The History Behind Chambersburg's Memorial Square

by Laiton Suders, Intern, Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce

13892320_1118321154899385_6431808730398527617_nChambersburg natives know our town as somewhat of an “unsung hero” of the Civil War. The story of the Burning of Chambersburg isn’t found in most American History textbooks, but it played a large part in the Union's defense against the Confederacy. In Memorial Square, a statue of a Union soldier sits beside the fountain facing south to ward off the Confederate soldiers that once ambushed Chambersburg and held it for ransom.

The Memorial Fountain, along with its statue, has truly become a representation of Chambersburg. It is a symbol of our small town that is near and dear to our hearts. In our minds, it’s the center of the town and acts as a cast iron symbol of a crossroad that we know well: Route 11 and Route 30. This historic intersection, however, is not significant to locals alone. Our square is also known as “The Crossroads of the Country.”

1130Route 11, or Molly Pitcher Highway, runs all the way from New York to Louisiana. Route 30, also known as Lincoln Highway, stretches across the entire country from east to west and was one of the first highways constructed to span the United States. These two historic routes intersect in just one place: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Is Chambersburg known internationally as an important landmark? Not really. Do American children learn in elementary school about the Burning of Chambersburg or the Crossroads of the Country? Usually not. Nevertheless, we should be proud of our town. Those who recognize our significance admire us, even though we are largely “unsung heroes.”

Yes, everyone knows that the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most significant battles of the American Civil War. Everyone also knows that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. What isn’t known is that Edison copied the work of Joseph Swan, a British inventor who had beat Edison to the punch 10 years earlier. Don’t worry, we’re not fighting Gettysburg for the copyright to “Most Historic Town in Pennsylvania,” but we’ve got good reason to be recognized. So, take pride in your town. Recognize the significance of the Crossroads of the Country and the Memorial Square Fountain, and tell others about it so that they can appreciate it too.

12794617_1016055261792642_7000326375888567430_nTo learn more about our local history - both Chambersburg and Franklin County - stop by the Chambersburg Heritage Center & Gift Shop. Here you'll learn about history from the Civil War to Transportation and more. You can also pick up a Memorial Fountain mug, a Lincoln Highway Driving Guide or a “Crossroads of the Country” T-shirt from the Gift Shop, which sells many unique, local gifts. Then, you can tell everyone why you live in one of the most important towns in Pennsylvania.