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Group writing Mercersburg's history

September 21, 1999

HistoriansBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Three retired Mercersburg-area school teachers are publishing a history of their area that will be used by fourth-graders in the Tuscarora School District as part of the state-mandated Pennsylvania history curriculum.

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Joan McCulloh, Nancy Heefner and Betty Stenger are members of the Mercersburg Historical Society, the organization sponsoring the book.

When it is printed next spring, there will be a copy for every fourth grader in the school district, said McCulloh, Historical Society president.

Copies also will be available to teachers and area libraries. The society is considering selling the book through advance sales. "We've had a lot of interest," she said.

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About 80 residents of Mercersburg and the surrounding townships of Montgomery, Warren and Peters, plus St. Thomas, all part of the Tuscarora School District, have volunteered to write articles and vignettes for the book, McCulloh said.

"There are untapped writers in this area. We have housewives, tradesmen, lawyers, anyone who has enthusiasm and local knowledge of a particular interest can write for the book," she said. "We've had a wonderful response from writers."

The book, which is expected to run about 200 pages, will have maps and photographs. McCulloh said. The society is seeking old photos.

The book's first section will cover the days when the area was inhabited only by American Indians. Next will be stories about the first Welsh, Scottish, Irish and German immigrants. Frontier days will be featured, including life in the early forts and the area's role in the French and Indian War will be covered.

History of the 19th century follows with features on early industry and crafts in the area. The valley's part in the Civil War will be given ample space, especially the enlistment of Mercersburg's population of free black men who served with the 54th Massachusetts, the all-black unit made famous in the movie "Glory." Dozens of local 54th volunteers are buried in a Mercersburg cemetery.

The history of education and how the region fared on the homefront during World Wars I and II also are being written.

McCulloh said it will cost the society about $6,000 to print 500 copies of the book. The type of cover will depend on cost. "We want the hardest cover we can afford," she said.

A title has not been chosen, she said.

The idea for the book came from the Fulton County Historical Society, which published its own book for fourth-graders in schools there, McCulloh said.

McCulloh, a Mercersburg native, returned to the community to live when she retired after 33 years of teaching high school in the Annville-Cleona (Pa.) School District. Earlier she taught at James Buchanan High School.

Heefner retired as an art teacher at Mercersburg Academy and Stenger taught English at James Buchanan High School.

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