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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."

Carlisle Barracks-1854-1855: From the Letters of Lt. Thomas W. Sweeny, 2nd Infantry

In July 1855, six companies from the 2nd Infantry rook possession of an old fur trading post on the banks of the Upper Missouri River and transformed it into a base of operations against the Sioux. But before setting out on this assignment, the officers and men of this regiment spent almost a year and a half at Carlisle Barracks filling their ranks, drilling, and preparing for service on the prairie. Among the officers in this contingent was 34-year-old Lieutenant Thomas William Sweeny.

A native of County Cork, Ireland, Sweeny and his family came to the United States in 1832 and settled in New York, where he received his education and later apprenticed to a book publisher. Sweeny also belonged to "military and literary" clubs in the city, and it was through these associations that he received a commission in the 1st New York Volunteers when the Mexican War started. The regiment took part in the drive from Veracruz to Mexico City, and suffered heavy casualties in the battle of Churubusco. Among those casualties was Lieutenant Sweeny, whose right arm was amputated. After the war he received a commission in the 2nd Infantry and served at San Diego and Fort Yuma in Southern California from 1849 to 1853. He returned to New York in January 1854, and after a brief stint on recruiting duty joined his regiment at Carlisle Barracks in September of that year.

The Carlisle Deluge, 1779

On the night of August 19, 1779, there occurred on the south side of the North Mountain about ten miles northwest of Carlisle a geological phenomenon that eventually drew the attention of the astronomer David Rittenhouse, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the Secretary of War, and the president of Harvard College, and was described both in private letters among these and other men and also in the published proceedings of the second oldest learned society in the United States.

The Carlisle Deluge, 1779, Revisited

We report here that evidence for the 1779 Carlisle Deluge still exists. In the Summer, 1996 issue of Cumberland County History, Whitfield J. Bell described what he called the Carlisle Deluge. Bell used primary sources, mainly a letter from David Rittenhouse to Benjamin Franklin, to describe how, on the night of August 19, 1779, a thunderstorm with copious rain opened a gash on the south side of North (Blue) Mountain east of Flat Rock and northwest of the present Bloserville. Rocks and trees were carried down the mountain. A channel four to ten feet deep and 30 to 100 feet wide was carved into the mountainside from near its top to the base. According to a later report by Benjamin Lincoln, mud rose in the channel to as much as 30 feet deep, as determined by marks on trees left standing. The scar could be seen from Carlisle, ten miles away. The water caused Conodoguinet Creek to rise ten feet in a very short time. The feature attracted the curious for some decades afterward.

Charles Francis Himes (1838-1918): Portrait of a Photographer

The life of Charles Francis Himes, professor of physics at Dickinson College from 1865 to 1896, was one of many and varied pursuits. He was a scientist, an educator, and a historian; and with each of these roles his interest and achievements in photography were integrated.

In the late twentieth century photography is taken granted. Anyone nowadays can buy a camera and take a picture, regardless of knowledge or skill; development and printing are done commercially; and photographs are used in every discipline. In Himes' time, however, the art and science of photography were still growing and developing in basic and significant ways. It was more a science than an avocation. Himes, who had been an amateur photographer since 1858, was aware of these developments and, as an experimental scientist, was led to investigate new ideas in photography and to consider their applications to science, history, and education. He was, he wrote, "a constant reader of its [photography's] literature, ... one enjoying each advance, each new application, and the rapid growth of photography as an amateur art ... " And he had participated in, and contributed to, those advances. "Photography," he declared in his address at the opening of a science building at Dickinson College in 1885,

The Children's Garden: A Mechanicsburg Kindergarten

I shall not call this an infant school, because I do not intend the children to be schooled, but to be allowed under the gentlest treatment to develop freely. -Friedrick Frobell

Very little is known about the kindergarten that was once in the basement of the PNC Bank on Main Street in Mechanicsburg. Most of the people associated with it can recall only bits and pieces of its appearance and history, or have passed on, taking their memories with them. I would like to take the reader back to Mrs. Kelley's kindergarten and share what is remembered by surviving students and parents.

Chloe's Story

The Carothers or Carruthers families (Carruthers in Scotland, Carothers in America) were among the first settlers in Cumberland County; in 1750 when the county was formed, there were seven established Carothers households in West and East Pennsborough Townships