Black History Month Program

On February 27, 2020, the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County presented “Less Known Stories of African Americans in Indiana County.”  The program was a collaborative effort between the Indiana County NAACP and the Blairsville Underground Railroad History Center.  The program began with some brief remarks by Mr. Jonathan Bogert, the Executive Director of the Historical Society, followed by an Address from Dr. Carolyn Princes, the President of the Indiana County NAACP.

The program continued with some comments by Dr. Lori Woods from St. Francis University who presented “Student reflections of the Blairsville Underground Railroad History Center.”  On February 8, 2020 students from St. Francis University visited the Blairsville Underground History Center for an interactive tour.  Following their visit, the students wrote about their experience.  The students found the tour to be very moving, and also an important aspect of our history that more people should learn about and understand.  This understanding of history helps us to improve society today and move in a positive direction.

Denise Jennings-Doyle, President and co-founder of the Blairsville Underground Railroad History Center, introduced two historical figures who visited and told their story of their life in Indiana County.

Anthony Hollingsworth was a 12-year-old freedom seeker from Virginia, was seized by slave hunters on the Simpson Farm, near Homer City.  He was bound to a horse and taken to the Indiana House hotel at Philadelphia and Sixth Streets.  There was a large crowd that gathered to protest his capture and stormed the hotel to free him.  Dr. Robert Mitchell and newspaper editor James Moorhead, ardent abolitionists, intercepted the enraged citizens and persuaded them to allow the courts to decide the young man’s fate.  The following day, Judge Thomas White asked the slave catchers to produce written evidence that slavery existed in Virginia; when they did not, Judge White set Hollingsworth free.  Several young men hoisted Hollingsworth onto their shoulders and paraded him through the streets.

Hollingsworth settled in Stratford, Ontario, where he was employed, according to the 1863 County of Perth Gazetteer, as a “hairdresser and shampooner.”  Hollingsworth never forgot the kindness and support he was shown by the local residents.  He mailed a letter to Dr. Mitchell, who briefly gave Hollingsworth shelter on his property near Diamondville, thanking him and the “good folkes” of Indiana County for their assistance.

Jane Brunson Johnston, was the wife of Lewis Johnston.  Together they were conductors in Blairsville and Allegheny City (North Pittsburgh), PA.   It’s believed they transported freedom seekers between Blairsville and Hollidaysburg.  Freedom seeker Richard Newman was living with the Johnston family on West Campbell Street in Blairsville when his attempted kidnapping occurred on April 1, 1858.  The Johnstons raised six children.  Their son Lewis Johnston, Jr. became the first black Covenanter Presbyterian preacher in Pennsylvania.

The evening concluded with musical selections by Anthony Frazier – singing and providing a history behind “Wade in the Water” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”  Patti Holmes also provided musical selections of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “The Greatest Love of All.”  Audience members were encouraged to join in singing with the performers and the Armory was filled with song.

Coming up in March the Society is hosting two programs.  The first will be an Irish Sing-a-long held on March 20, 2020 from 6-8PM in the Clark House.  If you love traditional Irish sing-a-long songs or find yourself singing classic tunes your grandparents sang for you, then you are going to enjoy the Irish Sing-a-long.  We will play and sing around the piano in the Historic Clark House.  Musical guests Allen Krynicky, Mike Busija, Scott Neuroh, Ken Black, Hazel Johnston, and Bruce Jenkins, will lead you in singing Irish tunes to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, as well as classic favorites from the 30s and 40s.  This event is an OPEN FUNDRAISER with no entrance fee or ticket cost, but donations will be gratefully accepted, with all the proceeds from this event going directly toward repairs needed for the Chickering Square Grand piano that was recently donated to the Historical Society.  For more information, or to donate to the Piano Fund, call 724-463-9600.

Our second event will be held on Sunday March 29, 2020 – the 2nd Annual National Vietnam War Veterans Day Program.  Doors will open at 5:30 PM with the program beginning at 6:00 PM.  The event will feature guest speakers, music of the era, and a historical display relating to “The Wall That Heals.”  Commemorative pins will be awarded to Vietnam Veterans by Christina Lonigro.  Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will follow the program.  For more information and reservations please call 724-463-9600.  This event is sponsored by: The American Legion Auxiliary Post 141, the VFW Post 1989, the American Legion Post 141, and the Indiana County Historical Society.

Finally join us on Saturday April 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm in the Armory for our 3rd Annual Spring Swing.  Dress to the nines and put on your dancing shoes, it’s time to Swing!  Don’t know how? No problem! Lessons begin at 7:00pm, the dance will follow at 7:30pm.  Maybe this year we’ll try a little West Coast swing to spice things up a bit.  Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, and are available at the HGSIC or through Crisp Entertainment. Call 724-463-9600 for more information.

2017 Society Summary

It is time once again for us to ring in a new year, and what a year it has been for the Indiana County Historical Society. We have done so much this past year and we take this time to reflect on what we have accomplished. We held a number of programs and workshops that we hope to continue in 2018, so be on the lookout for dates of those events. This year was a year of fundraisers and cooperation with many different organizations in the area.

eeefa-clark2bhouse2bchristmas

The Historical Society once again worked with the Indiana Art Association, sponsoring the Open Arts Show, that is exhibited at the Society from November to early January. We have also worked closely with IUP to bring interns to our Museum. Internships help students learn about how a museum operates and it also enables the Society to use young talent to expand our outreach. Thanks to the Evergreen Garden Club, the Silas Clark House is always beautifully decorated for the Christmas season. Along with decorating the Clark House at Christmas time the club also creates and maintains the garden at the point of South Sixth Street and Wayne Avenue during the Spring/Summer season.

This past year also bring with it new partnerships, including one with the Young Professional Organization (YPO). The YPO is a subgroup of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce comprised of individuals from 18-40 years old with the purpose of promoting networking between local businesses. This past October they sponsored the Haunted School Spirits program that brought approximately 75 people into the museum, along with funds paid by attendees. Also, this past September/October the Society worked with the Paranormal Society of IUP who investigated the Museum, Clark House and grounds for possible spirit entities that may still be roaming the buildings. The activities ended with a reveal of the investigations.

In addition to these big events, the Society also works with the Rainbow Diamond Glass Club, the Horace Mann Elementary School, and showcasing exhibits at the annual Air Show at the Jimmy Stewart Airport. Further, Board members and volunteers have given presentations at the Indiana Free Library and the Blairsville Historical Society. It is important for organizations to work together to expand our horizons; if you know of an organization that would like to work with the Historical Society please contact us at ichistoricalsociety@gmail.com or by phone at 724-463-9600.

A few closing notes about our 2018; we have many fun programs, events, and fundraisers planned so stay tuned to our various social media accounts, or consider becoming a member to learn about member exclusive events. Also, we have the following closings for 2018: March 30-31; July 3-4; November 20-24; and December 22-31.

We want to wish all our readers, followers, and members a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year. We hope to see you at the museum in 2018, either to visit the museum, attend one of our programs, fundraisers, or other events, or to volunteer. We will be closed until January 2, 2018 to give all our staff and volunteers a much-needed vacation.

A Victorian Christmas

Christmas is a festive time of year, here in Indiana we have It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas celebration which kicked off last month on November 17 with a parade, and there are festivities happening all month long.  Coming up on December 8, 2017 at 6:00 is the Historical Society’s Annual Christmas Open House, which the Clark House has been beautifully decorated by the Evergreen Garden Club. Refreshments will be served in the Clark House and at 7:00pm and 7:30pm there will be music played by two local groups in the Armory. This is a great chance to get into the holiday spirit.

The Clark House was built in 1869-1870, and that started a thought: What would have Christmas been like for the Clark family as they lived in the house? Technology was not advanced like it is today, there was not electric Christmas lights nor was there instant Christmas carols over the internet. A Victorian Era Christmas would have been much different than we experience it today.  One of the staple decorations in most people’s homes this time of year is the Christmas tree, although many of us have artificial trees, in the late 1800s these trees would have been real trees filling the home with the evergreen smell. Not only were the trees real, but they were elaborated decorated , this included fruit, garland, pine cones, and candles.

eeefa-clark2bhouse2bchristmas
Clark House Christmas 2016

Many people pride themselves with their Christmas decorating, from elaborate outside light displays and unique indoor decorating; however in the Victorian Era, decorating was much more simple. People of all economic groups decorated for Christmas, but those decorations were limited to garland and foliage. This would include the trimmings of pine trees and mistletoe.

And finally what is Christmas without Santa…the jolly old elf from Clemment Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas.”  Santa has been a popular figure of Christmas, having different means for people all over the world; most countries and cultures have there own version of Santa. The Dutch have St. Nick, England Father Christmas, and the Germans have Kris Kringle.

The Historical Society has in its collection many vintage toys from bygone years along with beautiful displays featuring the history of Christmas in Indiana County. Be sure to stop by the museum, visit the Clark House and be transported back to a simpler time. We would like to thank the Evergreen Garden Club for their decorating of the Clark House, and for all the volunteers and staff members that make our Christmas Open House possible.  We hope to see you December 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm, and we wish everyone a joyous holiday season.