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Chambersburg's Civil War fountain turns 130

July 18, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The plaques around the red sandstone base of the Civil War fountain on Memorial Square list how many servicemen and servicewomen from Franklin County took part in this nation's wars, but only one is mentioned by name.

Friday marked the beginning of ChambersFest, and Mayor Peter Lagiovane devoted part of his speech marking the fountain's 130th anniversary to Walter Sellers. Like many residents, Lagiovane said he had not until recently taken the time to look at the plaques that surround the monument.

Sellers was born and raised in Chambersburg and graduated from the Philadelphia Academy of Pharmacy, Lagiovane said. He joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 24 and was serving on the battleship USS Maine when it exploded in Havana Harbor on Feb. 15, 1898, with Sellers among the 274 sailors killed, he said.

"The sinking of the Maine was to the people of 1898 what Pearl Harbor was to our parents' and grandparents' generation and what 9/11 is to us today," Lagiovane said.

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"When they needed a way to honor Walter Sellers, they must have known instinctively that no greater honor could be given a resident of this town than to have his name placed at the foot of our beautiful fountain," the mayor said.

The fountain was dedicated on July 17, 1878, with about 15,000 people braving the 94-degree heat for the ceremony and a two-hour parade. Lagiovane noted that the women of the community formed an association to raise money for the fountain, more of a monument to peace than the martial monument that the men of the county wanted.

A compromise was struck with the inclusion of a statue of a soldier facing south against another invasion by Confederates and, Lagiovane said, "impaired drivers going the wrong way on Main Street."

In the middle of the intersection of U.S. 11 and U.S. 30, the fountain has over the years been struck by some impaired drivers and the occasional tractor-trailer.

ChambersFest is the annual celebration of Chambersburg's rebuilding after most of the town was put to the torch by Confederate raiders in July 1864.

A number of events will be held in the upcoming week, including Celebrate! The Arts at Old Market Day today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Pet Parade at Wilson College with registration at 5 p.m. Monday, and the annual Civil War seminar that begins Wednesday.

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