestein was born in March 15, 1902 to George L. and Catherine (Haines) Boylestein. Not only having a stellar amateur career, he continued to box professionally well into the 1930’s, then continued training young fighters. He later became an employee of Jos. S. Finch Co. which led to him becoming Chief of Police for security there. Fred continued to live in Kittanning, residing at 426 Highland Ave. for several years. In some periods of his life he would occasionally give boxing sessions at the local YMCA.

Fred’s father passed in 1931 and it is noted in his obituary that “he was a boxer of considerable merit himself before training his son Fred”.

His mother Catherine who had resided with Fred, passed away on Feb 27, 1963.

Fred Boylstein passed away on February 28, 1972 and is buried in Kittanning Cemetery. Find A Grave Memorial# 100114020


Fred Boyelstein

Fred Boylestein at the France Camp during the Olympics in 1924 – Photo Courtesy of Becky Everson

While in France, Fred sent to his local friends at home, a letter describing his experience before the matches began. A photo was provided by members of the Boylstein Family at the this camp in France. It was published in Simpson’s Daily Leader-Times on July 18, 1924.

“This is the Fourth of July and thousands of people are here for the games. I boxed a three round exhibition with Al Mello today for General Pershing and Senator Reed, of Pennsylvania.  They gave us all a handshake and hoped we would win. Mary Pickford was here. I had a little chat with her, she wrote her name on my headgear. We are not allowed to go out any place here and it is lonesome. Great House and I, and everybody else would like to be back home. All we do is sit, and tomorrow is the Fourth and no fire crackers. The boys start tomorrow to see who makes the team. They start boxing the July 15th and continue until July 20th”.

“How are all the boys? Give them my kind regards. You can hardly sleep here at night. Don’t get much training, as it is raining here now and has been for two days. I met a gentlemen from Pittsburg and also young Romig(see link below) from Armstrong County. He is a dandy fellow, he is a runner and there are many boys in the camp. We are located about 15 miles from Paris on a big farm and cold water to bath in. I worked out a little today. I shadow boxed for four rounds, skipped rope two rounds, and then boxed Jack Williams two rounds. We stepped out pretty lively. I will have a to tell you when I get back to the old home town that Tom Dorsey, New York promoter wants Great House(Ed Greathouse) and me to turn professional when we come back, win or lose over here. He says winning in the USA is the main thing. I told him I would see dad and what ever he said would go. Expect to sail home for July 28th”. 

July 17. 1924 article in the Simpson Daily Leader Times

July 17, 1924 article in the Simpson Daily Leader Times

After beating George Shorter of Great Britain Fred went on to fight Alf Genon of Belguim and won. Then he fought eventual Gold Metal Winner Hans Neilsen of Denmark.

Excerpt of the Neilsen/Boylstein fight from a syndicated newspaper. “In the lightweight class Fred Boylstein of Pittsburg, was defeated by Neilsen of Denmark in a bout in which the Dane led all the way. Boylstein did some pretty boxing in the first two rounds, but the Dane’s ability to reach the body gave him a decided advantage. In the third the Dane got to the head with regularity, Boylstein tired and was obliged to hang on his opponent”. 

For the Bronze Medal Fred came back to win over Jean Tholey of France. Even after losing his bid for the Gold Medal, Fred continued to fight hard to bring back a medal for his country.

A detriment that plagued Fred was that in the USA Fred weighed in at 135lbs with his boxing trunks on for the lightweight division and the Olympics required he fight at 130lbs stripped. Info from Boxrec.com

A listed newspaper account of Fred Boylestein’s first Professional bout occurred in Simpson’s Daily Leader Times on January 10, 1925. His father George sent a message home from West Virginia that Fred knocked out Jack Rootie in the 5th round.

Fred continued to box in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York professionally.

Magistrate Gary DeComo’s father Patsy DeComo of Ford City was one of the young fighters Fred had trained.

Pictorial of Fred’s Accomplishments

Boylestein brochure

Joseph A. Finch at Schenley Plant with a Recognition of Fred Boylestein


Boxing card

Boxing Card Published on Aug 19, 1925 of Local Matches at Ford City, PA

Links to People Mentioned

Hans Jacon Nielsen – Wikipedia,  Alfredo Copello – Wikipedia, Mary Pickford – Wikipedia, General John J. Pershing – Wikipedia, John Luther “Blondy” Romig – Wikipedia, Ed Greathouse – Wikipedia

Mary Pickford, Famous Actress