History of Carlisle


Over two hundred and fifty years ago, a man named James LeTort crossed the Susquehanna River at a place where the city of Harrisburg now stands. He settled beside a small creek about eighteen miles from the river shore. LeTort located his Indian trading post and home there.

In 1751 William Penn's Lieutenant Governor, James Hamilton, chose the site of Carlisle to be the county seat for the new county of Cumberland. The settlement was named Carlisle after the town of Carlisle, England. Hamilton and his surveyors laid out Carlisle in 1751. The plans included a park-like center square bounded by North, South, East and West Streets. These street names remain unchanged and the square is still the heart of Carlisle. In 1753, five dwellings formed the nucleus of the new town with a temporary log building as the courthouse. The town was officially incorporated as the Borough of Carlisle in 1782.

The Carlisle Barracks, current location of the United States Army War College, was of historic importance as early as 1753 when Benjamin Franklin negotiated for peace with the Indians. His efforts were unsuccessful and nine years of French and Indian wars ensued. During this time, Carlisle became a sanctuary for frontiersmen and their families whose homes had been burned by Indian raiders.

During the Revolution, the people of the area supported the Declaration of Independence. Two local companies were part of the First Pennsylvania Regiment of Riflemen who came to the assistance of Washington at Cambridge. Carlisle's James Wilson was a representative to the Continental Congresses and later chief framer of the Constitution.

In 1860, Carlisle residents loyally supported the Union and suffered the consequences of invasion and shelling when the Confederates rode through Cumberland Valley on their way to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Carlisle is rich in the history of Pennsylvania and America. The Borough continues today as a thriving county seat and a regional hub of commerce, industry, education and culture. Carlisle still exhibits traditional small town characteristics including a variety of people and neighborhoods. The Borough continues to grow.