Pennsylvania is replete with history, from the Revolutionary War, to having briefly been home to the nation’s capital, to its part in the Civil War. While Philadelphia is often the first region of the state that comes to mind, just two hours away in south central Pennsylvania, is plenty more history. George Washington, Jim Thorpe and Molly Pitcher all spent time in the Cumberland Valley, making the picturesque region the perfect destination for history enthusiasts to explore.
There are many self-guided historical tours of the region so visitors can quite literally walk in the footsteps of history. Tours can be tailored to specific interests and accessed on foot or by car, from Carlisle to Camp Hill to Mechanicsburg, making it perfect for families and couples alike. Visitors can stop at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, where the Army compiles thousands of documents for research, as well as plenty of exhibits from different wars. For those who want to get a first-hand perspective of life as a soldier, try the solider-experience simulation. Visitors simulate basic training, a shooting range, parachute jumping and more, safely through virtual reality. On the grounds, visitors can take a mile-long trail to see tanks, helicopters and Civil War Cabins.
Elsewhere on an active military base, are the remains of the historical, if not controversial, Carlisle Indian School where Native Americans were brought to be educated and acculturated. Among those who studied there was Jim Thorpe, a wildly successful athlete who went on to compete in the Olympic Games after first playing sports at the school. His and other Native American’s athletic success can be perused any time, and is celebrated every other year at Carlisle Journeys. This year’s theme is Celebrating the American Indian Sports Legacy and will take place this year, from Oct. 7-9.
George Washington also had a brief stint in the Cumberland Valley, meeting the militia there on his way west to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion, a three-year long protest on taxes. The Locust Grove Cemetery, the final resting place for 26 African American Civil War soldiers, among many other brave men who fought in the war is nearby. Throughout the region, visitors will find markers indicating such historical events.
Those searching for strong women of years gone by need not look further than the quaint town of Carlisle, once home to Mary Ludwig Hays, better known as Molly Pitcher. Today she is honored for her heroism. During the Battle of Monmouth, in which her husband was fighting, she carried pitchers of water to the soldiers, eventually taking over her husband’s cannon post when he collapsed. The Revolutionary War icon’s statue can be seen in the Old Public Graveyard. Other statues and monuments can be seen in and around downtown Carlisle.
The area is also home to plenty of museums for those looking to delve further into the history. The Cumberland County Historical Society is an excellent jumping off point. With 16 galleries covering over 250 years of history, it’s a must-do.
While the region is well known for its history, it has a welcoming hospitality industry, including the apropos 1794 The Whiskey Rebellion, a restaurant located in downtown Carlisle. Visitors will find equally appropriate drinks like the Gentleman’s Fashioned and the Bourbon Betty, as well as tongue-in-cheek cuisine like Mason Dixon crab cake.
For slightly off the beaten path history, there’s no better place than the Cumberland Valley.
For more information, visit www.visitcumberlandvalley.com/history