Clothes salesman, civic leader, Boy Scout patron: the life of John Sherman Bashore Leave a comment


There are some individuals who become such pillars in their community that their legacy continues to be felt directly or indirectly to the current day. John Sherman Bashore was one such person.

After finding his calling as a clothier in Lebanon, Bashore became one of the best-known and most respected civic leaders in his time, through his contributions to local organizations and groups. His donation of 250 acres of land to local scouts in 1947 is still used today as the Bashore Scout Reservation near Fort Indiantown Gap.

Bashore was born on February 24, 1873, near the area known as Bordner’s Store between Lickdale and Indiantown Gap in Union Township. He was the son of Peter and Sarah Bashore and was one among several children. The family, as noted by the Lebanon Daily News in Bashore’s obituary, was not wealthy. Bashore was a student in the rural education system of the area and attended the Lickdale Grammar School.

As an adolescent, Bashore took on two jobs as a clerk, one at a store near his house and the second at a Fredericksburg store. At some point while working in Fredericksburg, Bashore purchased a set of clothes fashionable in the city, and he recalled that this was the moment he decided to become a clothes salesman.

Students of the Lickdale Grammar School in the 1880s, located northeast of Lickdale. Bashore is standing in the middle row, second from the right. (Lebanon Daily News, 2 July 1955)

At the age of 20, Bashore moved to Lebanon and joined the business that he would eventually run for the rest of life: a men’s clothing store owned at the time by Isaac Wolf. His reputation as a salesman grew to the point that he was made a partner in the business. In 1915, Wolf died, and Bashore was left in charge of the store.

Bashore moved the store to 810 Cumberland Street, where it would remain for decades. Its prominent downtown location and Bashore’s expertise made it one of the best-known clothing stores in the area. He frequently traveled out of the county to hunt down the newest clothes in New York and other metropolitan areas to bring back to the store. According to the Lebanon Daily News, parents would often leave their children in the store, trusting Bashore’s kindness and recommended clothing picks. For several generations of men, Bashore’s store was the place to go when looking for new clothes.

Bashore’s store was just two doors down from the Samler Building (left) on Cumberland Street. (Lebanon County Historical Society)
A postcard depicting the storefront of Bashore’s Clothing Store for sale on eBay.

In 1920, Bashore became a director of the First National Bank in Lebanon; he would later become the bank’s president in 1942. It was one of many positions Bashore would occupy over the years.

In 1922, Bashore and his family moved into a new home at the southwest corner of 10th and Chestnut Streets, having previously lived at 937 Willow Street. The new property was regarded as one of the “finest in the city” and naturally was “equipped with all modern conveniences.” John Bashore, along with his wife, Jennie (née Kleiser), would live at the intersection for the rest of their lives.

Bashore was reportedly a modest and “unassuming” man who avoided too much attention; nevertheless, he became a fixture of the city. Outside of his business and the bank, Bashore became perhaps one of the most civically engaged individuals in Lebanon of all time. At one point in time, Bashore served on 22 different boards of directors for various organizations in the area.

In August of 1927, the Lebanon Daily News ran a series of daily silhouettes of well-known community figures, challenging its readership to guess who each one was. Bashore, as shown here, was the sixth in the series, with the paper noting the next day that he was “easily recognized by the majority of guessers.” (Lebanon Daily News, 15 Aug. 1927)

Throughout his career, Bashore acted variously as Rotary Club president, Community Library Association president, Lebanon County Chamber of Commerce charter member, and Community Chest treasurer; additionally, he was also involved with the Good Samaritan Hospital, the Cornwall Railroad Company, the local YMCA, the Lebanon County Child Health Council, and the Lebanon Valley Gas Company, among many other organizations.

Read More: Who was Henry Houck, the beloved ‘Apostle of Sunshine’?

Befitting a man of his high level of community involvement, Bashore was a kind of magnet for awards and recognitions. These included an honorary doctor of letters degree from Lebanon Valley College, an award from the American Legion, and the Good Government award from the Lebanon Jaycees.

As proof of his far-reaching influence, his obituary noted that a navy officer on an unnamed Pacific island in World War II had come across an American-made wooden bench that had been tagged and distributed by Bashore some years prior.

Bashore was a giver of more than just his time. He donated annual checks to fire companies in the area at Thanksgiving and often remembered his customers’ birthdays with gifts.

The first box of the year’s Girl Scout cookie sale takes place with Bashore as the customer. (Lebanon Daily News, 1 Feb. 1956)
The entrance to the Bashore Scout Reservation along Moonshine Road in 2020. (Groh)

Probably the best-known legacy of Bashore’s today is the Bashore Scout Reservation, which is an active (COVID-19 notwithstanding) camp near Green Point just north of Fort Indiantown Gap. The original 250-acre tract was purchased by Bashore to the tune of $7,500 and donated to what is now the Pennsylvania Dutch Council Boy Scoouts of America, though it was used initially by both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

Bashore had an interest in scouting for several decades, and often attended events related to the local groups.

Read More: The life and legend of Joseph Johns, escaped slave and Union Township mountain man

Bashore being recognized by the Lebanon Jaycees in 1958. The portrait photograph behind him was later hung at the Bashore Scout Reservation. (Lebanon Daily News, 26 Feb. 1958)

In his old age, Bashore still kept tending the store, though some aspects of the business were turned over to his son, John K. Bashore. On December 10, 1959, after a long and busy life, Bashore passed away from old age in the Good Samaritan Hospital. He was well into his 87th year. Bashore was buried in the Mount Lebanon Cemetery.

At a ceremony held one year prior to his death, at which the Lebanon Jaycees presented him with the Good Government award, Bashore stated, tearing up, “The greatest thing in the world we can do is do something for the other fellow. It is likely I should have done more — but I do the best I can — I certainly appreciate all you have done for me.”

For all those whose lives he touched through the decades, directly or indirectly, the feeling was mutual.


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