29 episodes

Hurstories is a history podcast about Western Pennsylvania and the Great Lakes region.

HURSTORIES Averill Earls

    • Society & Culture

Hurstories is a history podcast about Western Pennsylvania and the Great Lakes region.

    Battle of Lake Erie

    Battle of Lake Erie

    By Sydney Hitchcock



    Sydney: Not many people when asked about the War of 1812 could tell you why the war was fought, who was involved, or about any of the key battles. Some may recall that the White House was burned and that at some point in our country’s history the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner must have been written, but few could tell you that both of these events occurred during this War. The War of 1812 was the United States of America’s first chance to flex its newly independent muscles. Tired of being pushed around by the British in the Atlantic and to the North, the United States wanted to make it clear - the British were no longer welcome on their soil. It is no surprise that most people who are not historians have never learned about the Battle of Lake Erie, which is known as the turning point of the War of 1812. Fought between the British and the U.S. over control of Lake Erie, this battle was the first major naval victory the U.S. had ever won against the Royal Navy. Control of Lake Erie meant the U.S. no longer had to fear invasion by British forces from the North and could prevent the British from penetrating the ever-expanding middle of the country. This gave the U.S. more control over communication and trade during the remainder of the war, which allowed an eventual victory. Take that King George, this will teach you not to mess with an independent country – you power hungry tyrant! My name is Sydney Hitchcock and I will be your host for today’s Hurstories podcast on the Battle of Lake Erie.  

    Sydney: The Battle of Lake Erie began at daybreak the morning of September 10th, 1813. The battle took place between the United States Navy, under the command of Captain Oliver Hazard Perry and the British Royal Navy, under the command of Captain Robert H. Barclay. The two fleets met in Put-In-Bay Ohio, where the battle was fought.

    Sydney: That morning, the American fleet which consisted of nine vessels in total and 416 crew members fit for duty set sail towards the approaching six British vessels. Perry commanded a squadron that consisted of three Brigs, the Lawrence, the Niagara, and the Caledonia, five schooners the Ariel, Scorpion, Somers, Porcupine, and Tigress, and one sloop called the Trippe. The British squadron was made up of six vessels, two ships the Detroit and Queen Charlotte, one brig the Hunter, two schooners the Lady Prevost and Chippeway, and one sloop the Little Belt.[1] Despite the United States having more ships,  the British had the advantage of having more experienced commanders.[2] Barclay who was commander of the Detroit had the best guns, which were more accurate when hitting their target.[3] During this period the strength of the Royal Navy was known throughout the world. Their experience having been perfected over centuries spent colonizing foreign lands and controlling overseas trade routes.

    Sydney: Before the battle began Perry’s, strategy was to pair each of his vessels to a British ship; for example, the brig Niagara was supposed to mainly fight against Britain’s Queen Charlotte. Depending on Barclay’s tactical formation, Perry would change the American battle line so his ships would stay with the ships he had assigned them to fight against.[4]

    Man voice: “At daylight discovered the Enemy’s fleet in the NW. Made the signal immediately to the Squadron to get underway-“[5].

    Sydney: As the fleets sailed towards each other the Detroit was the first to fire, shooting a long 24 which missed Perry’s advancing ships. Their second fire was more successful than the first, hitting its mark which was Perry’s brig, the Lawrence. The Lawrence in response fired her long 12’s and carronades at the British fleet but was unsuccessful in hitting her intended targets. [6] Naval vessels during this period were outfitted with different types of

    • 9 min
    Perceptions of Women who Commit Neonaticide

    Perceptions of Women who Commit Neonaticide

    By Rebekah Prather



    Lisa Thompson, “Rhodes Granted Parole in Infant Death Case.” GoErie.com, October 1, 2015. https://www.goerie.com/article/20151001/NEWS/610151934.

    Superior Court of Pennsylvania. COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania, Appellee v. Teri RHODES, Appellant. No. 143 WDA 2009., December 31, 2009.

    Nancy Grace, “Nancy Grace”, CNN, Aired September 20, 2007.

    Beyer, Kristen, Shannon McAuliffe Mack, and Joy Lynn Shelton. “Investigative Analysis of Neonaticide: An Exploratory Study.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 35, no. 4 (April 2008): 522–35.

    Raymond Pierotti, "Infanticide Versus Adoption: An Intergenerational Conflict." The American Naturalist 138, no. 5 (1991): 140-158. Accessed January 29, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/2462512.

    • 15 min
    Pizza Bomber

    Pizza Bomber

    By Kayla Rieck


    [Woman 1]: 911, what’s your emergency?

    [Woman 2]: We’ve been robbed.

    [Woman 1]: Okay, stay on the line.

    [Woman 2]: Okay.

    [Woman 1]: Is anyone hurt?

    [Woman 2]: No.

    [Police Siren droning on]

    You’re listening to Hurstories. A podcast about Western Pennsylvanian history. Created by the digital history students at Mercyhurst University.

    Hello everyone, my name is Kayla Rieck and you are listening an episode of Hurstories – a podcast created by Mercyhurst students – and today you will be listening to one of the weirdest things to happen to Erie. This is the story of Brian Wells, more famously known as the Pizza Bomber.

    August 28th, 2003 – Brian Wells is killed.

    Part one: The phone call.

    At roughly 1:30pm, Mamma Mia’s receives a phone call. The owner, Mr. Tony Ditomo, first picked up the call, but couldn’t understand who was talking, so he handed the phone to Brian Well who proceeded to write his own directions. Two sausage and pepperoni pizzas were to be delivered to 8631 Peach Street, the location of a WSEE-TV transmitting tower as the end of a long, dirt road. Upon arriving to the address, there was a struggle, and by the time Wells left the premises he had a live bomb collared around his neck. Wells received 9 pages of hand-written, rambling instructions and a cane adapted to be a loaded shotgun (instructions included of course). While Wells claimed it was a group of black men that jumped him and forced him to complete these tasks, interviews by law enforcement had Floyd Stockton sweating, claiming to be the one who strapped the bomb to Wells. To this day, these details are still very muddy, and no one really knows who put this collar on Wells.

    Part two: The Scavenger hunt.

    “Bomb Hostage, you are to go to PNC bank at Summit Town Centre on Peach St. Quietly give the following demand notes to a receptionist or bank manager. Do not cause alarm. Get retired money and deliver to a specified location by following notes that you will collect as you race against time. Each note leads to the next note and key until finished. You will collect several keys and a combination to remove bomb. After, police won’t charge you because you were a hostage.”[1]

    This is the beginning paragraph of the crudely written instructions Wells was given by a group calling themselves The Troubleshooters commanding him to rob a bank, the PNC bank on Peach street to be specific. They were mapped out in a scavenger hunt style, listing strictly timed tasks that would help him collect keys that would delay the bomb’s detonation until he found the final key which would defuse the bomb. He was told he only had 55 minutes until detonation. With 25 minutes travel time, he had a safety margin of less than 10 minutes, the remaining time, 20 minutes, were to be used to “retrieve and obey their instructions.” Additional time could be gained by finding keys, but he isn’t told how much. To ensure Wells was following their instructions the writer made him aware that they would be following his moves in 3 cars to make sure he obeyed their requests. They would be scanning police radio frequencies, calls, and driving around to make sure they stayed away. If Wells alerted the police to what happened, they told him plain and simple: “you will be destroyed”.

    “You must deliver money alone. You must return all weapons/notes to us. Turn yourself in to bank and police after we release you to safety,” and in all capital letters at the end of the first page, “ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”


    Part 3: PROCEED NOW.

    With notes to give to the receptionist, bank manager, and the police in hand as well as instructions for each stop of this gross goose chase, Wells enters the bank. His first instructions read as follows:

    “1) take the following demands to PNC bank and get $250

    • 10 min
    Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show Hits Erie!

    Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show Hits Erie!

    Written and researched by Adam Macrino

    [Evening News Inspired Music Intro written and recorded by Adam Macrino]

    Newscaster Voice: Hello everyone, and welcome to Hurststories. My name is Nathan de Panda. On this edition of Hurststories we bring you a story out of the town of Erie, Pennsylvania. On the night of Saturday, July 9th, 1898, the sleepy town was brought to life with the whoops and hollers of Cowboys and Natives as Buffalo Bill Cody and his Congress of Rough Riders paraded into town. The members of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show were greeted by the citizens of Erie, who lined the streets, as the long caravan of performers made their way into the town. This was one of 7 times that Buffalo Bill and his Rough Riders brought their skill to showcase to the town of Erie. Here to bring you more details is Hurststories correspondent, Brian Pedactor.[1]

    Narrator Voice: Thank you, Nathan. To understand what a spectacle this would have been for the citizens of the day, we at Hurststories want to familiarize the audience with the man called Buffalo Bill. Before obtaining the infamous nickname, William Frederick Cody, was born in Scott County, Iowa, in 1846. He migrated west with his father, where the young Cody was witness to an awful altercation between his father and a mob of pro-slavery sympathizers. An argument escalated out of control, resulting in the mortal wounding of Cody’s father. The London Times reported in William Cody’s obituary that when this occurred, “Young Cody turned to the assailant saying, ‘You have killed my father. When I’m a man I’ll Kill You.’”[2]

    [Announcement Chime]

    Public Service Announcement: Hurststories would like to take this opportunity to condemn revenge killing. We are a Catholic University and would not support revenge killing even to avenge our own father.

    [Ending Announcement Chime]

    Narrator: Cody relocated during the gold rush of the 1860’s but did not strike it rich. Instead he obtained a job as a package runner for the Pony Express. This was an extremely dangerous occupation due to the lawlessness of the West. Bandits would ambush package carriers during their trek, stealing the valuable parcels that they were carrying. It was this job that taught William Cody what it took to live out on the trails of the Wild West. Eventually, Cody would take on a job as a scout for a trapping expedition. It was during this expedition that William Cody was credited with killing his first bear. It is also during this expedition that Cody had an encounter with a Native that ended with violence.  The Native was killed, and Cody was adorned with the name “Boy Indian Slayer.” [3]

    [Announcement Chime]

    Public Service Announcement: Hurststories would like to take another moment to acknowledge the awful treatment that the Native Americans received, and if there was a way to go back and time and prevent that from happening, we at Hurstories would certainly do so. This has been another Hurststories Condemnation Moment.

    [End Announcement Chime]

    Narrator: During the Civil War, Cody joined up with the US Army. His reputation as a skilled horseman was confirmed as Cody ascended thru the ranks of the 5th Cavalry, achieving the rank of Chief Scout. Cody continued serving in the US Army after the War, earning the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars.  The rapid expansion of the railroad systems created a great demand for food supplies to feed the giant workforce that a project of that magnitude required. Contracts were offered from these railroad companies to anyone who could provide enough food to meet the demand.[4]

    Narrator: This will be how William Frederick Cody obtains his nom de guerre, Buff-

    Newscaster: Eh, Adam, what is that, nom de gur?

    Narrator: yes, it means a nickname.

    Newscaster: no no no, none of that

    Narrator: Ok, okay, this will be how William Frede

    • 9 min
    Elizabeth H. Carter Vincent (A Woman of the War)

    Elizabeth H. Carter Vincent (A Woman of the War)

    Written and researched by Ashley Carr


    If you’re a young woman from a working class family from New Jersey in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War, chances are, you would feel that growing tension, feel it about to burst, and want to do something about it. But for a woman, who has been told she has no use on the battlefield, and no voice in politics, options are limited.

    You could be a nurse, but, if you don’t have the stomach for gore, like Elizabeth Carter didn’t, you take up work on the home front.[1] Elizabeth moved to Erie, Pennsylvania to be a school teacher, working hard so she could send money back to her family in New Jersey, who depended on her. Amid the terror and freedom of being a young woman on her own in the world for the first time, she met the man who would become her husband, and a Brigadier General of the Union Army: Strong Vincent.[2]


    A while into their budding relationship, Elizabeth and Strong were walking the streets of Erie together when man cat-called Elizabeth. We don’t know what was said, but we do know that Strong Vincent, her knight in shining wool uniform, punched him. Right in the face.[3]


    The name “Strong” was a family surname before it was given to him.[4] But never was there a man more fit for it than Strong Vincent.


    [patriotic, uplifting music]


    Perhaps because of a powerful sense of patriotism, or perhaps because he was sick of sitting behind a desk at a law firm, Vincent enlisted into the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army.[5] He and Elizabeth Carter married that same day, he packed his bag, and was gone.[6]


    Sending off your brand new husband into what would become the bloodiest war in American history sounds debilitating, life altering, tragic. But, if you come from a working class family, and the men are off at war, you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself. You keep going.


    And so life went on in Erie without Strong Vincent, and the other men of the Pennsylvania 83rd. Elizabeth, now Mrs. Vincent, continued teaching. News of the war and of the daily life of battle trickled in.


    Essentially alone once more, Elizabeth again experienced an exhilarating sense of freedom, this time underlined with the kind of dread that only work could distract from. So, she and the other women of Erie worked, volunteering to put together food, supplies, and clothing for the soldiers.[7] There was no reward for this, no glory, no recognition for the sacrifice of daily stability and what little money she and the other women had. But, they did it anyway.


    Not long into their marriage, and, into the war, Elizabeth realized she was pregnant. She gave birth, alone, to a daughter, Blanche Strong Vincent, whose names, all three, were of her husband’s family, not her own. And she buried that child after less than a year of life, alone.


    Of course, she did have the family of her new husband to keep her company, and the women of her community, but, when the people you most want near you are away, your husband, your own family, the presence of others can do very little.


    [transition music]


    We don’t have many letters written by Elizabeth or Vincent, but we do have records of what other soldiers wrote home. Some detailed the mundane and trivial of daily life; I got a tear in my uniform, or the sunset was beautiful today. Others were heavier; my friend just died, or I’ve been wounded, or tell the children I love them, though they may never see me again.


    [sad music]


    Two years into the war, Strong Vincent had been in and out of battle, and moved up the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel.[8] The infamous battle of Gettysburg loomed around the corner. At 26, Vincent had none of the youthful misconceptions of immortality left in him. In one letter to Elizabeth, jus

    • 11 min
    The Unsolved Murder of Frank "Bolo" Dovishaw and Mafia in Erie

    The Unsolved Murder of Frank "Bolo" Dovishaw and Mafia in Erie

    Written and researched by Abby Saunders


    Hurstories Script


    ABBY: I’m your host, Abby Saunders, ready to tell you all about Frank “Bolo” Dovishaw, his undercover gambling ring, and his unfortunate demise.

    First thing’s first – have you heard of the mafia? I think that a lot of people stereotype the mafia into a general group… criminals. The mafia is more like a family, though! No, literally. Mafias from around the world are most often run by groups of families, kind of like a ‘family business.’ Just like fathers in the farming industry pass down farming traditions to their sons, fathers in the mafia pass down mafia traditions to their sons. Boys are taught skills specific to running the business, and girls are taught how to be inconspicuous and lay low.

    Mafia members become like family members. It is not unusual to find men from different families acting brotherly to their business partners. Also, it is not uncommon to kill family members that act up in the Mafia. This idea will pop up later on, so, stay tuned.

    Just like in other bureaucratic business, there are leaders and followers. Mafias are typically hierarchal, with a general, boss-like position at the top of the chain, and then a bunch of levels below him.

    Mafias, in some way or another, exist all over the world. The most popular mafias originated in Italy… and more specifically… Sicily. One popular mafia that originated in Sicily and then migrated to the United States is the Cosa Nostra group. This group settled in New York, but then spread to surrounding cities along the Eastern coast of the country.

    Some major cities in the north east region of the United States where the mafia operates are Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. Interestingly enough, though, the city directly in the middle of all of these 3 cities, Erie Pennsylvania, had no major mafia activity until the 1950s. Even when the mob came to Erie, though, it was slight and almost insignificant compared to the major criminals and con men of the time[1].

    Now, since mafias were on the rise in the United States, the federal law enforcement agencies were busy chasing and arresting various leaders from all over the East coast. This happened especially in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. When a mafia leader is taken out, their section, well, family, may or may not fall. It is very difficult to count how many mafia groups there are in the United States for this reason[2].

    Our story starts and ends in Erie, with Frank “Bolo” Dovishaw: one of the most recognized organized crime leaders in Erie, Pennsylvania. Now, you might be wondering why the hell I just explained what mafias are for 2 minutes, even though our main character today was not a member. Here is why: Dovishaw acted as if he were a member of the mafia. But in order for you to see this, you must know what he did to deserve the title: an Erie Goodfella.

    Picture Erie in the 1950s and 60s. It is a smaller city in the North West corner of Pennsylvania, right next to Lake Erie. There were neighborhoods full of immigrants and past-generation Americans alike, but one neighborhood that stood out was Little Italy. It is located between 12th street and 24th street, with an eastern boundary at Sassafras Street and a western boundary around Cranberry Street. Little Italy is like its own little self-contained town. There were barber shops, stores, churches, schools, and even funeral homes. With all of these good businesses, though, come some pretty illegal ones. There were many criminals in Erie in the 1900s; heck, there still are[3]!

    Our story starts in 1960 when Frank Dovishaw worked at Dee Cigar Store. On December 10th, 1960, Dovishaw was arrested for burglarizing the store. According to a newspaper article, around $7,000 worth of checks and cash were stolen. Dovishaw had worked at the cigar store for about a yea

    • 12 min

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