“Coal mining and accompanying industries became the major source of employment and local revenue during the later half of the nineteenth century. It brought a great deal wealth to the Fayette county region. This prosperity, however, remained restricted to the wealthy elite. Many Italian and Slovak immigrants worked in the coal mines and coke ovens in a state of poverty.

When the demand for coke around the turn of the century pushed many other emerging industries out, the city along with Fayette County became almost entirely dependent on both coal and coke. When better heating processes were developed, Connellsville’s coke was no longer needed and the industry went bust — along with the economy of Fayette County.”

John Youie Woodruff (July 5, 1915 – October 30, 2007), winner of the 800 metres at the 1936 Summer Olympics, was born in Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and as a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

In one of the most exciting races in Olympic history, Woodruff became boxed in by other runners and was forced to stop running. He then came from behind to win in 1:52.9. The New York Times described the race:

“On the first lap, I was on the inside, and I was trapped. I knew that the rules of running said if I tried to break out of a trap and fouled someone, I would be disqualified. At that point, I didn’t think I could win, but I had to do something.”

Woodruff was a 21-year-old college freshman, an unsophisticated and, at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m), an ungainly runner. But he was a fast thinker, and he made a quick decision.

“I didn’t panic,” he said. “I just figured if I had only one opportunity to win, this was it. I’ve heard people say that I slowed down or almost stopped. I didn’t almost stop. I stopped, and everyone else ran around me.”

Then, with his stride of almost 10 feet (3.0 m), Woodruff ran around everyone else. He took the lead, lost it on the backstretch, but regained it on the final turn and won the gold medal. 


“C'ville Clap”