Methodist Hall - (Monthly Programs)
50 East King Street
Littlestown, PA 17340
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2nd Floor - Bourgh Building

10 South QueenStreet

Littlestown, PA 17340


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Littlestown was layed out by
and named for Peter Klien (Little)
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1880's

Dr. Howard A Stonesifer's Impressions of Littlestown

(Taken from The Littlestown Bicentenial Book -1965 - Pages 262 & 263)

I first saw that Littlestown was part of a great country in the fall of 1884. The Presidential Election of that year had the town all agog. Almost overnight every boy in town seemed to be wearing a dark blue, high-crowned cap with gold letters naming the candidate of his choice stamped on it. Almost overnight they suddenly disappeared! The color was not fast and all were walking around with a dark blue band on their foreheads.

Each party had a big torch-light parade before the election. Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, won. Being out of office for more than twenty years, they put on a real parade, with all types of pranks, mimicking the losers. This wound up with an ox roast on the race track.

By the middle 1880's, Littlestown was beginning to feel the effects of a waning boom, which starters in the late 1860's due to the railroad connection with Hanover. The town had become the receiving and shipping center for a large north, south and west area. It was during this period that practically all of the three-story buildings were erected. During the 1870's the town had enthusiastically supported the extension of the road to Frederick, thinking that they would draw from a greater area. They forgot that the trains could go straight through.

During this period Littlestown was not lacking in its amusements and entertainments for both young and old. Though experiencing the effects of the waning boom, the town still had plenty of bounce. An outstanding event was the building of the Fire Engine House with its fire alarm bell and the hand-pump engine with its rows of rubber buckets and boots. The fire bell with its distinct signal for each street was exciting; so was the remarkable job the firemen did passing the rubber buckets from the water pump and the four men on each side of the engine working the levers. The dedication of this building was quite an event for the town. There were bands and fire companies from the adjoining towns. The event wound up in McSherry's Woods where all such events wound up in those days. This woods during this period was a popular meeting place on social occasions.

There was quite a sporting element in the town during the 1880's. The horse and buggy was at its height. Fox chasing was a popular sport and the race track was built. We had running and trotting races, high wheeled and tandem bicycle races, foot and walking races and also a professional ball club that played larger towns like York, Harrisburg, Frederick. In those days, the streets of Littlestown were lined with trees. It was the custom during the summer months for people to rush through the evening meal and then sit on the front porch. The more fortunate young men with their fine horses and buggies took their girl friends for a drive up and down the streets, generally stirring up the dust. But they were not fortunate enough to hear the comments from the porches, like the young men and girls who promenaded the pavements. When passing a porch with a group on it and then tarrying in the dark spot, they could get a good record of their pedigree, especially if there were someone who were hard of hearing on he porch.

Before 1890, East and West King Street was a mud road with stone crossings at intervals. North and South Queen Street was part of the Baltimore Pike but not much better. A popular sport was for the young men to watch the girls cross the square and have to raise their skirts above their high-top shoes. Some of the more daring girls would give them a thrill.

In the late 1880's, traction engine and threshing machine went up East King Street and stuck in the mud a little on this side of the engine house, remaining there for nearly a month. After that East King and West King streets were paved.

Bob-sleighing on Toll Gate Hill, at the bottom of South Queen Street, was very popular. Sometimes as many as 100 young people would be there at one time. They had sleds that held twelve and ware guided by the front man. They would get quite a speed. When they hit a breaker. the sled would jump twenty feet. It was a big thrill and sometimes a big spill. Ice skating was very popular in those days, as were block sled parties, visiting neighboring towns.

Mehring's Skating rink was a favorite meeting place for skating; also theatre groups would come and play such thrilling melodramas as The Danites, East Lynne, The Convict's Daughter, Ten Nights in a Bar Room, etc. Itinerant amusements were always coming through town, such as a man with a bear, a grind organ sometimes with a monkey, singing groups, and very often a violinist with a harpist. One such was Italian Joe with his harpist. Whenever he came to town, the young men would have a dance in the skating rink starting off with a grand march. The floor of the rink, being gritty for skating, had to be cleaned and waxed for dancing, and then again cleaned and chalked for skating.

It was the custom in those days for a farmers on retirement to move to town. Possibly 40% of the families had one or more horses; about 25% had a cow or more; practically all had hogs and chickens. Some families had grazing lots near town. During the summer you could see the cows driven out in the morning and brought back in the evening. Many had what were known as spring wagons, also two-horse wagons and carts. These were stored in open shreds or in alleys back of their lots.

A custom that was unique in Littlestown developed in the early 80's and followed through until about 1900. When a couple was married at home or when they returned from their honeymoon., the bridegroom was presented with a note requesting a donation for one or two kegs of beer, depending on his resources. If he refused, the bride and groom were in for what was known as a 'blockade.' This consisted of gathering all loose wagons and picking up anything else that was loose along the way. (A very popular item was that square upright building at the end of the lot). These things were put in front of the home, sometimes piled up to the second story and nearly across the street. The big ones even attracted visitors from surrounding towns. In fact, there were times when a week would pass before all possessions could be reclaimed.

This was the era when picnics, outings, and excursions were popular in the summer and there were parties, social gatherings, spelling bees, and debates for groups of all ages. Yes those were the good old days when you would walk three or four blocks on a cold winter evening to visit friends or relatives. You walked home stimulated mentally and refreshed physically. Today when you make that very occasional visit, you are rushed to a seat in front of the television. Should you make a casual remark, you are made aware that you are interrupting the program. After absorbing several re-run Westerns, a 1920 gangster movie, and the antics of a senile comedian, you give your "good-nite" after your conversation of "good-evening." You get in your car in a semi-conscious state to drive the one half block home, and then retire to a fretful sleep, wondering if you can meet the next installment.

Yes, those were the good old days when you could take your girl for a buggy ride, and returning home by moonlight, you could wrap the lines around the whip socket and have confidence that Old Dobbin would bring you safely home, and not have your companion saying "John, keep your hands on the wheel."

 

LEFT:

Hayride - 1899 - 1st ROW: Lottie Zercher, Anita Marks, Francis Starr, unknown, Etta Crouse; CENTER; unknown, Herb Mehring, three girls unknown; 3rd ROW: Romaine Crouse, Howard A.Stonesifer, unknown, Burton Alleman, Bertie Hinkle, unknown.

RIGHT:

Wilis Bish and Flora Kindig who became Mrs. Bish; Harry Parr and Flora Messinger, who became Mrs. Parr.

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Littlestown Area Historical Society
50 East King Street, Littlestown, PA 17340