True Story: The Battle of Chalk Hill

Daniel Raymond lived in Chalk Hill, a small village in southwestern Pennsylvania. He was in his early forties in February of 1960 when he took his rifle down from its resting place and told his wife, “I’m going to use this.”

She could not have known the extent to which he would, in fact, use his weapon, but she knew him well enough to leave that evening with her children, an act that likely saved their lives.

When Dan Raymond shot the township worker spreading ash on the local roads, it was early morning. He was an accomplished sharpshooter from a family with a history of violence, as Time Magazine noted after the fact. He moved to his basement, which had small windows and cinder block walls. From there, he began taking shots at passing cars. A family riding by took fire from Raymond.  Shots struck and killed a woman as she held her son in her lap.

The State Police arrived by 8:30 in the morning, but Raymond was well-protected in his home, and his marksmanship kept the officers at a distance, even with the stationary machine gun they brought in to end the crisis. It would take a National Guard tank to finally flush the shooter out of his house–only then could that machine gun cut him down. He died trying to reach his car.

All of this happened about ten minutes from my hometown, an area so remote that people leave their keys in the ignition while they’re working and doors go unlocked. That there was an unstable, well-armed man in such a place is not surprising. That the story of his rampage has faded into obscurity is. If it weren’t for my grandfather showing me an old newspaper clipping, I would never have heard of this tragedy.

Daniel Raymond is largely forgotten now, buried under the larger tallies of Charles Whitman, Adam Lanza, and other mass murderers. But the old folks still remember him, and they’ve been around long enough to not be surprised when such men take their rifles down and use them.

Further reading:
A note from Raymond’s son

as the AP reported it (look to the right)

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About semiblind

Bringing you stark existentialism since 1981.
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21 Responses to True Story: The Battle of Chalk Hill

  1. mike daniels says:

    i remember the incident buned indelibly in my 4 yr olde mind living very near to this at the time

    • semiblind says:

      I’m sure it scared the hell out of you.

      • mike daniels says:

        ahhh it was and remains surreal–i actually had not thought of it in years until meeting the twp workers son whose young daughter is a good friend of my little girl . a very nice man who deserved to grow up with his daddy.

  2. mike daniels says:

    just met him tonight.

    • semiblind says:

      This is one of those tragedies that seem inevitable in retrospect, but that’s too easy. A man fell apart and took several others with him. How did no one notice beforehand? But we don’t see what we don’t want to see…

      Yes, it’s terrible that the gentlemen you met grew up fatherless. I’d like to think that in the intervening decades we’ve learned to spot guys like Dan Raymond before they ruin lives, but the news seems to indicate otherwise.

      • BJ says:

        I got a little something to say about the comment made by semiblind. Dan Raymond was my cousin and there are things NONE of these stories ever tell. I really wish people would get the whole story before they write stuff. The article said Dan’s wife left because she knew he would use the gun. That is only half true. He sent her and the kids away because he was afraid of what he may do. I find it interesting that none of these reports mention the fact he had wanted the doctor to put him away BEFORE this happened because he was scared of what he would do. He realized there was something wrong with him and looked for help. He was told because he had not done anything yet that the doctor could not put him away. I do not appreciate him being depicted as some kind of a rampaging mass murder. There is more to the story of the first guy shot also, but no one asks why he was mad enough to shoot that guy. Those of us in the family know the truth, but the person who wrote this story did not.

      • semiblind says:

        Hi–

        I’m glad you commented on this post. I appreciate the additional insight you bring. When I wrote this several years ago, I gathered all of the available scraps of information I could find online to compile the piece and elaborate on an incident that I had only heard bits and pieces about. I did not contact relatives or eyewitnesses. This blog is/was a venue for my curiosity in my spare time. Obviously, my sources were incomplete.

        I find the parallels between what you’re discussing and what happened with later mass shooters interesting. I think our country’s mental health care (or lack thereof) has been a problem for decades, and that too many people (including Dan) have died for lack of treatment options. I presume it’s not coincidence that you commented the day after our country’s worst-ever mass shooting, and that the current tragedy led you here. Hopefully, the events in Las Vegas will lead to some sort of systemic reform so more people don’t come to the realization that they need help they can’t get.

  3. Jan says:

    My husband is from Uniontown and relayed the story to me some time ago. I have suggested to a couple writer friends that a book would be interesting, especially since it’s really known to the local area.

  4. Ed Maust Jr says:

    The family in the car were not killed just the woman and how i know this is my father was on my grandmothers lap when she was killed by daniel raymond my grandfather was shot but survived my aunt was standing up in the back seat.

    • semiblind says:

      I am sorry that your family had to experience such a thing, and that your grandmother was killed.

      I’ll correct the post appropriately. Thanks for pointing out the inaccuracy.

    • BJ says:

      You are right Ed I knew your father, your aunt, your grand father and his third wife along with many of the kids. I am sorry about what happened to your grandmother. I have often wondered how different your dad and your aunts lives would have been had your grandma not have been killed so needlessly.

  5. Francis Klotz says:

    I remember when this happen. I am from Uniontown, pa. lived in the East End of town. After the shooting Daniel’s car was towed to the service station at the corner of East Main Street & Connesville Street. I can still see all of those bullet holes in the car and some were big probably from a large caliber gun.

  6. Jeff Marnell says:

    I was a young student at Wharton Elementary School that day when they came to get Mr Raymond’s niece out of our class that morning. We heard little as the day went on but on the school bus ride home on Rt 40, after traffic was allowed to pass, we all saw them loading the tank on to a flatbed truck there on Chalk Hill – Ohioplye Rd after the incident was ended by machinegun fire from that tank.. That little incident was nothing compared to what goes on now and it made all the national news and magazines, while things much bigger now only end up on the 7 AM local news. That says a lot about how our perspective has changed over the decades.

    • semiblind says:

      The Chalk Hill incident pre-dated Charles Whitman by a few years. It was an early mass shooting, at least as far as media coverage goes. That it pales in comparison to our modern stories is tragic, indeed.

  7. anthony adinolfi says:

    The car was on display like bonny and Clyde . I stuck my head in and got a bad whiff of tear gas. I loved in uniontown back then. A high school classmate of mine lost an eye when a bullet hit the steering wheel of his truck.

    • semiblind says:

      It’s kind of amazing to me that they would display the car. (It was at a gas station wasn’t it?). That seems like something that would never happen now.

      Then again, I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum and walked through a boxcar that carried people to the gas chamber. Completely different crimes, especially in terms of historical scope, but the brush with mortality is there all the same.

    • BJ says:

      I think it is important to note Dan himself did not shoot at the school bus.

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