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


The Holiday Inn at McIntyre

Indiana County got a great Christmas present in 1950.  On December 23rd, Sam and Ann Serrianni opened the Holiday Inn between McIntyre and Coal Run, two years before the hotel chain of the same name debuted.  Those two coal patch towns may have been tiny, but their new restaurant and bar soon gained a giant reputation as a hot dance spot and as home to the county’s first (and best) pizza.  Longtime Indiana DJ, Jerry Boucher, and future County Commissioner, Bernie Smith, spun their first platters at Holiday Inn record hops.  In the early 1950s, some of the last Big Bands played there, featuring everything from polka to rock.  Over the years, the Inn packed ’em in on Saturday nights.


It was not the Serriannis’ first try – they had operated a diner named for boxing and wrestling champ Primo Carnerea after the war – but it was the Holiday Inn, inspired by a 1942 movie of that name, that was destined to become their life.  Sam built the cinderblock structure himself, and he and Ann raised their “crew of four” in rooms behind and beneath it in the decades that followed.  Son John remembers childhood years spent in Holiday Inn’s kitchen learning the trade beside siblings Valerie, Marlea, and Samuel Junior.

“Yeah, I was the only one of us who never married, so when the others left home, I stayed on as the bartender until my early thirties.  My parents were introverts – never joined the Chamber of Commerce and all that – so it just made sense for them to hire family.”

As popular as the Inn would become, not everyone was receptive at first.  Second-generation pizza lover Antoinette Fontana laughs, “When we were kids, some people called it ‘dago food’.  But by the time I was thirty, pizza was everywhere and pasta was gourmet!”  With those early attitudes in mind, the family anglicized their name to Serrian, and in a 1953 ad went as far as to stress that they were “both natives of Indiana County.”  But the old family name is well remembered locally, and daughter Valerie’s pizzeria, built on the same property as the now-closed Holiday Inn, is even called Serrianni’s in honor of her parents.

By the early 1990s, Sam was thinking about selling the business.  Tastes and the times had changed, and since he was in his 70s, retirement seemed like a good idea.  But it was fire, not a buyer, who would settle the matter.  In the early morning hours of Christmas 1996, the McIntyre landmark was gutted by an apparent act of arson.  Holiday Inn had served its last customer almost exactly forty-six years after its first one.

If you are ever driving through Young Township on County Road 3031, keep an eye out for a long white cinderblock building between McIntyre and Coal Run, right next to Serrianni’s Pizzeria.  Shuttered now and quiet, it stands like a monument to the ones who built it.

Holiday Inn, Sam and Ann:  Gone But Not Forgotten.

Event Happenings 2017

The year is almost over, however, the Society still has a few events taking place before the final days of 2017 run out. With the holidays now upon us it is time for family and friends. At this time of the year it is important to address closings since our schedule this year differs somewhat from that of last. Regardless it is going to be a busy conclusion to the year and we hope you can join us to be a part of that.

On November 16ththe Society will hold its final fundraiser of the year. We will be hosting a community night at Hoss’s. All you need to do to support the Society is you dine at the Hoss’s on Wayne Avenue on the above mentioned date and present a participation card which is available at the museum. At the conclusion of the day, the Society will get a portion of the total sales. This is a fantastic opportunity to support local history while also getting the chance to have some great food. Contact the Historical Society for additional cards or if you have any questions.

The Society looks to once again hold its annual Christmas Open House early next month on Friday December 8th. The Clark House will be beautifully decorated by the Evergreen Garden Club in the traditional Victorian style and the exterior will be aglow with seasonal lighting. There are two pieces of entertainment set up for that night. First, we have the Indiana Junior High School choir directed by Mrs. Ellen Werner at 7 p.m., and later on in the evening at 7:30 p.m. the Indiana Brass Band will perform traditional holiday tunes on historic brass instruments. As always there will be refreshments available and the museum will be open to tour. There is no admission cost and all are welcome for this wonderful holiday celebration.

Clark House Decorated for Christmas 2016

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching it is important to note museum hours surrounding the holiday. The Society will be closed the week of the 19th and will reopen its doors on Tuesday the 28th. This time off will allow staff and volunteers to spend time with their family and come back refreshed for the remainder of the year.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, the Society wishes you and your family a safe and happy holiday. We have much to be thankful for here at the Society: the dedicated volunteers, our fantastic Board, two wonderful historic buildings, the contributions of those that came before us, and let’s not forget our membership which enables the Society to continue to serve the community and preserve the past.

John Sutton Hall: The Symbol of IUP

John Sutton Hall has been the main building on the campus of IUP since it’s inception in 1875, at the time the school was known as the Indiana State Normal School. An advertisement in the Democrat on July 13, 1876, spoke highly of John Sutton Hall, the sole building on campus as follows:

“The building is remarkable for its being well lighted, well ventilated, and for its general air of cheerfulness. It has been pronounced by Prof. Wickersham, the Superintendent of Public Instruction as unquestionably the best building of its kind in the United States.”

The first catalogue for 1875 listed that tuition, room and board “…including light, heat, and washing,” was $70 for the spring term, $75 for the fall term, and $80 for the winter term. Over the next few years the school in order to cut down on some expenses had to dictated that students who washed more than ten pieces of personal items — this excluded towels and napkins — had to pay an extra 50 cents per dozen per week. Student life at the time was much different than today, but one should keep in mind that this was a different time period and everything dealing with the school was run out of just one building!

John Sutton Hall was constructed out of bricks that were fired on a corner of campus and the architecture of the building allowed for the following: lecture and recitation rooms, laboratory and library, reception rooms, recreation room and and chapel, kitchen and dining hall, student dormitory, faculty offices and apartments, water-closets, society rooms, laundry and heating plant. Originally John Sutton Hall was built to accommodate 400 students, but the initial enrollment in 1875 was 150 students. In 2016, the enrollment at IUP was 12,853.

John Sutton Hall continued to be a staple on campus until 1974 when the decision was made to demolish John Sutton Hall because renovation costs soared and there was limited funds allocated to renovate. But the community rallied around John Sutton Hall created “The Committee to Save John Sutton Hall; and on September 19, 1975 the Board of Trustees received a letter indicated that as of September 17, 1874 John Sutton Hall was included on the National Register of Historic Places. And so John Sutton Hall was saved.

A banner made during the Save Sutton Campaign

Today John Sutton Hall serves the purpose of administration offices, faculty offices, and boast Gorell Recital Hall and the Blue Room used for receptions and concerts.

Some interesting facts from the First Catalogue of the State Normal School in 1875 gives us today a time to pause and consider the difference in education and how we live what seems like a different life.

  • Students were not to correspond, walk, or ride with those of the opposite sex nor meet in the reception room, parlor or elsewhere, except by special permission from the Principal and the Preceptress.
  • All wrestling, running, scuffling, or other rude and boisterous noises, were forbidden at any time.
  • Students were required to sweep their own rooms daily, previous to the sweeping of the halls in the morning, and they would not be allowed to sweep dust into the halls at any other time. 
  • Students were not allowed to throw water, dirt, or anything offensive or dangerous from the doors or windows of the building at any time.
  • Students were not allowed to keep carbon oil, camphine, or burning fluid of any kind in the building and all lights were to be extinguished by 10:00 PM.

John Sutton Hall holds a lot of history within it’s walls, this posting is just a snapshot of its beginnings and the beginning of student life on campus. University life has expanded a lot since the first class came through in 1875 and it is sure to continue to change in the years to come.

Sources: John Sutton Hall–A Victorian Restoration; First Catalogue for Indiana State Normal School

Daniel Stanard: First Attorney in Indiana County

Attorneys play an important role in the United States Justice System, and Indiana has no shortage of attorneys. It’s important though to recognize the first of everything, and attorneys are no different. Daniel Stanard was the the first attorney in Indiana.

Mr. Stanard was born in 1784 and was a native of Vermont and moved to Indiana in 1807. His first task was serving as clerk to the County Commissioners from 1808 until 1810 and again in 1816. Mr. Stanard was antislavery and demonstrated his views by loaning money to Dr. Robert Mitchell who was on trial in Federal Court for “harboring” fugitive slaves. Mr. Stanard was also a supporter of education and was named a trustee of the Indiana Academy in 1814 along with a school inspector of Washington Township in 1835. He was also named as a trustee in 1838 of the Indiana Free Seminary. Mr. Stanard retired from legal practice in 1836. Daniel Stanard died in 1867. Today we have reminders of the first resident attorney by Stanard Avenue in Indiana being named for Daniel Stanard.

Indiana County Four Covered Bridges

Indiana County is very lucky to have four covered bridges remaining from the bygone era, and even more impressive is that one of the bridges is still navigable by motor vehicle. It is time to take a trip back in time to discover the treasures of Indiana County Covered Bridges.


The Trusal Covered Bridge is the oldest of Indiana County’s covered bridges, built in 1870 in the Town Lattice Style. The bridge is 41 feet in length and located in Washington Township along Five Points Road and carried traffic over the South Branch of Plum Creek. The bridge was named for the nearby property owner Robert Trusal.


The Harmon Covered Bridge was constructed in 1910 by John R. Carnahan and is also built in the Town Lattice Style and cost $525 to build. This bridge is also located in Washington Township along Five Points Road and crossed over the South Branch of Plum Creek, very close to the Trusal Covered Bridge. The bridge was named after Civil War veteran J.S. Harmon.


The Kintersburg Covered Bridge was built in 1877 by J.S. Fleming in the Howe Truss type. The bridge is 68 feet in length and cross Crooked Creek. The bridge is located off Route 119 by turning onto Tanoma Road. The bridge is named for Isaac Kinter, a local shopkeeper. The bridge cost $893 to construct. This is the only Howe Truss bridge in Indiana County and only one of five Howe Truss bridges remaining in Pennsylvania, so we are very lucky to have this piece of history.


The last of the remaining covered bridges in Indiana County is the Thomas Covered Bridge, built in 1879 and completely reconstructed in 1998. The bridge was built by Amos Thomas over Crooked Creek near Yarnick’s Farm Market, and is still navigable by motor vehicle. The bridge is 75 feet in length, making it the longest of the covered bridges remaining in Indiana County. When it was built in 1879 it cost $545 but the reconstruction in 1998 cost slightly more than $1 million. The Bridge is also known as Thomas Ford Bridge because prior to the construction of the bridge there was a fording stream crossing this location. When the railroad was constructed in the area in the early 1900s, the bridge became known as the Thomas Station Bridge. 

Why cover the bridge?

There were many reasons for covering the bridge, first and foremost was for protection, the bridges were made out of wood, therefore exposure to the elements would make the structure vulnerable to rot. So by covering and roofing the structure protected the bridge from the weather, and making them last longer. Second the bridges were built to resemble bars, therefore making farm animals feel more at home. Further by covering the bridges prevented the ‘floor’ from becoming slippery during inclement weather.
So while you are out for a drive during the autumn season be sure to take a trip around Indiana County and take in these spectacular structures.

Fisher Mansion

On 220 North Sixth Street you will find the former home of Governor John S. Fisher, the only Pennsylvania governor from Indiana County. The home was built around 1902 for Mr. and Mrs. Edward Rowe.

The home is built in the Queen Anne style, and constructed of wood and shingles. An interesting feature of the home is the large chimney on the left side of the house which was used for all of the fireplaces in the house. Along with only one large chimney is the tower o the house with a rounder roof, which resembles a dome. At one time, the third floor of the tower was used as a sleeping porch and at the time contained no windows, only screens, which was designed to give the house more fresh air.

Fisher Mansion. 220 North 6th Street Indiana, PA

Governor Fisher was born May 25, 167 in South Mahoning Township. He received his diploma in 1886 from the Indiana State Normal School and taught for 7 years in the public schools. Fisher studied law and was admitted to the Indiana County Bar in 1893. In 1900, he was elected to the State Senate, followed in 1916 as a delegate to the Republican National Convention and became a Commissioner of Banking of Pennsylvania in 1919. The pivotal point of his career came in 1926 when he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, serving in that capacity until 1931.

Governor John S. Fisher

While Governor Fisher was in office a coal strike broke out, and the governor called for the state police to “preserve order” but in fact they assisted the coal and iron police. Fisher tried to have a conference for all parties of the dispute, on March 12, 192, but no one responded. Fisher had a former close association with the Clearfield Bituminous Coal Corp, and was accused of favoring coal companies. The strike ended in July 192 and Fisher suffered a severe setback in public opinion in which he tried to retrieve in 1929 by signing the Mansfield Bill. This bill corrected some of the more gross abuses of the coal and iron police. Governor Fisher died on June 25, 1940.

Former Eclipses in Indiana County

The nation was captivated yesterday with the most recent solar eclipse. However, this was not the first eclipse visible in Indiana County, the following accounts were taken from Caldwell’s History of Indiana County from the early period of the county.

An early eclipse was visible here on June 6, 1806; at this time the population of Indiana County was very limited, there were few persons living in the county, that were able to give an account of the phenomenon. At the time it was a “thing of terror” to many people and remained a topic of discussion for many years. The eclipse of 1806 extended throughout the entire boundaries of Venango county and was total in such parts of New York, New England, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

In Pittsburgh, many people were troubled as to whether or not the end of all things had come. Many people confessed their sins for fear that this would be the end.

In Philadelphia, a total obscurity suddenly turned the day into night. The business ceased, and the joy of the crowds had ceased and all bustling stopped.

An old settler stated “I thought the day of judgment was at hand and I was scared. The chickens went to roost and everything was a still as night.” Another settler remembered, “I was working on the mountain, and all of a sudden, it became so dark that I could not see my way down the ravine. I waited and waited, it seemed to me a whole day before the sun shone again.”

It was reported that the eclipse began about 9:50 am and lasted until 12:40 pm. From eyewitness accounts this was a terrifying but also fascinating time. The stars shone in the middle day and the birds stopped singing, but the sun did reappear and things returned to normal.

Another eclipse in the early days of the county appeared on May 2,1846, from the account in Caldwell’s History of Indiana County it was said that “This remarkable phenomenon which took place on Saturday last, was not visible [in Indiana County] until it passed the middle, thirteen minutes past twelve o’clock, noon, after which it was visible, except occasionally obscured by flying clouds, until it passed off. Its duration was two hours and fifty-four minutes.”

It’s fascinating to look back at meteorological events and how our ancestors reacted to these events. As you do family research look to those primary sources to see what people thought and how they lived, remember they didn’t have all these modern conveniences to do research and understand all that was happening in the world.

Ladies Victorian Tea Fall 2017

It is once again time for one of the most popular fundraising events at the Historical Society, the Ladies Victorian Tea. This fall the tea will be held on Saturday September 23rd from 2:00 to 4:00 pm at the Clark House.

The Origin of Afternoon Tea

The origin of the afternoon tea can be traced back to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. She complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o’clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot of tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

Later, friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for “tea and a walking of the fields.” Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practices became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.

The Program for the Fall Tea

The Gilded Age, La Belle Epoque, the Edwardian Period; the turn of the 20th century is known by many names. Regardless of what it may be labeled, it was definitely an exciting time of change particularly for women. The styles in clothing were a distinct departure from the Victorian period, the rights of women were being questioned and fought for, even the beliefs in marriage and romantic love were evolving from that of the century before. Historian Katie Gaudreau will discuss the changing societal roles of women as seen through clothing, accessories, and other means during this time. Enjoy an exhibit of the styles of dress from 1900 to 1010 as you enjoy tea and refreshments at the Fall Victorian Ladies’ Tea.

Ticket Information

Tickets will go on sale on August 15 and will be available for $20 for non-members and $15 for members. For more information or to order tickets contact the Society at 724-463-9600 or email at Tickets are limited.

Ladies Victorian Tea

Volunteers getting the clothing displays ready.

On May 1, 2016 eighteen ladies enjoyed a Victorian style tea.  There was an assortment of teas, pastries and a program about women’s fashion in the 19th century by Katie Gaudreau.  If you missed this event be sure to watch our social media accounts as there will be plenty more events to attend so you can learn more about the history and culture of Indiana County.  A special thanks goes out to Flower Boutique for supply the centerpieces for the table.

Table settings
Flowers provided by Flower Boutique

Katie Gaudreau giving her presentation on 19th Century women’s fashion