Annual Christmas Open House

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

community choir
IUP Community Choir

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

The whites
Harry and Anna White

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

Clark House2018
Clark House

The Pioneer Log House

People are fascinated by the way of life from days gone by, and museums love to show how people lived during different periods of time. It has been nearly thirty-five years ago since an old log house graced the landscape at the historical society. It was an extensive project to undertake for the society and played a significant role in the history and growth of the Society during the early years.

Log house 1

It was reported in the Society’s April 1961 newsletter that, “Our biggest project in many a year, the reconstruction of a Pioneer Log House as part of our forthcoming Museum, is under construction and the walls are rising fast. The project developed rather rapidly after the public sale of the former Rankin home in Shelocta several weeks ago. After numerous meetings and a unanimous vote to go ahead with the project at the April meeting, the Executive Committee contracted with the new owner of the house, Mr. Walter Roof of Clymer, to have it torn down, moved to Indiana, and re-erected as a permanent memorial to our pioneer forefathers and their way of life. This part of our heritage will attract visitors from far away in the years ahead. We hope you realize the scope of this project and the financial risks involved.”

Originally standing near the bridge on Route 156 near Crooked Creek had long been a landmark of Shelocta.  It had once been the home of Abner Kelly, son of pioneer James Kelly. It is believed the structure dated back to 1883; that is the year Kelly purchased the land on which it stood from Benjamin Walker. Amazingly the logs remained in excellent condition, mainly because at some earlier point, the structure was covered over with siding. Indiana County Commissioners at the time, Frank Barkley, J.W. Everett, and Dee Miller, granted permission to reconstruct the building on county property – the Wayne Avenue side of Memorial Hall north of the National Guard Armory – what is now the parking lot of the Historical Society.

The log house was a two-story, four room house that measured 18 by 32 feet. On the ground floor were the kitchen and living room, each with a fireplace. When it was rebuilt, it was done so as nearly as possible to its original state; although, the upstairs was left without a center wall to provide a larger space in order to accommodate group meetings. The final cost of restoration came to $2,250. The Executive Committee knew they did not have sufficient funds in the treasury to finance this endeavor. A letter was sent to members following the April meeting, about $1,000 had already been collected toward the goal by the end of May.

The timing of this project corresponded with the opening of the Historical Society Museum that summer. Society members were already hard at work preparing two large rooms that would house museum displays, a periodical and newspaper reading room, and a storage area – all housed in the basement of Memorial Hall (the Clark House). The log house was going to serve as an adjunct to the Museum. People around the county were prompted to contribute pieces of antique furniture to help furnish the house.

log house 2

An informal open house was held October 12, 1961, at which time the public was invited to view the various museum displays as well as the pioneer log house. The log house was furnished with articles typical of the early 1800s: a crane, tongs and andirons for the kitchen fireplace; a drop-leaf table; a hutch table and chairs and iron-stone china. The hope with this was that county residents would donate items of historical value to the area. Our collections today indicate that the county residents did just that.

The Pioneer Log House served to educate students, and adults, about how their ancestors lived in the 1800s, for over fifteen years. A report of the Society’s activities for 1966 noted a count of 786 persons visiting the log house. Sadly, the structure began to deteriorate through the years and it was eventually deemed unsafe. In April of 1979, the director of the county parks supervised its removal. The logs were stored at one of the county park sites until some determination of their disposition could be made.

ABC Guide to the Indiana County Historical Society Part 2

Open. Yes we are open, come to our door at the Old Armory located from the parking lot from Wayne Ave.  Our hours are 9-4 Tuesdays to Fridays and 10-3 on Saturdays.
Quiet! Some days at the Society are very quiet with no visitors and a very small number of volunteers.  It’s hard to understand why, but it is something we have learned to accept because the next day there could be a dozen or more visitors.
Restrooms. One of the most frequent questions is where are the restrooms?  Well, actually they are right inside the door you came in; you can’t miss them!
Stephenson, thanks to Clarence Stephenson we have an extensive five volume history of Indiana County. These massive books catalogue the County’s history from the Native Americas up until the 175th Anniversary of the County in the 1970s.  He answers the main questions: who, what, when, where, but leaves you to determine the why; presenting only the facts.
Tours! It’s hard to believe but the Historical Society gets visitors from all over the United States, so schedule your tour today (if you are bringing a large group), otherwise come in any time during our regular business hours.
Up. There’s nowhere to go but up.  As time goes on preservation techniques becomes better and more history is able to be discovered.  Stay tuned for future events as we continue upward.
Veterans. We have a whole section devoted to honoring our veterans.  Visit the second floor of the armory to see artifacts and uniforms of those who have served from the French and Indian War to the latest war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many who come to see the displays are very proud to report it is one of the best displays they have ever seen.  This is our way to honor and thank those who have served for our nation’s freedom.
Walking Tour. There is so much history to see along historic 6thStreet; Governor John Fisher lived here – the only governor from Indiana County – he lived on 220 North Sixth Street.  There are many more historic buildings, stop by the historical society to learn more about the history. And again stay tuned as a guided walking tour is in the works.
(E)Xcited.  There is so much to be excited about, just this past year we debuted Indiana County-opoly game which was a huge success with over 500 games sold and still selling, get yours today at our Museum gift shop.  What the future brings excites us as there is always something new happening at the Society.
Years! Historical Societies are based on years.  The years everything happens are important to historians, because that is what tells a story from the beginning to the present.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At the end of the day, it is always good to get some rest as volunteering and working with people is a tiring job. By getting a good night’s rest we are able to continue our mission the next day.  The best ideas come while sleeping.  Who knows what idea may pop into our heads tonight that we can share tomorrow to make the history of Indiana County come alive.

Indiana County PA’s Historical Society: The Best Kept Secret for Uncovering the Past

Silas M. Clark House, built 1869-1870.

Historical societies are commonly associated with history buffs, but they are actually important to all members of the community.  They preserve and collect artifacts significant to the history and heritage of the community.  Many are hidden treasures, as is commonly said about the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County, it is “Indiana County’s best kept secret.”

Local historical societies fact many issues today, especially financial and technological issues. For the Indiana County Historical Society, they maintain two historic buildings, the Silas Clark House and the Old Armory Building, and the cost to maintain them is always increasing.  The Society relies on membership to operate, but donations and volunteers are an important aspect as well.

As technology increases, historical societies face many issues, especially with so many resources online, but it is important to remember that Historical Societies have many things to offer that cannot be received through a computer.  For example, there are actual artifacts that can be seen in person, and there are also knowledgeable people readily available to answer questions.  With the advancement of technology, volunteers are need to use this new technology, whether that be scanning photographs or entering data into our museum software program, there is something for all ages and all people.  The use of teamwork is extremely important for the Society to operate.

It’s amazing how little the community knows about the operations of local historical societies and the work that goes into the up keep and operation of a museum, historic home, and research library.  Many people don’t understand why historical societies want to save old things, but it is part of our history and heritage that needs to be kept alive for future generations.  To showcase these items the Indiana County Historical Society has many programs throughout the year to educate the community about the past.

I urge everyone – students, teachers, schools, and individuals – to take advantage of this resource that provides education to our community through exhibits and research materials available to them in their own backyard.  Together we can turn the Indiana County Historical Society form “Indiana County’s best kept secret” to the “best place in Indiana County to discover the past.”