George McPeek's career as a stunt double in silent-era Hollywood came to an abrupt end after an ill-fated visit to Riverside Park near Gnadenhutten in 1921.
McPeek, a Uhrichsville resident, was an athletic double for matinee idol Eugene O'Brien.
One film historian described O'Brien as "the Brad Pitt of his day, who starred opposite some of the most celebrated actresses of the silent era and received thousands of letters from girls every week before walking away from it all when talkies came in."
On July 24, 1921, O'Brien's stunt double visited Riverside Park. While there, McPeek attempted to dive from a diving board, but he dived into water that he claimed was less than five feet deep. He struck the bottom with his head and sustained four crushed vertebrae.
"As a result of the accident, McPeek claimed he lost his job in the movies and must sleep in a plaster of Paris cast," the Newcomerstown News reported. "He said he was in danger of death any minute should he turn his head suddenly."
Like many accident victims, McPeek turned to the court system for satisfaction. He filed a $75,000 lawsuit against J.R. Matson and H.H. Treadway of Uhrichsville, owners of Riverside Park.
The case went to trial in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court in February 1924.
The trial lasted four days, and was bitterly contested, according to the Newcomerstown News. There were 13 witnesses for the plaintiff and 18 for the defense. Buchanan, Reed and Russell of New Philadelphia and Judge Kenough of Cleveland represented Matson and Treadway, and Seikel & Hill of Dover and Attorney Marsteller of Cleveland were counsel for McPeek.
"McPeek claimed that the owners of the park were responsible because they had placed the diving board at a point where the water was not sufficiently deep," the paper said. "The defense maintained that McPeek should have ascertained the depth of the water before attempting a dangerous dive."
The jury agreed with the defendants and ruled against McPeek, who faded from history after that.
CADWALLADONIANS IN CLEVELAND
In the autumn of 1892, about 50 residents of the tiny village of Westchester, in the southeastern corner of Tuscarawas County, traveled to Cleveland to testify in a couple of court cases then being heard in the city.
Some of those residents had apparently never been to a city before, based on their behavior. They attracted the attention of the Cleveland Leader newspaper, which published a condescending article about them.
The paper referred to Westchester as Cadwallader, which was the name of the post office at that time.
"Cadwallader is a village of 300 inhabitants in Tuscarawas County, and it has a post office," the paper said. "Of railroads, telegraph offices and money order offices, it has none, however, and in that fact might be found the reason that such a considerable number of its residents are now quartered in the city."
The majority of those people were staying at the New Johnson House hotel in Cleveland.
"Something of a lack of familiarity with the customs of modern civilization made itself manifest when the newly arrived guests, on being conducted to their rooms, uttered a unanimous request for lamps of the kerosene variety, none being observed in the different apartments," the paper said.
Hotel staff then explained the intricacies of the gas-lighting system in the rooms, and the guests were told not to blow out the gas or risk suffocation. Those warnings were not heeded. Within 24 hours of their arrival, "several of the Cadwalladonians" had to be rescued by "the vigilant and overtaxed attaches of the hotel," the Leader said.
"The guest wander over the building at will, the pantry, kitchen and storerooms being subjected to a careful and laborious inspection," the paper noted.
"The brawn and muscle of the young tillers of the soil, who composed a portion of the party, failed to find the duties of a witness, at $1 per day, sufficient exertion to keep them in tone," the paper said. "As a consequence, the hotel office was frequently temporarily converted into a gymnasium, and one day the clerk on duty was surprised to find a sparring match going on under his very eyes.
"The attractions of the city are being duly absorbed by the visitors from Tuscarawas County, and future generations of Cadwalladonians will doubtless be regaled with stories of Cleveland's splendor."