Residents kick off Bicentennial celebration


FORT LOUDON, Pa. - Flags fly on telephone poles throughout the village of Fort Loudon, population 800, just off U.S. 30, 14 miles west of Chambersburg, Pa.

Townspeople brought their lawn chairs to the Community Grounds, a grassy area behind the post office, on a rare sunny Sunday afternoon to kick off the town's weeklong Bicentennial Celebration. The town of Fort Loudon was laid out in 1803 by Johnston Elliott, although settlers lived at the nearby fort site for many years before that. The fort was named for Lord Loudon, commander of British forces in North America.

Politicians and a local historian addressed the crowd.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., whose 9th Congressional District includes all of Franklin County, encouraged the audience to remember the past and the people who hacked a path through the wilderness of Pennsylvania.

State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Pa., said that 25 years ago, at the beginning of his political career, he rode in a parade through Fort Loudon, and always has remembered the warmth, kindness and generosity of the people.


He added that 238 years ago, "this was the edge of civilization. From here west, it was all frontier."

"The importance of Fort Loudon greatly exceeds the size of the town," said state Rep. Allan Egolf, 86th Legislative District. The Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) is celebrating its 90th anniversary, and Fort Loudon is at a transitional point on this first transcontinental highway.

Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas noted that the morals and work ethic of the people of Fort Loudon "make this town superb, because you learn from and respect the past."

Calvin Bricker, a speaker on local history and president of the Conococheague Institute near Welsh Run, Pa., said Fort Loudon is one of the most historic spots in Franklin County. Several major Indian trails crossed near here, and the Indians mined a certain kind of rock nearby, which was highly prized for spear points.

"It was a major trade item," Bricker said, adding that such spear points are found all over the East Coast. The area also was used as a hunting ground and winter camp by the Seneca, Delaware and Shawnee Indians.

Bricker said Indians and settlers had mostly peaceful relations in Pennsylvania under the leadership of William Penn, but a misunderstanding arose in 1754 when the Iroquois sold land "as far as the setting sun" to white men. To the Indians, this meant to the top of the Allegheny Mountains, Bricker said, but the white men figured the boundary to be much farther west, and the Indians were left with no land in Pennsylvania.

When Jonathan Elliott laid out the town in 1803, he sold 50-by-200-foot lots for $20, plus a yearly rent of $1, Bricker said. Many of the stately homes along Main Street were built at that time.

"Your town today is charming, with its history and architectural beauty," Bricker said. "Thank you for preserving and maintaining it."

Local resident Anna Rotz, president of the Fort Loudon Historical Society and chairman of the Bicentennial Committee, said it took two years to plan this "huge birthday party" for the town. "My greatest wish is that local residents will have a better understanding and greater appreciation for local history."

Some of the town's oldest residents were honored, including Margaret Kilpatrick, Douglas Kling, Walter Hamil, John Mellott, Frank Mellott and Charles Musselman. Hamil, 92, said he was in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Cowan's Gap for eight years as a cook and mess sergeant.

"The lake there was all trees then. I married a girl from Fort Loudon in 1937," said Hamil, who has lived in the town for 20 years.

Following the opening ceremony, many attendees walked to the Lutheran/Reformed Cemetery to place carnations on each grave.

Kay and Robert Foreman, Fort Loudon residents since 1973, participated.

"It's a nice gesture to remember people's past," Kay Foreman said. "They contributed something to the town, and they were pioneers in their time. Today's people are pioneers for future generations."

"It's nice that the town has the history it does," Robert Foreman added. "I'd rather be here now than back then."

The Rev. Barron Barley of McConnellsburg, Pa., pastor of Fort Loudon Trinity United Church of Christ, said he came up with the idea of decorating the graves after he realized how much the cemeteries meant to residents.

"Some of the people of the neighborhood weren't happy when the cemetery wasn't mowed," he said. "Then the bicentennial came up, and I thought we could do something with the cemetery, where our history lies."

He said he counted the graves in both town cemeteries - there are 400 in the Lutheran/Reformed cemetery behind his church and 1,000 in the Stenger Hill cemetery west of town.

Barley said he thought counting the stones would be "a mundane experience, but it didn't turn out that way, because you think of people you haven't thought of in a long time, and old relationships come to life when you walk through."

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