The History of Hummelstown: 1762-2012
The First Inhabitants: Before 1762
The land that would become Hummelstown was first occupied by the Susquehannock Native Americans. During the 1600 and 1700s the Susquehannocks lost territory and population in warfare with the Iroquois Native Americans, and the colonial militias(local armies) of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. By the end of the French and Indian War (1752-1763) few Native Americans resided in Central Pennsylvania.
The Founding of Hummelstown, American Revolution and Early Republic: 1762-1818
The British King Charles II gave William Penn a charter(contract) in 1681 to build an English colony in what became known as Pennsylvania. The Penn family bought the land Hummelstown is built on in 1734 from the Native Americans and sold it to Henry Chambers. Frederick Hummel and his first wife Rossina Hummel bought the land for 200 Pounds Sterling (English money) in 1762 from Mr. Chambers.
Frederick Hummel laid out streets and sold plots of lands for his town, which he named Fredericktown. Settlers also paid Frederick Hummel 10 schillings (English money) as a rent to maintain the town. 10% of the rent was used to support The Lutheran Church.
Most of the original settlers were Pennsylvania Dutch, including Frederick and Rosina Hummel. The Pennsylvania Dutch were immigrants from Southwestern Germany along the Rhine river. They were Protestant(non-Catholic) Christians. Zion Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church and the Brethren Church all trace their history to these earliest Pennsylvania Dutch settlers. While the Pennsylvania Dutch language has largely disappeared from Hummelstown, the majority of it's inhabitants are Pennsylvania Dutch by ancestry. Another major ethnic group that settled in Hummelstown were the Scotch-Irish. They were Protestant Christians from Northern Ireland. Typically they referred to themselves as Irish. Both the Pennsylvania Dutch and Scotch-Irish came to Pennsylvania to find land, jobs and to escape the Catholic\Protestant religious wars in Europe.
On June 11, 1774 Frederick Hummel held a town meeting to discuss a resolution condemning the British government's efforts to control the American colonies. The Pennsylvania Dutch and Scotch-Irish had few ties to the British King and were passionate Patriots(supporters of independence). An old joke from the time stated that 9 of 10 Dutchman were for Independence and the tenth Dutchman was Amish and would not fight. Their reputation for Patriotism caused General George Washington to make several Pennsylvania Dutchmen his personal bodyguards. After the Revolutionary War, one of these bodyguards named David Eckstein settled in Hummelstown and worked for 22 years as a schoolteacher. Many Hummelstown residents, including three of Frederick Hummel's sons fought in the war, serving in Jacob Fridley's Company. Frederick Hummel died in 1779. During the War for Independence Fredericktown became known as Hummelstown. After the war in 1794 President George Washington visited Hummelstown on his way to put down the Whiskey rebellion in Western Pennsylvania.
Hummelstown and America's wars
The men and women of Hummelstown have served in all the major wars in American History. During the Revolutionary war(1776-1783) Hummelstown's men rushed to join General Washington in Boston and many stayed in the army until victory at Yorktown. Several reidents volunteered for the War of 1812 (1812-14) and the Mexican War (1846-48). Nearly 200 of the area's men answered the calls of President Abraham Lincoln to serve in the Union Army, many serving in the Hummelstown Company(C), 127th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. Since the Civil War, Hummelstown politically has been dominated by President Lincoln's Republican Party. The community sent nearly 200 men and women to military service in World War I(1916-18) and 600 in World War II (1941-1945), losing 19 in the later. Hummelstown also has veterans who served in Korea (1949-52), Vietnam (1965-74) and the wars in Iraq (1991 & 2003-2012 and Afghanistan (2001-present).
Economic and Industrial Growth: 1819-2012
Hummelstown was built on the Berks-Dauphin Turnpike (a toll road). During the revolution a gun works supplied rifles to the Continental army. From 1827 until a flood in 1888 destroyed it, a waterway known as the Union Canal operated. Mules walked along a path pulling cargo boats. The canal paralleled the Swatara Creek connecting the Schuylkill river at Reading to the Susquehanna. The towpath of The Union canal is currently the Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad. The Lebanon Valley Railroad arrived in 1858, later becoming the Reading Railroad. Now the Norfolk Southern railroad owns the rail line. The railroads lead to the establishment of the Hummelstown Brownstone Company, the towns largest industry whose brownstone quarries were located in the hills two miles south and sold stones to many nearby states. Many new immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe found employment in the quarries and railroads. In 1865 Samuel Walmer founded Walmer's Carriage Works which in the horse and buggy days was an extremely important industry. A weekly newspaper, The Sun, was established in 1871 and still comes out each week. Hummelstown became a borough in 1874, having previously been a part of Derry Township. The town had a fire company as early as 1819; established free schools in 1822; got its water works in 1888, electric power and light plant in 1892. Trolley car service linked the town to Harrisburg, Hershey and Campbelltown in 1904. The town's first automobile was purchased the same year.
In 1958 Hummelstown High School was merged with several other local districts to form Lower Dauphin School District. Since World War II Hummelstown economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and service industries. The town also became more intertwined with regional industries, such as Hershey Medical Center.
In 1997 the fountain at the Square of Hummelstown was dedicated. Speaking at the dedication was Hummelstown's most famous former resident, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. In 2011 the highest flood in the town's history struck the Swatara River.