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Architecture of Western Cumberland County

The Western one-third of Cumberland County contains a multitude of historic structures;  approximately two thousand of these were surveyed from September 1984 to September 1985 as part of a project sponsored by the Cumberland County Historical Society and the Pennsylvania Bureau for Historic Preservation. As one would expect in an agricultural county first settled during the middle of the eighteenth century, the majority of these historic structures are nineteenth century farmhouses and nineteenth century town residences. Most of the non-residential structures related either to processing, transporting, or storing agricultural products.

Exceptions to agricultural-related structures or residences were structures which processed the natural resources of the area: sawmills, lime kilns, clay potteries, and iron ore furnaces. Sawmills had been plentiful along the North and South Mountain regions in western Cumberland County, while lime kilns flourished in the limestone soil of the area directly south of the Conodoguinet Creek. Quality clay in sections of the central region of the area encouraged the manufacture of brick and pottery. Because of the presence of iron ore lodes, furnaces and forges sprang up along the South Mountain. Only a few of these non-agricultural structures survive—fewer than ten lime kilns and one furnace stack.

Arsenic in the Leaven

Life for the Scottish Carothers clan in East Pennsborough, now Silver Spring Township, was neither calm nor peaceful in that tiny fragment of time between 1798 and 1801. Four murders occured within two of the families, the John Carothers and the Andrew Carothers.

Arsenic in the Tea, Nisbet Wrote

It was an early summer day in 1792, and a gloomy man was in a bad mood. Charles Nisbet, a Presbyterian minister in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to his bookseller, William Young, in Philadelphia. The two had been corresponding about twice a year since 1790; Nisbet was beginning his sixth letter to Young. Nisbet's half of the exchange is in the archives of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Young's letters to Nisbet seem not to have survived. Nisbet had come with his family to Carlisle from Montrose, Scotland, in 1785, when he became the first principal (president) of Dickinson College and also assisted with preaching at the Presbyterian Church on the Square in Carlisle. A month before this letter to Young, Nisbet had presided at Dickinson's graduation of twenty-five seniors.  

As Nisbet sat down to write to Young on that June day, 1792, he saw only bleak horizons. "I often ask my self [sic]," Nisbet wrote, "What dost thou here?" The question was that heard by the prophet Elijah (1Kings19:13, KJV). Nisbet's answer to himself offered scant encouragement. "I can scarcely discover," he confessed, "that I have done any good," with the exception, he added, of teaching "a few young men to preach the Doctrine of Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, & the Necessity of Holiness in order to Salvation, in this Infidel Country. " Thus Nisbet, consoled himself.

Art From the President's House: A Portrait of John McClintock

Several notable paintings and portraits decorate the walls of the President's House of Dickinson College. Two favorites are the portraits hanging in the living room, of John McClintock and his first wife, Caroline Augusta. The portraits were given to the College by the Longacre family of Philadelphia, descendants of Caroline Augusta. Caroline's portrait was painted by Theodore Pine in 1850, when Caroline was thirty-six. Who painted John, and the year are unknown, but the work seems to have been done between 1836, when the McClintock's were married and 1850, when Augusta died.

The Artificial Swan, the Elephant, and the One Hundred Educated Canaries: Public Performance in Cumberland County 1800-1870

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, it was no simple matter for professional performers to get to the Cumberland Valley, and local newspaper coverage of entertainment is so sketchy that we can only guess at how often theatrical companies, musical groups, or other entertainers included Carlisle, Shippensburg, Chambersburg, and other towns on their itineraries. The first to advertise in the newspapers was a group of actors from Virginia and Maryland who came to Carlisle in October of 1791 and again in 1798. Both times, they stayed about a week and presented a series of currently popular plays, the most ambitious of which was Sheridan's The School for Scandal. On both occasions Carlisle was part of a circuit that took the company all the way from Yorktown, Virginia, to York, Pennsylvania.

Basket Ball--Carlisle Indians Triumphant

Winters in New England are lengthy and bitter, and the college-age students at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Training School (Springfield College today) in Springfield, Massachusetts in the early 1890s could become somewhat boisterous when weather conditions prohibited their going outside to participate in sports. Concerned not only with the students' unruliness but also with their physical fitness, Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, the school's head of physical education, challenged his employee, Canadian-born James Naismith, to invent a game that the students could play indoors. Gulick gave him two weeks to come up with something.

Born in 1861 near Almonte, Ontario, Naismith graduated from Montreal's McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education and while there was active in rugby, lacrosse, gymnastics, and football. He subsequently enrolled in McGill's Presbyterian College of Theology while serving his alma mater as an instructor of physical education. Upon graduation with a theological diploma in 1890, he departed for America for study and work at the Springfield YMCA Training School.

Battle of Papertown, April 23, 1861

As America commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War there is a renewed interest in the history of the conflict, its battles and its impacts. This paper looks at what came to be referred to as the "Battle of Papertown," an incident that resulted in the death of a young Carlisle man. The account is of interest not so much for the battle itself, as there was none, but rather for the insight it offers into the emotional mood of the country at the start of the war. It is also an interesting look at how the events relating to the battle entered the memory of the town and how it was documented over the next century. (Papertown is now Mount Holly Springs, PA)

The events in Carlisle and Papertown took place on April 23, 1861, just over one week after the fall of Fort Sumter to rebel forces and the start of what would become the American Civil War. President Lincoln issued a call for troops on April 17th and by the 21st the first men to enlist had left Carlisle. For a time when the only media were the telegraph and newspaper, rumors and fear flashed across the country almost as rapidly as news does today.

Bishop Henry Heisey Brubaker, Missionary from Mechanicsburg

While it may not be an historian's job to "praise famous men," it is his job to tell of men and women, famous or less so, and remember that they were human beings with a human capacity for the remarkable. Henry Heisey Brubaker—in the formal custom of the day, he always styled himself "H. H. Brubaker"—was an imposing figure in the Brethren in Christ Church during the middle years of the twentieth century. He was also my paternal grandfather's first cousin, a farm boy from Cumberland County stamped with the patterns of mind common to his age and origin. Just as those patterns shaped his life, through his life he reshaped them. It is my aim to sketch his life and offer his example for further study.