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Secor adds his signature to historic 'Treasurer's Bible'

March 05, 2006|By DON AINES


Sworn in at the beginning of the year, Franklin County Treasurer Dave Secor recently fulfilled one of the unofficial duties of his office - signing the "Treasurers' Bible."

Since Samuel Knisley did so in 1872, most, if not all, of the treasurers have signed the 1865 copy of the Good Book printed by the New York American Bible Society.

"Treasurers will follow the teaching of this book," Knisley penned on a blank page 134 years ago.

"Shabby through age rather than usage, the Bible is the gift of an unknown donor," according to a laminated copy of an article that appeared in the publication Grit on Aug. 8, 1958. The article was written when the Bible was rebound during the term of Treasurer William O. "Bill" Shuman, who later became a Pennsylvania state senator.


Secor said deputies Melody Shuman, no relation to the late senator, and Heather Fleagle were looking for a checkbook in a safe when they came across the Bible.

"I thought 'What's a Bible doing in here?' and then I found the article about it being rebound," Melody Shuman said. She then told Secor, "You haven't arrived 'til you've signed that."

Along with the article, they also found in the book a religious pamphlet of some antiquity, copies of two letters sent by William Shuman to Grit, a campaign business card from when William Shuman was running for the state Senate and a business card from a local antique shop that since has gone out of business.

Now brown with age is a handwritten date of "October 30, 1865," on the Bible's flyleaf. Beneath that can be seen a cursive letter "J" in blue ink and below that a signature that appears to begin with the first name John before fading away to invisibility.

Secor said he thinks those could be what remain of the signatures of two of Knisely's predecessors, James G. Elder, who served from 1864 to 1866, and John Hassier, the treasurer from 1866 to 1868.

"If we wanted to go to the expense, we could have a forensic documents examiner raise that," Secor said of the faded writing.

Examining the Bible recently, Secor identified legible signatures for all of the treasurers since Knisley with the exception of Hiram M. White (1874-76), although he does not rule out the possibility of White's John Hancock being somewhere within the Bible's pages.

The reason treasurers began signing the Bible might be lost to history, but the date of its printing in 1865 lends itself to a possible clue. Along with much of Chambersburg, the courthouse was torched by Confederate raiders in July 1864 and rebuilt the following year.

Whether treasurers kept a Bible prior to the war and it went up in flames with the courthouse might never be known.

Dr. George Clingham (1785-90) was the county's first treasurer, according to a list supplied by Secor.

That list of 69 treasurers includes names entered twice for men who served terms that were not consecutive. At least 33 treasurers signed the Bible.

"My goal is to have a glass-covered case and mount it right out there," Secor said, indicating the front counter of his office. "It should be on display for the people of the county."

"Woe be to anyone who tries to take that book out of the office," warned Secor, a retired state trooper.

Does Secor intend to follow the admonition Knisley wrote when he was in office.

"Absolutely," he replied.

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