History of Lewisberry
The Bennetts Run Valley was settled by Irish and German Quakers in the 1730’s, and the name of the original Quaker settler is preserved in the name of Bennetts Run. Bennetts Run is a major stream that drains this valley bottom. When the Quakers first entered this area, it was still occupied by Indians with whom the early settlers remained on peaceful terms. Other English-speaking people soon followed the Quakers, and the Borough of Lewisberry became the focal point of the valley.Eli Lewis, born in the valley in 1750, opened a store on the present site of the Borough just before the Revolution. After the war, Major Lewis continued his mercantile business, and the store became the center of interest in the valley. By 1783, he owned 850 acres of land, six (6) houses, and a store.
In 1798, Major Eli Lewis obtained the services of a surveyor who surveyed 12 acres of Lewis’s land and laid it out into lots for purposes of building a town that would be called “Lewisberry.” The six (6) houses belonging to Major Lewis were included in the plans of the town. A number of lots were immediately sold and houses were built. Local carpenters, masons, and plasterers constructed the buildings of local lumber, brick, and sandstone. In 1815, another survey was conducted and 128 lots that were 50 feet wide and 198 feet deep became available for sale. Streets running east and west on the plot were named Front, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth. Market Street extended north and south through the center of the plot. Two (2) streets ran parallel to Market Street and were named North Street and South Street. A Market Square was planned at the intersection of Market Street and Third Street, but this area of the town developed slowly and unevenly and the Square was never constructed.There were 32 blocks in the original town and each was divided into four (4) lots. Lewisberry lots were sold for six (6) pounds, English, or about 36 dollars each.
The town with a population of about 200 persons was incorporated as Lewisberry Borough in 1832 and became the third oldest borough in York County. Now, it is the second oldest in the County as York Borough is now a city. By 1860, more than 50 homes and business places had been built and the Borough had a population of 243 persons. Businesses included two (2) physicians, a wagon maker, a hotel, a teacher, a surveyor, and two stores.Although the Borough never increased rapidly in population, the stores did a considerable amount of business. However, when the Northern Central Railroad was constructed from York to Harrisburg, towns along that line attracted trade as they could transport their manufactured goods cheaper and easier than the more isolated areas. Lewisberry had thus reached the height of its prosperity between 1830 and 1860.
Commerce And Industry
The central place functions of Lewisberry were basically the services that it offered to the agricultural hinterland, the most important being a large flour mill built in 1785 and operated by John Harmon on the west end of the Borough. At the flour mill business, which was trade and barter, prospered.In addition to the agricultural services, several home industries that produced such things as pottery, clocks, coffee grinders, kitchen implements, matches, and window sash springs catered to the local trade. As early as 1760, flintlock guns, muskets, and rifles were made by gunsmiths in small shops along Bennetts Run.
When the Revolution came along, the Committee of Safety for York County engaged these gunsmiths to manufacture old flintlocks for the American Army. Military analysts say these guns played a big part in helping the Americans win their independence as they could fire a ball of lead farther and more accurately than the British guns. There were quite a few men in the Lewisberry area that manufactured coffee mills or grinders as they are commonly called. During the 1800s, some of the makers signed their grinders and others did not. The most notable makers were: William Hammond, H. R. Kreiger, Andrew Shetter, George Shetter, John and Isaac Frazer, and Joseph Potts. All of the signed mills were printed in gold leaf until the Shetter’s (who where the most prolific makers) obtained a patent in 1881 for their adjustable grinding mechanism. It was then that the Shetter’s started applying paper labels on the front of their mills above the drawer. The most common was the S&B No. 4. Others were signed S&B, A. No. 1. and S&B No. 2. As of now, there are no known labels signed S&B No. 3. The S&B on the labels signify Shetter and Brothers. Why the different labels? It is a mystery because the mills are all basically the same.
All of the wooden mills made in Lewisberry with the exception of the Potts mill, which is the earliest, have the distinctive groove cut into the top part of the drawer front. This was done starting with the early Kreiger and Hammond mills and continued with the Shetters through the last quarter of the 19th century. The Frazer mills of course did not have any wooden parts as they were made of cast and pounded iron. Another important business was the manufacture of block brimstone matches that began about 1835. The matches were known as “barn burners” and were formed on a block of pine wood. An 1860 map of Lewisberry shows two (2) such businesses; one on the Bennetts Run side of Front Street across from South Street and another along North Street.Also manufactured in the 1800’s were window sash springs. Harvey Hammond obtained a patent for his window springs in 1837. In 1838, they were installed in the White House in Washington, D.C. By 1844, Hammond was producing 30,000 – 40,000 window springs annually. W. S. Hammond took over the business in later years and continued producing window springs through the 1890’s. These springs are still in use in many of the older homes in the Lewisberry area and elsewhere.Other items of interest in the history of Lewisberry include the establishment of the Methodist Church.
In 1781, a traveling Methodist missionary visited the area. He preached at a home in the Borough, and the first congregation then organized in a stone building at the corner of Front and Market Streets. Eli Lewis later donated land to the congregation, and a stone church was built in 1811. The church which was used until 1856 was located where the Red Land Community Center is now located. A new facility was then constructed, on the present day site of the Lewisberry United Methodist Church in 1860. The original one and one half story brick church still in use has had several additions.The first post office was established on November 29, 1815 with Jacob Kirk as postmaster. The facility was named the Lewisberry Post Office on May 16, 1821. A newspaper was started in the Borough in 1835. The paper was devoted to printing agricultural news and items of interest. The paper was short lived. The first Sunday school was established in the Borough’s village schoolhouse in 1818. The school operated for 10 years then was discontinued. It reorganized in 1832 and was attended by teachers and scholars of various denominations until 1853.
Much of the town’s social life centered around the school. Shortly after Lewisberry Borough was founded, it was said that a schoolhouse was built a short distance above the Borough. Lewisberry became the center of educational interest in the northern portion of York County. Library societies for the intellectual improvement of the young people of Lewisberry and the local vicinity were organized as early as 1800. These societies played an important role in the intellectual development of the Borough. Lewisberry along with Fairview and Newberry Townships were among the first municipalities to accept provisions of a law which established the present day free school system by act of the Pennsylvania Legislature passed in 1834. The first village schoolhouse continued to be used until a brick school building was constructed in 1856. It was built on the north end of what is known as the Lewisberry Commons. This building housed the elementary school on the first floor and a 3-year high school on the second floor. Today, this facility houses the Annie E. Sterline Library.Presently, the population of Lewisberry Borough is approximately 380. The Borough is primarily residential with a few small businesses in operation. There are approximately 8-10 undeveloped building lots left in the Borough.
308 Market Steet
PO Box 186
Lewisberry, PA 17339