Cherry Tree Monument

Located on the site of an old cherry tree in the town of Cherry Tree is a monument, which signifies a boundary marker for the Purchase Line treaties of the late 1700s, more significantly was the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. These treaties called for the Iroquois to first sell land west and south of the marker to the colonial government of Pennsylvania and later to the north of it. It was these acquisitions that opened the door for the settlement of a large portion of western Pennsylvania. This site was later used as a survey point to determine the boundaries for Indiana, Cambria, and Clearfield Counties, where the three counties met.

It was in the late 1800s that community leaders made the decision to replace the cherry tree with a monument in order to preserve the legacy for future generations. This large cherry tree stood near the confluence of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Cush Cushion Creek.  The tree was used to mark the western boundary of land purchased by William Penn from the Iroquois tribe; the meeting of the land purchase was transacted in Fort Stanwix (now Rome, NY). The straight line from Canoe Place (Cherry Tree) to Kittanning in Armstrong County is widely known as “The Purchase Line.” This line today is the boundary between the eight northernmost townships and the rest of Indiana County, and the name sake for the Purchase Line School District.

The Cherry Tree Monument

After the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, it was legal to settle south of the Purchase Line, except for the “Mahoning Country” which remained forbidden territory. Unfortunately, the Shawnee, Delaware and other westerly tribes refused to recognize the sale. (See a future blog post on the Indian horrors that would follow as a result.)

Unfortunately, around 1837 the cherry tree was washed away in a flood, destroying the last physical evidence of the William Penn-Iroquois Nation Treaty. It was not until 1894 that enough money was raised to erect the monument. In November 1894, the monument was dedicated in an elaborate ceremony attended by Governor James A. Beaver and a number of other dignitaries from throughout the region. At the unveiling, the inscription read “this monument is erected to mark Canoe Place, the corner of the property purchased from the Indians at Fort Stanwix, New York, on November 5, 1768.”

Beginning in 1916, the Cherry Tree Women’s Association has maintained the monument and the ground surrounding it. Then in 1922, the organization petitioned the state to have a circular wall built around the structure to stabilize it.

The borough of Cherry Tree has long been the site of confusion of which county it actually belongs because of its proximity to all three counties. It has also been known as a variety of different names since the first settlers arrived, including: New Lancaster, Campville, Bardsville and Newman Mills. In 1867, it was named Cherry Tree-Grant Post Office, and then changed to Cherry Tree in 1907.

Besides the history of the monument, the town was also home to a “private subscription” school which opened in 1831 and took students from all three counties. A male and female college was started in 1854 and remained opened until the Indiana Normal School (IUP) opened in 1875. Besides education, Cherry Tree had a rich history involving the lumbering and rafting trades thanks in large part to the navigable waters near the town.

“Cherry Tree to celebrate monument’s centennial” Tribune-Review. August 21, 1994. “Cherry Tree marks monumental event” Indiana Gazette. August 21, 1994. Clarence Stephenson’s 175th Anniversary History of Indiana County.

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