The Greencastle area’s first settlers were mainly Scotch-Irish, with some Germans and Swiss, who made their way to the Conococheague Settlement in the early 1730’s. The area was considered part of Lancaster County until 1741, when Antrim Township was sectioned off. At that time, the township included all of present-day Franklin County except Warren, Metal, and Fannett townships. John Allison, a colonel in the Cumberland County militia, founded Greencastle in 1782. Col. Allison laid out 256 lots in four blocks around the square and sold them for about $8 each. By an act of the Pennsylvania Assembly, the town was incorporated as a borough on March 24, 1805, with 800 residents within its geographical boundaries. Within 70 years, the borough’s size doubled and its population grew to 1,700.
People worked as farmers, tanners, cabinetmakers, machinists, blacksmiths, coopers, cobblers, hatters, weavers, printers and artisans of the building trades. Early residents were attracted to the area by its fertile soils and the quest for religious freedom.
Tragedy struck one of the community’s one-room schoolhouses in July 1764, when schoolmaster Enoch Brown and 10 of his students were attacked and massacred by Indians. One youngster, Archie McCullogh, survived the scalping and bathed his head in the nearby spring. McCullogh, who lived to old age, although demented, recounted how the Indians had rushed the door and how the schoolmaster had unsuccessfully begged them to spare the lives of his students. The victims are buried in a mass grave. A monument was erected in 1884 and the Enoch Brown Park and Monument Association was formed in the late 19th century to care for the site. The site was turned over to Antrim Township in 1994 and now features picnic tables and a pavilion, as well as tranquil trails meandering through the woods near the massacre site.
While much of the attention of the Civil War in Pennsylvania is focused on Gettysburg, it also touched the Greencastle-Antrim area. Corp. William H. Rhil of Philadelphia was the first Union soldier killed north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Rhil, a member of the 1st New York Calvary Regiment, was fatally wounded while pushing back a Confederate scouting party on June 22, 1863. A monument now stands in his honor along U.S. 11, north of Greencastle. While the battle raged in Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, Ulric Dahlgren with his small force of cavalrymen captured a body of confederates and two couriers as they approached Greencastle’s Center Square. Of vital importance to Gen. George Meade at Gettysburg was a message from Richmond telling Gen. Robert E. Lee that the division, led by Gen. George E. Pickett, left its encampment south of Greencastle on July 27, 1863. While marching through the town on Carlisle Street, Pickett and his Virginians came to the home of James Harris where his daughter, Dolly, stood on the front porch waving the union flag and denouncing the Southerners as traitors. Gen. Pickett, sensing that his men might react to this accusation in a violent manner, rose in his stirrups and saluted the flag. When the soldiers saw this act of gallantry, they saluted and greeted Dolly with cheers.
Historic Downtown Greencastle
Much of Greencastle’s early architecture remains intact and a large portion of the downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Historic sites are featured in a walking tour of the town. Maps of the tour, with more detailed information, are available in the Chamber of Commerce office, located at 217 East Baltimore Street, Greencastle, PA 17225. Highlights include:
John Allison, founder of Greencastle, owned a tavern on the southwest corner of the Square located on the first lot he surveyed when laying out the town. A tavern or hotel was located on the site until Prohibition in 1922. Since then it has been used as an apartment house with office and business spaces at the street level.
John Allison Public House
Thomas Pawling built a two-story hotel at the northeast corner of East Baltimore and North Washington streets in 1859. Drivers of horse-drawn Conestoga wagons, train and stagecoach passengers, and livestock dealers frequented the hotel. At one point, it housed a billiard parlor and a vaudeville and motion picture theater. The Greencastle Lions Club secured ownership of the building in 1976. Now it is a restaurant, owned by the John Flannery.
Brown’s Mill School
The Old Brown’s Mill School in the village of Kauffman stands as a monument to all the one-room schools dotting Franklin County in its early years. The Free School Act was passed in 1834, but the law did not provide funding for schools. The residents of the Brown’s Mill area, through pledges ranging from $0.50 to $50, raised $400 to build the school in 1836. It served the community for 85 years.
The schoolhouse fell into disrepair until it was rescued by the Franklin County Education Association. In 1934, the Old Brown’s Mill School Memorial Association was formed to restore the building. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission acquired it in 1962. The Old Brown’s Mill School Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays in July and August. It houses pictures, furniture, books, records, relics, and other mementos of the school’s history. Volunteers from the Franklin County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees, Old Brown’s Mill School Alumni Association, and other groups staff it.
The adjacent cemetery contains the graves of many of the area’s early settlers. There are 17 Revolutionary War veterans buried in the graveyard. The Franklin County Chapter of the DAR erected a monument honoring them in 1935.
Corporal William H. Rihl of Philadelphia, was a member of the 1st New York cavalry regiment. On June 22, 1863, Rihl's company with forty-three men made a dash on Jenkin's advance scouting party and drove them back to the main command. M.S. Cafferty and Corporal Rihl were struck down in a volley from a body of Confederate infantry lying in a wheat field south of the Fleming house. The result was the wounding of Cafferty in the leg and the death of Rihl, the first Union soldier killed north of the Mason Dixon line. On June 22, 1886, the body of Corporal Rihl was removed from the Lutheran graveyard and buried at the site where he had been killed. Members of the Greencastle G.A.R.Post carried out this project and later were responsible for raising money that resulted in the erection of the monument that now marks the final resting place of this soldier. (Located about. 1 mile north of Greencastle on Rt. 11)
German Reformed Graveyard
The German Reformed congregation purchased a tract, a block and a half south of the square, from John Allison in 1786 and erected a log church the following year. In 1808, the log church was demolished and a brick sanctuary was built. In 1854, a new edifice was erected on East Baltimore Street. The church graveyard continued to be used for several decades after the Civil War and contains the remains of many pioneer German families associated with the church.
Martin’s Mill Covered Bridge
Built in 1849, Martin’s Mill Covered Bridge is one of only two covered bridges remaining in Franklin County. It is located on Weaver Road in Antrim Township, about 3.5 miles southwest of Greencastle and 1.8 miles off Williamsport Pike. The 205-foot span, built in the town lattice truss style to accommodate weight, is the second longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania. The bridge crosses the east branch of the Conococheague Creek, and is named for the saw and grist mill which once stood upstream on its west bank. The historic bridge, now restored to near original condition, has survived three near destructions: the first in 1958, when it was condemned by the county to be abandoned and destroyed; the second in 1972, when it was washed from its center pier and abutments by the floods from Hurricane Agnes; and the last, in the fall of 1991, when it had fallen into disrepair and nearly collapsed.
In each instance, the Martin’s Mill Covered Bridge Association, a group founded in 1961 to preserve the bridge for future generations, has stepped in to prevent its loss. The latest restoration, completed in 1995, took three years. The bridge structure was stabilized, rotted flooring and siding replaced and a new wood shingle roof added. To protect the bridge after this latest and most expensive repair, gates were added at both portals to limit vehicular traffic. Visitors are invited to park at either abutment and bike or walk across. The site of Martin’s Mill Covered Bridge includes a public park and recreation area upstream from the bridge on the east bank of the creek.
George Washington stopped by the tavern for breakfast on his way to quell the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania in October 1794. The tavern was just south of the square on the east side of South Carlisle Street. The log building was located approximately 20 feet back of the present storefront and the rear of the building still reveals the logs of the original structure.
The clock has served Greencastle’s residents and visitors since 1872. While the First National Bank of Greencastle was under construction, a private subscription drive was held to purchase the clock, which has become one of Greencastle’s principal landmarks.