McCrory’s Five and Dime Store

A Facebook post last month about the McCrory Mansion located in Brushvalley Township, sparked some interest with questions about the owner, location, and history behind the house.  That interest has led to this series of blog posts regarding the McCrory and Mack families.

For those who have lived in or have knowledge of Indiana prior to the 1970s, you may recall the McCrory 5 & 10 cent store, this chain of stores was the creation of John Graham McCrory.  

John Graham McCrory Biography

Mr. McCrory was born in West Wheatfield Township on October 11, 1860 to James McCrory and Mary A. Murphy.  He was educated in the schools in the Brush Valley neighborhood and an academy designed for orphans of soldiers, as his father was killed in the Civil War.  During his vacations from school, he worked on local farms and as a country store clerk.  

Around the time McCrory turned 18, his father’s 88-acre farm was sold for $1,200 – which was divided three ways between himself, his mother and sister, Jennie.  Shortly thereafter he found employment in the mills of the Cambria Steel Company in Johnstown, PA.  He was soon given a position in their large general store, conducting business under the name Wood, Morrell & Company.  He worked here for approximately two years, saving his money and adding it to the profit from the sale of his father’s farm.  This began his career as a merchant.

John Graham McCrory

Mr. McCrory was also interested in churches and the cause of religion.  He was a liberal contributor, not only to church in his local community, but in other localities.  He also generously gave to the YMCA.

On April 26, 1893, McCrory married Lillie May Peters, and she died on April 16, 1902.  On December 8, 1904, McCrory married Carrie May McGill.

John G. McCrory passed away on November 20, 1943 at the age of 83 at his home in Brush Valley and is interred in the family mausoleum in the Grandview Cemetery, in Cambria County, PA.

The Beginning of J.G. McCrory Co.

 McCrory started his first 5 & 10 store in Scottdale, near Greensburg, PA, using his and Jennie’s savings along with some borrowed funds.  The store primarily sold practical, everyday pieces of merchandise which kept customers coming back, but McCrory also had some higher-priced items in the store’s inventory.  This was the humble beginning of the McCrory 5 & 10 store.

The idea for this type of store appealed to the local residents, and through the hard work of his employees, McCrory was able to keep his expenses within limits and by 1883 he was able to obtain enough capital to open a second store in DuBois, Clearfield County.  This second store was started with little to no debt, which subsequent operations were likely profitable because of this policy.  Shortly after opening the second store in DuBois, McCrory disposed of the store in Scottdale, but he reestablished a store there on December 15, 1910 – likely showing sentiment and respect for the first store.  The DuBois store was also discontinued in 1892, but it reopened on September 9, 1912.

Throughout the first ten years of McCrory’s operation, many stores were opened and closed.  His game plan was to open two or three stores each year as well as close out that many.  His goal was to make money both times.  His plan also called for having eight to twelve stores in operation at all times.  He took advantage of decreases from high to low prices on some lines of goods, but the time came when there was less of an opportunity to buy low and throw out bargains with profit.  A desire to control more stores made it necessary to discontinue handling the higher priced goods, as the chance to lose by leakage on perishable and seasonable goods became greater each time an additional store was acquired.

The business had a record of unbroken prosperity and as McCrory established a number of his stores in Pennsylvania, he found opportunity to expand into neighboring states.

In 1912, the J.G. McCrory Co. was incorporated with Mr. McCrory serving as president.  By May 1913, there were 112 stores with an annual business revenue of $8,000,000. (This would be equal to $210,414,545 today.)

Throughout the 1910s and 20s, the stores continued to grow, and by 1931 there were 280 stores in operation around the country all bearing the name of the Indiana County native.  At the time of his death, there were 203 stores open for business.

The first J.G. McCrory store in Indiana County opened on July 1, 1937, located at Seventh and Philadelphia Streets in Indiana and closed for business in January 1974.  An ad in the Indiana Evening Gazette on July 1, 1937 proudly announced: “Keep Cool In Indiana County’s Only Air-Conditioned Store McCrory’s 5-10-25 cent Store.”  This full page ad goes on to inform the public that the entire store was air conditioned for the shopper’s comfort.  And to show how much the store cared for their patrons, they stated they had installed the “latest and best equipment that money can buy.”  All the work was performed by Lightcap Electric Co., of Indiana.  They finished the ad by stating, “This daring move of ours was made because we believe in Indiana and know that the people of this entire district will be in to take advantage of McCrory’s Quality merchandise at always-low prices in a healthfully pleasant modern 5-10-25 cent store.”

Mr. McCrory was also active in real estate, and he discovered early on in his career of the close relationship between inside (or best) real estate and the up-to-date retail store and came to know that in order to locate retail stores and make each a success; he would have to acquire a correct knowledge of the city’s real estate and actual value.

Sometime in the early 1940s, McCrory dissolved his company and formed the McCrory Holding Co., which rented his properties to other stores.

McCrory’s legacy lived on through his estate in Brushvalley Township, which he and his family used as a summer home until his retirement in 1931.  After his retirement, the property was used as their full-time residence.  The estate itself expanded to 1200 acres, which was all left to McCrory’s second wife, Carrie May McGill, when he passed away.

McCrory Mansion

In 1945, Mrs. McGill opened a large portion of the property to the West Indies Mission as a rest home and headquarters, with the house being leased to the Mission in 1947.  Upon Mrs. McGill’s death, 865 acres of the property was sold to the Mission.  Unfortunately, the McCrory Mansion was destroyed by fire in August 1986.

The Murder Trial of Carmene de Renzo

An interesting case came before the September 1905 Indiana County criminal court.  Carmene de Renzo was charged with the murder of his sweetheart, Marianna Barra.  Judge Telford presided over the case.  The Indiana Progress described Renzo as “a large man, rather fair, with a peculiarly round head, the forehead sloping back from the eyes, which are small and light in color.  His hair is short and unkept…”

Both the defendant and the victim were foreigners, which made several interpreters necessary to understand both the evidence and testimony in the case.  The mother of the deceased took the stand and detailed the crime, which occurred before her at her home near Creekside on July 7.  The mother did not speak English, so her testimony was presented through the interpreter.  

From the testimony it was revealed that Carmene Renzo went to Marianna Barra’s home and questioned why the Barras did not like him.  Both mother and daughter replied that they did not care for him because he did not like to work.  After hearing their response, Mr. Renzo left the home, but returned to find Marianna standing on the doorstep.  He grabbed her by the arm and fired his revolver, causing five shots to enter her body.  The mother intervened and the girl fled.  As Renzo reloaded the revolver, he threatened the mother and followed the wounded girl.  He fired another shot, which was the fatal blow. 

Renzo had made an attempt on his own life, but was unsuccessful.  He narrowly escaped being lynched by his neighbors, by being arrested and taken to jail.

The testimony elicited showed that the deceased at one time wished to marry Renzo, but when she found out that he would not work, her mother became involved, and the romance ended.

The defendant took the stand and told his story of his love for Marianna and of her rejection and the ensuing quarrel.  He admitted that he shot her and graphically described to the court how she ran from the house.  Then according to Renzo, his mind went blank from that time until he found himself in jail.

Dr. George E. Simpson was called by the defense as to the question of transitory insanity.  The defense then offered to submit writings and medical books regarding insanity.  The prosecution objected to this and Judge Telford sustained the objection.

The defense then attempted to offer into evidence a certificate of good behavior and moral character, which was obtained from Italy, but it was ruled out.

This trial, although of some interest today, did not attract a great deal of attention as the attendance at the trial was quite small.  It was noted in the news report that most of the witnesses were also foreign.  It would be the guess of the author of this post, that because much of the testimony would be presented through interpreters, that many of the general public were deterred from attending.

The case was sent to the jury late in the afternoon on September 21, 1905, and at a quarter before eight that evening, the jury filed back into the courtroom with their verdict.  Once the jury was seated, word was sent to Sheriff Neal that a verdict was reached and he brought Renzo into the courtroom.  The jury foreman handed the verdict to Prothonotary Calhoun who gave the paper to Judge Telford.  Judge Telford gave the paper back to the Prothonotary who read it aloud, “Guilty of murder in the first degree.”

As Renzo walked from the courtroom, many witnesses to the scene drew a long breath and expressed in the words of pity: “Poor devil!”

Renzo was sentenced before Judge Telford on January 20, 1906.  Despite motions filed by the defense for a new trial, it was refused.

Renzo was asked if he had anything to say why the sentence of the Court should not be passed upon him; he said, “Nothing.”  During the sentencing, he remained standing with his eyes cast down.  The only thing he said was that one word.  The sentencing imposed was as follows:

“We have long delayed this official duty.  We meet our present obligation with a severe regret for its necessity.  As we have said, at last September court you were found guilty of murder in the first degree.  In passing upon you the sentence of the Court we trust, in view of the future, you will see truly your duty in the light of the teachings of the church.  Whilst punishment here falls hard upon you, may penitence and contrition sustain you and may you be given courage to sustain you now.  The sentence of the Court is: That you be taken by the Sheriff of Indiana County to the jail and from there to the place of execution within the walls or yard of the jail, and be hanged by the neck until dead.  And may God have mercy upon your soul.”

Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker set Thursday, July 26, 1906, for the hanging of Renzo.  The Italian consul had made an effort to save Renzo.  The execution was then stayed by Governor Pennypacker after he received a petition from C.C.A. Baldi, president of the Italian Federation of Philadelphia.  These attempts to save Renzo’s life were to no avail as he was hanged on August 27, 1907.

The hanging took place in the corridor of the county jail at 10:38 a.m.  Those who had tickets for admission went to the Sheriff’s office at 10:20 and were given their places in the jail corridor.  At 10:30 Sheriff Jacob Wettling ascended the scaffold and two minutes later Renzo ascended part way to the scaffold, accompanied by Father Emelio Farri of the Roman Catholic church; John B. DeSanta, a friend; and Officer Orrin Stiffler.

Renzo’s face bore no trace of fear and his step was firm and brave.  He was dressed in a dark suit, with collar and necktie and patent leather shoes – the County Commissioners had provided him with the new outfit. 

Father Farri and DeSanta followed Renzo to the scaffold.  The priest raised a crucifix and they all kneeled in prayer.  Following a short prayer, the Sheriff placed Renzo over the trap and quickly adjusted the noose around his neck and drew over his head the black cap.  

The Sheriff touched the lever which allowed the trap to drop at 10:35, but the rope broke and Renzo fell to the floor.  Officers quickly carried the body to the scaffold and the Sheriff placed the rope with which James Allison and Joseph Sarver were executed. The trap was sprung a second time at 10:38 which was successful.  

At 10:48, the four physicians present – Coroner W.D. Gates, Dr. McMillan, Dr. H. Ney Prothero and Dr. T.D. Stephens – pronounced Renzo dead.  The Sheriff’s jury – Dr. H. Ney Prothero, J. Earl Lewis, J.A. Crossman, John C. Work, George Jeffries, J.L. Orr, Dr. T.P. Stephens, M.H. Henry, D.M. Caldwell, Elder Peelor, George W. Roof and William H. Clawson – viewed the body and made an affidavit to the fact that they had seen Renzo executed in accordance with law.

After the physicians had pronounced Renzo dead, the body was taken down and prepared for burial by the undertaker.  About noon, the body was taken to the Arbitration Room in the court House, where it was viewed by hundreds of people.  At 4:00 p.m. the body was taken to the Catholic cemetery and buried.

The Murder Trial of Frank and Angelina Borgio

Saturday June 17, 1916 marked the beginning of the trial of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Frank Borgio and Angeline Borgio.  On May 2, 1915, Frank Borgio went to Iselin at approximately 9:00 a.m., he and his wife were leaving their home in Nowrytown, because of the lack of work.  They had planned to spend the day with friends in Iselin, prior to leaving town.  The couple arrived in Iselin and awaited the return of Sam Russo, when he got off of work in the mines which they knew would be around 5 or 6 in the evening.  When Russo returned from working in the mines.  Now the Borgios knew Rosso as he was at one time a border with them. He greeted Mrs. Borgio, as he normally would, and she returned the greeting.  Just as he was entering the boarding house, Mrs. Borgio drew her hand which was covered with a handkerchief, which concealed a revolver and fired twice, both shots lodging in Russo’s back.

Russo ran through the basement of the boarding house and was on his way to the first floor when Frank Borgio appeared and fired three shots, two of which hit Russo.  Frank Borgio left the house and the injured man tried to reach his room on the second floor.  Mrs. Borgio escaped those who could have detained her, raced up the stairs and came face-to-face with Russo, being exhausted, had sunk to the steps.  Without saying a word, Mrs. Borgio drew the revolver and fired twice, striking Russo in the face.  Despite these life-threatening wounds, Russo lived almost two hours.

In the meantime, a foreigner had secured a gun and ordered Frank Borgio to hold up his hands, but some intervening force caused Borgio to escape along with his wife. The couple got in a car and went as far as the Conemaugh Township election house, and then continued on to Nowrytown.  The couple was arrested on the Owl train of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Saltsburg.  They were brought to Indiana on May 3, 1915 by Sheriff Boggs.  Mr. and Mrs. Borgio were approximately 30 years old, and expressed no regret over what they had done and took their imprisonment nonchalantly.

At the time of their arrest, Mrs. Borgio told Sheriff Boggs that her husband was jealous of the alleged suspicious attentions Russo had paid to her and the best way out of the family difficulty was to do away with the cause of it.  They planned and executed the murder. 

During the trial, the defense claimed that Russo had assaulted Mrs. Borgio.  The alleged assault is said to have occurred in July 1914, while no one was at the home, except for Russo.  Russo allegedly solicited improper relations (today we would call this either sexual assault or potentially an attempted rape), but she refused.  Russo is then said to have pointed a pistol at Mrs. Borgio and made various threats and accomplished his purpose.  After the assault, according to Mrs. Borgio, Russo stated that if she told anyone about what had happened, he would kill her.  Because of the threats, she did not tell Mr. Borgio, but he had heard through rumors around town and confronted his wife, and she then told him the story.  The defense claims that Borgio immediately declared his wife’s honor had to be avenged, and that is when they planned the murder.  

When the jury first went to deliberate, their first vote on the charge against Frank Borgio came in with 11 for first degree murder and one for second degree.  The second vote came in with 8 for first degree and 3 for second degree.  The third and final vote by the jury came in a unanimous guilty for murder in the first degree.

The vote for Mrs. Borgio came in the first time at 1 for first degree and 11 for second; the second vote resulted in a unanimous vote for conviction of murder in the second degree.

After the verdict was announced, Attorney James Mack, for the defendants, made an application for a new trial.

Frank Borgio was calm as his sentence was imposed, aside from a shrug of his shoulders, he maintained his quiet attitude which marked his entire captivity.  When Mrs. Borgio learned of her and her husband’s sentence, she became hysterical.  After the sentencing, when Mrs. Borgio was returned to her cell, she made threats to kill herself, so to avoid this from happening, a guard was placed with her until the time for her to be taken from the Indiana Jail to the Western Penitentiary, where she was to serve 10 to 15 years.

The sentence was as follows:

The verdict rendered in this case requires the Court to impose upon you the most serious penalty known to the law.  The sentence about to be imposed upon you is not the discretionary act of the court; it is the sentence of the law.  The jury has found you guilty of causing the life of Sam Russo to be taken and the jury has also found that you did it willfully, deliberately and premediately and without excuse or justification.  You had a fair and impartial trial and was defended from the beginning to the end by able, zealous and conscientious counsel.  Your situation at this hour appeals most feelingly to our sympathy.  We trust that you make so direct the remaining days of your life that you may meet the end with fortitude.

And now, January 8, 1917, You, Frank Borgio, being in open Court, the motion for a new trial and reasons therefore having been carefully and fully considered, it is ordered overruled, and it being demanded of you in open Court if you had anything to say why the said Court of Oyer and Terminer should not proceed to judgment and sentence against you, now, therefore, the sentence of the law is that you, Frank Borgio, here present in open Court, he taken hence to the jail fo Indiana County from whence you came, and that from thence at a time later to be determined, you be transferred to the custody and keeping of the Warden of the Western Penitentiary in Center County, Pennsylvania, and there by him detained until such time as His Excellency, the Governor of the Commonwealth, by his warrant may direct, and at such time you be taken to the place of execution at said penitentiary and that a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death be then and there passed through your body and so continued until you are dead.

And may God, in His infinite goodness have mercy on your soul.

On January 9, 1917, it came time for Mrs. Borgio to be taken to the Penitentiary, a sorrowful good-bye was shared between Mrs. Borgio and Mr. Borgio. 

Sheriff Harry A. Boggs, along with County Commissioner W. Bruce Wagner, and some newspapermen read Frank Borgio the Governor’s warrant fixing the week of September 10, 1917 as the time for his execution.  Afterwards Borgio remarked, “There’s no law in this country for me,”  and proceeded to make preparations for his departure to Rockview, Center County, where the execution was to be carried out.

A stay of execution was issued by the Governor late on Saturday September 8, 1917, which postponed the execution until November 5, 1917.  In the interim period, the Pardon Board would review the case.  A recommendation was made that an Executive Order be issued which would commute the death sentence and substitute a sentence of life.  This recommendation was made by the Pardon Board and submitted by Frank B. McClain, Lieutenant Governor; Cyrus E. Woods, Secretary of the Commonwealth; Francis Shunk Brown, Attorney General; and Paul W. Houck, Secretary of Internal Affairs. 

Frank Borgio was pardoned by the State Board when his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.  

The story does not end here, as a further order of court was made on October 24, 1930:

And now, October 24, 1930, it appearing to the Court that in October 5, 1921, this Court made an order of removal of Frank Borgio from the Western Penitentiary to the Farview State Hospital for the Criminal Insane at Waymart, Wayne County, Pa., pursuant to the report of the Commissioners who were appointed to inquire into the mental condition of the said Frank Borgio; and it further appearing to the Court that the said Frank Borgio has been treated in said institution since his admission therein, and upon petition of William M. Lynch, Superintendent, praying that this Court make an order discharging the said Frank Borgio from the State Hospital for the Criminal Insane for the reason that he has sufficiently recovered, and no longer needs the custodial care and treatment of said hospital.

….where he has been serving a commuted life sentence for the crime of first degree murder for which he was convicted June 21, 1916.

….Direct Elmer Borland and return the said Frank Borgio to the Western Penitentiary, located at Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Pa…

J.N. Langham, P.J.

It was reported in the Indiana Evening Gazette on January 16, 1931 reported that Borgio would get his freedom as he was issued a commutation of the minimum sentence, however, it was not reported when or if he was released, as there seems to be no further mention after this date.

The Murder of Mr. and Mrs. Spelock

At 4:30 p.m. on November 18, 1936, a drink-maddened man entered the Keystone Coal Company store in Saltsburg and announced to the manager, W.S. Lockard, “I killed the Spelocks.”  Mr. Lockard doubted the story, at first, and went to investigate and found the Spelocks dead.  Lockard immediately notified Sheriff Harry E. Koozer, who with Deputy Sheriffs A. Eugene Wilson and J. Clair Irvin immediately came to Saltsburg and met Lockard and Andy Yacos, the suspect.

The sheriff and his deputies returned Yacos to the Spelock home, where Yacos reenacted the slayings.  “I done it. That’s all,” he told the officers as they came upon the bodies of Mrs. Spelock on the blood-stained bed and of her husband on the floor.  The bloody knife was found on a kitchen cabinet.

Yacos related that he would have also killed the two Yacos children at home, Joseph (9) and Vincent (8), but they had eluded him and he could not catch them.

Andy Yacos, 52-year-old coal miner was living in White Station with Mr. and Mrs. Spelock as a boarder.  The sheriff was informed that Yacos and the Spelocks had been drinking for the three weeks prior to the murder.  The parties had ran out of alcohol, so the Spelocks had given Yacos $5 to purchase a quart of liquor.  He returned with he whiskey and the change, but Yacos was short a dollar, which caused a fight to ensue and Mrs. Spelock slapped him in the face.  After the fight, the Spelocks and Yacos drank the quart of whiskey, and Yacos kindled the fires.  The afternoon of November 18, 1936, Spelock got another pint of liquor, but they would not give Yacos any.  Around 4:00 p.m. the Spelocks went upstairs to sleep off their drunken state and Yacos followed them still asking for a drink.  The Spelocks again refused him a drink, so Yacos went to the kitchen, grabbed the knife and returned back upstairs again asking for a drink.  He was told to “get out,” and drove the knife into the heart of Mr. Spelock and then three times into the breast of Mrs. Spelock.  As Yacos went downstairs, he saw the children, lunged at them, but they escaped.  The children discovered their parents were dead, they went to the home of their uncle, Mike Spelock.

On the way to the county jail, Yacos expressed to Sheiff Kooser sorrow for the death of Mrs. Spelock, but not for Mr. Spelock.  Yacos did not seem concerned as he said, “I get one more ride, to Rockview.”

Yacos had intended to kill himself, but he was afraid the knife would “hurt too much” and he could not find a little revolver he had planned to use.  The revolver was later found during the investigation under the Spelock’s bedroom mattress.

Yacos was charged with murder by Sheriff Harry Koozer before Squire Walter H. Jackson, before whom the preliminary hearing was held.  Attorney R.J. Hogan was appointed as counsel for Yacos by Judge E.E. Creps.  District Attorney Edwin M. Clark, called Mike Spelock as the first witness at the preliminary hearing.

            Clark: Do you know Andy Yacos?

            Spelock: Sure, I know him.  I worked with him in the mine.

Spelock then testified that Yacos visited his home at around 3:00 p.m. on the day of the murder telling Spelock “By Gee, I am going to get a knife and cut him.”   Spelock went on to explain, “I think he mean my brother but maybe he just making fun.”

Spelock was then asked if he considered Yacos to be intoxicated when he left.  To which Spelock responded, “He was not too drunk.”

The next witness to present testimony was Ward Lockard, the store manager.  He testified that Andy Spelock came into the store and stated, “I killed two people.  I want you to call the sheriff.”  Lockard responded, “Who?” To which, Yacos responded, “Andy Spelock and his wife.”  Lockard believed that Yacos had apparently been drinking some, but was not so drunk, because he talked plainly.

Coroner John Woods testified about the deaths, describing the butcher knife wounds as determined by the autopsies.  Deputy Wilson testified that Yacos was not drunk and did not seem nervous when he told him and the other officers of the stabbings.  Yacos told Deputy Wilson that the Spelocks had money hidden in the bed, upon which they were slain, and a subsequent search during the investigation revealed $203 in the bed.

Deputy Wilson added that Yacos reported that he told Andy Spelock prior to the fatal thrust, “If I don’t drink, you don’t drink either.”

Deputy Wilson said, “He (Yacos) said he knew if he killed him, he would go to the electric chair at Bellefonte but he didn’t care.”

District Attorney Clark made his closing address on January 22, 1937, to the jury of nine men and three women in the Criminal Court of President Judge E.E. Creps.  It was during his closing argument that he asked for death in the electric chair.

A hush fell over the well-filled courtroom as Yacos, a stocky, dark-complected, partially bald defendant, was called to the stand by his counsel in his own defense.  Yacos reported that he had been drinking whiskey with the Spelocks for three weeks and wept as he recalled his friendship with Andy Spelock and his wife, Anna.  He then reported that the morning of the murder, he went to Moween for more liquor.  He had a drink there, and his mind was a blank until he saw the blood in the Spelock home.  He was frightened, so he went to Moween where he remembered ordering some pop and eating sandwiches.  He then went to Saltsburg but his mind again became a blank and his memory did not return until several days afterward in the county jail.

The defense also called Dr. Frederick J. Kellam and asked if the tolerance of alcohol varied in individuals.  Dr. Kellam replied in the affirmative and also testifying that a shock would tend to have a sobering effect on a person who was intoxicated.

After closing arguments by Attorneys James W. Mack, Jr. and R.J. Hogan, defense counsel, and District Attorney Clark the jury was informed of the five possible verdicts: first degree murder with the death penalty; first degree murder with life imprisonment; second degree murder; voluntary manslaughter; and not guilty.

Those serving on the jury were: Mrs. Alice Tyger, Gordon Johnson, Mrs. Clare Bee, Mrs. S.B. Bailey, Harry Good, J.H. Blose, John Shaffer, B.F. Hilderbrand, L.J. McKee, Robert Pollock, Charles Marshall, and Burt Kinter.  Alternates were: Meade Fisher and Mrs. Margaret Sowers.

The jury deliberated for an hour and half, finding Andy Yacos guilty of murder in the first degree in the fatal stabbing of Mrs. Anna Spelock.  There was no recommendation of mercy was made in the verdict as it was read by jury foreman, Mrs. Alice Tyger, and under Pennsylvania law, the verdict was a mandate for capital punishment in the electric chair.

As Yacos was taken back to his cell, he commented to the guards, “That’s the finish for poor Andy,” and he also inquired whether there was a chance that the penalty could be changed to life imprisonment.

Sentencing was held on February 15, 1937, and Yacos asked, “Mr. Judge, If you can change to life…?”  Judge Creps explained, “Well, Andy, the court can’t do that.  We have no power to change it.” And then Judge Creps handed down the sentence:

Now, therefore, the sentence of the law is that you, Andy Yacos, here present in open court, be taken hence to the jail of Indiana County from whence you came and that from thence, at a time later to be determined, you be transferred to the custody and keeping of the warden of the Western Penitentiary in Centre County, Pennsylvania, by his warrant may direct, and at such time you be taken to the place of electrocution at said penitentiary and that a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death be then and there passed through your body and so continue until you are dead.  And may God in His Infinite Goodness have mercy on your soul.”

As Yacos was escorted back to his cell, he asked Warden Irvin to explain again why the court had no power to change the verdict, Yacos said: “Maybe get the governor to change it then.”

Governor George H. Earle set the date for execution for May 3, 1937.  On April 21, 1937, Yacos’ attorneys went to Harrisburg to ask the Pardon Board for commutation of the sentence to life imprisonment.  Their main argument was the drunken condition of Yacos removed any specific intent to take a life.  Unfortunately the Board of Pardons refused the commutation, and the execution moved forward.  The Board reported that state psychiatrists who examined Yacos found him sane.  District Attorney Clark said it was “a most revolting murder,” and termed Yacos a “vicious character.”  Thus ends the story of the Spelock murder.

The Case of the 1894 Indiana County Judicial Election: Judge John P. Blair v. Judge Harry White

It was in 1894 when the election for judge brought about Indiana County’s most bitter, vicious, and sordid election.  The contestants were Harry White and John P. Blair.  The election results gave White a narrow margin of 87 votes (White: 4036, Blair: 3949).  Blair contested the election.  Printed below based on newspaper article is the best rendition of how the case likely proceeded and the outcome given by the Court.

On December 5, 1894, D.B. Taylor, Esq. went to Harrisburg with a petition that was signed by nearly 150 voters, asking the Governor to appoint a court to investigate the 1894 election results between Judge White and Judge Blair.  The petition sought the Governor to appoint a court consisting of three Judges closest to Indiana to sit to hear and determine which candidate is entitled to the office.

The claim was that Judge White was declared the winner by reason of false returns, and those signing the petition did not believe White received more than 3,600 legal votes, but that Blair did receive 3,949 legal votes.  In the petition it was alleged that 118 votes were taken from disqualified voters whose names were not on the ballot check lists; 148 votes were taken from persons who were at least 22 and had not paid taxes within two years; 59 votes and upwards of people who gave, or promised to give, bribes; 109 votes of persons who received bribes; and two persons under 21 voted – the claim was that all these votes went to White. 

Attorney General Hensel approved the petition on December 6 and the petition was sent to Governor Pattison.

Judge White traveled to Harrisburg on December 7 for a hearing before the Governor in the afternoon.  Judge White was represented by Lyman D. Gilbert of Harrisburg.  At the hearing, the Governor directed Attorney Gilbert to submit briefs to the Attorney General that week.  The Governor also appointed Judge Barker, of Ebensburg; Judge Doty, of Greensburg; and Judge Reyburn, of Kittanning to serve on the panel.  It was reported that White’s attorney filed an objection against Judge Reyburn as he was the brother-in-law of D.B. Taylor, the plaintiff’s attorney, but Judge White denied the claim stating:

The people of this county know all about that election.  I was fairly elected in the face of an opposition such as a candidate never before saw in Indiana County.  The opposition say that can change my majority of 87 to 349 in favor of my opponent.  In answer to that I have positive proof of several hundred illegal votes cast for Judge Blair – illegal, because the voter had not paid his taxes.  I do not believe the people of the county are in sympathy with this talked-of contest.  Of course there may have been some illegal votes cast because of technicalities, but the people will not lay to my charge the failure of election officers to comply with formalities.

Judge Blair stated that he was not pushing for the contest and knew nothing of the plans or methods of those who were backing the contest.

Court was called into session on December 21, 1894 at 10 a.m.   The first order of business was to appoint a president of the panel, to which Judge Doty was selected.  After Prothonotary Peelor read the Governor’s commissions, Attorney Taylor (for the petitioners) and Attorney Banks (for Judge White) presented their opening statements.  The attorneys present on behalf of Judge White were: Cunningham, Banks, Scott, Watson, and Keener.

Judge White, with the court’s permission, presented a statement because of the absence of an attorney who had expected to be there.  He objected to the sitting of the Honorable Calvin Reyburn, President Judge of the 33rd District, because of the circumstances.  He said in his statement, “This request is made out of no disrespect for his Honor or from want of confidence in his judicial character and integrity, but because of the surroundings.”  As mentioned above, the objection was over Judge Reyburn being the brother-in-law of D.B. Taylor, attorney for Blair.

The Judges retired to conference and upon returning to the bench Judge Doty announced that it was Judge Reyburn’s personal desire to withdraw from the board, but because of the Governor’s commission and the evident intent of the law that the three Judges closest to the Courthouse of Indiana County preside over the matter; it was decided that Judge Reyburn would remain a member of the panel.  Mr. Banks objected vigorously to the decision, but he was overruled.

Mr. Banks then made an oral motion that the petition be quashed on the grounds that it was vague and indefinite, stating that the very vagueness of the petition looked like a scheme of the petitioners to get into the ballot boxes.

Mr. Taylor responded that many of the ballot boxes had already been opened and papers extracted, and that before too much time had passed, the people of the county would know who did it.  He quoted many authorities why it was not necessary to designate who case the illegal votes an in what districts the frauds were perpetrated.

Mr. Taylor requested that counsel for petitioners not be compelled to furnish the names of those who voted illegally, and gave the reason that it would interfere in the subpoenaing of their witnesses.  Judge Barker then asked for a little more definite explanation upon which Taylor stated, “Why, your honor…I can in a very few minutes bring you absolute proof that already attempts have been made to get people out of the county until after this contest is decided.”

Mr. Cunningham then took the floor speaking at length about the vagaries of the petition and the turmoil which could result if something more definite was not presented.  He told the court, “Unless this petition states who these illegal voters are and where they voted there is not a man in Indiana County who cannot be called upon to testify. Counsel for the petitioners have unlimited power in the matter unless your honors grant a ‘bill in particular,’ asking for more definite speculations.”

After a long discussion among the Judges, they came to a conclusion with Judge Doty announcing a unanimous opinion that the petition was vague, and it needed to state who the illegal voters were, and where they voted.  The Court granted the bill, and counsel for the petitioners would have until January 1, 1895 to file their answer.

Sheriff D.C. Mack was then appointed as commissioner to collect all the ballot boxes in the county and keep them in his custody until he was called upon to deliver them to the court.

The court then adjourned until January 15, when the Judges would again convene and hear the evidence in the case.

At 9:00 a.m. on January 15, 1895 the court panel convened with Judge Doty announcing, “Well, we are ready to proceed, Mr. Taylor.”

D.B. Taylor called William Fry and Lester Ruffner, and while the court was waiting for the witnesses to be brought in, Judge White came into the court room, shook hands with the Judges on the bench, and then seated himself at counsel table.

William Fry appeared and was sworn; stated he lived near Marion and voted in Rayne Township.

            Attorney Taylor: “State whether or not any person gave you money for your vote.”

            Attorney Banks: “Just a moment; that’s objected to.”

Attorney Banks argued that in the Bill of Particulars filed by Blair had made no specifications of any voters who had received bribes.  He further attacked the Bill saying it was not signed by any person.  He said the signatures should be there and that the paper should be sworn to.

Judge Barker replied that the object of the court when they ordered the filing of the Bill was to insure there was sufficient cause for the proceedings, and if there were no objections the contestants would be allowed to amend their specifications.

Mr. Cunningham wanted to know if the Bill was amended, if the other side would have the privilege to answer it.

Judge Barker announced that the court would allow the contestants to amend their Bill and Attorney Taylor who had his paper ready handed it to the Prothonotary.

Further examination of the witness was objected to and then there were long arguments from both sides.  The argument was made by White’s attorneys that witnesses could not be made to testify to having received or given bribes.  The Blair people contended that the law said that no testimony given in a case of the kind could be used against witnesses in any future proceeding which might be brought against him and that therefore they were safe as far as incrimination was concerned.

Attorneys Cunningham and Banks contended that after a voter has sworn to his eligibility to vote, the vote should be taken and counted and if he had perjured himself or taken a bribe, the remedy was to be found in another court.  The court recessed from 11:15 to 1:30 to consider the arguments.

The court reconvened, and Judge Doty announced that the objections were overruled, and the evidence would be admitted.

In answer to the Bill of Particulars, Judge White filed on the night of January 15, claiming that there were upwards of 1,023 illegal votes were cast for John P. Blair.  The allegations were as follows: Non-residents, 34; not registered, 199; taxes unpaid, 455; under age, 7; defective ballots, 4; marked by parties not asked to assist in marking, 4; marked contrary to orders, 6; marked by persons incompetent to assist, 4; voters not naturalized, 2; promised to give valuable consideration, 47; received or agreed to receive valuable consideration, 157.  He also averred that votes of several districts should be thrown out on account of irregularities.

The court then heard testimony of 1,372 witnesses, which took up 1,541 typewritten pages.  In summary, the testimony is summarized as consisting of allegations and denials of bribery with money and/or whiskey, violations of election laws, and sundry other improprieties and questionable electioneering tactics.

It was presented that John Guffey, a prominent Democratic politician of Pittsburgh, had written a letter charging that Bennet’s liquor house had furnished Judge White with 100 packages of whiskey during the election campaign.  The owners of the establishment denied the charges.

Judge White testified on his own behalf, as a large crowd had gathered to hear his side of the story:

The contestants have produced testimony showing that I gave money during the recent campaign to a number of persons, in all about $21 [approximately $635 in today’s money].  I will explain these transactions.  I met Samuel Cooper a political friend of mine, at Gettysburg [Hillsdale] and we had some conversation about election matters.  I asked him to see a number of people for me, and to procure a driver to take me over the township.  We walked back an alley to a buggy shed, and I gave him $2.  The secrecy of the transaction was brought about by my thinking that if my opponents saw me give him the money they would put a false construction on it.  The money was for legitimate campaign expenses, and Cooper’s testimony was correct.  I have no apology to make concerning that transaction.

Clark Wilson testified that I gave him money before the election, he told the truth.  I gave him 50 cents or $1, as I have often done before, and that simple act of charity has nothing to do with the election, as Wilson also testified on the stand.

Robert McBreth came to my office to see me.  He said he had been doing some work for me, and thought there were others in his vicinity that he could get to support me.  He wanted expense money and I gave him $2.  William B. Lytle swore that I gave him $2, that is also correct.  I was down in Conemaugh Township, and he drove with me one day to see a number of people.  In the evening he got supper for me and fed my horses.  He did not want to take the money, but I said I did not wan to take his hospitality for nothing.  On a subsequent visit I gave his sister $1 for a like purpose.  He did not want to accept it, but I would not listen to a refusal.

I met William Trimble, of East Wheatfield, at a local bank.  I persuaded him to accompany me on an electioneering tour over the township.  He took care of my horse, and gave me my dinner, and for these services I gave him $5.  Austin Condron also received $5.  He was very active in my behalf, and was my friend before he received a cent from me.  It was not necessary for me to pay him anything.

David Campbell, of Heshbon, is a Democrat, but was one of my supporters all through the campaign.  He came to my office and made an arrangement whereby he was to keep me posted through correspondence.  I gave him $2 for postage and incidentals.  As the election drew near I lost his support, probably through failure of mine to answer some of his letters.

David Mardis received a dollar, but that was before the primary.  He is a very poor man, and I believed he needed it.

These instances I believe cover the amount of $21, which I am charged with having given for votes.

I never told John Nealor I would pay his back taxes if he would support me.  Three witnesses who have testified in rebuttal of that evidence heard the conversation.  I gave Alex. McCoy a dollar at Ambrose.  He was supporting me, and thought he could get some friends into line.  The dollar was given him for expenses, and not to influence his vote.

A young man, whom I have since learned was Samuel Hunter, came into my office and talked about the election.  He swore that I sent him to John H. Rochester for whiskey.  My best recollection is that I did nothing of the kind.  I did not even know that Rochester had whiskey or wine at his house, and I certainly had no claim on him other than friendship.  I never authorized Rochester to use liquor in my behalf – none whatever.

James Trindle called on me during the week of the county fair.  He knew I was an old friend of his father, and I gave him a dollar to get some dinner and may have given him some liquor.  Everybody knows that I am not a teetotaler, and I have no desire to be a hypocrite about the matter.  We had absolutely no conversation about the election.  I talked to Calvin Miller, and may have given him expenses for hauling voters to the polls.  Lewis Burnheimer is mistaken in his testimony that I promised to put him on the jury.  I never said that; I wouldn’t say it.  The same is true of the father of Miss Mary Conrad.  The young lady quoted me as saying I would put her father on the jury if he would support me.  All that I said was, ‘Tell your father to come and see me when in town;” John Lutes’s testimony was that I promised to put him on the jury if he would give me a ‘hist.’ I never made such a promise, nor did I promise to renew Porter Campbell’s note.

Myers testified that I sent him to Cashier Watt for money.  Now, I never knew Walter Myers until after the election, and the conversation he swore to positively never occurred.  Nicewonger, Myers’s companion, often called on me to borrow money, but I always told him I had none to loan.  He came to my house for money but I told him he would have to arrange matters of that kind at the bank.  Cashier Watt had no authority to pay out money for me.  Myers was in my office for money after the election.

I gave no person any money, nor made any offers or promises to influence votes.  I thought I knew what my privileges were under the law and certainly lived up to all just requirements.  There were, of course legitimate campaign expenses which were paid through the county chairman and many of the persons who came to me for money were referred to Mr. McGregor.

After Judge White’s statement, there was cross examination, which caused some wrangling on the part of the attorneys, and the Judge asked the court to protect him from insult.

The case closed on May 4, 1895 when the Court announced that there were 571 illegal votes which were thrown out, some because of election law violations, others for bribery.  In total 306 ballots for Blair were disqualified along with 265 votes for White.  The Court also stated that Judge White’s electioneering activities and expenditures were within the law.  This left White the declared winner with 3771 votes to 3643 for Blair.  The judicial opinion consisted of 35 pages of opinion, 28 pages covering points of law and 99 pages of findings of fact, this comes to a total of 162 pages.  To put this in perspective a typical United States Supreme Court case typically comes to approximately 11 pages.

So do you believe Judge White was fully within the confines of the law, or was he walking a thin hairline between lawful and unlawful?

Indiana County Ghost Stories Part III

“Yank” Brown

Somewhere between Armagh and Blairsville, along the route of the old turnpike, which more or less parallels U.S. Route 22, there was said to be a cave containing kegs of gold and silver and more than a bushel of watches hidden there by robbers.  The loot has never been found.

Our story goes back to the early 1800s, when John Brown settled west of Armagh along the old Huntingdon, Cambria and Indiana Turnpike.  Both the map prepared by David Peelor in 1855 and the 1871 “Atlas of Indiana County” locate the resident of “J. Brown” along the turnpike about 300 rods west of New Washington (now Clyde) in West Wheatfield Township.  In the atlas, another “J. Brown” house is about 450 rods northwest of the first site and 100 or more rods north of the turnpike.

A story about John Brown was written by Frances Strong Helman, in part:

Not far from the old stone pike, now Route 22, southwest of Armagh, Indiana County, are the ruins of a cave…John “Yank” Brown’s cave.

Way back in the distant past, John arrived form New England and became known to his neighbors as “Yank.” He established a tavern along the pike, and the gory details of what happened there were well-kept secrets.  Travelers going down the pike who were believed to have money were not seen on the road after they had time to pass “Yank’s” tavern.  It was whispered around that the abandoned well was probably the last resting place of one peddler.

An over-hanging rock is still pointed out as a shelter used by the rascal’s family when things got too wild indoors…

He had an interest in horses too.  He stole them…

Brown managed to involve those who knew his secrets in such a way that they had no desire to turn informer.  When Yank was dying one of his cronies was present, and it seemed the visitor greatly feared the sick man would babble.  He is said to have leaned over Brown and whispered, “Die game, Yank! Die game!”

It was rumored that the old scamp had hidden money in the cave, and at least two groups of people have dug in the cave but found nothing. There are still people in the county who were told in the years gone by that “the treasures were stacked shoulder high” in the cave.  All the digging in the cave has caused earth slides and it is no longer safe to enter.

Years and years ago, on dark still nights, those walking along the pike or traveling by horse and  buggy, declared they heard the thudding hooves of Brown’s stolen horses as they were driven by “ghostly Yank” toward the cave…

Helman’s story, based on folklore, has been supplemented by historical research done by Clarence Stephenson.  John Brown first comes to historical notice in the early newspapers of Indiana County when he was arrested March 17, 1853, on a charge of stealing two horses. The person making the charge was Robert Stoops of Canoe Township, who was himself indicted at the same time on a horse-theft charge.

Brown was released on $1,000 bail. At the June term of court, he was defended by Augustus Drum, and the charges were dismissed. Stoops, however, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to the Western Penitentiary.

In 1856, the operations of an extensive horse-stealing ring were revealed.  One of the members, John Rutter, was jailed in Pittsburgh.  There he was visited by Constable Joseph R. Smith of Indiana, and Rutter gave him the names of others of the gang.  Four members lived in Indiana County, three “on the mountains,” three in Blair County, four in Tioga County, one in Luzerne County, eight in Chemung County, NY.

Rutter confessed that in 1851 three men made proposals to him to enter a horse-stealing gang that members, disguised as drovers, spotted out horses to be stolen.  He thought about 150 horses in all had been stolen.  The gang also did counterfeiting and stole goods and merchandise.

John and Lewis Brown were arrested in Westmoreland County and released on $1,000 bail each. Lewis Brown forfeited his bail and fled to Chemung County, NY, where he was again arrested. Rutter, who had turned state’s witness, was taken to Elmira, NY, to testify against Brown. During the night, the hotel where Rutter was kept was fired upon.

In March 1856, John Brown Jr. and John R. Harper were placed in Indiana County Jail on horse-stealing charges, but Harper promptly escaped.  Afterward, a coroners’ jury exhumed the body of Louisa Harper (his wife?) on suspicion of foul play.  The verdict was that she had died November 20, 1855, at the residence of John Brown Jr., Wheatfield Township, as the result of a drug.

Indiana County Ghost Stories Part II

Hexes and Tokens

Once there was a watering trough about half-way down the Trimble Hill on Route 286, near the same locality where the headless peddler used to make an appearance.

It is said a band of gypsies camped there and told fortunes of the travelers on the road. Some of the farmers in the community were displeased and drove the gypsies away at gun point.  Before leaving they hexed, or put a curse, on the spring that supplied the trough.  From that time on horses that drank from the trough became sick.  It’s so, for Uncle Isaac watered his horses there, and both became sick and one died.

Tokens were considered a warning that something unpleasant was soon to happen, usually a death.

For example, I will relate a story I have heard many times.  Back in 1876, a mother and here three-year-old daughter were alone in their home.  The mother was sewing in the early evening, the little girl played on the floor, and all was quiet.  Suddenly they heard the slight rattled caused by the old grandfather placing his cane beside their door.

The mother raised her head and looked toward the door expecting the visitor to enter, and the child got up from the floor gayly crying, “Grandpa, grandpa.”  The door did not open and mother and child went together and opened it.  A light snow lay on the ground, but no visitor waited at the threshold.  There were no tracks in the snow.  The next day the mother received word that here sister Sue had died at the same time she had heard the rattle of the cane that was not there.  That was a token.

The Shadowing Hand

The quietest, yet the uneasiest spirt in Indiana County is the one that hovers over a stone house near the Lions Health Camp in White Township.  The house was built before the Civil War.

The story begins long ago with two brothers who lived in the stone house.  They argued and bickered constantly.  During the summer months when they were busy and were often separated by their various duties they did not come to blows.  But long hours indoors after the long northern winter set in resulted in a horrible end to their quarreling.  One brother struck the other dead.

The brothers had not been very sociable with their neighbors, and so were not missed until early spring.  A neighbor seeking to barter for seed corn went up the hill to the stone house.  He noted how neglected the place appeared; there was not a wisp of smoke coming from the chimney although fire was still needed for comfort.  His loud knocking on the door went unanswered.  The neighbor went to the log barn and found the cow and her calf dead in their stall probably for want of food and water.  There was no sign of the horse.  The pigs were found later foraging for themselves in the woods.

Back to the house went the neighbor, this time intent upon traying to look through a window.  Crossing the dooryard he stopped aghast at what he saw.  It was a man’s hand protruding from the earth!

The man hurriedly made his way over the hill and down the hollow for more neighbors. They returned with him except for one who went for the constable.  When the earth was carefully removed the body of the murdered brother was found where he had been buried just under the surface of the frozen earth.  No one had seen the other one leave on horseback, and his fate remains a mystery to this day.  But the old stone house began its peculiar history.

It had a series of tenants, but none remained long.  They did not complain of seeing or hearing anything strange, but they were unhappy and never seemed to improve the location to any great extent.  The dooryard grew up in weeds, the shutters flapped in the wind, and the spring ran willy-nilly down over the side of the hill.  The old log barn fell into ruins until only the foundation stones remained.

The story was brough to life by Leslie Pattison, well-known local artist.  Knowing the report of the murder he tied the idea of the unhappy ghost into a landscape.  He painted the old house and over the structure was the shadow of a great hand.

For a time the Beverage Association of Indiana County had possession of the place, named it Dogwood Park, and turned it into a picnic spot.  At this time the story was being told and retold, and it took on the title of “The Shadowing Hand of Dogwood Park.”

The Ghost with the Lighted Lantern

The village of Strongstown, on Route 422, half-way between Indiana and Ebensburg, was once a stage coach stop on the old pike; later it was the center of a rip-roaring lumbering industry.  There was probably many reasons for a restless “spirit” to wander in the area, but this one carried a lighted lantern.

The last report of her appearance was early int eh spring of 1897.  A young man returning to Strongstown quite late on a Saturday evening met the “thing” near the spot where the south end of Susquehanna street becomes a township road.

As the young man came near the approaching figure he noted it was a woman, or something that looked like a woman, and was carrying a bundle in one arm and had a lighted lantern.  Thinking it was a neighbor, he prepared to speak, but the lantern was quickly shielded behind her long, very full skirt.  While he stood open-mouthed in surprise the figure quickly passed him going toward Dilltown. While he was actually watching in the direction in which it went the ghost vanished.

It seemed to have come from a house where a man had died not long before.

That Poor Simpson Boy

It all happened here in the county over eighty years ago. A Helman family lived exactly twelve miles from Indian, but in which direction is not known.  Near their home was a watering trough for the horses driven along the road that led to Indiana.  Taking a turn to the left near this spot was a lane that led to the home of a Simpson family.

The only son remained at home in the Simpson family was such a nice young fellow.  He often stopped by the Helman house and assisted with the heavy outdoor chores when Mr. Helman was absent from home.  Simpson would repeat glowing stories he had heard of opportunities to build up a fortune in “the West.” In some manner he accumulated $300, and arrangements were made to go to Kansas to homestead a tract of land.

Young Simpson planned to meet two other local residents at the watering trough at 4 o’clock on the morning of his departure.  He would ride on their wagon as far as Indiana where he would board the train for the West.  Later he would return for the old folks and taken them with him to Kansas.

The day of departure came, and as he approached the watering trough, he made it a point to pass by the Helman home for the family was much interested in his venture.  Mrs. Helman and her little daughter slept in a downstairs bedroom, and the traveler knocked on the bedroom window and called, “Goodbye, Aunt Lindy!” “Goodbye, boy, and God bless you,” replied Aunt Lindy.

A reasonable length of time went by, but a letter did not come from Kansas.  Thinking the young man was only busy getting settled on his land his parents were content. But weeks rolled along, and three months went by, and the parents and neighbors now feared something tragic had happened.  They hoped each day would bring some message.  The winter season arrived, and one night long after the Helmans had been asleep the mother and little daughter were awakened by someone knocking on the window.

“Yes, yes,” called the mother sleepily, “who is it?” Then she turned toward the window, and it appeared that the visitor had been carrying a lantern for they could see the color of his suit, the watch chain across the vest, and his necktie, but the window shade seemed to have been drawn down just far enough that the face was not visible.

“Do you know of a family named Simpson living around here?” queried the visitor at the window.

“Simpson? Why, yes, there’s a family just back of us by that name,” explained Mrs. Helman.

“Well, can you tell me how to get there?”

“Yes,” she said, “you go down the road out there for just a little way to the watering trough, turn left and follow the lane to the Simpsons.” All was quiet for a moment, and the person at the window did not move.  Then he said, “The watering trough, ah, yes, the watering trough, the watering trough, the watering trough.” The voice became stronger. “Thank you very much. Goodbye.”

“That’s alright. You’re welcome. Goodbye,” answered Lindy. The figure moved away from the window, and could be dimly seen as he went toward the gate. “Hmmm,” remarked Lindy as she sat up in bed, “the moon must have come up.” Just then the light vanished.  Naturally poor Lindy did not sleep much the rest of the night, and the whole episode was reviewed to her husband in the morning, telling him the visitor wore a brown suit and had a watch chain across his vest. It so happened this description fit the Simpson boy as he was last seen.

“Uh-huh,” said the husband with a look of amazement on his face, “that must have been Simpson.” His wife continued her story telling of the light suddenly disappearing, and that she had since made sure it was the dark of the moon. “There’s a lot of youngsters around here,” commented the husband as he noted the attentive children.

Later Mr. Helman announced, “I’m going hunting this morning.” As you have probably guessed – he hunted in a direct line across the field to Simpsons. The Simpson boy was not home, nor had his parents seen anyone during the night. Helman felt he should relate the story and did so.  Poor, old Mr. Simpson was bewildered, but the mother wept bitterly, sobbing, “He’s dead. That settles it, now I know he’s dead.”

It was learned through cautious inquiry in the right places, the men who were said to have taken Simpson from the watering trough to Indian seemed to have unusual amount of money to spend after his departure.  No charge was ever made, and Simpson never came back.

Indiana County Ghost Stories Part I

As we enter into the spooky Halloween seasons, we thought it would be fun to share some local ghost stories that were collected by Frances Strong Helman.  They are just that stories, but as with many stories passed down through the generation there is some truth to them. These stories are reprinted as they were originally published in 1963, should you have any local “ghost stories” we would love to hear about them in the comments.

The Ghosts of Watt’s Hill

Watt’s Hill is located west of Indiana on Route 422.  As early as 1889, travelers on that section of road reported seeing strange things.

One story was that a little hunched figure could be seen several yards back from the road, and one young woman felt sure that she had seen the apparition as she rode along the road with her father when she was a very small child.

From another family came the tale about the little hunchback.  It was recalled that a family lived just at the foot of the hill, and the crippled child was a part of the household.  It was not known if he was their very own or if he were a homeless waif they allowed to share their roof.  The little fellow received very cruel treatment at their hands, and finally one day after an unmerciful beating he crawled away into the woods.  Except for the little hunched figure sometimes seen at a distance – over a period of many years – nothing more was ever known about the unfortunate little boy.

The second ghost attached to the hill always made its appearance nearer the top of the hill.  A man was hanged from a tree near that spot – some say he was a peddler.

Before 1890, a group from Indiana saw this ghostly figure.  They had driven by horse and buggy to Shelocta for supper.  It was a fine fall evening and they were in no hurry to return home, and it was after dark when they started back to the county seat, but after they were half way up Watt’s Hill the fun ended for most of the group.

They all claimed to have seen the famous ghost of the hanged man.  The young people had passed by when someone noticed “the thing.” At first a few of the couples were brave, got out of the buggies, and started walking back down the hill to investigate, or hold a consultation with the ghost.  The ghost seemed to move forward to meet them.  That was all that was needed to complete the investigation! They turned and ran back up the hill.  One of the young ladies fainted and had to be carried to her buggy near the top of the hill where she was revived.  Except for being scared they arrived home safely.

The entire group declared the ghost was eight to ten feet tall, it floated along six feet from the ground, and it was all white.  The wind seemed to blow it backwards and forwards just as the remains of the hanged man must have swayed in the breeze.

Years have passed, the route of the highway has changed, and the settlers responsible for what happened on Watt’s Hill have gone to their reward.  The ghosts of the woe-begone creatures must be satisfied for they are seen no more.

The Fiddling Ghost of Mahoning Valley

Indiana County’s musical ghost inhabits a little house at Smicksburg, in West Mahoning Township, and has been named the “fiddling ghost of Mahoning Valley.”

The story begins in the days when the Baltimore and Ohio railroad was being built through the township, soon after the turn of the century.  Two cronies came to work on the railroad and took up their abode in the little house with its high steep roof.

One of these fellows played a fiddle.  He played everywhere he was asked to play; at any neighborhood gathering he had toes tapping with his rollicking tunes.  He also played at the temporary diggings in the little house; and he played without invitation from his friend – early in the morning and late at night.  Finally, there came a day when the friend could stand no more.  When the fiddler and his companion did not show up for work some one went to the house.  The musician was found stabbed to death, his violin broken, and the companion gone, bag and baggage.

When fall arrived, strange stories were whispered about.  Yes, there was “something funny” about the little house.  A few folks swore they saw and heard the dead fiddler, and of all places – he was sitting astride the house roof.

As years rolled along it was found that on frosty nights a vapor seems to envelope the top of the house, and as an unfelt breeze clears it away the old fiddler is seen on the roof and the weird tunes are faintly heard.

As late as 1955, the old boy was heard if not seen.  It was just about Hallowen when George Swetnam aired the almost forgotten yarn in the Sunday Pittsburgh Press.  A group of students from the Dayton high school decided to visit the old house just for kicks.  The weather was exactly right, and as they came to a halt near the building, the eerie strains of a violin was heard.  Not one of them bothered to look up at the roof as they tore out of the area.  One boy fell while leaping across a ditch for a near-cut and almost broke his leg.

Without question the fiddling ghost of Mahoning Valley is the noisiest in the county.

Headless Apparitions

Two headless apparitions have been reported in the county.  The first was seen in the Starford neighborhood, out in Green Township.  This one was a traveler who walked along the road carrying his head under his arm while in the opposite hand he clutched a rolling pin.

The first man who saw him ran as fast as his legs would carry him until he reached the village store.  There he babbled incoherently about the “awful sight” until someone brought the minister who managed to quiet him, and the unbelievable story was told.

The story seemed true for soon others declared they met the headless ghost walking along the same stretch of road, still carrying his head under his arm and swinging the rolling pin.

This restless spirit must have wrought vengeance upon the proper person or persons for he is seen no more.

The second headless man made his appearance at the foot of the Trimble Hill on Route 286, between Indiana and Clymer.  It is said that this was the ghost of a murdered peddler.  He did not get busy until exactly midnight in the dark of the moon.  Then he stepped from the side of the road and grabbled the bridles of passing horses.  A sharp cut of the whip was all that was needed to throw the ghost of balance.  The writer never fails to think of the headless peddler on dark nights, but either the time has been wrong or he dislikes automobiles.

Sketches of Indiana County Revolutionary Soldiers – Part II

John Leasure

John Leasure, son of John, was born in 1762, Sewickly settlement, Westmoreland County.  His father was an early settler in that area.

John Leasure, Jr., served as a private in the Westmoreland County Rangers, in Capt. John McClelland’s Company, and was one of the scouts sent to guard the homes of settlers along Crooked Creek in what is now western Indiana and eastern Armstrong counties.

This soldier married Jane Culbertson in the late 1790s, and lived for a time on the farm which later became the property of Benjamin Walker, Armstrong Township, Indiana County.  In 1809, they moved to the farm later occupied by their son-in-law, Samuel T. Brady, in East Mahoning Township.  The warrent, issued to Leasure and patented January 17, 1802, called for a tract of 398 acres.  John Leasure was a mighty hunter and it is said he paid for his land with the proceeds from wolf scalps.

Caldwell’s History of Indiana County gives the births and the marriage date of the couple, but the births do not check with their tombstone in Gilgal Presbyterian cemetery.  Descendants know that children were born before the marriage date in the county history, so it is assumed the printed record is incorrect and we use the dates from the tombstone.

John Leasure died December 20, 1844, in East Mahoning Township, and his wife, Jane, departed this life in 1829.

Cornelius Hutchison

Cornelius Hutchison, according to his application for pension, on August 20, 1819, was sixty-two years old.  He enlisted in the month of May 1778, at Shippensburg, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, in a company commanded by Captain Samuel Talbert, Colonel Walter Stewart’s Regiment, Pennsylvania Line; and was discharged January 15, 1781, at Trenton, NJ.  The soldier stated he participated in the battles of Monmouth, Springfield, and the blockhouse battle where General Anthony Wayne commanded.  He was also in Captain Matthew Scott’s company.

From records provided by descendants, Cornelius Hutchison was born in England in 1757; in 1786 he married Eleanor McGuire (also called Nellie), 1766-1841.  They are believed to have come to what is now Indiana County about 1796.  Cornelius Hutchison died March 10, 1832, and is buried in Hice’s graveyard, near New Florence, in Indiana County, but the location of the grave is unknown.

John Montgomery

John Montgomery for whom Montgomery Township, Indiana County, was named once owned a large tract of land within the township limits.  This Revolutionary veteran was born in 1759, in County Antrim, Ireland, and came to America in 1774.

His application for pension states he enlisted for one year in Captain Abraham Smith’s Company, Col. Irwin’s Regiment, Pennsylvania Line, in 1776; and in Captain Hout’s Company, Col. Holby’s Regiment, 1777.  He was discharged at Newburgh, NY, 1783, having participated in the battles of Three Rivers, Germantown, Brandywine, and Monmouth, and was present at the taking of Cornwallis.

Among the notes concerning John Montgomery’s service was the statement that at the end of the war he was one of General George Washington’s life guards.  On November 11, 1829, John Willson was sworn before Stewart Davis, a Blacklick Township justice of peace, that Montgomery was in Captain Smith’s Company.  Michael Mullen, also of Blacklick Township, gave an affidavit that Montgomery was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.

John Montgomery died November 11, 1840, aged 81 years.  His grave in Ebenezer Presbyterian cemetery, at Lewisville, Conemaugh Township, is easily located by the large square monument.

Captain Gawin Adams

Gawin Adams and wife, Nancy Irvin Adams, natives of Ireland, first came to this locality before the Revolution, and their abode was within the present limits of Indiana borough.  However, they were forced to go back to their old home in what is now Franklin County because of Indians.

During the period they were “down east” Adams served as captain in the 2nd Company, First Battalion, Bucks County Militia, in 1780; in the fall of 1781 he was listed as captain under the command of Colonel John Keller.

After their return to what is now Indiana County, all went well until 1792, when Indians again became troublesome.  One night, while Nancy was ill and confined to her bed, the redskins arrived at the Adams cabin.  Andrew and Sally Allison with their little daughter had been warned, and were already in the Adams home.  The unwelcome visitors kept the small party in terror during the night, one whistling on his rifle charger on one side of the cabin, and another answering him in a like manner on the other side.  Young Adams and Allison held their rifles all night ready to repel the attack.  Dreading a warm reception from these hardy frontiersmen, the Indians withdrew before daybreak. In the morning the men yoked the oxen, placed Nancy Adams and her new-born daughter on a sled and hurried to Moorhead’s fort, a distance of about five miles.

Gawin Adams erected the first grist and saw mill at “Porter field” – the settlement located near Twolick Creek, where the cement bridge is under water, and the old highway started its ascent of the “Devil’s Elbow” hill.  Tradition credits the Adams family with having brought the first negroes to Indiana County.

The last home of Gawin and Nancy Adams was located near the 422 Drive-In Theatre, on the left side of the road, going east on East Pike.  He died between April 19, when his will was written, and December 12, 1818, when the will was proved, and was buried in the old Presbyterian graveyard in Indiana.  Nancy’s will was dated February 5, 1836, when she gave her age as 86 years thus establishing the year 1750 as her birth date.  The will was proved September 2, 1839.

William Neal (Niel)

William Niel was born in 1736, in Ireland, and came to America about 1760.  He first settled at Philadelphia, but soon went to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and finally to what is now Indiana County before 1800.  He bought his first land from the estate of Daniel Cahill, and the transaction is recorded in Deed Book C, page 317, Westmoreland County.  At that time the location was given as Armstrong Township, Westmoreland County.  The date recorded was June 7, 1788.  The site of this first home on our frontier was within the present limits of Young Township.

On March 13, 1799, William Niel, of Westmoreland County, sold his tracts of land in Antrim Township, Franklin County, to George Clark of the same county.

He served as a private under Captain William Findley, First Battalion, Cumberland County Militia, in 1778, and in 1780-81, was under command of Captain William Berryhill, 8th Battalion, Cumberland County Associators and Militia.

William Niel was a surveyor and well known in this section.  His wife was Mary Reynolds of whom we have no further record.  He died in Young Township, September 8, 1813, and is buried in Bethel Presbyterian Church cemetery, in Center Township. 

John Shields

John Shields was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, August 18, 1759, but by the time of the Revolutionary War the family had migrated westward to Toboyne Township, Cumberland County (now Perry County).  He enlisted in the Cumberland County Militia at the age of 17 years, and was a corporal in the company of Captain James McClure which served in Colonel Montgomery’s Regiment of Flying Camp.  Stewart’s History of Indiana County states he served a tour as a substitute for his father, and on another occasion for a neighbor.

On August 30, 1782, John Shields and Margaret Elizabeth Marshall were married.  Their son William was born in July 1784, and the following year the little family left their home on the banks of Yellow Breeches Creek, in Cumberland County, and started for a new home west of the Alleghenies.

Their few possessions were loaded on pack horses for the journey.  Little William was placed in a creel on a horse, and on the other end the young couple placed their favorite cat and eight pounds of flax to balance him.  Once when the baby became restless, and John carried him in his arms some distance ahead of the party, the group heard him call to “hurry up, come quick!”  A half-starved panther was crouching beside the path.  Margaret relieved the father of their child, and he and another man stoned the panther to death.  They first stopped at a place near Campbell’s mill, on the bank of Blacklick creek.  There other children were born, and the mother died in 1816.  Two years later the marriage of John Shields and Elizabeth Carson took place.

Their home site was later known as Shields’ Fort.  The veteran was seven feet in height, and it is said that settlers living between block houses depended upon him to warn them of Indian movements, and that a number of them would always hurry to Shields’ cabin for protection.  Later he served in the State Militia in quelling Indian outbreaks.

His declining years were spent in the northern part of Indiana County where he died October 16, 1840.  His grave is marked in the cemetery at Washington United Presbyterian Church, in Rayne Township.

He was applying for a pension in 1833, and stated his birth date had been recorded in his father’s Bible.  His father gave the Bible to the deponent’s brother who died in the state of Ohio where he supposed the Bible remained.  The given names of father and brother were not mentioned.  His widow in her application for pension stated they were married in Center Township, October 8, 1818.  She was allowed a pension June 14, 1853, aged 73 years, and a resident of Madison Township, Armstrong County.

Hugh McIntire

Hugh McIntire was born 1754, served in the Cumberland County Associators and Militia, 8th Baattalion, 6th class, and is listed on the rolls in January 1778; and at another time was enrolled with the company of Captain William Berryhill, 3rd Company, 1st Battalion.  In 1780, he was in Lt. Daniel Smith’s Company.  Later Hugh McIntire appeared on the tax lists of Franklin County, Pennsylvania.  Franklin was once part of Cumberland County.

In 1795, the veteran bought the Indiana County homestead from Neal Murry, and the deed is recorded in Westmoreland County, Deed Book 3, page 491.  The family was forced to take refuge from Indians in a nearby blockhouse.  The original McIntire tract is now within the bounds of Blacklick township.  The soldier died in 1836, and is buried in Bethel United Presbyterian Cemetery, in Center Township.

William Work

William Work, born February 14, 1760, in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, a son of Samuel Work, served in the Cumberland County Militia, during the Revolution.  His name appears on militia roles in 1777-78-80-81-82.

In 1799, with his brother John, also a Revolutionary veteran, William Work migrated to Westmoreland County, and spent some time at the fort at the foot of Squirrel Hill, near the present location of the town of New Florence.  In 1804, the Work brothers and their families settled in Mahoning Township, in the part now known as East Mahoning.

For several years William Work taught school in the community, and is believed to have been the first school teacher in Mahoning township.  Before coming to Indiana County he was a singing master in Cumberland County.  He was influential in the organization of the Gilgal Presbyterian Church, and was enrolled with its first members.  Cancer ended his serve to the county and community on April 1, 1828, and he is buried in the Gilgal cemetery.

Sketches of Indiana County Revolutionary Soldiers – Part I

James Shields

James Shields enlisted in 1776 or early 1777 at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and served as a private in Captain William Chambers and Captain Pry’s companies, Colonel Moses Hazen’s Continental (called “Congress’ Own” Regiment).  He was discharged in June 1783.

He was in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in which he was wounded in the right arm; Whitemarsh, Monmouth, Horseneck, Stony Point, Brunswick and in the Siege of Yorktown.  He was wounded also in his right eyebrow at an unknown date.

He was allowed pension on application which was executed on August 4, 1819.  In 1820, he resided in Mahoning Township, Indiana County and was aged 76 years.  His wife was aged 50 years.  He had six daughters (one had two children) and a son, James.  He was still a resident of the county in 1834.

Patrick McGee

Patrick McGee was born in Londonderry, Ireland, and came to American and located in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1771.  He was a wheelwright and wagonmaker and engaged in that trade.

During the fight for American independence Patrick McGee served as a private in Captain John Marshall’s Company, Second Battalion, Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, commanded by Colonel Samuel Miles, in 1776.  In 1780 and 1781, he was listed as a private in the 7th Company, First Battalion, Cumberland County Militia, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Johnston.  It is said that during one of these tours of duty he was captured by the British and confined in a prion in New York City.

After the close of the war, this Revolutionary hero came to what is now Indiana County, settling near the present village of Grafton, and a farm later owned by the Graff family, in the year 1794.  He continued his trade and engaged in farming.  He was a member of the Presbyterian church.

Patrick McGee was born in 1750, and married Esther Pilson on April 17, 1796.  He died in 1818 in Blacklick Township and was buried in the Hopewell Methodist Cemetery.  His wife, Esther, was born in 1762 and died in 1830 and was buried beside her husband.  Their grave markers were removed to the Oakland Cemetery in Indiana PA in the 1940s.

George Hice

On March 27, 1833, George Hice, a resident of Wheatfield Township, appeared before the Honorable John Young, Judge of the Common Pleas, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Hice was 68 years old.

While a resident of Fort Ligonier, Westmoreland County he joined a company of volunteer rifleman commanded by Captain Samuel Shannon.  They assembled at Sheriff Carnahan’s on August 10, 1781, commanded by Colonel Archibald Loughry; they marched via Washington, PA to Wheeling, VA.  After a stay of about two days they went down the Ohio River in boats as far as a creek called Loughry’s creek, a few miles below the mouth of the Big Miami River.  At this place on August 24, 1781, about 110 men (many having deserted between Wheeling and this place) were attacked by a large number of Indians under the command of Simon Girty, George Girty and James Girty, and an Indian called Captain Brant.  The attack was made by the Indians from the shore just as some of the boats had touched for the purpose of landing.  Thirty-eight of the men were killed and Colonel Loughry was also killed by the Indians on the same day after he had been taken prisoner.

Those not killed, including George Hice, were taken to Shawnee towns on the Big Miami.  Four days after he was taken prisoner, he ran the gauntlet with several others.  He was taken to Mawmee towns where he was detained by the Indians for about a year.  He was then taken to Detroit, given to the British and held prisoner for another four months; thence in an English vessel to Fort Erie, thence to Montreal, St. Johns, across Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga; from Ticonderoga via Albany to New York.  From New York Hice made his way through New Jersey, Reading, Harrisburg and Carlisle, Pennsylvania, finally reaching Fort Ligonier, Westmoreland County, in the month of October 1783.

Hice further stated two years and two months elapsed from the time he left home until he returned, and that he never received a written discharge or documentary evidence to establish the facts and services in this declaration before Judge Young.

He stated, “I was born in the state of New Jersey about one mile from Flemingstown in the year 1765.”  He further stated he had a record of his age at the house where he resided, that he was living a Fort Ligonier when he entered service, and moved to Wheatfield Township, Indiana County, in 1785.  Hice said he volunteered for service, that he knew Colonel Archibald Loughry, Adj. John Guthrie, Captain Samuel Shannon, Captain Robert Orr, and that he (Hice) was known to John Ligat and Thomas Clarke.

Mathias Fisher, Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County, a soldier of the same company, testified Hice’s statement was true.

A note attached to the declaration states that George Hice died November 26, 1833.

Randall Laughlin

Randal Laughlin, a native of Ireland, came to America prior to the Revolutionary War, and purchased the improvement on a large tract of land lying part in Blacklick Township and part in Center Township, in what is now Indiana County.  A small quantity of ground had already been cleared, and Laughlin erected a small cabin.

After this improvement on his tract our subject returned to Franklin County, where he had lived for a short time, and there married Elizabeth Warnock, March 10, 1777, according to records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church, at Mercersburg.  The couple came to their Indiana County cabin that spring intent upon peaceful progress of their land improvement.

They were sadly disappointed for the summer brought marauding bands of Indians, and they were forced to take refuge at Fort Wallace, near present Brenizer, Westmoreland County. The farmers went out sometimes in small groups to their little farms, armed with rifles.  One day Randall Laughlin found that his horses had disappeared from the fort, and believing they might have wandered back to his cabin, he asked his neighbors to go there with him.

This cabin stood on the farm in Blacklick Township, and Laughlin was accompanied by Charles Campbell, for whom Campbell’s Mills was named; Samuel Dixon, of Blacklick Township; John and Levi Gibson, brothers, whose tract adjoined Laughlin.  The Gibson families of Blacklick Township are descendants of John.

All went well until the frontiersmen reached the cabin.  There they were surprised and captured by a band of Indians, led by a Frenchman.  They were allowed to write a statement on the cabin door of what happened, then were marched away. This took place Thursday, September 25, 1777.

The captives were taken to Kittanning, thence to Detroit and delivered to the British, then to Quebec.  After a severe winter, they were finally exchanged the next fall, except for Levi Gibson who died in Canada. Laughlin arrived at Boston, October 14, 1778.

In the meantime Elizabeth Laughlin had returned to Franklin County where her husband found her.  Their first born child, a son, whom he had never seen was over a year old.

The Laughlins remained in Franklin County until the end of the war, Randall serving in the 6th Company, First Battallion, Cumberland County Militia, in 1780.

By the Act of March 25, 1805, Charles Campbell, Randall Laughlin and John Wilson were appointed to survey a grant by George Clymer, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, of 250 acres of land for the county seat of the new county – Indiana.

This pioneer and defender of freedom took an active part in the affairs of this county until his death on January 6, 1818.  He was buried in the Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery, near his home.

Elizabeth Warnock Laughlin, born 1748, survived her husband ten years, dying on January 30, 1828.

Conrad Rice

Conrad Rice, a Revolutionary solider and Indiana County pioneer, came here from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1794.  He took up the tract of land upon which Memorial Park in Indiana is located, but was unable to remain the first winter due to Indian troubles.  The Rice family spent the winter months in the Ligonier Valley, and made a permanent settlement in 1795.  The land extending south included at least a part of the old fair ground, now known as the Mack Park Recreation Center.  Rice was a blacksmith.

Devout Lutherans came to the Rice home to worship when a circuit rider found the time to visit the community.  It was probably this custom that was responsible for starting the Lutheran Cemetery (Memorial Park).  Burials were made there as early as 1803.  On January 24, 1818, Conrad Rice deeded over two acres of his land, including the little cemetery, to the Indiana County Commissioners for use of the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches.  He was buried in the cemetery in 1823.

During the Revolution Conrad Rice served as a private in the Eighth Company, Sixth Battalion, Lancaster County Militia.

John Work

Shortly after the close of the close of the Revolutionary War, many families from the eastern coast pushed further into the wilderness of western Pennsylvania.

Among these pioneers were John and William Work, sons of Samuel Work who had settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, prior to the Revolution.

John and William both served in the Revolution; John served as a private in Captain Jack’s Company, First Battalion, Cumberland County Militia.

In 1785, John Work married Mary Brady, of Cumberland County.  She was a daughter of Samuel Brady of the Hugh Brady family of colonial and Revolutionary fame.

The Work brothers first settled in Westmoreland County, but in less than five years moved to Mahoning Township, Indiana County.  John was one of the first Justices of Peace in Mahoning Township and one of the original elders of Gilgal Presbyterian Church.  His life was quiet and peaceful after his settlement in Indiana County, but of short duration. He was found dead in the woods after accompanying a friend part way home.  His death occurred in March 1809.

The government marker for John Work was dediated in Gilgal cemetery, Sunday October 11, 1953, by the Indiana County Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, assisted by the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Indiana Post 1989.

Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton, pioneer of the Sutton family in Indiana County, served as a private in Captain David Peter’s Company, First New Jersey Regiment from October 10, 1775 to January 11, 1776. Next is a roll dated July 1, 1778, which shows he enlisted on June 1, 1777, for nine months.  His name is on a roll dated March 23, 1779 which reports him discharged.  Peter Sutton was a member of Captain Nixon’s Company of New Jersey Horse, and his name appears on an undated muster roll. Opposite the name is the date Jan’y 27th and the remark: “Discharged April 1, 1777.” He enlisted in Captain John Walton’s Company of Light Dragoons on April 1st and was discharged December 15, 1782.  From various census records definitely established, Peter Sutton probably served throughout the Revolution – from 1775 to 1782.

Peter Sutton and wife Pheobe, came from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, to Newport, the first town in Indiana County, and after Indiana was laid out they established a home at the county seat.  He built a two story log tavern at the corner of Philadelphia Street and Carpenter Avenue.  The first session of our county courts was held on the second floor of this tavern, December 1806.

Sutton died in Indiana in 1822 and   was buried in the old graveyard where Calvary United Presbyterian church now stands.  The location of the grave was lost, a memorial marker provide by the government was placed in Memorial Park.