The Murder of Mr. and Mrs. Spelock

At 4:30 p.m. on November 18, 1936, a drink-maddened man entered the Keystone Coal Company store in Saltsburg and announced to the manager, W.S. Lockard, “I killed the Spelocks.”  Mr. Lockard doubted the story, at first, and went to investigate and found the Spelocks dead.  Lockard immediately notified Sheriff Harry E. Koozer, who with Deputy Sheriffs A. Eugene Wilson and J. Clair Irvin immediately came to Saltsburg and met Lockard and Andy Yacos, the suspect.

The sheriff and his deputies returned Yacos to the Spelock home, where Yacos reenacted the slayings.  “I done it. That’s all,” he told the officers as they came upon the bodies of Mrs. Spelock on the blood-stained bed and of her husband on the floor.  The bloody knife was found on a kitchen cabinet.

Yacos related that he would have also killed the two Yacos children at home, Joseph (9) and Vincent (8), but they had eluded him and he could not catch them.

Andy Yacos, 52-year-old coal miner was living in White Station with Mr. and Mrs. Spelock as a boarder.  The sheriff was informed that Yacos and the Spelocks had been drinking for the three weeks prior to the murder.  The parties had ran out of alcohol, so the Spelocks had given Yacos $5 to purchase a quart of liquor.  He returned with he whiskey and the change, but Yacos was short a dollar, which caused a fight to ensue and Mrs. Spelock slapped him in the face.  After the fight, the Spelocks and Yacos drank the quart of whiskey, and Yacos kindled the fires.  The afternoon of November 18, 1936, Spelock got another pint of liquor, but they would not give Yacos any.  Around 4:00 p.m. the Spelocks went upstairs to sleep off their drunken state and Yacos followed them still asking for a drink.  The Spelocks again refused him a drink, so Yacos went to the kitchen, grabbed the knife and returned back upstairs again asking for a drink.  He was told to “get out,” and drove the knife into the heart of Mr. Spelock and then three times into the breast of Mrs. Spelock.  As Yacos went downstairs, he saw the children, lunged at them, but they escaped.  The children discovered their parents were dead, they went to the home of their uncle, Mike Spelock.

On the way to the county jail, Yacos expressed to Sheiff Kooser sorrow for the death of Mrs. Spelock, but not for Mr. Spelock.  Yacos did not seem concerned as he said, “I get one more ride, to Rockview.”

Yacos had intended to kill himself, but he was afraid the knife would “hurt too much” and he could not find a little revolver he had planned to use.  The revolver was later found during the investigation under the Spelock’s bedroom mattress.

Yacos was charged with murder by Sheriff Harry Koozer before Squire Walter H. Jackson, before whom the preliminary hearing was held.  Attorney R.J. Hogan was appointed as counsel for Yacos by Judge E.E. Creps.  District Attorney Edwin M. Clark, called Mike Spelock as the first witness at the preliminary hearing.

            Clark: Do you know Andy Yacos?

            Spelock: Sure, I know him.  I worked with him in the mine.

Spelock then testified that Yacos visited his home at around 3:00 p.m. on the day of the murder telling Spelock “By Gee, I am going to get a knife and cut him.”   Spelock went on to explain, “I think he mean my brother but maybe he just making fun.”

Spelock was then asked if he considered Yacos to be intoxicated when he left.  To which Spelock responded, “He was not too drunk.”

The next witness to present testimony was Ward Lockard, the store manager.  He testified that Andy Spelock came into the store and stated, “I killed two people.  I want you to call the sheriff.”  Lockard responded, “Who?” To which, Yacos responded, “Andy Spelock and his wife.”  Lockard believed that Yacos had apparently been drinking some, but was not so drunk, because he talked plainly.

Coroner John Woods testified about the deaths, describing the butcher knife wounds as determined by the autopsies.  Deputy Wilson testified that Yacos was not drunk and did not seem nervous when he told him and the other officers of the stabbings.  Yacos told Deputy Wilson that the Spelocks had money hidden in the bed, upon which they were slain, and a subsequent search during the investigation revealed $203 in the bed.

Deputy Wilson added that Yacos reported that he told Andy Spelock prior to the fatal thrust, “If I don’t drink, you don’t drink either.”

Deputy Wilson said, “He (Yacos) said he knew if he killed him, he would go to the electric chair at Bellefonte but he didn’t care.”

District Attorney Clark made his closing address on January 22, 1937, to the jury of nine men and three women in the Criminal Court of President Judge E.E. Creps.  It was during his closing argument that he asked for death in the electric chair.

A hush fell over the well-filled courtroom as Yacos, a stocky, dark-complected, partially bald defendant, was called to the stand by his counsel in his own defense.  Yacos reported that he had been drinking whiskey with the Spelocks for three weeks and wept as he recalled his friendship with Andy Spelock and his wife, Anna.  He then reported that the morning of the murder, he went to Moween for more liquor.  He had a drink there, and his mind was a blank until he saw the blood in the Spelock home.  He was frightened, so he went to Moween where he remembered ordering some pop and eating sandwiches.  He then went to Saltsburg but his mind again became a blank and his memory did not return until several days afterward in the county jail.

The defense also called Dr. Frederick J. Kellam and asked if the tolerance of alcohol varied in individuals.  Dr. Kellam replied in the affirmative and also testifying that a shock would tend to have a sobering effect on a person who was intoxicated.

After closing arguments by Attorneys James W. Mack, Jr. and R.J. Hogan, defense counsel, and District Attorney Clark the jury was informed of the five possible verdicts: first degree murder with the death penalty; first degree murder with life imprisonment; second degree murder; voluntary manslaughter; and not guilty.

Those serving on the jury were: Mrs. Alice Tyger, Gordon Johnson, Mrs. Clare Bee, Mrs. S.B. Bailey, Harry Good, J.H. Blose, John Shaffer, B.F. Hilderbrand, L.J. McKee, Robert Pollock, Charles Marshall, and Burt Kinter.  Alternates were: Meade Fisher and Mrs. Margaret Sowers.

The jury deliberated for an hour and half, finding Andy Yacos guilty of murder in the first degree in the fatal stabbing of Mrs. Anna Spelock.  There was no recommendation of mercy was made in the verdict as it was read by jury foreman, Mrs. Alice Tyger, and under Pennsylvania law, the verdict was a mandate for capital punishment in the electric chair.

As Yacos was taken back to his cell, he commented to the guards, “That’s the finish for poor Andy,” and he also inquired whether there was a chance that the penalty could be changed to life imprisonment.

Sentencing was held on February 15, 1937, and Yacos asked, “Mr. Judge, If you can change to life…?”  Judge Creps explained, “Well, Andy, the court can’t do that.  We have no power to change it.” And then Judge Creps handed down the sentence:

Now, therefore, the sentence of the law is that you, Andy Yacos, here present in open court, be taken hence to the jail of Indiana County from whence you came and that from thence, at a time later to be determined, you be transferred to the custody and keeping of the warden of the Western Penitentiary in Centre County, Pennsylvania, by his warrant may direct, and at such time you be taken to the place of electrocution at said penitentiary and that a current of electricity of sufficient intensity to cause death be then and there passed through your body and so continue until you are dead.  And may God in His Infinite Goodness have mercy on your soul.”

As Yacos was escorted back to his cell, he asked Warden Irvin to explain again why the court had no power to change the verdict, Yacos said: “Maybe get the governor to change it then.”

Governor George H. Earle set the date for execution for May 3, 1937.  On April 21, 1937, Yacos’ attorneys went to Harrisburg to ask the Pardon Board for commutation of the sentence to life imprisonment.  Their main argument was the drunken condition of Yacos removed any specific intent to take a life.  Unfortunately the Board of Pardons refused the commutation, and the execution moved forward.  The Board reported that state psychiatrists who examined Yacos found him sane.  District Attorney Clark said it was “a most revolting murder,” and termed Yacos a “vicious character.”  Thus ends the story of the Spelock murder.

Sketches of Indiana County Revolutionary Soldiers – Part I

James Shields

James Shields enlisted in 1776 or early 1777 at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and served as a private in Captain William Chambers and Captain Pry’s companies, Colonel Moses Hazen’s Continental (called “Congress’ Own” Regiment).  He was discharged in June 1783.

He was in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown in which he was wounded in the right arm; Whitemarsh, Monmouth, Horseneck, Stony Point, Brunswick and in the Siege of Yorktown.  He was wounded also in his right eyebrow at an unknown date.

He was allowed pension on application which was executed on August 4, 1819.  In 1820, he resided in Mahoning Township, Indiana County and was aged 76 years.  His wife was aged 50 years.  He had six daughters (one had two children) and a son, James.  He was still a resident of the county in 1834.

Patrick McGee

Patrick McGee was born in Londonderry, Ireland, and came to American and located in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1771.  He was a wheelwright and wagonmaker and engaged in that trade.

During the fight for American independence Patrick McGee served as a private in Captain John Marshall’s Company, Second Battalion, Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, commanded by Colonel Samuel Miles, in 1776.  In 1780 and 1781, he was listed as a private in the 7th Company, First Battalion, Cumberland County Militia, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Johnston.  It is said that during one of these tours of duty he was captured by the British and confined in a prion in New York City.

After the close of the war, this Revolutionary hero came to what is now Indiana County, settling near the present village of Grafton, and a farm later owned by the Graff family, in the year 1794.  He continued his trade and engaged in farming.  He was a member of the Presbyterian church.

Patrick McGee was born in 1750, and married Esther Pilson on April 17, 1796.  He died in 1818 in Blacklick Township and was buried in the Hopewell Methodist Cemetery.  His wife, Esther, was born in 1762 and died in 1830 and was buried beside her husband.  Their grave markers were removed to the Oakland Cemetery in Indiana PA in the 1940s.

George Hice

On March 27, 1833, George Hice, a resident of Wheatfield Township, appeared before the Honorable John Young, Judge of the Common Pleas, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Hice was 68 years old.

While a resident of Fort Ligonier, Westmoreland County he joined a company of volunteer rifleman commanded by Captain Samuel Shannon.  They assembled at Sheriff Carnahan’s on August 10, 1781, commanded by Colonel Archibald Loughry; they marched via Washington, PA to Wheeling, VA.  After a stay of about two days they went down the Ohio River in boats as far as a creek called Loughry’s creek, a few miles below the mouth of the Big Miami River.  At this place on August 24, 1781, about 110 men (many having deserted between Wheeling and this place) were attacked by a large number of Indians under the command of Simon Girty, George Girty and James Girty, and an Indian called Captain Brant.  The attack was made by the Indians from the shore just as some of the boats had touched for the purpose of landing.  Thirty-eight of the men were killed and Colonel Loughry was also killed by the Indians on the same day after he had been taken prisoner.

Those not killed, including George Hice, were taken to Shawnee towns on the Big Miami.  Four days after he was taken prisoner, he ran the gauntlet with several others.  He was taken to Mawmee towns where he was detained by the Indians for about a year.  He was then taken to Detroit, given to the British and held prisoner for another four months; thence in an English vessel to Fort Erie, thence to Montreal, St. Johns, across Lake Champlain to Ticonderoga; from Ticonderoga via Albany to New York.  From New York Hice made his way through New Jersey, Reading, Harrisburg and Carlisle, Pennsylvania, finally reaching Fort Ligonier, Westmoreland County, in the month of October 1783.

Hice further stated two years and two months elapsed from the time he left home until he returned, and that he never received a written discharge or documentary evidence to establish the facts and services in this declaration before Judge Young.

He stated, “I was born in the state of New Jersey about one mile from Flemingstown in the year 1765.”  He further stated he had a record of his age at the house where he resided, that he was living a Fort Ligonier when he entered service, and moved to Wheatfield Township, Indiana County, in 1785.  Hice said he volunteered for service, that he knew Colonel Archibald Loughry, Adj. John Guthrie, Captain Samuel Shannon, Captain Robert Orr, and that he (Hice) was known to John Ligat and Thomas Clarke.

Mathias Fisher, Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County, a soldier of the same company, testified Hice’s statement was true.

A note attached to the declaration states that George Hice died November 26, 1833.

Randall Laughlin

Randal Laughlin, a native of Ireland, came to America prior to the Revolutionary War, and purchased the improvement on a large tract of land lying part in Blacklick Township and part in Center Township, in what is now Indiana County.  A small quantity of ground had already been cleared, and Laughlin erected a small cabin.

After this improvement on his tract our subject returned to Franklin County, where he had lived for a short time, and there married Elizabeth Warnock, March 10, 1777, according to records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church, at Mercersburg.  The couple came to their Indiana County cabin that spring intent upon peaceful progress of their land improvement.

They were sadly disappointed for the summer brought marauding bands of Indians, and they were forced to take refuge at Fort Wallace, near present Brenizer, Westmoreland County. The farmers went out sometimes in small groups to their little farms, armed with rifles.  One day Randall Laughlin found that his horses had disappeared from the fort, and believing they might have wandered back to his cabin, he asked his neighbors to go there with him.

This cabin stood on the farm in Blacklick Township, and Laughlin was accompanied by Charles Campbell, for whom Campbell’s Mills was named; Samuel Dixon, of Blacklick Township; John and Levi Gibson, brothers, whose tract adjoined Laughlin.  The Gibson families of Blacklick Township are descendants of John.

All went well until the frontiersmen reached the cabin.  There they were surprised and captured by a band of Indians, led by a Frenchman.  They were allowed to write a statement on the cabin door of what happened, then were marched away. This took place Thursday, September 25, 1777.

The captives were taken to Kittanning, thence to Detroit and delivered to the British, then to Quebec.  After a severe winter, they were finally exchanged the next fall, except for Levi Gibson who died in Canada. Laughlin arrived at Boston, October 14, 1778.

In the meantime Elizabeth Laughlin had returned to Franklin County where her husband found her.  Their first born child, a son, whom he had never seen was over a year old.

The Laughlins remained in Franklin County until the end of the war, Randall serving in the 6th Company, First Battallion, Cumberland County Militia, in 1780.

By the Act of March 25, 1805, Charles Campbell, Randall Laughlin and John Wilson were appointed to survey a grant by George Clymer, Signer of the Declaration of Independence, of 250 acres of land for the county seat of the new county – Indiana.

This pioneer and defender of freedom took an active part in the affairs of this county until his death on January 6, 1818.  He was buried in the Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery, near his home.

Elizabeth Warnock Laughlin, born 1748, survived her husband ten years, dying on January 30, 1828.

Conrad Rice

Conrad Rice, a Revolutionary solider and Indiana County pioneer, came here from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1794.  He took up the tract of land upon which Memorial Park in Indiana is located, but was unable to remain the first winter due to Indian troubles.  The Rice family spent the winter months in the Ligonier Valley, and made a permanent settlement in 1795.  The land extending south included at least a part of the old fair ground, now known as the Mack Park Recreation Center.  Rice was a blacksmith.

Devout Lutherans came to the Rice home to worship when a circuit rider found the time to visit the community.  It was probably this custom that was responsible for starting the Lutheran Cemetery (Memorial Park).  Burials were made there as early as 1803.  On January 24, 1818, Conrad Rice deeded over two acres of his land, including the little cemetery, to the Indiana County Commissioners for use of the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches.  He was buried in the cemetery in 1823.

During the Revolution Conrad Rice served as a private in the Eighth Company, Sixth Battalion, Lancaster County Militia.

John Work

Shortly after the close of the close of the Revolutionary War, many families from the eastern coast pushed further into the wilderness of western Pennsylvania.

Among these pioneers were John and William Work, sons of Samuel Work who had settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, prior to the Revolution.

John and William both served in the Revolution; John served as a private in Captain Jack’s Company, First Battalion, Cumberland County Militia.

In 1785, John Work married Mary Brady, of Cumberland County.  She was a daughter of Samuel Brady of the Hugh Brady family of colonial and Revolutionary fame.

The Work brothers first settled in Westmoreland County, but in less than five years moved to Mahoning Township, Indiana County.  John was one of the first Justices of Peace in Mahoning Township and one of the original elders of Gilgal Presbyterian Church.  His life was quiet and peaceful after his settlement in Indiana County, but of short duration. He was found dead in the woods after accompanying a friend part way home.  His death occurred in March 1809.

The government marker for John Work was dediated in Gilgal cemetery, Sunday October 11, 1953, by the Indiana County Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, assisted by the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Indiana Post 1989.

Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton, pioneer of the Sutton family in Indiana County, served as a private in Captain David Peter’s Company, First New Jersey Regiment from October 10, 1775 to January 11, 1776. Next is a roll dated July 1, 1778, which shows he enlisted on June 1, 1777, for nine months.  His name is on a roll dated March 23, 1779 which reports him discharged.  Peter Sutton was a member of Captain Nixon’s Company of New Jersey Horse, and his name appears on an undated muster roll. Opposite the name is the date Jan’y 27th and the remark: “Discharged April 1, 1777.” He enlisted in Captain John Walton’s Company of Light Dragoons on April 1st and was discharged December 15, 1782.  From various census records definitely established, Peter Sutton probably served throughout the Revolution – from 1775 to 1782.

Peter Sutton and wife Pheobe, came from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, to Newport, the first town in Indiana County, and after Indiana was laid out they established a home at the county seat.  He built a two story log tavern at the corner of Philadelphia Street and Carpenter Avenue.  The first session of our county courts was held on the second floor of this tavern, December 1806.

Sutton died in Indiana in 1822 and   was buried in the old graveyard where Calvary United Presbyterian church now stands.  The location of the grave was lost, a memorial marker provide by the government was placed in Memorial Park.

The Beginning of the Indiana County Judicial System

During the early years of Indiana County, access to the Court system was very difficult.  On January 30, 1804, James McComb, a resident of Indiana County in the General Assembly, presented to the House of Representatives four petitions signed by citizens of the provisional county of Indiana which stated the inconvenience to have to attend court in Greensburg.  This difficulty was on account of the distance and the difficulty in crossing the Conemaugh River.  The purpose of the petition was for Indiana County to be organized for judicial purposes.  On March 5, 1804, Mr. Allshouse of Westmoreland County offered a resolution that Indiana be organized for judicial purposes.  The resolution was tabled and Mr. McComb again presented another petition on March 9, 1804, but it was to no avail.

It was not until February 6, 1805, that Mr. McComb presented another petition for judicial organization of Indiana County.  House Bill 73 “An Act to organize the provisional counties of Indiana and Cambria” was introduced on February 8, 1805.  The bill passed the House and went to the Senate on February 21, but the Senate voted to postpone the matter until the following session.

It was in December 1805 that the first sale of lots in Indiana had occurred and again the time came to finally complete the organization of the county and fully admit it to the membership of the Pennsylvania counties. This time, Senator Joseph Hart, Senator from Bucks County, introduced Senate Bill 127 “An Act to Organize the Provisional County of Indiana,” on January 24, 1806. The bill was considered and amended on February 20, and it was passed the next day and sent to the House which also passed the bill on March 3. The Governor signed the bill on March 10, making the measure law.

Just prior to the time upon the passage of the law, the General Assembly had created the new Tenth Judicial District by Act of February 24, 1806, with John Young being commissioned Judge on March 1, 1806. This new district included Armstrong, Cambria, Indiana, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties.

The Act of March 10, 1806, provided for the first election of county officials to be held on the second Tuesday of October to choose “two fit persons” for Sheriff, two for Coroner, and three commissioners.  Further, the first Monday of November, Indiana County was to enjoy the same rights and privileges as other counties, and all Court actions that were still pending in the Westmoreland County Courts were to be transferred to Indiana County.  This meant that the Prothonotary of Westmoreland County was directed to prepare a Docket of all pending Court actions and transfer them to Indiana County.  The newly elected Commissioners of Indiana County were authorized to erect a Court House, prison, and other public buildings and they had the power to obtain a house in or near the town of Indiana, where the courts could be held until a court house could be erected, and if they were not able to obtain a building they could erect temporary buildings for that purpose.  The Courts, Commissioners, and other officials of Indiana County were also given authority over Jefferson County’s 1,203 square mile area, which included parts of Forest and Elk Counties, extending to present places of Ridgway, Johnsonburg, St. Mary’s, Marienville, Cook’s Forest, Clear Creek State Park, and a large part of Allegheny National Forest.

Thomas McCartney was elected as the first “High Sheriff” with Samuel Young as the first Coroner. The first Commissioners were: William Clark, James Johnston, and Alexander McLain. James McLain was appointed by Governor McKean to serve as Prothonotary, Clerk of Courts, and Register & Recorder on October 2, 1806.

The first Court convened on December 8, 1806 on the second floor of Peter Sutton’s hotel and tavern near the corner of Carpenter Avenue and Philadelphia Street. Judge John Young presided and being assisted by Associate Judge Charles Campbell. The jurors chosen were each paid $2 for their services.  The first ten cases heard in Quarter Sessions (criminal) Court, nine of them were for assault and battery. Number 7, Commonwealth v. Margaret Walker, was for an indictment for fornication and bastardy, this case has heard along with Commonwealth v. John Campbell for bigamy. There were only three civil case to come before the court during that first term. Also during this first term came petitions for roads, one from Newport to Indiana and another from David Fulton’s to Brady’s Mill, but there was no action taken. The attorneys at bar were: George Armstrong, John B. Alexander, Samuel S. Harrison, James M. Riddle, Samuel Massey, and Samuel Gutherie; but none of them resided in Indiana County.

The second term, in March 1807, Judge Young was not present, and the reason was unknown, but Associate Judges Charles Campbell and James Smith president; this being the first time Smith appeared on the Bench. The case load was growing: 37 civil and 11 criminal cases. This was the first time that Attorney Daniel Stanard appeared; Stanard being the first resident attorney.  All the criminal cases except one were assault and battery or surety of the peace charges. William Evans, the defendant in Commonwealth v. William Evans, was required to post $200 bond on a fornication and bastardy charge pending the appearance of Sarah Evans at the next term. There were recommendations to the Governor for tavern licenses from Henry Shryock, William Bond, and James Moorhead. Other types of business included applications for naturalization and petitions for roads. There was also a report and draft to divide Armstrong and Conemaugh Townships, which was approved by the court.

The following terms were held on the second Mondays of June, September and December, with similar cases being heard. On October 19, 1807, on the motion of James M. Riddle, Daniel Stanard was admitted to the Bar before Associate Judges Campbell and Smith.

The first public building to be erected was a crude jail measuring twenty feet square which was built by the first Sheriff, Thomas McCartney and was assisted by Conrad Rice. It was constructed from shell-bark hickory logs with a clapboard roof. The first prisoner incarcerated was Patrick Short, an Irishman, but he escaped by digging underneath the jail never to be found.

In 1806, construction was begun on a stone jail and completed in 1807. The contractor was Rev. John Jamieson. The building was 36×30 feet, with the lower story being nine feet high and the upper floor eight feet high; it stood at the corner of Sixth Street and “Clymer Alley” (now Nixon Avenue). James Mahan was the stone mason, Thomas Sutton was the carpenter and the first Jailer was Samuel Douglass.

The first Courthouse was begun in 1807 and not completed until late 1809, with John Huey as the contractor. It is unknown what the total cost of the first Courthouse and jail, but it was reported that the proceeds from the auction of town lots from the 250-acre tract donated by George Clymer were more than sufficient to meet the cost.

Once construction of the Courthouse was begun, a row of one-story brick offices for the county officials was erected along Philadelphia Street and next to the Courthouse.  The early years of the Indiana County judicial system were primitive, but an important start to laying the foundation of law and order in Indiana County.

Early Crime Briefs

It seems there has always been a fascination with crime; today we have crime dramas on almost every major network, but when did this fascination with crime begin. One hundred years ago, there was another form of entertainment for those “criminal minds” and that was public executions.

Murder and Executions

Executions were publicized and often public events. Here in Indiana County, public hangings occurred in the courthouse courtyard. The earliest known hanging in Indiana County occurred in June 1880 with the execution of James G. Allison for the alleged murder of his father, Robert Allison. A later blog post will explore Indiana’s first execution in great detail.

A second execution during this time was Joseph Sarver, who was hanged on September 23, 1884 after being found guilty of killing his father, William Sarver, on November 10, 1883. Sarver’s guilt was not seriously disputed, and the defense pleaded insanity, but the jury brought in a verdict of first-degree murder. The defense made an application for a sentence of life imprisonment but was denied. Judge Blair presided over the sentencing of both Allison and Sarver. It was reported that His Honor was affected when pronouncing the penalty of death on Allison.

There were other murders; one of the most noted was Pasquale Renaldo, an Italian, who on November 14, 1888 was killed by Jesse Palmer. Palmer was intoxicated and had a shotgun, while Renaldo carried only a knife. Renaldo and his friend, Mike Mireon, were described as “quiet, inoffensive and good workmen” being employed at Meldren’s Brickworks at Blacklick. The trial began on March 12, 1889. The jury was out for four hours when they returned a verdict of “not guilty” on March 19. After the verdict was reported there was considerable unfavorable comment about that verdict. The Indiana Times that many thought that Jesse Palmer should have been found guilty on one of the counts and failed to see his justification for shooting Renaldo.


There were other crimes as well during the early period of Indiana County, including an unusual activity in counterfeiting. Martin L. Stewart, of Brush Valley, was arrested for counterfeiting postal currency in August 1866. He had $50 of the counterfeit currency on his person when he was arrested. Although the counterfeit money was in his possession, he denied producing it; he was found guilty by a Federal jury in Pittsburgh and sentenced to pay a fine of $1,000 along with a five-year term in the Western Penitentiary.

About a decade later in 1877, three counterfeiters were sentenced. The ringleader, Scott Mardis, was sentenced to four years in the penitentiary and $1,000 fine; Adam Leck three years and $1,000 fine; and Shirley B. McMillan three years and $1,000 fine. These were not the only counterfeiters either; James S. Black was arrested in July 1881 for giving counterfeit money to a detective who sold him bogus jewelry. In October 1887, a government detective searched the home of “Devil” Dave Black in South Mahoning and found molds used in making counterfeit money.

Miscellaneous Crimes

Beyond murder and counterfeiting there were the usual robberies and burglaries. One of these occurred on March 17, 1871 when four men attempted to break into the safe of the First National Bank in Indiana.

There were also reports of vandalism as well. In April 1867, there was a report that boys were breaking windows in the Episcopal Church in West Indiana with stones and clubs. The college was not left out of vandalism either, as it was reported during the first week of March 1876 that some Indiana Normal School students “abused the building and furniture…in a fearful manner,” this included knocking down plaster, breaking the doors of several rooms, etc.

The Man Behind the Book: Clarence Stephenson

Many people who have visited the Indiana County Historical Society or those who are members certainly know who Clarence Stephenson is, but for those of you who don’t know him let’s take a look at this man behind the book.

Mr. Stephenson was born in East Mahoning Twp and attended both the Shamokin and Marion Center Public Schools, graduating from Marion Center High School in 1937.  He received his B.S. in Education at Indiana State Teachers College, now IUP, in 1941 and taught at Brackenridge, PA Jr. High School from 1941-1942, prior to joining the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.

After being discharged from the Army Air Corps in December 1945, he began work on his Masters in June 1946 at the University of Pittsburgh.  He took a course called “History of Western Pennsylvania” and immersed himself in local history.  In February 1948, he begam acquainted with Frances Strong Helman and joined the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County.  Clarence’s term paper was a 68-page paper, “Indiana County During the Civil War” and received his Masters of Letters degree from the University of Pittsburgh in September 1948.

He taught at Clymer High School from 1947-1952 and organized a Junior Historian Club, which published the Clymer-Cherrytree Story in June 1953, with his editorial guidance.  Mr. Stephenson continued to research locally as well as beyond Indiana County’s limits.  In 1956, he published an article called “The Wipey Officer,” which was about a murdered Indiana County Indiana, that was published in Pennsylvania History magazine.

Clarence wrote many books on his own including, Pennsylvania Canal–Indiana and Westmorland Counties (1961), The Impact of the Slavery Issue on Indiana County (1964), Marion Center-East Mahoning (1969).  While doing this research Stephenson continued with his day jobs.  Then in 1974, he had an idea for a history about Indiana County in book form, because it has been over 60 years since a comprehensive history had been written.  This 5 volume was published over a span of more than 10 years.

Stephenson was influential in promoting history throughout the county, one of those was writing a statement to the Board of Trustees of IUP urging them to save John Sutton Hall.  The Historical Society pays homage to Clarence Stephenson having one of the rooms named the Clarence Stephenson room to house many of his research notes.  He also has many honors ranging from the IUP Medal of Distinction in 2002 to being named in 2003 by the Indiana county Commissioners in the Official Historian of Indiana County.

Clarence Stephenson passed away on August 13, 2011 after a much accomplished life.  His memory still lives on at the Indiana County Historical Society and will continue to live on thanks to his accomplishments and research of Clarence Stephenson.

Come Enjoy a Women’s Tea at the Clark House

Would you like to enjoy at tea in the historic Clark House Mansion?  On May 1, 2016 at 2:00 the Historical & Genealogical Society will be hosting a Women’s Tea featuring tea and refreshments along with a program about women’s fashion.  We will also feature exhibits on jewelry along with an exhibit of how a Victorian table would have been set.  The cost for a ticket is $10 for the public and $7 for members, we ask that you RSVP by April 23, 2016 and tickets are limited.  The cost of the ticket includes your food, the program and tours of both the Clark House and the Museum in our Armory.  We hope you join us for this fun filled afternoon.  Call 724-463-9600 to RSVP or for more information.