The history of Liberty Forge traces back to the time of George Washington. From that time, to the late 19th century, the area now known as Liberty Forge Golf Course was Liberty Forge Plantation Farm located in Lisburn, Pennsylvania, one of the oldest towns in Cumberland County. Lisburn was an important “stop over” after westbound travelers crossed the Susquehanna River, travelling the old Indian Trail (now Lisburn Road), on the way to Carlisle and the unknown territories of the West.
It was common at the time, in Cumberland County and elsewhere, for plantations to be owned by an “iron master”, and Liberty Forge was no exception. Farming and iron-making often went hand-in-hand, for practical reasons. Iron furnaces and forges were not necessarily located near the source of the iron, but instead were located near abundant hardwoods that could be converted into charcoal for the melting and casting of what was known as “pigs”. Because horsepower was used to transport the ore and the finished product to and from the forge, the raising of food for workmen and the teams of horses also necessitated farming on the plantation.
Historical records of Cumberland County, from April 18, 1798, listed Liberty Forge Plantation “For Sale or Rent” in the Oracle of Dauphin, the first newspaper of Harrisburg. The forge changed hands many times in the next 100 years. The invention of the Bessemer Furnace in the late 19th century dramatically changed the processes for the making of iron, and gradually the forges closed, the hardwoods were taken down, and farming took precedence. To this day, however, iron tracings and refuse from the forge remain when one disturbs the ground in the area of the miniature golf course, now part of the Activity Center on the east side of Lisburn Road.
During the 20th century, owners began subdividing what remained of the plantation. The last farming of the property continued until about 1985, when this historic site was purchased by the late John G. Williams as a residence.
Mr. Williams created extensive gardens and an arboretum on most of the property, which he opened to the public. He continued with the purchase of additional adjacent tracts that originally comprised the Liberty Forge Plantation, with the result that most of the original property has been reassembled. In the early 1990’s, severe drought caused a massive loss of the gardens and trees. At that time, it was envisioned by Mr. Williams to develop this historic site into a public recreation center for the community, with water to support the gardens, golf course, and recreational facilities. The property has been developed to collect and return more than 100% of the volume of water to the Yellow Breeches creek. Liberty Forge is committed to the preservation of the environment and has implemented numerous sustainable programs to protect and preserve Liberty Forge so that it may be enjoyed by future generations.
Liberty Forge Golf Course opened to the public in May 2003, under the dedication and direction of our own team of “Iron Masters”, including the late Alby Gerst who designed and oversaw construction of much of the course, and Luke Grumbine and Marci DesForges who have continued to nurture its development and success. The creation of Liberty Forge was the fulfillment of Mr. Williams’ dream, vision, and desire to give back to the community.
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