County's rich history worth a second look and reprinting, too

July 11, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were not trying to be sneaky about it, but the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland that bears their name was surveyed at night and, despite there being no shortage of rocks in North America, the milestones that marked much of the Mason-Dixon Line were imported from Great Britain.

Those are two of the facts to be found in "Franklin: A Frontier County," written 30 years ago, but reprinted earlier this year.

As the Bicentennial was approaching in the 1970s, Shirley Fenstermacher said the American Association of University Women encouraged local chapters to do projects for America's 200th birthday.


"There was just so much interesting material in Franklin County ... We just went on and on and assembled a book," said Fenstermacher, who co-authored the book with Margaret McDonnell. The book's 40 illustrations were drawn by Patricia Ann N. Owens.

McDonnell, a librarian in Waynesboro, Pa., later moved to Colorado, while Owens is a private art teacher in Chambersburg, Fenstermacher said.

Mason and Dixon surveyed at night because their primary instrument, a zenith sector, used the position of stars to determine latitude, said Fenstermacher, a retired elementary teacher. The stones that marked the boundary had a "P" and an "M" to mark the Pennsylvania and Maryland sides and every fifth mile was a crown stone, on which the family crests of the Penns and Lord Baltimore were chiseled, she said.

The book's 17 chapters chronicle aspects of life during the 18th century in what would become Franklin County. The first chapter tells how the Iroquois sold Pennsylvania founder William Penn the area that included Franklin County in 1736, even though it belonged to the Delaware Indians.

The clash of cultures between the Indians and European settlers was often a violent one, one of the worst instances being the Enoch Brown Massacre near what is now Greencastle, Pa. On July 26, 1764, Brown and 10 students were killed at their frontier school by three Delawares. Though scalped, one student, 10-year-old Archie McCullough, survived.

In 1775, militia from Chambersburg marched to Boston to aid in the siege of British forces in that city. Among them was the 12-year-old grandson of founder Benjamin Chambers, Fenstermacher said.

Medicine was primitive and Fenstermacher said one remedy to ward off illness in children was a mixture of sulfur, camphor and asafetida placed in a pouch and hung about their necks. The foul smell may have had some real benefit by keeping people at a distance and limiting the transmission of communicable diseases, she said.

Fenstermacher said she mentioned the book during a visit to the Heritage Center last year and the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce agreed to pay for reprinting 1,000 copies. The book is available there and at the Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, she said.

Fenstermacher also is the voice of "Franklin County Frontier Trivia," a series of 100 three-minute recordings now on compact disc that originally ran on a local radio station in 1976. The five-CD set also is available at the Heritage Center, which is on Chambersburg's public square, she said.

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