East Pennsboro Historical Society Keeps History Alive

Certainly the foot traffic has diminished since the days when it was known to residents as the West Fairview Borough Building, but a faithful group of volunteers make a regular pilgrimage to the site now known as the Historical Society of East Pennsboro.

It’s their way of keeping history alive.

Founded in 1999 by East Pennsboro Twp. resident Herb Kruger, the all-volunteer, historical organization houses artifacts and relics of a bygone era. Kruger passed away in 2007, but his work lives on in the nonprofit.

Executive Director Jim Leonard runs the day-to-day operations, and you could say it’s in his blood as he launches into a history of the Enola yards and the subsequent founding of the township.

“In 1903, the Rockville Bridge was completed and there was so much traffic that the yards in Marysville and Harrisburg couldn’t handle all the coal business. The Pennsylvania Railroad, realizing this, surveyed the area and founded Enola Realty Company to build a town to house the workers,” said Leonard, who retired from the railroad and whose father, grandfather and great grandfather also worked on the rails. “From World War II through the 1950s, Enola had the largest classification yard in the world,” he said.

In 2012, the Historical Society was given a facelift of sorts to better show off its extensive collection of railroad artifacts, which are housed with other relics of the era in well-lit, glass display cases. The collection of artifacts is often rotated, so you’re likely to see different items every few months, often based on a theme. The current theme in the small museum is the railroad, the Enola Miller House and a Parade Dress Shirt form the 1940’s from Enola Fire Company #1 owned by James Derstine.

Leonard’s goal is to increase the visibility of the organization, which currently has about 425 members.

“We’d like more people to get involved in educating our children about the history of the community,” he said. “Teachers can bring kids here on a small group tour bus to learn about their heritage. Our problem right now is that the younger people don’t seem to be interested, and we’d like to see more of them get involved,” Historical Society president Al Bruner said.

Every year, the society gives two $1,000 Herb Kruger memorial scholarships, which is open to any member of the historical society or their child, grandchild, nephew, niece, brother or sister who will be attending college.

“In this day and age, we’re surprised we haven’t seen more interest in it,” Leonard said.

In addition to seeking increased visibility and membership, the society also needs volunteers and always welcomes artifact donations. “We take anything that might be of value historically, and pictures with names on them are ideal.”

Looking to the future, the society is planning to move to 51 Miller Street, Enola where the Enola Miller House has been moved. Plans are to build a 2,400 square foot new Historical Society building and showcase our displays in the Enola Miller House. We are selling pavers to raise money towards restoration and upgrading the House. We also hope to have ownership of the property asap.

For those interested in joining the Historical Society of East Pennsboro, the cost is $10 for an individual membership and $20 for a family membership and supporting is $50, which includes an invitation to the biannual dinners and two seasonal newsletters.

To learn more, visit ephistory.org, or the Facebook page for the Historical Society of East Pennsboro and the Enola Miller House.

Jim Leonard runs the day-to-day operations at the East Pennsboro Historical Society.
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