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Chapter I General History of Lancaster, Lancaster and its People, An Account of Lancaster, Pa.


Feb 27, 2014

Chapter I
General History of Lancaster


The town of Lancaster might be said to have been begun as early as 1721 or 1722, but it was not laid out until 1730. This was done by James Hamilton, Esq., of Philadelphia.

Tradition says that an Indian village occupied the site of the center of Lancaster; that a hickory tree stood in the center of the village, near a spring; that the Indian councils were held under this tree, and that it was from one of these councils that a deputation was sent to confer with William Penn at Shackamaxon in 1863. This Indian nation was called Hickory, and the village was called Hickory Town before Lancaster was laid out.

This favorite hickory tree of the Indians stood in front of George Gibson’s tavern, which was on the site of the First National Bank, on East King street. Gibson had a hickory tree painted on his sign in 1722.

South of Gibson’s tavern was a spring, walled in in a rough manner by the Indians, and covered with a large flat stone. The site of this spring was found in 1882, on Julius Loeb’s property, on South Queen street. That was evidently the site of an Indian camping ground. Many relics, among which was considerable earthenware, have been found. There were many hickory trees between the spring and Roaring Brook, now Water street.

Another Indian town was situated near the Conestoga, and a poplar tree which stood on its bank was the emblem of that tribe.

The Conestoga Indians massacred by the Paxton Boys, at the old jail, were buried on what is now the property of Henry Martin, on East Chestnut street.


By the act of the Pennsylvania Legislature establishing Lau-caster county, May Jo, 1729, John Wright, Caleb Pierce, James Mitchell and Thomas Edwards were empowered to purchase a site for the county court house and prison. Three sites were proposed-Wright’s Ferry, now Columbia ; John F Postlethwait’s place, now Pehl’s, in Conestoga township; and Gibson’s place, on the site of Lancaster.

The first county courts were held at Postlethwait’s from June, 1729, to August, 1730; and a temporary wooden court house and jail were erected there.

Three of the magistrates appointed to select the county-seat Wright, Pierce and Mitchell-agreed upon a piece of land for a permanent county-seat ; and their report was confirmed by the Governor and his Council, May, 1729. This was a lot of land flying on or near a small run of water between the plantations of Rudy Mire, Michael Shank and Jacob Imble, about ten miles from Susquehanna river.”

On or near this site Governor James Hamilton offered two places one place embracing “The Old Indian Field, High Plain, Gibson’s Pasture, Sanderson’s Pasture ; “the other place comprising “The Waving Hills, embosomed in wood, bounded by Roaring Brook on the west.” The road from P1’iiadelphia to Harris’s Ferry, now Harrisburg, passed through the center, The ” Dark Hazel Swamp ” and the “Long Swamp” were near the center ox the proposed town, which was laid out by Hamilton in 1930 and named Lancaster, after the shire-town of Lancashire, England, the native county of the Quaker pioneer John Wright, the founder of our own Lancaster county.

The county courts were held at Lancaster for the first time in August, 1730. Lancaster was incorporated by charter as a borough, May 1, 1942.


Governor Thomas held a council with the chiefs of the Delaware Indians and the Six Nations at Lancaster in 1944, where all the disputes between the whites and the Indians were settled by treaty.

Late in 1955 a block-house, or wooden fort, was erected at Lancaster, then a town of two thousand inhabitants. Two letters from Edward Shippen, a leading citizen of Lancaster, to James Hamilton, Esq., of Philadelphia, concerning this block-house, show the alarm among the Lancaster people caused by the Indian outrages.

On May 29, 1757, Governor Denny held a council with the Indian chiefs of the Six Nations at Lancaster, and made a treaty with them. They presented their grievances, and said that the French addressed them as follows : “Children you see, and we have often told you, how the English, your brothers, serve you. They plant all the country and drive you back ; so that, in a little time you will have no land. It is not so with us. Though we build trading houses on your lauds, we do not plant. We have our provisions from over the great water.”

The famous Indian chief, King Beaver, was also present, and made the following speech : “When our Great Father came first, we stood on the Indian’s path. We looked to the sun as he rose in the east. We gave the English venison. The English gave us many, many good things. But the English trod on our toes. We turned our faces to the west. The English trod on our heels. We walked on. The English followed. We walked oil, not knowing where to rest. The English were at our heels. Father, we are weary. We wish to rest.”

At this meeting the Indians complained of so much injustice done them by the English settlers that many concessions were made to them by the councilors to secure the friendship and goodwill of the savages and to alienate them from the French. To strengthen further this friendly feeling, the Pennsylvanians agreed to furnish the Indians with cattle, flour and kegs of ruin,


The people of Lancaster county, especially the Scotch-Irish settlers of Paxton and Donegal townships, suffered terribly from Indian outrages during the whole ten years of the French and Indian War. Men, women and children were murdered while at work in the fields, at their meals, or in their beds at night. Sights of horror, scenes of slaughter, bloody scalps, mangled bodies, hacked limbs-these were the evidences of Indian cruelty and barbarity. Such horrible sights and fiendish atrocities excited the fiercest rage and indignation among the people of Paxton, Hanover and Donegal townships; and they became desperate in their determination for revenge on the savage butchers of their kinsman and relatives.

The Conestoga Indians, whose seat was the Indian town, in Manor township, had never been at war with the whites, and had always been classed as friendly Indians. But several other friendly Indians told the whites that Bill Sock, a well-known Conestoga Indian, had committed several murders, Colonel John Hambright, Mrs. Thompson and Anne Mary LeRoy, of Lancaster borough, and Alexander Stephen and Abraham Newcomer, of Lancaster county, made affidavits againt Bill Sock, saying that he had made threats of murder, and that he had been seen acting suspiciously. Indians had been traced by scouts so the wigwams at the Conestoga Indian town, in Manor township. The Paxton and Donegal Rangers watched the hostile and friendly Indians very closely. In September, 1763, the Indians eluded their closely searching pursuers. The “Paxton Boys ” and their neighbors, after vainly asking protection from the Governor and the provincial authorities at Philadelphia, determined to strike terror into all Indians by exterminating the Conestoga tribe, and thus put a stop to Bill Sock’s and George Sock’s prowling around the country and to their dances at the Conestoga Indian town.

On Wednesday, December 14, 1763, a company of about sixty men from Paxton, Hanover and Donegal townships, called the Paxton Boys, and commanded by Captain Lazarus Stewart, attacked the Conestoga Indian town, in Manor township, and barbarously massacred the six Indians at home, among whom was the old chief Shaheas, who had always been noted for his friendship toward the whites. The other five victims were a son of Shaheas, George, Harry, Sally and another old woman. Most of the Indians were absent at the time. After slaughtering and scalping the six at home, the Paxton Boys burned the Indian huts, thus destroying the village. The news reached Lancaster the same day through an Indian boy who had escaped, and a Coroner’s jury went to the scene of the tragedy.

Bill Sock and several other Conestoga Indians, who had gone to Thomas Smith’s Iron Works, in Martic township, to sell baskets and brooms, fled for protection to Lancaster borough, as did the Indians John Smith and his wife Peggy with their child, and young Joe Hays, who had been at Peter Swarr’s, about two and a half miles northwest from Lancaster. The magistrates of Lancaster brought the other survivors into town to protect their lives, condoled with them on the massacre of their kinsmen, took them by the hand and promised them protection. The Indians were placed in the newly erected work-house to insure their safety. When the news of the massacre reached Philadelphia and the eastern counties of Pennsylvania it caused great excitement among the Quakers and the colonial authorities; and Governor John Penn issued a proclamation, denouncing the outrage and offering a large reward for the arrest and punishment of the murderers.

The Paxton Boys were too much exasperated and too terribly in earnest to pay and as soon as they heard that the other Conestoga Indians were at Lancaster they proceeded to that town, swarmed the jail and work-house, and mercilessly massacred the fourteen Indians confined there for protection, Tuesday, December 27, 1763. The unarmed and defenseless Conestogas prostrated themselves with their children before their infuriated murderers, protesting their innocence and their love for the English, and pleading for their lives; but the only answer made to their piteous appeals was the hatchet. The murderers did their work with rifles, tomahawks and scalping-knives. The victims were horribly butchered, some having their brains blown out, others their legs chopped off, others their hands cut off. Bill Sock and his wife Molly and their two children had their heads split open and scalped. The other victims were John Smith and his wife Peggy, Captain John and his wife Betty and their son Little John, the little boys Jacob, Christy and Little Peter, and Peggy and another little girl. The mangled bodies of the victims were all buried at Lancaster, on the property now owned by Henry Martin.

Such was the sad end of the Conestoga Indians, the remnant of the once powerful Susquehannocks, who a century before held dominion over all the other Indian tribes of the Susquehanna Valley and those on the shores of the Chesapeake. Sheriff John Hay, of Lancaster county, at once wrote to Governor John Penn at Philadelphia, informing him of this second massacre. Thereupon Governor John Penn issued another proclamation, denouncing the murderers and offering a large reward for their arrest and punishment, but without effect.


Lancaster bore her full share in the great struggle for American independence, and many of her sons were found among the patriots who swelled the Continental armies. The patriotic indignation excited in all the English colonies in North America by the passage of the oppressive Boston Port Bill in 1774 was the first occasion which called forth public action in Lancaster during the Revolutionary struggle. On June 15, 1994, the citizens of Lancaster borough held a public meeting at the court house. This meeting was in answer to a call from the Committee of Correspondence of the city of Philadelphia, sent by their clerk, Charles Thompson, Hsq., to William Atlee, cf Lancaster, and made known by the latter to his fellow-townsmen. This meeting adopted resolutions censuring the British Parliament and expressing sympathy with the Bostonians. It agreed to unite with the people of Philadelphia in refusing to import to or export from Great Britain anything until Parliament repealed the Boston Port Bill. A number of prominent citizens were appointed a Committee of Correspondence for Lancaster; to correspond with the General Committee of Correspondence in Philadelphia.

The members of this Lancaster Committee of Correspondence were Edward Shippen, George Ross, Jasper Yeates, Matthias Slough, James Webb, William Atlee, William Henry, Ludwig I,auman, William Bausman and Charles Hall.

In answer to a request from the Philadelphia Committee of Correspondence for a meeting of the Pennsylvania Assembly at Philadelphia, and a meeting of the various county committees of the province of Pennsylvania with the Philadelphia Committee of Correspondence at the same time and place, the Lancaster committee met July 2, 1774.

In connection with this business, the Lancaster committee called a public meeting of the people of Lancaster county. The call for this meeting was signed by Edward Shippen, the chairman of the Lancaster committee, and printed copies of the call were sent out and posted at all the public places in the county.

In answer to this call, a general meeting of the citizens of Lancaster county was held at the Court House in Lancaster, July 9, 7774, with George Ross as chairman. This meeting expressed loyalty to the King of Great Britain, but denied the right of Parliament to tax the colonies without their consent, expressed sympathy with the people of Boston and opened a subscription for their relief, and called for a close union of all the Anglo-American colonies to resist the unconstitutional and oppressive acts of the British Parliament. The committee already appointed for Lancaster borough was declared a Committee of Correspondence, and a county committee was appointed to meet the other county committees of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia.

George Ross was chairman of this county committee; and the other members were James Webb, Matthias Slough, Joseph Ferree, Emanuel Carpenter, William Atlee, Alexander Lowry and Moses Irwin.

The sum of 153 pounds was collected in Lancaster borough for the relief of the people of Boston, and a considerable sum was collected in the several townships of the county. The entire sum was sent by Edward Shippen, the chairman of the Lancaster committee, to John Nixon, Treasurer of the city and county of Philadelphia; who sent it to Boston along with the other contributions from Pennsylvania.

The members of the Lancaster county committee met the committees of the other counties of Pennsylvania in convention at Philadelphia, June 15.2I, 1794. This convention asked the Assembly of Pennsylvania to appoint delegates to meet with delegates of the other English colonies in a Continental Congress at Philadelphia. The Assembly appointed the delegates; and the Continental Congress met at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774.

The patriotic people of Lancaster were very much in earnest in the determination which they had expressed at their meeting of June 15, 1774, against the importation of British goods. When two merchants Josiah and Robert Lockhart were charged with violating the agreement made at the meeting by bringing in tea on which the duty had been paid, the committee investigated the matter, and only acquitted the Lockharts when it was proved that no duty had been paid on that tea, but that it had been seized at the Philadelphia custom-house and bought by the original owner, who then sold it.

On November 22, 1774, the committee of the borough of Lancaster called upon the freeholders and electors of Lancaster county to meet in the Court House at Lancaster, December 15, 1774. This meeting was to be held for the purpose of electing a Committee of Observation, as recommended by the Continental Congress to all cities, towns and counties in the thirteen colonies. Printed hand-bills for this call were posted in all public places throughout Lancaster county, and an election was held in all the townships of the county for members of the proposed committee.

Seventy-six persons were elected a Committee of Observation, of which twenty-one were front townships now in Dauphin and Lebanon counties. Among the prominent members of this committee from Lancaster borough were Edward Shippen, George Ross, James Webb, Jasper Yeates, William Atlee, Adam Reigart and William Bausman.

The object of this committee was to see that the agreement not to import to or export from Great Britain any goods was fully observed, and not to have any dealings with any one who had commercial intercourse with the Mother Country-in other words, to “boycott” such persons, as well as British goods. The enemies of the patriot cause were as closely watched in Lancaster as in any other place throughout the thirteen Anglo-American colonies.

The Lancaster County Committee of Observation met at the Court House in Lancaster, January 14, 1775, in answer to a call from the Philadelphia committee, to elect delegates to a general convention of the province of Pennsylvania to meet at Philadelphia, January 23, 1775.. Edward Shippen was chosen chairman of the meeting. A communication was read from the Berks county committee urging patriotic action.

The news of the first bloodshed in the Revolution at ,Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, reached Lancaster on Tuesday, April 25, 1775, six days after the occurrence of the momentous event. The borough committee met two days later, April 27, 1775, at the Grape Tavern, the house of Adam Reigart, to take any action deemed necessary.

Edward Shippen presided at this meeting of the committee. The other members present were William Atlee, William Patterson, William Bausman, Charles Hall, Casper Shaffner, Eberhart Michael and Adam Reigart.

This meeting called a meeting of the county committee at Adam Reigart’s house on Monday, May 1st, and printed hand-bills of the call were circulated in all public places throughout the county: The county committee met at the appointed time and place, and resolved to form military companies to defend their rights and liberties with their lives and fortunes.

The warlike action of the county committee was followed within a week by the formation of military companies called Associators. These troops fought bravely in the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth.

Three companies from. Lancaster borough were in Colonel Thompson’s Battalion of Riflemen, commanded by Colonel Edward Hand and Lieutenants David Ziegler and Frederick Hubley. This battalion joined Washington’s army at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in August, 1775. Captain Matthew Smith’s company, of Lancaster, took part in the invasion of Canada in 1975. Lancaster furnished a number of companies and soldiers for other companies during the Revolution, and many of these troops endured the hardships of the encampment at Valley Forge during the severe winter of 1777-78. The 11th Pennsylvania regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Adam Hubley, of Lancaster, formed part of Sullivan’s expedition against the Six Nations, in New York State, in 1779.

On the very day that the Continental Congress declared the thirteen English colonies of North America free and independent States-July 4, 1776-a military convention was held at Lancaster, composed of delegates from the fifty three Pennsylvania battalions of Associators, to form a Eying Camp, as directed by the Continental Congress. Colonel George Ross, of Lancaster, was chosen president of the meeting, and Colonel David Clymer was made secretary. This military convention elected Daniel Roberdeau and James Ewing brigadier-generals of the Flying Camp.

The prominent men of Lancaster during the Revolution were Edward Shippen, George Ross, Jasper Yeates and Adam Reigart. Edward Shippen was the father-in-law of Benedict Arnold. George Ross was Lancaster’s signer of the Declaration of Independence. There was also a Colonel George Ross. The prominent military men were General Edward Hand, a member of Washington’s staff, and Colonels Miles and Atlee.

American soldiers were quartered in the barracks at Lancaster during the winter of 1777-78.

Many British prisoners were confined at Lancaster at different times during the Revolution, from October, 1775, to the end of the war. Among these prisoners were the Hessians captured by General Washington at Trenton, December 26, 1776, and the British prisoners captured at Princeton, January 3, 1977. Many of the Hessians made prisoners by Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga, October 17, 1777, were confined at Lancaster and York.

Among the British prisoners at Lancaster at one time was the unfortunate Major Andre, who was a great favorite here with all classes, and whose tragic end was sincerely lamented by the Lancaster people.

In June, 1777, the prisoners at Lancaster caused great alarm by threatening to burn the town, and Congress took measures to guard them more securely. In 1781 there was a daring plot among the prisoners at the Lancaster barracks to effect their escape ; but the plot was discovered in time to prevent its being carried out, and they were closely guarded by American troops under General Hazen.

Dr. John Kearsley, Christopher Carter and a man named Brooks were arrested in Philadelphia on a charge of treason in trying to induce British troops to invade Pennsylvania and other colonies. These men were sent, to Lancaster, and were here confined during the fall of 1775 and the ensuing winter.

When the British took possession of Philadelphia, September 26, 1777, the Continental Congress fled from that city to Lancaster; but after an informal meeting here they went over to York, where they met September 30, 1777, and remained in session until the following June (1778).


Lancaster was the capital of Pennsylvania front z799 to 1812, when the State capital was removed to Harrisburg. Two of Pennsylvania’s Governors are buried at Lancaster-Thomas Wharton, who died here in 1778; and General Thomas Mifflin, who had been Governor twelve years, and who had also been president of the Continental Congress. He died here in 1800, while a member of the Legislature, and his remains lie buried at Trinity Lutheran church. Simon Snyder, a native of Lancaster, who was Governor for nine years (1809-1818), administered the State government here during his first term.

Among the prominent men of Lancaster during the period following the Revolution were the great divine and scientist, Gotthilf Heinrich Ernest Muhlenberg, who was pastor of Trinity Lutheran church front 1780 until 1815, the year of his death. His brother, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, was the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the First and Third Congresses, and was also a resident of Lancaster in his latter years. These men were the sons of the great divine, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the pioneer of the Lutheran church in America. The late Dr. Henry Ernest Muhlenberg, the noted physician, who died in 1867, was the son of the eminent pastor of Trinity Lutheran church.

On petition of the citizens, Lancaster was incorporated as a city by a charter granted by an act of the State Legislature in x818.

The Lancaster and Philadelphia turnpike, the oldest turnpike in this country, was completed in 1792. The Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, now a part of the great Pennsylvania Railroad, was finished in 1834.


As in every other part of the loyal States, the attack on Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, aroused the patriotism of the people in Lancaster, and noble responses were here made to President Lincoln’s calls for troops. This place was the home of President Buchanan, during whose administration the plans of the Slave-holder’s Rebellion were prepared. It was also the home of Thaddeus Stevens, who was the leader of the Republican majority in the National House of Representatives which assisted in devising measures for the suppression of the Rebellion. Major General John Fulton Reynolds, who died a hero’s death while leading the advance of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, was born in Lancaster; and his remains lie buried beneath a fine monument in Lancaster Cemetery, and beside those of his brother, Admiral William Reynolds, of the United States Navy.

Among Lancaster’s sons who served their country Bering the great Civil War the names of Colonel Henry A. Hambright and Emlen Franklin hold an honored place. The Confederate invasion of Maryland in 1862 caused great alarm in Lancaster, which only subsided after Lee’s defeat at Antietam. Lee’s invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1863, when his advancing columns occupied York and came to Wrightsville, where the bridge across the Susquehanna was burned to prevent the invaders from crossing to Columbia, created intense alarm and excitement in Lancaster; and this alarm only passed away with Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg and his flight from the State.

Among the many societies organized by women throughout the loyal States during the Civil War to minister to the wants of the soldiers, the first was at Lancaster. On April 22, 1861, ten days after the attack on Fort Sumter, the ladies of Lancaster held a meeting at the court-house and formed an association called the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster. This association, under the presidency of Mrs. R. Hubley, did noble work in administering to the wants of the soldiers in the field during the struggle for the preservation of the Union.

The Patriot Daughters and other ladies of Lancaster took the first step to raise funds for the erection of a suitable monument to the memory of the soldiers and sailors of Lancaster county who lost their lives in defense of the Union. It was not until nine years after the war that the monument was erected. In compliance with the demand of public sentiment, it was placed in Center Square, in the city. This beautiful granite structure-surrounded with four emblematic statues and capped with a figure of the Goddess of Liberty-was unveiled with imposing ceremonies in the presence of a great multitude on the 4th of July, 1874.

Since the Civil War, Lancaster has had a steady and healthy material growth, and lines of communication have brought it within easy access to neighboring cities. In addition to the great Pennsylvania Railroad, wtth its two branches connecting Lancaster with Harrisburg, this city has since the Civil War become connected directly by rail with its sister cities of Reading and Lebanon, as well as with the southern and eastern parts of the county by the Quarryville and New Holland branch railways. Rapid internal transit has been gradually advanced by a magnificent system of electric street railways.

Source: Page(s) 12-36, Lancaster and Its People by I.S. Clare. Lancaster, P.A., D.S. Stauffer, 1892.

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