The Village of Newville

Located at the intersection of Route 110 and 954 just northwest of Indiana lies the little rural town of Creekside.  In 1854, the town was laid out by David Peelor and originally known as “Newville” because it was a new village.  Like most rural communities, it is filled with history and at one time was a bustling town, thanks to being a junction of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh railway.

The citizens of Creekside, petitioned for the incorporation of town as a borough on May 1, 1905 and on June 5, 1905 the court granted the petition and the village of Creekside became a borough.

Being a new town, there were no elected officials, so the court ordered that the first election be held on July 11, 1905 in Gibson Hall.  After the election the officers were: J.C. Speedy, judge; J.M. McFeaters and J.A. Stuchell, inspectors; J.M. McFeaters, burgess; C.B. Sloan, J.C. Speedy, W.R. McElhoes, auditors; W.H. Faith, F.C. Clowes, W.E. Gibson, J.S. Bothel, S.W. Zimmerman, J.F. Gibson, school directors; D.A. McKee, assessor; J.J. McCracken and J.C. Carnahan, justices of the peace; J.M. Kidd, constable; E.G. Wilhelm, high constable; W.H. Byers and Curt Smith, overseers of the poor; J.A. Stuchell, M.L. Carnahan, J.C. Walker, A.G. Wilhelm, W.H. Faith, J.T. Gibson, James Lohr, council.

Indiana Street became the location for many merchants including: an upholstery business, grocery store, jewelry store, and a clothing store. Other businesses included Rose Pitzerell’s Restaurant and Jim Marsico’s Barber Shop.

Like all towns, there was need for law and order, so the borough had a jail. And Squire McCracken who served as Justice of the Peace, also served as the town’s undertaker.

The first fire department in town was a bucket brigade and later the town received its first fire truck, a new Model-T Ford which was procured from Joe Johnston, who owned a Ford agency, in 1923.  The town had three fire alarm bells to alert the firemen of a fire.

The town, small as it was, was sure bustling in the early days.

Transportation

After the days of horse and buggy, the transportation world began to change.  First came the trains; the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh railroad track was laid in 1902, stretching from Punxsutawney to Indiana.  Daily round trips from Punxsutawney to Indiana occurred twice a day beginning in 1904; this train not only served as a passenger train but also as mail delivery to the various stations between Punxsutawney and Indiana.  The final run for this train was June 11, 1950.  Passenger, freight, and coal trains ran in all directions when leaving Creekside.

Then in 1907, the streetcar came to town; service ran between Indiana and Creekside, with the first trip occurring on July 4, 1907.  Passengers wishing to ride the street car had to climb 18 wooden steps to reach the three sided waiting station.  There were eight daily round trips, some examples include: the 6:20 a.m. car was for the working men; the 7:30 for high school kids on their way to school; and the 4:30 p.m. for the returning students. The streetcar was in service every day, except for Sunday.  However, streetcars were short lived with the last run occurring in 1933.

Automobiles in the early days were not as prevalent as they are today, and it was near impossible to travel during the winter months because of the muddy condition of the roads.

The Borough Churches

Creekside United Methodist Church

The Creekside Methodist Episcopal Church of the Pittsburgh Conference – formerly known as the Newville Appointment – was formed in the spring of 1871.  At first, services were held in a school house, until the fall of 1886 when a lot owned by Mason L. and Kate McFarland was sold to Thomas Johnston, James Nesbit, and R.B. Carroll as trustees for the church.  The total sum was $150.

The church grew and in January 1915, a section was added to the church measuring 24 x 30 feet, along with the installation of new front doors and a new coat of paint on the exterior.

In 1938, a sunrise service was held at 6 a.m.

Center Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church was formed around the same time as the town in 1851, with 35 original members. For the first year, the congregation met in a barn on the farm of Michael Kunkle. The church was built in 1852 on its current site, but it burned in 1889 (the cause is unknown), and was rebuilt on the same site.

In the spring of 1923, the congregation voted to purchase the nearby property of Jesse Kunkle to be used for a manse. Other church endeavors over the church’s history included the remodeling of the basement in 1953, the erection of the brick bulletin board in 1982, remodeling of the exterior in 1984-85, and an addition to the rear of the church in 1989.

FIRE!

Like most places, Creekside also has some darkness in their history, from 1979 through 1981, there was a rash of arsons in the sleepy town of Creekside; the fire department responded to an increasing number – more than 50 – of suspicious fires.  These fires occurred in vacant homes, hunting camps and barns mostly occurring in the evening hours.  With each blare of the fire whistle, fear in the community rose.  Residents began sleeping with their loaded shotguns beside their bedside.

On February 11, 1979 during the early morning hours, there was a barn along Route 954 just south of Creekside that was burned.  Just two days later, the firemen were dispatched at 12:20 a.m. to a vacant, two-story frame house, just off Route 954 about a mile and a half south of town.  By the time firemen arrived, the structure was fully engulfed in flames.  Both fires had a suspicious origin.

The state police fire marshal was called, and this seems to have scared the arsonist because things returned to normal in the small town; that is until March 1980.

On March 18, two fires broke out.  The first destroyed a barn in Fulton Run, the second was in a one-room schoolhouse on the Indiana side of Fulton Run. Unfortunately, the arsonist grew braver.  There were five suspicious fires in April, followed by seven – one each month – from June through December.

To get a sense of how many calls were received from 1976 to 1980 – the Creekside Volunteer Fire Department responded to: 16 in 1976; 23 in 1977; 19 in 1978; 30 in 1979 and 45 in 1980.  By June 1, 1981 – a barn owned by George Craven was set ablaze for the second time – the fire department had answered 33 calls.

In 1980, the suspicious fires destroyed four barns, six vacant homes, a garage and a restaurant.  The three-month period from March through May 1981, saw four barns, three vacant houses, an abandoned trailer and two garages set ablaze.

Dick Kerner, Creekside volunteer fireman, said at the time that all the fires had things in common: they were in remote, secluded areas in unoccupied buildings, and started with road flares.  There was a suspect but was never charged, because authorities didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute; but the suspect seems to have felt the heat as the arsons stopped.

*The History of Creekside 1854-1994 published September 1994.
*Creekside Borough. Indiana Gazette July 8, 2003 pg. 11

Fire at the Moore Hotel

It was the early morning hours of October 22, 1966 when a devastating fire tore through the iconic Moore Hotel, leaving one person dead and the Indiana landmark in ruin. 

At the time of the fire, there were forty guests registered at the hotel, but fortunately not all were in the building at the time of the fire.  The blaze broke out around 2 a.m. in the vicinity of room 323 which was occupied by Ron Logan.  Thankfully Logan escaped but was hospitalized for treatment of shock. 

The Pennsylvania Railroad crew and a truck driver for Railway Express Agency, discovered the fire.  The trucker, quickly stepped into action by going into the offices of the Indiana Evening Gazette to turn in the alarm. 

Flames tore through the upper floors of the hotel and were out of control before the firemen were able to reach the scene.  Indiana firemen were assisted by Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, and Plumville, and thankfully they were able to contain the fire to the brick encasement of the building. 

moorehotelkey
Hotel key from the Moore Hotel

The only person that was not able to make it to safety was James Bollman, who was on the fourth floor.  Those on the upper floors were rescued via ladder trucks from the windows.  For those who are not familiar with the area, the Moore Hotel was located on Eighth and Philadelphia Streets, directly across Eighth Street from the Courthouse.  The building not only served as a hotel, but also housed seven business establishments on the Eighth Street side. 

Those businesses included; Valenti Shoe Repair, Swisher’s Sweeper Sales, Alvin Almes Realty, Ruth Knupp Beautry Salon, Lieb’s Appliances and Grundy’s Sports Shop, and a basement barbershop. 

William Bagley, the night deskman on duty the night of the fire and he was first informed the fire by Wilson Lydick, one of the guests.  Bagley went upstairs to check on the situation and upon seeing the fire immediately went back downstairs to phone emergency personnel but the police had already arrived.  Between the night deskman and the police, they went through the hotel warning guests to evacuate the building. 

The hotel was an iconic landmark in Indiana, dating back to the 19th century when it had containing 100 rooms.  It was first purchased around 1920 by Joseph Stern; and his son Morris operated the hotel for many years.  The hotel was at a prime location being across from the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger (located at the site of the present day courthouse). The site had been a hotel since around the end of the Civil War.  

Early records show that Solomon and Martin Earhart, brothers who were originally from Saltsburg, were in the livery stable business in West Indiana prior to 1865, which is the year Martin left that business and started a hotel in West Indiana. 

Apparently, Solomon started a hotel on the site of the Moore Hotel prior to 1876 because it was in that year that Martin purchased Solomon’s hotel, the Continental, and continued its operation. 

Martin had added a rear wing to the four story structure and then renamed it the American House, becoming a familiar landmark to the public traveling in the area. 

Martin passed away in 1913 and H.C. Moore acquired the hotel property, and subsequently renamed it the Moore Hotel. Mr. Moore added the brick shell to the building and a fifth floor. 

About 1920, Joseph Stern, the father of the owner at the time of the fire, acquired the property and completed the renovation and the fifth floor. 

As the years progressed, hotels were losing their original purpose and by the 1960s the hotel was being used for rooming house purposes rather than the typical hotel purpose.  Many of the guests at the hotel at the time of the fire, were actually permanent residents, many acquiring the living quarters in the Moore Hotel following the Indiana Hotel fire, which occurred on February 7, 1962. 

The Moore Hotel was the largest remaining hotel in Indiana, and had the structure not fallen victim to the tragic fire in 1966, it may have had a chance to regain some of its former elegance, especially when the new courthouse was built in the 1970s.