The Real Estate Agent
When Daniel Cauffiel, manager of the real estate division for the DuPont Company, was persuaded by the du Pont’s to finally move over the Pennsylvania/Delaware border, he purchased Charles Lore’s land with its view of the water and the cool breeze it brought during the warmer months. The ideal summer house.
In the mid-1920’s he moved the Victorian style house that Charles had built and commissioned this Colonial Revival home, modeled somewhat after his childhood home (sadly Lore’s home was torn down sometime in the 1940’s). The fruit trees, ponies, cattle, pigs and chickens stayed but the family hired a family friend to act as farmhand. Daniel was very much your “gentleman gardener” (i.e. other people did the farming) but he still enjoyed overseeing his little garden. He expanded the orchard buying 102 apple trees, 48 pear trees, 28 cherry trees, 32 plum trees, 98 peach trees, 4 apricot trees, 6 quince trees (they’re a bit like pears), grape vines and currant bushes (guess he wasn’t that keen on apricots 😉 I’m not sure what happened but the orchard is nearly gone now with just a few apple and pear trees still bearing fruit. Darnit!!
Daniel was originally from Johnstown, Pennsylvania a place where his family had deep roots and most of them remained there. On Daniel’s father’s side the family came to America in the 1600s. His great-grandfather was killed by Native Americans as the white settlers encroached deeper into Pennsylvania and his great-grandmother claimed to be the first white woman to cross the Allegheny mountains.
Through his maternal side, Daniel was related to George Ross, signer of the Declaration of Independence for Pennsylvania. His mother Mary Hammer Cauffiel and grandmother, Elizabeth Barefoot Hammer (great names!), and many other family members belonged to the Sons/Daughters of the American Revolution organizations through George.
Daniel began his career in the real estate for the coal mine industry in Western Pennsylvania before moving to work for the DuPont Company. The du Pont’s had been manufacturing the best quality gunpowder since the early 1800’s but by 1900 intense competition had popped up. Instead of closing shop, the company restructured and moved into textiles and chemicals. Daniel and his real estate department, of course, played a large part in the restructuring of the company.
“I HAVE SOME SWAMP LAND IN FLORIDA I’D LIKE TO SELL YOU”
It was in 1918, that Daniel found himself in a spot of trouble. He had bought some land at basement prices, claiming they were needed for the powder plants that the Secretary of War had asked the DuPont Company to build for the government. But instead he sold that land (which he’d purchased for $20,000) to another company for $120,000. Nice profit if you can get it. As you might imagine, the government was none too pleased and started up a little investigation of their own into Daniel’s actions. It turns out he had been making these deals for land in his name and the buyers and sellers had no idea it was intended for government use.
He must have made some amends for the misunderstanding or gotten away with it because I don’t see it mentioned much again. Here’s a quick excerpt from the hearings between the government and the men Daniel sold too:
Mr. Jefferis [for the govt.]: What was the amount of this check that you gave to Cauffiel?
Mr. Moore: I don’t remember.
Mr. Jefferis: Have you any idea at all?
Mr. Moore: No, I haven’t.
…And more of that. Yeah, I think they managed to get away with it!
Once the beautiful Cauffiel house was completed in 1928, the family moved enjoyed its beautiful views of the water and sunny porches that stayed warm even during winter during their weekend retreats from the city. Daniel didn’t enjoy the home for long though; he died suddenly two years later in 1930 from a bowel ailment he was thought to have recovered from four years earlier. The house passed into the hands of his children Luella, Daniel W., Chalmer, T. Coleman, DeWitt, Beatrice and Hazel.
Luella and DeWitt were the only children to never marry and they moved into the house and lived there full-time until their deaths (at 102 and 96-years old, respectively). Developers were waiting in the wings like vultures for the property to become available but DeWitt outsmarted them. He arranged for the land to become part of the public park across the road (that’s Bellevue, which we’ve seen quite a few times here) and to remain protected. Well played DeWitt! Luella and DeWitt had also kept the home perfectly intact from the ’30s so that it could one day be a museum or public place. The only addition by them was air conditioning.
The Black Sheep
Honestly, I haven’t a good clue if Daniel got along with his brother Joe or even had any contact with him later in life (I found no mention of them together but that doesn’t prove anything definitively). They moved in vastly different circles and came from some eleven children, they would not necessarily have been close…so who knows? Joe Cauffiel was Daniel’s younger brother by two years. And he was pretty crazy. Which means he’s worth mentioning here as a sidenote. Because I love an interesting sidenote.
Joe stayed behind in Johnstown, where the Cauffiel’s are from when his brother left the business for the DuPont’s. He was in the real estate business like his brother but eventually ran for and became mayor in 1912. It’s probably a bad sign when your mayor is nicknamed “Fighting Joe”…and it was.
His first years in office were spent being repeatedly sued for various breaches of contract. Though he was a conservative prohibitionist even his peers viewed him skeptically. (Understandable considering he described his mayoral candidacy as “declaring war on several councilmen”). All of this anger stemmed from the local government’s utility company digging up parts of the streets to install streetlights. As a car enthusiast, this apparently really bugged Fighting Joe and he decided to run for mayor. I guess people have run for political office on less.
His first public test as mayor came during a confrontation between city workers and the steel company installing tracks over a bridge in town. Joe showed up and announced: “If they don’t remove the obstruction we’ll blow it off the street with dynamite” I don’t think the term “politically correct” ever occurred to Joe. Still, it really did well with the people. They ate it up.
As an early prohibitionist before the nationwide act came into effect, Joe created a “vice commission” to close down saloons on Sundays and holidays. Unfortunately for Joe his staff and his vice commission officers kept getting publicly drunk and ordering shipments of liquor for themselves. His experiment wasn’t quite working out. A fistfight erupted between Joe and a councilman and a week later the council voted to remove the police department from the mayor’s supervision. The city hired a police chief and a city administrator instead.
Angry as ever, Joe refused to swear them in and showed up to police court on the day of the inauguration in a black suit, top hat and with a gold-handled cane….Then he discharged all the prisoners in jail.
Fighting Joe would serve as mayor again during the official beginning of Prohibition. His first arrest was an elderly greenhouse worker who he sentenced to jail for “one day less than a year.” Just like in every other town in America during Prohibition, residents began making their own concoctions and accidentally poisoning either themselves or people they had sold their moonshine to. Much like the first time, Joe’s vice squad were easily corrupted and at times appeared in their own boss’ police court for public intoxication.
In his last year of that term, a policeman was killed and another injured in a shootout with a crazed man. Since the crazed man had happened to be black the KKK decided they should show up and burn a cross. Joe followed this up with an announcement that all African-Americans in town should leave for their own safety and called in state police for backup (though I saw the transcript and he definitely did not use those words, he was an inelegant racist after all). He manipulated the law and the police to impose heavy fines and drive more blacks out of the city.
Next he issued another public order: “I want every Negro who has lived here less than seven years to pack up his belongings and get out.” Real classy. He also wanted any visiting African-Americans to register with the police chief before staying in town and he ordered all remaining black homesteads to be searched for weapons. The KKK, still in town I guess, ignited twelve crosses around Johnstown, visible for miles.
There’s no concrete report about how many black families left and changed the face of the city but many did move. Joe’s actions made national headlines and he was even publicly condemned by some newspapers. The governor sent Joe a letter that made it clear he was to leave office at the end of his term and shut up. He did. For a little while.
I can’t only focus on Joe’s terrible qualities, that would be too one-sided. He did pass legislation to slow down the trains as they passed through town cutting down the loss of life from the frequent accidents that had occurred. He did not smoke or drink until later in life when he took up cigars because he thought payday should go towards the family’s well-being not wasted on gambling and he also started the Family Service Society to help mothers and children. But he was still a pretty rotten apple (though most politicians are).
He briefly returned for a final term as mayor from 1928-29 until he went to jail. Sentenced to 2-3 years for official misconduct he was denied parole. He died not too long after his release from jail, in 1932 at the age of 61 and two years after Daniel’s death.
p.s.: You can stay in this house. The park rents it out, usually to bridal parties who are marrying at Bellevue Hall, but anyone can stay there. With no internet and no computers it’s like stepping back into the 1930’s! And now here’s the Cauffiel family you’ve been reading about:
All photos via “Familyoldphotos,” from the collection of Joe’s daughter Sylvia.