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Book Reviews: Guide to the Homes of Famous Pennsylvanians and The Best Places You've Never Seen

Arthur P. Miller, Jr., and Marjorie L. Miller, Guide to the Homes of Famous Pennsylvanians: Houses, Museums, and Landmarks. Mechanicsburg PA: Stackpole Books, 2003. Photos, 224pp., $18.95.

Therese Boyd, The Best Places You've Never Seen: Pennsylvania's Small Museums: A Traveler's Guide. University Park PA: Penn State Press, 2003. Maps, photos, 209 pp., $18.95.

The old question never goes away: why go? Don't you have enough to do at home? Would you want complete strangers to visit your home, to ogle your furnishings, to tramp about on your lawn? And horror of horrors, would you want someone to dress up in your old clothes and "re-enact" you for these strangers?

Book Review: Of Thee I Sing and Lower Allen Township

OF THEE I SING by George L. Jackson. (65 p-illust.-soft covers)

 Interesting and generally unknown incidents and personalities involved in the history of Pennsylvania and the Nation are revealed in this professionally written booklet by George L. Jackson, a resident of Dillsburg.

The author, retired Chief of Nuclear Medicine at the Harrisburg Hospital, is now pursuing his long-time interest in historical research not only by writing, but by visiting the places involved in his various subjects. He supplements his text with descriptions of his various joumeys.

Building on a Legacy

Being one of the oldest surviving county historical society in Pennsylvania, the Cumberland County Historical Society (CCHS) has cause for celebration during its 125th anniversary year. Founded in 1874 as the Hamilton Library Association, the Society's first century is recalled by Milton E. Flower in the publication "The First One Hundred Years". It concludes with the Society undertaking a 4,128 square foot addition that opened September 24, 1975 in time for America's Bicentennial. Almost like a matching bookend, CCHS burned the mortgage for its 1998 addition in 1999 in time to celebrate Cumberland County's 250th anniversary and the start of the new millennium in the year 2000. The two expansions bracket twenty-five years of the extraordinary growth and transition from a small historical society to a professional organization.

As the accompanying chart reflects, CCHS growth in the last twenty-five years has been incredible, but the impetus for this growth started long before 1975. It can be traced to the 1960s when Robert G. Crist, Milton E. Flower, Pierson K. Miller, Roger K. Todd, and Jonas S. Warrell crystallized their desire to realize the Society's mission of preserving and sharing Cumberland County history and heritage with others. Aggressively lead and inspired by Dr. Flower, their combined advocacy of CCHS and dedication to pursue the goals of increasing collections, offering more programs, and initiating substantive historical projects resulted time and again in the need for additional space. First came the 1964 expansion plans to the original 1881 building that added what are now the central office, Rupley Room, and kitchen. Taking advantage of an opportunity provided by the weakened south wall caused by the 1972 fire next door, the 1975 addition followed with a new entrance foyer, the multi-purpose Todd Hall, and the expansion of the second floor museum galleries. Within twenty years, Ann Kramer Hoffer would again describe the need for more space that resulted in the latest and largest of additions in 1998. "We are literally at a loss for space. Researchers are lined up at computers beside book stacks. Volunteers vie for seats with library users. School children cram through the reading room to the museum upstairs. Manuscripts and photographs are crowded into small vault space storage has become a critical problem overflowing to a rented off-sire location. A program/exhibit hall (Todd Hall) on the first floor can no longer serve dual purposes."

Canals, Railroads, Philadelphia, and the Struggle for Internal Improvement in the Cumberland Valley, 1825-1837

In April 1825, the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized the construction of the "Public Works," a state-built system of canals and railroads designed to provide improved transportation throughout the Commonwealth.  The most vital portion of the Public Works was the "Main Line," a 395-mile long series of canals and railroads built to link the state's largest city, Philadelphia, with the important western city of Pittsburgh.

The 1825 act also authorized a survey for a canal through the Cumberland Valley connecting the Susquehanna River with the Potomac River. The survey was completed and submitted to the commissioners on 6 December 1827. The state did not, however, act on the survey; the proposed canal was never constructed.

The Capitol and the College: The Latrobe Connection

In 1793 President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the United States Capitol. This event initiated the construction of a building which the statesmen and political leaders of the day hoped would be a grand monument to the democratic ideals of the young nation. To the extent that this first national government building in the Capital City achieved its lofty objective was due to the creativity and vision of Benjamin Latrobe. He served as architect of the United States Capitol from 1803 to 1813 and again from 1815 to 1817.

In 1803 the Trustees of Dickinson College laid the cornerstone of the first building on campus, now called Old West. Latrobe worked on these projects- the Capitol and the College-simultaneously. Although they differ markedly in scale and function, Latrobe's "special touches" are evident in both.

Captain William E. Miller: A Worthy Citizen and a Gallant Soldier

The final line of the entry about Captain William E. Miller, in the 1905 Biographical Annals of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, ends with "Such is the record of Capt. William E. Miller, a worthy citizen and a gallant soldier." The biographer begins by telling us Captain Miller is "one of the best known and most highly esteemed citizens of Carlisle." Today, nearly one hundred-fifty years after the war ended, many do not know the story of William E. Miller; Civil War Hero, State Senator and one who was deeply involved in the life of Carlisle in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Miller's story was, and remains a fascinating account of a man who lived a life engaged in service to others, and is well worth remembering and retelling.

What do you think of when you hear the term "public servant?" A soldier? An elected official? Perhaps a person who volunteers his or her time in some community service? Well, William E. Miller was all of these. A life long resident of Cumberland County, Miller chose to make Carlisle his home. Despite outliving two wives and one of his children, Miller did not retreat from life. He lived his life as an example of service. Miller served his country during the Civil War, his state as a Senator, and his community, holding various local public positions. Miller also served as a leader of the Hamilton Library and Historical Association, forerunner of the Cumberland County Historical Society, during its formative years. A review of his life and accomplishments demonstrates that William E. Miller exemplifies the meaning of a "public servant."

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