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At first, parents thought their children had been playing too hard. They developed fevers and some of them got headaches. They symptoms would pass, though, but then a few days later, the children would being to get stiff necks or backs. Some would experience constipation. If they were lucky, that is all that would happen.

Unfortunately, not all the children were lucky. Some of them would be playing and fall over unable to use their legs or arms. Others would wake up in the morning unable to move. A few even died unable to breathe.

The disease was called infant paralysis in 1918, though it is now better known as polio. The epidemic in Franklin County, PA, began in Waynesboro, PA, in June 1918 and continued through the fall. Forty-six cases were reported in the county with six children dying because of the disease. Chambersburg had 15 of those case and two deaths.

Though polio has been around for centuries, major epidemics weren’t seen until the early 20th Century when they began to appear in Europe and the United States.

Polio damages the nerve cells, which affects a person’s muscle control. Without nerve stimulation, the muscles weaken and atrophy. This can lead to paralysis and if the muscles that help the body breathe are affected, the paralysis can cause death because a patient is unable to breathe.

Two years prior to the Franklin County epidemic, there had been more than 27,000 cases of polio in the United States resulting in more than 6,000 deaths.

The first line of defense in fighting polio was to quarantine homes where there were outbreaks of polio and the families had to place placards in their windows as a notice of the quarantine.

Sometimes it would go further. An infant girl of the H. H. Harrison family in Guilford Township was stricken with polio in September 1918. Though she was not in serious condition, “She has eight brothers and sisters all at home and all attending school in Guilford. The school will be ordered closed today by Health Officer Kinter. The home will be will be quarantined today,” the Chambersburg Public Opinion reported.

Sanitary and hygiene campaigns were undertaken to encourage people to drink and bathe in clean water. Better hygiene meant that not only was it less likely a child, or even an adult would develop polio, but also more likely that the symptoms would be mild. However, this also meant that it was more likely that older children would develop polio and it would be the harsher, paralyzing form.

Little more could be done because doctors of the time were uncertain just what polio was and it was decades before a vaccine would be developed.

A 1916 article in the New York Times outlined the problem that doctors faced, noting “fighting infantile paralysis consists largely in doing everything that seems effective in the hope that some of the measures taken will be effective.”

Tony Gould wrote in A Summer Plague: Polio and Its Survivors about some of the treatments used at the time to unsuccessfully cure polio. Doctors would “Give oxygen through the lower extremities, by positive electricity. Frequent baths using almond meal, or oxidising the water. Applications of poultices of Roman chamomile, slippery elm, arnica, mustard, cantharis, amygdalae dulcis oil, and of special merit, spikenard oil and Xanthoxolinum. Internally use caffeine, Fl. Kola, dry muriate of quinine, elixir of cinchone, radium water, chloride of gold, liquor calcis and wine of pepsin.”

Unfortunately for Franklin County, residents had just begun to breathe a sigh of relief from the infantile paralysis epidemic to deal with an even greater threat called the Spanish Flu.

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While the George Washington Masonic Lodge in Chambersburg, Pa., wasn’t the first lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons in Franklin County, it is the oldest and April 23, 2016, marks two centuries of service in the county.

Lodge No. 79

The first Masonic Lodge in the county was formed in 1800. General James Chambers, son of Chambersburg’s founder Benjamin Chambers, served as the Warrant Master. Over the next five years, the lodge met 54 times and then closed its doors, not having gotten a strong membership base.

This didn’t end Freemasonry in the county, though. Men continued to travel great distances to meet and fellowship at other lodges. However, the rigors of long travel for a relatively short meeting grows old quickly, and a group of men began petitioning for a new lodge to be formed in Chambersburg.

635853400538363680-cpo-sub-121015-masonic-templeGeorge Washington Lodge No. 143

In 1815, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania acted favorably on the petition and issued a warrant on January 15, 1816, to George Washington Lodge No. 143. The lodge was constituted on April 23, 1816, and the Masons began meeting at various locations around the town.

“The meetings were first held in the Franklin County Courthouse, but that was considered an inconvenience,” Mike Marote, a member of the George Washington Lodge. Another location where the Masons met was Capt. George Coffey’s Inn, but no one is sure where that inn was located in town.

The Masons purchased land for their temple in April 1823 and Silas Harry, a bridge builder, set the work to build the temple for $2,500. The final structure was a two-story brick building that was 32 feet wide by 67 feet long. The foundation stone was laid on June 24, 1823, and the building was occupied on September 16 of the following year.

The 1830s saw a period where Masons were persecuted in the country and the George Washington Lodge decided on December 3, 1830, “to go dark” as Lodge Worshipful Master Kevin Hicks said. The charter was returned to the Grand Lodge in 1831, essentially disbanding the lodge, but the Masons still met quietly and out of the public eye.

During this time, the Masons didn’t own the temple and it was used as a church printing office. The lodge reconstituted itself in 1845, but it wasn’t until 1860 that the George Washington Lodge was able to repurchase the temple for $2,000.

The Burning of Chambersburg

When Confederate General Jubal Early demanded a ransom from Chambersburg in 1864, the people weren’t able to pay it. Early ordered the town burned and $1.7 million in property was lost in the resulting flames.

One area of the town was left untouched, though. The Masonic temple and the buildings in the half block area surrounding it were unscathed.

“Confederate soldiers were posted out front prevented other Confederate soldiers from burning the lodge,” Marote said.

The reason for this is that as the orders were being given to burn Chambersburg, an unnamed Confederate officer saw the lodge and took steps to save it. The surrounding buildings were also preserved because they were so close to the temple that if they had burned, they might have caught the temple on fire.

“Because the temple wasn’t being burned, women and children were able to take shelter inside,” Hicks added.

Since the officer was never identified, the story is considered a well-authenticated legend. Many of the other details have been verified and the half block around the temple was left untouched while the town burned around it.

Teachings

While there is much fellowshipping among the Masons, there is also instruction. Masons learn various speeches, passwords, and signs to move through 33 different degrees. Hicks noted that a man becomes a Master Mason at the third degree, though.

“We are learning what I call moral lessons with allegories,” Hick said.

Though generally believed to be a Christian group, Masons include many faiths. The one requirement is that Masons must believe in a higher being. Each lodge has a book of faith on its central altar. The George Washington Lodge uses a Bible that is more than 100 years old, but other lodges can include a book of faith for the predominant religion of the lodge.

“Freemasonry is not a church,” Hicks said. “I look at it as a steady moral compass. You treat people like you want to be treated.”

Masons are involved in many civic activities and participates in parades and building dedications. They can be identified in full regalia that includes tuxedos, top hats, and aprons.

“We have a belief in working for the greater good and for the good of the community,” Hicks said.

Although the teachings are private matters for Masons, the public has occasionally been invited in to witness these meetings. The last time was in December 2014. It was so well received in the community that not only were all the seats in the meeting room filled, but 37 additional chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the crowd, according to Hicks.

Hicks would also like to open the temple up, on occasion, for artists to come in and use their time in the temple for inspiration for their art. He would then set up the social room as an art gallery where the artists could sell their works one evening.

Other Lodges

Franklin County currently has three other Masonic Lodges: Acacia Lodge No. 586 in Waynesboro, Mount Pisgah Lodge No. 443 in Greencastle, and Orrstown Lodge No. 262 in Orrstown. A fourth lodge, Gen. James Chambers Lodge No. 801, has recently merged with the George Washington Lodge to make both lodges stronger.

The George Washington Lodge boasts a membership of around 800 Masons.img_2501

200 Years

To celebrate its bicentennial year, the George Washington Lodge will have a luncheon and rededication of the cornerstone of the original lodge on August 23, 2016. Oddly enough, as of August 2015, the lodge was still unsure as to where the original cornerstone was located. They are hoping to find buried beneath the earth before the ceremony. There will also be an evening banquet at Green Grove Gardens in Greencastle. The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania will be the featured speaker.

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slingshotThe famous line from the movie “A Christmas Story” is “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” A variation of that line is said throughout the movie whenever the young boy who is the center of the story expresses his wish for a Red Ryder B-B Gun for Christmas.

However, a bigger threat to young boys’ eyes during the later decades of the 19th Century and even into the 21th Century was not a B-B gun, Red Ryder’s or otherwise. It was the bow gun and its sibling, the sling shot.

Though crossbows have been around for centuries, it wasn’t until 1868 that Howard Tilden patented “The Flying Comet,” a toy bow gun for children. He wrote on his patent application that, “the object of my invention is to provide for children a mechanical toy, that shall be once harmless and amusing.”

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.

Case in point, the Franklin Repository reported in 1890 that, John Zullinger, an 11-year-old boy who lived in Orrstown had injured his right eye playing with a bow gun at his home.

“The little fellow was using a horse shoe nail to shoot at a mark, and while drawing up the bow, the string slipped and the nail struck fairly upon the ball of the eye inflicting a dangerous wound,” the newspaper reported.

John’s father brought him into Chambersburg the next day to have a doctor look at his eyes and see what could be done. The prognosis was not good. It appeared as if the youngster would lose most of his sight in his injured eye.

“This is another warning to boys not to play with dangerous toys. That there have not been some bad accidents in Chambersburg with this ‘cat and dog’ nuisance is almost a marvel,” the newspaper reported.

The newspaper article noted that because bow guns and sling shots had been such a problem in Philadelphia recently that the city police went through each public school in the city and searched the pockets of the boys in the schools. If they found any sling shots or bow guns, the toys were confiscated.

“There have been a number of fatal accidents from them in the city. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a similar raid here,” the newspaper suggested.

There’s no reference as to whether such a raid ever took place in Chambersburg, but it is not hard to believe that it wouldn’t have. It wouldn’t be much different than the no-tolerance policy that schools nationwide have for weapons being brought into the school.

As far sling shots and bow guns, they can still cause problems for young boys who test the limits of their toys. Only last year, a 12-year-old Roseville, Minnesota, boy was killed when he was hit in the chest by a rock from an oversized sling shot.

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A Human Fly in action.

During the Sunday night performance, thousands of people gathered to watch the Human Fly, George Oakley, repeat his daring deeds. After his first stunt, his assistant, Anna Vivian Murray, urged him to rest a bit before scaling the tall bank building.

Oakley waved off her concerns and told her that he was in a hurry and wanted to leave Chambersburg that evening. It would be at least 9 p.m. by the time that he finished.

“He kissed me and sent me upstairs with the tube,” Murray said later.

Murray went into the building to wait at the second-floor window and Oakley soon began his climb. Minutes later, as he neared the fourth floor and hooked his cane on the inner tube, the crowd heard a “dull snap.” The inner tube had broken and the cane went flying off into the crowd.

“His fall was unbroken except by one man who rushed in in an attempt to save him,” The Repository reported.

Oakley landed on his left side, smashing hard against the pavement. The crowd screamed and several women fainted. The police had trouble getting to Oakley because the crowd was so thick.

Four men lifted Oakley and put him into a cab. Murray, who was said to be his wife, had reached his side by that time. Oakley was conscious. He asked for a priest and how far he had fallen.

“Only three stories. You’re all right. George. You’re more scared than hurt, you’ll be all right,” Murray told him.

This was not Oakley’s first accident in his six years of daredevil climbing. His first accident had actually happened earlier in the year on July 4. Oakley fell 1 ½ stories while climbing a building in Scottsdale, Arizona. He had walked away from the fall with an injured left hand.

However, his climbing partner had been killed in plane stunt a few weeks earlier. He had made a parachute jump and his chute had failed to open.

An examination at Chambersburg Hospital showed that Oakley had a number of broken bones including lower vertebrae, his pelvis, ribs, left arm and his breast bone with many of the bones being broken in multiple places. According to The Franklin Repository, his “nervous system suffering much from shock.”

Oakley remained conscious for several hours. Father Noel of Corpus Christ Catholic Church arrived to deliver last rites. Thoughout the night Oakley’s condition grew worse and Murray and a young boy stayed by his bedside.

Oakley died early the next morning. His body was taken to H. W. Cramer’s for preparation for burial.

His wife, Clara, arrived from Cleveland, Ohio, which surprised many people because Oakley had introduced Murray as his wife and the young boy as his son. According to Oakley’s WWI draft registration card, not only was Oakley married, but he had three children.

During the coroner’s inquest, Murray admitted that she and Oakley hadn’t been married, but had been planning to wed.

“I loved Oakley as I thought I could never love any man. We were to be married within a month. I never knew he was a married man, if he really was,” she said.

More importantly, she told the jurors that Chambersburg had been the first time that she had held the inner tube for Oakley’s climb. Chief Byers and Motorcycle Officer Suder tested the tube using the top of an open door at police headquarters to stretch the tube over. Suder said it broke under little strain.

It appeared that a faulty or weak inner tube was the culprit. Coroner Shull ruled that death accidental.

Catch the first part if you missed it:

Death Certificate

The Human Fly’s death certificate.

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The_-Human_Fly-_in_front_of_the_Hotel_Mossop_(1916)

A Human Fly looks over the crowd during a 1916 performance.

Many a young boy loves to climb a tree, pushing the limits of gravity to see how high they can climb and enjoying the rush of adrenaline as the ground grows further and further away. Those boys grow up, though, and realize that if they should fall, they could be seriously injured.

Other boys just never seem to outgrow that urge to climb. They become daredevils. In the early 20th century, these climbers earned the nickname “Human Fly.” They toured the country accepting the challenge to climb the tall buildings in any town. Although many of the famous Human Flys were active in the first couple decades of the 20th century, Human Fly John Ciampa climbed building in the 1940s and early 1950s, Human Fly George Willig climbed the World Trade Center in 1977 and Human Fly Rick Rojatt was a stunt rider in the 1970’s.

In 1924, plans to have an open-air attraction from New York City entertain the crowds during Old Home Week in Chambersburg fell through so Human Fly George Oakley “one of the most daring of present-day human flies,” according to The Franklin Repository, was invited as a replacement act. He was going to be performing in Hagerstown the week before so it fit well with his schedule.

Oakley arrived for two evenings of performances on Saturday and Sunday, August 30 and 31. He did not have the appearance of a daredevil. He was a 36-year-old man of medium height and a stout build.

He performed two daredevil feats for the crowds. For the first stunt, The Franklin Repository, reported, “He will stand on his head on the front bumper rail of an auto, which will attain a speed of 30 miles an hour and suddenly stop. When it stops, Oakley will turn a somersault in the air, and land in the street right side up.”

The second feat was just as, if not more, dangerous. He scaled the outside of the Chambersburg Trust building. “In scaling the walls he used a cane and an automobile inner tube. Someone would precede him to each story inside the building and hold the tube against the outside. The cane he used to hook onto the tube an then he would scale the wall to the window where he would wait for her until she had dropped the tube from the window above,” The Franklin Repository reported.

It was an exciting show that left people holding their breath and shutting their eyes when the tension became too great.

See how things end:

Human_Fly_crawls_up_walls_of_Camden_Courthouse

 

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Mrs. Samuel Lightner appeared to be aiding the Confederate Army during the Civil War, but she was actually hiding bonds and securities from the Cumberland Valley Railroad from them.

Mrs. Samuel Lightner would never have considered herself an actress. She was a wife and a mother of eight and filling those roles was enough for anyone. However, in late June of 1863, she performed a role worthy of the best actresses of the time.

Despite the fact that her family supported the Union and her husband was in the army, Mrs. Lightner played the role of a Confederate sympathizer in order to save a railroad. Samuel Lightner had been drafted in 1862 as Chambersburg, Pa., worried about a Confederate invasion from Washington County.

For nearly a year, Mrs. Lightner had worked hard to keep the family farm near Greenville, Pa., running and to care for her eight children.

At the end of June 1863, a group of Confederate scouts rode up to the farmhouse asking to be fed. Mrs. Lightner had only a few minutes to make a decision. She “was fearful of displeasing the southern soldiers lest they retaliate by setting fire to the home,” according to the Public Opinion. Part of the fear certainly came from worrying about the safety of her children, but Mrs. Lightner also knew she was hiding a secret that she needed to protect.

Her decision made, she welcomed the soldiers and allowed them to camp on her farm. According to Benjamin Lightner, who was a youngster at the time, he mother spent the next week baking 25 loaves of bread for the soldiers and supplying each of the men with a pint of milk.

At the end of the month, the soldiers headed east where they would participate in the Battle of Gettysburg.

When word of what Mrs. Lightner had done leaked out, she experienced a lot of criticism among her neighbors. It wasn’t until years later that it became known that Emmanuel Hale, Mrs. Lightner’s father and a employee of the Cumberland Valley Railroad, had brought bonds owned by railroad to the farmhouse and asked his daughter to hide them. She had done so and this was another reason she had needed to keep the Confederate soldiers from searching the house or burning it down.

The Cumberland Valley Railroad was an early railroad that was chartered in 1831 and connected to Pennsylvania’s Main Line. It ran from Harrisburg to Chambersburg down to Hagerstown and Winchester, Virginia. In 1839, it became the first railroad to have passenger sleeping cars. The railroad had been used to supply Union troops during the war.

The Confederate army had already shown a willingness to destroy the railroad when soldiers tore down railway building in Chambersburg in 1862 around the same time Samuel Lightner was drafted. Around the same time as Mrs. Lightner was hiding the securities, the Confederate army had burned the railroad’s property in Chambersburg and torn up miles of track. A year after this incident, the Confederate army under Jubal Early returned to Chambersburg and burned even more of the railroad’s property.

One of the Lightner children, Mrs. W.F. Kohler of Scotland, Pa., told the story of the reason her mother had helped the Confederates to the Public Opinion in the early 1950’s.

 

 

 

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Each year, congregations of three churches in Chambersburg, Pa., offer a single rose to a member of the city’s founding family. It is a simple gift, but one that has been given year after year, decade after decade, century after century without fail.

The reason the rose is given each year is simple. The rent must be paid.

Benjamin Chambers founded Chambersburg in 1734 when a representative of the Penn family issued him a “Blunston license” for 400 acres. Because of the area’s Scotch and Irish residents, the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church was the first church established in the town. In 1768, Chambers gave the congregation land for a church and cemetery in 1768 because he recognized the role that religion played in creating a community and giving it a moral core.

In 1780, he offered land to the First Lutheran Church and Zion Reformed Church, which were both working to grow and establish themselves in the town. All that he asked in return for the land was that an annual rent of one single red rose be paid to his family or a descendant.

“One of the stipulations in the deed is that it had to be a rose from the church’s grounds,” said Rev. Jeffrey Diller of the Zion Reformed Church.

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The payment of the rose rent at the Zion Reformed Church in Chamberburg, Pa. Photo courtesy of the Zion Reformed Church.

It is not known why Chambers chose such an unusual rent payment, but the red rose does have some biblical connections.

            The five petals of a red rose were held as symbolic of the five wounds of Jesus Christ by early Christians. It is also associated with the blood of Christian martyrs or representative of the Virgin Mary. Some legends say that white roses grew in the Garden of Eden, but they turned red with shame when Adam and Eve fell from grace.

One of these may have been Chambers’ reason for choosing the red rose as payment or it may simply have been his favorite flower.

“The son, Capt. Benjamin had roses lining his walk in front of his house which would have been part of the original settlement of the founder.  Later, the area became known as Rosedale,” said Ann Hull, executive director of the Franklin County Historical Society.

Diller also noted that it may have simply been fashionable at the time to give churches land that way. He said that he knows of many other churches throughout the region that pay a similar annual rent.

Whatever the reason, his foresight and generosity allowed the churches to establish themselves in the town.

“We make a big thing of it each year with a program that celebrates the historical aspect of the ceremony,” Diller said.

During a different Sunday in June, each church has a special service in which a member of the Chambers family is presented with the rose rent.

The Zion Reformed Church service begins with a fellowship breakfast on the morning of the second Sunday in June. This is followed by a historical presentation to place the event in context, the ceremony to select the rose and the celebration of the presentation of the rose rent.

Franklin County, Pa., has also paid the rose rent since 2007. It was based on a deed that the late John George, a descendant of the founding Chambers family, found in the Franklin County Courthouse. The 1785 deed transferred lots to the county to hold a courthouse and jail in exchange for a rose rent.

Franklin County Commissioner G. Warren Elliot made the first payment of the rent to George’s widow, June, in July 2007 when he gave her a dozen roses.

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