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A HISTORY OF MONT ALTO, PA

The Borough of Mont Alto, Pennsylvania in Southern Franklin County is situated on the West Branch of the Little Antietam Creek midway between Chambersburg to the north and Waynesboro to the south.

The first house was constructed on what is now Main Street by John Funk in 1817. At that time the town was known as Funkstown. Later it was changed to Altodale. The area around the Mont Alto Iron Works was known as Mont Alto. The two towns united and became Mont Alto as we know it today.

The first general store was established in 1830 by George Knepper. It dissolved in 1860. We have had many stores after that time.

The Mont Alto Iron Works was established by Daniel and Samuel Hughes. The first stack was built there in 1807. In 1864 the iron works was purchased by Holker Hughes, Issac Waterman, Thomas Beaver and George Wiestling. In 1889 a fire destroyed everything and at that time George Wiestling formed a new company and became president general manager.

At one time the Iron Works employed 500 people. In 1872 this company with its' own men built a ten and a half mile railroad from Mont Alto to a point on the Cumberland Valley railroad three and a half miles from Chambersburg. In 1893 the Iron Works was dismantled and sold to the Pennsylvania State Forestry Commission. It became the State Forestry School in 1903, and it is now the Penn State Mont Alto Campus.

The first school house in the Mont Alto area was built in 1820 at what is known as the Pumping Station. Children walking to school would often see friendly Indians cooking their meals over tripod fires. A small one room brick school house was built on the Iron Works property, date unknown. A two room frame structure was eventually built and used for a number of years. It was sold to John Bittinger and converted into a dwelling and still stands on Park Street. In 1897 a four room school was erected and used until the late 1950ís. The first hotel was opened for business in 1851 by Daniel Miller. At one time the borough had four hotels all within walking distance of the square. Mont Alto also had a carpet weaving shop, brick shop, saw mill, saddlery shop, flour mill, wagon maker, blacksmith, cabinet making shop, and an undertaker.

The Post Office was established in 1843. Mail was carried by horseback to and from Chambersburg. The first stagecoach was established in 1862 and it carried the mail and passengers to and from Chambersburg until 1872 when the railroad was built to Altodale Station.

Mont Alto had its own band. It was known as the Mont Alto Citizens Band and played many concerts at the Mont Alto State Park.

Mont Alto had many churches of different denominations. The oldest was the Emanuel Episcopal Chapel which was built in 1854. It still stands on the Penn State campus. John Brown taught Sunday School there when he would visit the Iron Works. The Mont Alto State Park was established by Col. George Wiestling in 1875. On special days at the park it was not unusual to host 8 to 10 thousand people. The only structure remaining is the domed dance pavilion but as you walk through the surrounding mountain you can still see many remnants of the past. Mont Alto State Park is the oldest state park in Pennsylvania.

In 1913 Mont Alto was incorporated and had a population of 800 people. It has grown some since then. In 1916 the Mont Alto Bank was organized and that same year a shirt factory was opened.

Many things have changed over the years in Mont Alto but it is still a unique and friendly place to live.

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