Mont Alto, Pa

FOUNDED : 1812, incorporated as a borough in 1913

NAME ORIGIN : Founded as Funkstown by John Funk. In 1872, a railroad line ran from Scotland to Alto Dale station. In 1879, Funkstown and Alto Dale formed Mont Alto.

POPULATION : 1,705 (2010 CENSUS)

AREA : 0.6 square mile

GEOGRAPHY : Mont Alto is located in southeastern Franklin County at 39°50′36″N 77°33′18″W (39.843234, -77.555023). It sits at the western base of South Mountain along the headwaters of the West Branch of Antietam Creek. Mont Alto State Park is located in the creek valley 1 mile (1.6 km) east of the borough.

Pennsylvania Route 997 passes through the center of town as Main Street; it leads north 5 miles (8 km) to U.S. Route 30 near Fayetteville and south 7 miles (11 km) to Waynesboro. Pennsylvania Route 233 runs east out of the borough as Park Street, leading northeast 9 miles (14 km) to US 30 at Caledonia State Park.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 0.57 square miles (1.47 km2), all of it land.

HISTORY : The first house was constructed on what is now Main Street by John Funk in 1817. At that time the town was known as Funkstown. Later it was changed to Altodale. The area around the Mont Alto Iron Works was known as Mont Alto. The two towns united and became Mont Alto as we know it today.

The Mont Alto Iron Works was established by Daniel and Samuel Hughes. The first stack was built there in 1807. In 1864 the iron works was purchased by Holker Hughes, Issac Waterman, Thomas Beaver and George Wiestling. In 1889 a fire destroyed everything and at that time George Wiestling formed a new company and became president general manager.

At one time the Iron Works employed 500 people. In 1872 this company with its’ own men built a ten and a half mile railroad from Mont Alto to a point on the Cumberland Valley railroad three and a half miles from Chambersburg. In 1893 the Iron Works was dismantled and sold to the Pennsylvania State Forestry Commission. It became the State Forestry School in 1903, and it is now the Penn State Mont Alto Campus.

The first school house in the Mont Alto area was built in 1820 at what is known as the Pumping Station. Children walking to school would often see friendly Indians cooking their meals over tripod fires. A small one room brick school house was built on the Iron Works property, date unknown. A two room frame structure was eventually built and used for a number of years. It was sold to John Bittinger and converted into a dwelling and still stands on Park Street. In 1897 a four room school was erected and used until the late 1950’s. The first hotel was opened for business in 1851 by Daniel Miller. At one time the borough had four hotels all within walking distance of the square. Mont Alto also had a carpet weaving shop, brick shop, saw mill, saddlery shop, flour mill, wagon maker, blacksmith, cabinet making shop, and an undertaker.

The Post Office was established in 1843. Mail was carried by horseback to and from Chambersburg. The first stagecoach was established in 1862 and it carried the mail and passengers to and from Chambersburg until 1872 when the railroad was built to Altodale Station.

In 1913 Mont Alto was incorporated and had a population of 800 people. It has grown some since then. In 1916 the Mont Alto Bank was organized and that same year a shirt factory was opened.