There’s a Spring Under the IUP HUB

Covered over by the construction of the HUB building on the IUP Campus is an interesting piece of Indiana County history, that being what became known as “Shaver’s Spring.”

The earliest mention of the spring goes as far back as 1733. The exact location was documented in a warrantee survey dated July 9, 1773. The spring was on a pathway traveled by the Indians for centuries, that trail being the Kittanning Trail, which ran east to west on what is now Washington Avenue. Running north was the Catawba Trail, which crossed over the Kittanning Trail close to the location of the spring. The spring has had many names throughout its history: Shaver’s Spring, McElhaney Spring, Armstrong Spring, and Shaver’s Sleeping Place.

Shaver's Spring

The namesake comes from a Native American trader named Peter Shaver. Shaver was operating in the area in the early to mid-1700s. He was known by many as an outlaw who was charged with trading alcohol with the local Native American tribes, which was illegal at the time. The Native Americans actually suggested to the colonial government that he be “called away from these parts,” because he did not bring to them what they needed. His activities resulted in his death and his remains were found missing his head.

In 1756, another name came to the spring, when three hundred men led by Lt. Col. John Armstrong marched along the Kittanning Trail. They were traveling west from Fort Shirley (now Huntingdon County) with the purpose of destroying the Indian village at Kittanning. In order to avoid warning of their approach, the men walked single file and spoke in whispers, and sent scouts out ahead. They spent one night on the banks of Cush Cushion Creek, near the future site of Cherry Tree. The following night they reached the vicinity of the spring and camped nearby. The trail gained the name of the Armstrong-Kittanning Trail and the spring became known as “Armstrong’s Spring.”

The spring was again noted in the 1871 Atlas of Indiana County. By the 1880s, the spring was located along College Avenue behind the residence of William G. McElhaney, and then became known as “McElhaney’s Spring.” The last of the family to live at the residence was Miss Jean R. McElhaney, longtime instructor and chairman of the art department at what is now IUP.

In 1959, the property was purchased by the University’s Student Cooperative Association, with plans for the Student Union Building. The spring was stood beside the new building, encased in brick. The local James LeTort Chapter, Daughters of the American Colonists presented an appropriate plaque that was attached to the brick encasement in 1963. Frances Strong Helman, founder of the Historical Society, was among those who supervised the installation and dedication of the plaque.

Two years after this, there was an proposal to expand the Student Union and the fate of the spring was once again in jeopardy. Fortunately, it was decided to incorporate the landmark into the building.  The spring stood in a coffee shop and enclosed in a modernistic metal fountain. Thankfully the spring had been preserved, its flow was diminished and city water was piped in to accommodate the fountain.

Another renovation of the Student Union Building, proved fatal to the spring, covering over the site of the spring. The location became part of the Co-op Store, where the plaque was hung on the wall, hidden from view by merchandise. This fascinating piece of Indiana County history has been lost through time.

Source: Indiana Evening Gazette 2 July 1963; 8 Aug 1966; 12 Oct 1974; Stephenson’s “175th Anniversary History,” Vol. 1

 

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hgsic

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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