Hometown Tuesday #42 ~ Hingham, Suffork County, Massachusetts Colony

The town of Hingham, Massachusetts Colony was called “Bare Cove” by the first colonizing English in 1633. Two years later it was incorporated as a town under the name “Hingham” after the city in England where most of the settlers were from. The town was within Suffolk County from its founding until 1803, and then was in Plymouth County from 1803 to the present.

Hingham was born of religious dissent. Many of the original founders were forced to flee their native village in Norfolk England with both their vicars, Rev. Peter Hobart and Rev. Robert Peck, when they fell away from the strict doctrines of the Anglican Church in England. Peck was known for what the eminent Norfolk historian Rev. Francis Blomefield called his “violent schismatic spirit.” Peck lowered the chancel railing of the church, in accord with Puritan sentiment that the Anglican church of the day was too removed from its parishioners. He also antagonized ecclesiastical authorities with other forbidden practices.

Although the town was incorporated in 1635, the colonists didn’t get around to negotiating purchase from the Wampanoag, the Native American tribe in the region, until three decades later. On July 4, 1665, the tribe’s Chief Sachem, Josiah Wompatuck, sold the township to Capt. Joshua Hobart and Ensign John Thaxter, representatives of Hingham’s colonial residents. Having occupied the land for 30 years, the Englishmen presumably felt entitled to a steep discount.

Josiah Wompatuck

The American Otises of the seventeenth century were of English descent. The emigration of the family from Barnstable, Devon, England occurred during the early days when the settlements in New England were still infrequent and weak. Arriving in 1635, the John Otis Sr. family was among the first to settle at the town of Hingham. It wasn’t long until the name Otis appeared in the public records, indicating official rank and .leadership. He purchased over 60 acres of land, building two houses and a barn. He grew corn on 35 acres of this land. John, born in 1581, and his first wife Margaret (1583-1653), along with their seven daughters and two sons, settled into the larger of the two homes. John was made selectman for the town, a position he held until the death of his wife in 1653.

He then married a widow by the name of Elizabeth Whitman Stream (1592-1672) and he sold most of his land, leaving 30 acres to be divided between his 2 sons. He then moved to Weymouth, Massachusetts. He died there in June 1657, at the age of 76.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Hometown Tuesday #41 ~ Moberly, Randolph County, Missouri

Moberly lies in a glacial plains area in a county organized in 1829, and named for John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia in Missouri’s Little Dixie Region. It was first settled by William Holman in 1818. William Fort boiled salt at a spring near Huntsville in the 1820s. The Bee Trace, a pioneer trail, ran along the Grand Divide (the high point in The Grand Prairie) between the Missouri and Mississippi through the county. The Iowa, Sac, and Fox tribes gave up claims to the region, 1824.

Moberly, the “Magic City”, grew from the town platted by the North Missouri Railroad (Wabash) in 1866, it was built to connect to a transportation center with a 6,070 population by 1880. The North Missouri acquired the site when it took over the Chariton and Randolph Railroad after the Civil War. In 1860, the C.& R. had planned to build a road westward to Brunswick from this point on the North Missouri then turning north reaching toward Iowa.

The Chariton and Randolph Railroad named its proposed junction for William Moberly, head of the railroad, and offered free land to residents of once nearby town if Allen to settle here. Patrick Lynch, was the only one to accept this offer, and he was given two lots by the North Missouri after the Civil War for holding the site without “the loss of a life or a house.” On September 27, 1866, the first lots were sold for what would become Moberly. Moberly at this time was a very rough railroad town, considered course with too many taverns and brothels. Moberly in only five years had as many murders as the entire county had in its previous 20 years of history. In light of its mud streets and rough and tumble ways, the St. Louis papers regularly ridiculed the town in light of the more attractive, cultured, and older Huntsville. Despite this, Moberly continued to grow.

Moberly had been a division point since 1867 when the North Missouri (Wabash) reached Brunswick. In 1872 many businesses like the huge railroad repair shops, one of the earliest railroad plants west of the Mississippi, were opened. In 1873 the Missouri, Kansas, & Texas Railroad formed a junction here. Transportation facilities brought industrial growth and the development of the soil, fire clay, and coal resources of the area.

My paternal Great Uncle, Greenbury White was born in Moberly in 1844, the youngest of 4 children of Augustine White (1798-1876) and Margaret McClain (1798-1880). He fought for the Union Army, joining when he was 21 years old. He married Mary Jamison on December 31, 1866, they had 9 children, 5 sons and 4 daughters. He owned his own farm and lived in Moberly his entire life. He died on March 15, 1930, at the age of 86.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

Hometown Tuesday # 38 ~ Suffield, Hartford County, Connecticut

Originally known as Southfield—pronounced “Suffield,” on May 20, 1674, made a petition for the settling of the town. The petition was granted by the Massachusetts Bay court on June 8, 1674.

The Connecticut General Court authorized the men to settle a town, and they stipulated that in five years, twenty families were to settle there and that a minister be maintained. Land was reserved for a common, a meeting house, a school, and land for a minister. The first land was sold at four pence per acre. By 1675 three dozen families had settled, but they were forced to flee to Springfield during King Philip’s War. Returning and rebuilding after the settlement was burned, they were ready to retain their first minister in 1679. Suffield was incorporated as a town in March 1682.

It is located on the west bank of the Connecticut River and borders Massachusetts. West Suffield Mountain, part of the Metacomet Ridge, runs through the center of Suffield from north to south. It’s location on the river meant an early economy based on fisheries and shipbuilding, but tobacco soon became an important export. By the 1830s, the Connecticut Valley Broadleaf plant had been developed and the town’s factories began producing 14 million cigars annually. In 1727 tobacco was used as a legal tender for debts. By 1753 the fertile Connecticut valley was growing tobacco for export. The first cigar factory in the country was opened in Suffield in 1810.

Cains pond proved to be useful for harnessing Stoney Brooke for a saw mill and a grist mill. Bog or pond ore, which is usually 18-30% iron, was harvested from the pond and a bloomery and iron works were set up near the pond. The first iron works were set up in 1700, the second in 1721, the third in 1722 and all were in operation until about 1770. The town allowed Samuel Copley to set up a fulling-mill in 1710. A cotton-mill, which made cotton yarn, was set up in 1795 and is believed to be the first in Connecticut and possibly the third successful cotton-mill in the country.

John Allen, my maternal 6th Great Grandfather, was born in Suffield on March 15, 1717. He was the second of two known sons born to David Allen (1675-1725) and Sarah Hayward (1689-1755). He married Ann Rhodes (1722-1746) on November 24,1740. They had three sons. John was a tobacco farmer, and he participated in the French and Indian War, serving from 1758-1862 in the 2nd Connecticut Regiment under the command of Colonel Nathan Whiting. John died on May 20, 1767 at the age of 50.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Hometown Tuesday #37 ~ Lower Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

The Shawnee, Saluda and Delaware Indians were the first settlers in Lower Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania long before the coming of Europeans. The Dutch came, not as colonizers, but as traders. In 1633, they established an extensive fur trade with the Indians, and in 1648 bought from them a tract, supposed to have been near Gray’s Ferry, on which a fort, called “Beversrede,” was soon completed.

Then in 1638 the Swedes arrived. Unlike the Dutch, they came prepared to found a colony. Others followed, and in 1643, their settlements were extended to Tinicum island, near the Schuylkill’s mouth, where, under Governor Johan Printz, had built a mansion house, a fort and dwellings, and called the place “New Gothenborg.” The same year, they built a grist mill on Cobb’s creek, and a Meeting House.

They lived here for about 40 years before the arrival of William Penn. Along with Penn came the Quakers and for many years they lived peaceably, side by side. A few Indian names have survived in the geography of the state. One of the purchases of land made by William Penn in 1683 was described as beginning “on ye West side of Manaiunk, called Consohockhan.” Two years later, the Indians conveyed to him all the lands lying between Chester and Pennypack creeks.The compact made between William Penn and the Indians, under the treaty elm at Shackamaxon, ensured peace for more than seventy years.

The countryside was full of deer, fowls, and birds. The waters which were abundant in the area was full of fish. “Hogs” roamed the woods and hunting them brought much needed meat to the tables of the increasing number of newcomers.

When Penn sailed up the Delaware, in 1682, there were probably 1000 Dutch, Swedes, English and Germans settled within the present limits of Pennsylvania. Not long after Penn’s move to Delaware did William Warner, ancestor of the Warner family of Lower Merion and of many other places, built a mansion here. He called his place “Blockley,” which name was afterwards extended to the surrounding township.

In December 1688, John Blackwell became Deputy Governor and disagreements soon occurred between him and Thomas Lloyd, a Welshman, who had been President of Council. In the spring of 1689, Lloyd appeared before Council, to say to object to the town of Lower Merion being incorporated into Chester, County. After much debate the matter was dropped.

Burial Grounds of Thomas and Elizabeth Lloyd

The above mentioned Thomas Lloyd is my 8th Great Grandfather. He was born in 1670 in Cynlas, Merionethshire, Wales, and he emigrated to the Lower Merion Pennsylvania area in 1683. Here he married Elizabeth Williams (1672-1748) on August 8, 1700, at the Radnor Monthly Friends Meeting in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. They had 6 children, 3 sons, and 3 daughters. Thomas continued to serve as the President of the Council until 1720. He was a prosperous farmer. He died in 1741 in Lower Merion, at the age of 71.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Hometown Tuesday ~ Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts

The early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a series of seven villages in 1630. Roxbury was located about three miles south of Boston, which at the time was a peninsula, and was connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, “Roxbury Neck”. This led to Roxbury becoming an important town as all land traffic to Boston had to pass through it. The town was home to a number of early leaders of the colony, including colonial governors Thomas Dudley, William Shirley, and Increase Sumner. The Shirley-Eustis House, located in Roxbury remains as one of only four remaining Royal Colonial Governor’s mansions in the United States.

Shirley-Eustis House

The settlers of Roxbury originally made up the congregation of the First Church Roxbury, established in 1630. The congregation had no time to raise a meeting house the first winter and so met with the neighboring congregation in Dorchester. The first meeting house was built in 1632, and the fifth meeting house is still standing and it is the oldest such wood-frame building in Boston. In the 1600s Roxbury held many of the resources that the Colonists prized: potentially suitable land for farming, timber, and a brook (source of water and water power), and stone for building. That particular stone exists only in the Boston basin; it is visible on stony outcroppings and used in buildings such as the Warren House, and it proved to be a valuable asset to the community that led to early prosperity. The village of Roxbury was originally called “Rocksberry” for the rocks in its soil that made early farming a challenge.

First Church Roxbury

The Roxbury congregation, still in existence as a member congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association, lays claim to several things of note in American history:

*Establishment of the first church school in the British colonies.
*The founding (along with 5 other local congregations, i.e. Boston, Cambridge, Watertown, Charlestown and Dorchester) of Harvard College.
*The first book published in the British Colonies (1640).
*The first Bible published in the British Colonies (1663). It was a translation into the Massachusett language by the congregation’s minister and teaching elder, John Eliot who was known as “The Apostle to the Indians”.
*First Church Roxbury was the starting point for William Dawes’ “Midnight Ride”, April 18, 1775. He went off in a different direction than Paul Revere to warn Lexington and Concord of the British raids.

James Morgan Jr, my 8th great-grandfather, was born in Roxbury on March 3, 1644. He was the second of six children born to James Morgan Sr (1607-1685) and Margery Hill (1611-1690). He lived in Roxbury until about 1665 when he was 21 years old. He then moved to Groton, New London, Connecticut. Here he married Mary Vine (1641-1689) in November 1666. They had 6 children, 2 sons, and 4 daughters.

James was a very prosperous farmer, and he was chosen as Captain of the first “train band” in 1692, under an order of the Governor and Council, authorizing a military company to be formed there. He continued as the commander of the “dragoon” force of New London County, under a special commission from the General Court.

He died on December 8, 1711, in Groton at the age of 67.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Hometown Tuesday ~ Scituate, Plymouth County, Massachusetts

Sailing up from Plymouth, shortly after it was settled, came the Men of Kent. They discovered this harbor and realized its future possibilities of farming and trade. The first plantations of “Satuit” were laid out by the Men of Kent before 1623 on Third Cliff and here the first windmills merged with the soft sounds of the breezes which turned their great sails.

The name Scituate is derived from an Indian word which the early settlers understood as “Satuit”, which means “Cold Brook”, and referred to the small stream flowing into the harbor. In some part of the years 1627 or 1628 a group from Plymouth increased the population of this area by bringing new arrivals from the County of Kent in England, and they formed the first permanent settlement. They laid out their village a mile or so back from the coast behind one of the cliffs, established a main street, which they named Kent Street, and assigned spaces on this street to the various householders forming the Company. They were of course under the jurisdiction of the General Court at Plymouth, and it was not until 1636 when the population had increased that permission was given to elect certain officers and to some extent carry on their own affairs. They referred to this act as the incorporation of the Town, and its boundaries were established at this time.

No other part of our country was more difficult to clear for planting than this dense New England jungle with its horse briers, elderberry, sumac and other dense undergrowth throughout which is strewed with granite rocks and stones. To clear the undergrowth, fell the trees and clear land of rocks and stumps would have been an unpleasant task, and without horses and oxen would have been almost impossible. But meantime, horses, oxen and cows had to be fed, and it was the marshlands that, in the interim, produced this feed. The hay of the marshlands of Scituate harbor and its North River was its fundamental economic factor. Corn was the only major crop grown in the area, but beans, pumpkins, rye and squash were also grown in limited quantities. The settlers learned how to grow the crops thanks to the Wampanoag Indians who lived in the area.

The Men of Kent Cemetery is a historic cemetery on Meetinghouse Lane in Scituate. The cemetery dates from the earliest days of of the settlement, estimated to have been established in 1628. It is the town’s oldest cemetery, containing the graves of some of its original settlers. The 0.75 acres cemetery is also the site where the town’s first meeting house was built in 1636.

The Williams-Barker House, which still remains near the harbor, was built in 1634 making it is one of the oldest buildings in Massachusetts. The house is believed to have served as a garrison during King Philip’s War when it was owned by Captain John Williams and the walls were reinforced with bricks. The thick wooden walls and beams were “once pierced for portholes.” The Williams and Barker families occupied the house for seven generations.

John Otis Sr, my 9th Great Grandfather, was born in 1581 in Barnstaple, Devon County, England. He married Margaret (unknown) in 1603. They had 9 children, 3 sons, and 6 daughters. In 1631, John and his family left England for the Plymouth Colony and arrived in Hingham, Plymouth Colony aboard the Ambrose. They quickly made their way to Scituate. During the division of lands in that town, a lot of 5 acres were granted to John and it bears the date, June 1, 1631. It was located in the meadow called the Home Meadow next to the cove. Here he built his home on the side of a hill.

John took the oath and was made a freeman of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay on March 3, 1635. On March 15, 1646, his house was burned to the ground, but it was soon rebuilt, and he continued to live here until his death. His wife, Margaret died on June 28, 1653. John married a widow by the name of Elizabeth Whitman Stream that same year. He died on May 31, 1657, in Scituate, at the age of 76. He was buried in “The Men of Kent” Cemetery just outside the town limit, however there is no headstone remaining.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Hometown Tuesday ~ 1816 ~ East Coast of the United States

This Hometown Tuesday blog will be a little different. Have you ever wondered why your ancestor left their home along the east Coast and moved inward into the Midwest? I have many who were farmers who just seemed, for no reason, to just pack up their families and make the long trek to western Tennessee or into Missouri. I always thought they did this because they were adventurous. Then I discovered an interesting article. It was too long to post, so I will recap it.
In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent “dry fog” was covering parts of the eastern United States. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight. Nothing, not even rain or wind dispersed the “fog”. It has been characterized as a “stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil”.
The weather was not in itself a difficult for those who were used to long winters. The real problem was the weather’s effect on crops and as a result, on the supply of food and firewood. At higher elevations, where farming was a problem even in good years, the cooler climate was horrible for agriculture. The cause of all this bad weather was the eruption on Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia, between April 5-15, 1815. The eruption had a volcanic explosivity index (VEI) ranking of 7. It was the world’s largest since the eruption of Paektu Mountain in 946 AD. In May 1816, frost killed off most crops in the higher elevations of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as well as upstate New York.
On June 6, snow fell in Albany, New York, and Dennysville, Maine. In Cape May, New Jersey, frost was reported five nights in a row in late June, causing extensive crop damage. New England also experienced major consequences from the eruption of Tambora. Though fruits and vegetable crops survived, corn was reported to have ripened so poorly that no more than a quarter of it was usable for food. This moldy and unripe harvest wasn’t even fit to feed the animals. The crop failures that ran the length of the Eastern seaboard caused the price of many staples to rise sharply.

In July and August, lake and river ice was found as far south as northwestern Pennsylvania. Frost had extended as far south as Virginia on August 20 and 21. Rapid, dramatic temperature swings were common, with temperatures sometimes going from normal or above-normal summer temperatures as high as 95 °F to near-freezing within hours.
A Norfolk, Virginia newspaper reported:
“It is now the middle of July, and we have not yet had what could properly be called summer. Easterly winds have prevailed for nearly three months past … the sun during that time has generally been obscured and the sky overcast with clouds; the air has been damp and uncomfortable, and frequently so chilling as to render the fireside a desirable retreat.”
Regional farmers were able to bring some crops to maturity, but corn and other grain prices rose dramatically. The price of oats, for example, rose from 12¢ per bushel in 1815, which is equal to $1.68 today to 92¢ per bushel in 1816 which would be $13.86 today. There was also no transportation network established in this area so it was impossible to bring any crops that had survived in other areas to this region.
High levels of tephra, which are ash particles that get ejected by a volcanic eruption, caused the atmosphere to have a haze hang over the sky for a few years after the eruption. It continued to lessen the ability of the sun to shine through this haze. With no guarantee that this disaster would quickly come to an end, thousands of people migrated west over the Appalachian Mountains into other States and/or territories. My ancestors gave up their current homes to venture out and find a new Hometown where they could prosper.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Hometown Tuesday ~ Charlestown, West Virginia

In 1780 Charles Washington, George Washington’s youngest brother, left his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and moved to the Lower Shenandoah Valley. Charles had inherited land in what was then Berkeley County, Virginia, from his older half-brother Lawrence. Upon arrival he began construction of his home, Happy Retreat, located on a rise overlooking Evitts Marsh. This area is surrounded by the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In 1786 Charles petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for permission to incorporate a town. The petition was granted and Charlestown, Virginia was founded. In addition to naming the corporation for himself, Charles memorialized the Washington family by the naming of the town’s streets. The main street, running east to west is named Washington Street. Cross streets are named for family members with the Town Square named in honor of his brother George, the streets to the east named for his brother Samuel and wife Mildred, and the streets to the west named for himself and his brother Lawrence. In a show of patriotism the streets parallel to Washington are named Congress and Liberty.
At the time of Charles’ death in September 1799, Charlestown was still located in Berkeley County. In his will, Charles indicated that Berkeley County should be divided and Charlestown named the county seat of a new county. He desired that the town lots on the Town Square, formed by George and Washington Streets, be used for public buildings.
Jefferson County was formed from Berkeley in 1801 and Charlestown became the new county seat. As the executor of his father’s estate, Samuel Washington acceded to his father’s wishes and deeded the Town Square to be used for public buildings.

In 1803 the Jefferson County Courthouse became the first public building to occupy the Town Square. This smaller brick structure was replaced by a larger courthouse in 1836. The 1836 courthouse was the setting for the trials of abolitionist John Brown and six of his followers. In October 1863, during the Civil War, the courthouse was heavily damaged by artillery fire rendering it unusable.
The Jefferson County jail was the second public building to occupy the Town Square. Completed in 1806, perhaps its most famous occupants were abolitionist John Brown and six of his raiders. The seven men were housed in the Jefferson County jail from the time of their capture in October 1859 until they were executed.

My 6th Great Grandfather John Strother, was born on November 18, 1782, in Charlestown, Virginia. He fought in the War of 1812 as a private in Captain Jesse Naples regiment of the Virginia Militia. On November 1, 1814, he married Elizabeth Hunter Pendleton. They had 8 children with 5 dying in childhood. John was a farmer. He died in Charlestown on January 16, 1852, at the age of 79.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Hometown Tuesday ~ Hopewell, Fredrick County, Virginia

City Point, the oldest part of Hopewell, was founded in 1613 by Sir Thomas Dale. City Point’s location on a bluff overlooking the James and Appomattox Rivers in Virginia, has been an important factor in Hopewell’s history for almost four centuries.The City of Hopewell had about 119 settlers by 1700. Their main agriculture crop was tobacco which was shipped back to England.
Hopewell Friends Meeting was named “Opeckan”, after nearby Opequon Creek, when it was set off from the Concord Pennsylvania Quarterly Meeting in 1734. It is the oldest Quaker meeting in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The original group of settlers came from the Monocacy valley in Frederick County, Maryland. Initially, this meeting was a member of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. At that time, the settlement included about 100 families. Initially, a log meeting house was built on lands originally granted by Lt. Gov. William Gooch of Virginia to two Ulster Scots with roots in Northern Ireland, a Quaker named Alexander Ross (in 1730) and Morgan Bryan (in 1732).
The government would issue grants and patents over the following two years to the 100 families which Bryan and Ross believed they could attract. Some families arrived before 1732, but the project failed to meet the 2-year deadline, and grants were not issued until November 1735. Prominent London Quaker John Fothergill (1712-1780) visited this meeting in 1736. In 1757, the 1734 meeting house burned. In addition to losing its place of worship, the congregation also almost lost all its early records in a 1759 house fire.
Richard Harrold, my 7th Great Grandfather, was born on August 14, 1680, in Barwell, Leicestershire, England and came to America from London in 1681 on the ship Henry and Ann with his parents. He settled in Pennsylvania. He married Mary Beals (1692-1740) in 1710, in the Concord Monthly Friends Meeting in Chester County, PA. In 1716, Richard and Mary removed to the Hopewell Friends Meeting in Fredrick County, Virginia. In 1711, their daughter Rebecca was born and their son William was born in 1719. Richard died in 1730, at the age of 50.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Hometown Tuesday ~ Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

hometown tuesdayLancaster is one of the oldest inland cities in the United States. It is 71 miles west of Philadelphia and is snuggled along the north and west by the mighty Susquehanna River. German immigrants, known as Pennsylvania Dutch, were the first to settle in the area in 1709. At that time it was known as “Hickory Town”. The Honorable James Hamilton laid it out in building lots and out lots, and on May 10, 1729, it became the county seat. John Wright, a prominent citizen, gave it the name “Lancaster” after Lancaster, England where he formerly lived. The city is known as the “Red Rose City” due to its link to the one in England. Lancaster became a borough in 1742.

Lancaster was one of seventeen original townships in Lancaster County. It was the smallest of the townships with its boundaries defined by the Conestoga River, Manor Township, the Little Conestoga Creek, (East) Hempfield Township, and Manheim Township. A two-mile square was later cut out of the northern part of Lancaster Township to create the county seat and Lancaster City. Early settlers started moving to the area in 1717 following the “new surveys.” With the establishment of the county seat came an influx of merchants, physicians, and lawyers and the Township’s population grew to approximately 200 people. The development of the Township was strongly influenced by the growth of Lancaster City.

history-of-lancaster-county-000aBetween 1730 and 1742 the major tracts of land were almost all laid out in residential lots, each with their own street patterns. In 1744, Lancaster served as the meeting place of the treaty-making sessions among the Six Nations of Indians and the colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Visitors to the area were greatly impressed by the sophistication of this town in the wilderness. By 1760 Lancaster had become a borough of major importance in colonial America, economically, politically, and socially. A large number of skilled artisans and mechanics moved to the area, who, coupled with established industries and experienced merchants, thrust Lancaster into the role of making and supplying goods for the French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, and the subsequent westward expansion.

The area that became Lancaster County was part of William Penn’s Bishop Hans Herr1681 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. The oldest surviving dwelling of European settlers in the county is that of Mennonite Bishop Hans Herr, built in 1719.

Sarah Dyer, my 5th Great Grandmother, was born in Lancaster, Sarah DyerPennsylvania on June 1, 1716. She is the only proven child of John Dyer (1687-1761) and Hannah Green (1701-1780). She married George Hayes (1714-1747) on June 1, 1730, when she was 14 years old and George was 16. They had 6 children, 4 sons, and 2 daughters. I descend from two of their children, Thomas (1740-1829) and Molly (1742-1829). The family moved to Virginia sometime before 1742. Her husband died in 1747, leaving Sarah to raise the children, ranging in age between 3 and 13 years old, by herself. She passed away on June 1, 1800, at the age of 84.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.