James Wilson

The Molly Pitcher and the James Wilson have comparable histories. Both hotels went through similar changes. The James Wilson Hotel is now known as Safe Harbour. Safe Harbour is a shelter and human service center for homeless families and battered women and their children. The James Wilson Hotel was one of the more popular hotels here in Carlisle during the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. The James Wilson Hotel was located on South West Corner of High Street and Pitt. It opened up as the James Wilson Hotel on August 18, 1938, according to an article in the Sentinel titled, “Argonne Renamed James Wilson Hotel” printed on August 18, 1938. During this time it was owned my Beauford S. Swartz who decided on the name change, borrowing the name of a Carlisler who played a distinguished role in the formation of the country 150 years ago…announced today the change of its name to James Wilson Hotel.” Swartz decided to change the hotel name from Argonne to The James Wilson Hotel not only because the property was once owned by James Wilson but also because he was one of the signers of the constitution. He was also a very important figure in early American history. Wilson bought this property from Richard Tea in 1772. Wilson owned many properties around the Carlisle area.The reason I think this information is uncertain is because Wilson could have rented space from Tea before he bought the property. According to this 1938 article in the Sentinel Wilson began living in this Tavern in 1769 soon after it became the Mansion House.

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Thank you for visiting our Blog!

Greetings, and welcome to our blog.  You will see that we used this blogging site to comment on sources and develop our research on Carlisle.  Since our class is no longer in session, we are not currently adding to our blog. However, please feel free to look through our topics and add comments for any future projects we might pursue.

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George’s Sub Shop

Among Italians, respect has always been one of the most important beliefs with which to live your life. George Mesitoris, founder of George’s Sub Shop, obliged by this idea of respect for his fellow Italians. When George opened his shop in Carlisle in 1958, he decided he would not make pizza because an Italian man on the other end of town operated a pizzeria. So it was not until a few years later, when this man decided to move to New York, until George’s began making pizza. As it stands today, George’s is Carlisle’s old pizza and sub shop, which will soon celebrate its’ 50th anniversery.


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Cumberland County Historical Society

Our visit to the Cumberland County Historical Society has proved quite useful in directing me in the path to a potential research project. In looking at some of the historically Black church histories here in Carlisle, I discovered that West St. A.M.E. Zion Church was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and so too was Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Some prominent African American Underground Railroad conductors in the area were John hunter, Richard Johnston, James Jones, John Peck, and William Webb. It will be interesting to find out if there are any descendants or tales that anyone in the town remembers about any of these men.


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Tour Of Carlisle

While it was interesting to see the tour of Downtown Carlisle and its revitalization efforts, I want to know more about the areas that were glossed over in the tour, such as Penn and Pitt St., etc. Our tour guide Rusty Shunk told the group about the African American burial site and how it had been covered by a playground with the exception of one memorial stone. It slightly bothered me that children are now playing on top of the bodies of dead African Americans. When did this happen? How did this happen? Are the histories of African Americans being (literally) covered up by “growth” and “revitalization?”


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Works of the Community for Communication

In 1901 Sociology student John Bieri decided to study the various means in which people can communicate from and to Carlisle. He talks about the history of transportation in Carlisle, from the construction of the Cumberland Valley Railroad in 1837 to the building of the South Mountain Railroad in 1860 and the construction of the Cumberland Valley Electric Passenger Railroad Company in 1893. Bieri talks about the ways in which the liveries are not used as much, but were probably used quite frequently before the arrival of the railroads. Bieri also talks about the construction of the turnpike and the innovativeness of telegraph companies like Western union and the Postal and two telephone lines, the Home Telephone Company and the Bell Telephone company. Bieri was hopeful for the Carlisle community in that it would continue to progress and for the American citizens in its borders who “while they glory among the starts also glory in their stripes.”


1901 Sociology Class Students Papers on the History of Carlisle – Archived with the Special Collections Library of Dickinson College

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Sanitation in Carlisle- 1901

In 1901, sociology student George Cisney did a report on sanitation conditions in Carlisle. He begins the article by discussing the natural wells that used to be in Carlisle, before piped plumbing and reservoirs were introduced. He lists the increasing number of sanitation facilities and the people who use them. He does have hope for the future that sanitation practices will continue to improve.  Some questions this article left me with were, what happened to the springs and wells mentioned by Cisney? What affect did the new plumbing and sanitation techniques have on the enviornment?


1901 Sociology Class Students Papers on the History of Carlisle – Archived with the Special Collections Library of Dickinson College

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Interview of Richard Ocker

I reviwed Jason Barr’s interview of Richard Ocker. I know Richard as Coach Ocker, one of the sprint coaches on the Dickinson College track team. I had never realized or bothered to ask Coach Ocker about his experiences growing up†or how he wound up in Carlisle, coaching for Dickinson, but this interview definitely opened my eyes. Ocker revealed myriad interesting facts about his life in a rural community with no electricity and no running water. How his schooling continued on to college where he ran at the collegiate level at Shippensburg University. He majored in education and taught, coached an was a principal for about 35 years. Ocker spoke about his experiences running for mayor (and almost winning) of Carlisle and about his time spent in politics.

Barr’s interview was slightly awkward though at times. You could tell he had a SET list of questions that he refused to stray from, even if the interview was going in another direction. Ocker however was a good interview and his life story was divulged, despite the awkward questioning.


more info here

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Interview of Margo McCrae

I reviewed Lauren Bell-Thomson’s interview of Margo McCrae, owner of  local “Animal Inn” boarding and grooming facility. While the interview was precise and to the point, I do feel like one or two of the questions were slightly awkward and off-putting, (i.e.- How did your father’s absence affect your family?) I feel like that might have been a touchy subject for Margo because she did not talk about it much. What I can take away from this interview is to try to be precise in my questioning and to dig deep, but not too deep where I could potentially lose the trust of the interviewed.

more info here

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Informal Interview w/ Rev. Charles E. Smith of West St. A.M.E. Zion Church

From my interview with Rev. Smith at West St. A.M.E. Zion Church, I learned a good amount of information about their institution. It was indeed a stop on the Underground Railroad and Rev. Smith showed us the trapdoor where the hiding spot and tunnel used to be! It was truly amazing to see and be in this historic place where so many before have come through. Does anybody know of any one or is a descendant of anyone who crossed into freedom through this site on the Underground Railroad?


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