State Line reaches beyond bicentennial, society preserves past

Willa Kaal, Dale Hostetter, JoAnn Byers and Nancy Crider are actively preserving the history of State Line through a local historical society. Two villages on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border share a unique past, as they are also identified as just one community.

The village of State Line turned 200 in 2012. A small historical society continues to preserve the history of the little Pennsylvania town and its component across the border, Middleburg, Maryland.

The communities have been intertwined since 1812, when Jacob Strickler developed Spiglersburg, renamed State Line in 1830 with the formation of a post office. Strickler laid out 40 lots on the north side of Mason-Dixon Road. The Middleburg moniker was also designated to the village because it lay halfway between Greencastle and Hagerstown, Md. Even today, Maryland residents use that name for the properties in their state.

The first known settler did not play favorites. Jack Wolgamot  built his house half in Pennsylvania and half in Maryland, so when  debt collectors came to the door, he could go to the other end of the house to avoid legal entanglements. He by tradition is also thought to be the source of yet another name for the village, Muttontown, since he owned many sheep. They might have been stolen, according to legend.

Preserving the past

The Middleburg/Mason-Dixon Line Historical Society is comprised of present and former residents of State Line, as well as anyone who is interested in its past. The 30 members host monthly meetings at the State Line Ruritan Club. At 7 p.m. the third Thursday September through June, they sponsor speakers, dinners and tours.

The group is led by president, Willa Kaal; vice president, Curtis Leckron; treasurer, Doris Oberholzer; and board members Susan Alsip Lawson, Dan Hartle, JoAnn Shank Byers, Nancy Crider, Dawn Beckley, Carolyn Horst and Dale Hostetter.

Their mission is to preserve the historical records for future generations. What has been collected so far is in safekeeping in a storage shed.

"We have newspapers, artifacts, pictures, very interesting things," said Crider.

Kaal explained a problem. "Our thrust is to record history so it doesn't disappear. We want to preserve it so everyone knows about it. We haven't found a good place to put it."

The society was founded in 1996 by Rosalie Hykes and Richard and Myrtle Hartle. The latter two passed away in 2012. Membership ages range from the 40s to the 80s. The participants wish they could attract younger people to carry their cause forward.

"The problem is this is a pass-through community," said Kaal. "It was once a vibrant place."

Crider believes people tend to live in State Line for eight or nine years and then move elsewhere. As such, they don't have the interest to join the historical society. Both agreed people were also busy with their own lives.

Parts of the history of State Line/Middleburg have been published frequently in Maryland Cracker Barrel, a regional magazine. The Winter 2012 edition carried a chronological timeline of highlights of the village's past. That included mention of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who established the dividing line; the activities of Civil War troops passing through; the military service of State Line's young men; and the growth of the businesses and neighborhoods.

The society members recall events retained through oral history, since records were not necessarily available for proof. A house by the railroad tracks was a stop on the Underground Railroad. John Brown and his followers stayed at the Brumbaugh Hotel, now site of Susquehanna Bank, and the abolitionist leader signed his name Isaac Smith. General Robert E. Lee drank from a private well.

The club actively sought to preserve the log cabin of Wolgamot, but it was destroyed when Citicorp constructed its facility on Mason-Dixon Road. With little funding, they have seen other old buildings taken down to make way for progess.

Fond memories

Whatever their current residence, the Middleburg/Mason-Dixon Line Historical Society members have favorite memories of life in State Line. Nancy Tressler Crider lives on the main thoroughfare, near her childhood home. She attended Middleburg Grammar School on the Pennsylvania side, now the Mid-Valley Mennonite Church.

"We had a blackboard, carried water from the neighbors' yard, and we all drank out of the same tin cup," she recalled.

Her mother charged purchases at Kitzmiller's Grocery Store, now Il Castillo Restaurant, and at the end of each week paid what was owed. The store  proprietor gave the children a bag of candy then, a treasured delight. As a little girl, Crider wandered through the overgrown area that is now the Ruritan Club grounds, picking berries. She thought she was in Africa. When she married her husband Robert, she carried her clothes across the street to her new home. In the old days, people sat on their porches to chat with family and friends.

"We used to know everyone in town," she reminisced. "Now you don't even know your neighbors."

JoAnn Byers from Hagerstown married a State Line native. Richard arrived at Center Square in a helicopter once. He was Santa Claus that year for the annual Ruritan celebration. The couple lives a few miles away in Maryland, but supports the goals of the historical society.

Alsip Lawson, Hagerstown, does too.

"I was the barber's daughter on the Maryland side," she said. "I grew up there. My dad used the State Line post office or else his customers would block the mailbox."

She remembers good times with the three local churches, summer shared vesper services, a live Christmas tree in the square, and festivals hosted by the Ruritan Club.

Kaal, Chambersburg, never lived in the village, but some of her relatives did, and she became interested in the history of the area. She is the contact person for anyone who would like more information about the society. She can be reached at 717-263-1754.