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Take a look back at Franklin County’s history through news and photos that appeared in local newspapers 25, 50, and 100 years ago on Nov. 6th.

25 Years Ago

November 6, 1994 – Sunday

“Catherine’s Way – Thomas Embraces Her Rural Lifestyle”

Franklin County history
Catherine Thomas stitches candlewick onto a bedspread

Family and church. Farming and volunteering. 

Catherine Thomas leads a traditional rural life. 

She lives it with energy whether she’s keyboarding the church newsletter on her computer, hanging wallpaper or teaching basket weaving to senior citizens. 

“She brightens your day just to have her around,” said Darlene Fox, director of volunteers at Piney Mountain Retirement Community in Caledonia. “We look forward to the time she comes back. It takes a big commitment to drive from Mercersburg twice a week. We appreciate that dedication.”

Catherine, 49, gave up the volunteer work at Piney Mountain, for a while, to tend to more pressing family matters, and to squeeze in her duties as president of the Franklin County Society of Farm Women. “She is the one who makes sure everything gets done,” said society vice president Carolyn Bricker.

“She’s just on the go all the time.”

Catherine knows it’s too much sometimes. 

“I feel overwhelmed, and I pull back,” she said. “I try to know when to say no”.

She’s not alone. Women who live on farms “have a lot of other things pulling them. A lot of farms need two incomes,” Catherine said. “I don’t see how they have the energy to do it all.” 

The Society of Farm Women society has few young members. “

We don’t have younger women simply because they don’t have the time,” Catherine said. “I see people wanting to do volunteer work after they retire.” 

The Society of Farm Women, founded to get farm wives together and out of the farmhouses, now focuses on a love of rural life. 

Catherine loves the rural life. 

She operated the harvester and rake, before her son, Richard, took on farm chores. 

She milks twice a day, 5:30 a.m. and In the p.m. “I say that’s my time alone. No phones ringing. Nobody bothering you.” 

Catherine is happy to be busy. New purpose has filled her empty nest in the past couple of years. 

She watches her 1-year-old grandson, Tyler, from time to time. She had considered going back to school to become a minister.”

“You can minister to people without being an ordained minister, and I try to do that every day,” Catherine said. 

She draws energy from mentors, like the late Margaret Games: “I’ve seen the light of Christ in them, and I want to have that light of Christ in me.” 

Catherine hopes she’s inspired the teenagers she has taught in Sunday School for more than a decade. “If I’ve reached one child in all those years, then I’ve accomplished something.” 

The First United Methodist Church in Mercersburg is a focus for her energy. She visits members in the hospital and started a church newsletter to keep in touch with member who don’t attend church regularly. She is a past leader of the church women’s group. 

“Whenever I came to the parish, Catherine volunteered to take me anywhere, and introduce me to anybody,” said the Rev. Sam Sheffler. 

“She will go out of her way for anyone.” Her kitchen in the late morning smells like French toast. Tea brews for noon lunch. A well-wearing carpet covers the pine plank floor. 

An antique photograph of the farmhouse hangs on the south wall. A certificate declares the farm has been in the Thomas family 150 years.

“I always wanted to be a farmer’s wife,” said Catherine, daughter of a tool maker in Waynesboro. 

She worries about dog hair on the furniture in the unhealed part of the house where she is replacing 1935 vintage wallpaper definitely in time for her daughter’s spring wedding. 

She scolds her dogs for sitting on the bedspread she is candle wicking probably not in time for the wedding. 

“When you give Catherine something to do, stand back and let her do it,” Sheffiersaid. “If you give her a job, she’ll do it. She’ll do it Catherine’s way.”

50 Years Ago

November 6, 1969  – Thursday

“Harry Byers Dies; Ex-Chief of Police”

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Franklin County history

Harry S. (Had) Byers, 84, 481 Hollywell Ave., chief of the Chambersburg police department for 40 years, died in Chambersburg Hospital at 4:20 this morning following a long illness.  

Joining the force as a patrolman Aug. 28, 1916, he served in that capacity until his elevation to the position of chief Dec. 3, 1918, appointed by the late Judge Edmund C. Wingerd, then Burgess. During his years as head of the department, he served under 12 burgesses. 

He retired in 1958 because of ill health. 

The former police chief was born Aug. 20, 1885, in Guilford Township, son of the late Emmanuel E. and Mary E. Mellin-ger Byers. He was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Fraternal Order of Police, Tri-County Lodge No. 76; Pennsylvania Chief of Police Association, St. Thomas Lodge No. 950, IOOF. 

His wife, Mrs. Margaret Claudy Byers, died May 12, 1960. 

Surviving are three daughters, Mrs. Catherine Phillips, Laguna Beach, Calif.; Miss Corinne Byers, at home; Mrs. William (Betty) Trumpower, 37 E. Main (St., Fayelteville; two grandchildren and a great-grandson. Funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Sellers funeral home, with the Rev. John J. Lenhardt and the Rev. Gordon M. Bankert officiating. Burial will be in Cedar Grove Cemetery

100 Years Ago

November 6, 1919 Thursday         


The C. V. Railroad and all that its early and present history typifies came in for review and laudation in the shape of a paper read by H. A. Riddle upon the occasion of the October meeting of the KittochtinnyHistorical Society held at the beautiful home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter K. Sharpe, in Chambersburg. Many new points, many new historical associations and many new tributes to the pioneership of those responsible, for the development of this particular railroad system were entertainingly to!d by the author of the paper, one, probably, being better equipped to- present this subject.

Local History

Franklin County’s history May 25th

Take a look back at Franklin County’s history through news and photos that appeared in local newspapers 25, 50, and 100 years...
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