Monday, November 12, 2012

Historic Towns and Villages of Lancaster County PA

Churchtown, est. 1722: The town received its name not from the abundance of churches in the area, but from the fact that the town was founded by the Bangor Episcopal Church. Sitting on the verdant bank of the Conestoga Creek, Churchtown is noted for an abundance of bed and breakfasts and the iron industry that flourished there. Places of interest in Churchtown include the Bangor Episcopal Church, founded by Welsh immigrants. The church holds a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Columbia, est. 1726: The town of Columbia once sat on the edge of the western frontier, as it overlooks the east bank of the Susquehanna River. Today, there are many places of historic interest to visit in Columbia—Hinkle’s Corner Drug Store, Wrights Ferry Mansion Museum of History, The First National Bank Museum, and the Watch and Clock Museum

Elizabethtown, est. 1748: Named for an early settler, Elizabethtown is nestled in the rolling farmland of northwestern Lancaster County. Among other attractions, the Winters Heritage House Museum and the Samuel S. Haldeman Mansion are worthwhile stops on a tour of the area.
Lititz, est. 1756: Lititz was founded in much the same manner as Churchtown. It was started by the Moravians as a church town. Today, the historic downtown area brings the history of the town to life. Specific historic sites include the Sturgis Pretzel House, the Wilbur Chocolate Factory, Lititz Moravian Church Archives, The Lititz Museum and Johannes Mueller House, The Lititz Moravian Church, and General Sutter Inn. Other privately owned historic buildings line Main Street as well.

Strasburg, est. 1693: Founded by a French trader, Strasburg remains a beautiful town dotted with red brick buildings. In the 18th century, the town mainly consisted of one story log buildings, of which approximately 24 still remain. The best known historic sights of Strasburg include the Carpenter’s Cemetery, John Herr Mill at Mill Bridge Village, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and the Strasburg Rail Road. Visitors may also wish to take a stroll through the historic district of Strasburg’s Main Street

Monday, November 5, 2012

Native Americans of Lancaster County PA


The Conestoga
Since long before the state of Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn by the king of England, Native Americans lived on this land. Many of the tribes in this area were a part of the great Iroquois nation and the history of Lancaster County is shaded with their often tragic history.
The most well known Native American settlement of Lancaster County existed, up until the 1760’s, along the western edge of the county. Known as Indiantown, the area from Millersville west to the Susquehanna River and Washington Boro was settled by the Conestoga Indians, a splinter from the Susquehannok tribe. This group is believed to have migrated north out of Maryland as they were gradually pushed off of their land by warring tribes.
In 1682, representatives of the Conestoga traveled to the Philadelphia area to meet with William Penn for the making of a treaty. The Conestoga again met with Penn to make a treaty in 1701, this time in central Pennsylvania.
During the early to mid eighteenth century, more newcomers and European settlers traveled to Lancaster County. These newcomers became less friendly toward the Native Americans, but both cultures maintained a tenable peace until the 1750’s, when the French and Indian war broke out. The French stirred the Indians to fight and the peace was lost. Some in Lancaster and the surrounding area grew to hate the Indians.

The Paxton Boys
The “Paxton Boys” is the name given to the group of vigilantes, more than 57 armed men, who exterminated the few remaining Conestoga Indians at Indiantown.
Every child who grows up in Lancaster County hears the name “the Paxton Boys.” The title carries such a tragic history that it sends shivers down your spine. It speaks of an event that occurred before the Revolutionary War, yet we still feel the horror of it.
It began early on the morning of December 14, 1763, when the Paxton Boys, men from what are now Lancaster and Dauphin counties, 57 in number, lay waiting outside the huts of Indiantown. As the sun rose, they attacked, killing 6 Conestoga Indians—an old man, women and children—of the twenty who remained. The 14 who escaped that day were out working early.
The magistrate at Lancaster ordered that the remaining 14 be brought to the city, thinking to protect them. They were kept in the workhouse adjacent to the prison, near the Fulton Theatre on Prince Street in Lancaster. The door to that, the strongest building in town, was locked: they were left there with little protection.
The Paxton Boys were not deterred by the magistrate’s protection and, on the 27th of December, 1763, they marched on the workhouse. The remaining 14 Conestoga Indians were brutally murdered.
A young boy at the time, William Henry, Jr., the son of the local gunsmith, wrote the only eyewitness account of the crime. He spoke of the horror of peeking in the door of the prison yard, which was situated near his father’s shop and seeing the bodies of those Indians that he knew missing scalps and hands. Those killed included 7 men (one of whom, the old man Shehaes, was present at the 1701 treaty with William Penn), 5 women and 8 children.

Not the Last
Though the last of the Conestoga Indiantown village were murdered on that winter day, there is a tale that two elderly Indians escaped the massacre. They were called Michael and Mary and they left town sometime in the months before the massacre to live on a Mennonite farmer’s land, where they wouldn’t be a burden to their tribe. The farmer was Christian Hershey, an ancestor of Milton Hershey. Today, the graves of Michael and Mary, of Indiantown, are marked on his Manheim farm.

Moving On
After the 1760’s most of the Native Americans had left Lancaster County. They were either pushed out by settlers or moved on for better hunting and farming, but, none the less, they were gone. The Conestoga, those who had moved on before the massacre, went north and joined a group of Susquhannok. Together, they then moved farther north to New York and joined the Iroquois.
The Paxton Boys, inflamed by the power that they had wielded in Lancaster, moved on to Philadelphia and their numbers grew to more than two hundred men. They did not attempt to hide who they were; they thought they were invincible. At Germantown, they were met by a group of civil leaders, headed by Benjamin Franklin, and after the leaders agreed to read their pamphlet the group dispersed. It is believed that few of them were ever brought to justice.