About the Society
In 1938, the Society was organized in the home of Blaine and Frances Strong Helman who lived on Locust Street in Indiana, Pa. There were six founding members. Their earliest meetings were in the Helman home, 732 Locust Street, and later were moved to the janitor's office at the Indiana Free Library (formerly the YMCA).
In 1940 the Society was incorporated, and the following year, headquarters were moved to Wilson Hall on the IUP campus.
Ten years later, in 1951, the Society moved its headquarters to the Clark House which at that time was called Memorial Hall, and later History House.
The efforts of the Society's members made possible the opening of a museum in the basement of the Clark House in 1954. In 1957, the Delano Coal Company donated the Buena Vista Furnace to the Society. Later, in 1961, the Abner Kelly Log Cabin was moved to the Society's grounds from Shelocta. Sadly, it is no longer in existence.
Growing membership and interest led to the founding of the Saltsburg branch of the Society in 1964. This branch is now autonomous.
In 1976, the Society produced its first reprint of a work of local historical interest. This time around it was the 1880 History of Indiana County by Caldwell, also referred to as "Arms & White." The same year, Frances Strong Helman was named County Historian by the Indiana County Commissioners. Since her death in 1980, Clarence Stephenson has been our County Historian.
Frances Strong Helman's exhaustive historical and genealogical materials were donated to the Society that year, and two years later, Attorney and Mrs. Don Miller donated their own vast collection. These two major collections provided the foundation for the current library and museum collections the Society currently maintains, and we are forever indebted to them for their forethought and great generosity.
In 1983, the Society reprinted a work of local historical and genealogical interest for the second time with the 1871 Beers Atlas of Indiana County. In the same year, Clarence Stephenson's Indiana County - 175th Anniversary History was published. Incidentally, these books as well as Caldwell's 1880 history of the county mentioned above are currently available (see our list of Items Available for Purchase).
Increased interest in local history, fueled in part by these publications and reprints, encouraged the Society to commence house tours which were initiated in 1986. Our website hosts one variety of the house tour, a Virtual Walking Tour of Indiana's Historic Sixth Street.
In 1988, the Society celebrated 50 years of existence and developed many goals for the future. One of these goals was realized the following year when Rep. Paul Wass arranged a $75,000 legislative grant enabling the purchase of the Clark House property by the Society, a process completed in 1994.
Recent years have seen a flurry of activity at the Society with the awarding of an AIHP matching grant for exterior restoration and a Key-93 matching grant for interior restoration. The results of some of this work can be seen in our restored parlors, which may be viewed online in a look inside the Clark House.
In 1999, the Society acquired the National Guard Armory, with much assistance from Sen. Patrick J. Stapleton and Cong. John Murtha, which enabled the Society to expand its mission and enhance access and service to its members and the community at large. Additionally, the construction of a new entrance ramp and paved parking lot help to make the Clark House and its resources available to all of our visitors. After much time, money, and work of our volunteers, the Historical Society moved into its new facility in 2003, and this building now houses the library, museum, and a veterans' museum and meeting area.
We have seen a great increase in membership from the original six members in 1938. Members and visitors have come to the Clark House from all fifty states and numerous countries around the world, in increasing numbers each year. We look forward to new and wonderful developments in the years to come.