27 June 2013

Those Places Thursday: The founding of Lancaster

I am reading John Loose's The Heritage of Lancaster. The late Mr. Loose was well known in genealogical/local history circles.  Since I've traced the hubby's family back to the original permanent settlers in the County, I figured it would be a good read. Hence this entry (and probably next Thursday as well) will be more of a scattered note taking than an actual article.

The County was formed on 10 May 1729. That makes us 284 years old. To put that in perspective, Pennsylvania itself was form on 5 May 1681. That means the Commonwealth was less than a half century old when Lancaster was carved out of Chester County.

The Herr/Mylin/Kendig families have long been credited as being the County's first permanent settlers. They settled in the Lampeter and Willow Street area, where the Hans Herr House is now a registered historical landmark. Loose points out that two other families have recently tried to claim that as well however his mention of them is little more than a note.

William Penn - the founder of Pennsylvania - was known for his religious tolerance and that acceptance is what brought many families to the area.

The county's first courthouse, in 1729, was Postlehwaite's Tavern near Rock Hill on Long Lane. At the writing of this text, the tavern was still standing.

Lancaster City was founded by James Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton. He laid out the streets and residential lots and the two mile square town continued to flourish. It officially became a Borough on 1 May 1742. The borough was able to operate without property taxes until 1812.

One early and influential citizen of Lancaster was George Ross (1730-1779). He was an esteemed lawyer and is said to be Lancaster's wealthiest citizen. He was an active member of Lancaster's first fire company - Union Fire Company No. 1. Ross also was a signer of the Declaration of Independence!

Other prominent early settlers were:
Jasper Yeats - a lawyer and member of the Union Fire Company
Joseph Simons - patriarch of the Jewish community, also a merchant and trader
John Joseph Henry - a distinguished justice
Christopher Hager - merchant, founder of the famous Hager Department Store
Matthias Slough - innkeeper at the Sign of the White Swan
Dr. Adam Simon Kuhn - prominent physician, layman at Trinity Lutheran Church
Rev. Johann Casper Stoever - first regular pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
John Jacob Hoch - first minister of Reformed congregation

Law was tough and justice was swift. Those who broke the law were put on display in the Center Square. Public whipping were common. The county's first prison was erected in the 1730's. The present prison was built in 1852.

The French and Indian Wars of the 1750's led Lancastrians to make and provide guns, weapons, wagons and other supplies. Lancaster was well equipped. and soon became the staging area for the militia.

In 1744 Lancaster was home to a treaty making session between the Six Nations of Indians and the colonies of PA, MD and VA.

Early churches of Lancaster:
1729 - Trinity Lutheran Church (met in 1729, 1st church built in 1738)
1736 - German Reformed Church
1742 - Roman Catholic mission of St John Nepomucene (became St Mary's)
1744 - St James Church (Church of England)
1746 - Moravians (aka United Brethren)
1747 - Jewish congregation met in home of Joseph Simon
1752 - Quakers (aka Religious Society of Friends)
1760 - First Presbyterian Church

The cemetery of Temple Shaarai Shomayim is the fourth oldest Jewish cemetery in the United States!

Source: Loose, John Ward Wilson. The Heritage of Lancaster. CA: Windsor Publications, 1978. Chapter 1: The Founding of the Townstead.
Note: borrowed from the Manheim Twp. Public Library (917.815 LOO)
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.