New book based on diary profiles colonial history of local family

Jim Houpt will sign copies of his book beginning at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Anna’s Paperworks on Center Square. The narrative chronicles the life of a Mercersburg man in the 1700s.

A diary that is almost too funny to be true, and makes no sense, was the inspiration for James Houpt’s latest book. At the request of Dr. John Stauffer, president of The Conococheague Institute board of directors, Houpt conducted three years of research and plowed through a transcription of the diary of James McCullough to put his life into perspective during frontier days. The result was “In His Own Words -The Diary of James McCullough, 1722-1781, One Man’s Chronicle of Colonial History”.

McCullough left Ireland in 1745 with a leather journal, and made entries until he died. He lived in parts of southcentral Pennsylvania, residing for some time on a flax farm on Garnes Road near Mercersburg. The diary has been in safekeeping with Paula Reed, Mercersburg, who with Houpt’s sister Gay Buchanan, Greencastle, converted McCullough’s handwriting into legible form.

Houpt, a 1953 graduate of Greencastle High School, now lives in Port Orange, Fla. A retired pastor, he had already penned 22 books on genealogy on his own family and Franklin County people, before taking on the new task. He found the material entertaining, as well as valuable in the historical sense.

McCullough was married, but never even mentioned his wife’s name in the diary, and only bare reference to children. His topics covered the mundane to what became major events in the nation’s history.

“McCullough didn’t write in any order,” Houpt mused. “Sometimes he used a code, and who couldn’t break it?”

Nevertheless, the tidbits on life in the 1700s were interesting. They ranged from information on the weather, farming, Scripture, and every day occurrences to local battles during the French and Indian War. McCullough’s nephew was Archibald McCullough, the lone survivor of the Enoch Brown School Massacre just after the war was over.

Houpt called the diary “a marvelous treaure.” He wrote the story in first person, and included references at the end of each chapter, hoping they would be useful for history buffs and students.

“In His Own Words” is available at The Conococheague Institute, 12995 Bain Road, Mercersburg.

Houpt will sign copies of his book beginning at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Anna’s Paperworks on Center Square.

On Saturday, Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be another booksigning by Houpt at the Franklin County Historical Society, 175 E. King St., Chambersburg.