Chambersburg History

Early Days and Today

Native Americans first inhabited the Cumberland Valley, with European immigration to follow in the 1720s. In 1756, Col. Benjamin Chambers erected a private fort at the confluence of Falling Spring and Conococheague creeks, and this eventually grew into the town of Chambersburg in 1784.

Chambers Fort (near West King Street today) consisted of a stockade wall and its interior structures had lead roofs that would not catch fire if hit by flaming arrows. The fort was considered one of the safest points of refuge in the area, and it was able to withstand at least two unsuccessful attacks by Indians.

Chambersburg grew and prospered. It was an important transportation center, serving as the headquarters of the Cumberland Valley Railroad.

By the 1860s, the town was alive with people and it had what they needed: Stores, doctors, churches, schools and entertainment such as agricultural fairs, circuses and balloon launches. Chambersburg became a key military staging and supply center during the Civil War. Then, on July 30, 1864, Chambersburg was burned by Confederate soldiers acting on the orders of Jubal Early, in retaliation for burnings that had occurred in Virginia. Chambersburg bounced back quickly, however, and it continued to grow. People who came to Chambersburg were attracted by the same things that attracted Benjamin Chambers — beautiful meadows, abundant wild fruits, good farmland and religious freedom. Like Chambers, they had dreams of “a better life.”

They worked hard and helped to make Chambersburg what it is today — a community that is still growing and prospering.

Chambersburg: Today
National media outlets call Chambersburg a “Dream Town” and recognize that it stands out from others in a number of ways.

Respected travel expert Peter Greenberg of the “Today” show, for example, selected Chambersburg in Newsmax magazine as one of “the 25 Cities and Towns that Best Express Our National Values.” Chambersburg is ranked 16th and is described as “uniquely American.” Chambersburg is the only community selected in Pennsylvania, one of the few in the Northeast, and one of only 25 in the entire nation.

In listing his choices, Greenberg writes, “To me, it’s all about community. It’s not a question of would I visit a place or live there. But could I call it home? That’s the important distinction.

It’s not about size, but comfort; not about high-tech, but ‘high-touch.’ And of course, it’s about the people and the values they embrace.”

Greenberg cites such amenities as its medical care, its public spaces, civic events, churches and schools, as well as its hospitality, wholesomeness, family friendliness, devotion to religion and community activities.

Ranking 12th in the United States, Chambersburg also is on Bizjournals’ list of “Dream Towns” because it is a “small American town that offers the highest quality of life.”


Chambersburg Civil War Seminars & Tours hosts Civil War tours led by nationally recognized historians since 1989.