Indiana County-Opoly Available Now

The moment many of you have been waiting for the second shipment of the ever popular Indiana County-Opoly games have arrived.  If you pre-ordered one please stop into the Society to pick it up and if need be pay for it.  If you would like it shipped to you please contact the Society with your payment information and shipping address.  We can be contacted at 724-463-9600.

If you missed the pre-order we do have a limited quantity in supply, so hurry fast to get your’s before the game itself becomes part of history.  If you have any questions about the historical places, people or things that are included in the game, comment below or on our Facebook pages and we will be happy to provide an answer about them.  We hope you all enjoy the game.

The Society’s hours are Tuesday-Friday 9-4 and Saturday 10-3.

Marion Center High School History

Marion Center High School (undated)

The current Marion Center High School is located off Route 119 on Route 403. The high school began in 1916 as a three-year high school, located on North Manor Street with Harry Crawford acting as the first principal.  In 1923, a four-year high school plan was adopted and there were two faculty members at this time, but in 1925 it had increased to five.  In 1929 there was a new brick building erected and this original building was incorporated into the present building.

William A. McCreery headed the faculty and began teaching in 1925 and in 1928 was elected principal.  There were 31 graduates in 1929.  Then in 1928, the Marion Center-East Mahoning Joint School Board was organized.  The faculty increased again in 1938 to seven faculty members.

Marion Center Area High School (undated)

In 1951 an organizational change came with the junction of Marion Center, Canoe Independent, East Mahoning, Grant, Rayne, South Mahoning, Plumville, and Washington.  The new school board consisted of representatives from each district.  In July 1966, the school district’s official name became “Marion Center Area School District.  Through the years there had been multiple elementary schools connected with the district and today there are two elementary schools: Rayne Elementary and the W.A. McCreery Elementary and the Jr./Sr. High School.

The Historical Society has many yearbooks from the Marion Center Area High School dating from 1928 until the 1980s.  We do not have every single year, but there are enough to enjoy a rich history of this school.  We invite you, if you are interested, to view the yearbooks we have in our collection.

(information from the Indiana Evening Gazette, July 5, 1969)

The Man Behind the Book: Clarence Stephenson

Many people who have visited the Indiana County Historical Society or those who are members certainly know who Clarence Stephenson is, but for those of you who don’t know him let’s take a look at this man behind the book.

Mr. Stephenson was born in East Mahoning Twp and attended both the Shamokin and Marion Center Public Schools, graduating from Marion Center High School in 1937.  He received his B.S. in Education at Indiana State Teachers College, now IUP, in 1941 and taught at Brackenridge, PA Jr. High School from 1941-1942, prior to joining the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.

After being discharged from the Army Air Corps in December 1945, he began work on his Masters in June 1946 at the University of Pittsburgh.  He took a course called “History of Western Pennsylvania” and immersed himself in local history.  In February 1948, he begam acquainted with Frances Strong Helman and joined the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County.  Clarence’s term paper was a 68-page paper, “Indiana County During the Civil War” and received his Masters of Letters degree from the University of Pittsburgh in September 1948.

He taught at Clymer High School from 1947-1952 and organized a Junior Historian Club, which published the Clymer-Cherrytree Story in June 1953, with his editorial guidance.  Mr. Stephenson continued to research locally as well as beyond Indiana County’s limits.  In 1956, he published an article called “The Wipey Officer,” which was about a murdered Indiana County Indiana, that was published in Pennsylvania History magazine.

Clarence wrote many books on his own including, Pennsylvania Canal–Indiana and Westmorland Counties (1961), The Impact of the Slavery Issue on Indiana County (1964), Marion Center-East Mahoning (1969).  While doing this research Stephenson continued with his day jobs.  Then in 1974, he had an idea for a history about Indiana County in book form, because it has been over 60 years since a comprehensive history had been written.  This 5 volume was published over a span of more than 10 years.

Stephenson was influential in promoting history throughout the county, one of those was writing a statement to the Board of Trustees of IUP urging them to save John Sutton Hall.  The Historical Society pays homage to Clarence Stephenson having one of the rooms named the Clarence Stephenson room to house many of his research notes.  He also has many honors ranging from the IUP Medal of Distinction in 2002 to being named in 2003 by the Indiana county Commissioners in the Official Historian of Indiana County.

Clarence Stephenson passed away on August 13, 2011 after a much accomplished life.  His memory still lives on at the Indiana County Historical Society and will continue to live on thanks to his accomplishments and research of Clarence Stephenson.

Come Enjoy a Women’s Tea at the Clark House

Would you like to enjoy at tea in the historic Clark House Mansion?  On May 1, 2016 at 2:00 the Historical & Genealogical Society will be hosting a Women’s Tea featuring tea and refreshments along with a program about women’s fashion.  We will also feature exhibits on jewelry along with an exhibit of how a Victorian table would have been set.  The cost for a ticket is $10 for the public and $7 for members, we ask that you RSVP by April 23, 2016 and tickets are limited.  The cost of the ticket includes your food, the program and tours of both the Clark House and the Museum in our Armory.  We hope you join us for this fun filled afternoon.  Call 724-463-9600 to RSVP or for more information.

Governor from Indiana County: John S. Fisher

Governor John S. Fisher

After completing the Indiana County-Opoly game, we realized that people had questions about some of the people that were represented throughout the game.  One of those individuals was John Stuchell Fisher, who was the only governor, to date, from Indiana County.  Mr. Fisher was born on May 25,
1867 in South Mahoning Township, near Plumville.  In his early years, Fisher attended a one-room school house at Ox Hill, then attending Indiana High from which he graduated in 1884.  He continued his education at the Indiana Normal School, graduating in 1886 from which he began teaching at the Ox Hill School for about $1 a day.

It was in 1890, that he began to study law at the law office of Samuel Cunningham, passed the bar exam and was admitted to the Indiana County Bar in August of 1893, after which he entered a partnership with Cunningham, which continued for 35 years.  John Fisher married Hapsie Miller on October 11, 1893 and she died on January 17, 1922, never knowing that her husband would become governor.

Fisher was involved in both politics and business and by 1897 was chairman of the Indian County Republican Party, and in November 1900 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate and re-elected in 1904.  As a Senator he supported legislation that prohibited the employment of children under 14 in the coal mines along with an appropriation for the Indiana Normal School in the amount of $75,000.  His second term as Senator gained him national recognition because he chaired a special Senate committee investigating the excessive costs in furnishing the new state Capitol.  The committee learned that the subcontractors and suppliers billed the state for $9 million for furnishings that actually cost only $2 million.

Fisher began his run for governor in 1922, but there were eight Republican candidates for the office so Fisher decided to withdraw.  However, four years later Fisher was once again a candidate, and he won a narrow victory in the primary but won the fall election in a landslide.  After the spring primary, 35,000 people came to Indiana to welcome Fisher home; the Indiana Evening Gazette reported in the May 25, 1926 edition: “…there was joy unconfined and hundreds of pounds of fireworks, red fire and other noisemakers were used, while thousands of peanuts and hundreds of pounds of popcorn were consumed.”

His term as governor will best be remembered by a coal strike in the spring of 1927, beginning because the Pittsburgh Coal Co. broke a 1924 wage contract and also cut miners’ wages by 33%, followed by a reduction again by 20%.  At the beginning Fisher did not intervening and then on March 12 he called for a conference of all the parties involved but no one responded.  The strike ended in July 1928, but Governor Fisher suffered a huge setback in public opinion.  In 1929, he signed the Mansfield Bill which corrected some of the abuses by the coal and iron police.”  He will be remembered as “Fisher the Builder” because while in office, 4,000 miles of highways were paved and 1,000 miles resurfaced.  October 4, 1930, Fisher returned to Indiana to dedicate the Benjamin Franklin Highway (Route 422).  He pushed for construction of the Farm Show Building in Harrisburg, and for new buildings or improvements at State teacher colleges, armory, and hospitals.  Also during his administration the state acquired the land for Cook Forest State Park.

One of the greatest accomplishments while in office was the reduction of debt.  When he became governor, Pennsylvania had a $98 million debt, by the time he left office the state had $29 million surplus.  In 1939, IUP dedicated and named Fisher Auditorium in Governor Fisher’s honor.  Governor John S. Fisher died on Jun 25, 1940 and was laid to rest in Greenwood Cemetery.

(Sources: Stephenson, Clarence. Indiana County man elected governor. The Indiana Gazette April 7, 1984; Wells, Randy. From Ox Hill to the governor’s mansion. The Indiana Gazette. May 16, 2000.)

Absalom Hazlett: Abolitionist from Indiana County

Absalom Hazlett

Absalom Hazlett was born near Devil’s Elbow, Green Township, Indiana County, PA in September 1837.  Before leaving to go to Kansas with his brother John in 1857 he steals some overcoats from the lounge of the American Hotel on Philadelphia Street, but never appears for trial.  In 1858, Hazlett meets the infamous John Brown and is designated a lieutenant in John Brown’s command not long after.  This is when Hazlett learns of Brown’s plan to raid Harper’s Ferry.  Over the next few months Hazlett participates in many different raids across the country, leading up to October 16-18, 1859 when the raid on Harper’s Ferry occurred.  Hazlett was arrested in Newville, PA on October 22, 1859 and thrown into jail at Carlisle, but gives the authorities his alias, William H. Harrison.  In the Winter of 1860 the prosecuting attorney for the trial against Hazlett for his involvement in the raid of Harper’s Ferry, writes to the Indiana, PA Postmaster seeking locals who could identify Hazlett, but correspondence suggests that “the feeling in some places in Pennsylvania on these questions.” might hinder finding someone to identify Hazlett.

On February 16, 1860, Absalom Hazlett was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged on Friday, March 16, 1860 between 10am and 2pm.  There were several petitions for clemency from Indiana County and Carlisle as well as ones form the Senate and House of Pennsylvania.  There were raids to free Hazlett by did not succeed.  In correspondence with Rebecca B. Spring of the Raritan Bay Union, a communitary society in New Jersey, Hazelett tells her “I am willing to die in the cause of liberty; if I had ten thousand lives, I would willingly lay them all down for the same cause. My death will do more good than if I had lived.”  On March 16, 1859, Hazlett is hung at Charles Town, Virginia
and dies quickly and Mrs. Spring removes his body to New Jersey.  In 1899, the body is disinterred and taken to New York to be buried with John Brown and the other raiders.  Absalom Hazlett was 22 years old when he died.

ABC Guide to the Indiana County Historical Society Part 2

Open. Yes we are open, come to our door at the Old Armory located from the parking lot from Wayne Ave.  Our hours are 9-4 Tuesdays to Fridays and 10-3 on Saturdays.
Quiet! Some days at the Society are very quiet with no visitors and a very small number of volunteers.  It’s hard to understand why, but it is something we have learned to accept because the next day there could be a dozen or more visitors.
Restrooms. One of the most frequent questions is where are the restrooms?  Well, actually they are right inside the door you came in; you can’t miss them!
Stephenson, thanks to Clarence Stephenson we have an extensive five volume history of Indiana County. These massive books catalogue the County’s history from the Native Americas up until the 175th Anniversary of the County in the 1970s.  He answers the main questions: who, what, when, where, but leaves you to determine the why; presenting only the facts.
Tours! It’s hard to believe but the Historical Society gets visitors from all over the United States, so schedule your tour today (if you are bringing a large group), otherwise come in any time during our regular business hours.
Up. There’s nowhere to go but up.  As time goes on preservation techniques becomes better and more history is able to be discovered.  Stay tuned for future events as we continue upward.
Veterans. We have a whole section devoted to honoring our veterans.  Visit the second floor of the armory to see artifacts and uniforms of those who have served from the French and Indian War to the latest war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many who come to see the displays are very proud to report it is one of the best displays they have ever seen.  This is our way to honor and thank those who have served for our nation’s freedom.
Walking Tour. There is so much history to see along historic 6thStreet; Governor John Fisher lived here – the only governor from Indiana County – he lived on 220 North Sixth Street.  There are many more historic buildings, stop by the historical society to learn more about the history. And again stay tuned as a guided walking tour is in the works.
(E)Xcited.  There is so much to be excited about, just this past year we debuted Indiana County-opoly game which was a huge success with over 500 games sold and still selling, get yours today at our Museum gift shop.  What the future brings excites us as there is always something new happening at the Society.
Years! Historical Societies are based on years.  The years everything happens are important to historians, because that is what tells a story from the beginning to the present.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At the end of the day, it is always good to get some rest as volunteering and working with people is a tiring job. By getting a good night’s rest we are able to continue our mission the next day.  The best ideas come while sleeping.  Who knows what idea may pop into our heads tonight that we can share tomorrow to make the history of Indiana County come alive.