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Jefferson: Small borough, big devotion to history

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The small borough of Jefferson is home to only 718 people, according to 2016 demographics, but its population is dedicated to keeping the town’s history intact in a big way.

The borough will commemorate 150 years of incorporation next month at a celebration hosted by the borough council.

Borough council member Anne Loeffler encourages every borough resident to come to the celebration, being held in Jefferson Square on Aug. 20. The festivities will include a Civil War re-enactment, a chicken barbecue, speeches, songs and a dedication of the town’s newly restored Civil War cannon and World War I gun.

If you haven’t passed through the borough of Jefferson, it’s worth a trip out of your way – though it probably isn’t out of your way at all.

Since its inception, Jefferson has been known as a place that people traveled through to get where they needed to go.

That is precisely how the town came to be in the first place, Loeffler said.

“People used to travel through there, and then all of a sudden houses popped up,” Loeffler said.

The town envelops the square, the focal point of this small borough. Small businesses surround the small patch of grass. The prized canon and gun sit on the manicured lawn in great distinction, available for all to see.

Only a few minutes drive on either side of the square and you're already out of the borough.

And though the town is rather small, it sure has its perks, said local business owner Pat Reachard.

"It’s a quiet little town. Luckily, we have little or no crime, and we like to keep it that way," he said. "Most people still know their neighbors.”

Reachard, whose thrift shop, Bridget's Attic, is just steps from the borough square, runs his store with the help of his family.

His daughter, Becky Barrick, was in the shop July 20 helping him organize some of the shop's items, which range from old records to children's toys to antique wood furniture.

Barrick was trailed through the store by their family dog, Harley, whose little black eyes were barely visible through his mop of curly brown hair.

When asked about the pup, Reachard said his shop welcomes all "well-behaved fur babies," like Harley.

The borough wasn’t always as lovely as it is now, and the town has its forefathers to thank for its current condition, Loeffler said.

There were a group of townspeople in the 1920s “who were very concerned for the square,” Loeffler said, and wanted to turn it into something nice.

Apparently, she said, the square used to be quite a rowdy place.

“They had carnivals and fairs, to say it politely,” Loeffler said.

It was almost 90 years ago, in 1927, that a group of Jefferson elders sought to beautify the square, and create the layout for what you see before you today.

The elders handed down two important pieces of town history to the borough council for safekeeping: the town’s Civil War cannon and World War I gun.

Recently, the borough council also opened a time capsule that was buried in 1966.

Council has made keeping these artifacts in first-class condition a top priority, Loeffler said.

The borough council recently had both pieces professionally restored, at no cost to taxpayers. Council members worked tirelessly to get donations and were even able to receive a $22,800 grant through the state with the help of York County officials, according to a letter from the York County Board of Commissioners.

The grant was specifically used for the design and construction of a full-scale gun carriage to include the mounting of the borough's 12-pounder wrought iron Napoleon cannon, the restoration of the cannon tube and repair of the borough's WWI gun.

When asked why they chose to restore the pieces, Loeffler said that “each of the artifacts needed cared for, or we would lose them. They would have rusted. We wanted to make sure we could keep them as we had promised to do.”

Both the cannon and the gun are of museum quality and yet, “they sit out on our town square," Loeffler said.

And that is the beauty of the Jefferson Borough, she said, that all of the townspeople have access to its history without having to pay for a museum ticket. It’s right there in the town square, for the community to learn from and enjoy.

This celebration of the town’s 150 years of incorporation is also a re-dedication of the town to its people, Loeffler said, a promise to continue care for the town.

If you go

Where: Jefferson's square and the Jefferson Baseball Field  

When: Aug. 20

Time: 10 a.m. 

How much: The celebration is free to attend. The chicken dinner is $7.50 for the public and free for local veterans. You must order tickets in advance by calling Anne Loeffler at 717-229-2033. 

Video: WWI gun returns to Jefferson 6/2015
Watch the WWI gun roll on to the Jefferson Square, hear the history. June 2, 2015.
Paul Kuehnel