The earliest settlers of the valley were mainly Scotch-Irish. These people came from Northern Ireland and they were descendants of the Scotch Presbyterians that had migrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland during the reign of King James I of England. This ruler, a Protestant, had encouraged people from Scotland to cross over into Ireland, a distance of eleven miles, by water, and take up land that had been seized by the English crown. The Irish, who were dispossessed, were Catholic and had revolted against the crown because of restrictive religious laws that had been imposed on them.
Thousands of Scotch families went to Northern Ireland and settled in the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Caven, Donegal, Fernmanagh, Londonderry, Monaghan, and Tyrone. This is the part of Ireland where religious conflict between Presbyterians and Catholics continues to this day.
After James I the English government did not always protect and encourage these Scotch-Irish in their new homes and because of difficulties with Roman Catholics and later English rulers, many of them began to come to America. When William Penn founded Pennsylvania as a colony for free lands, free religion and self government, thousands came. In September of 1736, for instance , one thousand immigrated to the colony.
The Scotch-Irish began to fill the Valley, clearing the forest and carving out their farms. Between 1771 and 1773 over twenty-five thousand came. These people were the true pioneers of the Cumberland Valley.
Among the earlier Scotch-Irish were Benjamin Chambers and his brothers, James, Robert, and Joseph. Benjamin and Joseph acquired lands at the confluence of the Conococheague Creek and the Falling Spring. This was the beginning of Chambersburg. James made a settlement at Green Spring, near Newville, and Robert settled at Middle Spring, where Shippensburg now stands.
Locally, the Scotch-Irish founded the Moss Spring Church in 1738 - a Presbyterian Church made of logs and located northeast of where Greencastle now stands.
It was the Scotch Irish who fought off the Indians along this frontier territory and as they came in greater numbers they were the first to establish schools in the community. They were leaders in the movement to gain freedom from England. They fought in the Revolution and later served in the conventions that led to the making of the nation's constitution.
In 1741 Antrim Township was formed. Originally it included all land in what is now Franklin County, with the exception of Fannett, Metal and Warren Townships. The name for this new township, of course, came from northern Ireland where Antrim County was located.
German settlers followed the early Scotch-Irish. These were a people who came from the many different German states. Their basic reason for leaving their homelands was to find religious freedom and as they moved into this frontier region along with and after the Scotch-Irish, they, too, acquired lands and became the leading farmers of the local area.
An early writer describes a visit to the home of Jacob Snively in 1748. The Snively holdings lay to the northeast and eastward from what is now Greencastle and the writer describes corn growing to a height of ten feet and "remarkably fine grasses" for pasture land. Jacob Snively was described as an "honest schweitzer" and a member of the German Reformed Church.
These German pioneers fought in the French and Indian Wars and provided money, leadership, and men for the War for Independence from England, alongside the Scotch-Irish.
Allison-Antrim Museum, Inc
365 South Ridge Avenue Copyright © Allison-Antrim Museum | All rights reserved.
Greencastle, PA 17225