Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mexico, Pennsylvania: Then and Now

We have a popular ice cream store in our area. Everyone knows about Mexico Mart, where they sell huge delicious ice cream cones for comparative little money. Mexico Mart operates in a small town called Mexico halfway between Harrisburg and State College in Central Pennsylvania. I wonder how many people know the history behind Mexico, Pennsylvania.  I didn’t until my mother began to pull books out of her bookshelf while looking for a church directory I had asked for. read more

Handing me a different book, she remarked, “Here, you might be interested in this.” On the cover I read, 1751-2001 Mexico: First Permanent Settlement on the Juniata by Jack E. Landis. This book prepared for the 250th Celebration. 

Soon I learned about the history of Mexico. Captain James Patterson and his son William with five or six other Scotch-Irish gentlemen journeyed to this spot in 1751 from Lancaster County and settled there. First named Patterson’s Landing, the name changed to Patterson Fort after the settlers built a fort at the location. At some point and no one seems to know why, the settlement received the name New Mexico and in 1812, just Mexico.

The town at one time served as a stop for stage coaches. A working canal lock with an accompanying canal house and grain warehouse also stood at the south end of the town.  In the past a variety of businesses operated in the town including a gristmill for grinding grain, a sawmill, a tan yard for tanning hides, a fulling mill for making cloth, a wagon maker, a creamery for processing milk, a foundry for casting iron objects, a cooper shop which made barrels, and a lime kiln for making lime for on farmer’s fields. Mexico factories made shirts, dresses, dolls, rugs, and wrought iron playground equipment.

By entering its name on Google, I found that almost 500 people now live in Mexico in 2015. Because I drive through Mexico often, I know that besides Mexico Market, the main street of the town today contains Mexico Variety and Pizza, John H. Sheaffer’s Garage, Mexico Community Building, Grace United Methodist Church, Mexico Ball Field, and The Barefoot Florist.

One block off of the main street is one of the most beautiful tourist spots around, Buttonwood Campground where the Juniata River provides campers with a place to swim, tube, kayak, and fish. A heated swimming pool and lots of planned activities like Chocolate Weekend make it a great place. Located within the campground area is The Michael McFarland Art Gallery.

To think I might have missed learning some fascinating history if my mother hadn’t pulled a book out of her bookshelf. Mexico, Pennsylvania has an interesting past and remains a worthwhile place to visit. Mmm, maybe we’ll go for ice cream tonight! 


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