Decoration Day 1869

May 30, 1868 was the first national commemoration of Memorial Day, when Union General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, set aside that day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, hamlet and churchyard in the land.”

At the time, there was no GAR post in Indiana County, so it is uncertain how the day was celebrated in the County.  However, there is an old postcard marked “First Decoration Day in Blairsville, Pa., 1868, in Market Square at Everett House.”  Later that year, on September 15, Kearney Post No. 28, GAR, was organized in Indiana.

For a number of years it was the only veterans’ organization in Indiana County. The first post commander was Col. Daniel S. Porter.  The other officers were Henderson C. Howard, senior vice commander; John Weir, junior vice commander; William R. Black, adjutant; Geoge A. McHenry, quartermaster; Dr. Robert Barr, surgeon; Theodroe Henderson, officer of the day; and John S. Fleming, officer of the guard.

When Memorial Day (also known as Decoration Day) came on May 29, 1869, Post 28 invited the other fraternal orders in Indiana to participate.  The Committee of Arrangements, consisting of George R. Lewis, S.A. Douglass, W.R. Loughry, Charles H. Row and William S. McLain, announced the following program:

            10am – The Post will meet at its hall and march to the Presbyterian Church followed by the others orders.

            At the church – Music on the organ titled “Lincoln’s Funeral March.” Reading of Gen. Logan’s general Order No. 21, Headquarters, GAR, and General Order No. 4, Headquarters, Department of Pennsylvania.  Prayer.  “Star Spangled Banner” by the choir.  Orations by Col. D.S. Porter and the Rev. J.H. Young.  Announce the order of procession to the cemeteries. Prayer.

            11am – Form in procession and march to the cemeteries.  A string band directed by H. Hargrave will halt at the head of each grave and play an appropriate march while the procession passes by on either side of the grave, each member dropping one or more flowers on the grave.  Return to the halls of the respective orders for dismissal.

The merchants of Indiana were requested to close between 10am and noon.  “It is hoped that so far as it is possible every one will join with us in strewing the graves with flowers, or dropping a tear over those who, when their country called, did not refuse to die.  Come one, come all, and make this one day sacred to the memory of our departed comrades.”  Afterward a complete account of the Memorial Day proceedings was published in the Indiana Register and American, occupying about four columns.

From this time on, similar ceremonies took place each year, and the day was long known as Decoration Day because of the custom of decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers. There were not nearly as many soldiers’ graves to be decorated then as now, only four years after the Civil War ended, so it was feasible to arch to each individual grave.

Unlike many other communities and counties, neither Indiana nor Indiana County ever erected a monument to its Civil War soldiers, but Saltsburg did on May 31, 1876, and that monument still stands in Edgewood Cemetery.

Civil War Monument Edgewood Cemetery, Saltsburg, PA

On that day, a few minutes after 3pm, the 8th and 9th Divisions, 13th Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard, took positions around the monument.  Division officers and bands were on the east side, the rank and file on the south and west sides, and an “immense throng of civilians” on the north side of the monument.

The 8th Division band played “a solemn dirge, the melancholy notes of which seemed to impress the vast audience with the full import of the occasion.”  This was followed by a prayer by the Rev. Adam Torrence.  Simon Portser, secretary of the cemetery board, read the list of contents of a box which had been sealed in the monument.

W.I. Sterett, president of the cemetery board, announced the officers of the day, including Major Samuel Cooper, a veteran of the War of 1812, president; nine vice presidents and two secretaries.  Adjutant General James W. Latta made brief remarks and unveiled the monument.  General Harry White delivered the dedicatory address, followed by the Rev. Major Core and Col. C.W. Hazzard.  Then the band played another selection and the Rev. W.W. Woodend pronounced the benediction.

Saltsburg on this occasion did not have GAR post, but the R. Foster Robinson Post 36 was organized the following year on July 5, 1877, and was the second GAR post in Indiana County.  Findley Patch Post 137, Blairsville, organized June 20, 1881, with 99 charter members and was followed soon by John Pollock Post 219, Marion Center, on August 20, 1881.

Several other GAR posts were organized in later years.  To each of them fell the responsibility of observing Decoration Day, and the pattern in all the communities for many years was similar to the one in Marion Center in 1883:

MEMORIAL DAY as observed in Marion

“Wednesday, Memorial day, was observed with marked attention at this place.  John Pollock Post, No. 219, GAR, having made necessary arrangements, met at their hall at 9 o’clock, when details were sent to Gilgal, Mahoning and Washington.  An audience was in attendance at each place, and after performing appropriate services, they returned to this place.

“At about 2 o’clock the Post, with a large number of citizens, assembled at the hall.  At 2:30 the procession, containing from three to four hundred persons, formed and headed by the Marion Cornet Band, which discoursed suitable music, marched to the cemetery.  After the usual services by the Post, the assemblage was addressed by Squire Kinnan of Gettysburg (now Hillsdale), after which the procession marched to the M.E. Church, where after music by the choir, W.L. Stewart, Esq., of Indiana, delivered the memorial address.  The oration was well delivered and was listened to with unusual attention by the large audience.  After the services in the church, the procession again formed and marched to the hall, where the audience was dismissed.”

As the ranks of the Civil War veterans thinned and aged, the responsibility for Memorial Day was assumed for some time by the Sons of Union Veterans and by their auxiliaries and then by the American Legion, VFW, and other veterans’ organizations.

Prior to the Civil War, there were no organized veterans’ groups in Indiana County.  The GAR might, therefore, be considered the inspiration and the ancestor of our present veterans’ organizations, who have adopted much the same type of organization and in some cases naming their posts in the same way for leaders or deceased members, for example, Joseph A. Blakley Camp 227, Spanish-American War Veterans, Indiana; Richard W. Watson Post 141 American Legion, Indiana; or John W. Dutko Post 7412, VFW, Homer City.

Another notable Memorial Day took place on May 30, 1925, when the Doughboy Monument in Indiana’s Memorial Park was dedicated.

The granite shaft was donated by the Farmers Bank of Indiana and the statute by Vernon Taylor.  A parade formed at the YMCA (now the Indiana Free Library) and marched to the park.  Richard W. Watson was chief parade marshal.  At 10 a.m. John S. Fisher gave an address.  The monument was presented and dedicated by Juliet White Watson and unveiled by the Gold Star Mothers.  James W. Mack, president of Indiana Borough Council, accepted the monument.  The Boy Scout Band provided music.

Doughboy Statute in Memorial Park

Accurate figures are not available for the number of Indiana County men and women who have served in our nation’s wars, but the 73 who served in the Revolution were buried in scattered cemeteries.  Forty-four served in the War of 1812 and an unknown number in the Indian wars.  About 20 were in the Mexican War.  The Civil War or “War of the Rebellion” called upon 3,680 Indiana County citizens, who served with great distinction.  One hundred eighty-three answered the call to the Spanish-American War.  Those who were in the World War II do not seem to have been tabulated correctly.  The number of World War II form Indiana County has been estimated at more than 13,000.  The number in the Korean and Vietnam wars is not available.

Major Samuel Cooper of Saltsburg, who died December 21, 1881, may have been the last veteran of the War of 1812. When Conrad Pifer of the Rochester Mills area died January 14, 1911, he was the last veteran of the Mexican War.  John C. Featherstone of 7 South Third Street, Indiana, was said to be “the only survivor of the Indian wars in this section” when he celebrated his 86th birthday in August 1938.

Dr. W.S. Shields of Marion Center, who died September 11, 1946, was the last of the Civil War veterans.

As we carry on the tradition of Memorial Day, it might be well to heed the admonition of General Logan in his first Memorial Day order in 1868: “Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages or time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free undivided republic.”

Notable Indiana County Women Part II

Agnes Hunger – The Indiana Progress reported on August 28, 1901, that “Mademoisella Zeno” of Pittsburgh, a native of Indiana County, would make a balloon ascension at the Indiana County Fair on August 29. The next week, on September 4, the Progress said her real name was Agnes Hunger, a daughter of Martin Hunger, and that she gave trapeze exhibitions while the balloon rose to 4,000 feet and then parachuted back to earth.

She certainly was an unusual woman for her time.  It is unfortunate that nothing more is known of her.  Her father was said to have lived in the Elderton area.

Zoe Allison Johnston was a physician, and served as president of the American Medical Women’s Association form 1943-44.  She was noted as an X-ray and radium therapy specialist and served a term as president of the American Radium Society.

Johnston graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and passed the Pennsylvania State Medical Board examination in 1909.  After 12 years as a general practitioner in Tarentum, she set up an office in the Jenkins Arcade in Pittsburgh.

In 1941, she was president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Zonta International.  In 1944, her fellow physicians elected her president of the Allegheny County Medical Society.

She was athe daughter of Dr. T.B. Alllison and Eva Farnsworth.  Farnsworth was a registered nurse and served as superintendent of Indiana Hospital for a number of years beginning in June 1922.

Johnston was born in Indiana in 1889.  She married Charles M. Johnston, a Pittsburgh attorney, and they had one son.  She died on May 7, 1961.

Hannah Sharp Leason is a good example of a “profile of courage.”   She endured grief, numerous hardships and physical handicaps during Indiana County’s pioneer years.

Born in Cumberland County on February 4, 1784, she was the oldest child of Captain Andrew and Ann Woods Sharp.  Her father was a Revolutionary soldier.

As an infant, she and her parents accompanied Fergus Moorhead and others to Indiana County in 1784.  They settled near Shelocta.

When Leason was 6 years old, she lost her hearing but soon learned to read lips, and it is said, “It was truly wonderful with what exactness she could carry on a conversation in this way.”

In 1794, her father decided to move to Kentucky, and the family’s belongings were placed on a raft at Campbell’s Mills near Black Lick.  The group was attacked by a large party of Indians near Apollo.  Her father was severely wounded.  With great difficulty, they reached Pittsburgh where he lingered in pain for 40 days and died.

“Many a time,” she said, “I went and covered myself up and wept…when the doctor was dressing his wounds.”

The day he was buried, her mother was unable to go, so the little deaf girl, 10 years old, and a younger sister were the only family members who accompanied him to the grave.

Afterward, the mother took her children back to their old home in Cumberland County, where they went to school and Leason acquired a good command of the English language.  About 1797, they returned to Indiana County and settled on their old place.

In 1802, at about 18 years old, she married Robert Leason.  They moved to Butler County and raised a family of 16 children.  She and her husband were together 60 years, but she never heard his or any of their children’s voices.

In 1865, she wrote a beautiful letter to a nephew telling of her terrible ordeal in 1794 and her father’s death.  Despite this, she said, “I never had a spite and the Indians.  They were very badly treated.”

Leason died in 1869, the last of her family, at the age of 85.

Jane E. Leonard was preceptress at Indiana Normal School for more than 46 years from its founding in 1875 until she retired in 1921.  When she came to the new school, she was also the first teacher of history and geography.

Although she tended to be somewhat spinsterish and overprotective of the young ladies in her care, she was nevertheless fondly remembered by thousands of students as “Aunt Jane.”

She was honored by the dedication of Leonard Hall on February 23, 1905, which, although it burned in 1952, was rebuilt and rededicated.  The building has since been demolished to make room for the new College of Natural Sciences building.

The Leonard Literary Society was organized in 1927, and in May 1931 the Jane E. Leonard Memorial Student Loan Fund was established.  Her portrait painting in John Sutton Hall was presented at the 25th anniversary celebration of Indiana Normal School on July 3, 1900.

Leonard was born on December 27, 1840, in Lawrence Township, Clearfield County, a daughter of Robert and Lydia Wilson Leonard.

After attending the schools of her vicinity and the Clearfield Academy, she began teaching at the age of 15.  She graduated from Millersville State Normal School in Lancaster County in the early 1860s and, after teaching in that county awhile, joined the Millersville faculty as teacher of mathematics and history from 1868 until she came to Indiana in 1875.  While at Indiana, she attended summer sessions at Chautauqua Institution, completed a course of study and graduated.  In 1891, she traveled to Europe.

She was a staunch advocate of woman’s suffrage and supported the women’s club movement when it was initiated in Indiana County in 1912.  She was active in civic and political life, serving as chairman of the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee and president of the Indiana County Democratic Women Voters League.

She was chairman of the local Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fund devoted to the advancement of Wilsonian ideals.  She was one of the founders of the Ingleside Club of Indiana.  In 1922, she was the Democratic candidate for Congress, one of the first two women in Pennsylvania to seek national political office, and, although unsuccessful, received a large vote in an overwhelmingly Republican district.

After her retirement in 1921, she was told she could continue to live in her apartment in John Sutton Hall, and there she died in her sleep on April 6, 1924.  She is buried in Curwensville, Clearfield County.

Verna M. Zartman Bennett was the first woman in Pennsylvania to chair a county political party in 1962.

She was born in Bell Township, Clearfield County on July 6, 1902, and was a controversial figure during her political career on account of a serious split in Republican ranks which occurred during her term.

She served as deputy secretary of the Commonwealth, 1966-71; was elected a delegate to the 1964 Republican National Convention and was politically active in numerous other ways.

In earlier life, she had been a school teacher for 25 years.  She was also active in civic and community life and held posts and memberships in many organizations.  She married Boyd D. Bennett and they had one child. She died on December 17, 1985.

Eva Griffith Thompson was born about 1842-43 in Somerset County, a daughter of Abner and Elizabeth Cooper Griffith. She was assistant superintendent of Indiana County Schools, 1880-84, and an editor of the Indiana News beginning from about October 1889 until 1894.

She graduated from Steubenville Ohio Seminary and began teaching in Lowman School, East Mahoning Township, for $14 a month and taught afterward in many others county schools.

She was a leader in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and served a term as president of the Indiana County unit.  In March 1888, she and Jane E. Leonard attended the Women’s Suffrage International Congress in Washington, D.C.

Thompson’s first husband, Andrew B. Allison, was killed February 11, 1862, during the Civil War. She married Sylvester C. Thompson on October 14, 1867, and they had two children, Guy C. Thompson and Rue Cetta who married J.C. Blair.

In later life, Thompson resided in Trafford where she died February 6, 1925.

Elizabeth Uncapher was the first Indiana County woman to obtain a medical degree.

She was born in Blacklick Township on September 4, 1856, attended the local schools of her area and graduated from Indiana Normal School with the class of 1879.  She then went to the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, where she received the MD degree.

For a while she practiced in Allegheny County and then moved to Houston, Texas.

Dr. Uncapher was not married.

Her parents were Daniel and Elzabeth Keener Uncapher.  She was the youngest of the family.  She died on June 18, 1908, and was buried in the old Livermore Cemetery.

Mary Florence Wallace was a history teacher at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for 30 years, 1938-68, Florence Wallace was honored when Wallace Hall at IUP was dedicated in 1973.

She was born in East Liverpool, Ohio on February 7, 1893, and afterward moved to Indiana County with her parents, Alphoen and Luella E. Seanor Wallace.  Here, she attended the model school at Indiana Normal School and took college preparatory courses.  She went on to Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she received the AB degree and to Columbia University, New York City, which conferred on her the MA degree.

Wallace was a charter member and the first president of the Indiana Chapter, American Association of University Women.  She sponsored the Indiana State Teachers College International Relations Club and was instrumental in brining the national IRC to the campus and obtained Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt as a speaker.

She was honored by the Indiana Business and Professional Women as Woman of the Year and was named professor emeritus by IUP when she retired.

She died on December 18, 1980.

Dorothy Melsena Warner was born in Center Township on January 20, 1903.  She was the daughter of Harry S. and Effie A. Moore Warner.

She graduated from Elders Ridge High School and from Indiana State Teachers College in 1937.  In 1941, she received the master of education degree at The Pennsylvania State University.

Warner began her career teaching in elementary schools but soon was teaching mentally retarded children and rose to supervisor of special educational programs in various counties, including Indiana County, 1951-59, and ended in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction.

When she retired in 1967, she received a certificate of appreciation “in grateful acknowledgement of 30 years of important service.”  She died on February 2, 1978.

Sue E. Hawxhurst Williard was known as “Aunty Sue” to several generations of children and young girls.  Sue E. Williard, in 1897, founded and administrated the Girls’ Industrial Home located at 11th and Washington Streets in Indiana.  In 1921, she was the founder and administrator of the Williard Children’s Home near Indian Haven.

She was born in Babylon, Long Island, NY on January 10, 1843 to Solomon and Ann Jackson Hawxhurst, and moved with her parents to Indiana County in the 1850s.

Her husband, Robert Williard, died in 1885 and she continued to conduct the Williard Planing Mill, at the corner of Philadelphia and Tenth Streets in Indiana, for some years until it was sold in the 1890s.

She became active in the Pennsylvania Children’s Aid Society and was treasurer and president of the Indiana County unit from 1892-93.  The Girls’ Industrial Home was financed by the state board of directors of the Children’s Aid Society to serve the Western Pennsylvania district with Williard as chairman of the committee in charge.  Here, during the years 1897-1933, some 850 underprivileged girls between the ages of eight and 16 were educated, trained and placed in good homes.

Williard also had charge of the Williard Children’s Home, which was opened by Indiana County in 1921 for orphans and homeless children.  She continued as administrator until 1935, but the home was maintained by the county until 1965.

She had a key role in the establishment of the Indiana Hospital.  As early as 1903, she was chairman of an association of citizens interested in establishing a hospital.  The matter languished for a while until 1912 when she again called a meeting, the outcome of which was the establishment of the hospital in 1914.  She was a member of the hospital board until July 6, 1935.

Williard had no children of her own, but she had the proud honor of being “mother” to more than 1,000 orphan children and underprivileged young girls.

Norah E. Zink was born in Richmond, Indiana, a daughter of John and Laura L. Heiser Zink.

She was honored in 1976 when Zink Hall was dedicated at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she had been a member of the geography department for 26 years.  When she was named professor emeritus.

Dr. Zink received a BA degree from the University of Utah and afterward taught art in the schools of Utah.  She received the master’s degree in geography from Columbia University, New York City, and a PhD from the University of Chicago.  After teaching at the University of Minnesota, the University of Pittsburgh and New Haven State College, she came to Indiana State Teachers College in 1936.

She traveled extensively and visited every continent except Antarctica.  She was particularly interested in Nigeria and made several visits to aid in establishing a school and hospital there.  The school was named in her honor and several children were named Norah.

She expended more than $60,000 of her own funds to assist foreign students attending IUP.  She also supported the Chevy Chase Community Center and offered cash prizes for the best flower and vegetable gardens in Chevy Chase.

On November 18, 1971, a testimonial dinner was held in her honor, at which time she received citations and awards from the U.S. Commissioner of Education, Pennsylvania State Education Association, University of Chicago, WDAD, Indiana Borough and IUP.  Governor Milton Shapp designated the day, “Norah E. Zink Day.”  The Pennsylvania House and Senate passed resolutions of commendation and the Indiana County commissioners named her an honorary county commissioner.

Dr. Zink died May 17, 1978.

Notable Indiana County Women

March is Women’s History month, so throughout the month of March we are going to feature some of Indiana County’s notable women who in the past made their mark.  Many of these women lived in what was then a “man’s world” – a world where they had only limited rights and were barred from voting, from holding public office and from many private positions as well.

Jennie M. Ackerman, for whom Ackerman Hall on the IUP campus was named.  Ackerman Hall was dedicated in 1964 about two years after Miss Ackerman’s death.  For 34 years, 1904-38, she was principal of the Model School (now Wilson Hall).

She was born on March 22, 1874, in New York state along the Hudson River and received her education there.

After her retirement in 1938, she continued to be active another 10 years as dean of women at Drew Seminary until 1948, when she moved to Coral Gables, Florida where she passed away in 1962.

Dollie Walker Ayers was not only the first woman to serve as register and recorder of Indiana County, but also was the first woman to hold any county elective office.  Her husband, Walter Ayers, who was elected Register & Recorder in 1924, but died after six months in office.  He was succeeded by his wife after being appointed to the post by Judge Langham in July 1924.  She was then elected for a full term receiving 8965 votes to her opponent, W.D. Peterman’s 4513.  She served until 1929 when she lost her bid for reelection.

She was born April 18, 1878, a daughter of Samuel and Josephine Leasure Walker.

Mrs. Ayers was active in the community as president of the Indiana County Council of Republican Women and of the Spanish American War Veterans Auxiliary.

She was married to Walter H. Ayers and they raised six children.  She died August 7, 1953.

Mary Ella Boucher Black served as president of the Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union for 18 years, 1929-47, during a time when the WTCU was much stronger and more influential than now.

She was born on July 26, 1878, on a farm near Dixonville.  The daughter of Samuel and Mary Catherine Bence Boucher, she received her education in the rural schools and at the Indiana Normal School.

On July 4, 1900, she married Harry W. Black.  They had two children.  She died January 16, 1947.

Margaret Clark Campbell was born about 1783, a daughter of Captain James Clark, a Revolutionary soldier, and Barbara Sanderson.

She married Charles Campbell, prominent in Indiana County’s early history as a county trustee, militia general and associate judge.

Josiah Copley remembered her as “a very superior lady.”  As a young lad carrying the mail over long distances on horseback, he often stayed at the Campbell home and was treated kindly.

Mrs. Campbell had an independent mind and was not afraid to assert herself.  On one occasion during Judge Campbell’s prolonged absence, she had some log which he had cut for a barn made instead into a fine house with linings and joists of planed and beaded cherry.  There were three fireplaces, each with carved and beaded mantels, four windows with 15 glass panes each and fine mouldings throughout.

Joshua Gilpin was a guest in this home in October 189 and wrote in his journal that Mrs. Campbell was “a large but very handsome woman tho the mother of 16 children.  12 of whom are alive and most of them married…she is also a woman of great management not only in the education of their children which is conducted far beyond what could be expected…but in the conduct of her husband’s estate – Gen’l Campbell possesses here a farm of 600 acres with a corn and saw mills and distillery, he has also large landed property in the neighborhood and elsewhere which together with his public employments take him much from home so that the business of the farm and family devolve chiefly on Mrs. Campbell and are conducted so as in no degree to suffer by his absence…

Miss Jane his daughter came into the room soon after and we were surprized to find a young lady of 18 very beautiful, with a fine form and complexion of an English woman and in dress and manners more suited to the standard of Philadelphia than of these western forests.”

Mrs. Campbell was a woman exceptional ability for her time, refined, intelligent and educated.  She died on Christmas Day 1916. Her daughter Jane later married Dr. Jonathan French, Indiana’s first resident physician.

Sarah Row Christy was born in Maryland on January 15, 1864 to Dr. Herman and Mary Gompers Row.  For many years she was a leader among local women in the organization of women’s clubs including the first Indiana County Congress of Women’s Clubs at a meeting in the First (Calvary) Presbyterian Church on June 10, 1912.

She was educated in the Indiana public schools and graduated from the Indiana Normal School in 1883, then went on to the Oswego, NY, Training and Normal School where she graduated in 1887.

She was a teacher in Indiana and at numerous other places, took courses at Columbia University and the University of Southern California, prepared primary and intermediate readers and contributed articles to educational magazines.

In 1916, she wrote an article for the Indiana Progress describing the beginnings of the woman’s club movement in Indiana County.  In 1935, her article “Fugitive Slaves in Indiana County” was published in the Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine.

She was president of the New Century Club of Indiana and active in the Ingleside Club, Western Pennsylvania Historical Society Indiana Chapter, International Relations Study Group, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Indiana Normal School Alumni Association, and League of Nations Association.  She was also a member of the Girl Scout Council of Indiana.

Sarah Row married Harry C. Christy in 1882.  Because of his declining health, they moved to Santa Barbra, California, where he died on September 13, 1917. Afterward, she returned to Indiana where she died in 1936.  It was reported in the Indiana Progress on April 3, 1918: “It was largely through her leadership and energies that the splendid Red Cross organization was established in the county last year, and the patriotic devotion which she gave in establishing auxiliaries and launching and directing the initial work won for her the proud distinction of the pioneer worker in Red Cross in Indiana County…”

Margaret Cook, it was reported by the Indiana Progress on September 22, 1909, that she was the pastor of the Cherryhill Brethren Church, Cherryhill Township, along the trolley line to Clymer.  So far as is known, she appears to have been the first woman to serve as pastor of an Indiana County church.

Mary L. Esch was registrar of IUP for 51 years from 1916 to July 1, 1966, during which time she saw the institution evolve from a private normal school to a state normal school, to a state teachers college, to a state college and finally a university.  After her retirement she was named registrar emeritus.  On October, 1973, Esch Hall was dedicated to her memory.

She was born July 24, 1895 in Brushvalley Township, to George W. and Louise Miller Esch.

After attending the Indiana Public schools, she graduated from Indiana Normal School in 1915.  Immediately afterward she became secretary to the registrar and within a year was named registrar.

In 1965, she was presented the Alumni Distinguished Service Award.  She did much to organize the General Alumni Association and served many years as executive secretary.  Her article in 1962, “My Forty-Seven Years at Indiana,” was a valuable contribution to university history.

She was listed in Who’s Who of American Women and the Dictionary of International Biography.

Miss Esch died suddley on December 17, 1971 while on a visit to London, England.

Olive Gilson Kingman Folger was affectionately known to several generations of Indiana college students as “Ma Folger” because of her 26 years as dietician, 1934-60 at the institution.  Folger Dining Hall was dedicated in her honor on October 28, 1972.

She was born on April 7, 1891 in York, Maine, to Samuel and Florence Simpson Kingman.  In 1913, she married Edward Milton Folger, who died about 1948.  They had one daughter.

Mrs. Folger died April 21, 1981, at the age of 90.

Margaret Jane Tomb Parker Graham made her mark in county history by founding Armagh in 1792.

Her first husband was William Parker, son of Lord Parker of Belfast, Ulster, Northern Ireland.

After Parker’s death, she fell in love with James Graham, the caretaker of the Parker estate, but because of social pressures against the match, she sold her interests, married Graham and sailed for America with several brothers, sisters, and friends – in all, 27 persons.  Upon arriving in Indiana County, they found a thin, scrubby growth of oaks on an elevation and so gave the name Armagh to their new settlement, meaning “field on a hill.”

She was born Margaret Tomb about 1753, to William Tomb.  She had four children to Parker and two to Graham. She died May 9, 1827.

A Woman in Business – Adeline Hawxhurst

Adeline Hawxhurst’s career was almost synonymous with the growth of the Indiana Hospital.  She began working there in 1915, when suffragists were still avidly campaigning for women’s right to vote and had not yet even begun to agitate for equal employment opportunities.  The hospital itself was barely a year old.  In 1967, fifty-two years later, Miss Hawxhurst was still employed there.  Her career, spanning over half a century, illustrates how, even before the feminist thrust of the 1960s, a young local girl might rise to a position of considerable distinction, namely administrator of a vital community health center.

Adeline Hawxhurst

Adeline Hawxhurst is a native Indianan with roots going well back into the County’s past.  During the Civil War years her father’s family, under the leadership of her great-grandfather Soloman Hawxhurst, moved to Indiana from Long Island.  At the time the family operated both a paper mill off Indian Springs Road and a farm where they grew potatoes and corn, maintained a beautiful apple orchard, and raised horses. It was a small farm, but it was conveniently situated close to Indiana.  In fact, its location was familiar to many since it was adjacent to the old Hospital Road when that was the main route out of town. Route 119 simply didn’t exist in those days, and, instead of the now well-traveled auto road, railroads, and the old trolleys to Blairsville had rights-of-way over the western part of the family property.  Her father continued to live on the farm, although he himself worked at the local glass factory as a mixer.  On her mother’s side, too, her family was deeply rooted in Indiana County’s past.  Her mother, Belle Pierce, was born in Chambersville, where her father was a cobbler before he moved to Indiana.  Adeline herself grew up on the farm with her parents and loved it, but as she grew older she knew she didn’t want to look to the farm for a livelihood.

Finding an alternative, however, was not easy in those pre-World War I days.  Examples of successful career women were rare nationally much less in Indiana County.  Furthermore, except in the fields of teaching and nursing, opportunities were severely limited by the view that a woman’s place was in the home.  Fortunately, Miss Hawxhurst’s aunt, Mrs. Sue Willard, had definite ideas about careers for women.  She was already renowned locally as a social reformer (the County’s orphanage was eventually named the Willard Home in her honor). Perhaps already sensing the changes and challenges of a world opening to women, Sue Willard was convinced that women should work.  Of the opportunities then available, she “just thought office work would be the most respectable.”  Taking her advice seriously, Adeline Hawxhurst, after completing her basic education at the Model School, decided to attend Indiana Normal School because there she could enroll in the business courses.  For two years she received extensive training in bookkeeping and mathematics – both of which served her well once she started her work career in 1915 at age eighteen.

It was like a happy dream come true.  Her first job, as it turned out, was very near her home, at Indiana Hospital, which at that time was still often called the miner’s hospital or the coal company hospital.  Her aunt, who was on the Board of Directors then, heard of a vacancy there and told her niece to go for an interview.  Miss Hawxhurst was immediately hired as a bookkeeper.  However, to her surprise, she found herself totally alone in charge of a tiny office in the Iselin Building, now part of the north wing of the hospital.  Just out of school, she was responsible for providing information, admitting patients, receiving payments, and answering the telephone at what was then an already antiquated switchboard covering the five or six hospital phones.

Miss Hawxhurst recalls that admitting patients was simple yet efficient in those early days before computerized cards and nationwide insurance companies.  A new patient would be asked to pay in advance for a week’s room and board – then about $2.50 a day.  Miners, or subscription patients as they were sometimes called, merely showed their card proving that fifty cents per month had been deducted from their paycheck, and the company picked up the bill.  Ruefully shaking her head, Miss Hawxhurst particularly remembers the many accidents – mostly back injuries – which brought old-time miners to the hospital.  “The accidents – you can’t imagine how terrible they were.”  Hospital authorities, she recalls, quickly accommodated victims of any mine disaster.  As she says, “Everyone was very sympathetic when something happened in the mines.  That was a terrible thing in Indiana County.”  Yet those early days of admitting patients were not without their lighter moments, and remembering the innocence of her youth, she recalls that “the most amazing thing happened when I was so young I hardly knew what it was.  They sent me up to the third floor to admit a woman in labor.  So I got her name and everything.  I said, “Can you tell me how I can get in touch with your husband?’ and she said, ‘You can’t. I ain’t got one.’”

But gradually the school-girlishness was lost, and Adeline Hawxhurst became a business woman and a competent one at that.  She learned the routine and demands of the hospital and soon felt familiar with the personnel.  Gradually she got to know the doctors, and she remembers how, especially in those early days, they exhibited great kindness both to her and the patients.  As for the nurses, then dressed in stiffly starched uniforms that went down to the floor and covering tightly laced shoes, she “always made friends with them … although as the hospital expanded that became harder and harder to do.” From being a “more or less shy child” she gradually learned to handle people and adjust to new situations.  However, for all this work, pay was low, as it generally was for women in those days – a fact Miss Hawxhurst remembers with considerable consternation.  With something akin to disbelief she was that her starting salary was five dollars a week.

Fortunately, even from the beginning she felt that her job had many rewards.  IN fact, as she notes, “I got to like it so much I was glad that I had gotten into something like that.”  Obviously she had correctly chosen a business oriented career rather than one in nursing or teaching, neither of which had ever appealed to her temperament.  Finally her diligence had its rewards.  In 1929, she became office manager.  From 1939 on she progressed to positions as assistant superintendent, and then acting administrator when the regular administrator, Miss Lillian Hollohan, was ill.  Eventually, in 1944, she was offered the top position of hospital administrator.  It was a significant honor for as Mrs. Martha Copelli, once Miss Hawxhurst’s secretary and now administrative secretary and director of public relations, notes, “Very few women achieved this position in those days.”

Perhaps it is significant that Adeline Hawxhurst made her greatest career advancement during World War II, when women were being recognized nationally for their abilities and service to the nation.  In unprecedented numbers, women had entered the labor force and the armed services.  Certainly their abilities could not be denied and many thought their right to equal advancement should be protected. Many Democratic and Republican leaders at the national level urged the adoption of an equal rights amendment.  However, the power of traditional female stereotypes reasserted itself as Americans entered a period Betty Friedan has dubbed “the feminine mystique.”  But for Adeline Hawxhurst this was the very period when her executive abilities were being tested to their utmost, and with over twenty years of practical experience behind her, she was still far from complacent about her work.

Taking her new responsibility very seriously, she informed members of the hospital board that she not only intended to get around and meet people, but also regularly would attend seminars and institutes devoted to hospital expansion and new concepts of health care.  She took special courses in hospital administration at the University of Chicago.  As Miss Hawxhurst put it, “I didn’t want to be somebody that’s here because she was here when she was young.”  With this in mind Miss Hawxhurst in 1954 applied for admission to the American College of Hospital Administrators and, after an obligatory waiting period of two years, took its exam.  Remembering distinctly her nervousness as she sat in Atlantic City for the day-long exam and the follow-up oral interview, she notes that all aspects of hospital administration were covered.  Although she felt some anxiety during the interview because she could not guess what one of the examiners was thinking, she nevertheless remarks in retrospect, “It all went just wonderfully.”

The Indiana Hospital board and her friends were quick to applaud her achievement.  Happily recalling their enthusiasm, she notes, “They were so proud of me.” And it was obvious that they had every confidence in her.  As Martha Copelli observes, in spite of society’s reluctance to advance women to positions of authority in those days, there was never any doubt about her qualifications or abilities for “everyone looked up to her even though she was a woman.”  Miss Hawxhurst now possessed the complete authority of an executive officer, indeed, just as much authority as any man might have had.  And as her secretary recalls with a  smile, “Miss Hawxhurst was noted for speaking out.”  Asked whether she then really had run the hospital, she replied with her usual candor, “Oh, indeed I did.” Once Adeline Hawxhurst had efficiently managed a tiny office.  As administrator she just as efficiently took charge of the administration and physical plant of a large hospital complex.  Adeline Hawxhurst at age eighteen had no idea how far her career would take her.  In 1915, most women did not even begin to hope for such professional advancement, and she had been no exception.  If only her aunt could have seen it.  Sue Willard, herself so foreseeing about the status of women, would have been proud to have seen her own niece’s achievement.  But although her career could easily serve as an inspiration for feminists, it never occurred to her at the time that her success was unusual or even enviable – at least, as she comments, not until men began to seriously compete for such positions themselves.

As top administrator, Miss Hawxhurst’s duties were varied, so varied that she had accumulated considerable knowledge and diverse expertise.  She had to oversee the kitchen, the heating plant, housekeeping, fire safety, and the business office.  It was her job to “recognize when things weren’t being done” and “to see that everything was safe.”  When a problem arose, Miss Hawxhurst was called in whether it was the extraordinary, the mundane, or even the slightly comical, such as one situation in the 1950s when a few local field mice in almost Disneylike fashion decided to slip into the hospital through its unlatched doors.

From the very start of her tenure as top administrator she confronted difficult problems.  During the war years Indiana Hospital had to endure the same rationing program as the rest of the population.  Overseeing the general conduct of the kitchen service, Miss Hawxhurst encouraged the regular use of the hospital’s vegetable farm located behind the buildings.  Crises, too, had to be met.  After the Lucerne mine explosion on February 9, 1954, Adeline Hawxhurst coordinated efforts of hospital employees and professional personnel.  It is significant that the hospital received praise from both the coal company and miners’ families.

As administrator Miss Hawxhurst was significant in some permanent efforts as well. Much of her work went into the planning and completion of the 1956 wing of the hospital.  Afterward she initiated the still operative guide service manned by volunteers.  But especially, as Mrs. Copelli remarks, “Her teaching and procedures stayed, and she instilled the importance of documentation and reports.”  Hospital finances, too, received much of her attention.  This included the admittedly difficult and thankless task of negotiating with contractors as well as with hospital employees, who were, she readily admits, underpaid for years.  Another often thankless task involved her efforts to initiate social security coverage for all employees at the hospital in the early 1950s.  Needing two-thirds support of her workers, she personally addressed the employees to convince them to vote in the program.  She believed it was especially important for married women to be able to maintain such protection, but she recalls many irate husbands of nurses who angrily phoned her to protest any plan which would require their working wives to make individual contributions from their salary.

Often legal difficulties required Miss Hawxhurst’s care.  She had general responsibility for protecting patients’ hospital records.  In emergencies, she had to help evaluate problems of admitting children who were underage.  As administrator, Miss Hawxhurst found that some of the more serious problems often followed her home.  A patient wandered away, and she was called in.  A patient fell from a hospital window, and Miss Hawxhurst had to be alerted.

As one might well imagine Adeline Hawxhurst became something of a legend during her tenure in office.  Her rather tall, commanding stature and powerful position increased professionalism among subordinates throughout the hospital.  They were all too aware that she might enter any department day or night.  As Mrs. Copelli remarks, “If she had given an order to be carried out, there wasn’t a second time she had to come back to you.”  “They’d see Hawxie coming down the hall and everyone looked alert.”  Perhaps illustrative of her reputation was an incident involving three young local men who had broken a hospital rule while dating student nurses.  Advised to go to Miss Hawxhurst’s office, they later left with very sober expressions.  Mrs. Copelli remembers “the look on their faces as they left. [I don’t] think any of them ever dated anyone from the hospital again.”  But though Miss Hawxhurst had to be stern at times, Mrs. Copelli is quick to add that the warmth was there “for she is the most lovely person.” Her “concern for employees and their families” was always obvious.

As administrator, Miss Hawxhurst had to handle any and all situations from the impersonality of account books to direct confrontation with individuals.  In over fifty years at Indiana Hospital, Miss Hawxhurst had seen and coped with just about every conceivable administrative problem and had proven the competence and devotedness of a woman in an executive position.  You might even say the hospital directors had found her invaluable, for after her retirement in 1965, the Hospital Board kept calling her requesting, “Will you come back and help us out?”  Finally, she decided to return, as she put it “for two months which stretched on for one year.”

Looking back on her successful career, Miss Hawxhurst could justly feel satisfied with her work and with the growth of Indiana Hospital of which she had been so much a part.  At her retirement dinner in 1965, four hundred guests came to honor her.  In recognition of her fifty years of service to the hospital, the Board of Directors established a yearly Adeline Hawxhurst Award for a graduating student nurse.  But perhaps nothing was so illustrative of the demanding office she had filled so well as the theme chosen by the toastmaster, Richard Seifert.  Himself a hospital administrator at Lee Hospital in Johnstown, he came to the lectern carrying a basketful of occupational hats – hard-hat, fireman, cook, workman, and even a nurse’s cap.  He reminded the audience that a fine hospital administrator must wear many hats to get the job done.  It was obvious to all that Adeline Hawxhurst, the young girl from the small farm across the road, had worn many hats during her half-century career, and she had worn them well.

Miss Hawxhurst passed away on July 6, 1982 at the age of 85 and was laid to rest in the Greenwood Cemetery, Indiana, PA, which is located near the Hospital where she worked and devoted her career.

Dr. Robert Mitchell – Abolitionist

Dr. Robert Mitchell was the second physician to settle in Indiana County, PA and an ardent antislavery supporter.  He was born in 1787 in Cumberland County, PA near Chambersburg.  In his early years, Dr. Mitchell lived with a relative, Dr. Magehan, with whom he studied medicine.  Mitchell was exceptionally well-trained for his day, graduating from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, under Dr. Benjamin Rush.  When Dr. Mitchell came to Indiana, PA, Dr. French, the pioneer physician of Indiana County, invited him to stay and assist him in his work. At this time Dr. French was in declining health.  At times, Dr. Mitchell found himself being called to points beyond the county’s borders.  After Dr. French died, shortly after Mitchell’s arrival, Dr. Mitchell received Dr. French’s practice as well as his library and office fixtures, and started a drug store in connection with his practice.

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Dr. Mitchell

Dr. Mitchell was a successful physician, but was also a man of strong conscience and an advanced thinker, taking an active role in the progressive movements in his time.  As a member of the Whig party, he served five years representing the district in the State Legislature, and was also appointed associate judge, but he preferred his practice and private life to making laws.

On April 6, 1823, Dr. Mitchell married Jane Clark.  Their witness was Rev. David Blair, the pastor of the Associate Presbyterian Church of Indiana, PA, and their life-long friend.  Mrs. Mitchell shared in her husband’s antislavery views, believing in the Golden Rule of Christ, and taking pride in her husband’s brave stand for the right.

Jane Clark

In 1823, Mitchell purchased 1,550 acres of pine timber land in Cherryhill Township, on top of Chestnut Ridge, where he laid out a village which he named Diamondville (as it was on the most desirable location of the tract), and started a saw and flour mill.  He is probably best known in Indiana County history as an ardent abolitionist, and one who suffered for adherence to his convictions.  

From all accounts, this opposition began at an early age, as a boy he spent time in Virginia, where slavery was then flourishing.  He witnessed many horrors in his youth which made him vow that he would do everything in his power to accomplish the downfall of the institution.  This included the sight of two men working in the field with ox yokes around their necks.  This and other cruelties and unrighteous features of the system led him to sympathize deeply with its victims and eventually to take an active part on behalf of those who attempted to flee their bondage.

It is important to note here the Fugitive Slave Act which passed Congress in 1793.  This Act decreed that owners of enslaved people and their “agents” had the right to search for escapees within the borders of free states.  In the event the suspected runaway was captured, the slave hunters had to bring the suspected runaway before a judge and provide evidence proving the person was their property.  If the judge was satisfied with the proof – often in the form of a signed affidavit – the owner would be permitted to take custody of the enslaved person and return home.  The act also imposed a $500 penalty on any person who assisted in harboring and concealing the runaway.

Most northern states refused or neglected to enforce the Act and many passed what were known as “Personal Liberty Laws.”  These laws gave the accused runaways the right to a jury trial and also protected free African Americans, many of whom were abducted by bounty hunters and sold back into slavery.

The constitutionality of Personal Liberty Laws was challenged in 1842 in the United States Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania.  The facts of the case involved Edward Prigg, a Maryland man who was convicted of kidnaping, after he captured a suspected slave in Pennsylvania.  The Court ruled in favor of Prigg, thereby setting the precedent that federal law trumped any state law that tried to interfere with the Fugitive Slave Act.  Despite the decision the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 remained unenforced.  An example of this can be seen right here in Indiana County with the case of Dr. Mitchell and Van Meter with Judge Thomas White presiding.

The case had its beginnings with the “harboring” of runaways, Hollingsworth, Brown, and Harris.    When brought before the court, Judge White demanded from Van Meter to produce written evidence that slavery exisited in Virginia.  When he could not, Judge White ordered the three released from custody.  Van Meter then brought a civil suit against Dr. Mitchell who was summoned on October 19, 1845, to appear before the Federal District court in Pittsburgh.  On November 17, the case began being designated as “No. 8 November Term 1845. Van Metre vs. Mitchell,” and it dragged on for almost eight and a half years until May 1854.  

This incident contributed to the more restrictive Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 being passed.  This Act was also met with resistance and criticism.  Because of the widespread opposition and being virtually enforceable in certain states, Congress repealed both Acts on June 28, 1864.

There were a total of three trials – two of which Mitchell won and a third which he lost.  During the first trial, the jury disagreed.  So the case was called upon a second time.  During the second trial, the defense claimed that Dr. Mitchell had not concealed the men, rather they came to Indiana in a most deplorable condition, and when they inquired about housing they were directed to the office of the Clarion of Freedom, and were given lodging for the night.  The men then breakfasted at Dr. Mitchell’s home the following morning, and he bought them the necessary supplies and for the next few weeks they resided in a cabin on Dr. Mitchell’s land, which was often times used by travelers.  The defense claimed they were living there openly and finding employment in the community.  The claim was that no one knew them to be fugitive slaves and there was no evidence that Dr. Mitchell had such knowledge.

The prosecution responded that it was known to the court that Indiana County was a place of Whig majority, and therefore a region fit for treason, stratagem and spoils.  To prove that Dr. Mitchell knew the men were living in his cabin, they produced a note from the pocket of one of the captured men, directing them to a man who lived on Dr. Mitchell’s farm adjoining the cabin, and read: “Kill a sheep and give Garriet half. [Signed] Robert Mitchell.”

It was admitted that this did not prove that Robert Mitchell knew Garrett Harris was a slave, but being an abolitionist and living in a county with Whig majority, it was safe to assume he knew these men to be runaways.  The judge sustained this assumption and likewise charged the jury.  The jury found against Mitchell and fined him $5,000 and costs.  Dr. Mitchell had to sell his pine timber to satisfy the judgement.

Dr. Mitchell continued supporting the cause and always stood in high esteem to his fellow citizens, not only in Indiana County but across the State.  Unfortunately, Dr. Mitchell died April 14, 1862, shortly before President Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Story of Hollingsworth, Brown, and Harris

[In Indiana County] it was a matter of public knowledge…that fanatics, ‘friends of humanity,’ were banded together under professions of conscience and philanthropy, and vows of propagandism to disregard the constitution and laws of the country…a regularly organized association existed there to entice negroes from their owners, and to aid them in escaping…

Van Meter v. Mitchell Trial Record

Many people are familiar with the Underground Railroad from their days in high school history class, or earlier.  As a child sitting in a history class, upon hearing railroad one things of a series of underground tracks which took people from point A to point B.  But the Underground Railroad was not an actual railroad, but a loosely organized network of men, women and children who were willing to assist fugitive slaves.  This was not an easy task though, because at the time slavery and the rights of slaveholders were protected by the Constitution, and because of this local authorities were expected to uphold the law, thereby defining the actions of the Underground Railroad as acts of civil disobedience.

The motivation for those assisting with the Underground Railroad came from simple decency and/or religious conviction.  The New Testament commands to love one’s neighbor, feed the hungry, and aid the oppressed.  In Indiana County, some of the earliest congregations were the Associate Presbyterians, who had serious reservations about slavery.  In Indiana, Reverend Dr. David Blair, was an ardent abolitionist, and all five of the Associate Prebyterian churches in the area provided and nourished the core of Indiana County’s anti-slavery leaders.

In the 1840s, Methodists and Baptists were split over the issue of slavery and the Lutherans and Wesleyan Methodists opposed it.  In the late 1850s, the Plumville Baptist Church, with its pastor Rev. William Bingham, an abolitionist, organized a group of Indiana County citizens to got to Kansas to make it a free state.

Not everyone who helped with the activities of the Underground Railroad were committed abolitionists, but the leadership was grounded in abolitionist principles.

James Moorhead was the founder and editor of two abolitionist newspapers in the 1840s and 50s: the Clarion of Freedom and The Independent.  Other prominent abolitionist leaders were Dr. Robert Mitchell of Indiana and John Graff of Blairsville; they were also Underground Railroad managers.  In Indiana County, there were at least 40 others who conducted for the Railroad and organized anti-slavery activities in the county.  The men often served as conductors, the women in the “Subsistence Department,” and the children as watchguards, guides, and messengers.

Likely the most “famous” story in Indiana County is with Anthony Hollingsworth (12 years old), and his two companions: Charles Brown (19) and Garrett (Jared) Harris (late 20s).  They came to the outskirts of Indiana late in April 1845.  The three were exhausted and famished, and they hid out in the overgrown brush and brambles of the old neglected Lutheran cemetery, what is now Memorial Park.

Charles Brown was a favored house servant of Garrett Van Meter Family from Hardy County, Virginia and was Mrs. Van Meter’s carriage driver.  The Van Meter daughters had begun to teach Charlie to read and write, until they were warned by a family friend that it was illegal.  The Van Meters were kind to Charlie, but Van Meter was always willing to sell, even his best servants, if the crops did not grow well.

One day in 1844, while Charlie and Mrs. Van Meter were returning from the market, they were meet by a slave dealer and two young servants cuffed in the wagon.  The two young servants cried out to Mrs. Van Meter to save them, but there was nothing she could do.  The slave driver struck the two with his whip, which disturbed Mrs. Van Meter, and when Charlie tried to console her, she stated that she feared he may be next.

It was at that point, Charlie began to plan his escape.  He gathered information and practiced his reading.  One night, he heard guests tell the Van Meter family that a group of five slaves had escaped from the neighboring county and when asked how they knew where to go, the visitor said they followed the North Star.  One of the Van Meter daughters observed that the north star was like the Star of Bethlehem to the wise men.”

Charlie, Anthony Hollingsworth, and Jared Harris escaped together.  At some point between Virginia and Pennsylvania they connected with the Underground Railroad network of Blairsville’s John Graff, which led them to Indiana.

Alexander Moorhead, Jr., age 12 and grandson of James Moorhead, was working as an apprentice at the Clarion of Freedom office when Charlie knocked on the door.  Moorhead wrote:

[Charlie] was about 5 feet 10 inches in height, straight as an arrow, full-breasted, a clear, bright eye, dark-skinned; his hair had the regular African crinkle, and there was something that was very pleasing and winning.  He had a merry, cunning twinkle in his eye, and when he smiled, showed a row of ivories that would have been envied by any of our beautiful ladies…Charlie magnetized me at our first meeting.

Moorhead took the three home and seated them at his dinner table.  The three were then taken to a cabin on Mitchell’s farm near Diamondville.  Hollingsworth later moved to the farm of James Simpson near Homer City.

It was June 1845, when Anthony Hollingsworth was working in the Simpson field when he saw two familiar Hardy County men approaching him.  They forced the small, think, 12-year-old boy onto a horse and tied his feet together under the horse’s belly and took him into Indiana.

As they arrived in Indiana, the men took Hollingworth into the quarters at the Indiana House Hotel (the corner of Sixth and Philadelphia), owned by pro-slavery Sheriff David Ralston, who had begun his long career of aiding slavecatchers.  However, they did not arrive unseen or uncontested, as it was Court Week in Indiana.  By the time they had reached the hotel, where Garrett Van Meter may have waited, an angry mob filled Philadelphia Street.

News of the capture spread quickly through town, and the mob began crying “Down with the manhunters!” “Tear the house down over his head and set the man free!”

Ralston sent for Moorhead and Mitchell, who agreed to talk to the crowd.  Moorhead convinced the crowd to bring the case before the law: “He that is for us is stronger than they who are against us. Be persuaded. It may be on the morrow we will have to battle for the right.  Make your guard line strong and wait for the morning.”

The courthouse was packed the next morning with the crowd overflowing onto the streets.  Mitchell applied for a writ of habeas corpus and William Banks, a local attorney, agreed to defend Hollingsworth.  The case was heard before Judge Thomas White, who was known to be anti-slavery.

White demanded that Van Meter produce written evidence that slavery existed in Virginia; when they could not, Judge White turned to Ralston and said, “Sheriff, release that man from custody.”

Hollingsworth, Harris and Brown continued to live on Mitchell’s farm in Green Township.  The cabins, located on Two Lick Creek were no secret to Indiana Countians, and they even became a favorite place for young people to visit and hear the exciting story of their escape.

In August, Brown began to get restless, and wanted to return to Virginia to bring back a young woman whom he loved.  Alex Moorhead and Mitchell tried to convince him to stay, but it was to no avail, Charlie was determined to go south.  A few miles south of Cumberland, Maryland, he was apprehended by a B&O railroad employee and imprisoned; Van Meter was sent for.  Van Meter summed, but by that time Charlie had already escaped.

Charlie made his way back to his mother’s home and hid out there, and then headed back to Indiana.

In September 1845, Sheriff Ralston, three deputies and eight slavecatchers raided Mitchell’s cabins on Two Lick Creek in the middle of the night.  A struggle ensued.  A sheriff’s deputy recounted later:

Garret Harris was a powerful man and fought with the strength of a lion.  We had the advantage on him in the suddenness of the attack.  We pounced upon him while he was still lying on the floor, attempting to tie him before he could get on his feet.  One large man sat down on his breast and tried to keep him down while two others would tie him, but by superhuman exertion, he threw the man off and fought and crawled to the door, then springing up, he got free and escaped into the woods.

Sheriff Ralston made a hair-breadth escape.  Charlie Brown ran in on him, tripped him up, wrestled his club from him, and drew it up to strike.  I thought it was all up with the sheriff when one of the southerns gave an under stroke with his club arresting a fatal blow.  Another slave catcher struck him a fearful blow on the head, knocking him insensible.  Before he regained consciousness, they had him securely bound.

Brown and two others were carried off on horseback.  Rumors of Charlie’s fate came in several different reports.  One said that Charlie had sent correspondence north that he was going to remain in slavery, be obedient and just do the best he could.  Another rumor said he was whipped to death in front of his mother.  There was a Charles Brown, an African-American male of approximately the right age who was born in the United States, who appears in the 1871 Ontario Census. 

Reports of Jared Harris say that he went to Pittsburgh, while others say he went to Canada.

After the raids on the cabins, Hollingsworth went to Canada.  In 1862, he was living in Stratford, Ontario and in 1863 he was listed as a hairdresser and shampooner.  Anthony Hollingsworth last appears in the Ontario Census of 1871 at the age of 38.

Samuel Williams

Since February is Black History month, I thought it would be interesting to research some of the African-American history in Indiana County.  Starting this research back in December, I did not realize how difficult it would be to find information about notable African-Americans in Indiana County (it seems not much was written about these early figures), which somewhat surprised me knowing that Indiana County and the surrounding area was part of the Underground Railroad.  I came across the same stories of Dr. Robert Mitchell and his trial against Van Meter, for harboring “fugitive slaves,” especially one by the name of Anthony Hollingsworth.  But I knew there had to be others.

While searching, I came across a series of articles written by Clarence Stephenson in the 1970s and 1980s, one such article was about a gentleman by the name of Samuel Williams.  So I did some more digging, and it turns out an article in the Indiana Evening Gazette in 1944 told of how Stephen Foster was inspired to write some of his songs because of Samuel Williams.

Sam’s story begins on a Kentucky plantation, as a slave.  Among the slaves on the plantation was Nellie Gray, a friend of Sam, who was sold to a Louisiana plantation owner.  Sam missed his friend and went to Louisiana and stole her from her new owner and brought her back to the Kentucky plantation.  However, the Louisiana plantation owner came back to claim Nellie and took her back to Louisiana.  Sam was severely beat for his actions, resulting in making him blind in one eye.

Sam again stole Nellie and brought her back to Kentucky, but after this she was never heard from again, my best guess would be that she was again returned to Louisiana.  This left a sorrow in Sam’s heart.

Sam ran away from Kentucky and arrived in Armagh where he met with Judge Thomas White, father of Harry White.  Judge White was involved in aiding the slaves and giving them shelter and food and hiding them until it was safe to go further along on their journey.  One hiding place was the Old Stone house on the White property.  

When Sam came to Indiana, he took two women with him, and swam the Potomac river with them on his back.  He decided to locate in Indiana and worked for various families.  He married Sidney Harvey, an Indiana-born African-American.

Sam was employed by Attorney William Stewart.  This is where Stephen Foster enters the story.

Foster visited the home of Attorney Stewart, several times a year, as he was related to Mrs. Stewart.  While on his visits to Indiana, Stephen Foster often times heard Sam Williams singing his ballads as he worked.  Sam had a beautiful voice, which was known around the community, and a gift of composing the music and words as he sang.

One of Sam’s songs was that of his long lost love, Nellie Gray.  Another of a pet dog named “Tray,” which was left behind on the Kentucky plantation and another of Jeannie with the Dark Brown Hair.  Foster became so inspired with the voice and words that he wrote the music and arranged the songs “Darling Nellie Gray,” “Old Dog Tray,” and “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.”

Samuel Williams died on November 26, 1879, shortly afterward the following tribute was printed in the Indiana Progress on December 4, 1874:

As Shakespear says of one of his characters, “Alas, poor Yorkick! I knew him well.”  So now may the town of Indiana say of her colored friend, Sam Willias. Alas, poor Samuel! We knew him well.  An escaped slave from the sunny South, he dwelt for many years among us.  An African of the blackest visage, of crispest curliest locks, his face was to one and all of us familiar.  A fellow of queer, odd merriment and joke, he provoked us oft to laughter.  A being of iron, sinewy frame, he performed for us many menial offices, carried for us many heavy burdens.  A negro whose voice of powerful, yet soft, sweet melody, we have all so often heard, sometimes in the early morning, sometimes in the stilly night, waking the sleeping echoes among the hills that lie all about our beautiful town, we all remember.  As the young, the bright, the beautiful; as the honored, the brave, the gifted, as the statesman, the orator, the here, have lain down and died, so too has died on of the town characters – the queer, odd character – Sam.  Spring time shall come again with bending skies of blue, with bursting flowers, with tender grass blades, with the singing of birds and the rippling laugh of little children, but never again shall come our right hand man – Black Sam.

Stable doors shall swing idly in the gentle breeze; curry combs in corners lie neglected, unused; steeds untended, stand and neigh for the voice, for the touch of their keeper, while inn keepers talk lowly together as to where they can find one to fill to them the place of him who has gone forever.  As every stone, however rough, fills a needed place in the finished palace; as every drop, however little, helps swell the mighty ocean; so every man, however lowly, fills his own place in life; so Sam in our community occupied his own particular niche; and we hold that a word of kindness, a word of farewell is fitting as we turn on our heel from the grave of the negro saying, “Rest in Peace.”

Samuel Williams was laid to rest in the Oakland Cemetery.

The History of the Railroad in Indiana County Part IV

The automobile and the Depression took a heavy toll. In an effort to cut operating costs PRR had put a gasoline combination baggage-passenger car in service between Indiana and the Torrance intersection with the mainline.  B&O put a similar car on the Punxsutawney-Indiana line.  These were known as “hoodlebugs.”

In 1940, plans were underway by the U.S. Army Engineer Corps to build the Conemaugh flood control dam near Tunnelton.  This would flood the PRR lines in many places and necessitate rebuilding them on higher ground.  The railroad bridge between Blairsville and Torrance Junction was within the flood control area and had to be razed late in 1940, thus cutting Indiana County’s connection with the mainline.

Passenger train “Groundhog Flyer” of the B&O in 1949

Due to this and dwindling passenger use, PRR discontinued passenger service to Indiana.  The last passenger train ran from Indiana to Blairsville on April 18, 1940.  Ralph E. Forrester was the conductor and C.A. Taubler the engineer on this last run by gasoline car No. 4656.

While work proceeded on the Conemaugh Dam, the West Penn tracks were being re-routed in several places.  Below the dam a high-level bridge replaced the old Bow Ridge tunnel and bridge.  In Saltsburg, the entire line was abandoned.

The last passenger train passed through Saltsburg in 1947 and the last freight train in September 1951.  The railroad had been built on the old canal towpath which is now known as the Saltsburg Canal Park.  The Saltsburg station gradually deteriorated and was razed in October 1975.

Elsewhere PRR ended its passenger service from Clymer to Cresson.  The last passenger train left Clymer on October 4, 1947.  That left only one railroad in Indiana County offering passenger service – the B&O “hoodlebug” from Punxsutawney to Indiana.

Finally on June 10, 1950, the B&O gave up; gasoline engine No. 6040 made its last run operated by engineer M.S. Reams, and conducted by Thomas Baird, both of Punxsutawney.

The age of steam was also ending.  On January 3, 1954, the last steam freight locomotive, a 124-foot J-1, left the Blairsville railroad yards enroute to Pitcairn and the scrap yards.

Over the years, many miles of railroad have been abandoned, some branch lines to coal mines and others trunk lines.  The B&O from Juneau through Trade City and Plumville was abandoned and tracks torn up.  In February 1975, the old Indiana Branch of PRR was abandoned and the tracks torn up in 1980.

Disaster befell the PRR and NYC.  Both railroad giants were in financial trouble in the 1960s.  A merger of the two was effected in 1968 and named Penn Central – the largest railroad in the U.S. Various economies were tried.

On May 29, 1967, PRR terminated all its operations at the Blairsville yards and moved them to Kiskiminetas Junction.  In July 1969, all railroad structures in Blairsville except the station were torn down – the round house, a 100-foot turn table, coal tipple, sandhouse and repair shops.  By 1975, Penn Central was bankrupt and a new corporation was formed with Federal government help – Conrail – to continue freight service.

The History of the Railroad in Indiana County Part III

The Pennsylvania Railroad’s 48-year monopoly of railroad traffic on its Indiana Branch was about to end.  In September 1902 BR and P officials gave a contract to Alexander Patton for the construction of a 15-mile section from McKee’s Mills (Ernest) to Black Lick.  About a year later in August 1903 it was revealed that, in consideration of a contract with Pittsburgh Coal and Gas Co. to carry its entire output, BR and P had agreed to build another 17-mile line from Ernest southwesterly to Iselin at a cost $677,000.  This branch was known as the “Ridge Line.”

The cost of building the Indiana-Punxsutawney line as of June 30, 1903 was $1,095,841.72.

At last the tunnel was completed, and the Gazette informed its readers that “the first BR and P train, hauled by Engine 84, had been run into Indiana.  On last Monday morning, February 8, 1904, “Squirrel” Repine, manager of the Union Transfer Company, loaded the first load of freight…Miss Daisy Conner of West Indiana, was the first woman to walk through the new tunnel.”

This tunnel is still in use today and may be seen by driving out North Ninth Street and turning toward Fulton Run.  The south end of the tunnel is seen as you cross the bridge over the B and O tracks.

On Monday May 2, the first passenger train arrived amid a crowd of more than 1,000 cheering people.  The train consisted of Engine 193 with Engineer William Murray at the controls, an express car, and two passenger cars loaded with about 80 passengers including many Punxsutawney officials.

The Indiana Station, 28 by 86 feet, had not yet been completed.  J.J. Archer was the first agent.  He sold the first passenger ticket to Edward Rowe.  The fare to Punxsutawney was $1.10, round trip, $2.  During the first week of operation Archer sold 426 tickets to points north of Indiana. 

Possibly the first fatality on the new railroad occurred May 7 – only five days after the arrival of the first passenger train in Indiana.  Sherman Thayer, a freight conductor, was killed between Engine 73, which was backing southward on the “Ridge Line” with a caboose in front, when it met a work train coming north at the curve near Creekside Station.  The caboose was smashed to kindling wood.

On July 18, 1904 the first passenger train on the BR and P Blacklick Branch arrived in Indiana, a combination passenger and baggage car attached to a train of coal cars.  It left Vintondale a few minutes before 7 a.m. and, through an arrangement with PRR, traveled on the PRR tracks to Black Lick, and from there to Indiana on its own tracks by way of Coral and Homer City, reaching Indiana at 8:45 a.m.

In September 1904 BR and P carried 1,400 passengers to Indiana in one day – Thursday of fair week.

For a few months in 1904, BR&P had a passenger service to Vintondale with the train traveling part of the way over Pennsylvania Railroad tracks by special arrangement, but it was discontinued on October 22, 1904.

Additional branch lines were built to mines at Fulton Run and Whiskey Run (1906); along Yellow Creek (1907); to Tide, Coy and Luciusvoro (1908); to Jacksonville, Aultman and Nesbit Run (1910); and to Guthrie and Tearing Run (1913).

In 1912, improvements were made to the tunnel near Indiana.  It was the height of the coal boom.  In May 1910, a BR&P motor car, “The Comet,” was exhibited in Indiana – an example of the coming demise of steam power.

Among other railroads planning extensions was the Pittsburgh & Eastern, which had a line to Glen Campbell by 1896 and announced ambitious plans in 1897-98 to construct a 70-mile railroad through Indiana County to West Newton on the Youghiogheny River. Nothing came of this, however, and in 1899 that railroad was sold to the New York Central.

In 1898, an item headed “At Work on a New Railroad” told of a private, standard-gauge railroad being built from the P&E at the forks of Cush Creek up the north branch of the creek past Gipsy and across Gorman Summit to a timber tract in Grant Township near Nashville.  This logging railroad built by Nathan L. Hoover was about seven or eight miles long.  On May 20, 1899, a Shay geared locomotive was purchased.  In December 1902, Hoover sold the line to the NYC for $68,500, and it was used thereafter to haul coal.

Another logging railroad was the Black Lick & Yellow Creek, organized June 15, 1904.  Most of the lines were in Cambria County, with projections into Indiana County at Rexis in Buffington Township and Burns in Pine Township.  It was also standard gauge.

After the owner, Vinton Lumber Co., had completed timber operations, the coal interests eyed the railroad.  A Gazette item in October 1910 spoke of a preliminary survey for an “extension of the old Blacklick and Yellowcreek Railroad to Pine Flats” nearing completion for the NYC and J.H. Weaver Coal Co., who apparently had purchased it about that time or earlier.

On April 20, 1911, the name was changed to the Cambria & Indiana Railroad, and the extension to Malvern near Pine Flats opened for service on December 24, 1911.  At Possum Glory it connected with NYC, and at Rexis it connected with PRR. 

At first passenger service was steam-powered, but on June 16, 1912, a self-propelled storage battery car was put in service – an unusual feature.  The battery cars were replaced in October 1922 by gasoline cars.  Passenger service terminated in 1931.

NYC was interested in the coal deposits of Indiana County for use in its steam locomotives and had constructed the Beech Creek Railroad from Williamsport to Clearfield for this purpose.  By 1896 rumors were circulating that the Vanderbilts, owners of the NYC and the Beech Creek, were planning to extend the line to Pittsburgh.

In 1903 a possible ruinous competition with PRR was averted by an agreement reported in the Indiana County Gazette, May 20, 1903:

“It seems that both the PRR and New York Central will extend from Cherrytree to Fleming Summit at once, occupying the same right of way.”  This cooperative arrangement was known as the Cherry Tree & Dixonville RR.  By August 1903 the Beech Creek Railroad had reached Cherry Tree.

In September of that year, another Gazette story said the road to Fleming Summit was “almost completed” and was to be extended south along the north branch of Two Lick to Joe Hine’s place near Mitchell’s Mills (Diamondville), where it would branch, one branch going to the mouth of Dixon Run (in what became Clymer) and up that run about six miles to Dixonville.  The other branch went to Possum Glory near Heilwood.

Passenger trains operated by PRR were running by December 1904 from Cherry Tree to Hines, making stops at Fleming Summit, Purchase Line, Lovejoy, Shanktown and Possum Glory.

Before the line could reach Clymer, a deep cut through a hill had to be made, known as the “Diamondville Cut.”  The first train reached Clymer in November 1905.  In 1906 a station was erected there and the line was extended farther to Dixonville and Idamar.

Regular PRR passenger service from Cresson to Clymer began April 1, 1907.  For a time both PRR and NYC operated passenger trains over the same track.  In 1922, the line from Idamar was extended to a mine at LaRayne located at the southeast corner of East Mahoning Township.

In July 1903, it was reported that surveys and coal testing were underway in the area of Plumville and northwestern portions of Indiana County for the Buffalo & Susquehanna RR.  An agreement was made in February 1905 with the BR&P to use the BR&P tracks from Juneau to Stanley in Jefferson County two miles east of Sykesville.

From Juneau a new line was built 15 miles to Sagamore, Armstrong County, completed 1905-06.  In 1932, the railroad was sold to B&O.

While these and other lines were being built, PRR did not stand idle.  In 1888, the people of EAst Wheatfield Township were angered by the construction of a 10-mile PRR line on the old canal towpath between Johnstown and Cramer, destroying the only good road between these places.

PRR had a disastrous year in 1889.  The headquarters of the former West Penn RR (now W. Penn Division of PRR) was moved from Blairsville to Pittsburgh.  In January, a locomotive which had been repaired in Blairsville shops was being brought out when the cap blew off the dome.  Machinist Hugh Connoll was killed and fireman Scott and two others, were seriously injured, along with two others.

A coroner’s jury decided that the explosion of Engine 247 “was due to some imperfection in the iron cap, not possible to have been observed.”  In May the Johnstown Flood caused extensive damage to the lines and rolling stock of PRR.

In August the Indiana Branch passenger train operated by Engineer Delos Hetrick crashed into a freight locomotive in the lower part of the Blairsville Railroad Yard.  Engineer Shepard on the freight engine was en route to Bolivar Junction train heading toward him.  Putting the locomotive in reverse, he jumped out.  

No one was seriously hurt, but both locomotives were badly smashed and a baggage car was slightly damaged.

The freight locomotive went by itself for about five miles and passed a gang of workers who put a hand car on the rails and gave chase.  About two miles further they caught and stopped the runaway.

In July 1889 the Indiana Times mentioned that the Indiana Branch passenger train consisted of an engine, three coaches and a baggage and express car.  “It is only a few years,” said the Times, “since an engine, one coach and baggage and passenger car was sufficient.”

In 1892 a new bridge at the west end of the Bow Ridge tunnel (W. Penn Division) was built, and in 1895 a new bridge was erected over the Conemaugh at Social Hall.

In 1898, the stock yards and the locomotive turntable at the Indiana Station were removed and a “Y” for turning constructed on a more than 10-acre tract purchased from Wilson, Sutton & Clark at the southwest corner of the old Experimental Farm.

In July 1900 PRR contracted with H.S. Kerbaugh for a 4-½ mile extension from Vintondale down Black Lick Creek to Buffington.  By September 1902 the line was being pushed down the creek from Dilltown to Social Hall.  Farmers were paid $4 a day for a team and labor. “Foreigners” got $1.35 a day and were housed in shanties at Buena Vista.

In 1902, PRR acquired the Pennsylvania & Northwestern RR, one line of which ran from McGee’s Mills through the northeastern corner of Indiana County to Punxsutawney.

In 1906 nine miles of the West Penn line was double-tracked from Blairsville to Tunnelton and a new 600-foot tunnel bored through Bow Ridge.  Six new masonry bridges were erected over the Conemaugh at various points.

A scandal surfaced in March 1907 when a PRR agent was arrested in Johnstown for attempting to bribe Blairsville Councilman David Miller.  It was alleged he offered Miller $1,000 “and a mileage book in return for a promise to fight any attempt to repeal the street-vacating ordinance.”

At last in May 1911, after considerable delay, a new passenger station was constructed in Indiana.  W.R. Artley was the contractor for the 40-by-90 structure, which enclosed the walls of the old freight depot in a buff brick casing.  The interior was finished with cement and plaster.

An old engine house at the corner of Eighth and Water streets was torn down.  The new passenger station was 60 feet back from Philadelphia Street.  “This will enable the loading and unloading of trains without blocking the street, as has been the custom ever since the railroad was built.”

PRR Train at the train station in Indiana at 8th and Philadelphia Streets (1949)

Excursions from Indiana to Atlantic City were offered in 1916 at $10 and $14, round trip.

About 1900, the automobile began to be seen occasionally on the muddy or dusty roads of Indiana County.  At first the railroads were uncensored about the newcoming transportation, and many railroaders no doubt laughed at the flimsy “putt-putters.”

As time moved on, more and more automobiles were seen and great strides were made in improving their performance and comfort, as well as the public roads on which they traveled.  The railroad people felt this was unfair competition because they had to maintain their tracks at private expense, as well as pay taxes; whereas automobiles, trucks and buses did not have to maintain their roadbeds.

For some time and in some parts of Indiana County, from 1907-1933, the railroads also had competition from streetcars.  Then the Great Depression occurred, which killed the streetcars; it did little to nothing to help the railroads.  Passenger volume declined, as well as coal hauling – so much so that the Iselins and other coal magnates of the R&P Coal Corp. sold their railroad to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1932.

In 1931, the Cambria and Indiana Railroad terminated passenger service, followed by the New York Central in 1933 which ended its passenger service to Clymer.  The PRR continued service to Clymer.

In 1928, just prior to the 1929 stock market crash, an experimental section of concrete ties were laid on the West Penn Division near Tunnelton, replacing the standard wood ties.

One November 25, 1938, Santa Claus made a trip on the B&O to Indiana where he was welcomed by a large crowd and afterward went to Troutman’s Store.

The History of the Railroad in Indiana County Part II

The manufacture of coke (from coal) began in Indiana County in 1886 and in November a railroad station named “Mikesell” for George A. Mikesell who erected the first coke ovens, was erected south of Homer City at what is now Graceton.

In 1866, a disastrous accident was narrowly averted in April when the “cow catcher” of a locomotive got caught in one of the boards of a narrow boardwalk on the railroad bridge over the Conemaugh River three miles west of Blairsville at a place called Social Hall.

The board walk was for the purpose of allowing railroad workers to cross the river.  The locomotive and some of the cars were derailed, with some of them projecting out over the edge of the bridge – a 72-foot fall if they had gone over.  There were 15 passengers aboard.

In 1867, another bridge over the river above Livermore was swept away in a flood a few days before Christmas.

Business was going well, J.M. Robinson reported that grain sent from the Saltsburg depot during the period of October 1, 1867, to January 31, 1868, was 49,376 bushels of wheat, oats, rye and ear corn, plus 232 bushels of clover seed.

In November 1870, the wooden bridge at Social Hall, with weather-boarded sids and sheet iron roof, 800 feet long, burned.

Beginning in 1881, WPRR began some major reconstruction of routes and building new ones.  An 8-mile extension from Blairsville through the Pack Saddle Gap on the northern (Indiana County) side of the Conemaugh River to Bolivar was begun early in October 1881 by Campbell and Bush of Altoona, contractors, employing 200 Swedes.

Western Pennsylvania Railroad Office Blairsville PA

The extension was completed in 1883 and at the same time a portion of the tracks west of Social Hall were realigned.  Other sections of the line were rerouted so as to reduce the distance between Blairsville and Allegheny City by 18 miles.

This involved enlarging the railroad tunnel below the present Conemaugh Dam, and changing the route through Saltsburg by building new tracks on top of the old canal towpath, then continuing on the Indiana County side of the Kiskiminetas River to Coalport (Edri).

Here the railroad crossed the river on another bridge and continued to Salina through a 1,400-foot tunnel.  Laying of rails on this new line began in Saltsburg in November 1882.  A new station was erected in Saltsburg in 1884.

During this time the Foster Coal Co. built a narrow-gauge connecting line from a tipple along the WPRR tracks at Coalport to its mine about a mile away. This was the first narrow-gauge railroad in Indiana County.

An item in the Indiana Times February 28, 1883, told of fighting at Coalport between a gang of Italian workers and Mr. Weaver, contractor on the Foster Coal Co. Railroad.  The dispute was over the deduction of railroad from Pittsburgh to the site from the wages paid to the Italians.  A constable assisted by a posse of twenty men arrested five or six workers.

In January 1882, the Indiana Times quoted from the Pittsburgh Commercial an item regarding the proposed Clarion, Mahoning & Pittsburgh Railroad Co. which was planning a line from North Warren to Pittsburgh by way of Plumville, Elderton, West Lebanon, Clarksburg and “near Saltsburg.”  This was no doubt very disturbing news to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

An editorial in the Indiana Times March 8, 1882, urged PRR to extend its lines from Indiana to Cherry Tree.  By then some of the businessmen of Indiana may have had second thoughts about the desirability of the PRR branch line ending in Indiana.

In June 1882, a meeting of Indiana businessmen was held in the office of General Harry White to consider building a narrow gauge railroad.  A.W. Wilson presided.  On motion of White, it was unanimously “Resolved, that it is the desire of the business men of Indiana that a narrow gauge railroad be built from Indiana to Reynoldsville via Punxsutawney.”

In July another meeting was held at the St. Elmo Hotel, Punxsutawney.  General White, G.W. Hood, and John W. Sutton spoke, “giving assurance that the business men of Indiana were in hearty sympathy with the project,” and letters to that effect were read from S.M. Clark, A.W. Taylor, A.W. Wilson, W.B. Hildebrand, W.B. Marshall, J.M. Thompson, and others.

J.R. Caldwell, a civil engineer, estimated the cost of construction at $7,000 per mile.  Another meeting was held August 1 in Marion and solicitation of stock subscriptions began afterward.  Some people, however, hung back, as reported in the Marion Independent December 23, 1882: “The majority of our citizens, as did many others…did not enter into the enterprise with much push, and this, no doubt, to a great extent led to the failure of the effort.”

Soon afterward (March 1883) the Independent reported that the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Railroad was surveying in Indiana County.  In July 1883, the first R&P train entered Punxsutawney. 

The entry of the R&P into Indiana County was delayed by financial problems.  In 1885 the railroad was sold at sheriff’s sale to Adrian Iselin, a New York banker who held a mortgage.  The sale was contested in court but the eventual decision favored Iselin.  All R&P property was transferred to him in March 1887, and the company was reorganized as the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad.

The Indiana Times had earlier (March 1883) reported that surveys were under way of four different railroads through Indiana County and that they would leave “Indiana high and dry.” In June 1883, a charter was issued to the Central Pennsylvania Railroad for a line from Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, through Blairsville and east of Indiana to Punxsutawney, 70 miles.

In August a corps of engineers for the railroad were running lines from Dixonville by way of Decker’s Point, Nashville and Locust Lane to Punxsutawney, and the Times informed its readers “It is said that the Pennsylvania railroad company will try to keep the B&O company (Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, backers of the Central) from building this road.”

Wooden Railroad Bridge in Saltsburg PA

In 1886, the Pennsylvania & Northwestern Railroad was completed from McGee’s Mills to Punxsutawney, going through Sidney and Hillman in the extreme northwestern corner of Indiana Country.  Regular service on this line began December 1, 1887.  This was the first railroad not controlled by PRR to enter Indiana County.

The second independent line to enter the county was the Clearfield & Jefferson Railroad.  By April 1889 there was a great activity along the route of the railroad from McGee’s Mills to Glen Campbell.  The object of the railroad was to open up the coal fields around Glen Campbell, Indiana County’s first mining town.  It was named for Cornelius Campbell, an Altoona railroad contractor, who built the railroad and was the first superintendent of the Glenwood Coal Co.

The first car of coal left Glen Campbell on October 21, 1889, to make the 9-mile trip to McGee’s Mills. By May 1892, two passenger trains a day were making the trip.

Surveys and plans for other railroads continued.  In September 1889, engineers were said to be surveying between Plumville and Marion for a railroad heading east from Butler.  In August 1890, a charter was issued at Harrisburg to the Saltsburg & West Lebanon Railroad, whose directors were all from Philadelphia.  In April 1894, lines were being surveyed in Young Township in the interest of the Beech Creek Railroad.  In September, the Indiana County Gazette spoke of a “battle royal” being fought between the projectors of the new Pittsburgh & Eastern Railroad and the PRR.

The PRR for its part had decided by 1890 that it could not ignore the threat from new lines.  The Cherrytree Record reported that a local wagon factory had received an order to build 500 wheelbarrows, and that the Cherry Tree Foundry had an order for 2,000 picks to be used in building a railroad to Cherry Tree.  The railroad was an extension of the PRR from Cresson through Spangler.

In March 1892, a heavy blast during construction threw rocks all over Cherry Tree.  One struck a young son of Vincent Tonkin, knocking out several teeth.  Another broke a horse’s leg and the animal had to be shot.

The first PRR passenger train entered Cherry Tree on April 25, 1893.

The PRR also eyed the old abandoned and partially graded line of the defunct Homer, Cherry Tree and Susquehanna Railroad.  In May 1890, J.M. Guthrie organized the Homer & Susquehanna Railroad, with the backing of PRR.  In December 1891, PRR engineers surveyed the route from Homer City to Two Lick Creek.  In March 1892, the Indiana Times announced that PRR would lay rails along the old right-of-way in the spring.  However, the work was delayed for some reason until January 1893 when tracks were laid for five or six miles to a coal operation.

From time to time plans also were made to extend PRR from Black Lick up Blacklick Creek.   Laying of tracks finally began in April 1894, but the line was not finished to Ebensburg until some time later.

By 1895, another PRR was being built from Robinson north of the Conemaugh River through Centerville to Johnstown following the tow path of the old canal.  Indiana County was on the verge of a major railroad boom and the PRR was soon to see some real competition.

In July 1896, rumors were afloat that the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad would construct a line into Indiana County.  By March 7, 1898 a contract for construction of a branch line from Punxsutawney to Indiana had been signed and BR and P was paying the landowners for rights-of-way.

At the same time, a subsidiary railway, the Allegheny and Western, had been organized (Jan. 22, 1898), and construction began on a line from Walston Junction near Punxsutawney southwest and west to Butler.  This railroad traversed the northwestern corner of Indiana County through West Mahoning Creek on a high steel bridge.

Passenger service began October 16, 1899.  In January 1900, a delegation of citizens from Smicksburg went to Butler to see railroad officials about a passenger station at Goodville.

During the last week of September 1900, a group of officials of the BR and P and of the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Co. visited Indiana, according to the Indiana County Gazette.  Afterward they went to Pittsburgh and awarded Carnegie Steel Co. a contract for 2,500 tons of 80-pound steel rails at $26 a ton.

On February 21, 1901, the Gazette triumphantly announced “That Railroad is Surely Coming.”  The accompanying story stated the railroad would be built from Valier through Marion Center and that “Prominent members of the Board of Trade have very, good assurances…”

Construction began in 1902.  One of the major engineering projects was the boring of a tunnel through a hill in White Township just outside the Indiana Borough limits.  This work began on December 1, 1902.  

By early April 1903 tracks were laid as far as Marion Center, and by April 15 the track-laying crew of 300 men and a patent Holman tracklayer reached Home, PA.  In May, a regular passenger schedule was announced between Punxsutawney and Ernest:

Before the railroad could reach Indiana, however, problems developed at the tunnel.  Charles S. Streele, a civil engineer in charge of tunnel construction, suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle on July 10, 1903 when his foot was caught between two rails being dragged by a mule team.  Two days later about 10 feet of tunnel caved in.  Since it was a Sunday, no one was injured.

In August it was announced that the trains would run as far as the north end of the tunnel during Indiana County Fair Week, and from there a line of hacks would take passengers to the fair.

On September 2, the Gazette rejoiced that “The Tunnel Is Through The Hill” and “Today a mule can pass through from end to end of the tunnel.”  The Italian work gangs celebrated by coming to town parading and yelling.  “They may have drunk some beer, too. At any rate, they were very hilarious.”

It was hoped that “1903 will yet see trains running to Indiana over the BR and P” and that this would “connect the two sections of railroad that is almost complete from Blacklick to Punxsutawney.”

The celebration was premature.  Later in September there was another cave-in, and in October still another.  The Gazette noted that the hill contained no solid rock formations.  The tunnel would have to be arched with concrete.