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Carlisle Borough

Borough Municipal offices are located at 53 West South Street, Carlisle PA 17013; phone: 717-249-4422.

First settled in the mid 1700s, Carlisle was incorporated as a Borough in 1782 from Middleton Township.

PA Historic Commission marker on US 11 reads: Founded in 1751 as the seat of Cumberland County. Historic old frontier town. Supplied a contingent for the first regiment of the Continental Army in 1775. March against the Whiskey Rebels began here, 1794.

Beginnings [1]

Carlisle, the county seat, was incorporated from Middleton Township in 1781 and named from Carlisle, in the county of Cumberland, in England. The town was laid out in pursuance of a letter of instructions issued by the Proprietary Government to Nicholas Scull in 1751. With the exception of Shippensburg and York, Carlisle is the oldest town in Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna River.

Although the town was laid out according to the instructions of the commissioners as early as 1751, there were earlier settlers on the site. James Le Tort, the Indian interpreter and trader, had erected his log cabin as early as 1720. The Provincial Government, before the founding of Carlisle, had erected a stockade fort in the present limits. Two years after Carlisle was laid out, this old stockade gave place to the curious construction within the town, which was known as Fort Lowther. There is a record of a garrison there as early as May 27, 1753, when John O'Neal wrote: "There is a garrison consisting only of 12 men, the stockade originally occupied two acres of ground square with a block house in each corner. These buildings are now in ruins." That there are no more exciting thrills to relate of Fort Lowther is accounted for by the fact that the town, in which it occupied the edge of the central public square, so early became the very center of peace and security, that it was remote from the seat of Indian warfare, which was carried on in every direction a distance from Carlisle.

Fort Lowther, on High Street, near the Public Square, was a harbor of refuge for pioneer families so frequently exposed to Indian attack. Court was held in a log building on the northeast corner of Center Square. During the summer of 1753 the Six Nations, Shawnee, Delaware and Twightwee held a great treaty in Virginia, where they were called by Governor Dinwiddie, who much offended them by his failure to attend the conference in person. On their return the Indians sent word to Governor James Hamilton, at Philadelphia, that they desired to negotiate a new treaty at Carlisle.

Those who today wander through the streets of historic old Carlisle cannot realize that Franklin and his companions found little more than a frontier fort. John O'Neal, in a letter to Governor Hamilton, dated May 27, 1753, says there were only five houses in the town and but twelve men in the garrison. Few frontier towns have a more tragic early history. It has been said that the Public Square in Carlisle is one of America's most historical spots. Since 1751 it has been the scene of Indian treaties, riots, marching troops, patriotic gatherings, tragedies, comedies, intensive drama, and renowned seat of education. Franklin never forgot his experience at Carlisle and referred to it frequently. His visit to help make a new treaty with the Ohio Indians was a mission of much importance. Through daring wiles of the French, England's position in the New World was being imperiled more and more. What attitude the Indians would take in a contest between the English and French was of vital importance, not only to the King, but more especially to Pennsylvania settlers, who well knew the terror of Indian massacres and wars.

  1. Godcharles, Frederic A., Litt.D, Chronicles of Pennsylvania, 1944, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc., New York
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