Browse Encyclopedia

The Cumberland County Historical Encyclopedia is an expanding publication on the history of the Cumberland County. Covering a wide range of topics and the entire Cumberland County geographic region, the Encyclopedia seeks to be an initial entry point to those interested in the County's history. Entries seek to provide a list of resources available as well as showcasing some of the Cumberland County Historical Society's own collections.

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Col. Simon S. Alter: California Gold Rush ‘49er

Image of Main Street, Placerville, El Dorado County from the Library of Congress

“Ho! For California” headlined an item in the March 21, 1849 issue of the Carlisle Herald. “A party of enterprising adventurers, from Carlisle, consisting of Messrs. Geo. Fleming, Esq., Col. Simon Alter, Samuel F. Gaenslen, Geo. Keller, Wm. Keller, John C. Williams, and William Humer, left this place on Monday morning last for California. The party proceeds via Pittsburgh to the rendezvous at Independence, Missouri, where they will probably join one of the large expeditions on the overland route to California.”

John James Trumbull Arnold

Portrait of Miss Margaret Ramsey Woods (1823-1895) ca.1855, by John James Trumbull Arnold.

John James Trumbull Arnold was an itinerant portrait artist who painted the likenesses of people who lived in the York Springs area in the 1840s.  He was born in Latimer Township, York County, the son of Dr. John B. Arnold and his wife, the former Rachel Weakley. The last known dated portrait by Arnold was painted in 1853. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum lists John James Arnold as a ‘Professor of Penmanship and Portrait and Miniatures Painter’.[1]

Sandel Arnold: Hawker and Peddler

Scan of the second page of the Peddler's license issued to Sandel Arnold

In April 1839, Sandel Arnold applied to the authorities in Wurttemberg, Germany to immigrate to America.[1] Two years later, he was peddling goods out of his wagon to the residents of Cumberland County. Sandel Arnold was born in 1790 in Jebenhausen in the Goppingen District of (Württemberg) Germany. He was part of a large migration of German Jews to America in the nineteenth century. Like many Jewish men, he started business as a peddler.

Ashland Cemetery

Image of Ashland Cemetery with the Lindner monument at the center of the photo. Magnolia (tulip magnolia) trees are in bloom at the front of the photo.

Located on the York Road in the Borough of Carlisle’s east side is Ashland Cemetery. Its dedication took place October 8, 1865 with the Reverend Doctor Conway Wing giving an opening address.

Babes in the Woods

Outdoor B&W photo of a men and women standing around coffins in Westminster Cemetery near Carlisle, PA. Two coffins are visible, and a third is probably hidden behind one.

In November of 1934, the bodies of three young girls were found on South Mountain along Centerville Road (Rt. 233) in Penn Township. No readily identifiable information was available to determine who they were, and the ensuing investigation of the mystery attracted nation-wide attention.

Whitfield J. Bell, Jr.

Whitfield Jenks Bell, Jr., (3 December, 1914-2 January, 2009) was born in Newburgh, New York, and grew up in suburban Philadelphia.1 After graduating from Lower Merion High School, he enrolled in Dickinson College, graduating in the class of 1935.

Stephen Vincent Benet

Summer after summer Stephen Benet and his siblings,who were all writers, visited their maternal grandparents William and Mary (Mahon) Rose who resided in a Carlisle home located at the northwest corner of North Hanover and West Penn Streets.

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