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.

Governor from Indiana County: John S. Fisher

Governor John S. Fisher

After completing the Indiana County-Opoly game, we realized that people had questions about some of the people that were represented throughout the game.  One of those individuals was John Stuchell Fisher, who was the only governor, to date, from Indiana County.  Mr. Fisher was born on May 25,
1867 in South Mahoning Township, near Plumville.  In his early years, Fisher attended a one-room school house at Ox Hill, then attending Indiana High from which he graduated in 1884.  He continued his education at the Indiana Normal School, graduating in 1886 from which he began teaching at the Ox Hill School for about $1 a day.

It was in 1890, that he began to study law at the law office of Samuel Cunningham, passed the bar exam and was admitted to the Indiana County Bar in August of 1893, after which he entered a partnership with Cunningham, which continued for 35 years.  John Fisher married Hapsie Miller on October 11, 1893 and she died on January 17, 1922, never knowing that her husband would become governor.

Fisher was involved in both politics and business and by 1897 was chairman of the Indian County Republican Party, and in November 1900 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate and re-elected in 1904.  As a Senator he supported legislation that prohibited the employment of children under 14 in the coal mines along with an appropriation for the Indiana Normal School in the amount of $75,000.  His second term as Senator gained him national recognition because he chaired a special Senate committee investigating the excessive costs in furnishing the new state Capitol.  The committee learned that the subcontractors and suppliers billed the state for $9 million for furnishings that actually cost only $2 million.

Fisher began his run for governor in 1922, but there were eight Republican candidates for the office so Fisher decided to withdraw.  However, four years later Fisher was once again a candidate, and he won a narrow victory in the primary but won the fall election in a landslide.  After the spring primary, 35,000 people came to Indiana to welcome Fisher home; the Indiana Evening Gazette reported in the May 25, 1926 edition: “…there was joy unconfined and hundreds of pounds of fireworks, red fire and other noisemakers were used, while thousands of peanuts and hundreds of pounds of popcorn were consumed.”

His term as governor will best be remembered by a coal strike in the spring of 1927, beginning because the Pittsburgh Coal Co. broke a 1924 wage contract and also cut miners’ wages by 33%, followed by a reduction again by 20%.  At the beginning Fisher did not intervening and then on March 12 he called for a conference of all the parties involved but no one responded.  The strike ended in July 1928, but Governor Fisher suffered a huge setback in public opinion.  In 1929, he signed the Mansfield Bill which corrected some of the abuses by the coal and iron police.”  He will be remembered as “Fisher the Builder” because while in office, 4,000 miles of highways were paved and 1,000 miles resurfaced.  October 4, 1930, Fisher returned to Indiana to dedicate the Benjamin Franklin Highway (Route 422).  He pushed for construction of the Farm Show Building in Harrisburg, and for new buildings or improvements at State teacher colleges, armory, and hospitals.  Also during his administration the state acquired the land for Cook Forest State Park.

One of the greatest accomplishments while in office was the reduction of debt.  When he became governor, Pennsylvania had a $98 million debt, by the time he left office the state had $29 million surplus.  In 1939, IUP dedicated and named Fisher Auditorium in Governor Fisher’s honor.  Governor John S. Fisher died on Jun 25, 1940 and was laid to rest in Greenwood Cemetery.

(Sources: Stephenson, Clarence. Indiana County man elected governor. The Indiana Gazette April 7, 1984; Wells, Randy. From Ox Hill to the governor’s mansion. The Indiana Gazette. May 16, 2000.)

Absalom Hazlett: Abolitionist from Indiana County

Absalom Hazlett

Absalom Hazlett was born near Devil’s Elbow, Green Township, Indiana County, PA in September 1837.  Before leaving to go to Kansas with his brother John in 1857 he steals some overcoats from the lounge of the American Hotel on Philadelphia Street, but never appears for trial.  In 1858, Hazlett meets the infamous John Brown and is designated a lieutenant in John Brown’s command not long after.  This is when Hazlett learns of Brown’s plan to raid Harper’s Ferry.  Over the next few months Hazlett participates in many different raids across the country, leading up to October 16-18, 1859 when the raid on Harper’s Ferry occurred.  Hazlett was arrested in Newville, PA on October 22, 1859 and thrown into jail at Carlisle, but gives the authorities his alias, William H. Harrison.  In the Winter of 1860 the prosecuting attorney for the trial against Hazlett for his involvement in the raid of Harper’s Ferry, writes to the Indiana, PA Postmaster seeking locals who could identify Hazlett, but correspondence suggests that “the feeling in some places in Pennsylvania on these questions.” might hinder finding someone to identify Hazlett.

On February 16, 1860, Absalom Hazlett was convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged on Friday, March 16, 1860 between 10am and 2pm.  There were several petitions for clemency from Indiana County and Carlisle as well as ones form the Senate and House of Pennsylvania.  There were raids to free Hazlett by did not succeed.  In correspondence with Rebecca B. Spring of the Raritan Bay Union, a communitary society in New Jersey, Hazelett tells her “I am willing to die in the cause of liberty; if I had ten thousand lives, I would willingly lay them all down for the same cause. My death will do more good than if I had lived.”  On March 16, 1859, Hazlett is hung at Charles Town, Virginia
and dies quickly and Mrs. Spring removes his body to New Jersey.  In 1899, the body is disinterred and taken to New York to be buried with John Brown and the other raiders.  Absalom Hazlett was 22 years old when he died.

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.

ABC Guide to the Indiana County Historical Society Part 1

Are you thinking about visiting the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County?  Here is a short little guide to help you if you decide to visit:
Armory building is headquarters for the Historical Society, located at 621 Wayne Avenue.  The building was built in 1922 and served as the National Guard Armory until the new one was built, at which time it was purchased by the Historical Society. As visitors walk inside they get a glimpse of the past; on the floor are the remnants of a basketball court, and many visitors reminisce about basketball games held here.
Old Armory, Historical Society headquarters
Basement, which is only opened to volunteers and staff, but many artifacts, documents, and supplies are housed here.  We are fortunate to have such a vast storage area for our many items.

Clark House, the main attraction, stepping inside is like going back in time. There are two restored parlors with furniture from the time period along with a working pump organ, which can be heard at Christmas time pouring out Christmas Carols.  The only downside to this historic building is only the first floor is open to visitors, but maybe one day with large donations the second floor could be restored.  The third floor is dark and cramped; this would have been the servants’ quarters – it is amazing to realize that people lived in these conditions.  The most interesting portion of the home is the cupola, which is just a small square room with windows on all sides, overlooking Indiana.

Clark House

Donations, donations, donations!  The most important part of running and operating a historical society are donations. These can be monetary, artifact donations, family trees, or time.  Donations are a major source of income besides memberships, these are what enables us to give education programs and remain open.

Educate, is one of the points of the Historical Society’s mission statement: to preserve, collect and education the public about the history of Indiana County.
Funding? People get confused on how we are funded, we are funded mostly by memberships and donations.  The money we receive from county and state government grants are a very small fraction of our income.  We need your help to remain open.
Ghosts, are they here? Maybe, maybe not.  If you want to find out I suggest you watch our Facebook, Twitter, and the blog for the answer, there is a possibility of doing paranormal investigations of our property later this year or if you would rather come to a reception in October to hear what was found.  The question of whether or not there are ghosts is up to you to decide!
Help! We are always looking for volunteers to help with various tasks around the Society, this ranges from cataloging objects, to giving tours, to cleaning.
Indiana is a small town in Western Pennsylvania. Yes a town, not the state.  We’re the hometown of Jimmy Stewart, the actor.  John F. Kennedy visited here in 1960; he gave a speech in front of the Old Courthouse.  Bet some of you had no idea we had a famous visitor.  Then there’s IUP, or as it was originally know the Indiana Normal School or the State Teachers’ College; no matter what you know it as there is a lot of history on the campus.

John F. Kennedy in Indiana on a campaign stop in 1960
Junk.  Many people wonder if their old things are worth something or if it is just junk.  It depends, every object has a story, and you never know where the objects could turn up.  We have ledgers and journals from the 1800’s and lots of other neat artifacts to see our wide array of artifacts you will need to come visit us.
Keys.  Not only do keys unlock doors, but every one of us holds the keys to unlocking the past.  We can better tell the story of the community by compiling everyone’s story and making history come alive and prosper for future generations.
Library. The Society has an extensive library, including family histories, books about Indiana County and the surrounding area.  If you are looking for family obituaries or information about historic locations in the County be sure to look at our subject and surname files which have newspaper clippings many from the early 1900s.
Next door is Memorial Park, well a park that doubles as a cemetery.  I know, what a crazy thought.  This is Indiana County’s smallest park.  Most of the graves that were located here have been moved, but some are left, many of whom are veterans some from the Revolutionary War.   While in Memorial Park look up to view the doughboy statue placed there in memory of the veterans who have and who are serving.  If you are ever in Indiana during the summer months be sure to visit the Concert in Parks on Sundays.

Who was Jane Leonard?

Jane Leonard
March is women’s history month and we want to showcase some notable women from Indiana County.  One of those women was very influential to the Indiana community, coming here to teach at the Indiana State Normal School in 1875, Jane Elizabeth Leonard.

Jane was born on December 27, 1840 to Robert and Lydia Wilson Leonard in Clearfield County.  She furthered her education by attending Millersville State Normal School in Lancaster County, PA and upon graduation joined their faculty from 1868 to 1875 teaching History and Geography.  In 1875, Ms. Leonard accepted a position at the Indiana State Normal School, arriving in on May 18, 1875.  She had an apartment and office in what is now John Sutton Hall.  She taught history, geography, and English.  She had also served a Preceptress.  After her retirement in 1921 she became the Dean of Women.

Jane Leonard officially retired on July 1, 1921, but she continued to reside in John Sutton Hall; which her residence there became a center for returning alumni, who aptly named her “Aunt Jane.”  Not only was Jane a teacher and mentor, but she also actively supported women’s suffrage, chairing the Indiana County Ladies Democratic Committee and the Women Voters League.  At age 81, she ran for Congress to represent Indiana County in 1922, using her campaign to challenge women to be involved in politics.  That same year, one of her former students, Sarah “Sadie” McCune Gallaher, ISNS Class of 1888, was one of eight women elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Leonard Hall postcard from HGSIC postcard collection

In 1903, the ISNS Board of Trustees named the Jane E. Leonard Hall, which was located near the Oak Grove and was destroyed by fire in 1952, and the current Leonard Hall opened in 1954.  The final classes were held in Leonard Hall in the Fall of 2015 and the building is slated for demolition in the next year.  It is this month that we honor the influential women of Indiana County, starting with “Aunt Jane” Leonard.  If you have any stories that you have heard about Jane Leonard or memories of Leonard Hall we would love to hear from you in the comments below.

The Family behind the House

As people visit the Silas M. Clark House there are many questions about the Clark family, “Did he have children?”  Our favorites come from school children “Did Silas have any pets?”  Some questions are easier to answer than others, in regards to pets, there is no way of knowing whether Silas Clark had pets, but one things is for sure, he definitely would have had horses as a form of transportation.
Clarissa Elizabeth Moorhead

The easier questions to answer are questions about his family.  On April 26, 1859, Silas married Clarissa Elizabeth Moorhead.  Clara, as she was known, was born February 22, 1835 to William and Susan Wright Bodine Moorhead, and Clara died January 17, 1887.  Together Silas and Clarissa had eight children: Clara Clark (born May 25, 1860) and was nearly four when she died, Charles Steele Clark (born February 22, 1863), James Woodward Clark (born January 7, 1865), Annie Moorhead Clark (born August 17, 1867), Mary Bodine Clark (born December 27, 1869), Charlotte Clark (born August 19, 1874), William Clark (born November 11, 1875) but only lived until May of the following year, and Silas Moorhead Clark (born October 5, 1877) but only lived about three weeks.

Annie Moorhead Clark married Judge Jacob Jay Miller and they had one son together Clark Miller. Annie passed away on January 30, 1927.  Their son, Clark Miller, was born March 22, 1897 and he married Virginia (Mowbray) Whitney.  James Woodward Clark became a teacher of Greek and Latin at the Indiana normal School from 1886 until 1888.  He then became the Clerk for the District Court for the Wester District from 1915 until 1935.  James died on March 6, 1935.  Charlotte Clark married Walter Adams.

Clark House Entrance
If these facts are interesting to you, I encourage you to visit the Silas M. Clark House on Tuesday thru Friday from 9am-4pm and Saturday 10am-3pm.  We are located at the point of 6th St. and Wayne Ave. in Indiana, PA and there is a parking lot that can be accessed from Wayne Avenue between the Clark House and the Old Armory.  We look forward to your visit.

The Man behind the House: Silas Clark

Visiting a historic mansion can be an exciting experience, but viewing a house is much more interesting when you know the person who lived there.  The Silas M. Clark House is one of those buildings, and many people in Indiana, PA don’t know about the man who built the home, let’s look at the man behind the house.  Silas Moorhead Clark was born January 18, 1834 near Elderton, PA to James and Ann Moorhead Clark.  Silas attended the Indiana Academy in his early years (the Academy was the first institution of learning that is equivalent to our high schools today).  It becomes necessary to state that the site where the Indiana Academy stood later became the resident of Silas Clark.
Silas M. Clark (1834-1891)
Upon his completion of the Indiana Academy, he enrolled in Jefferson College (Washington and Jefferson College today in Canonsburg, Washington County, PA), from which he graduated at the age of 18, followed by teaching at his alma mater, Indiana Academy, for two years.  Clark began studying law in 1854, at the office of William M. Stewart.  When the Indiana Normal School (IUP) opened in 1875, Clark was elected secretary of the Board of Trustees, and upon the death of John Sutton on June 9, 1877, Clark became president of the Board which he held until his death.
Clark held many important positions during his lifetime; in 1873 he served as a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, serving on the committees dealing with declaration of rights, private corporations and revisions and adjustments.  The highlight of Clark’s life came in 1882 when the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania selected him as the nominee for Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.  Justice Clark served on the bench until early November 1891, when he had to return home because of illness.  Silas M. Clark died about 9:15 p.m. at the age of 57 on November 20, 1891.  His funeral drew a large crowd, filling every available space and even more stood outside the Presbyterian Church.  He is buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Indiana, PA and his grave is marked by a small simple grave stone.
Silas Clark has been honored in many ways in the town of Indiana; Clark Hall located on IUP’s campus is named in his honor and at one time served as the boy’s dormitory and is now being used as administrative offices.  The Historical Society maintains Clark’s home for the public to enjoy and get a sense of how life was for the Clark family.

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.”