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The Shared History of the Musselman Family and the Adams County Fruit Industry

Nearly everyone, it seems, has heard the name Musselman and knows it is associated with food processing. Fewer know that there were two Musselmans involved, Christian H. Musselman (1880-1944) and Ivan Z. Musselman (1886-1963). And almost no person living today has heard about the third Musselman, Christian’s father, John Musselman (1858-1931). It was John who truly pioneered fruit processing in Adams County – not once, but twice. 

This unorthodox complexity will be sorted out as part of a presentation by Phil Roth, I.Z. Musselman’s grandson, to be held at 3 p.m. November 19th at the National Apple Museum in Biglerville.

In any case, it is factual, beyond any doubt, Mr. Roth will state, that Christian High Musselman (C.H.), shown here with wife Emma, was the principal Musselman who powered forward the fruit processing industry in Adams County. It was C.H. who had the energy, the discipline, and the extraordinary executive ability to make it happen. His apple processing business – and, by association, the fruit growing industry – was the chief contributor to Adams County’s economy in the first half of the 20th century. At the time of his death in 1944, the C H Musselman Company was one of the largest – if not the largest – apple processing organizations in the world. Indeed, says Mr. Roth, C.H. Musselman rose to the opportunity, the right person in the right place at the right time. 

Phil Roth was born and raised in Adams County, has been a fruit grower himself, and has recently been involved in providing materials and information to the Adams County Historical Society for inclusion in a tribute to the apple industry that will be part of the Historical Society’s soon-to-be-completed new building. His Apple Museum presentation will be part of a day-long open house celebration of the Biglerville Historical Preservation Society, to which all are invited.

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  • The same Musselman family also founded Orrtanna Electric Light and Power Co. which would generate and distribute electricity to the western part of Adams County. Their effort would grow to include 8 communities, from Fairfield to Biglerville.
    John High Musselman’s brother Samuel High and his sons Samuel and Ivan (IZ), came up with the idea of generating and distributing electricity. History does not tell us but it is believed their original motivation was to provide electricity for the cannery. Musselman Brothers built a power plant on Little Marsh Creek near Hickory Bridge Farm outside of Orrtanna, and began providing electricity in 1915. As demand grew they added a motor driven generators which ultimately led to the demise of the company when a fire destroyed their generating facility in 1923. That ended their foray into power and Samuel Z finished his career as a electrician working his cousin, C H Musselman’s company.

      • I was not able to attend your presentation but am very interested to hear it. Will it or a summary be available somewhere or sometime?

        • Pleased to send a PDF hard copy story to any person interested. (it’s 13 pages!) Phone 717, 398-1753. Please leave a message with your email.

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