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

 

 

Baseball Star of a By-Gone Era

(Click to Enlarge) Mohawk Ball Field in 1939, located near today’s Blackthorn Drive – Photo Courtesy of Sam Kanish

Sometimes I just come across a picture that takes me on a journey. On a visit to the Armstrong County Historical Society I noticed an old baseball team picture on display. This picture was labeled “Mohawk” with a 1918 date. Two things that drew my interest were old time sports teams and Mohawk, which was the old mining town located at Sedwick Heights today. My Lemmon Family living next door to the Mohawk town to the north in Lemmon Hollow, and which my great-grandfather Ross Lemmon made mining posts for the Mohawk mine located there.  With the two clues being the names and time period, I was able to find an old newspaper article from the “Peek at the Past” dated June 20, 1919. It indicated the players names and positions the following season from the Mohawk team as; C – Hobaugh, P – Bayne, SS – Hill, 1B – O. French, 2B – Swigart, 3B – Lamberson, RF – Richardson, MF(today centerfield) – Daugherty, LF – Bechtel. I also located an article later in the year as the Manager Dewey Crissman and Jay Swigart folding up the team, known as the “Mohawk Collegians”. A short life, but a picture that will last a lifetime.

The 1918 Mohawk Collegians

Some of the known players listed above which led to more information regarding their full names, along with other teams they played with were; Obediah French, almost always listed as a First Baseman, the Shortstop could have been Fred Hill who later joined Jay Swigart on a PPG team.

My attempts were to find living relatives to possibly put names with the faces in this rare photo. This led to another discovery. The name that came up quite frequently in my research was Jay Swigart. Listed in several 1915 newspapers as a star Shortstop and Pitcher for Kittanning High School.

Here is a newspaper article of one of his games from 1919.1919 Baseball Game

I had a conversation with Karl Swigart, I asked him if there was a family connection, he indicated there was no immeditate connection he knew of, but found a Jay Swigart relative with the little information we had to go on. From there quite a remarkable story unfolded. This Jay D. Swigart was from Worthington. Jay Swigart later moved on to play for several local teams, and a Minor League Professional team into the 1920’s. Not only a Baseball Star but also a Football and Basketball great for Kittanning and Ford City area. He was the 1934 Club Golf Champion at Kittanning Country Club and later other clubs as well. Several articles of interest appeared, such as his introduction into the Armstrong County Hall of Fame in 1974.

1974 Introduction to Armstrong County Hall of Fame

Unfortunately no children were born to Jay D. Swigart and he passed away in 1977. I sure a lot of memorabilia existed and maybe further contact with the relative may confirm him as to which player he was in the 1918 Mohawk photo.