Rise and Fall of Timber in the Indiana County Area

With the rapid rise in popularity of clipper ships during the early decades of the 19th century, shipbuilders along the eastern seaboard clamored for unprecedented quantities of high-grade timber. Responding to this lucrative demand, lumbering firms along the eastern seaboard dispatch experts far and wide to locate new timberlands.

One of the most astute – if not the most ethical – of these timber scouts was 46-year-old John Patchin of Sabbath Point on Lake George, New York.  A Maine firm commissioned Patchin to investigate the woodlands on the watershed of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and concurrently determine the feasibility of transporting Western Pennsylvania timbers via Pennsylvania waterways to the Chesapeake Bay.

After examining and admiring the size and texture of the dense stands of white pines on rolling lands that now encompasses Indiana, Cambria, and Clearfield Counties, Patchin, who lumbering historian Dudley Tonkin clamed “had the ability to even smell good pine,” promptly severed connections with his employer by “neglecting to file a report” on his mission.  Realizing the enormous profit potential in these untapped woodlands, he sent his two elder sons to bring the rest of the family to his new home in the wilderness (now Patchinville, a few miles north of Cherry Tree) where in 1835 he began acquiring some 10,000 acres of prime timberland, probably unaware that the low purchase price he paid was the result of Ben Franklin’s efforts some years before to prevail upon the state legislature to reduce the price per acre from 30 cents to a “half-bit” (6 ½ cents).

Others soon recognized the greenback potential of these evergreens and purchased large tracts in Banks, Canoe, Green, and Montgomery Townships.  White pines in this area were among the best in the country measuring from 2 to 5 feet in diameter and rising like a plumb line about 100 feet to the branches.  In 1882, a pine 8 feet in diameter and 120 feet tall – reputedly the largest in the state – was felled on the Graham tract in Banks County.

Among the prominent timbering pioneers were John Tonkin, Cornellius McKeage, John Chase, Nathan Croasman, Porter Kinport, Reeder King, Richard Smith and J.M. Gutherie.  But by far the most legendary figure of this era was John Patchin who acquired the envious title of “The Spar King” together with a considerable fortune by the time he died in 1863.

Patchin shrewdly conserved his own timber preferring instead to cut and market the finest trees of impoverished neighbors and absentee owners many of whom were glad to have their land cleared of timber.

Patchin’s operations are illustrated by his dealings with his impecunious neighbor, John Tonkin, to whom he paid one dollar per tree which he then felled and cut lengthwise into rectangular timbers known as spars.  Shipbuilders fastened three of these 92 feet long spars end-to-end to form a single mast which they secured to the keels of sailing vessels.  In addition to holding the sails aloft, the mast also was attached to the rigging in such a manner as to give dimensional strength to the ship thereby preventing it from breaking in two during fierce storms.  While pine spars from Western Pennsylvania were ideally suited for masts because of their ability to withstand the rigors of all extremes of weather without warping or loss of strength.

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Logs ready for cutting at sawmill in vicinity of Yellow Creek.

The transporting of enormous timbers to the shipyards required considerable ingenuity and skill.  The felled trees were dragged to the riverbank by as many as eight teams of horses.  In the winter, the logs were loaded on a timber sled, designed by Patchin, and hauled to the river.  Here the poles were assembled to construct a raft.  Ten or twelve timbers were fastened together with a “lash pole” and held firmly in place with U-shaped bows to form a platform.  Three of these platforms were then coupled together to make a “half-raft” or “pup.”  When the “pups” reached the mountains below Clearfield where the river widened, two were joined in tandem to reduce the crew required to maneuver them.  Rafts varied in size, the standard ones measuring about 27 feet wide and 250-300 feet long.  Reputedly the longest raft to navigate the Susquehanna contained 142 logs and measured 2,000 feet in length.

After the completion of the “rafting in” as the construction of the raft was called, the raft was tethered to the bank with a hickory with or heavy rope.  The crew then waited for a freshet or spring flood that would enable them to launch the craft.  At the propitious time, a raftsman would “tie the raft loose” and into the current it sailed.  Occasionally, the passengers included a cow to furnish liquid nourishment and a horse on which the “captain” returned after selling his timbers.  Navigating the tortuous, and in stretches hazardous, West Branch of the Susquehanna 200 miles to Williamsport and thence south on the Susquehanna through Harrisburg to the Chesapeake Bay required a high degree of rafting skill.  A pilot, experienced and proficient in the art of handling a raft was undisputed master of the craft.  He and his helper manned the front oar which they manipulated to guide the front end of the raft while the rafters on the rear oar, known as “sternsmen,” swung the aft end in accord with orders from the pilot.  A raft frequently changed pilots below Harrisburg.

One of the most notorious danger zones on the West Branch was located at Rocky Bend and Crest Falls just below the present town of Mahaffey.  Here the river bend, studded with giant boulders, hairpins into the head of the falls where the water slopes sharply.  Successful navigation of this sector necessitated circumventing the rocks and delicately maneuvering to scrape the inside shore of a sharp curve in order to gain the proper position for a descent through the rapid falls.

This same section of the river also was the locale for the activities of legendary Joe McCreery, a powerful young giant who settled in the vicinity of Cherry Tree.  Universally acclaimed as “the best man on the river,” McCreery was commissioned to dynamite the nearby hazardous rocks out of the river.  However, this project was never completed because of insufficient funds.

During the Civil War, rafting flourished as demand zoomed for white oak which was used to replace decayed and damaged timbers in docks and wharves.  Wartime prosperity inflated the price of wood per cubic foot from 5 cents to 21 cents – a profitable development which finally tempted “Spar King” Patchin to cut down some of his own trees.

lumber stockpile
Lumber stockpile ready for shipment.

In the latter half of the 1800s the practice of “logging” came into vogue as a means of transporting timber to market.  As the name implies, this procedure consisted simply in floating free logs on waterways to a “boom,” a riverside facility for halting, storing and floating the logs to the ponds of adjoining sawmills which purchased and processed them into lumber.  The Williamsport boom which handled as many as 300 million board feet of lumber per year began operations in 1850 and soon became the lumber capital of the world.

Timbermen contracted with loggers to drive their logs to the boom.  The most successful log drivers on the West Branch were Anthony and Patrick Flynn whose partnership, formed in 1868, was awarded the logging contract with all major producers for 22 years.

A logger’s work began at the “skidway,” a sloping riverbank area, on which logs were aligned in ranks parallel to the river.  When the melted snow and spring rains swelled the streams to a level favorable for floating the logs, a team or horses at the top of the embankment was urged forward so as to strike the back log and start it rolling.  The transmitted impact quickly rolled all the logs into the water.  The loggers, armed with long pikes and waring heavy shoes with long calks on their soles to reduce slippage, then walked out on the carpet of logs to shepherd them on their journey.  The loggers were followed by two large arks or houseboats, one of which served as a cook shack and sleeping quarters while the other sheltered the horses used to haul stray logs back into the current.  “Dan,” one of Pat Flynn’s horses, made 19 trips down the Susquehanna.

As log drives were often 30 feet wide, the driver had to be constantly vigilant to avoid jams.  He would move about by jumping from log to log always being careful to avoid slipping into the water as the logs were packed so densely that he ran the danger of not getting out or being crushed to death as sometimes happened.  And when one or more logs got caught in such a way as to cause the whole drive to jam and thereby halt the flow, the logger would endeavor feverishly to break the impasse with his pike, saw, or in stubborn cases, dynamite.

Although the West Branch of the Susquehanna handled the largest volume of logging business in this part of the state, Big and Little Yellow Creeks also carried their share of logs especially during the period from 1880 to 1902.

The leading local logger for this operation was J.M. Gutherie who owned substantial coal and timber tracts adjoining the waters of Yellow Creek from “Possum Glory” (now Heilwood) to Homer City and on Two Lick below Indiana.  In 1879 his company, the Charles Improvement and Mining Company, constructed mills on the banks of Yellow at Homer City.  Gutherie also operated two mills above Homer City on Two Lick Creek and the lumber yard located on the present site of Indiana University’s Leininger dormitory at Oakland Avenue.

Gutherie’s employees, like all lumbermen of that era, worked hard from sunup to sundown for which they were paid $1 per day plus board.  Skilled laborers received $1.50 a day, while the bossman picked up the handsome sum of $3.75 to $4 per diem.   Workers who lost two hours on their job because of rain were cut half a day’s wages.

Woodsmen were quartered or “shantied” in camps or boarded with local families.  Some stayed at the West Indiana House (later the Houk Hotel) where a dollar paid for a night’s lodging together with supper and breakfast.  Single beds were available for 25 cents.  Satisfying the appetite of these active outdoorsmen posed a real challenge to the cooks including the renowned camp cook, “Russ” Ray, as revealed by the following menus:

Breakfast:

Hot rare Beef Steak

Pork Sausage-Fried potatoes

Biscuit with Apple Butter (from farmer)

Stewed Prunes-cookies

Molasses-Tea with sugar

Noon Meal-dinner:

Pork and Sauer Kraut

Fried Pork-boiled potatoes

Boiled Codfish

Peas in Beef broth

Biscuits-cookies

Raisins and rice

Apple Pie

Tea with sugar

Supper:

Boiled Salt Cod Fish – freshened in a trough below the spring

Fried Pork, potatoes boiled in their jackets

Pea Soup

Biscuit-Corn Bread

Cookies and Stewed Raisins-Mince Meat Pie

Tea with sugar

west indiana hotel
Group of loggers with their pikes pose outside the West Indiana House (later the Houck Hotel) prior to going to work at Yellow Creek.  During the latter part of the 19th century this hotel was a favorite lodging for loggers who paid a quarter a night for a single bed.

The coming of loggers to the West Branch of the Susquehanna aroused the hostility of raftsmen who claimed that the free logs and booms impeded and endangered the fleet of rafts.  However, the deeper reason lay in the resentment of native residents to “furriners” in the form of businessmen from New England and veteran French-Canadian loggers.

Raftsmen reacted by attempting to sabotage logging operations by such means as driving metal spikes into the logs so as to snarl the saw during cutting.  Loggers quickly solved this problem by peeling the logs so as to readily reveal any embedded metal objects.  Thereupon, raftsmen resorted to the extreme of ambushing a crew of log drivers along Clearfield Creek on March 30, 1857.  The loggers initiated legal action with the result that the court found eight raftsmen guilty of obstructing the stream.  After ten years of feuding, the rival lumbermen agreed to an armistice which thereafter enabled them to enjoy a peaceful co-existence.

Although most of the wood in northeastern Indiana County was logged or rafted to eastern mills, some timbermen foresaw a lucrative market on their doorstep.  The fledging village of Indiana, founded in 1816, became the county seat and its anticipated growth would require a considerable volume of lumber.  One of the early lumbermen to seize this opportunity was Richard Smith who in 1822 settled along Cushion Creek in Green township.  Here he set up a sawmill which would process 1,000 feet of one-inch boards per day.

Smith loaded the pine boards on large wagons fitted with 60-inch rear and 48-inch front wheels.  To transport the wood to Indiana, one of Smith’s four sons would rise at 5 a.m. and set off on the 20-mile trip through the forest.  Consummate skill was required to maneuver the heavy load over the dirt roads treacherously decorated with rocks, roots, ruts, and mudholes.  The wagon reached the county seat in mid-afternoon, and the boards were unloaded in the lumber concentrating yard.  Then after picking up the cash payment, about $20 per load, young Smith drove the team back at a brisk pace so as to return home about daybreak.

Smith’s sons inherited his lumber business and expanded it extensively when the Pennsylvania Railroad ran a branch line from Blairsville to Indiana in 1856.  Some idea of the profitability of these lumbering operations may be gained from the fact that one of the Smith sons was robbed of $50,000, and the next day he deposited $40,000 in an Indiana bank.

But the tall pine tracts which had seemed endless to the early settlers of Indiana County eventually were exhausted.  By the end of the nineteenth century, the once green forests were denuded, leaving a desolate graveyard of stumps.  Over 43 million board feet of lumber had been stripped form the Patchin interests alone.  And as logs and rafts disappeared from the river, lumbermen dismantled their sawmills to use the wood for barns.

In 1938, a group of gray-haired loggers recreated the bygone days by constructing “The Last Raft” which set out form McGees Mills with ten aboard on a trip to Harrisburg.  En route other old timers came aboard until there were 48.  Then at Muncy the nostalgic excursion came to a tragic end when the raft struck a bridge pier hurling 47 raftsmen into the icy waters which claimed seven victims by drowning.  A happier remembrance of the rafting and logging era was celebrated on August 22, 1955 when a large crowd joined with 20 retired rivermen, ranging in age from 85 to 95 years, in unveiling a granite memorial dedicated to the “Rafters, Loggers, Their Mothers, and Wives of Penn’s Woods.”

Buena Vista Furnace

Background

Buena Vista Furnace was used in iron making, which was an important industry in Pennsylvania. However, before the making of iron could commence, land needed to prospected for ore, limestone, and timber. Also needed was a stream located nearby for power. Once all the necessary elements were located the “iron master” began to construct the furnace and put it into operation.

These furnaces were located near hillsides, so the ore, charcoal, and limestone could be dumped into the top of the furnace by workers called “fillers.” A bellows provided air to raise the temperature to the point when smelting occurred.

When enough iron was melted, the furnace was tapped and iron ran into channels located in the sand floor of the casting house located in front of the furnace. The main stream of molten iron was called “sow,” and the side channels called “pigs,” henceforth the product which was produced was known as “pig iron.”

Before the pig iron could be used it had to be further refined before it could be used. The iron bars from the furnaces were hauled by wagon to the Pennsylvania Canal and further transported to a forge in Pittsburgh. It was in Pittsburgh where the iron was turned into products such as utensils, stoves and other items.

The Workers

The lives of those who worked at the iron furnaces, did not live easy lives; and their lives varied by skill, responsibility, and social status. The things which the workers needed, ranging from clothing to food to housing was provided by the furnace owner. Workers pay was “in-kind” rather than in cash. The workers included fillers, guttermen, moulders, colliers, miners, laborers, teamsters, and woodcutters. All of their work was supervised by the iron master.

The iron master was considered a capitalist, technician, market analyst, personnel director, bill collector, purchasing agent, and transportation expert.  This means that in order to be a successful iron master one needed to have a combination of numerous qualities including: wealth, respect and pride in producing a good quality product.

The Buena Vista Furnace

Buena Vista Furnace located in Brush Valley Township, located along Black Lick Creek, half a mile downstream of the Route 56 Bridge. The Furnace was erected in 1847 by Henry T. McClelland, Stephen Alexander Johnston and Elias B. McClelland, it has also been known as McClelland’s Furnace.

The story begins on April 29, 1847 when the partners obtained a deed to a tract of about 90 acres for the sum of $300. By December, the partnership acquired additional land so that they had 421 acres.  The Buena Vista Day Books contain entries of purchases of food, supplies and equipment with entries beginning May 7, 1847 and ending in 1849.

If you know about American history, Buena Vista will be familiar to you as a battle in the Mexican War. This battle occurred on February 22-23, 1847 when Santa Ana’s 14,000 Mexican troops met Zachary Taylor’s 5,000-man army near the small hacienda of Buena Vista, Mexico. Taylor’s troops were mostly inexperienced and badly outnumbers, but the two armies fought to a draw. Thanks to Taylor’s efforts at Buena Vista he won fame and later contributed to his presidential victory in the 1848 election. This battle is the namesake for the furnace.

buena vista
Buena Vista Furnace

The furnace began operating in 1848 with about 61 men and boys and 30 mules were employed at the furnace. A summary from an 1850 Sheriff’s Sale, the site contained a store, three houses, seven log cabins (called furnace houses), a blacksmith shop, two log barns, and a saw mill.

There was speculation in 1848 that the Pennsylvania Railroad would construct a line through the Blacklick Valley, which is the likely reason why the site was chosen for the furnace. However, the railroad was not constructed in this area until 1903, and by that time the Buena Vista Furnace was already out of business.

The furnace was 30-foot tall cold blast furnace, and used local iron ore, limestone and charcoal to produce about 400 tons of pig iron in 1848, but the furnace went out of blast in 1849.

In 1850, the Indiana County Sheriff seized the 822-acre property and sold at it at Sheriff’s sale. The Sheriff’s deed was made to Dr. Alexander Johnston, father of Stephen Johnston. The property consisted of 822 acres which included the furnace, a saw mill, “seven small frame and log dwelling houses, called furnace houses” and various other houses, barns, etc.  It was reported that the Furnace produced 560 tons of iron out of shell and bog ore in 1854. The furnace finally closed in 1856, ending a very short business life of less than 10 years.

Another change in ownership came in 1900, when Stephen Johnston sold a 67-acre parcel which included the Buena Vista Furnace to Judge A.V. Barker for $20,000. Barker then sold it and other properties to the Lackawanna Iron and Steel Company in 1902. The property passed again in 1917, this time to the Vinton Colliery Company.

There was a rumor in the 1930s that Henry Ford had an interest in purchasing the Buena Vista Furnace and planned to transport it to Greenfield Village in Michigan via rail. The proximity of the furnace to the railroad would have made dismantling and loading it relatively easy. However, there was then a movement to acquire the furnace and keep it in the local area, this movement may have been sparked by Ford’s interest.

In 1930, the Buena Vista Park Association was organized, with the purpose of preventing the furnace from being moved. There was a hope that the state would acquire the property and turn the property into a historical landmark or public park. As with most projects during the Great Depression, the establishment of the park was stalled.

The Historical Society purchased the furnace in 1957 from the Delano Coal Company. Through the efforts of Clarence Stephenson, county historian, improvements to the site began in the mid-1960s. Then in the summer of 1965 and continuing through 1966-67, a work-training project, through the Indiana County Public Assistance Office, completed site improvements.

The Failure of the charcoal iron furnaces

There are various reasons for the failure of the charcoal iron furnaces. One of those reason was the change of the anticipated railroad route thru the Conemaugh valley instead of the valley of Black Lick Creek. This change negatively affected Buena Vista Furnace. Another reason is the low grade and sometimes unreliable supply of carbonate iron ore. Third was the outmoding within a few years of the charcoal cold-blast method of iron making. Finally, were economic reasons, there was a lack of protection from cheaper foreign iron afforded by the low tariff o 1846. The average price of a ton of iron fell from $53.75 in 1815 to $24.50 in 1849.

The situation was so bad that by around 1850, most or all of the local furnaces were forced to close, some for good. There was an upsurge in the price of iron within a year or two. By 1856, two furnaces were operating in Indiana County, probably the Black Lick Furnace and the Indiana Iron Works, together producing about 2455 tons of iron.

Today the remains of the Buena Vista Furnace are what remains of this once thriving industry.

Labor Leader: William H. Sylvis

William H. Sylvis, future labor leader, was born in the town of Armagh on November 28, 1828, to Nicholas Sylvis, a wagon maker, and Maria Mott. The Sylvis family moved to Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe, PA), his father worked for a boatbuilding relative and then moved to White Deer Valley, where he began his own wagon shop in 1835.

A faltering economy forced William Sylvis, 11-years old at the time, into indentured service on the land of a wealthy farmer and state legislator from the Philadelphia area. His father’s wagon-making business began to grow again, and his father wished that young William would work for him when he turned 16, but William went to work for the Forest Iron Works instead.

During this time, the common practice for businesses was to pay their employees only enough to survive from week to week, and the remainder of the wages would be paid at the end of the year. Sylvis worked for nearly a year, but before he received the bulk of his pay, the company went out of business.

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William Sylvis

From Philadelphia, Sylvis moved to Curwensville, Clearfield County to work as a foundry apprentice. He also taught Sunday school in Hollidaysburg and worked in Johnstown for a short time before he married. In 1851, he married 15-year old Amelia A. Thomas; the following year the newlyweds along with their infant son moved back to Philadelphia in 1852 and worked in the Cresson, Stuart and Peterson Foundry. Sylvis soon learned the hardships of a low paid worker, as he struggled to provide for a second son born in 1854.

In 1854, tragedy struck in a work-related accident at the Cresson Foundry. Sylvis was working as an iron molder among fellow workers who were casting molds in sand. Another molder was carrying a long ladle of melted iron, stumbled, and the ladle spilled into one of Sylvis’ boots. Sylvis became crippled in that leg. This was before disability benefits, so Sylvis knew that such an injury would likely lead to begging on the street or selling pencils, just to survive.

Despite his injury, a year later, Sylvis returned to work at the foundry. During the Panic of 1857, the company wanted huge wage concessions, and a fledgling union struck; although Sylvis was not a member of the union, he picketed with the members. Sylvis soon became secretary of the union and probably its most active member. Two years later, Sylvis founded the Iron Molders Union and became the president of the National Labor Union (NLU) (a predecessor of both the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor). As president of the National Labor Union, Sylvis supported the right of women to vote (this was 54 years before women had the right to vote in the United States).

During this time, Sylvis not only worked his regular 10-hour shift at the foundry, but also the workload of writing union reports. He also started to deliver speeches to his fellow laborers. But with the quick rise to influence and his sharp tongue, there were enemies. Those enemies were behind charges that Sylvis embezzled union funds. Sylvis provided a full accounting but was still voted out at the 1861 convention.

The Civil War caused a boom in production and there was no shortage of jobs in molding or other trades, but the unions’ power declined because of their members joining the ranks of draft dodgers fleeing to Canada. Sylvis opposed war because he realized that a division of the nation would undermine labor’s progress, because of this Sylvis favored a compromise that would divide the west into a northern free area and a southern slave zone. Sylvis did serve briefly as an orderly sergeant in the fall of 1862 by leading a group of men in pursuit of Lee as he withdrew from Antietam.

The Molders were revived in Pittsburgh and added the tag “International” in recognition of Canadian locals. Sylvis was exonerated from the charges and was elected president. The only issue was that the union did not have money and few members, so Sylvis embarked on three organizing tours to the west, and his work paid off. Two years later, the International Union boasted 122 locals with a membership nearing 7,000.

In 1865, tragedy struck the Sylvis family; typhoid fever claimed his wife in October. Sylvis swifty wooed and wed Florrie Hunter, whose family he had befriended in Hollidaysburg. The following year, there was a fifth child added to the Sylvis family.

Sylvis also founded the International Journal, a union periodical; it was through this periodical that he helped start “Reading Rooms” for the general public. He also helped obtain an eight-hour work day law for federal employees.

Sylvis was ahead of his time in his calling for social reforms and the extension of union benefits to women and African-Americans. In fact, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was accepted as a delegate at the 1868 NLU convention. It should be noted that Sylvis had a continued prejudice against African-Americans; however, he wanted them included in organized labor to prevent their use as strikebreakers.

Sylvis dedicated his life to labor, at the expense of his health; and on July 22, 1869 he was stricken by inflamed bowels and five days later he died, at the young age of 41. He left behind his wife and five children with less than $100. The NLU appropriated money to cover his funeral, and there was a 10 cent tax collected from all members to help the family. After his death, the NLU severed its ties to the women’s movement, and in three years disappeared altogether.

*Sojak, Frank, Indiana County labor group works to honor Armagh native, Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. May 20, 1990.; William H. Sylvis Pioneer of American Labor.; William Sylvis: A forgotten hero of labor. Himler, Jeff, Marker Pays Tribute To Armagh Labor Leader, Blairsville Dispatch, June 7, 1990.

A Place Called “Marlin’s Mills”

For those residents of Washington Township, Indiana County, they are familiar with the town of Willet, originally known as Marlin’s Mills. Washington Township was formed in 1807 from a portion of Armstrong Township, just four years after the formation of Indiana County in 1803. The Township was named in honor of General George Washington, under whom many of the first settlers in the area served during the Revolutionary War. 

The name Marlin’s Mills came from the first settler on the tract of land, the Marlin family. Jesse Marlin built a sawmill in the town in 1832 and a gristmill in 1834. The grist mill stood along Plum Creek. The gristmill had one run of country stone and another of burrs, measuring 30 by 32 feet, it had two stories and a basement and used a “rye fly” wheel. A second mill was erected on the site in 1871, which measured 32 by 38 feet, but built in the same manner as the original mill, except this mill used a reaction wheel instead.  

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Marlin’s Mills

Jesse Marlin was born in 1804, the son of Joshua Marlin. Joshua Marlin bought a 305-acre tract of land in 1785 and was the first settler in the area. It is said that when Mr. Marlin first came to the area of Willet, there were Indian bark huts along Plum Creek. 

The post office in Willet was establish on December 28, 1853 with Jesse Marlin serving as postmaster; the office closed on February 28, 1906. 

In 1890, a productive filed of natural gas was discovered and the gas was piped to Indiana from this field. 

Marlin’s Mill had good farm land and a good supply of water coming from the South Branch of Plum Creek. The mill also helped as people settled in the area. As the town grew, so did the business which included: farmers; millers, dealing in flour, grain, and feed; there were merchants, and general store, and Justice of the Peace. There was also a wagon and carriage manufacturer along with a blacksmith. 

The town boasts two churches: Harmony Grove Lutheran, established in 1861, and Plum Creek Presbyterian, which has graves in its cemetery dating back to 1832.

Unique Industries: Indiana Macaroni Company

Indiana County has been home to many different industries ranging from breweries to foundries, although one of the more unique and perhaps most forgotten is the Indiana Macaroni Company. The company began production on October 6, 1914, with John Rezzola and Carlo Marino as co-partners. The 34×175 foot two-story brick building with a basement was located on the south side of Maple Street near the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh (BR&P) railroad line. There were at least four homes built on Maple Street for the occupancy of employees. Eighteen barrels of flour we converted into macaroni every day; with 23 different styles of macaroni being produced. Two forming machines were capable of turning out 230 pounds of macaroni in eight minutes. Products were shipped all over the United States including Florida, Maine, Texas, and Michigan. By 1919, there were 25 workers, and the Indiana Macaroni Company was the largest manufacturer of food products within Indiana County at the time.

macaroni

In the beginning, ads were marketed toward women, as homemakers were beginning to expand their interests beyond their residence and were seeking quick meals, so they did not have to compromise their new activities. Further, families were searching for ways to save money, and macaroni products were affordable and noted as “one of the best backgrounds for a vitamin imaginable.”  Indiana Macaroni Company equated their product as providing a level of satisfaction similar to bread. The Company even went to the extreme and referred to their macaroni as an excellent meat substitute and a food that aids sufferers of diabetes and gout in their recovery.

As the United States entered World War II, many areas in Pennsylvania and across the United States entered into war industries, but not Indiana County. As a result, the population of Indiana County as of March 1, 1943 was 17,649 less than on April 1, 1940.

Because of the move toward war industries and those serving in the armed forces, many existing industries were forced to close or encountered unexpected problems. On August 7, 1945, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sued Indiana Macaroni Company in Federal Court, asking that it be restrained from doing business until unsanitary conditions were rectified. The Company had previously acquired an army contract for 60,000 pounds of pasta products but was warned on April 11 not to ship in interstate commerce.

macaronibox

Many of the manufacturing industries during the 1917-1945 period did not survive into the post-war period. In 1948, employees of the Indiana Macaroni Company were on strike for approximately a month while the president of Local No. 58, Bakers and Confectionary Workers Union, tried to reach a deal for a 25 cent per hour increase in pay. The company was in some financial difficulties, but an hourly increase of 15 cents was finally negotiated. In 1951, Indiana Macaroni Company closed its doors. The enterprise was briefly revived in 1952 as Indiana Noodle Co., owned by Mehotti Perfetti. Perfetti was an employee at the Indiana Macaroni Company for 22 years. He purchased new equipment for his endeavor, with the company being located in a building on South Twelfth Street but closed its doors permanently in 1952 after Perfetti passed away. And so ended an era of pasta manufacturing in Indiana County.

Sources: Indiana County 175th Anniversary History by Clarence D. Stephenson; Various articles from Indiana Gazette; Americanized Macaroni Products, published by the National Macaroni Institute

Indiana Glass

What is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s (IUP) Miller Stadium and parking lot, was one the location of a prominent business in Indiana, the Indiana Glass Company. Beginning in 1892 and continuing until 1931, there were a total of five different companies that manufactured glass.

The first of these glass companies was the Indiana Glass Company, which was in operation from 1892-1896. On January 1, 1892, a group of community leaders met with Mr. Nevill, a visiting glass expert, who had a proposal to build a glass factory that would be for manufacturing glass. $35,000 in stock was raised and the Indiana Glass Company was formed. Harry White, W.B. Marshall, Griffith Ellis, Thomas Sutton, John S. Hastings, H.W. Wilson, and Delos A. Hetric were named as directors and Harry was elected president and authorized the raising of capital stock to $50,000. The total cost for building and equipping the factory was $29,000. Sadly, the Indiana Glass Company was not successful financially and it was sold in October 1895 at a Sheriff’s sale.

workers
Company glass workers taking a break, possibly at the Pan American Exhibition.

Following was the Northwood Glass Company, in operation from 1896-1899. Harry C. Northwood, an English immigrant, was the founder of the Northwood Glass Company. Harry leased the Indiana glass plant in February 1896 and glass production resumed once again in Indiana that March. Harry’s father, John Northwood, was an innovator in acid etching of glass and invented a template machine for decorating.  Harry Northwood went on to establish many other glass factories. Mr. Northwood employed his cousin, Thomas E. Dugan, as plant foreman. Harry considered moving his glassworks to Blairsville, but thankfuly in 1898 an agreement was reached with Indiana Borough Council, so that Thomas Dugan, and Harry and Clara Northwood could purchase the factory.

In 1899, the Northwood Glass Company was sold to the National Glass Company of Pittsburgh. However, Thomas Dugan remained in control of the Indiana factory and operated it from 1900-1904.

A unique piece made by the glass company for the 1901 Pan American Exhibition in Buffalo, NY was a full-sized gown made of spun glass. AlAccording to Alfred Dugan’s wife Mayme, the dress would have “made them famous if it wasn’t for the assassination of President McKinley.” Alfred was one of the managers of the company at the time.

dress
The mannequin wearing a full-sized gown of spun glass.

In 1904, the plant again changed hands, when Thomas E.A. Dugan and several other investors purchased the factor creating the Dugan Glass Company, which remained in operation until 1913.  The Dugan Glass Company was best known for its production of carnival glass and introduced many different designs. On February 5, 1912, tragedy struck when a fire swept through the factory’s mold shop and destroyed many expensive glass patterns, causing $20,000 worth of damage. In 1913, the company again changed names, as Thomas Dugan sold the factory to Diamond Glassware Company.

The Diamond Glasware Company also produced carnival glass using many of the molds and patterns originally created by Thomas E.A. Dugan. They also introduced many new patterns as well. Miraculously the company continued producing through World War I and into the Great Depression, but disaster struck on June 27, 1931.  A fire destroyed most of the factory, this included the stockroom and $30,000 of finished glass. When all was said and done, the total loss was $100,000, and the factory closed permanently, thus ending almost 4 decades of glass production in Indiana, PA.