History's echoes: Gas companies

Sharon Baumbaugh

At the end of summer 1912, an application for incorporation of the Franklin County Gas Company was made. The new company members had in the plans, the furnishing of gas for light only in Greencastle, Mercersburg and the surrounding townships. R.W. Woods would apply to Governor Tener on behalf of the newly formed company. The object would be to manufacture and supply gas in the two boroughs of Greencastle and Mercersburg, as well the townships of Antrim, Montgomery, Peters, St. Thomas, Hamilton, Quincy, Guilford, Washington and Greene. In addition, the Franklin Consolidated Gas Company would apply that same month, August 16, to be exact, to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for a charter to furnish light and fuel gas in the same districts.

In the fall of 1932, investigations by the Greencastle Borough authorities revealed that the rates proposed by the Gettysburg Gas Corporation, anxious to furnish this town with natural gas, were higher, overall, for the average consumer. The Pittsburgh-based company had made a similar proposal some years earlier, however, the rate at that time was at a lower charge. Negotiations, completed over time, brought the Gettysburg Gas Company, a subsidiary of the Manufacturer’s Light and Heat Co. of Pittsburgh, to the local area. They had a large force of men at work installing natural gas service in the village of Shady Grove a year later.

By January, Town Council voted to oppose the granting by the Public Service Commission of the charter for the company seeking to furnish natural gas to Greencastle. W. Earl Gardner, president of Council, and Charles W. Bert Jr., borough treasurer and water manager, would spend a day that month of 1933, in Harrisburg, on behalf of Council. Meeting with the Public Service Commission in hearing, the two men stated the view in opposition to granting the gas company the right by charter, to extend their service territory to Greencastle.

By July, more than 10 miles of pipe had been laid, and nearly 100 curb boxes connected by the Gettysburg Gas Company, in Mercersburg. The completion of the installation of a natural gas system in our neighboring town would see the first gas range go into service.

In November 1934, the Greencastle Town Council and Burgess David W. Shinham, by unanimous vote, approved an ordinance granting a 30-year franchise to the Gettysburg Gas Company. The construction of pipe lines and curb boxes would begin in Greencastle, with the service turned on in March 1935. Employees of the company had made the inspections and the work that began in December, kept underway over the winter, was done and customers were benefiting from the supply of fuel.

The Manufacturers Light & Heat Company, a holding company which controlled Gettysburg Gas Corporation, serving Greencastle and other towns in this section, was one of four natural gas companies which filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission of Pennsylvania seeking permission to merge. The merger of the entities involved would make a $57 million public utility empire. The petition was filed at the beginning of 1939.

The Gettysburg Gas Company, in 1941, arranged for a cooking school. The “class” would be held in the Greencastle High School’s auditorium on South Washington Street.

In 1948, the gas company would extend its gas mains on North Carlisle Street. The work was made to serve properties between Chambers Lane and the overhead bridge at the north end of town.

During that fall, a failure to provide the Circulating Library with adequate heating, would force the library to close. The lending facility would remain closed until satisfactory heating could be obtained.

Nick Barbuzanes of Route 1, was one of several employees of the Manufacturers Light and Heat rewarded for the suggestion he made, which was adopted. The suggestions were sought in order to improve gas company operations. [In just a few years, while making his home on Grant Street, Mr. Barbuzanes would spend a week in January 1964, at a Columbia Gas Company School in Linden, N.J.]

A Gas Cooking School would be offered again in March 1950, by the Manufacturer’s Light & Heat Company.

Robert E. Brewbaker, Greencastle gas company supervisor, had been promoted to assistant foreman. The move, made in December 1961, was announced by Julian N. Estep, area manager.

Suzanne Gingrich, secretary in the office of the Columbia Gas Company on North Carlisle Street, was spending several weeks in Hawaii in August 1965. The vacation travel plans were made as part of a tour group of which Gingrich was a member.

An explosion of a six-inch gas line near State Line, cut off service for approximately 9,000 customers of Columbia Gas of Hagerstown, for part of a day in October 1968. A welded seam had blown under 300 pounds of pressure, scattering gravel and debris over an area of about 300 feet.

Two Franklin County residents, employees of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvanian Inc., were honored by the company for their years of service. Inducted into the Columbia Quarter Century Club were Wayne E. Fox of Marion and Owen E. Grove of South Ridge Avenue, Greencastle. The ceremony was held during a luncheon attended by officials, officers and employees of the gas company.

In February 1972, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania would notify residents that it would not accept new customers for the time being. Gas supplies were insufficient to meet further demand, causing the company to make this decision. The same announcement was made by Columbia Gas of Maryland.

In April, it was announced that a proposed new gas transmission line linking Pennsylvania and Virginia, would pass through the Enoch Brown Park, northwest of Greencastle. This was according to the plans revealed by engineers of Consolidated System L.N.G. Company of Clarksburg, W.Va. By August, it was announced that Enoch Brown Park would be spared by the natural gas pipeline that was being constructed. Enoch Brown Park and Monument Association [HE, “Enoch Brown Park”, May 21 and 28, 2014] received a letter to that effect from the Peoples Natural Gas Co. of Pittsburgh.

The following year, Owen Grosh of 139 S. Ridge Ave., was promoted to distribution foreman for Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania at Greencastle. Earlier in the year, Howard E “Russ” Clever, South Allison Street, resigned his position with Columbia Gas, to devote his time to the operation of his business, the Blue Door Tavern in Waynesboro. Mr. Clever and Virgil Ambrose had recently purchased the business. By September, Virgil Ambrose of 37 E. Baltimore St., would receive a gold watch in recognition of his 25 years with Columbia Gas System Cumberland Quarter Century Club. The honor was bestowed at The Sheraton Inn in Gettysburg.

In 1975, measures were being taken to conserve energy. Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania was asking its 300,000 customers throughout the state to put a sticker on their thermostats reminding them to keep the heat set at 67 degrees or lower during the winter months. Two years later, the most severe and prolonged cold wave of the century was continuing to blanket the eastern half of the United States. Transportation was paralyzed, fuel supplies were exhausted, damage was done to fruit and vegetables, and many industries were forced to close. Cutbacks were ordered by the gas company compelling schools of the Greencastle-Antrim district to close on a Tuesday and Wednesday in January.

Columbia Gas asked the Public Utility Commission, in August 1981, to approve a general rate increase. The additional funds would raise the monthly cost of heating with gas by about $3.67, it was estimated. The following July, the company would ask for another raise, figured to add $5.05 a month to residential bills. The company had been notified of an increase for natural gas supplies, resulting in higher rates for customers.

In January it was announced that the Greencastle District of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc., had the distinction of going 47 years without a mishap. It was also announced that during the summer, work would begin on a $307,000 pipeline construction project in Franklin County that would assure continued, dependable natural gas service to local customers.

By January 1985, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, York District, marked 50 years since their local office opened in Greencastle, on North Carlisle Street. The following year, Mary L. Gingrich, who had joined the gas company in 1956, retired. Marking those 30 years, she was the guest of honor at a retirement dinner held in the Antrim House Restaurant.