Lancaster County, Pennsylvania facts for kids
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Lancaster County Courthouse
Location within the U.S. state of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's location within the U.S.
|Founded||May 10, 1729|
|Named for||Lancaster, Lancashire|
|• Total||984 sq mi (2,550 km2)|
|• Land||944 sq mi (2,440 km2)|
|• Water||40 sq mi (100 km2) 4.1%%|
| • Estimate
|• Density||569/sq mi (220/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
|Congressional districts||7th, 16th|
Lancaster County (Pennsylvania German: Lengeschder Kaundi) sometimes nicknamed the Garden Spot of America or Pennsylvania Dutch Country, is a county located in the south central part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 519,445. Its county seat is Lancaster.
Lancaster County comprises the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The County of Lancaster is a popular tourist destination, with the Amish community there being a major attraction. The term Pennsylvania Dutch comes from the Pennsylvania German language, derived from the German Deutsch ('German'), Dutch Duits ('German'), Deitsch ('Dutch' which in this usage has nothing to do with the people or language of the Netherlands): they are the descendants of Germans (Deutsche) who immigrated in the 18th and 19th centuries for the freedom of religion offered by William Penn. They were also attracted by the rich soil and mild climate of the area. Also attracted to promises of religious freedom, French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution settled this area in 1710.
There were also significant numbers of English, Welsh and Ulster Scots (also known as the Scotch-Irish in the colonies).
- Flora and fauna
- Metropolitan Statistical Area
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The area that became Lancaster County was part of William Penn's 1681 charter. John Kennerly received the first recorded deed from Penn in 1691. Although Matthias Kreider was said to have been in the area as early as 1691, there is no evidence that any Europeans settled in Lancaster County before 1710.
Lancaster County was part of Chester County, Pennsylvania until May 10, 1729, when it was organized as the fourth county in the state. Lancaster County was named after the city of Lancaster in the county of Lancashire in England, the native home of John Wright, one of the early settlers. As settlement increased, six other counties were subsequently formed from territory directly taken, in all or in part, from Lancaster County: Berks (1752), Cumberland (1750), Dauphin (1785), Lebanon (1813), Northumberland (1772), and York (1749). Many other counties were in turn formed from these six.
Indigenous peoples had occupied the areas along the waterways for thousands of years, and established varying cultures. Historic Native American tribes in the area at the time of European encounter included the Shawnee, Susquehannock, Gawanese, Lenape (or Delaware), and Nanticoke peoples, who were from different language families and had distinct cultures.
Among the earliest recorded inhabitants of the Susquehanna River valley were the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock, whose name was derived from the Lenape term for "Oyster River People". (The Lenape spoke an Algonquian language.) The English called them the Conestoga, after the name of their principal village, Gan'ochs'a'go'jat'ga ("Roof-place" or "town"), anglicized as "Conestoga." Other places occupied by the Susquehannock were Ka'ot'sch'ie'ra ("Place-crawfish"), where present-day Chickisalunga developed, and Gasch'guch'sa ("Great-fall-in-river"), now called Conewago Falls, Lancaster County).
Other Native tribes, as well as early European settlers, considered the Susquehannock a mighty nation, experts in war and trade. They were beaten only by the combined power of the Five Nation Iroquois Confederacy, after colonial Maryland withdrew its support. After 1675, the Susquehannock were totally absorbed by the Iroquois. A handful were settled at "New Conestoga," located along the south-bank of the Conestoga River in Conestoga Township of the county. They helped staff an Iroquois consulate to the English in Maryland and Virginia (and later, Pennsylvania). By the 1720s, the colonists considered the Conestoga Indians as a "civilized" or "friendly tribe," having been converted in large part to Christianity, speaking English as a second language, making brooms and baskets for sale, and naming children after their favorite neighbors.
The outbreak of Pontiac's War in the summer of 1763, coupled with the ineffective policies of the provincial government, aroused widespread settler suspicion and hatred against all Indians in the frontier counties, without distinguishing among hostile and friendly peoples. On December 14, 1763, the Paxton Boys, led by Matthew Smith and Capt. Lazarus Stewart, attacked Conestoga, killing the six Indians present, and burning all the house and stores. Officials sheltered the fourteen survivors of the tribe in protective custody in the county jail, but the Paxton Boys returned on December 27, broke into the jail, and massacred the remaining Conestoga. The lack of effective government control and widespread sympathy in the frontier counties for the murderers meant they were never discovered or brought to justice.
Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary dispute
Pennsylvania had a longstanding dispute with Maryland about the southern border of the province and Lancaster County. Nine years of armed clashes accompanied the Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary dispute, which began soon after the 1730 establishment of Wright's Ferry across the Susquehanna River. Lord Baltimore believed that his grant to Maryland extended to the 40th parallel. This was about halfway between present-day Lancaster and the town of Willow Street, Pennsylvania. This line of demarcation would have resulted in Philadelphia's being included in Maryland.
New settlers began to cross the Susquehanna. In 1730 the Wright's Ferry services were licensed and officially begun. Starting in mid-1730, Thomas Cresap, acting on behalf of Lord Baltimore, began confiscating the newly settled farms near present-day Peach Bottom and Columbia, Pennsylvania (at the time this was not named, but it was first called "Wright's Ferry", as noted on map). Believing he controlled this land under his grant, Lord Baltimore wanted the income from the lands. He had believed he had a defensible claim established on the west bank of the Susquehanna since 1721, and that his demesne and grant extended to forty degrees north. If he allowed Pennsylvanians to settle his lands without reacting, their squatting would constitute a counter claim.
Cresap established a second ferry in the upper Conejohela downriver from John Wright's, and near Peach Bottom. He demanded that settlers either move out or pay Maryland for the right-bank lands. Settlers believed they already had rights to these under Pennsylvania grants. Cresap drove off settlers by vandalizing farms and killing livestock; he pushed out settlers from southern York and Lancaster counties. He gave the abandoned lands to his followers. If a follower was arrested by Lancaster authorities, the Marylanders broke him out of the lockup.
Lord Baltimore negotiated a compromise in 1733, but Cresap ignored it and continued his raids. A deputy was sent to arrest him in 1734, and Cresap killed him at the door. The Pennsylvania governor demanded that Maryland arrest Cresap for murder; the Maryland governor instead commissioned him as a captain in the militia. In 1736, Cresap was finally arrested; he was jailed until 1737 when the King intervened. In 1750, a court decided that, by failing to develop the land with settlers, Lord Baltimore had forfeited his rights to a twenty-mile (32 km) swath of land. In 1767, a new Pennsylvania-Maryland border was officially established by the Mason-Dixon line.
Diversity of settlers
The names of the original Lancaster County townships reflect the diverse national origins of settlers in the new county: two had Welsh names (Caernarvon and Lampeter), three had Native American names (Cocalico, Conestoga and Peshtank or Paxton), six were English (Warwick, Lancaster, Martic, Sadsbury, Salisbury and Hempfield); four were Irish (Donegal, Drumore, Derry, and Leacock), reflecting mostly Scots-Irish (or Ulster Scots) from Ulster, a province in the north of Ireland; Manheim was German, Lebanon came from the Bible, a basis of all the European cultures; and Earl was a translation of the German surname of Graf or Groff.
Lancaster County's native son James Buchanan, a Democrat, was elected as the 15th President of the United States in 1856, the only Pennsylvania native to hold the presidency. His home Wheatland is now operated as a house museum in Lancaster.
Thaddeus Stevens, the noted Radical Republican, served Lancaster County in the United States House of Representatives from 1849–1853 and from 1859 until his death in 1868. Stevens left a $50,000 bequest to start an orphanage. This property eventually was developed as the state-owned Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology. Both men are buried in Lancaster.
Slavery and the Christiana incident
Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1780, with gradual implementation. The existing 6000 slaves in Pennsylvania remained slaves, and the registered children of those slaves were enslaved until their 28th birthday. The last slave child registered in Pennsylvania was Haley, born in 1811, who became a freedman no later than 1839. Pennsylvania was fully a free state when the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed by Congress as part of the Compromise of 1850. It regarded slaves brought voluntarily to the state by their masters as free, and did not pay compensation if the slave chose to take freedom in the state.
Immediately north of the Mason-Dixon line, bordered by the Susquehanna River which had been a traditional route from the Chesapeake Bay watershed into the heart of what became Pennsylvania, Lancaster County was an important destination of the Underground Railroad in the antebellum years. Many of the people of German descent opposed slavery and cooperated in aiding fugitive slaves. Local Lancaster County resident Charles Spotts found 17 stations. They included hiding places with trap doors, hidden vaults, an underground cave, and one with a brick tunnel leading to Octoraro Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna.
Edward Gorsuch was not known to beat his slaves. As a wealthy Maryland wheat farmer, he had manumitted several slaves in their 20s. He allowed his slaves to work for cash elsewhere during the slow season. Upon finding some of his wheat missing, he thought his slaves sold it to a local farmer. His slaves Noah Buley, Nelson Ford, George Ford, and Joshua Hammond, fearing his bad temper, fled across the Mason–Dixon line to the farm of William Parker, a mulatto free man and abolitionist who lived in Christiana, Pennsylvania. Parker, 29, was member of the Lancaster Black Self-Protection Society and known to use violence to defend himself and the fugitive slaves who sought refuge in the area.
Gorsuch obtained four warrants and organized four parties, which set out separately with federal marshals to recover his property—the four slaves. He was killed and others were wounded. While Gorsuch was legally entitled to recover his slaves under the Fugitive Slave Act, it is not clear who precipitated the violence. The incident was variously called the "Christiana Riot", "Christiana Resistance", the "Christiana Outrage", and the "Christiana Tragedy". The Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society helped provide defense for the suspects charged in the case.
The event frightened slaveholders, as black men not only fought back but prevailed. Some feared this would inspire enslaved African Americans and encourage rebelliousness. The case was prosecuted in Philadelphia U.S. District Court under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required citizens to cooperate in the capture and return of fugitive slaves. The disturbance caused regional and racial tensions to flare up more. In the North, it added to the push to abolish slavery.
In September 1851, the grand jury returned a "true bill" (indictment) against 38 suspects, who were held in Philadelphia's Moyamensing Prison to await trial. U.S. District Judge John K. Kane ruled that the men could be tried for treason.
The only person actually tried was Castner Hanway, a white man, who on November 15, 1851 was tried for liberating slaves taken into custody by U.S. Marshal Kline, as well as for resisting arrest, conspiracy, and treason. Hanway's responsibility for the violent events was unclear. He was reported as one of the first on the scene where Gorsuch and others of his party were attacked, and he and his horse provided cover for Dickerson, Gorsuch and Dr. Pearce, who were wounded. The jury deliberated 15 minutes before returning a Not Guilty. Among the five defense lawyers, recruited by the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, was U.S. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, who had practiced law in Lancaster County since at least 1838.
The oldest surviving dwelling of European settlers in the county is that of Mennonite Bishop Hans Herr, built in 1719. In 1989, Donald Kraybill counted 37 distinct religious bodies/organizations, with 289 congregations and 41,600 baptized members, among the plain sects who are descendants of the Anabaptist Mennonite immigrants to Lancaster County. The Mennonite Central Committee in Akron supports relief in disasters and provides manpower and material to local organizations for their direction in relief efforts.
The town of Lititz was originally planned as a closed community, founded early in the 1740s by members of the Moravian Church. The town eventually grew and welcomed its neighbors. The Moravian Church established Linden Hall School for Girls in 1746; it is one of the earliest educational institutions in continuous operation in the United States.
In addition to the Ephrata Cloister, the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) trace their beginnings to a 1767 meeting at the Isaac Long barn, near the hamlet of Oregon, in West Lampeter Township. The EUB, a German Methodist church, merged in 1968 with the traditionally English Methodist Episcopal Church to become the United Methodist Church.
The first Jewish resident was Isaac Miranda of land "in trust for the society of Jews settled in and about Lancaster," to be used as a place of burial. Today, this cemetery is still in use by; it is considered the fourth-oldest Jewish cemetery in the United States.
In the early 21st century, Lancaster County is home to three synagogues, the Orthodox Degel Israel, the Conservative Beth El, and the Reform Shaarai Shomayim. In 2003 Rabbi Elazar Green & Shira Green founded the Chabad Jewish Enrichment Center, a branch of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, that focuses on serving the Jewish students of Franklin and Marshall College, as well serving the general community with specific religious services. The larger community enjoys a Jewish Community Center which hosts a preschool, and a catering hall. The Lancaster Mikvah Association runs a mikveh on Degel Israel's property. Central PA Kosher Stand is operated at Dutch Wonderland, a seasonal amusement park.
This area was also settled by French Huguenots, who had fled to England and then the colonies in the late 1600s and early 1700s to escape religious persecution from Catholics in France. Among the first residents of this group was Isaac LeFèvre, who with a group of other Huguenots settled in the area of the Pequea Creek.
- Fraktur, the artistic and elaborate 18th- century and 19th-century hand-illuminated folk art inspired by German blackface type, originated at Johann Conrad Beissel's cloister of German Seventh Day Baptists in Ephrata.
- The first battery-powered watch, the Hamilton Electric 500, was released in 1957 by the Hamilton Watch Company.
- The Pennsylvania Long Rifle, otherwise known as the "Kentucky" (Long) Rifle.
- The Conestoga wagon, which started the practice of driving right-of-center.
- The Stogie cigar The word Stogie is a shortened form of Conestoga.
- The Amish quilt, a highly utilitarian art form, dates to 1849 in Lancaster County.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 984 square miles (2,550 km2), of which 944 square miles (2,440 km2) is land and 40 square miles (100 km2) (4.1%) is water.
Almost all of Lancaster County is in the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin, via the Susquehanna River watershed (the exception is a small unnamed tributary of the West Branch of Brandywine Creek that rises in eastern Salisbury Township and is part of the Delaware River watershed). The major streams in the county (with percent area drained) are: Conestoga River and Little Conestoga Creek (31.42%); Pequea Creek (15.02%); Chiques Creek (or Chickies Creek, 12.07%); Cocalico Creek (11.25%); Octoraro Creek (10.74%); and Conowingo Creek (3.73%).
Lancaster County is home to Susquehannock State Park, located on 224 acres (91 ha) overlooking the Susquehanna River in Drumore Township. One of the three tracts comprising William Penn State Forest, the 10-acre (4.0 ha) Cornwall fire tower site, is located in northern Penn Township near the Lebanon County border. The site, with its 1923 fire tower, was acquired by the state in January, 1935.
There are also six Pennsylvania State Game Lands for hunting, trapping, and fishing located in Lancaster County. They are numbers (with location and area): 46 (near Hopeland, 5,035 acres (2,038 ha)), 52 (near Morgantown, 1,447 acres (586 ha)), 136 (near Kirkwood, 91 acres (37 ha)), 156 (near Poplar Grove, 4,537 acres (1,836 ha)), 220 (near Reinholds, 96 acres (39 ha)), and 288 (near Martic Forge, 89 acres (36 ha)).
The southern border of Lancaster county has some protected serpentine barrens, a rare ecosystem where toxic metals in the soil inhibit the growth of plants and lead to the formation of natural grassland and savanna. These barrens include the New Texas Serpentine Barrens, privately owned land managed by The Nature Conservancy, and Rock Springs Nature Preserve, a publicly accessible preserve with hiking trails owned and managed by the Lancaster County Conservancy.
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania also leads the nation in farmland preservation. Organizations like the Lancaster Farmland Trust, the Lancaster County Agricultural Preservation Board, and multiple municipalities work in partnership with landowners to preserve their farms and way of life for future generations by placing a conservation easement on their property. A conservation easement restricts real estate development, commercial and industrial uses, and certain other activities on the land that are mutually agreed upon by the grantees and the property owner. After giving up their development rights, landowners continue to manage and own their properties and may receive significant income tax breaks. The conservation easement ensures that the land will remain available for agricultural use forever. Lancaster Farmland Trust is a private, non-profit organization that works closely with the vast Amish and Plain-Sect communities of Lancaster County to ensure their farms will retain their agricultural value. Together with the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board, the County is approaching a milestone of 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) of preserved farmland in the county—a first in the nation.
The area falls along the general track of the Appalachian Mountains along the east coast of the North America. As a result, residual seismic activity from ancient faulting occasionally produces minor earthquakes of magnitude 3 to 4. For example, on December 27, 2008, shortly after midnight, Lancaster County had a 3.3 magnitude earthquake which was widely felt in the Susquehanna Valley but caused no damage to structures.
- Lebanon County (North)
- Berks County (Northeast)
- Dauphin County (Northwest)
- Cecil County, Maryland (South)
- Harford County, Maryland (Southwest)
- Chester County (East)
- York County (West)
Flora and fauna
The bog turtle was first discovered and identified by science in Lancaster County by botanist Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg. Muhlenberg discovered the turtle species accidentally while he was conducting a survey of the flora in Lancaster County. The species was named Muhlenberg's tortoise in 1801, but renamed bog turtle, its present common name, in 1956.
|U.S. Decennial Census
|Lancaster County Demographics|
|Two or more races||1.8%||1.8%||2.4%|
|Hispanic/Latino of any race||9.5%||6.3%||17.1%|
|White alone, not Hispanic or Latino||83.6%||78.4%||62.6%|
As of the census of 2010, there were 519,445 people. The population density was 561 people per square mile (217/km²). There were 193,602 households. Of that number 135,401 (69.9%) were families. Of those families, 120,112 (88.7%) had children under the age of 18. There were 202,952 housing units at an average density of 215 per square mile (83/km²). The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.13.
In the county, the population was spread out with 24.8% under the age of 18 and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.2 years. For every 100 females there were 95.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.60 males.
5.58% of the population and 8.37% of the children aged 5–17 reported speaking Pennsylvania German, German, or Dutch at home, while a further 4.97% of the population spoke Spanish. 39.8% were of German, 11.8% United States or American, 7.2% Irish and 5.7% English ancestry according to the United States Census, 2000.
Plain Anabaptist groups
Lancaster County is the second largest Amish settlement in the world with around 30,000 people. The Lancaster Amish affiliation is relatively liberal concerning the use of technologies compared to other Amish affiliation. Lancaster is also home to an array of other Plain Anabaptist groups. There are about 3,000 Old Order Mennonites of the Groffdale Conference who drive black top buggies instead of the grey top buggies of the Amish in Lancaster county. Other horse and buggy Old Order Mennonites in Lancaster County are subgroups of the Stauffer Mennonites with 283 baptized members and the Reidenbach Mennonites with 232. There are about 4,000 members of the car driving Weaverland Old Order Mennonite Conference. A congregation of 83 members of the Old Order River Brethren lives there as well as 84 members of the Reformed Mennonite Church who have retained the most conservative form of Plain dress of all Plain groups. There are also 74 members of the Old German Baptist Brethren living there. The Amish are around 5.7% of the total population.
- Unaffiliated: 50.9%
- Mainline Protestant: 13.8%
- Roman Catholic: 9.9%
- Black Protestant: 0.04%
- Orthodox Christian: 0.03%
- Other: 1.1%
Some inhabitants of Lancaster County speak with a Pennsylvania Dutch influenced dialect. This dialect is most commonly used in the Lancaster, Lebanon, York, and Harrisburg areas, and incorporates influences from the Pennsylvania Dutch not only in dialect but also in nomenclature. However, the main difference and what people take notice of from outside the area is the Pennsylvania Dutch English that people from Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg use.
Metropolitan Statistical Area
The United States Office of Management and Budget has designated Lancaster County as the Lancaster, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. The United States Census Bureau ranked the Lancaster, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area as the 102nd most populous metropolitan statistical area and the 100th most populous primary statistical area of the United States as of July 1, 2012. The Metro area ranks 8th most populous in the state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 US Census the population was 519,445.
Lying on the natural route from Philadelphia to the western part of Pennsylvania, Lancaster County has given rise to many improvements in transportation, among them the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, later part of the Lincoln Highway, in 1794, a canal in 1820 and the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in 1834.
- I-76 / Penna Turnpike
- US 30
- US 222
- US 322
- PA 10
- PA 23
- PA 41
- PA 72
- PA 230
- PA 241
- PA 272
- PA 283
- PA 340
- PA 372
- PA 441
- PA 462
- PA 472
- PA 501
- PA 722
- PA 741
- PA 743
- PA 772
- PA 896
- PA 897
- PA 999
As of 2006[update], passenger service in Lancaster County is provided by Amtrak, whose Keystone Corridor passes through the county, with stops at Lancaster, Mount Joy and Elizabethtown. A station is planned at Paradise to provide connecting service with the Strasburg Railroad, which runs passenger excursions from nearby Leaman Place to Strasburg.
The principal freight operator in the county is Norfolk Southern Railway (NS). The NS main line follows the Susquehanna River (with trackage rights for Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)), and leaves the county by crossing the river on Shocks Mills Bridge near Marietta. NS also has trackage rights over the Keystone Corridor, to which it is connected by the Royalton Branch, which runs north along the river from the main line at Marietta, and the Columbia Branch, which runs from the Corridor at Dillerville to the main line at Columbia. Two other NS branches originate on the Corridor: the Lititz Secondary, which runs from Dillerville to Manheim and ends at Lititz, and the New Holland Industrial, which leaves the Corridor around the east end of Lancaster to run east to New Holland and ends at East Earl.
Several shortlines also operate in the county. With the exception of the Strasburg Railroad, all are freight railroads. The East Penn Railroad (ESPN) operates on a spur off the NS branch to Manheim, and on a longer line in the northeast corner of Lancaster County into Berks County. Landisville Terminal and Transfer Company (LNTV) operates on a spur off the Amtrak line at Landisville. The Tyburn Railroad operates some trackage around Dillerville. Most recently, the Columbia and Reading Railway (CORY) began operating on 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of track in Columbia in January 2010.
Lancaster Airport is the only airport in the county with scheduled service, though Smoketown Airport also serves general aviation.
- Adamstown (Partly in Berks County)
- East Petersburg
- Elizabethtown (Partly in Dauphin County)
- Mount Joy
- New Holland
- Terre Hill
- East Cocalico
- East Donegal
- East Drumore
- East Earl
- East Hempfield
- East Lampeter
- Little Britain
- Mount Joy
- Upper Leacock
- West Cocalico
- West Donegal
- West Earl
- West Hempfield
- West Lampeter
- Blue Ball
- East Earl
- Little Britain
- Morgantown (mostly in Berks County)
- Washington Boro
- Willow Street
Many communities are neither incorporated nor treated as census-designated places.
The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of Lancaster County.
† county seat
|Rank||City/Town/etc.||Municipal type||Population (2010 Census)|
|29||Adamstown (partially in Berks County)||Borough||1,789|
|47||Morgantown (mostly in Berks County)||CDP||826|
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Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.