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o-CHICKEN-facebookIn 1908, a crime wave hit Adams County, Pa. Residents would rush to their windows at every sound. They would peer into the dark searching for lurking figures in the darkness. It didn’t stop until a shootout and a massive manhunt ended with the capture of Ambrose Dittenhafer.

With his crime spree ended, chickens in Adams County were once again safe.

Yes, chickens.

Dittenhafer was a chicken thief.

The 53-year-old Dittenhafer had had run-ins with the law for years. Some involved animal cruelty. One was assault on a police officer, but it was a nighttime wholesale chicken business that sent him to jail for a significant amount of time.

However, in the late fall of 1908, chickens started disappearing from hen houses around the county. No one knew who the thief was, but they had their suspicions.

On election night, Straban Township resident Martin Harman had to go to Hunterstown for some reason. His wife followed him later in the evening. As she headed to Hunterstown, she saw Dittenhafer walking along the road. Something about the situation and Dittenhafer made her suspicious and she told her husband what she had seen when the met up with him.

Harman borrowed a gun, made sure it was loaded and headed back to his farm. He passed Dittenhafer on the way back. Harman turned off the road early to mislead Dittenhafer. Then Harman tied up his horse and hurried across a field to his property. Once there, he hid in his barn to wait.

A few minutes later, someone whose identity was hidden in shadows entered the barn.

“The dark figured selected some fat pullets roosting on the barn year fence and hurriedly placed them in a bag which he was carrying. Next, he made for a willow tree near the Harman farm watering trough. Some well fattened Spring chickens were found slumbering here and Ambrose was in the act of selecting the choicest of those when Mr. Harman commenced action,” the New Oxford Item reported.

Harman fired at the thief twice. The shots, which were probably rock salt, hit the thief. Unfortunately, Harman learned later that his shots also killed several of the chickens in the bag.

Dittenhafer shouted, “Don’t shoot again!”

As Harman approached him, Dittenhafer dropped his bag and ran off. “It is said that in his efforts to escape Dittenhafer divested him of all his clothing possible and cast aside all unnecessary possessions,” the New Oxford Item reported.

For some reason, Harman remained at large for more than a week. Then he entered the Lower Brother’s Store in Table Rock on Nov. 20 and was recognized. Justice of the Peace H. B. Mears issued a warrant that Constable John F. Wolf of Butler Township served on him at the store.

“With a vigorous denial he made a dash for the door, Constable Wolf hanging on to his coat and urging the men about to help him hold the man who was fast making his exit,” the Adams County News reported.

Dittenhafer grabbed the club he always carried and fled out the door. He ran across a nearby field “making decidedly uncomplimentary remarks about Constable Wolf on the way,” the Adams County News reported.

Three days later, a report came in that Dittenhafer was going to return to his home.

Detective Charles Wilson, County Deputy Fred Kappes and Constable Morrison of Straban Township surrounded Dittenhafer’s house and remained in hiding through the night when they thought they saw him sneak into the house.

“Detective Wilson at once rushed in and was confronted by the man’s wife who had a shot gun leveled at him. Not dismayed he hurried through the various rooms after the man, being met in one of them by one of Dittenhafer’s sons armed with a gun. No harm was done,” the Adams County News reported.

However, Dittenhafer wasn’t found. He had managed to escape into the foggy night.

The law officers then organized a large posse of citizens and set off on Dittenhafer’s trail. They followed him for three miles through the fog only rarely catching sight of him.  When he was seen, the posse would fire shots at him, apparently without hitting Dittenhafer.

He managed to double back and he returned to his house. After six hours of pursuit, the posse managed to surround him.

“Here the man realizing that his chances for escape were rather slim made a desperate fight and armed with a razor and his “big stick” was ready for a hand to hand combat. Shot after shot fired into his hiding place and he finally emerged to be met by Detective Wilson whose pistol was pointing straight at his head. Realizing that all was up he surrendered,” the Adams County News reported.

Dittenhafer begged to be let go. He said that he would leave the county if Wilson let him go. Wilson’s answer was to handcuff him and transport him to the county jail.

On February 1, 1909, Dittenhafer pled guilty of “larceny of chickens.” Dittenhafer said that he would leave the county if the judge wouldn’t sentence him to jail time. Instead, Judge Swope sentenced him to one year in Eastern State Penitentiary. Rebecca Dittenhafer pleaded that her husband be allowed to serve out his time in the county jail.

Swope was unmoved. He told her, “If you were to stay here she might feel that she ought to bring some food to you at the county prison and thus spend some of her energy which will be necessary for the support of the family while you are serving her sentence,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Dittenhafer behaved well in the penitentiary and was released a couple of months early. Things did not improve for Dittenhafer as a free man.

“Nobody will give me any work and I do not have sufficient money to support my family,” Dittenhafer told the Adams County News. “It is right in the middle of the Winter and I cannot raise any produce with which to earn a living. No one will give me a job or lend me money, and there you are. If I steal, down the road I go. I want to lead an honest and honorable life now but it’s pretty hard times.”

During his time in prison, his wife and children had been living in the county poor house. Dittenhafer had gotten a new suit and $10 on his release from prison. The money disappeared quickly, though. He had $3 stolen from him after he paid for car fare home from prison, and with the remainder, he bought his son, George, a new set of clothes.

By March, it was reported that Dittenhafer had finally not only left the county but the state. He was said to be managing a farm in Maryland.

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UntitledThough the Franklin County Career and Technical Center in Chambersburg, Pa., cost a lot more to build, served a much smaller community and took a lot longer to build than originally imagined, the result was a vocational and technical school that has graduated thousands of skilled workers over its 41 years. Not only that, but 98 percent of them have been able to remain in the area after graduation because they had the skills that local employers needed.

The idea of a vocational-technical school for Franklin County was first suggested as part of a statewide plan for such schools. At that time, it was envisioned that one school could serve students in Franklin, Adams, Fulton, and part of Cumberland counties.

The idea was kicked around for a couple of years until a group of people from the business, agricultural and education communities formed in 1963 to start looking at how to make the idea a reality. Gradually, the school’s district shrunk until it became Franklin County and the Shippensburg area of Cumberland County.

Industries and businesses in the proposed area were sent 1,680 surveys to determine what skills students needed to have to be employable and what business areas were most in need of workers. About 80 percent of the surveys were returned and that information along with the results of a student interest survey were reviewed by the committee to come up with 22 proposed courses of study.

The proposed school was presented to the school boards in 23 different school districts in two counties for their review. In March of 1964, 108 directors from those boards met in a special meeting to decide on whether or not building a new vo-tech school was a feasible idea.

Clair Fitz, area coordinator of industrial education at Penn State, spoke to the directors about the opportunities a vo-tech school would present. “Saying vocational-technical schools provide sound terminal education for those pupils not planning to continue into college, Fitz added that skills learned in these schools give pupils ‘something to sell’ when they enter the labor market following completion of their schooling. The new skills; he continued, will give the county a better and higher labor market and generally bolster the county’s economy,” reported The Public Opinion.

After two hours of discussion, the vote was unanimous to submit an application for a new school to the state. George Fries, who was a member of the committee, called the vote, “a fine, progressive step forward.”

At this point, it was believed that the school could open in 1966 at the latest and cost $1.2 million to build. The Pennsylvania Department of Education gave the project its go ahead and the search began for a site where the school could be built.

Eventually, 108 acres were purchased in Guilford Springs, but construction issues, including how to get adequate water to the site, delayed the project and increased the costs. Construction began mid-1968.

The school partially opened in the fall of 1969 with 14 areas of study. Another seven areas were added the next semester. The total cost of construction came in at $4.2 million.

“That $4.2 million will pay for a sprawling modern building that features the latest in automotive repair shops, a practical nursing suite, and even a temperature controlled hothouse for agriculture students,” reported The Public Opinion.

Initial enrollment in the school was 227 students from the six participating school districts of Chambersburg, Fannett-Metal, Greencastle-Antrim, Shippensburg, Tuscarora, and Waynesboro. The students attended the vo-tech center for three weeks to train in their skill areas and then their home schools for three weeks to complete their general educational requirements.

The Franklin County Area Vocational-Technical School was formally dedicated on April 19, 1970. In his dedicatory remarks, Superintendent James Gibboney said, “A vocational-technical education will help our youth to cultivate the ability to construct their own environment and to create their own destiny. Through your united efforts, you have placed a monument here. Not a monument of brick and stone and steel, but a monument to the living, to the minds of men.”

Though the name has changed to the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, the school still remains a monument that grows and adapts to provide the county with a skilled labor force.

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Continental Square.jpg

Continental Square in York, Pa. Courtesy of the York History Center.

The metallic reverberating sound of gongs repeatedly sounded throughout downtown York, Pa., in August of 1925. It was a sound people recognized as the alert on a fire truck. Somewhere in York, a fire was burning.

 

“During the disturbance patrons of theaters, hurriedly snatched their wraps and fled from the amusement places to ‘go to the fire.’ Others telephoned or went to their homes,” The York Dispatch reported.

People attending a municipal band concert at Farquhar Park heard the gongs over the music and streamed out of the park, seeking the fire or their homes to make sure that it wasn’t burning.

The problem was that there was no fire. “A callithumpian band mounted on a truck which also carried, despite their objections the bride and bridegroom, coursed about downtown streets for about an hour last evening,” The York Dispatch reported.

According to the Merriam-Webster website, “callithumpian” is a word that dates back to 19th century England to describe a very boisterous gathering. A callithumpian band wasn’t a performing band. The musicians used noisemakers, such as pots, tin horns, and cowbells, more than instruments. In the case of this callithumpian band, one of the instruments was gongs with a tone that matched the fire gongs.

While the noise was certainly disturbing, because the bells and gongs mimicked those used by the city’s fire engines, it “gave people who heard but could not see the unique procession, the impression that the whole fire department was out hunting a blaze and could not find it,” the newspaper reported.

The groom was J. Morris Crum who had married Alice Thompson in late July in the Grace Evangelical Church. When they returned from their honeymoon to their home on East King Street, they were carried away to a truck by the serenaders.

At first the noise truck seemed content to circle Continental Square, but after it went around several times, Patrolmen Binder, whose beat the square, stopped the truck. He informed the driver that Mayor Ephraim Smyser Hugentugler had recently ruled that vehicles could not circle the square more than once.

“The information did not seem to discourage the celebrants, for they eliminated the square but kept in the central section of the city for some time afterward,” The York Dispatch reported.

After the band continued to cause concern among the citizens, several policemen stopped the truck along its new route. The driver of the truck produced a permit signed by the mayor and the police officers reluctantly let the loud band continue on.

It turns out that the permit was a fake, a fact that wasn’t discovered until the next day.

After an hour or so of noise and fear, the group on the truck finally tired and broke up.

Mayor Hugentugler was asked the next day why he had signed the permit and the mayor denied having done so.

“He said that if he had been in the city last night the party would have been arrested,” the newspaper reported.

He added that if something similar happened again, he would order the police to make “wholesale arrests” because the group’s actions had overstepped the bounds of propriety.

Hugentugler served as York’s mayor from 1916 to 1928. He was a man known to take strong actions. During World War I, he had banned anti-war meetings in the city and prohibited the publishing of anti-war literature, according to the Political Strange Names blog. Hugentugler, “even went as far as to erect a wooden bust of Kaiser Wilhelm in York’s Centre Square that citizens could pound a nail into (at the low price of ten cents a nail!),” the blog noted.

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logoIt’s bad enough to get a call that your son’s in jail and needs you to bail him out, but what happens when you show up at the county jail with bail money and the corrections officer has never heard of your son? You may want to look at a map.

James Ridings was a 21 year old from Keyser, W.Va. was driving through Franklin County, Pa., on the evening of April 7, 1961. He was a mile north of Waynesboro, Pa., when he pulled onto the Waynesboro-Quincy road from a side street without paying attention to oncoming traffic. His car hit a northbound car being driven by Kenny Cook, Jr. from Quincy, Pa.

The crash sent Cook’s car off the road and into a tree. The impact pushed one of the front wheels on the car back three feet. Despite the force of the impact, Cook and his wife, Paneye, only suffered bruises and contusions. They were taken to Waynesboro Hospital and released, but their car was a total loss.

Pennsylvania State Police charged Ridings with failing to yield the right of way, and he was taken to the Franklin County jail.

Ridings used his phone call at the jail to contact his parents and ask them to come get him and bail him out of jail. Then he waited in his cell for his parents to arrive. In those days, the trip from the Keyser to Waynesboro took anywhere from 2 to 2 ½ hours depending on traffic and the route driven. That time passed and then even more with no sign of his parents.

Ridings eventually fell asleep and when he woke up in the morning, his parents still hadn’t arrived.

Then the jailer gave Ridings the news. His parents had set out for Waynesboro immediately after his call and made it to Waynesboro in about 3 ½ hours. The problem was it was Waynesboro, Va.

“This morning they phoned a message to their son telling him they were then setting out for Waynesboro, Pa. and Chambersburg,” the Chambersburg Public Opinion reported.

Both towns are named for the Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne. To make matters even more confusing there is also the Borough of Waynesburg, Pa., in Greene County that is named after Wayne.

While it is understandable that Waynesboro, Pa., would be named after Wayne since the general was a Pennsylvanian, his bravery and battle victories during the War for Independence, earned him many namesakes. Besides Waynesboro, Va., there are six other cities, two communities, 14 counties, five towns, a forest, a river, 16 schools, 23 streets and highways, five townships, five villages and at least 17 businesses and structures that are named in honor of the general nicknamed Mad Anthony.

So Ridings’ parents could be forgiven their mistake. They were probably lucky that they didn’t wind up in Waynesburg Borough, the community of Wayne, Wayne County or Wayne Township, all of which are also in Pennsylvania.

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Howard Swain of York, Pa., considered himself an unlucky man, so much so, that even when he was lucky, he saw it as unlucky.

For starters, he was 40-year-old divorced man. It wasn’t a situation he would have wanted, but there you have it. He was unlucky, although the marriage probably wasn’t a happy one so ending it could have been seen as lucky.

Swain was a carpenter by trade, but business was slow so he was forced to live with his sister and brother-in-law in their spare bedroom at their home at 10 N. Pearl Street in York. Again, Swain saw this as unlucky, although he was lucky to have a place to live while he got back on his feet.

Then there was the auto accident in August 1925. Swain was driving a car in which his sister and another woman were passengers. They were driving down a straight hill above Dover, “when suddenly probably due to the condition of the road, for it was raining, the car skidded and was turned over several times,” according to the York Dispatch. Luckily, no one was killed, but everyone got thrown about pretty hard.

Of course, seeing the negative in everything, Swain said that he had internal injuries. He was examined at the West Side Sanitarium and no evidence of an injury could be found.

The following morning, near noon, Swain’s sister heard a gunshot. She ran upstairs and found her brother lying on the floor bleeding. She called to her husband, W. R. Jackson, who rushed to the Reliance Fire House and notified the police officer there. The officer and Jackson went to the office of Dr. W. H. Horning, only to find that he was out. They then went to the office of Dr. L. W. Fishel, who returned with them to the house on Pearl Street.

Someone had already notified Dr. Horning. He was examined Swain, loaded him into his car, and driven him back to the West Side Sanitarium, where Swain had been the previous evening after the auto accident.

It was determined that Swain had placed a .32-caliber revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger in an attempt to kill himself. The newspaper reported, “the bullet of which was deflected from its course by the upper half of a set of false teeth, which was found by the side of the bed in his room in which the shooting took place.”

The bullet had exited at the bottom of his jaw just below his chin. Swain eventually recovered from the accident.

The newspaper noted that “Despondency had been a constant companion of Swain.”  He had even threatened to kill himself over the preceding weeks. The closest he had come to acting on that threat was when he brought home a rusty .32-caliber pistol that was so in need of repair that the hammer could not even be pulled back.

Most likely cursing his bad luck, Swain had tossed it into the cellar.

At some point, he must have cleaned it up enough to use because this was the revolver that he had shot himself with.

Although Swain’s broken plate had saved his life, he probably saw it as unlucky that it had broken.

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kumbuka-gorilla-london-zoo-8238252f-05fb-43f2-ac6f-d6d159dcdbf3.jpgThrough much of 1921, many Adams County, Pa., residents practiced “gorilla” warfare.

“Fleeter of foot than Paddock the great California sprinter, more strongly built for endurance than Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion, and far more elusive than a bootlegger to would be captors is the one and only Gorilla,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

That’s right, county residents were hunting an actual gorilla. The first local report appeared in the newspaper on January 20, but it seemed that word might have been circulating already about the creature.

A small group of people first saw the gorilla sitting on a rock near Mount Rock. “When the monstrous animal saw that it was discovered by some Mount Rock citizens, it arose, stretched itself, and disappeared into a nearby wood, according to the report,” the newspaper said.

This first story was met with hearty skepticism. The newspaper quoted a Gettysburg citizen as saying, “It is evident that some of my Mount Rock friends are seeing more peculiar visions now than they did before the advent of the Eighteenth Amendment.”

After the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution had been ratified in 1919, national prohibition of alcohol production and sale had started at the beginning of the year.

Two days after the initial report, the Gettysburg Times announced in a headline that the gorilla story wasn’t a myth. It stated that the existence of the creature had been verified by authentic sources.

“The animal described by some as a gorilla and by others as a kangaroo was first seen at Snyder’s hill between York Springs and Idaville where a number of men failed in a combined attempt to capture or shoot it,” the newspaper reported.

Fifty armed men had chased the creature trying to capture it without any luck.

It was believed that the gorilla had escaped “from a circus train during a wreck several months ago.” However, the only known circus train wreck in 1920 has been in Canada when the Christy Bros. Circus train wrecked on May 25.

The newspaper reports also noted that no damage had been attributed to the gorilla, although it had been blamed for a smokehouse robbery.

Tensions among county residents rose as they searched for the gorilla. On January 25, the Hanover Evening Sun reported that Abraham Lau of Franklintown had walked out to his backyard to get a bucket of coal when he thought he saw the gorilla. He ran back into the house and grabbed his rifle. When he went back outside, he raised his gun and fired at the mule.

It turns out that he had shot at his neighbor’s mule that had wandered over to his yard. Luckily, the mule wasn’t severely wounded.

The same couldn’t be said for a dog in Rouzerville three days later.

At dusk, the gorilla was seen in an alleyway in Rouzerville. The woman who saw it raised the alarm and the men grabbed their rifles and chased it out of town. They tried to circle the hill where it had run, but it apparently escaped. However, “A black dog running through the underbrush paid the death penalty when an excited hunter mistook it for the ape,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Somehow the gorilla passed the hunters and went back into town where it was seen again causing alarm.

It was then seen the next day in Monterey. Two men thought they saw a man approaching them on all fours. “When they called the animal rose on its hind legs and came toward them making gurgling sounds. The young men did not investigate further,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

On Feb. 5, John Simmons saw the gorilla walking through a field near Pen Mar. He said that since it was broad daylight, he could see that the creature was definitely a gorilla.

Reports of the gorilla then vanished from the newspapers until August when it was seen in Gettysburg on lower York St. The man who saw it ran into his house, grabbed his rifle and shot at it. When it fell to the ground, he thought that he had killed it.

“Thinking he had bagged his game the gunner went toward the fallen animal. When only a few feet away the beast jumped to its hand legs and chased the man into the house,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

More residents grabbed their rifles and chased the gorilla out of town. It was last seen heading toward Biglerville, but it supposedly left behind footprints that were identified as a gorilla’s.

The Gettysburg Times, which had once proclaimed that the gorilla was not a myth now took a more skeptical approach. “One night he is seen cavorting over the hillsides between York Springs and Gardners in northern Adams county. The next night he looms up in Biglerville, then Gettysburg and ere a week flits by he is seen in the hills of Franklin county of Maryland. What an asset to a football coach planning for a successful season would be this never weary animal who flits from mountain top to mountain,” the newspaper reported.

There was at least one more gorilla sighting in 1921. Ray Weikert said that he saw the gorilla crossing a street that he was riding along in late August. Weikert saw it crossing the street, not too far in front of his horse “Not only did the young man see the beast, but the horse as well, and it was with difficulty it was kept from running away,” the Star and Sentinel reported.

The gorilla purportedly leisurely crossed the road walking on its hind legs. It then climbed the fence and walked into the underbrush.

After a black bear was seen in the county in early November, the Gettysburg Times suggested that maybe all of the gorilla sightings were actually people seeing a black bear.

We’ll never know, though. The gorilla was never captured and reports of sightings ended.

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7277782_f260.jpgPresident Woodrow Wilson turned to conscription as a way to raise an army to fight in World War I. The Selective Service Act of 1917 allowed required all men between 21 and 31 years old to register for the draft, though there were exceptions for dependency, essential occupations, and religious convictions. Local draft boards issued draft calls and determined exemptions. During 1917 and 1918, 24 million men registered and about 3 million of them were drafted into the armed forces. About 3,127 of them were from Franklin County.

Though there was some opposition and fraud, the World War I draft proceeded far more smoothly than the Civil War-era drafts.

One man who didn’t want to fight (at least in the war) was Daniel Kenney of Waynesboro, Pa. When the Franklin County draft board issued a draft call for September 12, 1918, Kenney was in jail.

This registration was the third and final registration call during World War I. The first registration had been on June 5, 1917, to register all eligible men. The second registration on June 5, 1918, was to register men who had turned 21 since the first registration. The September 12 registration was to register all men between 18 and 45 years old because the service age had been extended.

Being in jail was no excuse for getting registered, though. Kenney’s jailer asked him if he needed to register. Kenney said no, he was 49 years old and overage for registering with the draft.

“This was seriously doubted on account of his youthful appearance and Chief Gillan who know Kenney well began an investigation to learn whether this were true,” reported the Waynesboro Daily Record in October 1918.

So the police chief began an investigation into Kenney’s background. Gillan contacted the Hagerstown chief of police to search for Kenney’s marriage certificate, which had occurred in Washington County. The information on the certificate showed that Kenney had been 22 years old when he was married in 1911, which made him 29 years old on September 12, not 49.

Kenney was once again arrested but this time on a federal charge of evading the draft. He was taken to Chambersburg in October where he had a hearing before a United States commissioner and was found guilty.

If he could have held out a little longer Kenney might have gotten away with it. After the armistice was signed on November 11, which ended WWI, selective service organizations were closed. By the end of March 1919, local and district draft boards were closed.

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