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The Early Settlement and Population
of Lancaster County and City.

It is to be regretted that our fathers
and grandfathers were so indifferent
to the important events of their time,
to the many stirring scenes and occur-
rences of that early period, as not to
have put them on record for the in-
struction and entertainment of those
who were to come after them. Among
them were men strong of mind, vigor-
ous of intellect, students of history
and well equipped in every way to
picture for us the many stirring inci-
dents and experiences that must have
fallen into their lives. And yet, the
fact is, that of all the men who lived
and died in this city and county be-
tween 1730 and 1825 there is hardly
one who has left behind him an auto-
biography, memoir or diary of the
events that fell into the first hundred
years of our recorded history.

There is so much that we would like
to know, so much of interest to us
now, but which must ever remain un*
revealed, that I sometimes feel that I
cannot forgive those old-time worthies
for their indifference to the needs and
wants of their posterity. It is very
true that much has come down to us,
but indirectly and unintentionally.
They led busy lives, each one in his
chosen path, but when the times and
the occasion demanded it lent their
services to the public weal and it is
through official letters and public
documents that most of what we know
concerning them has reached us.

Blot out, in your imagination, all
the Court House records, all the offi-


cial papers written by citizens of Lan-
caster before, during and after the
Revolutionary War, and what worth
the reading would there be left to us?
The remainder would hardly be worth
the preservation. We fail to under-
stand why those intelligent men did
not, for their own private satisfaction,
as well as for ours, their descendants,
pass down to us in tangible form the
story of their lives and times. The
student of our early local history is
confronted all along the way with un-
settled questions, matters merely
hinted at and doubts without number,
the solving of which will always re-
main to vex and puzzle him.

Indeed, I may almost say that we
have more direct information concern-
ing our ancient burg through the
notes and journals of strangers who
passed through the place or spent a
few days here than we have from
the men and women to the manner
born. How satisfactory, for example,
is the old journal of Witham Marshe,
of Maryland, written at the time of the
big treaty here, in 1744, or the follow-
ing extract from the diary of Lieuten-
ant Anbury, of the British Army, who
was brought here as a prisoner and
related what he saw. The following
extract, copied for me by Mr. Sener
from the manuscript diary In the
library at Harrisburg, will serve to
show how we appeared in the eyes of the
foreigners and what they had to say
about us:

Lieutenant Anbury's Account.

"December, 1778. At Lancaster met
with a curious reception. Story afloat
that the country round about was to
be given to Baron Reidesil as a reward
for his services. People excited and
had to be convinced to the contrary.
Lancaster was the largest inland)
town in the United States, containing

( 153 )

about 3,000 Germans and Scotch-Irish.
Most of the houses had an elevation
before the front door and were entered
by ascending high steps, resembling a
small balcony, with benches on both
sides, where the inhabitants sat and
took in the fresh air and viewed the
people passing. Many mechanics.
Three or four churches (7). Largest
pipe organ in America, built at Lititz,
now in use at the Lutheran Church.
Some of the officers went to see this
wonderful piece of mechanism, and
sent descriptions of it to their homes.
Manufacturer had made every part of
it with his own hands. It had not
only every pipe and stop, but had some
pipes of amazing circumference and
had keys to be played by the feet, in
addition to the regular keys." Such
contemporary details are historical in
the fullest sense of the word, and of
exceeding interest and value.

The story of our early local history
has been so often and so well told that
the subject has been worn almost
threadbare. In reality there is little
left to tell and my only intention in the
paper I am about to read is to en-
deavor to make clearer some few
points relating to the early settlement
and population of the county and city,
concerning which I have frequently
found there is, no little misapprehen-
sion. I have little regard for a class
of men, who, for want of a better
name, I may term hair-trigger his-
torians, who accept tradition for facts,
who jump at conclusions and so con-
found fiction with facts as to cast sus-
picion on all they say. Truth is said
to lie at the bottom of a well, but no
one knows how deep that well is until
he tries -to hoist the truth into the

With this introduction, I shall now
proceed to take up the subject proper
of this paper, which deals with the


early settlement of the county and city
and the population of the same.

Confusion in Early Accounts.

Connected with early Lancaster
county is an interesting question that
deserves attention, not only because
it is germane to the location of the
county seat itself, but also because it
does not appear to have received the
attention its importance deserves.
We all know that Lacastern town was
laid out in the year following the erec-
tion of the county, that is, in 1730. We
are also aware that, prior to that time,
the best known man in the place was
a tavern-keeper, George Gibson by
name, whose place was rear a spring,
a big hickory tree standing near by it,
with a representation of the same on
the tavern sign. But who knows who
George Gibson was, where he came
from and when he came or even the
origin of the little information we
have concerning him and his tavern,
and much else connected with the
town, its name, settlement and popula-
tion? Whenever you come across
statements bearing on these questions
they appear with quotation marks at-
tached to them, indicating they have
been taken from some ancient author-
ity which is not mentioned, and is now

Is there anywhere an authority,
written or printed, that clears up these
questions or even throws any light
upon them? I confess I have been
unable to discover any. Hazard, Day
and Rupp and Mombert all quote the
story, but they all give it at second
hand. The first named says: "When
first laid out there was one house in
it and that was a tavern, the occupant
being a man named Gibson." 1 That
is such a glaring misstatementastobe

'Hazard's Register, vol. 4, p. 391.

V 155)

almost ridiculous, as can be easily
proven. Again Hazard says: "When
Lancaster was laid out Governor Ham-
ilton offered two places, one known
as 'High Plain,' or 'Gibson's Pasture,*
and the other as the 'Roaring Brook,'
which was on the west. Both sites
were final ./ united and there was a
Black Swamp running through it" 2

That "Roaring Brook" was a con-
siderable water course in early times
may be inferred from the fact that a
stone bridge was thrown across it on
West King street by Councils in 1771,
which was the first bridge built within
the borough limits. Even as late as
1825 it must have been a brook of
some importance, for in that year
City Councils granted to Samuel Fah-
nestock, for a period of twent"-five
years, the use of the water in the
stream for some establishment he
was about to erect on lot? 335, 336,
337 and 338 fronting on Water street;
the water to be conveyed in pipes not
to exceed one foot in diameter and be
laid in the middle of the stream; with
the further privilege of erecting dams
12 inches high across the waterway. 3

Let me now direct your attention to
a quotation from Rupp's History of
the County, which is a-lso marked as
having been taken from an earlier
authority. He says: "Governor Ham-
ilton made an offer of two places, the
'Old Indian Field/ 'High Plain,' 'Gib-
son's Pasture,' 'Sanderson's Pas-
ture;' the other, 'Waving Hills,' em-
bosomed in wood, bounded by 'Roar-
ing Brook,' on the west. Gibson re-
sided near a fine spring with a large
hickory tree before his door. This
was the favorite tree of the Indian
tribe who lived in the vicinity, and
were called by the whites from that

^Hazard's Register, vol. 8, p. 60.
3 See ordinance passed by City Coun-
cils, on April 15, 1825.


circumstance the 'Hickory Indians.' " 4
There is confusion here which is
not easily straightened out. Were
these names, "Old Indian Field," "Gib-
son's Pasture," "High Plain" and
"Sanderson's Pasture," all applied to
the same piece of ground or did they
represent distinct parcels named after
different owners or after some other
special locality? And who was San-
derson himself? Hazard clearly says
the "High Plain," or Gibson's Pas-
ture," which would indicate that the
two names were applied to the same
piece of ground. Both Hazard and
Rupp agree in saying that Governor
Hamilton offered two places or sites
for the erection of the Court House
and Jail. Here again there is a con-
flict of authorities. The site finally
agreed upon for the public buildings
was found to be still vested in the
Penn heirs. How, then, could Gov-
ernor Hamilton have been able to
offer them to the county authorities
for their uses? However that may
be, the lands known by the above
names were evidently very small
tracts, because we know pretty defin-
itely that Gibson's tavern was located
on East King street, not far from the
Square, while "Roaring Brook," which
was the Water street creek, bounded
the second tract offered, "Waving
Hills," on the west. These two offer-
ed sites were not more than two
blocks distant from each other. The
inference, therefore, is that these
various "pastures" or fields were
merely small clearings in the woods
that then covered most of the Lancas-
ter-town site. Perhaps if we could
trace these early descriptions and
designations to their original sources
we would know more about them, but
that seems impossible at the present

Rupp's "History of Lancaster
County," p. 243.

( 157)

time. It is not improbable that both
Hazard and Rupp during their
searches among the State Archives
found some document or authority
from whence they drew their informa-
tion. It is well known that many doc-
uments have been lost or stolen from
the Archives, and there are still thou-
sands that are now being carefully
overhauled and bound, and this miss-
ing link may yet turn up. Until that
time comes we will, no doubt, con-
tinue to wander among these uncer-
tainties; for the present we have to
leave the question as we found it.

Town Site Occupied Before Gibson's

The common belief is that Gibson
was one of the earliest settlers, but
the belief also prevails that he was
not there long prior to the organiza-
tion of the county, that is, in 1729.
This latter view I do not believe ten-
able, Rupp says he kept tavern in 1722.

Gibson was undoubtedly himself a
squatter. It can not have been other-
wise, else his "Pasture" lot could not
have been in the ownership of the
Proprietaries, as the Commissioners
reported, nor could Hamilton have of-
fered it to the county for building pur-
poses. The fact is, Gibson disappears
as an innkeeper before 1729. His
name is not one of the nine who were
granted licenses at the August Quar-
ter Sessions in that year. Indeed, he
does not appear as a landholder until
1740. He was County Treasurer in
1730, and later a prominent member
of St. James' Episcopal Church.

It must not be inferred that, be-
cause Lancaster was not laid out un-
til 1730, there were no people living
here before that time. Such a view
is wholly erroneous. The Mennon-
ites, as we know, made their first set-
tlement on the Pequea in 1709, but


two years later they were followed by
other settlers, who went westward
beyond them, so that as early as 1712
there were already lands taken up on
whalt later became Lancaster town-
stead. That was at least ten years
before George Gibson and his Hickory
Tree Tavern appear on the scene. In-
deed, what use could there have been
for a tavern but the accommodation
of the traveling public, and that there
was a traveling public as well as a
stationary one to cater to I think can
be satisfactorily shown. The evi-
dence 'is overwhelming that as early
as 1717-1718, not only on the lands of
the site of Lancaster, but in the ad-
joining districts, on every side, there
was a thrifty and prosperous agricul-
tural population.

No White Settlers Before 1700.

It is a well-known fact that prior to
the year 1700 no white men had set-
tled within the territory now known as
Lancaster county. There were Indian
traders, however, who, under license
from the Proprietary Government, had
established trading posts at various
points for traffic with the aborigines. It
is sufficient for my purpose to name
only a few of the earliest of these
traders. The earliest were Canadian
Frenchmen, who, from their acquaint-
ance and relations to the Five Nations,
gradually found their way as far south
as Lancaster county, where some of
them established their headquarters.
Among these were Martin Chartiere,
his son, Peter, a troublesome fellow,
James Le Tort and Peter Bezallion.
Later the Scotch-Irish took up this line
of trade and some of the best known
names in our history were engaged
in it.

It was not until 1711 that we find
the first official recognition of the
planting of a colony of white men

( 159)

within the present borders of Lancas-
ter county. In June of that year, Gov-
ernor Gookin and several members of
the Assembly visited the Indians at
Conestoga, and the Governor made
the following brief address to the red
men assembled, after having made
them presents of powder, bullets and
cloth: "Governor Penn upon all occa-
sions is willing to show how great a
regard he bears to you; he, therefore,
has sent this small present (a fore-
runner of a greater one to come next
spring) to you, and hath required me
to acquaint you that he is about to
settle some people upon the branches
of the Potomac, and doubts not but the
same mutual friendship which has all
along as brothers passed betwixt the
inhabitants of this Government and
you, will also continue betwixt you
and those he is about to settle; he in-
tends to present fine belts of wampum
to the Five Nations, and one to you
of Conestoga,and requires your friend-
NEAR PEQUEA." To this the Indians
made answer that they were well
pleased with the Governor's speech,
but were afraid if the people spoken
of were settled near the Potomac, they
would not be safe, as they would be
between them (the Indians) and the
Tuscaroras, with whom they were at
war, and added, "As to the Palatines,
they are, in their opinion, safely
sealed." 5

Settlements Rapidly Developed.

From that time onwara the settle-
ment of Lancaster county progressed
with great rapidity. I shall direct at-
tention to the extent and the direc-
tion it took in order to show that
when George Gibson and Lancaster
town loomed up the county throughout
the greater part of its extent was

& Colonial Records, vol. 2, p. 533.


dotted with the farms and homes of
German, Scotch-Irish and Quaker set-

One Rudy Mayer squatted on what
is probably the yery ground where
we are gathered to-night, as early
as 1712, and he had a number of
neighbors, Michael Shank, Jacob Im-
ble, Jacob Hostetter, John Mayer and
Henry Bare. Conestoga township
was organized and had regularly ap-
pointed officials in the same year. As
early as 1714 the tide of immigration,
following up the eastern side of the
Susquehanna, had reached the valley
of the Chiquesalunga, and the Done-
gal Presbyterian congregation was
organized in that year. 6 In 1715, the
Rev. Mr. Gillespie, of Chester county,
extended his pastoral labors as far
westward as Paxtang, near Harris-
burg. There was a burying ground
there as early as 1716, showing that
the frontier settlements had at that
early period gone far beyond Lancas-
ter. 7 East Donegal received its first
settlers in 1716, and seventy heads of
families were located there prior to
the erection of the county in 1729.

Settlements were made in Earl town-
ship as early as 1717, and in the same
years Lancaster township began filling
up. In that year Peter Lemon had
settled on the very land which now
comprises the County Poorhouse
farm. In the same year Dr. Neff, so
far as known, our first regular physi-
cian, located in the county.and erected
a mill. As early as 1717 as many as
5,000 acres of land had been applied
for in, and immediately around, the
site of Lancaster by German immi-
grants, and in that year Michael

G West's "Origin of Donegal and Car-
lisle Presbytery," quoted by Ziegler in
his "History of Donegal Church," p. 9.

7 Egle's "History of Paxtang Church,"
p. 5.

8 Ellis & Evans' "History of Lancas-
ter County," p. 905.


Shank, Theodorus Eby and others had
patented large tracts of land on the
town site. 9

Indians Become Alarmed.

So numerous had the settlers be-
come that in 1718 Conestoga town-
ship was cut off from Chester county
and erected into a township embracing
all the portions west of the Octorara
creek and along the eastern branches
of the Conestoga. The list of the
heads of families and single men is
still to be seen in the Commissioners'
office, and includes about 120 names.
In the same year, on a petition of the
inhabitants on and near the Cones-
toga, a road was laid out from that
stream to Thomas Moore's and the
Brandywine. At a conference held at
the Conestoga Indian villages, with
the Six Nations, in June, 1719, the
chiefs of that noted delegation ex-
pressed dissatisfaction with the
numerous settlements of whites made
along the Susquehanna. 10

Conrad Beissel and a few com-
panions had erected their huts on
Mill Creek, in the neighborhood of
Bird-in-Hand, as early as 1721. Others
were there still 1719 and 1720.
The Bunkers were all along that
stream and the Cocalico in those

The heads of families in old Cones-
toga numbered 250 in 1724, indicating
a population of perhaps 1,000 at that
time, in that single district. By 1721
settlers had already crossed the Sus-
quehanna and taken up lands in the
territory claimed by Lord Baltimore,
the proprietary of Maryland, and in
1722 the warrant for the survey of
Springettsbury Manor, in York county,
was issued the largest of all the

9 Ellis & Evans' History of Lancas-
ter County, p. 360.

10 Colonial Records, vol. 2, pp. 47-48.

( 162 )

Penn Manors. Proud, the early his-
torian, tells us that "the settlements
about the Indian villages of Conestoga
were considerably advanced in im-
provements at this time (1720) ; the
land thereabouts being exceedingly
rich, and is now surrounded with
divers fine plantations, or farms,
where they raise quantities of wheat,
barley, flax and hemp." 11

The London Land Company.

In fact, so numerous had the set-
tlers become in the valley of the Con-
estoga and its tributaries at the time
of the founding of Lancaster Town,
and in many cases, I fear, without pay-
ing the slightest attention to the legal
requirement of procuring land from the
Proprietary Government, or any one
else, that in 1730 the London Land
Company, part of whose lands lay in
this county, through its agent, Henry
Hodge, Esq., on June 30, issued a
hand-bill, which was widely dis-
tributed throughout the region where
these lands lay, among the squatters
who had located upon them without
consulting or paying for the same to
the company, warning them to leave
within one month of the date of the
notice. Application was at the same
time made to the local Court to eject
them from the lands on which they
had settled. As no further action is
recorded, it is likely that these peo-
ple complied with the demands of the
owners and made payment for the
lands they had taken without first se-
curing right and title by purchase." 12

"Proud's "History of Pennsylvania,"
vol. 2. p. 128.

12 The following is a copy of the cir-
cular alluded to above:

"Philadelphia, 20th of the 6th Month,


"WHEREAS divers PERSONS have
(illegally) settled themselves and fami-
lies on several Tracts of Land, known
by the Name of the London Companys
Land, and that to the Damage of the
Owners thereof:


A Large Population by 1729.

When, therefore, the act of May 10,
1729, was passed for the erection of
the new county to be called Lancaster,
there was already a large body of set-
tlers around the little hamlet which
was made the shiretown, and, perhaps,
fifty families in the place itself. Nine
years after the county was organized,
the number of taxables in it was 2,560,
indicating a population of perhaps
11,000. We shall, therefore, be not far
from the mark if we put the popula-
tion of the county at the period of its
organization at about 11,000 souls. An-
other evidence of a numerous popula-
tion at that period is the fact that at
the May term of the Court in 1730, no
fewer than thirty-six tavern licenses
were granted.

Under the act passed for the erec-
tion of Lancaster county, four men,
John Wright, Caleb Pierce, Thomas
Edwards and James Mitchell, or any
three of them, were empowered to pur-
chase for the use of the county a con-
venient piece of land whereon to
build a Court House and Prison, and
they certified to Governor Gordon that
they had done so, the land agreed
upon for the purpose lying on or near
a small run or water course between
the plantations of Roody Mire, Michael
Shank and Jacob Imble. This also
shows that lands already occupied

"THESE therefore to give Notice to
all such Persons, that if they (within
one Month after the Date hereof) shall
refuse or neglect to make Satisfaction
for the damages already done, and shall
presume hereafter to cut any Timber-
Trees or Underwood, etc., they may
expect to be proceeded against accord-
ing to a Law of this Province, made
and provided in that Case.



A fac-simile of the original ap-
pears in Sachse's "German Sectarians
of Pennsylvania, 1708-1742," of which
the above is a copy.


were selected to build the public build-
ings upon. The circumstance that
further investigation brought to light,
the fact that the title of the selected
plot was .still vested in the proprietary
Government, and that the men who
had settled upon it had not purchased
it nor even located it by warrant, does
not change the fact that the town site
had been occupied years before there
was any thought of locating the shire-
town on this spot. 13

I3 "At a meeting of the Provincial
Council, held at Philadelphia, Feb'y. 19,
1729-30. The Governor (Gordon) ac-
quainted the Board that, whereas, by
the law Erecting Lancaster County,
John Wright, Caleb Pierce, Thomas Ed-
wards & James Mitchel, or any three
of them are empowered to purchase
for the use of the said County, a con-
venient piece of Land, to be approved
of by the Governor, & thereon to
build a Court House and Prison, and
that now the said John Wright, Caleb
Pierce & James Mitchel, have by a
Certificat under their hands, signified
that they have agreed upon a Lott of
Land for the Uses aforesaid, lying on
or near a small Run of Water, between
the Plantation of Roody Mire, Michael
Shank and Jacob Imble, about ten miles
from the Sasquehannah River, and
prayed his approbation of the same.
The Governor therefore referr'd the
matter to the Consideration of the
Board, whether the Situation of the
Place those Gentlemen had pitched on
for a Town might be fitt to be con-
firmed. & that a Town should accord-
ingly be fixed there. But the Question
being asked to whom the land they had
made choice of now belongs, & who
has the Property of it. because it may
be in such hands as will not part with
it, or at least on reasonable terms for
that use, & this not being known by
any of the Board, it was deferr'd till
such a time as that Point could be
ascertained. But as it is presumed for
anything that is vet known, to be un-
surveyed Land, & that the Right is
only in the Proprietor, It is the
oninion of the Board that it is more to
be granted by the Proprietor for such
uses, than by any other Person.

"Mem. The Governor having under-
stood that the Right of the Land

1 3

Online LibraryFrank Ried DiffenderfferThe early settlement and population of Lancaster County and city .. → online text (page 1 of 3)