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Need for water led to incorporation of Mont Alto

July 14, 2013

MONT ALTO, Pa. — The community of Mont Alto owes its existence to the Mont Alto Iron Works, according to local historian Charlie Kauffman.

The Hughes family from Ireland came to the United States and started the company in 1807. Company officials set up a feudal system with community offerings, like grounds for herding.

Still, the growth of the coal-blasted iron company outpaced the level of goods and services being offered, Kauffman said. Families began to settle nearby on other land, he said.

The first house built south of what is now Mont Alto’s borough hall belonged to a man named John Funk. Mont Alto is south of Chambersburg, Pa., and north of Waynesboro, Pa.

As the iron-smelting industry continued to grow in success, Mont Alto added homes and businesses like restaurants, blacksmiths and cobblers, Kauffman said.

In 1893, the iron company sold its property because other areas and methods were producing less-costly iron. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the land to open a forestry academy.

That land also held the springs that people used to obtain their water, Kauffman said.

Still, a little-known law stipulated the state could not provide water to private citizens. That law allowed the state to provide it to incorporated entities.

That desire for water led Mont Alto to petition Franklin County to secede from Quincy Township. Its incorporation occurred in 1913.

“In a sense, the incorporation of the Borough of Mont Alto was not a choice. It was a necessity,” Kauffman said of the need for water.

Kauffman served as chairman of the 13-member committee that organized a celebration of Mont Alto’s 100th year. He said he hopes people will have good memories of the three-day celebration.

“I’m very happy we spent two years pulling it together,” he said.

— Jennifer Fitch

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