What’s in a name?

What is in a name? We have so many names in Indiana County that have unique origins and reasons for being named the way they were. There is a classification of place names devised by George R. Stewart (1895-1981) a professor of English and Berkley and a native of Indiana, PA. This classification places names into ten different categories: (1) Descriptive, (2) Associative, (3) Commemorative, (4) Commendatory, (5) Incident, (6) Possessive, (7) Manufactured, (8) Shift, (9) Folk etymology, and (10) Mistake.

The first category, Descriptive Names, is one of the most basic of place names, because they are identified by a perceived quality of the place. In Indiana County, most of the names within this category are applied to hydraulic features, describing color, appearance, size, or location. These names include Big Run, Straight Run, Crooked Run, Muddy Run, Tearing Run, Roaring Run, Rock Run, Twomile Run, East Run, Yellow Creek, and Little Yellow Creek.

Some descriptive names have originated with the Indians (Native Americans). Take for example Plum Creek coming from the Delaware “Sipuas-hanne” which translates to “plumb” (straight) water. Contrast with the Delaware “Woak-hanne” – Crooked Creek.

A few names come from the description of the cultural landscape. For example, Center Township was named due to its location near the center of the County. Centerville was named for its position on the Pennsylvania Canal between Johnstown and Blairsville, and North Point was named because of its situation along the county’s northern border. However it seems that the only adjectives that have been applied to Indiana County communities are those of location; as you notice there are not any towns named “Bigvilles” or “Yellowburgs.” Littletown in Brush Valley Township was not named for size but instead for a local farmer/landowner William Little.

The second category is Associative Names. When white settlers first came to what is now Indiana County, they inherited only a few names from the Indians. This is due to the fact that there were not many sedentary Indiana populations here, instead it was hunting and trading parties passing through. Therefore the only Indian names that survived were those of larger water courses. The Indian names that were used by associating it with some nearby familiar features. Salt deposits were such associative objects; resulting names were Mahoning Creek (where there is a lick), Two Lick Creek (Nischa-honi), and Blacklick Creek (Naeska-honi). Other places were linked to indigenous flora or fauna: Cowanshannock Creek (brier stream), Kiskiminetas (plenty of walnuts), and Conemaugh (otter).

As settlers began to arrive in Indiana County, they also associated places with nature. Certain relief features became known as Turkey Knob, Buck Hill, Chestnut Ridge, and Spruce Hollow. Water courses were named for plants (Brush Creek, Brush Run, Beech Run, Pine Run, Laurel Run), animals (Bear Run, Buck Run, Goose Run), minerals (Sulphur Run, Coal Run), and for nearby landmarks (Boiling Springs Run, Sugarcamp Run). Communities have also received associative names: Cherry Tree, Gas Center, Saltsburg, Locust, Oak Tree, Pine Flats, Pineton, Brush Valley, and Spruce. Place names are also associated with local landmarks, these places include: Five Points, near the junction of five roads (there are only four now); and Purchase Line, near the line of the same name described in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix.

Indiana itself may be considered associative, based on the traditional story that the name comes from the area’s first inhabitants.

The third category is that of Commemorative Names. The purpose is for the place name to outlast the namer, these were oftentimes planners and leading citizens. In Indiana County were have Commemorative Names of four presidents – Washington (Township), Jackson(-ville), Taylor(-sville), and Grant (Township). Marion Center honors South Carolina’s Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”’ of the American Revolution. The Pennsylvania Canal was instrumental into the vitality of the existence of early Blairsville, therefore the community thanked the Canal’s promoter, John Blair, by adopting his name. George Armstrong and George Clymer, both national figures, played important roles in the county’s early history, and are likewise commemorated by place names.

Presidents and generals are remembered in history books, but less important persons may end up being forgotten. So to preserve for posterity the memory of a noted local politician or businessman than by a commemorative place name. The place name evokes the memory of the man in local minds and once on a map, it guarantees a sort of world recognition.

Indiana County place names honor judges (Buffington, Burrell, Logan, White, Rayne), congressmen (Covode, Marchand), early settlers (Deckers Point, Elders Ridge, Strongstown), businessmen (Cramer, Beyer), and miners (Lovejoy, Claghorn, Rembrandt, Starford). In the early days, community sometimes adopted the name of its post office, which either through acclamation or self-commemoration, was often the name of the postmaster or member of his family. Today, there are few Indiana County places named for presidents than there are for postmasters and their kin: Alverda, Davis, Hillsdale, Martintown, McIntyre, Rochester Mills, and Tanoma are examples.

When new settlers came to the area, they often wanted to remember the places from where they came. At first, place names borrowed from the old country serve as preservatives for the community’s collective memory: regions like New England, tidewater Virginia, and eastern Australia are full of such names. When eight Irish families settled in East Wheatfield Township, they named their settlement for the town of Armagh in their homeland. Scottish settlers of West Wheatfield Township named their community Clyde, after a district in Scotland. Similarly, Luzerne Mines commemorates Luzerne, Switzerland, the ancestral home of the Iselin family.

Another source of place names came from the Bible. They were not mean to be solely memorials to long buried Philistine or Moabite settlements, these names are there to serve to remind settlers of religious devotion: Heshbon (Numbers 21:25-31), Ebenezer – old Lewisville – (I Samuel 7:12), and Crete (Titus 1:5-12).

The fourth category of place names comes in the form of Commendatory Names, which are selected mainly to praise the quality of life in a place in order to keep the locals content and to attract prospective settlers. Although these names are commendatory, and may or may not be truly representative of the place.

Take for example Diamondville, in Cherryhill Township, being named because the land owner viewed it as the richest – that is, the diamond – of all the pine tracts in the area. Joseph Wharton, a miner, similarly applied the name Coral to the Center Township community, claiming the local coal and clay deposits would prove to be as valuable as coral.

When the suburb of Indiana, Chevy Chase Heights, was planned in the 1920s, the intention was for it to be a restrictive neighborhood for the town’s wealthy citizens. The chosen name was commendatory, named after the Maryland neighborhood where the elite of Washington, D.C. live. However, the Depression changed the plans for the neighborhood, the named remained.

Since the 1940s, there have been many private developers who have selected commendatory names to attract new buyers to the new housing subdivisions. The communities include: Pleasant Hill, Grandview, and Sunset Acres.

The fifth category of place names are Incident Names, so named because of certain events that have occurred at a particular place that are sometimes noteworthy enough to serve as identifiers. These names in Indiana County often provide some of the most intriguing and most interesting local tales.

Our first example comes from Young Township of the creek of Whiskey Run. There are several versions of how the creek received its name; two of them are incident related. The first is that some Indians who were intoxicated on whiskey tried to kill some settlers down by the run. The settlers instead convinced the Indians to help split logs. While at work, one farmer removed the wedge from the log, thereby trapping the Indians’ hands. The settlers then killed the Indians. The second story is that the proprietors of an untaxed liquor business in nearby Reed, learned of a upcoming visit by revenuers, and before their arrival dumped the evidence (whiskey) into the creek.

Cush Cushion Creek in Green Township, is said to have received its name because Indians stole early settler John Bartlebaugh’s pig near here, shouting “Kisch Kusha!” as they ran off.

Vinegar Hill in White Township, is another place where there are several versions of its origin. One says that a man came into Indiana for supplies, including a large cask of vinegar. While on his way home, the cask broke loose, rolled down the hill, hit a rock and broke, giving the entire hill a vinegary smell for weeks.

At one time, Uniontown in Green Township, was known as both Kesslerville and Berringer. The local citizens wanted a single name, but they were indecisive about a name until one morning they woke up to find, nailed to a tree, a board with the name Uniontown. The name stuck.

Wallopsburg in Conemaugh Township, was the former name of Nowrytown, so called for a “wallop of storm” which blew through here at one time.

The sixth category of place names is possessive names. It is important to note that the Indians of this area had no concept of private ownership of land, and for this reason there were no names denoting possession. But with the arrival of the Europeans, possessive place names became common. Many examples in our county include: Barr Slope, Clarksburg, Fleming Summit, Smith, and Kintersburg. Mill proprietorship has been applied as well: Campbells Mills, Mottarns Mills, and Rochester Mills. Finally, more than half of the county’s streams have possessive names (Auld’s Run, Toms Run, Pickering Run, and Whites Run), as do many of the prominent hills (Moose Hill, Watts Hill, and Evans Roundtop).

The seventh category is manufactured names, much thought goes into the selection of a place name, but little creativity. These names usually exist in some other form already. Only a small category of manufactured names do invention and creativity play a part.

Tanoma, is reportedly the name of an Indian princess, but the name was probably created by the postmaster using the initials of his children’s first names: T for Tillie, A for Alice, NO for Norman, M for Matilda and A again for Alice.

Local residents of Mentcle originally wanted to call the post office Clement, but the state already had a Clement post office elsewhere. They were forced to choose another name, the townsfolk merely rearranged the syllables to create Mentcle.

Nolo was a descriptive creation, Nolo received its name from its location on the ridge top, where there was “no low ground around.”

The name Clune came from the old post office of Coal Run was manufactured by joining the CL from coal and the UN from Run with an E added for the sake of euphony.

The final category of place names in Indiana County is that of Shift Names. After a place receives its name, the name is sometimes applied in other forms to related places. Take for example, Blacklick which was first applied to a creek. Later the name shifted to include a community and a township along the creek’s banks. After the name Mahoning was affixed to Mahoning Creek, the tributary Little Mahoning Creek, Mahoning Reservoir and the four Mahoning Townships took the same name. Indiana itself is a shaft name, as it has been passed on from the county to the county seat.

Although this list of places names is not exhaustive, as a map of the county is filled with place names that have an interesting history behind how the name came to be. These names tell us something about the past. So the next time you are taking a Sunday Drive through the County, ask yourself how the name came to be, and if you are really interested  come visit the historical society and do some research on the township, village, body of water, etc.

Dr. Fairfield: First Principal of Indiana Normal School

Rev. Dr. Edmund Burke Fairfield was a pastor, educator, politician, theologian, diplomat, and world traveler.  He was also the first principal of the Indiana Normal School.

The Rev. Dr. Fairfield was born April 21, 1821, in Parkersburg, (West) Virginia, to the Rev. Micaiah and Hannah Wynn Fairfield.  While he was still a boy, the Fairfields moved to Troy, Ohio, where he grew up.  He attended Denison University and Marietta College before enrolling at Oberlin College.  He received his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1842, and Oberlin Seminary granted him a B.D. in 1845.

As a student in the Oberlin Seminary, Fairfield was exposed to the institution’s strong emphasis on ethics and sanctification, which stressed man’s capability of reaching his highest objectives as an individual and of building a nearly perfect society on earth.  He also followed the teachings of Rev. Charles G. Finney, the great proponent of revivalistic theology.  Fairfield’s emphasis on enthusiastic preaching, the lack of which in Indiana bothered him, seems to have developed from his experiences at Oberlin.  Oberlin’s sympathy with abolition may have provided the stimulus for Fairfield’s anti-slavery views since his mother’s lineage was Virginian.  Following his graduation, he moved to Canterbury, New Hampshire, where he appears to have been ordained in both the Free Will Baptist and Congregational Churches and seems to have served both congregations.  At Canterbury he served as minister and teacher, remaining from 1845-47.  Soon he moved on to accept a charge in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  Then he entered higher education, accepting the presidency of the Free Baptist College, Spring Arbor, Michigan in 1848, which was relocated and renamed Hillsdale College in 1853.  During his 21-year tenure, Rev. Dr. Fairfield took the struggling institution and built it into a small, but respected liberal arts college.  The student enrollment grew from less than 50 to over 500 during his presidency, and he also actively raised money for the college and its endowment.


It appears that he combined public appearances on behalf of the temperance movement with his fundraising efforts on behalf of Hillsdale in western New York in the fall of the early 1850s.  During this period, he entered politics in Michigan and helped found the Republican Party there.  From 1857 to 1859, he served in the Michigan Senate.  His first speech, “Slavery in the Territories,” attacked the extension of slavery, and it was printed for wide distribution.  In 1858, he won the election for Lieutenant Governor of Michigan and served one term.  Following the completion of his term in 1861, he devoted his attention to administering Hillsdale College, teaching, traveling, and lecturing.  When he left the presidency of Hillsdale College in 1869, he accepted the pastorate of the First Congregational Church, Mansfield, Ohio, where he remained from 1870 until April 1875.

At its March 10, 1875 meeting, the Board of Trustees of Indiana Normal School (now IUP) chose Rev. Dr. Fairfield as the institution’s first principal (president) at a salary of $2,250 per year, later raised to $4,000.  He came to Indiana with a national reputation as clergyman, educator, and lecturer, but how he came to be selected is unknown.  His previous activities in the building of Hillsdale College, in the temperance cause, and in the church certainly made him an appealing candidate.  His high salary and perquisites say a lot about the ambitions and plans for the normal school held by John Sutton and his colleagues.

Prior to moving to Indiana, Fairfield paid a visit to the town, during which he presented one of his most famous lectures, “Tent Life in Palestine.”  The lecture was given on the evening of March 24, 1875, and it drew a large crowd in the courtroom of the newly opened Indiana County Courthouse.  Admission was 25 cents per ticket, the proceeds being a benefit for the soon-to-open normal school.  The local press gave enthusiastic coverage to the event.  The Indiana Democrat reported, “if this lecture is a fair sample of his learning and ability, he is the right man in the right place. He is a pleasing off hand speaker and possessed of great descriptive powers.”  The lecture was partially drawn from Rev. Fairfield’s personal observations, for he had toured Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey as part of an extended trip to Europe and the Near East from July 1863 to June 1864.

In May, Fairfield arrived in Indiana and took up residence in the recently completed John Sutton Hall.  On May 17, the first term opened at Indiana Normal School.  Over 200 students attended, including some of Fairfield’s children.  His daughter May and his son Edward Minor were enrolled in the Classical Department of the College Preparatory Division.  His other sons George D., John M. and Charles T. attended the Model School.  May, the eldest child still at home, took courses in penmanship, drawing, natural philosophy, Latin, grammar, Greek, and American history during the 1875-76 terms.

Part of the initial staff was recruited by Rev. Fairfield.  From Mansfield, Ohio, Fairfield brought Mr. and Mrs. Rowley, who served as steward and matron of the school respectively.  Professor Hiram Collier, who taught chemistry and physics, came from the Pennsylvania College of Agriculture (no Pennsylvania State University), but before that he had served for several years on the faculty at Hillsdale.

Rev. Dr. Fairfield remained in Indiana only one year. During his tenure as principal, French was added to the curriculum.  According to the local press, Fairfield taught Latin and Greek in addition to the subjects listed in the 1875 catalogue, Mental, Moral and Political Science and the Theory and Practice of Teaching.  The first literary society was named for Rev. Dr. Fairfield, but at his request it was renamed the Erodelphian Literary Society.  During the first year two faculty members, Miss Mary Bradley and Miss Ada Kershaw, were dismissed in mid-term.  The Board of Trustees acted on complaints filed by the principal for himself and other members of the faculty.  The charges accused Misses Bradley and Kershaw of “conduct unbecoming a teacher, in interfering with the harmony of a faculty and interfering with the success of the school.”  Their appointment, for which they received two months’ salary, terminated in July 1875.  The remainder of the Fairfield tenure appears to have gone smoothly until near the very end when a delayed state appropriation caused a budgetary crisis.

During their residence in Indiana the Fairfield family participated in community affairs.  Mrs. Fairfield and their children, Mary, Emma, May, and George joined the Presbyterian Church in the fall of 1875.  Because of his ordination Rev. Fairfield could not officially join the congregation, but he undoubtedly participated in its activities.  In March 1875, Fairfield again lectured at the Court House; the subject this time was “Personal Observations of the Vienna Exposition in 1873.”

In March 1876, he announced his resignation to become the second chancellor of the University of Nebraska.  In December 1875, he had explained his reasons for leaving to his friend, Congressman James Monroe of Ohio:

Now I will tell you frankly how the matter lies in my mind.  I am here in Pennsylvania, and can stay, if I choose.  At least so it looks.  My salary is $4000, but neither Mrs. F. nor myself feel at home here. We are in the midst of little else but blue Presbyterianism.  Pennsylvania is in mts. [mountains]. The West suits me better.  But I wish simply to do the work assigned me by the master.  It looks to us as though this might be it, in connection with Nebraska Uni. [University].

Fairfield served six years as chancellor of the University of Nebraska, following which he again traveled abroad, served as pastor to several Congregational Churches, and from 1889-1893 was U.S. Consul-general in Lyons, France.  He returned to the United States and again returned to the ministry, retiring in 1900 to Oberlin, Ohio, where he continued to serve as a trustee of Oberlin College.

Although Rev. Dr. Fairfield possessed a “reputation as a political liberal and reformer,” he was a conservative in the field of education. Fairfield family tradition characterizes him as being stern and “a very strict disciplinarian,” and his philosophy bears this out.”  In his inaugural address as Chancellor of the University of Nebraska, Fairfield discussed his educational philosophy.  The American university, he believed, existed “for the study of all science; for the most liberal learning, and the most generous culture possible.”  The traditional liberal arts and sciences provided the core of a university education.  According to Fairfield, “a young man, at the end of his university education… [should be able] to make something of himself, and to do something to lift up his country and his race to a higher plane of true living.”  As was to be expected of one ordained by two churches, the chancellor believed strongly that Christian principles were basic to a university education.  Despite his religious background and his strong religious convictions, Fairfield did not believe that theology should be taught in a public institution of higher education.  Christian ethics and morals certainly belonged in public higher education, but denominational and sectarian religious views had no place there.

When the Board of Trustees of Indiana Normal School chose the Rev. Dr. Edmund Burke Fairfield as the first principal, they obviously fulfilled their apparent desire to have someone of experience, energy, strong Christian convictions, and wide learning.

John Brown’s Army: The Man from Indiana County

Albert (Absalom) Hazlett was born September 21, 1837, in the area near the old “Devil’s Elbow,” Green Township, Indiana County (about six miles east of Indiana near the old, closed Route 422).  He was the sixth of eleven children.  His mother, Sarah, was born around 1814, and was a widow by July 1860.  His father, Alexander, had 40 acres worth about $100 in 1850.  He was listed as Absalom, age 12, by the census taker in 1850.  It is likely he disliked the name and adopted Albert instead.  Hazlett was five feet, eleven inches tall, genial, with a fair complexion and blond, curly hair.  Richard Hinton, an abolitionist who sympathized with John Brown, remarked that he “did not impress you unless you specially as striving to climb the golden stairs.”  It is quite apparent he had a craving for adventure.  John Brown’s daughter, Anne, said he “was a really good, kind-hearted man, with little or no education. He had always lived and grown among the roughest kind of people.  He was the least accustomed to polite living” of any of Brown’s men.

Absalom Hazlett: Abolitionist from Indiana County

Sometime during the early part of 1857, Hazlett went to Kansas where he joined a volunteer Free State military company.  In the later part of 1858 he met John Brown and joined his raiding party.  Early in 1859, he went with Brown and others escorting a group of fugitive slaves to freedom in Canada.  After accompanying Brown as far as Cleveland, they parted and Hazlett returned to Indiana County where he worked as a farm hand and wrote to Brown on May 21, “I wish it would come off soon, for I am tired of doing nothing.”  Around the early part of September, Hazlett joined the others of John Brown’s party at the Kennedy farm in Maryland, and the raid at Harper’s Ferry occurred on October 16-18, 1859.  The details of the Harper’s Ferry raid need not be retold here except to note that Hazlett, with two colored members of the Brown party, were assigned to hold the Arsenal.  When the situation worsened, Hazlett and Osborne P. Anderson managed to escape.

Anderson later wrote that after the raid he and Hazlett returned to the Kennedy farm but found it ransacked.  Since they had nothing to eat for forty-eight hours they roasted some ears of corn at night and headed north.  Because of the “hard journey and poor diet” they became

nearly famished and very much reduced in strength.  Poor Hazlett could not endure as much as I could.  With his feet blistered and sore, he gave out at last ten miles below Chambersburg.  He declared he could go no further, and begged me to go on as we should be more in danger if seen together in the vicinity of towns, that after resting that night he would throw away his rifle and go to Chambersburg, where we agreed to meet again.  The poor, young man’s face was wet with tears when we parted.

After this, Anderson saw no more of Hazlett.

On October 22, Hazlett was arrested and taken to Carlisle on the supposition that he was John E. Cook, another of Brown’s men, for whom there was a $1,000 reward.  Hazlett gave the authorities the alias “William H. Harrison.”

The story continues in the words of W.J. Shearer of Carlisle, an attorney who tried to save Hazlett from extradition to Virginia.

One Sunday morning in October, 1859 [probably October 23], I was coming up town . . . [and] passed the place where Squire Sponsler had his office, . . . I was attracted by a large crowd there.  I crossed over to learn what it all meant.  I went into the office, and there sat a tall, raw-boned man and with him were Charlie Campbell and Bill Houser, of Chambersburg.  I asked what was the matter, what they were doing. Houser said here is Cook, one of John Brown’s men.  He was in Chambersburg and slipped out and came down here, and we followed him and arrested him up the railroad.  I asked which is Cook? They said that man back there. I said no that cannot be Cook, . . . he is described as being an effeminate-looking man, with light hair and blue eyes.  This is no such man, this tall, rawboned man with hard hands, which show him to be a laborer . . . I said what are you doing with him here.  He said Squire Sponsler is writing up authority to take him down to Virginia.  And I turned to the man and said to him, do you know any lawyer here in Carlisle, and he said no.  He asked me, are you a lawyer?  I said yes.  Well, will you see that I have justice done me? I will.

Next Shearer objected to Squire Sponsler writing a commitment and the squire sent for his attorney, who informed him he did not have that authority.

Houser said it didn’t make any difference whether he gave them the authority or not, we brought him here, he said, and we will take him away.  I said I don’t believe you will.  In the meantime I had sent for Sheriff McCartney, to come up with his deputy, and when they came up I went out and told them to stand against the wall to the right of Squire Sponsler’s door.  I then went into the office; they were preparing to take that man away.  I said to Houser, if you take this man out of this office against his will, you will be put to jail for kidnapping.  He said I guess not.  That is what will be done, I said, I have the sheriff out there for that purpose.  He looked out the door and he saw Sheriff McCartney whom he knew, he asked him what he was doing there, and Sheriff McCartney says we are waiting for you and Campbell.  I had told McCartney that if they took that man out to arrest them and put them to jail, and I would make information against them for kidnapping.  Mr. McCartney says if you will promise to stand by me, I will do it, and I said I will stand by you.  They didn’t take him away, but of course Squire Sponsler had the right to put him to jail, which he did.

Shearer presented a petition for habeas corpus and was assisted at the hearing October 26 by attorneys W.J. Miller and A.B. Sharp.  A warrant from the Governor of Pennsylvania was presented, at the request of the Governor of Virginia, for the delivery of Hazlett but, since he would not be positively identified as Hazlett, he was returned to jail.  On October 29 Shearer, Miller and Sharp asked that the prisoner be discharged on the ground that his name was not Albert Hazlett but William Harrison.  Judge James H. Graham recommitted him to await a third hearing on November 6, at which time three witnesses identified him.

Shearer had asked Sheriff McCartney not to spot Hazlett for any parties from Virginia coming to see him.  Two groups failed to identify Hazlett, but on the third attempt a man from Harper’s Ferry professed to known him and was able to pick him out from a group of prisoners.  Shearer continues:

Mr. Miller went down with me the last night to spend a short time with him before he would be taken to Virginia, and we sat and talked with him until 10 o’clock in the jail. . . . When we left him, he said to me, Mr. Shearer I wish you would tell the sheriff that I would like to have a plug of tobaco [sic tobacco].  Now if it is remarkable on what small matters one’s life may depend.  Asking for that plug of tobacco cost that man his life.  As I passed out of the jail with Mr. Miller., I said to Sheriff McCartney, Mr. Hazlett said I should ask you to give him a plug of tobacco.  Well, why he did it I don’t know, but he went back and examined the man’s cell, and found the whole back of the cell out.  A blanket was hung against it, out of which he could walk whenever he wanted to do so, and Mark Scott, of Carlisle, a colored barber . . . was sent here by James Redpath, of Kansas notoriety, with a horse and buggy, and a rope ladder to help him over the wall and take him away, but McCartney went and examined his cell and finding it open in that way he put him in another cell, and that cost him his life.  Why Sheriff McCartney did that I could never understand.  The only way that I can account for it is, that Mr. McCartney thought Hazlett had not asked for tobacco, and that I only asked him this to warn him not to let this man escape, as if I, his counsel, had to do anything of the kind. I know that he wanted him to escape, that is why I could never fully understand why he went and took him out of that cell.  The reason I know he wanted him to escape is, that one day, the time of the hearing of the habeas corpus, it was late at night.  I was down at the jail the next morning and McCartney said to me, Mr. Shearer that client of yours is the most stupid man I ever saw in my life.  He says you know when I was sent down with him it was very dark, as dark as midnight under those trees in front of Judge Hepburn’s and if he had just given me a little push I would have fallen over in the gutter and hollowed murder, and he could have been out in the North Mountains in a short time . . . Mark Scott didn’t get him, he was taken to Virginia.

In early November, shortly after Hazlett’s arrest and extradition to Virginia.  The Indiana Weekly Report reported that:

. . . Albert Hazlett, one of the Harper’s Ferry insurrectionists, is a native of this county. About two years since Hazlett was arrested in this place for the larceny of a number of overcoats from the hall of the American Hotel, was admitted to bail, but forfeited the recognizance by not appearing at the time of trial.  He then left for the State of Ohio, and we believe was in Kansas a short period, and took part in the struggle between the Free State men and Missourians, and boasted that a pistol ball at one time made a furrow through his beard.  He remained in that territory . . . until the later part of July last, when he returned to this county. Being in search of employment John B. Allison, Esq. of White tp., engaged him to assist in harvesting his oats crop, and while in the employ of Mr. Allison, and at work in the field cradling, he inquired of him if he had observed the letter B on the blades of the oats and knew what it was to represent. Receiving a reply in the negative and asked to give his interpretation of the symbol, he replied that it stood for Blood, that all the oats this year bore the same impression, and the time was near at hand when it was to be shed. This aroused Mr. Allison’s curiosity and he desired to learn how it was possible that it could be construed into that light, and where and for what purpose the blood was to be shed.  Hazlett’s reply was, that he was connected with a company who were pledged to the overthrow of slavery, and that he must soon leave for the west. Mr. Allison treated the whole affair at the time as ridiculous in the extreme.  Shortly after this Hazlett left, but it was ascertained instead of going west he took the cars for the east, and nothing was known of his doings and whereabouts until we hear of his connection with Ossawatamie Brown at Harper’s Ferry, and is now on trial for insurrection, treason and murder.

            The Register also published an extract from the Johnstown Echo alleging that Hazlett, while working as a canal boatman some years earlier, had sold his employer’s boat and team but returned the money and avoided prosecution. It was also said he was connected with a gang of horse thieves but turned state’s evidence and testified against his confederates at their trial in Elmira, New York. Fearing their vengeance, he left for parts unknown.

In January 1860, another resident of Indiana County, J.E. Coulter, the postmaster, provided additional information about Hazlett’s background. In response to an inquiry from Andrew Hunter, prosecuting attorney for Virginia, seeking information or witnesses, Coulter replied:

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Hazlett remained in the Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia), jail more than four months while the authorities completed preparations for his trial which finally took place during the week of February 6-10, 1860. Shearer obtained the services of Botts and Green, eminent Virginia lawyers, for Hazlett’s defense, and in Shearer’s words they “made a noble defense.”  The Richmond Enquirer reported that Botts’ closing argument took two hours, and Green spoke for three hours, “the ablest argument made since the commencement of the Harper’s Ferry Trials.” Prosecutor Hunter, writing to Virginia Governor Letcher, spoke of the “Protracted and hotly contested trial of Hazlett.” The Indiana Weekly Register followed the trial and reported that Captain Clowe, who had never seen Hazlett before, spoke with him in the jail February 8. “At that time the prisoner stated that he had not heard from his mother since his connection with the Harper’s Ferry Affair.  After the prisoner made the statement he seemed to regret it.”

Shearer heard that the jury was out all night and an acquittal or hung jury was expected, but some citizens “gathered below and howled ‘Hang him or we will hang you.’ In that way they succeeded in extorting the verdict of guilty from them.”

On February 13, Hazlett was sentenced to be hanged. When asked if he had anything to say, he responded:

I have a few words to say. I am innocent of the charge on which I have been convicted. I deny ever having committed murder, or ever having contemplated murder, or even having associated with any one with such intentions. Some of the witnesses have sworn to things which I deny, and which were positively false. For instance in reference to my beard; I have never in my life until my imprisonment to jail, allowed my beard to go more than three weeks without shaving, and all testimony therefore as to the length of my beard is false. Again, Mr. Copeland testified that I was sitting on a stool when he entered the jail cell at Carlisle, this I deny; I was sitting on a blanket, beck against the wall, and another man was on the stool . Copeland also said there were only two men in the cell: this is false, as there were four other white men in the cell with me, and we comprised all the white prisoners in the jail. Others of the witnesses made false statements, but I forgive them all. I have been treated kindly since my confinement – much better than I had expected – and I must say I think better of Virginia. I wish to also to return my thanks to the counsel who have so ably defended me; they have done more in my behalf than Northern counsel could possibly have done. I repeat I am innocent of murder but am prepared to meet my fate.

            Strong efforts were made to secure an executive pardon of commutation of the sentence. The Register reported

A petition signed by two or three hundred of our citizens, asking the pardon of Hazlett, the last of the Harper’s Ferry Insurrectionists, was circulated in this borough last week. It is hope, I that the Governor of Virginia will grant the prayer . . . the honor of the Old Dominion has already been more than vindicated.

Another petition for clemency came from Carlisle. Judge Graham at Carlisle and the attorney who represented Virginia at the Carlisle hearings both wrote letters asking Governor Letcher to pardon Hazlett. Another petition, accompanied by a letter from A.W. Taylor of Indiana, the county’s representative in the State Senate, was signed by 55 members of the Pennsylvania Senate and House.

Meantime a small group of sympathizers were meeting in Harrisburg to plot ways and means of rescuing Hazlett and Aaron D. Stevens, also condemned to die. Among the number were Richard J. Hinton, who appears to have been the organizer, Captain James Montgomery, John W. LeBarnes, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Revolvers were loaned and money contributed. It was decided to reconnoiter and gather information, so Montgomery went to the vicinity of Charles Town, and Silas C. Soule, who had a perfect Southern accent, went into the town in the guise of a drunk and disorderly Irishman and was locked in a cell of the jail. Cautiously, he conversed with Hazlett and Stevens, telling them of the planned rescue effort, but they requested that it be abandoned as impossible on account of a constant guard of eighty men around the jail at tall times. In spite of this, some of the group were still inclined to try, but heavy snows and bad weather caused them finally to give up.

Clemency was denied by Governor Letcher and Hazlett’s fate was sealed. The following letter from Hazlett to Anne Brown is evidence of his innermost thoughts:

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One of those who came to see Hazlett was Mrs. Rebecca Spring and her son from the “Socialist Union,” or Raritan Bay Union, of Eagleswood, New Jersey (now part of Perth Amboy). Afterward, Hazlett wrote to her the day before his execution:

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The brother who visited him was Jonas Hazlett, at that time a farm hand near Elders Ridge, who later moved to the vicinity of Lawrence, Kansas.  To him Albert entrusted a six-stanza poem which was afterward published in the Indiana Weekly Register:


The execution on March 16, 1860, was a carefully staged, impressive Virginia military display, as well as a gala spectacle. Twelve military companies participated. The Register noted afterward that Hazlett and Stevens

Both exhibited great firmness. There was no religious exercises at the gallows, as they persisted in refusing all the kindly offices of the ministry in their last moments. They were both Spiritualists, and had a peculiar religion of their own, which enabled them to meet their fate with cheerfulness and resignation.

            The bodies were shipped by Adams Express to Marcus Spring. He was warned of an angry mob at Perth Amboy determined to throw the caskets overboard from the boat, so it was arranged for the boat to stop at Rahway where the caskets were taken secretly to the grounds of the Socialist Union. Here funeral services were held and Hazlett and his buddy buried in the cemetery in the midst of a scraggy wood of cedars, pines and scrub oaks.

Hazlett was not completely forgotten in his home community. In 1894 Annie Brown Adams wrote Richard Hinton: “I received a letter from a lady in Indiana Co. Penn. Who had been reading [your book] also, and asking numerous questions about Albert Hazlett, giving all the information she could gather about him and his family in that region. Most unfortunately we do not know the lady’s name. Her letter, if it could be found, would probably reveal more about the Hazlett family.

In 1899, an Associated Press dispatch related that the bodies were about to be dug up because the clay was needed for a tile works at Pertch Amboy. Due to the efforts of Dr. Featherstonhaugh of Washington, D.C., and others, arrangements were made for reburial on the John Brown farm about three miles from Lake Placid, New York. Here, many miles from his native home, Hazlett rests in an unmarked grave near a large boulder surrounded by an iron fence. Eleven of his companions rest there with him.

This ends the strange story, and we are left with unanswered questions. Why didn’t his family help him? Why didn’t they have him buried in his native home soil? Hazlett’s father was dead. His mother apparently did not even write to him. One brother was the only member of the family who went to see him. In 1859, Hinton wrote to Higginson, “His brother can do nothing. They are poor, indifferent or frightened, probably all three.” When Mrs. Spring asked Hazlett who were dear to him, he evaded a direct answer, saying that “everybody that is good is dear to me.”  Yet two stanzas of his “Farewell” were addressed to his mother and a sister and a third stanza to a possible sweetheart, “My angelic maid.” Apparently nothing was provided for funeral expenses. At the first burial in Eagleswood, Stevens’ remains were conveyed to the grave in a hearse but Hazlett’s Virginia coffin was carried on a common farm wagon.  And, to return to the strange circumstance noted at the beginning, why has local and state history so totally neglected him?

Aunt Jane

“Miss Jane E. Leonard is selected for Congress Democrats of this District will give women a chance.”  This mundane headline appeared in the March 25, 1922 edition of the Indiana Democrat, and it seemed to understate the newsworthiness of an event.  It was a historic occasion.  Miss Jane E. Leonard, as the Democratic candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s Twenty-seventh Congressional District, was one of the first women to seek a national political office as a major party candidate in Pennsylvania.*  Since only ten women in the entire country ran for congressional seats as choices of major political parties in 1922, Miss Leonard attracted national attention.

Jane E. Leonard was the former preceptress of Indiana State Normal School (known today as Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)).  The former Leonard Hall on the IUP campus had memorialized her name.  She served “the Normal” from its opening in 1875 until her retirement in 1921.  Then, less than a year after her retirement and at a spry eighty-one years of age, she ran for Congress.  This episode is both more incredible and, at the same time, less incredible than it seemed at first notice.

The 1922 election was only the second national election following the enfranchisement of women by the Nineteenth Amendment.  Miss Leonard had not been that active in politics; her life was spent in education.  And at eighty-one, it was an amazing age to be launching a new career.  She was, moreover, a Democrat in an area dominated by the Republican party. Despite this, she ran extremely well, polling a far larger percentage of the votes cast than any other Democratic congressional candidate in a ten-year period.

“Aunt Jane,” as Miss Jane Leonard was affectionately known by the thousands who attended the State Normal School in Indiana, came to Indiana from the Clearfield County area.  She was born on December 27, 1840, in Leonard, Pennsylvania.  Her family was so well established in the area, that there is reflected in the vicinity’s place names – Leonard Station, Leonard House, Leonard School, and Leonard Run as well as the town itself.

It is likely that her early education was at Leonard School, a gift to the rural community from her father.  Her life-long involvement in education began at the age of fifteen when she first taught in the public schools of her native Clearfield County.  Later, desiring more advanced educational preparation, she entered Millersville State Normal School, the first institution of its kind in Pennsylvania.  Then she spent some time teaching in Lancaster County schools.  Her attainments as a student at Millersville, her teaching experiences, and her personal qualities led to Miss Leonard joining the Millersville faculty in 1868 as instructor of history and mathematics.

Jane Leonard

In 1875, the Board of Trustees of the new State Normal School at Indiana asked Dr. J.P. Wickersham, Pennsylvania’s superintendent of education and the founder and first principal of Millersville State Normal School, to recommend a candidate for the position of preceptress and instructor of English literature.  He recommended Jane E. Leonard.

For the next forty-six years, Miss Leonard served Indiana.  When she retired in 1921 she was awarded emeritus status and given permission to continue occupying her apartment in John Sutton Hall.  As an education she always stressed that her students should be ambitious both for themselves and their communities, that they should be active and participate in their world, that they should shoulder the responsibilities offered to them, and that they should work to better the world they lived in. In that educational philosophy lie clues which make “Aunt Jane’s” political adventure less incredible than it first suggests.

Although she could not even vote in a national election until she was seventy-nine years old, Jane E. Leonard had developed an active interest in politics. She was lauded as having a wide knowledge of politics and political men.**  As a member as the Indiana community, Miss Leonard while not seen as a political firebrand, had not been politically bashful.  She was accustomed to interrupting her return from Sunday church service to impose herself on one of the local newspaper editors or political leaders in talk over the public issues.  According to the March 23, 1922 Indiana Weekly Messenger, Miss Leonard “was one of the campaigners for years for equal franchise and has campaigned also for prohibition.  She never neglects an opportunity to assail the monopolistic practices of the tariff barons and speaks for National economy, friendly relations with other nations, universal peace and human advancement.”

Her political orientation appeared foreordained.  The Indiana Weekly Messenger said bluntly, she is “a democrat by nature and it was inevitable that with the enfranchisement of women she would be found aligned from the outset with the Democratic party.”  Her affinity for involvement in her interests, an “Aunt Jane” trait, made it rather natural that she later gravitated toward political stewardship when the opportunity presented itself.  In 1922, she was chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fund, devoted to soliciting monies for Wilsonian goals, chairman of the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee, and president of the Indiana County Democratic Women Voters League.  The octogenarian was one to give her personal time and support to those matters that personally touched her.

The challenge of being the Democratic candidate in the Twenty-seventh District’s congressional race was not a quest that she eagerly sought.  The distinguished lady had to be sought out, and, according to the Indiana Evening Gazette, “Her friends…demanding a fit representative in congress insisted that she permit her name to be used.  Miss Leonard did not make any effort for the nomination, letting her name be used but not spending a cent in a campaign or making one speech.”

The days preceding her nomination for the Democratic primary, Miss Leonard had another and very different, political interest – to secure the Republican gubernatorial nomination for Indiana’s native son John S. Fisher.  Although she was serving as the chairman of the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee, she strongly endorsed Fisher.  She attended the formal opening rally of his campaign in front of the Indiana County Courthouse, she wrote an open letter to the alumni of the Normal School urging their support for Fisher, and she later addressed the annual reunion meeting of the Allegheny County ISNS Alumni Association stressing the need of their support of his candidacy.  The Indiana Republican press praised her as a “grand old lady.”

While such incongruent activities might have branded Miss Leonard as a political maverick, they were in keeping with her character.  John S. Fisher, as a former Indiana Normal student, was one of “her boys” in whom she had confidence.  She declared that “Democrat though she was, she’d vote for him for governor if he’d capture the Republican nomination for that office.”  Her open support of the Republican Fisher was simply an indication that she never was and never could have been a narrow political partisan.

The primary campaign was very quiet since Miss Leonard was unopposed, and her opening political activity reflected that situation.  If any event served as a campaign kickoff it was the Democratic Ladies Tea which was held on March 30.  Miss Leonard presented the opening remarks which contained some advice on the Indiana County Democratic campaign.  The state chairman of the Women’s Democratic Committee of Pennsylvania was in attendance.  The Indiana Democrat hailed the event as “A Fine Success.”  The first public endorsement of Leonard’s candidacy, and the only known one in Indiana County, came on April 5 when the Joseph M. Blakely Camp, No. 71, United Spanish War Veterans unanimously endorsed her.  These were the only public acknowledgements in the Indiana press of the Leonard campaign prior to the May primary election.  Of course an active campaign is not required of an unopposed primary candidate.

The fall general election, however, was a different situation.  Miss Leonard’s political interests and knowledge must have suggested to her the seemingly insurmountable obstacle she was facing.  Pennsylvania in 1922 was essentially a one party state – Republican.  The Twenty-seventh Congressional District was solidly Republican, and Indiana County was rock-ribbed Republican. The primary returns reinforced this general knowledge.  In Indiana Borough, for example, only 124 Democrats bothered to vote while 1,481 Republicans cast their ballots.  In Indiana County, running unopposed, Leonard received 667 votes while a total Republican vote of 8,633 was split among three contestants.  In the fall when the voter registration for the Twenty-seventh Congressional District was announced it favored the Republicans over the Democrats, 68 percent to 23 percent.  Certainly a bleak prospect faced the novice candidate.

To make matters worse, her Republican opponent was formidable.  He was Nathan L. Strong, the incumbent Congressman from Brookville, Jefferson County.  Certainly everything was a disadvantage: Miss Leonard was running for her first elected political office, her opponent was an incumbent seeking his fourth congressional term.  She was eighty-one years of age, her opponent was sixty-three.  She was a woman, he was a man.  The odds were staggering.  There was little wonder that William K. Hutchinson, a national news correspondent, included Miss Lenard among the five feminine congressional candidates who had only “a chance in a hundred” of winning.  It could be suggested that perhaps, at least in “Aunt Jane’s” case, Hutchinson was even underestimating the odds.

It could be argued that Miss Leonard was not really a serious contender.  If newspaper advertisement is any indication, the Democrats spent little money on the campaign.  The Leonard campaign trail in Indiana County was not overly onerous.  It is possible that the Democrats, faced with the impossibility of winning the election, had conceded from the start.

Jane E. Leonard, nevertheless, seemed to use the public exposure to continue to stress ideals important to her. During her campaigning, light though it was, she worked to further her causes.  “Aunt Jane” challenged women to involve themselves in politics.  “We are in politics,” she declared, “and we are going to do our duty.  Our duty is to do the best we know how.”  In another instance she lectured the newly enfranchised women on “the importance of women taking the responsibilities which are now theirs with the assuming the principles of enfranchisement, an action which at the present time they are not prone to do.”  She became known for her positions on what were to her the vital issues, some of them most progressive – the inclusion of a secretary of education in the president’s cabinet, a tariff used only for revenue, measures to insure fiscal responsibility in national government, and election victories for Democratic candidates.

Miss Leonard, always bound by her principles, could not be bound by party lines.  She acclaimed the educational program of Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor William C. Sproul.  That program had been embodied in the Edmonds Act which aimed at consolidating schools, increasing aid to education, increasing aid to education, and standardizing curriculum, teachers’ qualifications, and salaries.  She publicly acknowledged that Dr. Finegan, the Republican-appointed superintendent of public of public education, had “done more to advance education in the past three years than had been accomplished in the preceding ten years.”

She apparently did not have many opportunities to express her ideals.  Her reported public appearances following the primary were at the Indiana County Congress of Women’s Clubs meeting in June and the one day Democratic County Tour in September.  It was an incident at the Cookport Fair, one of the stops on the County Tour, that permits a glimpse of “Aunt Jane” on the hustings.  One writer described the scene this way: “As she climbed aboard the hay wagon, the veteran educator carried her 83 [sic] years as though they were a mere 50.  She had a sprightly step and her voice was strong as she urged the assembled voters to support the Democratic candidates from top to bottom.”

Given the light campaigning effort, given the political realities, the November election results were surprising.  The eighty-one year old, former educator carried 37 percent of the vote in the Twenty-seventh Congressional District to her opponent’s 54 percent, and 30 percent in Indiana County to his 55 percent.  The popular vote was 18,682 to 12,927 and 5,071 to 2,764 respectively.  A loss by a landslide, yes, but a comparably minor landslide.  In 1920, Strong’s victory was 66 percent to 25 percent in the District and 70 percent to 16 percent in the County; in 1924 Strong would win by 59 percent to 18 percent and 59 percent to 13 percent.  The neophyte, maiden politician had done remarkably well.

The full story of Miss Leonard’s relative success rests more in events outside of the Twenty-seventh Congressional District since the Pennsylvania Republican party that year had been severely splintered by internal struggles.  The election of 1922, nevertheless, was a surprising story, and “Aunt Jane” really fared no worse than any of the other nine female candidates who were running for Congress – they all lost (even Alice M. Robertson, the incumbent congresswoman from Oklahoma).

Miss Jane E. Leonard, an Indiana institution as an educator, probably considered herself to be continuing her educational goals as a politician in teaching by example the duty of personal responsibility and active participation, expounding one’s convictions and ideals, and attempting to better the world.  If there was a loser in the 1922 election, it was not “Aunt Jane.”  Her “political whirl” was the giving of a practical lesson – she was engaged, as always, in educating.

*Ellen D. Davis was, in the same election, running for the congressional seat in Pennsylvania’s Second District.

** The “Indiana legend” that James Buchanan, fifteenth president of the United States, had proposed marriage to Miss Leonard has no basis in historical fact.