Annual Christmas Open House

Last week was a busy week at the Historical Society as the holiday season is in full swing.  On Wednesday afternoon the public was invited to join the Historical Society to view recent interviews of long-time residents of Indiana County conducted by students from IUP’s history department. It was a great afternoon as we got to experience what life was like during the first half of the 20th Century through individual stories.  These stories ranged from life in the coal towns, to time at the University, and military service. We would like to thank everyone who came out and shared the afternoon with us along with the students from IUP’s History Department who completed the interviews, and of course the residents of Indiana County who shared their memories.

community choir
IUP Community Choir

Then on Friday evening the Historical Society welcomed the community to celebrate the Christmas Season.  The weather was perfect, as the rain held off for most of the evening. The community came together to tour the festively decorated Clark House while enjoying holiday refreshments and to tour the museum. There were even gifts in the gift shop for people to do some holiday shopping for family and friends.  Our guests enjoyed holiday music provided by the IUP Community Choir, afterwards guests made their way to the Clark House for a holiday sing along around the piano in the parlor. If you were lucky you got to have a conversation with some historical figures, including Harry and Anna White who were in the Clark House. Thanks to all who came out to celebrate the season with us and to the Evergreen Garden Club for decorating the Clark House for the holiday season.

The whites
Harry and Anna White

As a reminder the Historical Society will be closed from December 22, 2018 through January 1, 2019. We will reopen on January 2, 2019. We are excited to see what the new year holds in store, stay tuned for future events such as programs and fundraisers, or just come in to visit the museum or do some family research in our library. Whatever the reason for your visit we can’t wait to see you at the Society. We wish everyone a happy holiday season and a happy new year.

Clark House2018
Clark House

CCC Camp at Kintersburg

Located throughout the United States are Civilian Conservation Corps Camps, also known as CCC camps. The beginning of these camps starts with the stock market crash in October 1929, which caused the United States to go into the Great Depression. Upon being elected into office, President Roosevelt proposed numerous government programs which were designed to lift the country out of the depression. The priority of the programs was to get people into sustainable work.

The first of these programs was the Emergency Conservation Work, later renamed the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The program was first opened to unmarried, unemployed men ages 18-25. The young men came into the camps hungry and poorly clothed. As part of the program they were issued uniforms and given three meals a day. Further they earned $30 a month, most of which was sent home to their families – they were allowed to keep $5 for their personal needs.

Although the camps were run by the U.S. Army, foresters, carpenters and other people directed the work.  Some of the main projects completed by the CCC was: fighting forest fires; planting trees; building roads, buildings, picnic areas, campgrounds, and creating many of the state parks. When the men were not working they socialized and had an opportunity to learn crafts and skills. The effects of the CCC camps can still be seen and enjoyed today.

One of these camps was located in Kintersburg and was known as Company 1301. The Company was formed on May 20, 1933 at Fort George G. Meade with Captain L.E. MacGregor in command. The Company began its work on May 21 headed for Pocatello, Idaho, and on May 27, camp was established at Greys River, Wyoming, where normal camp and work duties were performed for five months.

In October 1933, the company was transferred to Broughton, PA, and on October 24, 1933, Captain William G. Wharry assumed command. Wharry and his associates created a camp in South Park, Pittsburgh that was famous in CCC developments, and the high morale that existed among the men helped them overcome the hardships they encountered when they moved on April 24, 1935. It was on this date that they arrived at a tent site near Home, PA for Camp SCS No. 1, the first soil conservation camp (SCS) in the state. The site was on a 20-acre piece of ground owned by Andrew Robert Kinter, known as the Kinter farm off Tanoma Road.

A permanent camp was delayed due to an unusually heavy rainy season, but preparation for the permanent camp finally began on July 27, 1935 with Captain Peter Van der Lugt in command. It did not take long for the camp to become a presentable sight and the work carried on by Captain Van der Lugt was recognized and on June 25, 1935, he was promoted to Commander of Sub-District No. 9.

Kintersburg CCC Camp
Marker, located on the Kinter Farm near Home, PA, marks the site of the CCC camp

The camp consisted of five long barracks, which housed 40 men each. The recreation hall had a post office, writing tables, wrestling mats, pool table and a library. The roster of the Kintersburg Camp was comprised mainly of enrollees from throughout Pennsylvania including: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Altoona, and other major cities.

A major duty of this unit was to plant evergreens to halt soil erosion in the area because the land had been farmed and the rain destroyed the soil. The seedlings were started along a creek that ran through the land. The trees were planted throughout the farm; many of the rows can still be seen today.

On that date, Captain James P. Maloney took command, and it was under his command that the camp improvement continued rapidly.  The company also carried out other work as well, it can be categorized into two distinct types of work: forestry projects including nursery work, tree planting, and fence construction; the second type of work was engineering work which included rip-rap paving, temporary and permanent check dam construction, and bank sloping. Much of the work in the area of Kintersburg and Shelocta was with the Crooked Creek watershed.

In the spring of 1936, the company was actively engaged in flood relief work. The majority being assigned to road building duty at Saltsburg, PA, in order to get supplies to the water filtration plant. The company received individual comments and letters, and official recognition which demonstrated the appreciation of the people for the services provided by the company.

Camp life was comparable to life in the military. The day began with morning revelry, followed by breakfast and then the crews headed out to the work sites. The evenings were devoted to time for studies, athletics, movies and other forms of recreation.

Further the creation of a camp school room and reading room to be used for educational purposes greatly aided in establishing a successful program. A CCC Nigh School in Indiana, PA was made possible through a joint effort between the Indiana State Teachers College (ISTC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and National Youth Association, in which commercial subjects and advanced art were stressed.

The Indiana Evening Gazette, periodically reviewed the camp’s activities written by Jiggs & Jerry, two members of the camp. The articles noted many of the camp’s accomplishments and camp events including baseball games which were played against teams from local communities.

Slater, Mary Ann, CCC set up camp at Kinter farm in 1935. Indiana Gazette, June 13, 2000 pg. M-3. Patterson, Ed, The Insider’s Guide to Indiana County Parks & Trails.

“The Tire With a Mission”* 

At the corner of Ninth and Church Streets in Indiana, is the beautiful townhome of Harry McCreary, the house is currently the home of the Law Office of Myron Tomb and the Law Offices of Thomas A. Kauffman. Mr. McCreary is most notably known for his role as the Owner of McCreary Tire and Rubber Company; however, he was also a pioneer in the development of the coal and coke operations in Indiana County.

Harry McCreary was born on October 30, 1863 in Leechburg to Hiram and Ruey (Orris) McCreary. As with most children of that time, Harry was educated in the public school and then later completed the course in the Utica, New York, Business College. He was later employed as an instructor at the Business College until the spring of 1883, at which time he was employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company at Huffs Scales, near Greensburg. After a few months with the Pennsylvania Railroad, McCreary entered the employment of J.W. Moore, of Greensburg, an extensive coal operator in the Connellsville coke region, who was at that time engaged in the manufacture of coke at the Redstone Coke Works, Brownfield station, near Uniontown. After the plant near Uniontown was sold, McCreary built two large coke plants for Moore, near Mount Pleasant. Again, these plants were sold, and once again two more plants were built at Graceton, it was here that McCreary developed a process for washing coal and its success was one of the chief reasons for the prompt purchasing of coal in that whole section of the country.

Mr. McCreary disposed of his various industrial interests in Indiana County and moved to California and Nevada for a period of four years from 1902 until 1906. Upon his return to Indiana County, he again became involved in the coal business until 1914.

Ground Breaking and Commencement of Production at McCreary Tire and Rubber

It was in June of 1914 that ground was broken for the McCreary Tire and Rubber Company just southwest of Indiana. Construction of the plant moved rapidly, and the plant was quickly in operation.

Those present at the ground-breaking ceremony were Mr. and Mrs. McCreary and their two sons. The ground-breaking began around 6:30 in the morning; Mrs. McCreary read the First Psalm and Mr. McCreary gave a short prayer in which he asked the blessing of God on the new enterprise. Following, Mrs. McCreary swung the first pick into the ground and then Mr. McCreary shovel the first dirt, followed by their sons doing the same.

McCreary Tire and Rubber Co. Plant in Indiana, PA

Mr. McCreary stated three reasons why they were embarking on this new venture, and he listed them in order of importance. First, was for the glory of God and furthering His Kingdom through the profits earned by the new industry. Second, that honorable work with good wages and working conditions be provided for citizens of Indiana and the vicinity; and then he would be kept busy in a worthwhile project for the remainder of his life. Finally, that his two sons would be busily employed after he passed on and not dissipate any inheritance that he would leave.

It was in May 1915 that the first tires were produced, which were probably experimental and test operations as actual production of products for sale didn’t begin until the middle of June. At the time of the plant’s opening there were only twelve employees, including Mr. McCreary, a sales person and a secretary. The original building was 48 x 215 feet, with power provided by a huge 250-horsepower steam engine with an 18-tone flywheel.

The production at the plant tended to be seasonal, with a falling off during the fall and winter months. That seasonal production continued until McCreary’s death. Throughout the summer, the employee numbers increased to 27, but declined to only 3 by November, those three included the salesperson, secretary, and a watchman. That first year, 1915, production was 500 tires, with a guarantee for 2,000 miles and sometimes the tires did not last that long.

Mr. McCreary devoted much of his time to the development and operation of his company. His sons, Ralph W. and Harry C. McCreary were associated with their father in the operation of the business and continued in the leadership role of the company. McCreary Tire and Rubber was eventually sold, becoming Specialty Tire of America.

Apart from his business ventures, Mr. McCreary was also active in civic affairs, and was the most liberal subscriber to the erection of the YMCA building in Indiana in 1912, and he served as president of the “Y” Board of Directors. Further, he was a member or Zion Lutheran Church, and taught men’s Bible Class for many years and was secretary of the church council.

Mr. McCreary was united in marriage on May 16, 1894 to Lizetta M. Work, of East Mahoning Township. Mrs. McCreary died in March 24, 1923. Mr. McCreary continued working in his business up to his death on August 16, 1930.

The McCreary Home

At the time that Mr. McCreary had the home on the corner lot, Indiana was split between the East and the West, so the home was located on First and Church streets (today it is Ninth Street). At the time, the visitor would notice the unique front porch that, at the time, extended all along the front of the house. There was also an artistic and spacious porch along the rear of the house.

mccreary house
The McCreary Home

Inside the home was as eloquent as the outside. The house contained a reception hall, with a fancy stair case finished in oiled hard wood. Located on the first floor, beside the hall, were a parlor, library, dining room and kitchen. There was a back stairway leading from the dining room to the second floor. Adjoining the kitchen was a pantry and connected to the dining room was a china closet. The second floor contained four bedrooms, a bathroom, closets and a linen room. The third floor was finished, containing one room that was used for storage.

The next time you go by this eloquent home, remember the innovator who once lived in the home. Mr. McCreary was an important member of society and the industry that he created is still a staple in the Indiana community.

*Title comes for the company slogan. 

Harry C. and Ralph W. McCreary remembers ground breaking printed in the Indiana Evening Gazette, Nov. 1952.