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Portraying Greencastle Civil War figure a lesson in history - and life

September 02, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Shelby Golden of Greencastle, Pa., portrays Civil War figure Dolly Harris for the Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle, Pa.
Photo by Jennifer Fitch

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Visitors to the Allison-Antrim Museum on Sunday found themselves greeted by a re-enactor portraying a prominent Franklin County, Pa., figure from the Civil War.

A woman portraying Dolly Harris stood ready to meet people participating in the South Mountain Outdoors festival. Foot traffic from the two-day festival, which heavily featured Adams and Cumberland counties, proved to be minimal, although the museum did host visitors who were making routine stops there unrelated to the special event.

Harris wrapped a Union flag around herself and defiantly yelled at Confederate Gen. George Pickett when his troops crossed through Greencastle just days before the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

“She dared them to come take (the flag) from her waist,” said Bonnie Shockey, museum president.

Shelby Golden has lived in the Greencastle area for about seven years. She volunteered to portray Harris through 2015, after no one participated in a contest for the role.

Golden said the experience has taught her that it can be easy to forget what happened in your town. She said she did not know Confederates traveled through Greencastle, raiding and pillaging as they did.

“What I’ll take away (from this) the most is, if a 17-year-old girl was brave enough to run out and tell people they were doing the wrong things, we can all take something from that,” Golden said.

Born and raised on North Carlisle Street, Harris married John Lesher and relocated to Waynesboro, Pa. They eventually moved to Chambersburg, Pa., where she died in February 1906.

“She is literally a cosmopolitan lady for Franklin County,” Shockey said. “She’s the only Civil War-era Franklin County woman buried with full military honors upon her death.”

Pickett wrote a letter to his wife mentioning the Greencastle girl, Shockey said. Harris also is featured in about a dozen poems, she said.

“He saluted Dolly for her patriotism and saluted the Union flag because he was a West Point graduate,” she said.

The Harrisburg Telegraph dispatched a reporter to interview Harris’ mother as the tale spread.

“They really tried to track down the truth of the story,” Shockey said.

Another volunteer is portraying an older Harris at events.

The museum also featured “The Victorian Lady’s Closet” for the Sunday open house. Visitor Joan McCulloh of Mercersburg, Pa., said that exhibit prompted her to go to the museum, where she is a member.

“I wanted to see this exhibit,” she said. “It’s very lovely.”
The South Mountain Outdoors festival sponsored by the South Mountain Partnership had a “passport” seeking stamps from 19 participating sites. The passport stated the event was designed to offer family-friendly experiences and recreational opportunities.

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