Historic and Archaeological Resources <BACK
History of the Study Area
Lancaster County possesses an extremely rich history. The first recorded
inhabitants of the area that would become Lancaster County were Native
Americans who remained in the region until the end of the middle of
the eighteenth century. European settlers arrived in the area in the
late seventeenth century.
In 1681, Charles II granted territory to William Penn as payment on
a debt owed to Penn's father, Admiral William Penn. Pennsylvania was
a "melting pot of Colonial America." Other colonies such as
Virginia and Massachusetts were largely populated with settlers of one
race and one religion. However, Pennsylvania was rich in its ethnic
and religious diversity. Several ethnic groups settled in Lancaster
County during the eighteenth century, each bringing its own religious
and social ideas.
The first of the German settlers in this county were Mennonites from
Zurich and Berne where they were persecuted for refusing to accept the
state church. These Swiss Mennonites eventually left Europe and settled
in what is now Lancaster County. They settled along Little Beaver Creek
and where Lancaster City now stands. These particular immigrants from
Switzerland and the Palatinate were Anabaptists who were calling for
a return to the New Testament and believed in an inward personal experience
with God. They believed that baptism was voluntary and should be done
when an adult. Anabaptists refused to fight in wars and would not participate
in routine patrolling of the village.
Other German groups that settled into what would eventually become
Lancaster County were the Moravians, the Brethren (also known as "Dunkers"),
members of the Reformed and Lutheran Churches, and the Mystics who settled
at the Ephrata Community.
Scots-Irish immigrants settled in Lancaster County around 1715 and
soon after, English Quaker families settled in the area that would become
Salisbury and Sadsbury Townships. In 1717 Welsh Episcopalians settled
in the area that became Caernarvon Township. French Huguenots from Alsace
and Lorraine settled in the Pequea Valley.
As a part of Chester County, Conestoga Township (formed in 1718) encompassed
all of the land that is now Lancaster County. In 1729 Lancaster County
was formed from land taken from Chester County. The county is said to
have been named by John Wright, the county's first chief magistrate,
who was from Lancaster County in England.
Agriculture and its related industries were extremely important to the
economy of Lancaster County at the turn of the eighteenth century. The
main crop, wheat, made Pennsylvania the richest northern colony; from
1800 to 1840, Pennsylvania was the main wheat-producing state in the
By 1883 Lancaster County was known as the "Garden of Pennsylvania"
and possessed 463,000 acres of farmland. The farms of the county ranged
from 30 to 100 acres each. Farming continued to support the county well
into the twentieth century. In 1976 the county was the leader, in the
value of farm products sold or traded, of all non-irrigated counties
in the nation. The county was recognized for its tobacco crops and its
cattle. Ninety percent of the nation's cigar tobacco came from Lancaster