Franklin County History

Settlers first entered the Cumberland Valley between 1725 and 1727. By 1730 there were a number of people here but, because the proprietors had not yet completed a treaty with the Indians, they were considered illegal residents. Before 1729, the area was part of Chester County. From 1729 to 1750 the area was part of Lancaster County and in 1750 it became part of Cumberland County.

In 1755 when the Indian incursions began, the population of 3,000 settlers dropped to about 300. It was not until the Treaty of 1764 when the Indians, however unwillingly, agreed to relinquish ownership of all lands west to the Muskingum River in Ohio that the settlers returned. The majority of those who came at this time were Scots-Irish. As they moved westward, more and more Germans migrated here. Quite a number of those Germans were Mennonites. Franklin County was created on September 9, 1784, from part of Cumberland County. Chambersburg, the county seat, was founded in 1764 and was incorporated on March 21, 1803. See History of PA Counties for other Pennsylvania county information.

Total Acreage: 480,000 North-South Distance 38 miles; East-West Distance 34 miles

Antrim – bears the name given to one of the townships created in 1741 as part of Lancaster County whose jurisdiction extended into this frontier part of Penn’s colony

Fannett & Metal – were included in Cumberland County prior to 1784. Fannett first appeared in the records of Cumberland County in 1761. Because of its long narrow shape, it is said to be named for Fannett, or Fanod Point, a promontory and lighthouse in County Donegal on the northern coast of Ireland. Metal received its name because it contained large quantities of iron ore. Both counties formed the path which the Tuscarora took in 1713 when they left their home in North Carolina, hence the origin of the name “Path Valley”.

Greene – was formed in 1788. It was named for the Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene. The PA Soldier’s Orphan School “Scotland School” (now closed) was established here in the village of Scotland.

Guilford – which was taken from part of Antrim in 1751, was settled by the English, as well as the Scots-Irish, and was named for the English town of Guilford located in the county of Surry in the North Downs of England.  Guilford’s eastern region of mountain lands was owned and operated for about 85 years by the iron industry.

Hamilton – founded in 1752 from part of St. Thomas, was named in honor of James Hamilton, proprietory governor of PA at different times between 1748 & 1771.

Letterkenny – one of the earliest parts of the western Cumberland Valley to be settled by pioneers in 1736 and it became a township in 1762. It owes its name to a town in County Donegal in northern Ireland. Letterkenny Army Depot was built here in the 1940s.

Lurgan – in 1743 became the second local governmental entity in the western part of the Cumberland Valley. Some of its early land titles can be traced to Lancaster County. Its name was brought from northern Ireland. Lurgan’s first village, Roxbury, laid out in 1778 became a station for pack trains that followed what was known as the Alleghany path into the western lands.

Montgomery – named for General Richard Montgomery who was killed leading the American assault on Quebec in 1775, furnished some of the soldiers who participated in that expedition. It was formed from Peters when it was partitioned just three years before Franklin became a county in 1781. Lying in Montgomery is the borough of Mercersburg, home to the Mercersburg Academy and its famous chapel (built in 1926).

Peters – was carved out of Antrim in 1751 and received its name from Richard Peters, colonial secretary of Penn’s province. It was here, at Stony Batter, that President James Buchanan was born.

Quincy – was cut from the northern half of Washington Township in 1837-38. Tradition has it that it was named for John Quincy Adams. It is here that the Snow Hill Cloister, a 7th-Day German Baptist Community began in 1798.

St. Thomas – The exact date of the official founding of St. Thomas is not known; it was taken from parts of Peters and Hamilton, probably about 1818-20. The name evolved from a nickname given to Thomas Campbell who laid out the town of St. Thomas in 1790.

Southampton – The eastern border of Southampton Township is much the same as when it was formed in 1783. It started in the South Mountain, followed Middle Spring Creek joining Edward Shippen’s line cutting through Shippensburg and on the point where Middle Spring joined the Conodoguinet Creek. This left Shippensburg lying both in Franklin and Cumberland Counties.

Warren – commonly known as “Little Cove” was part of Bedford County until 1798 when it was annexed to Franklin and made part of Montgomery Township, but within the year it became the township named for Brigadier General Joseph Warren who was killed at the battle of Bunker Hill.

Washington – was created from the eastern half of Antrim in 1779, and at one time included the borough of Waynesboro.