Elizabethtown Has Long History of local Scholarship

By Jean-Paul Benowitz

Aug. 9 is National Book Lovers Day. Let us reflect on the history of the Elizabethtown Public Library and related topics such as the Elizabethtown Delphian Society, Elizabeth Hughes Society, Elizabethtown Lyceum and Elizabethtown Chautauqua. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua. The Elizabethtown Public Library is located at 10 S. Market St. As shown in the sketch accompanying this article, this was originally the site of the Elizabethtown National Bank. The first bank serving Elizabethtown was The Marietta and Susquehanna Trading Company established by Jacob Gish (1767-1846) at George Shocker?s tavern. Eventually Jacob Gish created the Bank of Swatara. The Union Bank of Lancaster offered stock to investors in Elizabethtown at Michael Coble?s Inn. In 1869 Abram Collins, proprietor of Collins Ferry and Store near Falmouth, established the Farmer?s Bank of Elizabethtown at 244 S. Market St. This was originally the home of George Redsecker (1735-1788) proprietor of the Black Horse Tavern 130-132 South Market Street (1757-1985). Collins? daughter, Elizabeth, married Mennonite school teacher and land surveyor Samuel Eby who managed the bank. In the 1870s the bank went public becoming First National Bank before reverting back to a private bank and failing in January 1885. Eby?s father-inlaw Abram Collins withdrew his interest in the bank when his son-in-law lost his investments in the Reading, Marietta, and Hanover Railroad (1881-1883). In 1885 the Reverend Samuel R. Zug (1832-1926), the man chiefly responsible for bringing the Church of the Brethren to Elizabethtown in the 1870s, established the Elizabethtown National Bank. Zug was also chiefly responsible for the creation of Elizabethtown College (1899). Samuel R. Zug Memorial Hall was built on the campus of Elizabethtown College from 1949-1950. Zug and his stockholders called their enterprise the Elizabethtown National Bank because they wanted local folks to know, unlike Samuel Eby, they followed the guidelines of the National Bank Act of 1864 and therefore qualified as a national bank. National banks were chartered by the federal government, and were subject to stricter regulation; they had higher capital requirements and were not allowed to loan more than 10 percent of their holdings. A high tax on state banks was levied to discourage competition, and by 1865 most state banks had either received national charters or collapsed. In 1903 Jacob Dyer (1816-1904), one of the founding stockholders in the bank, sold his brick house and store at 14 South Market Street to the Elizabethtown National Bank. Dyer ran a hardware store at this location which was managed, and later owned, by his nephew George D. Boggs (1846-1944). The Dyer-Boggs properties served as the location of the new bank building. This beautiful Beau-Arts style (1893-1929) building graced Market Street until the 1960s when it was razed and replaced with a Post-Modern (1960-present) design many local Elizabethtown residents will remember as Mellon Bank. In 2002 the Mellon Bank was razed to build the current Elizabethtown Public Library. From 1727-1765 Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) organized a public education program for adults called the Junto. This organization provided a venue for local citizens to learn, enter into debate and discourse, and share ideas which led to civic engagement and public service. In 1826 Josiah Holbrook (1788-1854) of Derby, Connecticut resurrected Benjamin Franklin?s Junto in the form of the Lyceum. Holbrook?s Lyceum movement established local public education forums throughout the United States. By the 1850s the national debates about slavery changed the focus of the Lyceum from debate and discourse to topics of general education. Following the Civil War (1861-1865), by 1874 the Lyceum movement was eclipsed by the Chautauqua movement started by Lewis Miller (1829-1899) and John Vincent (1832-1920), from Chautauqua, New York, taking on a more religious tone and purpose. In Elizabethtown Lyceum programming was held in various locations prior to the Civil War. In the 1870s every summer, Elizabethtown hosted a Chautauqua for one week on the field which is now the present site of GEARS The Greater Elizabethtown Area Recreation and Communities Services (1977), the former Elizabethtown public high school (1928). In 1883 iron baron Robert Coleman (1856-1930) built the Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad (1883-1973) linking Lebanon and Elizabethtown. Since 1979 this route has served as the Conewago Recreational Trail. By 1884 The Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad established a recreational park in the Conewago Hills near Governor Dick Mountain and called it Mt. Gretna, named for Gretna, Scotland. In 1892 Chautauqua groups from Lebanon, Manheim, and Elizabethtown formed the Pennsylvania Chautauqua. Robert Coleman invited the Chautauqua to be located in his rail road recreation park. This has been the location of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua for 125 years. The Chautauqua organized reading groups throughout the local community which led to the creation of the Elizabethtown Delphian Society. In Chicago, in 1910 The Delphian Society was established, a national organization promoting the education of women. The Delphian Society takes its name from the historical Oracle of Delphi of Phocis, Greece. The Delphian Society was inspired by Harvard President, Charles William Eliot?s (1834-1926) belief about how education serves the purpose of inspiring lifelong learning and those who do not receive it ?seem to live in a mental vacuum. Fifteen minutes a day of good reading would have given any one of this multitude a really human life.? In response to Dr. Eliot?s call for lifelong learning, the Delphian Society wrote, ?To meet this condition, which prevails through the length and breadth of our land, to stimulate a deeper interest, quicken a latent appreciation and facilitate the use of brief periods of freedom for self-improvement, the Delphian Society was organized and the Delphian Course of Reading made possible.? In 1913, the Delphian Society published the Delphian Course of Reading: ?A systematic plan of education, embracing the world?s progress and development of the liberal arts. This ten volume course covers ?history, literature, philosophy, poetry, fiction, drama, art, ethics, music,? however, ?Mathematics, being in its higher forms essential to few, has been omitted; languages, requiring the aid of a teacher, and such sciences as make laboratories necessary, are not included.? In 1920 a group of women in Elizabethtown established a local chapter of the Delphian Society. In 1925 the Elizabethtown Delphian Society established a public library on the second floor of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Building on South Market Street. The Elizabethtown Lodge No. 128 Independent Order of Odd Fellows was established in 1845 and headquartered 119-121 South Market Street. The building was erected by Elizabethtown attorney John R. Montgomery in 1798. In 1979 St. Peter?s Catholic Church razed the building, closed the adjacent alley, and created a green space with a car park giving the church access and exposure to South Market Street. As early as 1881, there was a meeting of Elizabethtown citizens at Horst Hall (1877) who met to establish a public library. Nothing came of this initial meeting. When Elizabethtown College was established in 1899 it had a small library collection in Alpha Hall by 1900. The president of Elizabethtown College, the Reverend George N. Falkenstein (1859-1949) had s small lending library at his stationary and book shop at 39 South Market Street in 1900. The Masonic Village when it was established in 1910 had a small library in the Grand Lodge. There was very little public support in Elizabethtown for a public library despite the efforts of the Elizabethtown Delphian Society. In 1926 the Delphian Society established the library association which continued to manage the public library. To raise funds for the library, the Delphian Society returned to its Chautauqua roots and offered local theatrical performances: ?Princess Bonnie? 1926, ?Come Out of the Kitchen? 1927, and ?Peg O? My Heart? 1928. In 1928 the Elizabethtown Delphian Society was named the Elizabeth Hughes Society. The name derives from Elizabeth Hughes, the wife of Captain Barnabus Hughes, who in 1763 subdivided the original Captain Thomas Harris estate and laid out our village called Elizabeth Towne. In 1938 the Elizabeth Hughes Society?s Library Department continued to bring leadership to the public library. In 1959 Ira R. Herr (1894-1986), the athletics director for Elizabethtown College, chaired the Library Committee of the Elizabethtown Rotary (1925). Ira Herr was the director of athletics at Elizabethtown College from 1932-1961. Herr was also a social studies teacher and coach at the Masonic Village?s Thomas Ranken Patton (1824-1907) Industrial School for Boys (1925-1976). In 1959 the Elizabethtown Rotary and Elizabeth Hughes Society collaborated in the formation of the Public Library Association, a non-profit corporation. In 1959 the Mount Calvary Church moved to their third location on Holly Street. The Elizabethtown Public Library purchased the Mount Calvary Church at 399 North Hanover Street. From 1960-1961 the church was remodeled into a library. Coleman and Coleman architects designed the renovation and Warren Snyder was the contractor. The library collection was moved from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Building to the new location by volunteers from the Jaycees, Explorer Scouts, and DeMolay. The Reverend Charles M. Fahl, a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute (1886) in Chicago, was pastor of the Elizabethtown Church of God. Reverend Fahl?s theological positions on dispensationalism and premillennialism led to a schism in the Elizabethtown Church of God and the establishment of the ?Fundamental Independent Nondenominational Tabernacle of America? known as the ?Gospel Tabernacle.? This church was located on North Spruce Street. Many local Elizabethtown residents will remember this later became Simon?s Candy Factory (1949-2009). In 1945 the name of the Gospel Tabernacle was changed to Mount Calvary and moved to North Hanover and Oak Streets. In 2002 the Elizabethtown Public Library moved into new building at 10 S. Market St., which incorporated a neighboring stone house built in 1787. The new library building is Neo-Eclectic or New Classical in architectural design as it has a red brick fa?ade, which compliments the older brick buildings in the borough. Large modern windows are designed with a hint of the Victorian storefront windows of neighboring properties and Palladian windows (1537) of Georgian (1714-1830) and Federal (1785- 1815) style houses around the Square. The west side of the building features a large French turret which pays homage to several residences and businesses in Elizabethtown which have Queen Anne style (1880-1910) turrets incorporated in their design. The library is centrally located in the heart of the community and its architectural design is consistent with neighboring historical properties. The Elizabethtown Public Library is part of The Library System of Lancaster County, a federated system which serves 490,562 residents. It comprises 14 member libraries, three branches and a bookmobile. LSLC was established in April 1987 to provide well-coordinated, countywide services and cooperative programs to assist member libraries in meeting the diverse needs of its residents. It all started with the Elizabethtown Lyceum which led to the Elizabethtown Chautauqua and this resulted in the formation of the Elizabethtown Delphian Society and the creation of the public library. In 1920 the membership of the Elizabethtown Delphian Society consulted with a wealthy business leader in the local community about creating a public library. He bluntly told them, ?You?ll never be able to start a library in this town.? Fortunately the women of the Delphian Society persisted and the Elizabethtown Public Library continues to be a place of education and public service for the whole community. This monthly column about historic structures in the Elizabethtown area is written by Jean-Paul Benowitz, a historian who is also the director of student transition programs at Elizabethtown College. It is illustrated by Shanise Marshall, a 2015 graduate of Elizabethtown College.