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The story of Pittsburgh native Nellie Granger and her miles-long walk through mountainous Fayette County 80 years ago to obtain help for survivors following a plane crash is a bit of a local legend.
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The subject of a recent “Mysteries at the Museum,” a popular Travel Channel show, Granger’s story will be re-broadcast at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The episode is entitled “Terra Australis, Operation Underworld and Heroine Hostess.”
The March 8 show resulted from “one Google search leading to another Google search,” says Daniel Cocks, Fayette County Cultural Trust executive director.
According to Cocks, he was researching Connellsville athlete and running legend Johnny Woodruff’s participation in the 1936 Olympic Games a few years ago.
“I kept coming across this plane accident in 1936 near the Summit (in rural Wharton Township),” he says.
The story Cocks uncovered, and which is part of a display in the Connellsville Canteen, led to his writing an article about Granger for the Cultural Trust’s magazine, Crossroads.
The display was posted on the Canteen’s social media, where Travel Channel researchers found it and reached out to Cocks.
“They called me in September (2017) and were here filming three weeks later,” he says.
Cocks says he has been able to obtain several pieces of mail and previously published photographs of the plane’s pilot and Granger through online sites.
“It was really nice the way (producers) put it together,” he says of the piece.
The broadcast starts out with a shot of Pittsburgh, then notes that just 50 miles southeast is the Connellsville Canteen , a cafe that pays tribute to the region’s history, including a World War II museum and tribute to the Canteen ladies, volunteers who provided refreshments to trains full of soldiers in Connellsville during the war.
According to the research Cocks did, a TWA DC-2 Sun Racer made the crash landing on April 7, 1963, the impact throwing Granger, who was then 22, from the plane. The story says she returned to the crash site to pull out two passengers, including the wife of the mayor of Newark, N.J., and a man with two broken legs. She then headed off into the sleet, walking for miles before finding a farmhouse from where she called for help.
The plane was en route from New York to Pittsburgh, and was scheduled to go on to California, Cocks says.
“Mail on the plane was addressed to people in Los Angeles,” he says.
The pilot and co-pilot were killed upon impact, the story notes.
Of the 14 people aboard, only three survived the crash, and the male passenger Granger rescued died a week later.
Granger was hailed as a hero and later rewarded by her TWA employers with a vacation.
Cocks says the Canteen regularly hosts showings of the broadcasts during functions.
The episode has brought good feedback to the Canteen’s Facebook post and positive publicity to the Connellsville community, he says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.