Harriet Lane Tea & Talk

Harriet Lane Tea & Talk

Enjoy an afternoon of tea and talk about Harriet Rebecca Lane, First Lady of Franklin County and the United States. Author Bob O’Connor will speak about Harriet Lane, sharing excerpts of his book, “Harriet Lane: The Original First Lady of Washington.” Emily Martin, a local thespian, will bring a young Miss Lane to life as she mixes and mingles with her visitors.

Event begins a 1 PM and runs until 3 PM and is being held in the 1865 lobby of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau at 15 South Main Street in Chambersburg. The 10,000 sq. ft. building served as a bank from 1865 to 2015.

A Little About Harriet  

Harriet was born in Mercersburg, Franklin County, PA on May 9, 1830 to Elliott Tole Lane and Jane Buchanan Lane. Her grandfather was a merchant, who came from Donegal County in Ireland and established a good foundation for his family. Harriet’s father was a merchant, and her mother was the younger sister of James Buchanan. It was a family of ample means.

Even with a level of wealth, her life was not easy. At age nine, her mother died and two years later, her father. Her favorite uncle, James Buchanan, adopted Harriet.  She would serve as his confidante and consultant, traveling to Great Britain when Buchanan served as Minister to England. She was a favorite of Queen Victoria and the royal court. When James Buchanan became president, she served as “First Lady” and was an accomplished hostess.

She chose to hold off marrying until she was 35 years old. Within three years, she would have two sons and a happy family life. Tragedy returned in 1881, 1882, and 1884 when she lost both sons to rheumatic fever and her husband died unexpectedly.

Harriet Lane came to understand the fleetingness of life, the value of family, and the importance of keeping a purpose. She gave generously to the research of children’s disease, endowed a school for boys, and planted the seed of a national art gallery.

The Perspective of a Celtic Blessing 

“May God give you, for every storm, a rainbow, for every tear, a smile, for every care, a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sign a sweet song, and an answer for each prayer.”


Franklin County Visitors Bureau Launches Women’s History Exhibit at 11/30 Visitors Center

Franklin County Visitors Bureau Launches Women’s History Exhibit at 11/30 Visitors Center

Franklin County Visitors Bureau (FCVB) invites the public to celebrate Women’s History Month at the Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center. A new installation called Vision, Voices and the VOTE is slated to open on March 8, International Women’s Day. In 1908, more than 15,000 women marched in New York City to gain better pay, shorter workdays, and the right to vote. This event was one of several across the world to inspire International Women’s Day. It brought more attention to the long struggle of women’s suffrage, which was finally legislated on August 18, 1920 with the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Doing the right thing shaped women’s history, just as it did African American and all of American history. The FCVB-sponsored essay contest continues in March and poses the question: What is your right thing? The contest has no age restrictions. Share a personal story, the influences of family, friends, ancestors, mentors and heroes; or share a part of history that shapes you. The contest offers five chances to win $100. Learn more here.

Vision, Voices and the VOTE tells the stories of centuries of Franklin County women. Visitors can become part of the multi-year installation by taking a selfie and adding it to the exhibit. Among the women highlighted are Molly Cochran Corbin. Born in Franklin County, she served as a female soldier during the Revolutionary War. As was the custom, she followed her husband to battle, cooking and caring for the soldiers. At the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island NY, November 1776, her husband was killed as he fired his cannon. Raised on the frontier of Franklin County, she follower her instincts and took her husband’s place at the cannon, loading and firing until she was severely wounded. She became the first American woman to receive a pension for her service.

Harriet Lane Johnston is another leading woman of Franklin County. She served as “First Lady” when she was the White House hostess for her uncle, President James Buchanan. Harriet Lane endowed a home for invalid children at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which served as a teaching, research, and training facility. In addition, she bequeathed an art collection to the Smithsonian Institutions, which is the foundation of the National Gallery of Art. Learn more about Harriet Lane here in the booklet by Joan C. McCulloh of the Mercersburg Historical Society.

During the mid-1990s and into the early part of the 21st century, Seven Local Women used their voices to spread the gospel. The ladies—Lois Waters, Theda Davis, Vickie Kieffer, Bertha Allen, Bebe Ransom, Frances Slaughter, and Doris Carson—came together from across Franklin County. All were active in their communities and churches.

Visit Vision, Voices and the VOTE to learn more about the contributions of Franklin County women. The exhibit will be open through May 1.

Harriet Lane: First Lady of Franklin County

Harriet Lane: First Lady of Franklin County

Born on May 9, 1830 in Mercersburg PA, Harriet Lane served as First Lady for her uncle, 15th President James Buchanan. By the time she was ten, both her mother and father died, so James Buchanan took her into his care.

Harriet was a fun loving child who was the ringleader of schoolgirl pranks, but so was she intelligent with always doing well in her studies. Harriet and her uncle became very close. She was his confidante, and she was exposed to the world of politics—something women did not experience in the Victorian era. When she traveled abroad with her uncle, she endeared herself to kings and queens, always leaving them wanting more of her wit, intelligence and humor. Queen Victoria considered her a true friend.

People, who had concerns and problems, would come to Harriet to ask her to bring an issue to President Buchanan’s attention. For example, a member of the Chippewa nation complained to her that a government agent was selling liquor to his people. She intervened to end abuses by government agents and worked for better medical treatment and educational opportunities. She became known to the Chippewa as “Mother of the Indians.”

After she left the white house, she remained involved in education and the arts. and continued her support. When she died in 1903, an important provision of her will was money be given for the clinic in Baltimore that she and her husband had incorporated in 1883 to care for children regardless of race, creed or the ability of the parents to pay. It was called the Harriet Lane Home for invalid Children, now the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Franklin County is proud to have Harriet Lane as its First Lady.

Read more about Harriet Lane here.

Article by Kelly Spinner.

Famous Women of Franklin County

Famous Women of Franklin County

From the Revolutionary era to the 20th century, women of Franklin County contributed to a young America, helped shape a strong foundation of Franklin County, and contributed to the well-being of community. Join the Franklin County Visitors Bureau at the 11/30 Visitors Center on the square in Chambersburg for Famous Women of Franklin County, 1 PM to 3 PM. The event showcases women of Franklin County with a display, videos, and panel discussion. Panel participants include Bonnie Shockey of Allison-Antrim Museum, Joan McCulloh of Mercersburg Historical Society, Amy Ensley, Director of Hankey Center at Wilson College and Maxine Beck on behalf of Renfrew Museum.

Learn about Margaret Cochran Corbin and her heroism during the Revolutionary War, First Lady Harriet Lane, Dolly Harris and her feat of patriotism as Confederate soldiers marched through Greencastle, and the financial support of Sarah Wilson to give generations of women access to higher education. Fast forward to the 20th century and discover the stories of women like Zelda Barbour Wynn Valdes, Emma Nicodemus, Margaret Disert, and Lois Martin.  These women are solid examples of conviction, hard work, patriotism, dedication to family, and a strong belief in giving and growing community.

Women often consider the right to vote as a significant step forward for the gender. Yet, year after year, women continue to make important advances by working toward outcomes they valued.  Famous Women of Franklin County will highlight some of these women and their stories. Participants—male and female— are invited to share their thoughts about pivotal issues that impact, support, and shape women and their community efforts.

The event is free and open to the public and is one in an series with a lens on history, civics, community and culture.

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau invites all to explore history, arts and architecture, recreation, natural beauty, fresh foods and the warm hospitality of communities like Chambersburg, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Shippensburg, and Waynesboro. Franklin County PA is located just north of the Mason Dixon Line and is an easy drive to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Plan a visit at ExploreFranklinCountyPA.com, contacting 866.646.8060, or stopping by the new Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center in downtown Chambersburg.

Franklin Country Visitors Bureau Showcases Harriet Lane For March’s Women’s History Month

Franklin County Visitors Bureau is showcasing the accomplishments of Harriet Lane to commemorate Women’s History Month during March 2017. Born in 1830 in Mercersburg PA, the first nine years of Harriet life was secure and stable. At age nine, her mother died and at ten, her father. When orphaned, Harriet asked to live with her mother’s brother, James Buchanan.

James Buchanan became Harriet’s legal guardian and in doing so, exposed her to a world few mid-19th century women experienced. Her life co-mingled with James Buchanan, Harriet Lane experienced the male world of politics and power. Touched by the death of siblings and parents, she understood life on a different level at an early age and though a fun-loving young lady, she possessed an early mental maturity and excelled in studies. She was well-prepared for the tasks she would assume throughout her uncle’s political career.

When she became James Buchanan’s ward, he was a U.S. Senator. Later, he would be the Secretary of State and the Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and finally the fifteenth U.S. President. Throughout all Buchanan’s political service, Harriet Lane served as hostess for her uncle. She was his confidante and advisor.

Two years before James Buchanan’s death, Harriet Lane married Henry Elliott Johnston; they had two sons. Both boys died, one year apart, of rheumatic fever. The loss of her sons steeled her focus on providing for the healthcare and well-being of children.

Harriet Lane lived a dynamic seventy-three years. Her dedication and generosity continues in the present. In her will, she provided for what is now the John Hopkins Children’s Center, gave funds to begin the St. Albans Boys School, and bequeathed her lifelong art collection to a national art gallery. Today, the art is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. As well, her will provided for two memorials to honor her uncle. Read more about Harriet Lane’s life and contributions. Download “Harriet Lane Johnston” by Joan C. McCulloh, or contact the Franklin County Visitors Bureau at 866.646.8060 for a complimentary copy.

Experience the life of Harriet Lane and James Buchanan with a trip to Mercersburg PA. See the Lane Family Home, a 2.5 story brick home in the Federal style, located at 14 North Main Street and the boyhood home of James Buchanan, 15 North Main Street. Four miles north of Mercersburg is Cove Gap, where James Buchanan was born. Today, it is a Pennsylvania State Park and houses the 600 ton, stone-pyramid, an impressive tribute from Harriet Lane to her uncle James Buchanan.