Mercersburg’s Most Historic House Attracts Penn State Professors

February 27, 2010 - No Comments

by Jim Barnes

This is the latest update on the situation on the historic Smith House in Mercersburg, PA,  from Karen Ramsburg:

The Justice William Smith House, circa 1759 is gaining recognition after two distinguished Penn State Professors of History and Art/Architecture have taken an interest in the property. Dr. William Pencak respected author and historian and Dr. Richard Pencek Professor of American Studies are raising awareness of the house and its importance in Pre-Revolutionary War American History.

In 1765 the Smith House served as a meeting place where the first armed resistance against British Rule was organized over a nine month period of time that compelled the British Army to abandon their garrisons in western Pennsylvania. These events were known as the Black Boys Rebellion. In a January 5, 2010 Public Opinion article Dr. Pencak stated, “It [Smith House] is not only the most important historical site in Mercersburg, but probably the most important historical site related to the American Revolution in Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna River.”

As a professor of History and Jewish Studies, Dr. William Pencak has penned several books including: Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland; The Law in America, 1607-1861; Riot and Revelry in Early America and War, Politics and Revolution in Provincial Massachusetts. He is now writing a history of the (John) Jay family, America’s first chief justice and a lengthy article on the Church of England in Pennsylvania during the American Revolution. Dr. Pencak’s book Jews and Gentiles in Early America (University of Michigan Press, 2005) was the runner-up for the National Book Award in American Jewish History 2005. He was appointed Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians for the period 2006-2009. For a complete list of books written by Dr. William Pencak go to:

Dr. Richard Pencek teaches classes in Art and Architecture. His team of experts and students have restored buildings and Curtin Village, Spruce Creek Mill and Centre Furnace to name a few. They have won awards for restoration from Pennsylvania’s Centre County Historical Society and the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission. Currently they are completing a log house in Mifflinburg Pa. where the class has built the windows and made their own floor boards from c. 1840 planking and chinked and mortared the entire building. Dr. Pencek classes are very unique in that his classes are hands on with over 60 former students in the field.

Dr. William Pencak will be in Mercersburg on March 4, 2010 to speak to grades 7 and 8 at the James Buchannan Middle School about the history of the Smith House. Later in the evening he will be lecturing at Mercersburg’s First United Methodist Church on N. Fayette Street from 7:30-8:30 pm with light refreshments to follow. The public is invited to attend.

By Karen Ramsburg

For more information on the Justice William Smith House go to


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