Walking Tour of Historic Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania has played a unique role in the history not only of Franklin County, but in that of the larger state, region, and nation as well. European colonists originally knew the settlement as Falling Spring, which meets the Conococheague Creek nearby and features a 25-foot waterfall that first attracted the town’s founder (Colonel Benjamin Chambers) to the area in 1730. Chambers laid out the streets of the town in 1764, much of which the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 designated as a historic district in 1982. Confederate raiders under General John McCausland destroyed many of this area when they burned the town in 1864, an event that gives Chambersburg the unique distinction of being the only northern community to suffer this experience during the war. The town is also of interest as the site of abolitionist John Brown’s preparations for his 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at what was then Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown received aid from Underground Railroad conductors living in the area, which served as a waypoint for refugee slaves fleeing the south over much of the antebellum period and (in much larger numbers) during the war itself. Chambersburg is also notable for its local industries, many of which relied upon the energy potential of the Falling Spring and Conococheague Creek during their height in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of the sites from these periods remain standing today as part of a historical community held together by the Franklin County Historical Society – Kittochtinny, the Chambersburg Heritage Center, and nearby Wilson College.