Beginning last year in August, strange things started to happen at the museum. After everything began opening again, the Historical Society’s Program Committee wanted to do something special to get people interested in local history, deciding to host an event that would bring the past to life. A Night at the Museum was born. The inspiration came from the movie with the same namesake, where once the museum closes, the exhibits come to life. The first year was so successful, that they decided to try it again this year. Some of the historical figures made a return appearance, while others saw their premier that evening.
The newest addition this year was the display of classic cars in the museum parking lot. Thanks to the pristine weather, the owners were eager to exhibit their vehicles. Car owners were dressed appropriately for the time period of their car and shared with guests about the historic happenings during that era. With a map in-hand, guests were free to roam the grounds from the Clark House to Memorial Park and everywhere in between.
In the Clark House, guests were greeted by members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Did you know the Clark House was the meeting place for the GAR? The men talked about their war stories, while smoking pipes and cigars. Today we are reminded of the accomplishments of these men through the Rest on Arms Statute that was erected in front of the Clark House.
The GAR was not the only group who found a home at the Clark House, the Red Cross was also located there for a time. The structure was slated for demolition, with plans to construct a new armory hall; however, the outbreak of World War I forced the need for a headquarters for the Indiana County Chapter of the Red Cross. Visitors were able to learn about the chapter and their contributions to the war effort from one very dedicated volunteer.
Visitors then found Mr. and Mrs. Clark just settling down to tea in the sitting room, with their maid Della attentively making sure their cups were always full. Mr. Clark, home from serving on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was reminiscing with his wife about the murder trial he had a few years back, where he defended James Allison, who was accused of murdering his father. Clara remembered the case well, as it was the only thing that consumed her husband’s life for a period of time. Mrs. Allison passed away, confessing on her deathbed to killing her husband. Clara could not believe that a mother would let her son hang for the crime she had committed.
Across the parking lot in the Armory were many more figures from Indiana County’s past. The Society’s own Frances Strong Helman greeted visitors as they came through the Society, which she and five other founding members helped to create in her living room back in 1938. How things have grown! Mrs. Helman always loves to entertain museum visitors with stories of Indiana County history.
Harry McCreary, of the famed McCreary Tire and Rubber Company, was showing off some of the new tires from his trusted line. Jane Swisshelm shared with visitors about her fight for women’s rights and the difficulties of being a woman in the nineteenth century. There were two special guests this year - members of the Jablunovsky Military family, sharing stories of their loved ones military service. Drew Nance was also in attendance remembering his brother, James Nance's accomplishments, especially as a famed football star. As a reminder, The Jim Nance Story Opening Reception will be held at the Society on Thursday August 18, 2022 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. The event is free, but we do ask that you RSVP for planning purposes, which can be done through our website or by calling the Museum.
Memorial Park was also bustling with activity, John Armstrong was camping prior to his attack on the village of Kittanning. The remainder of his troops were not far away at Shaver’s Spring resting for the march and battle ahead. In the center of the Park was Alex Stewart, admiring the statue he helped erect in 1925. Guests also learned what it was like to be the first postmaster here in Indiana and what life was like being a cook on the Pennsylvania Canal. Be sure to check out our gallery of photos from the evening.
We would like to thank the following volunteers who made this event possible, for those that portrayed a historical figure the historical figure and actor are both listed.
Silas and Clara Clark - Allen Fiechuk and Cori Woods
Della the Main - Anna Kerner