John Park – Founder of Marion Center

It seems that John Park, the founder of Marion Center, has been lost to history or if not lost just temporarily forgotten by the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Park was born in 1776 in Ballywatter County Down, Ireland.  The Park family came to America in 1794, landing in one of the main ports, Philadelphia.  His father, Robert Park, taught mathematics, navigation and survey in Philadelphia; and the skill of surveying was passed on to John, who at the age of 19 came to Western Pennsylvania to survey the land that is now Marion Center for James Johnston.

A year after the arrival in Philadelphia, John Park’s father passed away, and his widow, Jane Bailey Park, married Colonel James Johnston, the same man for whom John was surveying land.

It is important to interject at this point to discuss some of the conflicting views between the settlers and the Native Americans.  Before settlers arrived in Western Pennsylvania, the Native Americans roamed the lands freely, because they had a different view of ownership and the use of the land than the settlers.  This conflict sparked many battles between the two, but much of this trouble had passed when John Park initially came into what is now Indiana County.

When John Park first arrived to survey the land in northern Indiana County, in 1795, it was described as “a trackless forest.”

In 1798, John’s stepfather received a patent for the land and John purchased a second, and it was there that they erected a log house near what is now the Marion Center Community Park.  The home was completed in 1799.  The cabin was 20 by 16 feet and was the first house north of the Purchase Line.  Among those who helped to build the home was Fergus Moorhead, the first settler in the neighboring town of Indiana. One may wonder why this spot was chosen to construct a home and the reason was that it was the location of a spring, which still today provides water for the park.

Mr. Park purchased 408 acres of land in the area and called it “Greenland,” and reportedly camped at the site of his cabin while the Native Americans resided in their wigwams on the opposite side of the run.

On February 5, 1807, John married Mary Lang, and it was at this time that he took up permanent residence.  The two had nine children: Margaret; Robert; Jane; Mary B.; James L; Ann Eliza; James Martin; John; Amanda; and Linton.

Mary Lang, John’s wife, was born April 15, 1783.  Her father was a Presbyterian minister, who immigrated to the New World from Scotland and preached his first sermon in a saw mill, which was opened at both sides.

In the early days, travel was an issue, and only two trips a year were made to the post office in Greensburg.  In 1808, a petition was presented to the Indiana County Court for the creation of a road from Brady’s Mill on Little Mahoning Creek to Sandy Lick Creek at Port Barnett east of Brookville.  John Park was a proponent of the road, and it was probably constructed around 1810.

With the improved transportation routes, additional settlers made their way to Park’s settlement.

As the community grew, Mr. Park was constantly developing new services needed by the citizens of the town and the surrounding area.  In 1810, he started a tannery, which was located on South Manor Street.  Later he erected a small animal powered grist mill, which was followed by a water powered mill in 1834 on the rear of the tannery lot.

Education being important, led to the building of a school, although it was a crude school, it had a fireplace and oiled papered windows, and was built on North Manor Street.

It was in 1842, when Mr. Park devised a plan of lots and began to sell them, priced from $16 to $30, thus marking the beginning of the town he named Marion, in honor of General Marion of Revolutionary War Fame.

The community continued to grow and develop with the second generation of the Park family.

James began the first cabinet works and carpenter shop.  He also started the first hotel in 1844 and along with his brother John they built the City Hotel in 1856.

James and Linton are credited with the first planning mill. Robert Park was a member of the first borough counsel.

The founder, John Park, only lived two years after the town was laid out, but his impetus and direction guided the community for many decades after his death on August 10, 1844.

The borough was officially incorporated on March 28, 1869.  By the turn of the 20th Century, the leaders in the community had concern for community improvement and in 1904 the water system was installed, which included a fire protection system.  It was around this time that the railroad arrived to Marion Center, which marked a turning point in the growth of the town.  Since there was easy access by rail to more distant services, the factories and mills of Marion Center found it difficult to compete.

These industries of the little community slowly dropped by the wayside, falling victim to the steam locomotive, which opened new avenues of transportation and trade.

Both John and Mary are buried in the Gilgal Presbyterian Church Cemetery in a grave located at the top of the hill marked with a stone that identifies them as the founders of Marion Center.

Spring Swing Two

Saturday April 6 was the perfect night for a dance, a fifties swing dance that is. Attendees arrived to the society dressed in their best: poodle skirts and saddle shoes. Dance lessons started at 7, for those of us who needed to learn how to swing dance, and for those who needed a refresher course. We learned the basic steps to swing dance.

_facebook_1554828589112

Then the night of dancing, listening to those of time tunes, and socializing began. Everyone had a wonderful time. Everyone was on the dance floor dancing everything from the swing, the polka, to the Twist. One of the lessons learned was that it didn’t matter how well one could dance, but so long as we were having fun we were doing something right.

_facebook_1554828633573

Special thanks to Crisp Entertainment for providing lessons, the music, and a photo booth to help all those who came out document their evening. Another huge thank you to our sponsors: The American Legion Post 141, Indiana First Bank, Holiday Beverage, and Colonial Motor Mart. And of course the evening wouldn’t have been a success without all those who attended. We hope everyone had a wonderful time and look forward to seeing everyone again at the next Spring Swing!

The Village of Newville

Located at the intersection of Route 110 and 954 just northwest of Indiana lies the little rural town of Creekside.  In 1854, the town was laid out by David Peelor and originally known as “Newville” because it was a new village.  Like most rural communities, it is filled with history and at one time was a bustling town, thanks to being a junction of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh railway.

The citizens of Creekside, petitioned for the incorporation of town as a borough on May 1, 1905 and on June 5, 1905 the court granted the petition and the village of Creekside became a borough.

Being a new town, there were no elected officials, so the court ordered that the first election be held on July 11, 1905 in Gibson Hall.  After the election the officers were: J.C. Speedy, judge; J.M. McFeaters and J.A. Stuchell, inspectors; J.M. McFeaters, burgess; C.B. Sloan, J.C. Speedy, W.R. McElhoes, auditors; W.H. Faith, F.C. Clowes, W.E. Gibson, J.S. Bothel, S.W. Zimmerman, J.F. Gibson, school directors; D.A. McKee, assessor; J.J. McCracken and J.C. Carnahan, justices of the peace; J.M. Kidd, constable; E.G. Wilhelm, high constable; W.H. Byers and Curt Smith, overseers of the poor; J.A. Stuchell, M.L. Carnahan, J.C. Walker, A.G. Wilhelm, W.H. Faith, J.T. Gibson, James Lohr, council.

Indiana Street became the location for many merchants including: an upholstery business, grocery store, jewelry store, and a clothing store. Other businesses included Rose Pitzerell’s Restaurant and Jim Marsico’s Barber Shop.

Like all towns, there was need for law and order, so the borough had a jail. And Squire McCracken who served as Justice of the Peace, also served as the town’s undertaker.

The first fire department in town was a bucket brigade and later the town received its first fire truck, a new Model-T Ford which was procured from Joe Johnston, who owned a Ford agency, in 1923.  The town had three fire alarm bells to alert the firemen of a fire.

The town, small as it was, was sure bustling in the early days.

Transportation

After the days of horse and buggy, the transportation world began to change.  First came the trains; the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh railroad track was laid in 1902, stretching from Punxsutawney to Indiana.  Daily round trips from Punxsutawney to Indiana occurred twice a day beginning in 1904; this train not only served as a passenger train but also as mail delivery to the various stations between Punxsutawney and Indiana.  The final run for this train was June 11, 1950.  Passenger, freight, and coal trains ran in all directions when leaving Creekside.

Then in 1907, the streetcar came to town; service ran between Indiana and Creekside, with the first trip occurring on July 4, 1907.  Passengers wishing to ride the street car had to climb 18 wooden steps to reach the three sided waiting station.  There were eight daily round trips, some examples include: the 6:20 a.m. car was for the working men; the 7:30 for high school kids on their way to school; and the 4:30 p.m. for the returning students. The streetcar was in service every day, except for Sunday.  However, streetcars were short lived with the last run occurring in 1933.

Automobiles in the early days were not as prevalent as they are today, and it was near impossible to travel during the winter months because of the muddy condition of the roads.

The Borough Churches

Creekside United Methodist Church

The Creekside Methodist Episcopal Church of the Pittsburgh Conference – formerly known as the Newville Appointment – was formed in the spring of 1871.  At first, services were held in a school house, until the fall of 1886 when a lot owned by Mason L. and Kate McFarland was sold to Thomas Johnston, James Nesbit, and R.B. Carroll as trustees for the church.  The total sum was $150.

The church grew and in January 1915, a section was added to the church measuring 24 x 30 feet, along with the installation of new front doors and a new coat of paint on the exterior.

In 1938, a sunrise service was held at 6 a.m.

Center Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church was formed around the same time as the town in 1851, with 35 original members. For the first year, the congregation met in a barn on the farm of Michael Kunkle. The church was built in 1852 on its current site, but it burned in 1889 (the cause is unknown), and was rebuilt on the same site.

In the spring of 1923, the congregation voted to purchase the nearby property of Jesse Kunkle to be used for a manse. Other church endeavors over the church’s history included the remodeling of the basement in 1953, the erection of the brick bulletin board in 1982, remodeling of the exterior in 1984-85, and an addition to the rear of the church in 1989.

FIRE!

Like most places, Creekside also has some darkness in their history, from 1979 through 1981, there was a rash of arsons in the sleepy town of Creekside; the fire department responded to an increasing number – more than 50 – of suspicious fires.  These fires occurred in vacant homes, hunting camps and barns mostly occurring in the evening hours.  With each blare of the fire whistle, fear in the community rose.  Residents began sleeping with their loaded shotguns beside their bedside.

On February 11, 1979 during the early morning hours, there was a barn along Route 954 just south of Creekside that was burned.  Just two days later, the firemen were dispatched at 12:20 a.m. to a vacant, two-story frame house, just off Route 954 about a mile and a half south of town.  By the time firemen arrived, the structure was fully engulfed in flames.  Both fires had a suspicious origin.

The state police fire marshal was called, and this seems to have scared the arsonist because things returned to normal in the small town; that is until March 1980.

On March 18, two fires broke out.  The first destroyed a barn in Fulton Run, the second was in a one-room schoolhouse on the Indiana side of Fulton Run. Unfortunately, the arsonist grew braver.  There were five suspicious fires in April, followed by seven – one each month – from June through December.

To get a sense of how many calls were received from 1976 to 1980 – the Creekside Volunteer Fire Department responded to: 16 in 1976; 23 in 1977; 19 in 1978; 30 in 1979 and 45 in 1980.  By June 1, 1981 – a barn owned by George Craven was set ablaze for the second time – the fire department had answered 33 calls.

In 1980, the suspicious fires destroyed four barns, six vacant homes, a garage and a restaurant.  The three-month period from March through May 1981, saw four barns, three vacant houses, an abandoned trailer and two garages set ablaze.

Dick Kerner, Creekside volunteer fireman, said at the time that all the fires had things in common: they were in remote, secluded areas in unoccupied buildings, and started with road flares.  There was a suspect but was never charged, because authorities didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute; but the suspect seems to have felt the heat as the arsons stopped.

*The History of Creekside 1854-1994 published September 1994.
*Creekside Borough. Indiana Gazette July 8, 2003 pg. 11