THE MAYOR'S REPORT: Sept. 11 observance, Greencastle in 1868

Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor

Two weeks ago I said I would write about Greencastle in 1868, so stay tuned. A little change as I author this report on Monday morning. We just got in from an early morning walk. It’s going to be a hot one today!

A retired New York City fire engine, on duty the day of the terrorist attacks in 2001, was parked on North Washington Street in Greencastle during the ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks following the 9/11 Walk on Sept. 11, 2021.

It was a busy 9/11 weekend here in Greencastle and I sincerely thank everyone who participated and observed our recognition of Sept. 11 (Patriot’s Day) with a memorial walk and ceremony along with our patriotic bluegrass concerts on Saturday. A special thanks to members of the Rescue Hose Company, our veterans, families who walked and speakers Pa. Rep.Paul Schemel and Greencastle Council President Steve Miller, who served as a captain in the United States Army. My good friend, a retired firefighter, drove a retired FDNY (New York City) fire engine and displayed the vehicle over the weekend. Engine 313 was on duty in New York on 9/11. That morning, 2,996 men, women, and children died during the four attacks on our nation. Over the past 20 years over 7,000 Americans died in military service with the war on terror plus the firefighters, police officers and medical personnel who died from illnesses caused by their heroic efforts following the events of 9/11. Thanks also to D & S Bluegrass Band for your free concerts at the beautiful playground. 

So what was Greencastle like immediately after the Civil War? I decided to do some research after visiting a local church in town. Over the decades, I’ve been in all of our Greencastle churches for weddings, funerals, Old Home Week events or just to visit on a Sunday morning. Sunday mornings I’m out early checking on the town. I’ll stop early at Rescue Hose Company and make a pot of coffee and check my mail and messages there. Several weeks ago I was driving by Praying Time Ministries' very historic facilities along Railroad Street early on a Sunday and noticed a man walking into one of their buildings so I stopped to say hello. I had a wonderful conversation with Minister Robert Fugate, retired United States Army, and I was invited to tour their sanctuary, offices, meeting rooms and food pantry. I set up the meeting for a later week and visited with Pastor Cloretta Grice and Minister Fugate. Thank you both, for the tour of the beautiful facilities and for the service and mission you do for the citizens of G-A and beyond.

Ben Thomas Jr.

Meanwhile, these buildings are very historic. So let’s go to 1868 when the sanctuary was the “freight house, Cumberland Valley Railroad Company.” Three tracks were located parallel to South Carlisle Street with a single track then traversing all of Carlisle Street, including Center Square. The railroad provided an important source of transportation, not only for citizens, but for goods and agricultural commodities. Now the town itself only went two to four blocks in each direction from Center Square. The railroad highline would not be constructed until 1908 when the downtown north/south tracks were no longer used.

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So to the west end was Finley Street where the CVS Pharmacy is now. Finley Street was vacated by Greencastle Borough Council for the construction of CVS Pharmacy with Antrim Way being widened for a right turn lane. The northern boundary was at Mifflin Lane where the Jerome R. King Playground begins. To the east you went to Allison Street and the south boundary ended a half block south of Dahlgren Street. Just as it is today, Greencastle was the  hub of Greencastle-Antrim. By 1880 the town’s population was 1,852. There were a lot of stores serving the regional population downtown along with agricultural manufacturing, services and sales on the town’s outskirts. The C.R. Hoover and Company brick yard was where the Otterbein Church is located along South Allison Street. Five churches were here. Crowell & Hoover had 12 acres near my home along South Washington Street. The Crowell firm employed 80 people manufacturing all kinds of commodities. Those were the days that we’re kind of repeating when employees walked to work; walked home for lunch; then returned to work for the afternoon. The area was available for “incubator” or start up businesses. One was a man who decided to build pipe organs. M.P. Moller immigrated from Denmark with his trade of building pipe organs. He ended up in Hagerstown and started the M.P. Moller Pipe Organ Company. These magnificent instruments can be heard all over the world. 

Can you imagine the dirt and gravel streets; locomotives traveling up and down Carlisle Street; horses tied along fences and bridle areas; animals in back yards for work, eggs, and food? You walked everywhere. I once read in town council minutes of the late 1800s where citizens complained about those nasty juveniles riding their bicycles at a high rate of speed down town! Probably our great-grandparents. Some things change and some things just repeat themselves.

So, here’s your assignment over the next two weeks — take a walk down South Carlisle Street; turn left at the American Legion and, yes, you are now on Railroad Street. As it was in 1868, just south of this location is the bustling industrial area of Greencastle. Enjoy the visit. Enjoy the last week of summer. May it be a long autumn. We are blessed.