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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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Bakelite-telephone_395761a

An old Bakerlite telephone. They were heavy, connected to the wall, and actually had to be dialed.

At 2 a.m. on January 5, 1958, the Fayetteville operator-assisted phone system went dead. The signal lights on the switchboards blinked out and would never again notify an operator of an incoming call. Paul Musselman, district manager for United Telephone, flipped a switch and a new system of circuits and lights sprang to life. Fayetteville had entered the modern communications age.

“We are sure our customers will like this new, faster and more versatile telephone service. It is easy to dial, and if customers follow the brief instructions which appear in the new telephone directory, they will enjoy fine results,” Musselman told the Public Opinion.

Residents could call directly between Fayetteville and Chambersburg, though long distance and information services still required operator assistance. The operators in the Fayetteville office of United Telephone at 250 Lincoln Way East had been allowed to transfer to job openings in Chambersburg or take early retirement.

United Telephone Company of Pennsylvania had previously been known as the Cumberland Valley Telephone Company of Pennsylvania based in Carlisle when it began offering phone service in 1915. Today, United Telephone is a subsidiary of  CenturyLink, Inc.

The switch from operator-assisted phone calls to direct dialing had been planned and worked on for months. With help from the Stromberg Carlson Company, United Telephone had strung miles of wire, installed new equipment and added circular phone dials to each phone in the Fayetteville area. Phone directories with all of the 1,000-plus phone numbers also had to be printed up.

The switchover was not unexpected. Fayetteville was a growing area and the time had come where the existing phone system needed to be expanded to handle the additional capacity.

“Fayetteville, one of the fastest growing telephone exchanges in Pennsylvania, now serves over 1,000 telephones, an increase of approximately 300 per cent in ten years,” the Public Opinion reported.

When a customer picked up a phone handset, he now heard a hum instead of an operator saying, “Number please.” However, customers couldn’t simply dial the phone numbers they used to ask an operator for. The changeover in systems also required that each user get a new phone number.

All of the new phone numbers in Fayetteville began with FL and were followed by five digits. When speaking a telephone number like FL65032, a person would say, “I need Flanders 6-5-0-3-2.”

The call volume after the switchover was light at first, but then it quickly picked up. By the afternoon of the first day for the new system, it was handling double the volume of phone calls that the old system had handled.

Because direct phone dialing was a new concept to most residents, seminars were set up at the local school to provide instruction on how to use the new phones to both students and adults.

While many areas did not get direct dialing until the 1950’s, it had been around since the 1930’s, though only in smaller areas. By 1959, when Fayetteville got direct dialing for local calls, direct-dialing long distance had been around for more than seven years.

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Many switchboard operators had to look for new work as direct dialing telephone service was introduced throughout the United States in the mid-20th century.

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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.

IMG_0245

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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Patrick Gass was a native son of Franklin County, but the impact of his life stretched far beyond the borders of the county and Commonwealth.

“Before he died on April 2nd, 1870 at the age of almost 99 years, great cities had been built and untold wealth found in the land he had helped discover. During the War of 1812 he fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the campaign on the Canadian border, and at the age of 63, after a lifetime spent in the service of his country, he married a girl of 20, whom he survived many years. Born before the Revolution, he lived to see this country grow from the original thirteen colonies to 38 states; he voted at the election of 18 presidents from Washington to Grant who served during his lifetime. Four great wars…the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican and Civil were fought, in addition to numerous Indian battles. It is little wonder that Patrick Gass led such an adventurous life, for he was born June 12th, 1771, at Falling Springs, not far from the present town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, then on the Western frontier of civilization,” the introduction to a 1958 edition of Gass’s journal reads.

As a youth, Gass’s family moved around a lot due to his father’s wanderlust. He began his military career in 1792 as a militia member serving under General Anthony Wayne (for whom Waynesboro is named) and fighting Indians in at Bennett’s Fort in Wheeling, VA.

Following his stint in the military, Gass moved to Mercersburg and became a carpenter’s apprentice. While there, he worked on the home of James Buchanan, Sr., and came to know Buchanan’s son who would become the President of the United States.

Gass joined the army in 1799 and served under General Alexander Hamilton until 1800. He rejoined the army in 1803 and while serving, he volunteered to travel with Lewis and Clark on their expedition. Gass served as a carpenter on the journey and was promoted to sergeant. He helped build winter quarters, dugout canoes and wagons on the journey. He even commanded a large portion of the expedition for a short time while Lewis and Clark led smaller side excursions.

During the journey, Gass maintained a journal. His language was rough and difficult to read at times because of Gass’s limited education so he had a schoolteacher, David McKeehan, edit it for publication. The journal became a great primary source of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The journal was published the year after Gass’s return in 1806.

He was the first person from the expedition group to publish his story. The book sold well in the United States and was also translated into German and French for foreign editions.

A few years after he returned, Gass fought in the War of 1812. Gen. Andrew Jackson drafted him to fight Creek Indians in the South. “But this assignment did not suit Gass. He wanted to hear the roar of the big guns, and he was released when he accepted a cash bonus of $100 to enlist in the regular army for five years,” according to Gass’s journal introduction.

By 1814, he was at the Niagara frontier, though his unit arrived a few hours late to participate in the Battle of Chippewa.

“However, Gass saw plenty of fighting during the next few weeks. He received his baptism of fire from the big guns he wanted to hear at Lundy’s Lane on July 25th. He was one of the gallant 300 who, led by Colonel James Miller, charged and captured the British battery after a desperate hand-to-hand struggle during the night,” according to the journal introduction.

Gass lost an eye during this battle. Though legend has it that he lost it chopping wood later, he presented a petition to the U.S. Congress in 1851 seeking a pension based on the fact that he lost his eye in battle.

When the Civil War broke out, the 91-year-old Gass tried to enlist in the Union Army. He was so insistent about it that he had to be removed from the recruiting station, according to the Wisdom of History by Rufus J. Fears.

When Gass died in 1870 in Wellsburg, WV, he was the last member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Here’s the link to the story at the Chambersburg Public Opinion.

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