About the Clark House
Before 2003, the Indiana County Historical & Genealogical Society was housed in a Victorian mansion known locally as The Clark House. Silas M. Clark built the house during the years of 1869 and 1870.
Mr. Clark, a descendant of local pioneer settler Fergus Moorhead, became one of Indiana County's leading citizens. He was born in Armstrong County in 1834, and moved to Indiana while he was still an infant. He attended Indiana public schools and enrolled in the Indiana Academy at the age of 14. Upon completion of his instruction at the Indiana Academy, Mr. Clark entered Jefferson College, Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania and was immediately placed in the Junior Class.
After graduation Mr. Clark returned to Indiana and taught at the Academy between 1853, and 1856. During this time he began to study law in the office of William M. Stewart and was admitted to the Indiana County Bar in 1857.
While earning a state-wide reputation as an excellent lawyer, Mr. Clark remained active in community and political affairs. His accomplishments include: Indiana Borough Councilman, Chairman of the Indiana County Democratic Committee, Indiana School Director and Board Secretary, Secretary and President of the Indiana Normal School (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Board of Trustees, delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, Delegate to the National Democratic Convention, President of the First National Bank of Indiana and President of the Indiana Agricultural Society. Most importantly, Mr. Clark was elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on November 7, 1882.
The site of Justice Clark's home also has an interesting history. George Clymer, signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, acquired the land on April 29, 1777, from the original owner, Samuel Pleasants of Philadelphia. In 1815, Mr. Clymer sold the site to the trustees of the Indiana Academy, the first secondary school in the county. The tract contained 147 perches and cost the trustees $50.00. A contract was negotiated with John Henry and John Loughry to erect a stone building, which was completed in 1816. For awhile, the structure was used as a common school until the Academy opened on June 1, 1818, under the Reverend John Reed, its first principal. Among the students who attended were Harry White, Silas M. Clark and Matthew Stanley Quay, noted in later years as Republican "boss" of Pennsylvania.
In 1846, a new brick building was erected on the same site by Henry Altman. It was one story, with three large Gothic windows. Until 1858, the Academy was for boys only, but in that year it became co-educational and the name was changed to Indiana Seminary. On June 22, 1864, the Academy was destroyed by fire. The bell survived and hung for some years in the old Brush Valley School. The Academy lot was offered for sale in 1866. Mr. Clark purchased the lot and began construction of his mansion in 1869.
During the years after Judge Clark's death in 1891, the other members of the family died or married and moved elsewhere. In 1915, his son, J. Wood Clark, was appointed Clerk of the United States District Court and moved to Pittsburgh. The mansion was then rented to F. M. Fritchman. On January 17, 1917, the Clark heirs sold the mansion to the Indiana County Commissioners for use as a memorial to the soldiers and patriotic organizations of the County. The purchase price was $20,000, of which the Clark heirs contributed $1,000. The mansion later served as a meeting place for several organizations, the office of the Indiana County Tourist Bureau, as a voting site, and as the library for the Historical & Genealogical Society of Indiana County. In 1978, the Clark House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1989, Paul Wass was instrumental in securing a legislative grant of
$75,000 for the purpose of acquiring a site or property for the Historical &
Genealogical Society of Indiana County. This money was used in 1992 to purchase
the Clark House from the county.
Click here to view pictures of the interior of the Clark House.
One of the interesting items donated to the Historical Society is a Civil War saber used by Robert Conner when he served with Co. G, 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry from 1864-1865. In those days, the soldiers had to purchase their own sabers. Previously, he had served with the 135th Reg't, PVI in 1862 when this photo was taken:
Robert had a son Levi, whose grandson, Edgar G. Conner, Jr., donated the saber to the society.
This year, we've welcomed three of Robert Conner's descendants on visits to the Clark House. On the left is Claude Wright with his ancestor's saber, and on the right are Timothy and his father, Harold Bennett, with the same saber. We're please they were able to visit and enjoy this part of their family's history!