Newville Days Gone By
Written By the Late Joan Brehm, former Newville Borough Historian
By 1728, the first pioneer, Andrew Ralston, settled on what is now Green Ridge Village. It is easy to see the many things that attracted him to this small nook in the Cumberland Valley, a variety of trees, the fertile land, a multi-trade of native fruits and berries, ample game, and our own Big Spring, the second largest fresh water spring stream in the country.
In addition, close by, the Big Spring ran into the Conodoguinet Creek , which eventually dumped into the Susquehanna River. The Scots and Scots Irish that followed him found an area comfortably similar to their native lands, and not a German name makes its appearance until 1790, the official founding of the town.
In the years following Andrew Ralston’s arrival, the Newville area was already developing rapidly. The first mill along the Big Spring was built by William Laughlin in 1762, The first settlers on the tract of land that would become Newville, the Laughlin brothers, laid their claim in 1732 or 1733. William Laughlin presented 89 acres to the Presbyterian Church, who constructed a log church in 1737. By the time the town was established, there were already two churches in place.
On February 26, 1817, the town of Newville was incorporated.
From the beginning, Newville was a well established commercial and residential center. There were physicians in the town since 1792, and even a pharmacist. Pack trains and mule trains traveled up the Mt. Rock Road into town when they forded the Big Spring and traveled on to Springfield, stopping at the many taverns along the way. The Scots and Scot Irish built mills along the Big Spring. When the railroad arrived in 1857, Newville grew to meet the station in New Town, and factories were built along the line.
Businesses began to grow in the town. By the mid 20th Century, Main Street, High Street, and the present day Big Spring Avenue were home to many businesses. Tin shops, clothing stores, hardware stores, a jeweler, liquor store, several drug stores, a bevy of Mom and Pop grocery stores, as well as others serving other neighborhoods, banks, a five and dime store, Leon Wagner’s Chevrolet dealership, a handful of barbers, successful restaurants, and even a gas station.
The small town never lacked in entertainment in its early days. Vaudeville and minstrel shows were extremely popular. Parades celebrated major holidays, and a popular cornet band was organized by Paris Chambers who was acclaimed as the most important cornet player of his time. In later years there was a movie theatre. Of course, baseball games were a draw during summer months.
The town never wanted for schools or churches. Both institutions served many functions for the citizens in the early years, as they do today. The fire company, Lion’s Club, and the community center also enrich our lives with their community minded service and entertainment.
For all of its assets, the best and most valuable is still Newville’s citizens. It’s a fine community where the citizens greet each other with a wave, smile, and a warm and gracious “hello”. That’s our community, proud, strong, with 270 years of quality life behind her, a place to call home.
History of the Fountain
Minutes of an 1896 Newville town council meeting included the following: W.H. McCrea and Gilbert Swope presented a petition requesting council to pass a resolution granting permission to erect a Public Fountain at the insertion of Railroad Street (now Big Spring Avenue) and Parsonage Street.
Upon being granted, a committee was appointed to solicit contributions and superintend the erection of a Public Fountain. The group then obtained a grant for the free use of water. Funds were collected by donations and the construction of the fountain began.
Mr. Henry Shreffler, his son John, and Mr. Maklon Williams dressed and laid the perfect circle of stones which forms the base and pool.
Since its construction, our fountain has been a source of delight for all who pass by and is the central point of the annual Fountain Festival.