The History of the Railroad in Indiana County Part I

From the Pennsylvania Canal system, the railroad in Indiana County was born.  The Pennsylvania Canal was completed along the Conemaugh and Kiskiminetas rivers in 1829-30; however, canal transportation had some serious limitations.  During the winter months, the system had to be closed because the canal waters became frozen.  This caused a sentiment among the citizens to look for a better, more reliable, faster means of transportation.  Thus, the railroad was born.

Charles L. Schlatter, was authorized by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1839 to make surveys “for a continuous railroad from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.  He submitted his report on January 9, 1842, which recommended a “central route” via the Juniata Valley, over the Allegheny Mountain, and then through the valley of Black Lick Creek.

On November 21, 1845, a meeting was held in Blairsville to discuss a “continuous Rail Road from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, by way of the Juniatta and Blacklick vallies.”  Another similar meeting was held on December 24, 1845 at the Indiana County Courthouse.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR) was chartered by the Pennsylvania General Assembly on April 16, 1846, on the condition that it obtain $3,000,000 of subscriptions to its stock, 30 percent of which must be paid up, and had under contract 15 miles of railroad at each end of the line on on before July 30, 1847.  These terms were met and the charter was validated.  

The prospect of the railroad in the Black Lick Creek valley was influential in causing enterprises like Buena Vista and Black Lick Furnaces to locate there during 1843-1847.  An advertisement for the sale of lots in Mechanicsburg (now Brush Valley) stated it was “directly on the route intended for the CENTRAL RAILROAD.”  The PRR decided on the Conemaugh Valley route in 1848.

One of the company’s first three locomotives was named the “Indiana” and was ready for delivery in January 1850.  By December 1851, the PRR main line had been completed from Johnstown to just southwest of Latrobe.  The point nearest to Blairsville was Liebengood’s Summit (now Torrance) in Westmoreland County.  Other convenient stops were Nineveh (now Seward), New Florence, Lockport, and Bolivar.

An April 6, 1850 Act of the General Assembly, authorized PRR to construct a branch line from Liebengood’s Summit to Blairsville.  Liebengood’s Summit became known as “Blairsville Intersection.”

On July 31, 1850, the PRR directors agreed to build the branch provided the citizens of Blairsville and the vicinity subscribed $40,000 to the capital stock of the company and secured a free right-of-way and station site of three acres.  Beginning September 1, 1850, subscriptions were to be received and payable in installments of $5 per share until the full cost of $50 each share had been paid.

On December 20, 1850, Clark presented council with a diagram of the proposed depot which was to be located on a one-acre tract owned by William Maher.  Two hundred dollars was paid for the tract by deed dated February 26, 1851.

By December 10, 1851, the track was sufficiently completed that a locomotive, the “Henry Clay,” and a single coach – the first ever to enter Indiana County – came to Blairsville from the Intersection to pick up Edmund Smith and his bride for their wedding trip. 

Early in 1852, the Blairsville Branch opened for general passenger and freight traffic, but operated with horse power for a time.  A single passenger car was put in service and descended the 90-foot grade from the Intersection to a bridge over the Conemaugh River by gravity and up the grade toward Blairsville as far as its momentum would take it.  At that point, the brakes were applied, horses attached to haul the car to Blairsville where a passenger and freight station had been erected at the northeast corner of Main and Liberty streets.  The station agent also served as conductor, and after selling tickets, boarded the car and collected them.

After seeing the success of Blairsville in obtaining railroad service, the citizens of Indiana were determined to have the branch line extended to Indiana.  January 29, 1852, an act of the General Assembly, authorized extension of the Blairsville Branch north to Indiana.  

The PRR Board of Directors agreed to build in the Indiana Branch on May 28, 1852, provided the citizens subscribed $170,000 to the company’s stock (3,400 shares at $50 each) and conveyed a “clear right of way, free from all cost, together with the clear title to four acres of land at the terminus” in Indiana.  Ten percent of the stock, or $5 per share, was to be payable July 1, 1852, and another 10 percent by September 1.

James Sutton, John H. Shyrock and Thomas White were authorized to receive the installments and forward the money to PRR.  By September 8, 1852, it was found that many people had failed to pay the second installment and therefore, “the Railroad Company are holding back and refuse to take any step towards making the road.”

The issue regarding the installment issue was soon cleared up and by October 6, 1852, it was reported that the PRR engineer had arrived in Indiana.  Dr. Robert Mitchell wrote in November 1852, “Our Railroad is going on slowly and Depo (station) will be at the west side of town.”

Indiana County’s first railroad line was 2.8 miles long.  In September 1852, a “Daily Stage Line” and a “daily mail” began between Blairsville and Indiana by George Cunningham of Blairsville and James Clark of Indiana.  The train would leave from Scott’s Exchange or Gompers Hotel in Indiana every morning, except Sunday, at 7:00 a.m.  Stopping at the Exchange Hotel in Blairsville, the stage connected with the 11 o’clock westbound train and the 2 p.m. eastbound train.  Leaving Blairsville at 3:00 p.m., the traveler arrived back in Indiana at 7:00 p.m.

The Register announced January 11, 1854, that Leonard Shryock “who owns the ground upon which the depot has been located, has released, without consideration, all his interest and claim therein to the Railroad company.”

In April 1853, another issue was encountered when it was learned that there was a scarcity of iron for rails.  On August 1,1853, the Register had an item headed, “Have We a Railroad Among Us?” complaining “it were desirable that the work should progress more rapidly than it does.”  The “great demand for railroad iron” has “caused a scarcity of the article.”

By September, PRR engineer William Warnock was operating the locomotive “Henry Clay” on the branch line so far as it had been laid.  By October 1, Collins & Co. had completed grading a five-mile portion south of Indiana Borough line, but other sections were “not so far advanced.”  In December, P&T Collins advertised for 20,000 cross ties for sections between Bell’s Mills and Indiana.

Construction dragged into 1855 and by July 10 the Register lamented that the railroad was “not likely to be completed before next spring, the excuse for the delay being that sufficiency of laborers cannot be procured.”  On September 18, it was announced the laying of track had begun.

By December, the tracks had been laid as far as Phillips Mill (adjoining Homer City) and James Johnston, Jr. was running hacks twice a day from Indiana to Phillips Mill “to connect with the train on the Indiana Branch Railroad.”  The second locomotive put into service on the line was said to have been the “United States,” operated by engineer Warnock and used to haul iron and supplies for Collins & Co.

On May 27, 1856, the Indiana Branch was completed.  R.D. Walkinshaw was named conductor and Fergus Moorhead appointed ticket agent at the Indiana depot.  Regular passenger trains began operating on June 1, 1856.

On June 10, 1856 the Indiana Branch was put in full operation, with two daily passenger trains to Blairsville Intersection.

The single-track line was 18.8 miles in length and cost $310,000.

During the first week of operation there were 188 passenger tickets sold at the Indiana station.

The railroad through Western Pennsylvania continued to grow, with the North-Western Railroad being chartered on February 9, 1853, with the purpose of connecting with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad and permit through service from Philadelphia to Chicago without going through Pittsburgh, where the citizens, at the time, were blocking Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) attempts to obtain a through right-of-way.

On September 9, 1853, Joseph Loughrey, an agent or officer of the Northwestern Railroad Company (NWRR), requested the Blairsville Borough Council to permit tracks on one or more streets of the Borough.  On September 13, Council granted a right-of-way and release for damages, provided NWRR’s tracks were located at one side of the street and not over 22 feet wide.

The first locomotive to travel this line is believed to be operated by W.C. Richey on March 16, 1854, and pulled a baggage car and three coaches loaded with officials.  The track at this time may have only been a short section, perhaps no further than from Blairsville to the point where a bridge was to be erected over the Conemaugh.

By 1858, the grading and ballasting of the line between Blairsville and the Allegheny River had been completed and the superstructure of several bridges erected, but the financial problems were so acute that work had to be suspended.

On July 5, 1859, a group of bond holders foreclosed, and the NWRR was sold for $16,000 after expending about $2,000,000.  On March 22, 1860, a new company, Western Pennsylvania Railroad (NPRR), was charged. However, before the line could be completed, the Civil War broke out and caused further postponement of the project.

By early spring of 1863, work once again resumed and it was hoped it would take only a few months to finish it.  By fall of 1863, the first passenger train ran from Blairsville as far as the west end of the wooden bridge at Saltsburg which crossed to the Westmoreland side.

The formal opening was held on July 4, 1864, with a special excursion from Blairsville.  By fall 1864, trains were running as far as the Allegheny Junction near Freeport.

On August 1, 1865, a wooden bridge over the Allegheny River was completed, and the line was completed to Allegheny City by the fall of 1866.  The PRR advanced funds to do the work and received as security a $500,000 first mortgage from WPRR.  The main office of WPRR was in Blairsville and the relationship between the two companies was very close.

The WPRR engine house and two locomotives at Blairsville were destroyed by a fire on November 19, 1865.

An Act of April 19, 1854, chartered the Mahoning & Susquehanna Railroad Company.  

On July 15, 1856, a meeting was held in Punxsutawney.  By October the Jefferson Star of Brookville reported that a corps of engineers headed by Geroge R. Eichbaum had reached Punxsutawney from Indiana.  In November, Eichbaum was said to be completing a draft of the survey and “the route is declared favorable.”

In February some extracts from the engineers’ report were published, but after this nothing more was heard of the project.

After the completion of the WPRR in 1864, there were no other railroads were completed in Indiana County until 1882.

Becoming well established in Indiana County, the PRR embarked on a program designed to eliminate competition from the Pennsylvania Canal for freight traffic.  Hauling freight by water had always been cheaper than any other method.  Over the years, the state-owned canal system had suffered mismanagement and political pork barreling.

After the first train ran from Johnstown as far as Lockport on August 25, 1851, the canal was still needed because freight had to be transferred, first at Lockport and then at Blairsville, to boats going to Pittsburgh.  Not until December 1852 was the railroad completed to Pittsburgh.

The state began efforts in 1844 to sell the canal.  By 1854, an Act of the General Assembly authorized the Governor to accept sealed bids for the main line of the canal, the minimum being set at $10,000,000.

No bids were received, and another Act, passed on May 8, 1855, directed Governor Bigler to hold a public sale, the minimum price was reduced to $7,500,000.  The Act further provided that, if the PRR was the purchaser, the price would be $8,500,000 and the railroad would be exempt from the 3-mill tax on freight tonnage.

This intent behind the tax was to protect the canal system from price gouging by the PRR.  Still, no buyer presented themselves.  On December 20, 1855, the PRR offered $7,500,000 to be paid in installments over 30 years, and provided the tonnage tax be repealed.

These terms were accepted, on the condition that the PRR pay an additional $1,500,000 for the repeal of the tax and for exemption from all other taxes. The Act of May 15, 1857, finalized the sale and on August 1, 1857, the operation of the canal was turned over to PRR.

In October, the canal railroad over the mountains was closed.  This ended canal traffic from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.  PRR President John Edgar Thompson tried to sooth people who feared the railroad intended to close the canal.  On March 17, 1863, PRR officially abandoned the canal from Johnstown to Blairsville and the next year, following the opening of the WPRR to Saltsburg in July, the rest of the canal followed.

In October and November 1865, the slackwater dam at Blairsville was removed and the railroad thereafter deliberately set about destroying almost every vestige of the canal.  The railroad did not want any possibility, however remote, of future competition from low-cost freight going by canal.

In February 1872, the canal lock in Saltsburg was torn apart.  Numerous other canal structures were systematically robbed of stone to build railroad structures.  In April 1882, the canal bed in Saltsburg was filled in and the railroad tracks were laid directly on top of the old canal tow path.

The railroad at times resorted to outright deception to accomplish its ends.  The old canal aqueduct between Lockport and the Indiana County side had been used as a wagon road of the Conemaugh River to the other for a number of years after the canal had been abandoned.

In 1888, according to James Riddell of New Florence, a party of railroad workers appeared and began digging around the piers of the aqueduct.  When local people asked what was going on, they said they were strengthening the bridge.  The truth came out that night when a loud explosion shook the people out of their beds to find the entire structure blasted into the river.

The railroad also mounted a campaign to get rid of the tonnage tax on freight.  As a result of an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the repeal of the tonnage tax by the 1857 legislature had been declared null and void.

In 1859, the PRR attempted withholding the tax but the State sued and the PA Supreme Court ruled that the accumulated tonnage taxes amounting to $850,000 must be paid.  Finally, through intensive lobbying and other means of “persuasion” the railroad succeeded in 1861 in having the tax repealed.

Shortly afterward the Civil War distracted the people’s attention and the PRR escaped taxation.

For 28 years from the time the first time the first tracks were laid to Blairsville in 1851 until 1889, no other railroad penetrated Indiana County except the PRR or its subsidiaries.

One effort to break the PRR monopoly was the Homer, Cherry Tree and Susquehanna (HC and S) railroad.  In 1867, meetings were held in Cherry Tree, Greenville (Penn Run) and Homer to discuss the idea of a railroad from Homer to Cherry Tree on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

On March 19, 1868, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill that originated in the House to incorporate the HC and S Railroad Co. Robert F. McCormick, a Cherry Tree PA House Democract representing Indiana County, was one of the principal backers of the bill.

The Indiana business community was very leery of the project.  On February 2, 1871, the Progress commented on a “continual line of sleds loaded with boards” passing the Progress office, and posed the question, “Would we lose this trade if the Homer and Cherrytree road should be constructed?”

Earlier when the PRR Branch line from Blairsville to Indiana was being promoted, the Indiana people insisted that the line end in Indiana, feeling it would enhance the growth and prosperity of the town.  On February 9, the Progress admitted that “our moneyed men would not subscribe of their means to help construct” the Homer, Cherrytree and Susquehanna Railroad.

Despite this, the backers, principally from Cherry Tree, Homer and points in between, broke ground on January 31, 1871, at Homer.

By August 1871, the grading was suspended and it was reported that Mr. Bird, the chief engineer, had moved from West Indiana.  Signs of financial difficulty appeared in September 1872 when the board of directors, meeting at Pine Flats, named a committee to confer with PRR officials to obtain assistance to complete the railroad.

Another committee was named to look into the feasibility of standard gauge.  On October 30, 1873, the Progress somewhat gleefully reported on “A Little Unpleasantness” between the HC and S and some of its stockholders who were refusing to pay, and the directors were suing.

After this the project died; the PRR monopoly continued for the next 32 years.  The first full year of operation of the Indiana Branch in 1857 revealed that 13,126 passenger tickets were sold, yielding $22,844.81 in fares.  Freight shipped was 9,685,305 pounds from Indiana; 6,786,755 pounds from Blairsville; 1,868,751 from Homer; and 515,644 from Phillips’ Mill.

Total costs of operation were $23,329.23 – so the passenger receipts alone nearly met the costs, and freight income was profit.

Consumption of wood by the locomotives was 1,998 cords, and about 1,000 additional cords were sent to Pittsburgh.  About 1860 locomotives began burning coal, and by 1862 all freight locomotives were burning coal and passenger locomotives by 1864.

In 1858, the tonnage of freight increased enormously from 4,842.6 tons at the Indiana station in 1857 to 127,315 tons.

In January 1860, a “new and handsome passenger car” which was “much needed” was placed in service.  R.D. Walkinshaw, conductor on the Indiana Branch, retired about October 1860 and was succeeded by J.D. Hibbs.  Total income at the Indiana depot alone, as furnished by G.W. Sedgwick, PRR agent at Indiana, was freight $31,945.72, and passenger $10,606.36.

After the Civil War broke out, business boomed.  In January 1862, alone, 2,194 horses, 979 cattle, 4,088 sheep, and 154 mules were shipped from Indiana.  In addition, there were 1,846 tons of products including flour, grain, seeds, beans, butter and wool.

After the war, the volume continued to be high.  From January 1 to June 9, 1866, the Indiana Weekly Register said not less than 675 carloads of products were shipped, including 263 carloads of sawed lumber, 184 of bark, shooks, staves and shingles, 67 of livestock, and 181 of other freight – an average of five carloads a day.

In 1870, Railway Express deliveries were wheeled from the Indiana depot in a wheelbarrow by J.W. McCartney to the homes and business places of town.

An interesting activity in January 1871 was the cutting of ice from Black Lick Creek by PRR employees who cut and loaded 241 cars of ice which were sent mostly to Pittsburgh.

In 1875, the PRR reduced the wages of common laborers to 10 cents an hour.  This and other oppressive actions led to a violent railroad strike in 1877 centered in Pittsburgh.  Locomotives, cars, warehouses and other railroad property were burned and the governor called out the National Guard to restore order.

The United States Centennial in 1876, featured a magnificent exposition in Philadelphia, which the PRR capitalized on by selling excursion tickets to the exposition.  The first excursion from this area occurred in July with 100 person on a round-trip fare of $8.  In September there were about 900, of whom 700 left in the morning and 200 in the evening.  The Indiana Progress reported that those in the evening group had to ride box cars to the Blairsville Intersection because passenger coaches were not available.

There were 400 excursionists in October to the Centennial at a round-trip fair of $7.50 each.  Later in October and November cost $7.  By October 19 there were 1,836 tickets had been sold at Blairsville and over 1,000 at Indiana.

1877 figures of livestock shipments from Indiana were: horses 1,571, cattle 3,556, sheep 21,445, hogs 10,334, calves 551, mules 9, and poultry, three car loads.  Total value was estimated at $433,053.

Blairsville was the location of some major PRR facilities.  An 1878, engineering drawing shows an engine house 150 by 46 feet, two repair shops 126 by 30 and 123 by 40 feet, three woodsheds, a cement storehouse, paint shop, sand house, offices, etc.

In 1879, 2,000 bushels of chestnuts were shipped from Indiana. 

The Bent Rung Ladder

Another of Indiana’s bygone industries was the Bent Rung Ladder & Manufacturing Company.  It was said that at one time the products of the Company were sold extensively throughout the United States and were exported to England, Scotland, South Africa, South America, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.  The patented bent rung ladder was the invention of Edward Rowe, who organized the company in 1891.  The ladder was described as “constructed on different principles from any heretofore”

“There are no holes bored in the side pieces to weaken; there are no wedges driven into the ends of the rungs to split the sides; the side pieces are not made three times as heavy as necessary to overcome the weakness produced by the holdes…

In the center of the sides is a groove three-sixteenths of an inch and the exact width of a rung, into which groove the rung fits nicely.  Wrought iron nails hold the rungs securely clinched.”

The ends of each rung, made of either hickory or ash, were split or “bent” two ways when inserted into the groove – hence the name “Bent Rung Ladder.”

When the company was organized, those listed as partners were: R.D. Hetrick, D.A. Hetrick, W.T. Wilson, Dr. N.F. Ehrenfeld, E.A. Pennington, A.M. Hammers, John Switzer, W.F. Wettling, and Rowe.  They began in a rented an old furniture factory on Water Street, producing only ladders at first.

In 1892, the partners moved to South and Eighth streets and erected a building 50 by 80 feet.  Despite a financial depression, which followed the 1893 panic, the business continued to grow, however some of the partners dropped out at various times.

In 1897, Rowe sold his interest to J.H. Young.  In 1899, John P. Elkin purchased Young’s interest and became president of the company, which was incorporated at that time.  In 1904, when Elkin was elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, he sold his holdings and was succeeded as president by C.R. Smith.  W.F. Wettling, the only original remaining partners, was secretary and general manager.

In 1906, the company began to make porch swings and the Larkin Soap Co. had placed an order for 600 swings to be given as premiums.  By 1907, the company had a large plant covering approximately three acres and comprised of main factories, store houses, sheds and yards connected by switches with the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The company’s output in 1907 was 50,000 ladders and 10,000 porch swings a year.

The Company also produced step ladders, folding camp furniture, Army stretchers, sleds and the “Handy Floss Cabinet” in which silk floss “is stretched over a spring-forked holder, preventing tangling, matting or soiling and keeping all colors separate.”

In February 1908, the company purchased the plant of the Everett Manufacturing Company in Everett, Washington.

Tragedy struck on May 11, 1910, when the main factory building was destroyed by fire, but the setback was only temporary.  The building was rebuilt and manufacturing resumed.  As new modern machinery was quickly purchased and installed.  The new factory was opened shortly after the fire.

By 1914, there were as many as 50 operatives employed, but for unknown reasons, the business went into a slow decline until it closed in 1916.

The Indiana Foundries

There existed in Indiana, an industry known as a foundry, as memorialized in the name of Foundry Avenue.  There were three iron foundries in operation in Indiana at different times over a period of nearly 100 years from 1851 to 1948.  A foundry uses ingots made at another location and remelts them to make castings for things such as stove parts.  A common example in Indiana are pot-bellied stoves, or the covers to storm drains which bear the marking “Indiana Foundry Co.”

In 1851, the first foundry in Indiana was erected by William H. Choeman and Samuel George.  An advertisement appeared on June 4, 1851 that announced “Indiana Foundry is in Blast” advertising for sale cooking stoves, cannon and egg stoves, and ploughs such as Wyatt’s pattern and Caledonia’s self-sharpening.  They also announced that “all casting that may be called for will be made to order on the shortest notice.” 

The 1856 Peelor map shows the foundry on the north side of Philadelphia Street between Second and Third streets.

In June 1852, Mitchell & Boyle announced they had purchased the interest of Thomas Jacobs “in the New Foundry in Indiana Borough.”  By 1859, the East End foundry was still operating with a horse-powered fan.  It is not known how long the foundry continued, but it appears to have declined slowly and closed some time before 1880 when an item appeared in the Indiana Progress stating, “The old East End foundry presents a falling appearance.”

The second foundry was erected in 1853 by Robert Johnston and John H. Shyrock.  It was located in West Indiana on the north side of Philadelphia Street between Ninth and Tenth streets.  They built a new facility in 1855 alongside Shyrock’s steam saw mill.  The same engine that powered the saw mill also drove a fan used in blasting.  The new plant was named “Enterprise Foundry” and began operations on June 16, 1855.  The foundry produced about 10 castings each week by the four moulders and the four hands employed.

In 1856, Johnston sold his interest to James Bailey.

An 1857 ad by Bailey & Shryock listed the following available items: cook, laundry and heating stoves, large kettles, several sizes of iron pots, waffle irons, skillets, griddles, plows and plow points, iron railing, fenders and wrenches for buggies, stove pipe dampers, stone hammers, bedstead fasteners, iron stands, porch steps and scrapers, wagon boxes, and common and ornamental grates for fireplaces.

In February 1865, Burns, Convery & Co. purchased Indiana Foundry from Bailey & Shryock.  On April 13, 1868, the partnership of Patrick H. Burns, James Convery, H.J. Crouse and N. Vinroe was dissolved and the firm became Burns & Turner (James Turner).  Major Irwin McFarland became associated with the firm, and it became known as the Indiana Manufacturing Company.  At some point Turner left the plant, and McFarland became the proprietor by 1873.  Among their products were the Champion and Dexter cook stoves, and the Champion plow.  

In 1872, Burns built another foundry and employed five men.  In 1874, his brothers were associated with him being known as “P.H. Burns & Bros.”  An 1877 advertisement for “P.H. Burns & Bros.” headed “Who Sells the Best Plow?” offering to test their plows with any others made and sold in Indiana County.  The plowing had to be done within three miles of Indiana and judged by a committee of disinterested parties.  Adverse business conditions caused Burns & Bros. to sell in 1878 to E.P. Hildebrand, Thomas Sutton, and J.H. Young who reorganized as the Chill Wheel & Plow Co.

Hildebrand served as manager and employed six men to make “chill wheels” for pit wagons or coal cars, and “Uncle Sam” and “Rival” plows.  Burns worked for the new company for a while before moving to Pittsburgh.  In 1879, the Chill Wheel & Plow Co. merged with R.A. Young’s machine shop.  Young was a brother of J.H. Young.  This merger added the “Young & Carroll Hay Elevator,” a horse-operated hay fork; the “Lytle Red Staff and Diamond Dresser,” and five-horsepower steam engines to the product line.

In 1883, Thomas Sutton and his brother, John W. Sutton, bought out the other partners and began business with Hugh M. Bell as “Sutton Bros. & Bell.”  by April of 1887, the foundry and machine shops were running at full capacity.  During this transition period, the foundry was moved to a location at Oak and Tenth Streets and Burns and Clymer Avenues.

When the new jail was built in 1887, Sutton Bros. & Bell received a $15,000 contract for all ironwork, including the boilers, steam heating, water fittings, ironwork on cells, etc.

In September 1888, a 70-horse-power boiler, said to be the largest in Indiana County, was installed at the foundry.  Afterwards an advertisement headed “Mill Supplies” claimed they could “build New Machinery and do any kind of repair work.”

In July 1889, ground was broken for a new two-story foundry building.

In the years after 1870, Irvin McFarland continued to operate a competing enterprise known as the “Indiana Foundry.”  In 1876, his foundry made a canon for the citizens of Blacklick to used during the U.S. centennial and “has proven itself able to perform its work to the entire satisfaction of all.”  By 1879, there were eight employees, and the foundry was only running at half the capacity during the preceding three years.

The Indiana Times reported on March 7, 1894 that McFarland’s foundry had been shut down during the winter of 1893-94, but resumed operation on March 5, 1894 under “Smith & McCartney.”  McFarland died on November 17, 1898, and the foundry closed at either that time or some time before.

Bell sold his interest in Sutton Bros. & Bell to Edward Sellers of Oak Hall, Pa., and the name changed to the “Indiana Foundry Company.”  Sellers served as general manager.  His designs for a cutting box and land roller were added to the other castings already a part of the product line.  The Gazette announced that the company had to turn down an order from Sears, Roebuck & Co. for 180,00 pounds of farm bells “as it was impossible to manufacturer the bells at the present time,” but an order for one car load was accepted.

Indiana Foundry Co. stoves were adopted by the Pennsylvania, Lake Erie, and Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh railroads for their stations and shops.  Pit wagons, frogs, switches, turnouts and car wheels were manufactured for use in the coal mines.  Other casting listed in the 1904 Gazette ad were cast iron stable mangers, ash pit and oven doors, hitch weights, sash weights, cast washers, farm bells, coal chutes, dumbbells and quoits.

In 1906, the Indiana Foundry Co. obtained a five-year contract to make sand dryers for Fox Bros. of New York City.

A account published in 1913 showed the business had increased in volume since 1900 and sand dryers were being exported to England, Europe, the West Indies, South America, and Japan.  Other produced included: boil grate bars, windlasses, cranes, tire benders, and emery stands.

In 1918, the Indiana Foundry Co. was incorporated.

During World War II, their entiere capacity was devoted to the war effort.  This included the manufacture of thousands of dirt tampers, winches and sand dryers.  In September 1942, unfortunately all the patterns were destroyed in a fire.

Production at the Indiana Foundry ceased in 1948, but orders were filled by the Cowanesque Valley Iron Works in Cowanesque, Tioga County until the plant was sold to A.J. Stahura in August 1957, and converted into “Handy Andy’s” supermarket.

The G.C. Murphy Co.

Last week we explored the beginnings of the J.G. McCrory 5 & 10 store.  This week is a branch off from that story, with the focus being on the Murphy Company and John Sephus Mack.

Our story begins with George Clinton Murphy.  Mr. Murphy was born in 1868 in Indiana County, first working for his cousin – John G. McCrory.  After working for McCrory at the Jamestown, New York Store, Murphy went out on his own opening 5 & 10 cent stores.  The first 5 & 10 cent store was opened in the McKeesport area around 1900 and was built into a chain of 14 stores, which Murphy sold to Woolworth in 1904, promising that he would not open any more 5 & 10 cent stores.  However, that promise did not include opening 5, 10 and 25 cent stores; so in 1906 Murphy went back into business under G.C. Murphy Co.

Tragedy struck in April 1909, when Murphy suffered a burst appendix and died.  At the time of his death,, he had a chain of 12 variety stores doing $210,000 in sales.  His will directed that his investments – including the 388 shares of the G.C. Murphy Co. – be sold to provide yearly annuities for his family, but a public auction found no takers.  In the hands of court-appointed receivers, the company foundered.  

So enter, John G. McCrory (owner of J.G. McCrory 5 & 10 stores) and John Sephus Mack.  John was born on March 9, 1880 and served as the president of the Murphy Company.  He was the son of John M. Mack, a farmer, and Sarah Ellen Murphy, and educated in the Indiana County public schools and attended business college in Johnstown.  Mack’s career began as a stock room clerk at the McCrory Store in Johnstown (which was owned by his cousin John G. McCrory) with a weekly salary of $5.  Mack worked his way through the McCrory Company, becoming general manager in 1908.  When McCrory learned of the sale of G.C. Murphy Co. he sent Mack to McKeesport to see if Murphy’s company was worth saving.

John Sephus Mack

Mack reported back that he believed G.C. Murphy Co. should be acquired as soon as possible.  McCrory responded: “Young man, I make the decisions around here.”  Mack and Walter C. Shaw resigned from McCrory and put together their savings purchased G.C. Murphy Co. out of McKeesport, PA in 1911.  This purchase caused a rift between Mack and McCrory, and McCrory refused to speak to Mack for many years.

Mack became president and chairman of the board in 1912, and turned the failing company around and began to expand it.  The Murphy Company thrived during the Great Depression, and from 1929 to 1934 sales increased from $15.7 million to $28 million.  By 1934, there were 181 Murphy Co. stores in eleven states and Washington, D.C.

Mack and Shaw made a really good team, with Mack being known as “the architect” and Shaw “the engineer.”  The Murphy store policies also set them apart, such as the “price ceiling.”  The Murphy stores contained a second floor which featured all goods priced 25 cents to a dollar, while down below was the normal 5-to-10 cent price point.  After many years of moving back-and-forth on this policy, the company moved everything to the main floor.

Another point where Murphy seemed to succeed was establishing their stores in the industrial towns of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, while their competition tended to establish coverage in the major markets like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.  Despite the Great Depression, Murphy pulled through, with an average per store sales and profits being much higher than Woolworth’s.

When Mack passed away in 1940, the chairmanship passed to his cousin Edgar Mack.  Upon Edgar’s death in 1946, the job went to Walter Shaw, Mack’s original partner in the business.  In 1951, G.C. Murphy acquired the Morris 5 & 10 cent Stores, a Bluffton, Indiana-based chain of 71 stores.  Leadership changed again in 1953, when Jim Mack, son of John Seph Mack, took over.  After 1970, G.C. Murphy Co. shifted its emphasis away from its variety stores and toward the new Murphy’s Marts, modeled after Kmart.  By April 1985, Rocky Hill of the Connecticut-based Ames Department Stores bought out Murphy’s shares and Murphys was no longer.

John Sephus Mack is a well-known name in Indiana County, with the J.S. Mack Community Park.  He became a philanthropist and community booster.  He donated the Ralph Gibson McGill Library to Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA.  He bought local homes in disrepair and fixed them to rent out.  He set up a fund for the upkeep of the local cemetery.  In 1935, he established the Mack Memorial Trust Fund to Indiana Hospital as a memorial to his parents.  He directed that the income from the fund, which amounted to more than $300,000 in 1939, be devoted to the payment of hospitalization for needy residents of Brush Valley Township.  He further stipulated that the income be extended in 1941 to the remainder of Indiana County for hospitalization of the needy. 

On September 21, 1939, Mack dedicated a four-floor addition to the Indiana Hospital, which cost $115,000, and was known as the Mack Memorial Wing, also presented as a memorial to his parents.  One floor of the addition was designated for Brush Valley Township residents.  The other three floors were to be utilized as a maternity section. funded the Brush Valley Maternity Hospital, which was done in memory of his parents.  He also stocked some of his own 1700 acres with deer and buffalo.  His family farm was known as Old Home Manor.

Mack was a devout Presbyterian and decorated the main assembly room of the Murphy Company with Bible verses.  While serving on the organizing committee for a 1927 revival campaign in McKeesport, Mack met Bob Jones, Sr. the founder of Bob Jones College (now Bob Jones University).  Mack was very impressed with Jones and donated money to the college; he even told Jones to “construct your buildings and send me the bill.”  Mack received an honorary degree from the college and named the library in his honor.

Mack died on September 27, 1940 at his home in Brush Valley, and was interred at the Greenwood Cemetery in Indiana, PA.

McCrory’s Five and Dime Store

A Facebook post last month about the McCrory Mansion located in Brushvalley Township, sparked some interest with questions about the owner, location, and history behind the house.  That interest has led to this series of blog posts regarding the McCrory and Mack families.

For those who have lived in or have knowledge of Indiana prior to the 1970s, you may recall the McCrory 5 & 10 cent store, this chain of stores was the creation of John Graham McCrory.  

John Graham McCrory Biography

Mr. McCrory was born in West Wheatfield Township on October 11, 1860 to James McCrory and Mary A. Murphy.  He was educated in the schools in the Brush Valley neighborhood and an academy designed for orphans of soldiers, as his father was killed in the Civil War.  During his vacations from school, he worked on local farms and as a country store clerk.  

Around the time McCrory turned 18, his father’s 88-acre farm was sold for $1,200 – which was divided three ways between himself, his mother and sister, Jennie.  Shortly thereafter he found employment in the mills of the Cambria Steel Company in Johnstown, PA.  He was soon given a position in their large general store, conducting business under the name Wood, Morrell & Company.  He worked here for approximately two years, saving his money and adding it to the profit from the sale of his father’s farm.  This began his career as a merchant.

John Graham McCrory

Mr. McCrory was also interested in churches and the cause of religion.  He was a liberal contributor, not only to church in his local community, but in other localities.  He also generously gave to the YMCA.

On April 26, 1893, McCrory married Lillie May Peters, and she died on April 16, 1902.  On December 8, 1904, McCrory married Carrie May McGill.

John G. McCrory passed away on November 20, 1943 at the age of 83 at his home in Brush Valley and is interred in the family mausoleum in the Grandview Cemetery, in Cambria County, PA.

The Beginning of J.G. McCrory Co.

 McCrory started his first 5 & 10 store in Scottdale, near Greensburg, PA, using his and Jennie’s savings along with some borrowed funds.  The store primarily sold practical, everyday pieces of merchandise which kept customers coming back, but McCrory also had some higher-priced items in the store’s inventory.  This was the humble beginning of the McCrory 5 & 10 store.

The idea for this type of store appealed to the local residents, and through the hard work of his employees, McCrory was able to keep his expenses within limits and by 1883 he was able to obtain enough capital to open a second store in DuBois, Clearfield County.  This second store was started with little to no debt, which subsequent operations were likely profitable because of this policy.  Shortly after opening the second store in DuBois, McCrory disposed of the store in Scottdale, but he reestablished a store there on December 15, 1910 – likely showing sentiment and respect for the first store.  The DuBois store was also discontinued in 1892, but it reopened on September 9, 1912.

Throughout the first ten years of McCrory’s operation, many stores were opened and closed.  His game plan was to open two or three stores each year as well as close out that many.  His goal was to make money both times.  His plan also called for having eight to twelve stores in operation at all times.  He took advantage of decreases from high to low prices on some lines of goods, but the time came when there was less of an opportunity to buy low and throw out bargains with profit.  A desire to control more stores made it necessary to discontinue handling the higher priced goods, as the chance to lose by leakage on perishable and seasonable goods became greater each time an additional store was acquired.

The business had a record of unbroken prosperity and as McCrory established a number of his stores in Pennsylvania, he found opportunity to expand into neighboring states.

In 1912, the J.G. McCrory Co. was incorporated with Mr. McCrory serving as president.  By May 1913, there were 112 stores with an annual business revenue of $8,000,000. (This would be equal to $210,414,545 today.)

Throughout the 1910s and 20s, the stores continued to grow, and by 1931 there were 280 stores in operation around the country all bearing the name of the Indiana County native.  At the time of his death, there were 203 stores open for business.

The first J.G. McCrory store in Indiana County opened on July 1, 1937, located at Seventh and Philadelphia Streets in Indiana and closed for business in January 1974.  An ad in the Indiana Evening Gazette on July 1, 1937 proudly announced: “Keep Cool In Indiana County’s Only Air-Conditioned Store McCrory’s 5-10-25 cent Store.”  This full page ad goes on to inform the public that the entire store was air conditioned for the shopper’s comfort.  And to show how much the store cared for their patrons, they stated they had installed the “latest and best equipment that money can buy.”  All the work was performed by Lightcap Electric Co., of Indiana.  They finished the ad by stating, “This daring move of ours was made because we believe in Indiana and know that the people of this entire district will be in to take advantage of McCrory’s Quality merchandise at always-low prices in a healthfully pleasant modern 5-10-25 cent store.”

Mr. McCrory was also active in real estate, and he discovered early on in his career of the close relationship between inside (or best) real estate and the up-to-date retail store and came to know that in order to locate retail stores and make each a success; he would have to acquire a correct knowledge of the city’s real estate and actual value.

Sometime in the early 1940s, McCrory dissolved his company and formed the McCrory Holding Co., which rented his properties to other stores.

McCrory’s legacy lived on through his estate in Brushvalley Township, which he and his family used as a summer home until his retirement in 1931.  After his retirement, the property was used as their full-time residence.  The estate itself expanded to 1200 acres, which was all left to McCrory’s second wife, Carrie May McGill, when he passed away.

McCrory Mansion

In 1945, Mrs. McGill opened a large portion of the property to the West Indies Mission as a rest home and headquarters, with the house being leased to the Mission in 1947.  Upon Mrs. McGill’s death, 865 acres of the property was sold to the Mission.  Unfortunately, the McCrory Mansion was destroyed by fire in August 1986.

The Murder Trial of Carmene de Renzo

An interesting case came before the September 1905 Indiana County criminal court.  Carmene de Renzo was charged with the murder of his sweetheart, Marianna Barra.  Judge Telford presided over the case.  The Indiana Progress described Renzo as “a large man, rather fair, with a peculiarly round head, the forehead sloping back from the eyes, which are small and light in color.  His hair is short and unkept…”

Both the defendant and the victim were foreigners, which made several interpreters necessary to understand both the evidence and testimony in the case.  The mother of the deceased took the stand and detailed the crime, which occurred before her at her home near Creekside on July 7.  The mother did not speak English, so her testimony was presented through the interpreter.  

From the testimony it was revealed that Carmene Renzo went to Marianna Barra’s home and questioned why the Barras did not like him.  Both mother and daughter replied that they did not care for him because he did not like to work.  After hearing their response, Mr. Renzo left the home, but returned to find Marianna standing on the doorstep.  He grabbed her by the arm and fired his revolver, causing five shots to enter her body.  The mother intervened and the girl fled.  As Renzo reloaded the revolver, he threatened the mother and followed the wounded girl.  He fired another shot, which was the fatal blow. 

Renzo had made an attempt on his own life, but was unsuccessful.  He narrowly escaped being lynched by his neighbors, by being arrested and taken to jail.

The testimony elicited showed that the deceased at one time wished to marry Renzo, but when she found out that he would not work, her mother became involved, and the romance ended.

The defendant took the stand and told his story of his love for Marianna and of her rejection and the ensuing quarrel.  He admitted that he shot her and graphically described to the court how she ran from the house.  Then according to Renzo, his mind went blank from that time until he found himself in jail.

Dr. George E. Simpson was called by the defense as to the question of transitory insanity.  The defense then offered to submit writings and medical books regarding insanity.  The prosecution objected to this and Judge Telford sustained the objection.

The defense then attempted to offer into evidence a certificate of good behavior and moral character, which was obtained from Italy, but it was ruled out.

This trial, although of some interest today, did not attract a great deal of attention as the attendance at the trial was quite small.  It was noted in the news report that most of the witnesses were also foreign.  It would be the guess of the author of this post, that because much of the testimony would be presented through interpreters, that many of the general public were deterred from attending.

The case was sent to the jury late in the afternoon on September 21, 1905, and at a quarter before eight that evening, the jury filed back into the courtroom with their verdict.  Once the jury was seated, word was sent to Sheriff Neal that a verdict was reached and he brought Renzo into the courtroom.  The jury foreman handed the verdict to Prothonotary Calhoun who gave the paper to Judge Telford.  Judge Telford gave the paper back to the Prothonotary who read it aloud, “Guilty of murder in the first degree.”

As Renzo walked from the courtroom, many witnesses to the scene drew a long breath and expressed in the words of pity: “Poor devil!”

Renzo was sentenced before Judge Telford on January 20, 1906.  Despite motions filed by the defense for a new trial, it was refused.

Renzo was asked if he had anything to say why the sentence of the Court should not be passed upon him; he said, “Nothing.”  During the sentencing, he remained standing with his eyes cast down.  The only thing he said was that one word.  The sentencing imposed was as follows:

“We have long delayed this official duty.  We meet our present obligation with a severe regret for its necessity.  As we have said, at last September court you were found guilty of murder in the first degree.  In passing upon you the sentence of the Court we trust, in view of the future, you will see truly your duty in the light of the teachings of the church.  Whilst punishment here falls hard upon you, may penitence and contrition sustain you and may you be given courage to sustain you now.  The sentence of the Court is: That you be taken by the Sheriff of Indiana County to the jail and from there to the place of execution within the walls or yard of the jail, and be hanged by the neck until dead.  And may God have mercy upon your soul.”

Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker set Thursday, July 26, 1906, for the hanging of Renzo.  The Italian consul had made an effort to save Renzo.  The execution was then stayed by Governor Pennypacker after he received a petition from C.C.A. Baldi, president of the Italian Federation of Philadelphia.  These attempts to save Renzo’s life were to no avail as he was hanged on August 27, 1907.

The hanging took place in the corridor of the county jail at 10:38 a.m.  Those who had tickets for admission went to the Sheriff’s office at 10:20 and were given their places in the jail corridor.  At 10:30 Sheriff Jacob Wettling ascended the scaffold and two minutes later Renzo ascended part way to the scaffold, accompanied by Father Emelio Farri of the Roman Catholic church; John B. DeSanta, a friend; and Officer Orrin Stiffler.

Renzo’s face bore no trace of fear and his step was firm and brave.  He was dressed in a dark suit, with collar and necktie and patent leather shoes – the County Commissioners had provided him with the new outfit. 

Father Farri and DeSanta followed Renzo to the scaffold.  The priest raised a crucifix and they all kneeled in prayer.  Following a short prayer, the Sheriff placed Renzo over the trap and quickly adjusted the noose around his neck and drew over his head the black cap.  

The Sheriff touched the lever which allowed the trap to drop at 10:35, but the rope broke and Renzo fell to the floor.  Officers quickly carried the body to the scaffold and the Sheriff placed the rope with which James Allison and Joseph Sarver were executed. The trap was sprung a second time at 10:38 which was successful.  

At 10:48, the four physicians present – Coroner W.D. Gates, Dr. McMillan, Dr. H. Ney Prothero and Dr. T.D. Stephens – pronounced Renzo dead.  The Sheriff’s jury – Dr. H. Ney Prothero, J. Earl Lewis, J.A. Crossman, John C. Work, George Jeffries, J.L. Orr, Dr. T.P. Stephens, M.H. Henry, D.M. Caldwell, Elder Peelor, George W. Roof and William H. Clawson – viewed the body and made an affidavit to the fact that they had seen Renzo executed in accordance with law.

After the physicians had pronounced Renzo dead, the body was taken down and prepared for burial by the undertaker.  About noon, the body was taken to the Arbitration Room in the court House, where it was viewed by hundreds of people.  At 4:00 p.m. the body was taken to the Catholic cemetery and buried.

The Murder Trial of Frank and Angelina Borgio

Saturday June 17, 1916 marked the beginning of the trial of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Frank Borgio and Angeline Borgio.  On May 2, 1915, Frank Borgio went to Iselin at approximately 9:00 a.m., he and his wife were leaving their home in Nowrytown, because of the lack of work.  They had planned to spend the day with friends in Iselin, prior to leaving town.  The couple arrived in Iselin and awaited the return of Sam Russo, when he got off of work in the mines which they knew would be around 5 or 6 in the evening.  When Russo returned from working in the mines.  Now the Borgios knew Rosso as he was at one time a border with them. He greeted Mrs. Borgio, as he normally would, and she returned the greeting.  Just as he was entering the boarding house, Mrs. Borgio drew her hand which was covered with a handkerchief, which concealed a revolver and fired twice, both shots lodging in Russo’s back.

Russo ran through the basement of the boarding house and was on his way to the first floor when Frank Borgio appeared and fired three shots, two of which hit Russo.  Frank Borgio left the house and the injured man tried to reach his room on the second floor.  Mrs. Borgio escaped those who could have detained her, raced up the stairs and came face-to-face with Russo, being exhausted, had sunk to the steps.  Without saying a word, Mrs. Borgio drew the revolver and fired twice, striking Russo in the face.  Despite these life-threatening wounds, Russo lived almost two hours.

In the meantime, a foreigner had secured a gun and ordered Frank Borgio to hold up his hands, but some intervening force caused Borgio to escape along with his wife. The couple got in a car and went as far as the Conemaugh Township election house, and then continued on to Nowrytown.  The couple was arrested on the Owl train of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Saltsburg.  They were brought to Indiana on May 3, 1915 by Sheriff Boggs.  Mr. and Mrs. Borgio were approximately 30 years old, and expressed no regret over what they had done and took their imprisonment nonchalantly.

At the time of their arrest, Mrs. Borgio told Sheriff Boggs that her husband was jealous of the alleged suspicious attentions Russo had paid to her and the best way out of the family difficulty was to do away with the cause of it.  They planned and executed the murder. 

During the trial, the defense claimed that Russo had assaulted Mrs. Borgio.  The alleged assault is said to have occurred in July 1914, while no one was at the home, except for Russo.  Russo allegedly solicited improper relations (today we would call this either sexual assault or potentially an attempted rape), but she refused.  Russo is then said to have pointed a pistol at Mrs. Borgio and made various threats and accomplished his purpose.  After the assault, according to Mrs. Borgio, Russo stated that if she told anyone about what had happened, he would kill her.  Because of the threats, she did not tell Mr. Borgio, but he had heard through rumors around town and confronted his wife, and she then told him the story.  The defense claims that Borgio immediately declared his wife’s honor had to be avenged, and that is when they planned the murder.  

When the jury first went to deliberate, their first vote on the charge against Frank Borgio came in with 11 for first degree murder and one for second degree.  The second vote came in with 8 for first degree and 3 for second degree.  The third and final vote by the jury came in a unanimous guilty for murder in the first degree.

The vote for Mrs. Borgio came in the first time at 1 for first degree and 11 for second; the second vote resulted in a unanimous vote for conviction of murder in the second degree.

After the verdict was announced, Attorney James Mack, for the defendants, made an application for a new trial.

Frank Borgio was calm as his sentence was imposed, aside from a shrug of his shoulders, he maintained his quiet attitude which marked his entire captivity.  When Mrs. Borgio learned of her and her husband’s sentence, she became hysterical.  After the sentencing, when Mrs. Borgio was returned to her cell, she made threats to kill herself, so to avoid this from happening, a guard was placed with her until the time for her to be taken from the Indiana Jail to the Western Penitentiary, where she was to serve 10 to 15 years.

The sentence was as follows:

The verdict rendered in this case requires the Court to impose upon you the most serious penalty known to the law.  The sentence about to be imposed upon you is not the discretionary act of the court; it is the sentence of the law.  The jury has found you guilty of causing the life of Sam Russo to be taken and the jury has also found that you did it willfully, deliberately and premediately and without excuse or justification.  You had a fair and impartial trial and was defended from the beginning to the end by able, zealous and conscientious counsel.  Your situation at this hour appeals most feelingly to our sympathy.  We trust that you make so direct the remaining days of your life that you may meet the end with fortitude.

And now, January 8, 1917, You, Frank Borgio, being in open Court, the motion for a new trial and reasons therefore having been carefully and fully considered, it is ordered overruled, and it being demanded of you in open Court if you had anything to say why the said Court of Oyer and Terminer should not proceed to judgment and sentence against you, now, therefore, the sentence of the law is that you, Frank Borgio, here present in open Court, he taken hence to the jail fo 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 Center County, Pennsylvania, and there by him detained until such time as His Excellency, the Governor of the Commonwealth, by his warrant may direct, and at such time you be taken to the place of execution 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 continued until you are dead.

And may God, in His infinite goodness have mercy on your soul.

On January 9, 1917, it came time for Mrs. Borgio to be taken to the Penitentiary, a sorrowful good-bye was shared between Mrs. Borgio and Mr. Borgio. 

Sheriff Harry A. Boggs, along with County Commissioner W. Bruce Wagner, and some newspapermen read Frank Borgio the Governor’s warrant fixing the week of September 10, 1917 as the time for his execution.  Afterwards Borgio remarked, “There’s no law in this country for me,”  and proceeded to make preparations for his departure to Rockview, Center County, where the execution was to be carried out.

A stay of execution was issued by the Governor late on Saturday September 8, 1917, which postponed the execution until November 5, 1917.  In the interim period, the Pardon Board would review the case.  A recommendation was made that an Executive Order be issued which would commute the death sentence and substitute a sentence of life.  This recommendation was made by the Pardon Board and submitted by Frank B. McClain, Lieutenant Governor; Cyrus E. Woods, Secretary of the Commonwealth; Francis Shunk Brown, Attorney General; and Paul W. Houck, Secretary of Internal Affairs. 

Frank Borgio was pardoned by the State Board when his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.  

The story does not end here, as a further order of court was made on October 24, 1930:

And now, October 24, 1930, it appearing to the Court that in October 5, 1921, this Court made an order of removal of Frank Borgio from the Western Penitentiary to the Farview State Hospital for the Criminal Insane at Waymart, Wayne County, Pa., pursuant to the report of the Commissioners who were appointed to inquire into the mental condition of the said Frank Borgio; and it further appearing to the Court that the said Frank Borgio has been treated in said institution since his admission therein, and upon petition of William M. Lynch, Superintendent, praying that this Court make an order discharging the said Frank Borgio from the State Hospital for the Criminal Insane for the reason that he has sufficiently recovered, and no longer needs the custodial care and treatment of said hospital.

….where he has been serving a commuted life sentence for the crime of first degree murder for which he was convicted June 21, 1916.

….Direct Elmer Borland and return the said Frank Borgio to the Western Penitentiary, located at Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Pa…

J.N. Langham, P.J.

It was reported in the Indiana Evening Gazette on January 16, 1931 reported that Borgio would get his freedom as he was issued a commutation of the minimum sentence, however, it was not reported when or if he was released, as there seems to be no further mention after this date.

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.

The Case of the 1894 Indiana County Judicial Election: Judge John P. Blair v. Judge Harry White

It was in 1894 when the election for judge brought about Indiana County’s most bitter, vicious, and sordid election.  The contestants were Harry White and John P. Blair.  The election results gave White a narrow margin of 87 votes (White: 4036, Blair: 3949).  Blair contested the election.  Printed below based on newspaper article is the best rendition of how the case likely proceeded and the outcome given by the Court.

On December 5, 1894, D.B. Taylor, Esq. went to Harrisburg with a petition that was signed by nearly 150 voters, asking the Governor to appoint a court to investigate the 1894 election results between Judge White and Judge Blair.  The petition sought the Governor to appoint a court consisting of three Judges closest to Indiana to sit to hear and determine which candidate is entitled to the office.

The claim was that Judge White was declared the winner by reason of false returns, and those signing the petition did not believe White received more than 3,600 legal votes, but that Blair did receive 3,949 legal votes.  In the petition it was alleged that 118 votes were taken from disqualified voters whose names were not on the ballot check lists; 148 votes were taken from persons who were at least 22 and had not paid taxes within two years; 59 votes and upwards of people who gave, or promised to give, bribes; 109 votes of persons who received bribes; and two persons under 21 voted – the claim was that all these votes went to White. 

Attorney General Hensel approved the petition on December 6 and the petition was sent to Governor Pattison.

Judge White traveled to Harrisburg on December 7 for a hearing before the Governor in the afternoon.  Judge White was represented by Lyman D. Gilbert of Harrisburg.  At the hearing, the Governor directed Attorney Gilbert to submit briefs to the Attorney General that week.  The Governor also appointed Judge Barker, of Ebensburg; Judge Doty, of Greensburg; and Judge Reyburn, of Kittanning to serve on the panel.  It was reported that White’s attorney filed an objection against Judge Reyburn as he was the brother-in-law of D.B. Taylor, the plaintiff’s attorney, but Judge White denied the claim stating:

The people of this county know all about that election.  I was fairly elected in the face of an opposition such as a candidate never before saw in Indiana County.  The opposition say that can change my majority of 87 to 349 in favor of my opponent.  In answer to that I have positive proof of several hundred illegal votes cast for Judge Blair – illegal, because the voter had not paid his taxes.  I do not believe the people of the county are in sympathy with this talked-of contest.  Of course there may have been some illegal votes cast because of technicalities, but the people will not lay to my charge the failure of election officers to comply with formalities.

Judge Blair stated that he was not pushing for the contest and knew nothing of the plans or methods of those who were backing the contest.

Court was called into session on December 21, 1894 at 10 a.m.   The first order of business was to appoint a president of the panel, to which Judge Doty was selected.  After Prothonotary Peelor read the Governor’s commissions, Attorney Taylor (for the petitioners) and Attorney Banks (for Judge White) presented their opening statements.  The attorneys present on behalf of Judge White were: Cunningham, Banks, Scott, Watson, and Keener.

Judge White, with the court’s permission, presented a statement because of the absence of an attorney who had expected to be there.  He objected to the sitting of the Honorable Calvin Reyburn, President Judge of the 33rd District, because of the circumstances.  He said in his statement, “This request is made out of no disrespect for his Honor or from want of confidence in his judicial character and integrity, but because of the surroundings.”  As mentioned above, the objection was over Judge Reyburn being the brother-in-law of D.B. Taylor, attorney for Blair.

The Judges retired to conference and upon returning to the bench Judge Doty announced that it was Judge Reyburn’s personal desire to withdraw from the board, but because of the Governor’s commission and the evident intent of the law that the three Judges closest to the Courthouse of Indiana County preside over the matter; it was decided that Judge Reyburn would remain a member of the panel.  Mr. Banks objected vigorously to the decision, but he was overruled.

Mr. Banks then made an oral motion that the petition be quashed on the grounds that it was vague and indefinite, stating that the very vagueness of the petition looked like a scheme of the petitioners to get into the ballot boxes.

Mr. Taylor responded that many of the ballot boxes had already been opened and papers extracted, and that before too much time had passed, the people of the county would know who did it.  He quoted many authorities why it was not necessary to designate who case the illegal votes an in what districts the frauds were perpetrated.

Mr. Taylor requested that counsel for petitioners not be compelled to furnish the names of those who voted illegally, and gave the reason that it would interfere in the subpoenaing of their witnesses.  Judge Barker then asked for a little more definite explanation upon which Taylor stated, “Why, your honor…I can in a very few minutes bring you absolute proof that already attempts have been made to get people out of the county until after this contest is decided.”

Mr. Cunningham then took the floor speaking at length about the vagaries of the petition and the turmoil which could result if something more definite was not presented.  He told the court, “Unless this petition states who these illegal voters are and where they voted there is not a man in Indiana County who cannot be called upon to testify. Counsel for the petitioners have unlimited power in the matter unless your honors grant a ‘bill in particular,’ asking for more definite speculations.”

After a long discussion among the Judges, they came to a conclusion with Judge Doty announcing a unanimous opinion that the petition was vague, and it needed to state who the illegal voters were, and where they voted.  The Court granted the bill, and counsel for the petitioners would have until January 1, 1895 to file their answer.

Sheriff D.C. Mack was then appointed as commissioner to collect all the ballot boxes in the county and keep them in his custody until he was called upon to deliver them to the court.

The court then adjourned until January 15, when the Judges would again convene and hear the evidence in the case.

At 9:00 a.m. on January 15, 1895 the court panel convened with Judge Doty announcing, “Well, we are ready to proceed, Mr. Taylor.”

D.B. Taylor called William Fry and Lester Ruffner, and while the court was waiting for the witnesses to be brought in, Judge White came into the court room, shook hands with the Judges on the bench, and then seated himself at counsel table.

William Fry appeared and was sworn; stated he lived near Marion and voted in Rayne Township.

            Attorney Taylor: “State whether or not any person gave you money for your vote.”

            Attorney Banks: “Just a moment; that’s objected to.”

Attorney Banks argued that in the Bill of Particulars filed by Blair had made no specifications of any voters who had received bribes.  He further attacked the Bill saying it was not signed by any person.  He said the signatures should be there and that the paper should be sworn to.

Judge Barker replied that the object of the court when they ordered the filing of the Bill was to insure there was sufficient cause for the proceedings, and if there were no objections the contestants would be allowed to amend their specifications.

Mr. Cunningham wanted to know if the Bill was amended, if the other side would have the privilege to answer it.

Judge Barker announced that the court would allow the contestants to amend their Bill and Attorney Taylor who had his paper ready handed it to the Prothonotary.

Further examination of the witness was objected to and then there were long arguments from both sides.  The argument was made by White’s attorneys that witnesses could not be made to testify to having received or given bribes.  The Blair people contended that the law said that no testimony given in a case of the kind could be used against witnesses in any future proceeding which might be brought against him and that therefore they were safe as far as incrimination was concerned.

Attorneys Cunningham and Banks contended that after a voter has sworn to his eligibility to vote, the vote should be taken and counted and if he had perjured himself or taken a bribe, the remedy was to be found in another court.  The court recessed from 11:15 to 1:30 to consider the arguments.

The court reconvened, and Judge Doty announced that the objections were overruled, and the evidence would be admitted.

In answer to the Bill of Particulars, Judge White filed on the night of January 15, claiming that there were upwards of 1,023 illegal votes were cast for John P. Blair.  The allegations were as follows: Non-residents, 34; not registered, 199; taxes unpaid, 455; under age, 7; defective ballots, 4; marked by parties not asked to assist in marking, 4; marked contrary to orders, 6; marked by persons incompetent to assist, 4; voters not naturalized, 2; promised to give valuable consideration, 47; received or agreed to receive valuable consideration, 157.  He also averred that votes of several districts should be thrown out on account of irregularities.

The court then heard testimony of 1,372 witnesses, which took up 1,541 typewritten pages.  In summary, the testimony is summarized as consisting of allegations and denials of bribery with money and/or whiskey, violations of election laws, and sundry other improprieties and questionable electioneering tactics.

It was presented that John Guffey, a prominent Democratic politician of Pittsburgh, had written a letter charging that Bennet’s liquor house had furnished Judge White with 100 packages of whiskey during the election campaign.  The owners of the establishment denied the charges.

Judge White testified on his own behalf, as a large crowd had gathered to hear his side of the story:

The contestants have produced testimony showing that I gave money during the recent campaign to a number of persons, in all about $21 [approximately $635 in today’s money].  I will explain these transactions.  I met Samuel Cooper a political friend of mine, at Gettysburg [Hillsdale] and we had some conversation about election matters.  I asked him to see a number of people for me, and to procure a driver to take me over the township.  We walked back an alley to a buggy shed, and I gave him $2.  The secrecy of the transaction was brought about by my thinking that if my opponents saw me give him the money they would put a false construction on it.  The money was for legitimate campaign expenses, and Cooper’s testimony was correct.  I have no apology to make concerning that transaction.

Clark Wilson testified that I gave him money before the election, he told the truth.  I gave him 50 cents or $1, as I have often done before, and that simple act of charity has nothing to do with the election, as Wilson also testified on the stand.

Robert McBreth came to my office to see me.  He said he had been doing some work for me, and thought there were others in his vicinity that he could get to support me.  He wanted expense money and I gave him $2.  William B. Lytle swore that I gave him $2, that is also correct.  I was down in Conemaugh Township, and he drove with me one day to see a number of people.  In the evening he got supper for me and fed my horses.  He did not want to take the money, but I said I did not wan to take his hospitality for nothing.  On a subsequent visit I gave his sister $1 for a like purpose.  He did not want to accept it, but I would not listen to a refusal.

I met William Trimble, of East Wheatfield, at a local bank.  I persuaded him to accompany me on an electioneering tour over the township.  He took care of my horse, and gave me my dinner, and for these services I gave him $5.  Austin Condron also received $5.  He was very active in my behalf, and was my friend before he received a cent from me.  It was not necessary for me to pay him anything.

David Campbell, of Heshbon, is a Democrat, but was one of my supporters all through the campaign.  He came to my office and made an arrangement whereby he was to keep me posted through correspondence.  I gave him $2 for postage and incidentals.  As the election drew near I lost his support, probably through failure of mine to answer some of his letters.

David Mardis received a dollar, but that was before the primary.  He is a very poor man, and I believed he needed it.

These instances I believe cover the amount of $21, which I am charged with having given for votes.

I never told John Nealor I would pay his back taxes if he would support me.  Three witnesses who have testified in rebuttal of that evidence heard the conversation.  I gave Alex. McCoy a dollar at Ambrose.  He was supporting me, and thought he could get some friends into line.  The dollar was given him for expenses, and not to influence his vote.

A young man, whom I have since learned was Samuel Hunter, came into my office and talked about the election.  He swore that I sent him to John H. Rochester for whiskey.  My best recollection is that I did nothing of the kind.  I did not even know that Rochester had whiskey or wine at his house, and I certainly had no claim on him other than friendship.  I never authorized Rochester to use liquor in my behalf – none whatever.

James Trindle called on me during the week of the county fair.  He knew I was an old friend of his father, and I gave him a dollar to get some dinner and may have given him some liquor.  Everybody knows that I am not a teetotaler, and I have no desire to be a hypocrite about the matter.  We had absolutely no conversation about the election.  I talked to Calvin Miller, and may have given him expenses for hauling voters to the polls.  Lewis Burnheimer is mistaken in his testimony that I promised to put him on the jury.  I never said that; I wouldn’t say it.  The same is true of the father of Miss Mary Conrad.  The young lady quoted me as saying I would put her father on the jury if he would support me.  All that I said was, ‘Tell your father to come and see me when in town;” John Lutes’s testimony was that I promised to put him on the jury if he would give me a ‘hist.’ I never made such a promise, nor did I promise to renew Porter Campbell’s note.

Myers testified that I sent him to Cashier Watt for money.  Now, I never knew Walter Myers until after the election, and the conversation he swore to positively never occurred.  Nicewonger, Myers’s companion, often called on me to borrow money, but I always told him I had none to loan.  He came to my house for money but I told him he would have to arrange matters of that kind at the bank.  Cashier Watt had no authority to pay out money for me.  Myers was in my office for money after the election.

I gave no person any money, nor made any offers or promises to influence votes.  I thought I knew what my privileges were under the law and certainly lived up to all just requirements.  There were, of course legitimate campaign expenses which were paid through the county chairman and many of the persons who came to me for money were referred to Mr. McGregor.

After Judge White’s statement, there was cross examination, which caused some wrangling on the part of the attorneys, and the Judge asked the court to protect him from insult.

The case closed on May 4, 1895 when the Court announced that there were 571 illegal votes which were thrown out, some because of election law violations, others for bribery.  In total 306 ballots for Blair were disqualified along with 265 votes for White.  The Court also stated that Judge White’s electioneering activities and expenditures were within the law.  This left White the declared winner with 3771 votes to 3643 for Blair.  The judicial opinion consisted of 35 pages of opinion, 28 pages covering points of law and 99 pages of findings of fact, this comes to a total of 162 pages.  To put this in perspective a typical United States Supreme Court case typically comes to approximately 11 pages.

So do you believe Judge White was fully within the confines of the law, or was he walking a thin hairline between lawful and unlawful?

Indiana County Ghost Stories Part III

“Yank” Brown

Somewhere between Armagh and Blairsville, along the route of the old turnpike, which more or less parallels U.S. Route 22, there was said to be a cave containing kegs of gold and silver and more than a bushel of watches hidden there by robbers.  The loot has never been found.

Our story goes back to the early 1800s, when John Brown settled west of Armagh along the old Huntingdon, Cambria and Indiana Turnpike.  Both the map prepared by David Peelor in 1855 and the 1871 “Atlas of Indiana County” locate the resident of “J. Brown” along the turnpike about 300 rods west of New Washington (now Clyde) in West Wheatfield Township.  In the atlas, another “J. Brown” house is about 450 rods northwest of the first site and 100 or more rods north of the turnpike.

A story about John Brown was written by Frances Strong Helman, in part:

Not far from the old stone pike, now Route 22, southwest of Armagh, Indiana County, are the ruins of a cave…John “Yank” Brown’s cave.

Way back in the distant past, John arrived form New England and became known to his neighbors as “Yank.” He established a tavern along the pike, and the gory details of what happened there were well-kept secrets.  Travelers going down the pike who were believed to have money were not seen on the road after they had time to pass “Yank’s” tavern.  It was whispered around that the abandoned well was probably the last resting place of one peddler.

An over-hanging rock is still pointed out as a shelter used by the rascal’s family when things got too wild indoors…

He had an interest in horses too.  He stole them…

Brown managed to involve those who knew his secrets in such a way that they had no desire to turn informer.  When Yank was dying one of his cronies was present, and it seemed the visitor greatly feared the sick man would babble.  He is said to have leaned over Brown and whispered, “Die game, Yank! Die game!”

It was rumored that the old scamp had hidden money in the cave, and at least two groups of people have dug in the cave but found nothing. There are still people in the county who were told in the years gone by that “the treasures were stacked shoulder high” in the cave.  All the digging in the cave has caused earth slides and it is no longer safe to enter.

Years and years ago, on dark still nights, those walking along the pike or traveling by horse and  buggy, declared they heard the thudding hooves of Brown’s stolen horses as they were driven by “ghostly Yank” toward the cave…

Helman’s story, based on folklore, has been supplemented by historical research done by Clarence Stephenson.  John Brown first comes to historical notice in the early newspapers of Indiana County when he was arrested March 17, 1853, on a charge of stealing two horses. The person making the charge was Robert Stoops of Canoe Township, who was himself indicted at the same time on a horse-theft charge.

Brown was released on $1,000 bail. At the June term of court, he was defended by Augustus Drum, and the charges were dismissed. Stoops, however, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to the Western Penitentiary.

In 1856, the operations of an extensive horse-stealing ring were revealed.  One of the members, John Rutter, was jailed in Pittsburgh.  There he was visited by Constable Joseph R. Smith of Indiana, and Rutter gave him the names of others of the gang.  Four members lived in Indiana County, three “on the mountains,” three in Blair County, four in Tioga County, one in Luzerne County, eight in Chemung County, NY.

Rutter confessed that in 1851 three men made proposals to him to enter a horse-stealing gang that members, disguised as drovers, spotted out horses to be stolen.  He thought about 150 horses in all had been stolen.  The gang also did counterfeiting and stole goods and merchandise.

John and Lewis Brown were arrested in Westmoreland County and released on $1,000 bail each. Lewis Brown forfeited his bail and fled to Chemung County, NY, where he was again arrested. Rutter, who had turned state’s witness, was taken to Elmira, NY, to testify against Brown. During the night, the hotel where Rutter was kept was fired upon.

In March 1856, John Brown Jr. and John R. Harper were placed in Indiana County Jail on horse-stealing charges, but Harper promptly escaped.  Afterward, a coroners’ jury exhumed the body of Louisa Harper (his wife?) on suspicion of foul play.  The verdict was that she had died November 20, 1855, at the residence of John Brown Jr., Wheatfield Township, as the result of a drug.