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.

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Through a broad range of activities, The Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County seeks to promote a greater appreciation of the Indiana community's rich heritage and a better understanding of life today.

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