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What's in a Name? Three Mile Island

The first question that a frightened world asked about Three Mile Island on 28 March 1979 was how long the place could be expected to stay on the map. As fear subsided enough to suggest that it might be there for a long time, the question shifted to the more curious, "How did the place get its unusual name?" That question is not simply answered; six years of curiosity and research have yielded more conjectures than proofs.

It is known that on 4 December 1749 Thomas Cookson, surveyor who in 1751-1752 laid out and purchased the town site for Carlisle, asked Thomas Penn for permission to buy the future Three Mile Island. When he died in 1753 Cookson had not completed his acquisition, but the land appeared in his estate records merely as an unpurchased, unnamed "island in the Susquehanna."

What's in a Name? West Fairview

Variously known as Neidigtown, Maytown, Poverty Point, and Fairview, the village at the mouth of the Condoguinet got its final name in 1852 with the establishment there of a post office. There being another Maytown, in Lancaster County plus a Fairview in Erie County, and "Poverty Point" tending to be an auslander's slur, "West" was added in reference to the view from the town of the Susquehanna and the East Shore.

What's in a Name? Wormleysburg

The building of the first Susquehanna River bridge from Harrisburg to Cumberland County brought about the beginning of the first west shore community, Wormleysburg. When Cumberland County was established in 1750, the west shore for "five or six miles back from the river" since 1736 had already been reserved by the Penn family for the use of the Shawnee Indians. However, the Indians moved on to the west. 

Who Was Lewis the Robber?

Pennsylvania has produced few true folk heroes, but one of the best known has a close association with Cumberland County. David Lewis, better known as Lewis the Robber, is the subject of an extensive legend to which have accrued numerous deeds and attributes of other outlaw folk heroes.

Why Hampden?

In 1995 Hampden Township observed its sesquicentenary, causing one to wonder why it is called Hampden. While there is no documentary proof, it can with some confidence be concluded that it bears the name of a little known, almost forgotten hero of the English Civil War. Cumberland County's standard histories-Wing, Beers, Donehoo, and Godcharles-dutifully note the formation of the township in January, 1845, but none inquires into the name it bears. The county's prothonotary records the actions in civil court creating the township, but such transcripts offer no reason for the name.

William McCormick's Estate Papers, 1805

The prominent McCormick family dynasty of Harrisburg was founded by James McCormick, the only son of William McCormick of East Pennsborough township, Cumberland County. Though a great deal has been written concerning the vast financial empire erected by James McCormick in nineteenth century Harrisburg, little attention has been paid to his father, a moderately situated yeoman farmer and distiller, who met his untimely end in a farm accident during the opening decade of the nineteenth century.

William Petrikin: An Ardent Love of Liberty

William Petrikin immigrated to America from Scotland and settled in Carlisle, Pennsylvania sometime in 1785. He arrived in the midst of a period of intense political activity when, after the victory for independence, citizens across the newly formed republic turned their attention to the formation of their government. "An ardent love of liberty was the cause of his emigration" and he wasted little time in immersing himself in the politics of his new community, state and nation.