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Echo Pilot is 150 years old

January 17, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The Echo Pilot, Greencastle's weekly newspaper, has held a box seat on this community's life for 150 years.

A back room in the newspaper's office on the town square holds shelves full of bound editions of the paper's back issues, the earliest going back to 1854.

Among those missing is the first - the Sept. 19, 1849 edition of the Conococheague Herald, the Echo Pilot's forerunner, said Wayne Bumbaugh, who with his wife, Sharon, have owned the paper since 1984.

Wayne Bumbaugh, 58, said the earliest editions of the paper have never been found.

Still, the pages in those hard-bound covers tell the story of this small southern Franklin County community, spanning most of the 19th century and just about all of the 20th.

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One local anecdote not spelled out specifically in the old chronicles, but one that is obvious by reading them, occurred in the summer of 1863 at the height of the Civil War.

Just before the battle of Gettysburg in early July, a big part of the Confederate Army marched through Greencastle on its way to the big battle.

Among the townspeople who fled was the newspaper's publisher, who ran before he finished the four-page paper. When he returned, he completed the two inside pages.

"The first and last pages of the edition that week had one date and the two inside pages had dates of two weeks later," Bumbaugh said.

The paper was started by Ebenezer Robinson, a printer with a Mormon colony that tried to establish a settlement near Greencastle in the 1840s.

They wanted to make it their Jerusalem, but it didn't work out. Some moved to Utah and some, like Robinson, stayed on. He married a woman from Antrim Township, but they left within a year and he sold the paper.

Bumbaugh's entire working career has been with the Echo Pilot. He started part time in high school, worked full time after that until he joined the Marines, and then returned full time after his four-year hitch.

Most of his years were under G. Fred Ziegler, who owned it for more than 50 years.

In those days, the paper was put together with Linotype machines and hot metal type.

Ziegler sold it to Robert Wentworth in 1972. Wentworth also owned a weekly paper in Myersdale, Pa., making him an absentee owner of the Echo Pilot. Bumbaugh ran it for him while Sharon kept the books part time.

The Bumbaughs bought it from Wentworth 14 years ago.

"I've always worked for it so it seemed natural to buy it," Bumbaugh said.

He handles the business end of the paper, selling the ads and supervising distribution of its 2,500 copies, all of them by mail.

"I like to know there the money comes from," he said.

Sharon Bumbaugh is the editor. Joyce A. Nowell, a bookkeeper, reporter, office manager and layout person, joined the staff 14 years ago.

"We all do it all here," Sharon Bumbaugh said. "We all take pictures and do the stories. I cover Greencastle Borough Council meetings and she covers the school board. We've been together here so long that we even finish sentences for each other."

"The Echo Pilot has been very good to us and we've been very good to it," Wayne Bumbaugh said. "It's always given us a good living and allowed us to put our two daughters through college."

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