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 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 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.
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.
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.
|John F. Kennedy in Indiana on a campaign stop in 1960|
|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.
|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.
|Clark House Entrance|
|Silas M. Clark (1834-1891)|
|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.”