History of Danville - Introduction

Created: Wednesday, 10 December 2008 Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email


In the list of secular studies history is among the most interesting and the most important. Indeed, there seems to be an almost universal desire to lift the misty veil of the past, and to note the changing scenes that mark the progress of Adam's family through all the centuries past and gone. Not alone to satisfy the cravings of a curiosity that is commendable, but because the richest lessons of wisdom are drawn from the experience of the past. Still more interesting and important is the general, and, especially, the biographical history of our own locality. Here, with emotions of strange delight we trace the stern, heroic lives of the pioneers, and with ever-increasing interest watch the growing fields succeed the forest, pleasant homes supplant the rude log cabin, and the development of society as it joins the onward march to a higher civilization, On the other hand, there is a desire no less universal to be remembered by those who come after us. Thus prompted, men have sought out the most enduring material by which to transmit their names and achievements down the ages. They have reared monuments of granite, carved their deeds on the solid marble, and written their names on the everlasting rocks. But all those have yielded to the corroding power of Time, and their moldering remnants become the subjects of uncertain speculation to the antiquarian. Written history is the great conservator of the past and the most enduring memorial for the ages to come. The wondrous tower on the plains of Shinar is leveled with the dust from which it rose, and the glory of Babylon is shrouded in darkness. The pomp and pride of Pharaoh, the armies of Amalek, the power of Moab, the Syrian, the Chaldean, with all the heroes and nations of antiquity, are known only through the written chronicles kept by the scribes of Israel-chronicles that point the student to the dim and broken fragments of crumbling monuments that strew the track of finished centuries. Written history will be faithful to its mission. It will not perish from the earth." Its universality, its vast capabilities of reproduction and translation into all languages, insure its duration to the end of time.

But apart from the history of the world, apart from the discovery and history of our own country, Danville has a history all its own-a history of deep and absorbing interest, not only to the descendants of the old pioneers, but to all who have found a home within its S borders. Let it be understood, however, that I make no pretension to a consecutive history of Danville in these pages; and as every author in his work presents some characteristic of himself, so let it be in this. Never having been trained to methodical action or the minutiae of business tactics, a mental metamorphosis will not be expected. I have no ambition to tread the beaten path by tracing and connecting every link in order more exact than the real occurrence. As Comstock says in his unique Tongue of Time, "We have heard a thousand times that the sun arose in glory and sat in gold." Now let us hear something else. There are a thousand books, with chapter, verse, section, and paragraph, stately and uniform as the cogs of a wheel. Now let us have something else. But neither the local historian nor the oldest inhabitant can gather many reliable facts from the dim and misty past. As they grope amid the deepening shadows, they may find here and there an isolated fact; but the opening pages of Danville are shrouded beneath a dusty veil that can never be lifted. Its general outline may be traced or imagined by those who are personally interested in certain genealogies, or who have been schooled in the wild experience of frontier life, but the life record of those who first surveyed this scene is buried forever iii the tomb of the past. What hopes and fears, what daring projects or great resolves, once animated the village fathers and mothers, we shall never know. They are gone to the realms where "the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."

The main object in these pages is to note the history of Danville and mark its progress during the last quarter of a century, or during the twenty-five years it has been under my own personal observation.

Although without special order, these random sketches may be presented, yet they are all true to life. Not like the stately pile that science builds, but like the landscape view from a railroad car. I care not a straw for professional critics. The constitutional grumbler is in the same category. No doubt some sap-heads will say they could have gotten up a better work, and who will perchance condemn the entire volume, because there is no mention of them or theirs, or of some occurrence in which they. or a relative was the lion of the occasion. All this must be expected, for a certain tribute must always be paid to the wiseacres of the day. No doubt some village Solomon will shake his head and say that he knew all that himself. "Everybody knows the business houses on Mill street, and where the court-house stands Why tell us what we know?" Not so fast, sir; I am not writing for the present only, but for the future. I am telling other generations away in the days to come, how and by whom Danville affairs were conducted before they were born. It is the duty of the historian to present the situation just as it is around him in his own day. So don't be selfish and scold because some things are described that you know as well as the writer. Those very items may be of the deepest interest to your grand-children. I have availed myself of all the sources of information within my reach. I am, however, chiefly indebted to J. Frazer, Esq., of Cincinnati. His careful research has contributed much to this volume.

Many thanks to him for his valuable aid in rescuing important facts from the shadows of forgetfulness. With this introduction, this book is placed before the public, with the earnest hope that it may meet a kindly reception, and, in some degree, serve the purpose of its creation.


SOURCE:  Page(s) 5-7; Danville, Montour County Pennsylvania; D.H.B. Brower, Harrisburg; 1881