Lower Dauphin History
The Lower Dauphin area has a rich history dating back to pre-European settlements of indigenous people. These settlements and those of the later European colonists were aided by the region's central location, rich natural resources and access to the Susquehanna River and its watershed.
Conewago Township takes its name from the creek which forms its entire southern boundary. The name "Conewago" is derived from the Iroquois word "Conewaugha" which means "at the place of the rapids."
The smallest of Lower Dauphin's five municipalities, Conewago Township was created from parts of the original Derry and Londonderry townships in Dauphin County in 1850. Early settlement was fostered in the north and central portion of the township by an abundance of freshwater springs. Early residents engaged in agriculture, milling and distilling activities.
Community churches and meeting houses were among the earliest public facilities to be established within the township. Early education came in the form of pioneer schools where were taught outdoors in various locations by ministers. Other schools were operated by various members of the church and community and were predominently German until the free schools came into general use.
Two main villaged emereged in the mid-19th Century:
- Bachmanville in the northeast portion of the township, and
- Mt. Harrison (also known as Foltz Store) near the center of the township.
Although the township's population has grown by only 0.5 percent in the past decade, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission predicts that future growth will increase by 9 percent in the next 10 years.
East Hanover Township
East Hanover Township was first settled by Europeans in the early 1700s, but archeological evidence points to a thriving native culture of Susquehannock Indians for centuries prior to the arrival of the Scotch-Irish and German settlers. These settlers included skilled craftsmen like carpenters, stone masons and blacksmiths and many of their earliest structures of native stone still stand today.
East Hanover Township was part of the original West Hanover Township in Dauphn County. In 1842, West Hanover was split into three separate municipalities - West Hanover Township, East Hanover Township and South Hanover Township.
In the 1880s, the two main villages in the township were Grantville and Shellsville (then called Earleysville). Both villages were centers of activity, and both contained stores, schools, various shops and homes. The main east/west road through the township (Old Jonestown Road) passed through the two villages. The opening of Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation in 1931 eliminated most public access to the northern quarter of the township.
East Hanover Township includes many significant historical sites, including Manada Furnace, early school houses, mill sites, churches and commercial establishments in Grantville and Shellsville. Remnants of the Union Canal, including several locks, are located along the Swatara Creek in the southern part of the township.
The Borough of Hummelstown was first established as Frederickstown in 1762 when Frederick and Rosina Hummel purchased the land. The Hummels laid out building lots and sold them to German settlers. By the mid-1800s, the Union Canal with its nearby locks influenced trade and transportation in the borough. From 1867 to 1929, the Brownstone Quarries provided employment for residents and resulted in the growth of the town. Hummelstown was officially incorporated as a borough on August 26, 1874.
The area that is today known as Londonderry Township was most likely first inhabited by Susquehannock Indians in the early 16th Century. Around 200 years later, Scotch-Irish immigrants settled much of the area, followed by German settlers.
Derry was one of the new townships formed in Lancaster County around 1729. In 1767, Derry was divided into two parts - one part became Londonderry Township and the other remained Derry Township.
The township's extensive frontage along the Conewago and Swatara creeks as well as the Susquehanna River played an important role in its history. American Indians and early settlers alike used the waterways as a source of food and a method of transportation. Londonderry Township also includes several islands where were used for agriculture. The most famous island is Three Mile Island (also known as Elliot's Island) where the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station is located today.
Early industries in the township included grist mills, cider mills, a cradle and scythe factory, blacksmiths and cigar manufacturing.
Churches played an important role in the early history of Londonderry Township. The Conewago Presbyterian Church, a log building erected prior to 1741, was among the earliest churches in the Lower Dauphin region. Others included the United Zion Children Church (now a private home), Shope's EUB Church and the United Brethren Meeting House.
South Hanover Township
South Hanover Township was created in 1842, when West Hanover Township was split to create West Hanover Township, East Hanover Township and South Hanover Township. The village of Union Deposit was and remains the prinicpal settlement in the township. The village provided many services including stores, shops, mills and factories. The early commercial success of Union Deposit stems from the village's relationship with the Union Canal along the Swatara Creek. The canal was a major transportation route between Harrisburg and Reading.
Another township village, Hoernerstown, served as a center for the farming community. The town included a general store, blacksmith shop, carpet weaving shop, several churches, a small hotel and the Hoernerstown School (replaced by the Union Deposit Elementary School in 1954).