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Embrace Middletown's rich and vast history: Editorial

Posted 8/14/19

Don’t ever forget how important history is to the borough of Middletown.

It’s the oldest city in Dauphin County, founded in 1755 by George Fisher and named because it is halfway …

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Embrace Middletown's rich and vast history: Editorial


Don’t ever forget how important history is to the borough of Middletown.

It’s the oldest city in Dauphin County, founded in 1755 by George Fisher and named because it is halfway between Lancaster and Carlisle. Its location dates back further than that. None other than William Penn in 1690 chose the spot as the site of a settlement.

According to the borough’s website, President George Washington stopped in Middletown in October 1774, and was entertained at a tavern on West Main Street with the town in 1779 being noted in colonial records as being a supply depot for the Army during three American Revolution.

On June 10, 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence, the residents of Middletown published their “Resolves of Independence” from Great Britain at a meeting chaired by Col. James Burd.

These ideas thus presented became, in later years, incorporated in the colonies’ “Declaration of Independence,” according to the Middletown Public Library website.

Volunteers from Middletown were in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, the Mexican American War of 1846, the Civil War from 1861-1865, the Spanish American War of 1898 and all later wars. 

Think about the other references to the borough’s rich history that recently have been published in the Press & Journal.

We recently reported on John Ziats’ home on Selma Avenue, which contains pieces of history, remnants of a row of gable pointed homes called the Five Points, which is a documented stop on the Underground Railroad.

We wrote about the reunion of the African-American community in Middletown, “The Village,” on Market, Lawrence, Lincoln and Grant streets and on Witherspoon and Russell avenues. Those residents, past and present, recently gathered at Hoffer Park, and “the generals,” the folks 80 years and older who raised the families of The Village, were honored.

Even more recent history is front and center. Think about how important a role that the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has played in U.S. history the last 40 years. And now here we are reporting on its impending closure and what it all means.

We also wrote about a display at Harrisburg International Airport that highlights Middletown’s history.

We think it’s a great idea. Visitors to the area should know what has gone on here. We are always intrigued by the possibility of the original “Micky Mouse” (no “e”) being created here at what was Performo-Toy Co. on North Spring Street, although Walt Disney denied it.

HIA is part of our local history in and of itself, being part of the former Olmsted Air Force Base.

One of the most fascinating parts of Olmsted’s history is that it was home to “The Outpost Mission” during the Cold War. It wasn’t revealed until 1992 that the 2857th Test Squadron, an elite unit of helicopter pilots and crew men stationed at Olmsted, had a top-secret mission that would protect the president of the United States in case of nuclear war. They were disguised as a search and rescue team; only the White House and squadron members knew their true purpose — flying to Washington, D.C. and evacuating the president to safety, according to Penn State Harrisburg’s website. 

Many Middletown’s industries have also played significant roles in history. The former Roughwear industry, now home to the Woodlayne Apartments, manufactured the cold weather coats that outfitted the expeditions to Antartica by Adm. Richard E. Byrd in the 1920s-30s. Roughwear also made flight jackets for our nation’s valiant airmen and women in both world wars as well as the Korean Conflict.

The Middletown Car Co., on West Main Street, manufactured Pullman railway cars that hauled people across our nation in the early 1900s.

Many a home in the area was kept warm and meals were made thanks to the Wincroft Stoves that were manufactured in the area.

We are lucky to have organizations such as the Middletown Area Historical Society, which runs a museum at 29 E. Main St. to present many historical displays, and the more recently formed Lower Swatara Township Historic Preservation Society.

It recently sponsored a talk by Ziats at which he spoke about his historic home, and it has also put on other talks about the area’s rich history.

Take advantage of these insights into our history. We should embrace it. There is much of which to be proud.