archives BuildingSouthern Lancaster County Historical Society


copied from the PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY PRESS JUNE 21,1872



In a recent number of the Weekly Press we noticed an article relative to Lancaster County detailing at some length its history, topography of the "upper" and "lower" ends, peculiarities of its inhabitants, reminiscences, etc. Under the impression that a similar article more particularly devoted to what is known as Southern Lancaster County, alias "southern end" would not be malapropas, we send you the following:

Drumore and Colerain, settled by Scoth-Irish Presbyterians; Little Britain and Fulton, settled by Friends and Presbyterians, constitute the lower end of of Lancaster County, a county known in political parlance as the "Old guard" in the days of Whiggery, and equally of the present as a stronghold of republicanism. The first pioneers in this section of the county located themselves in Little Britain, formerly Drumore, probably as early as 1712, surveys of land having been made west of the Octorara in 1704. Among the early inhabitants in these townships who have left numerous descendants, we find the Galbraiths, Clendenins, Pattersons, Ewings, Blacks, Gibsons, Scotts, Porters, Rosses, Browns, Carmichaels, Priest, Boyds, Neepers, Kings, Pennels, Reynolds, Graham, Grubb, and Stubbs. Prior to 1735 settlers by the names of Priest, Reynolds, Ross, Graham, Grubb, Porter, Patterson, and probably Scott and Gibson arrived and took up lands between Octoraro and Susquehanna. After 1740 the Neepers Stubbs, Sanders, and Browns took up land east of the river.

The principal mineral constituents of the soil of the lower Lancaster county are silica, clay. slate or argelite, micaeous earth, and serpentine, ingredients unaided by fertilizers that are anything else than favorable to an abundant yield of farm products. Hence it is plain that our ancestors, unaquainted with our modern fertilizers, were not so successful in acquiring from the products of the farm the accumulated wealth of their German neighbors, who had anticipated the English and Irish emigrant by settling to the north in fertile valleys of the Pequea and Conestoga. However, by dint of hard work and close economy in their mixed husbandry, they managed to improve poor land of "Southern End", and left as their posterity a class of citizens possessed of industry, frugality and self-reliance, qualities that do not generally descend with worldly inheritance.

These sons of hard-toiling sires started where their forefathers left off, and by intelligent farming, taking advantage of modern improvements in machinery, etc., and acquiring all the knowledge they could pertaining to their calling, have made the desert (not litterly, but in reality) " to bloom as the rose". The early settlers, as soon as a sufficient number became permanently established, were not long in choosing sites on which to build churches in which to worship as they had been variously taught in their fatherland. The Presbyterians built their first meeting-house about the year 1740, the friends in 1744-45. Near the southern border of the state the baptists had made some settlements, and began to hold meetings of worship in the year 1760. All the old church buildings, with one exception , belonging to these religious societies, have been demolished, and in lieu thereof fine houses of modern architecture erected.

In Drumore township, David Ramsey, the historian was born, in the year 1749. A mile further southward, in Fulton township, since so called in honor of his name Robert Fulton, the inventor was born in 1765. The birthplace of both these were until recently in a good state of preservation. This is yet true of the Fulton house. The original Fulton farm consisted of three hundred acres and sixty-four acres, and was purchased from Robert Fulton, Sr., by Joseph Swift. What is rather remarkable is the fact of it remaining in the hands of his descendants, to the present time, a member of the third generation- John Swift, Sr.- being the present proprietor. Of late the Ramsey farm fell into the hands of one who, vandel-like, destroyed the old building, which bid fair to defy the enroachments of time for at least several centuries.

Joshua Brown, a noted minister among Friends, the first of the name in this section, was born in Nottingham, Md. in the year 1717, and removed to Little Britain, where he erected a substantial brick mansion about the year 1760-65. Being of a highly religious turn of mind he "was moved" to make several spiritual journeys, in one of which he traveled through the Southern States. Joshua Brown died at his residence in Little Britain in the year 1798. John Jones, another celebrated preacher among the Friends, was born in Chester county in 1756, and died in Little Britain, February 2nd, 1800. In early life, he removed to the vicinity of Peach Bottom, where he purchased land and erected thereon a mill and fine mansion - the latter in the old English style of architecture. The building was nickname "Jones Folly", now known as the "Red House".

He was the first to have slate taken from the hills on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna. Entering into the manufacture of iron, he built a forge on the Octorara, called the Octorara Forge. These buildings, as well as his mansion near Peach Bottom, were covered with roofing slate. John Jones, in addition to being a man of business, possessed a fine literary taste. Towards the latter part of his life he wrote a religious work entitled, "Analysis of Revelation". This volume was published after his death by his friend and admirer, Joseph Churchman.

For many years this part of the county was noted for its mineral wealth, chrome, magnesia, and roofing slate being obtained in large quantities, producing a large revenue. Quite recently the first two mineral substances have been exhausted, at least at these points where mined. Woods chrome mine, when abandoned, was the deepest in the world. The land on which it was situated was purchased by Isaac Tyson, of Baltimore. Rich chrome veins were developed and worked for nearly a half a century. Carbonate of mangnesia was formerly mined at various places and shipped to Baltimore to be converted into the sulphate of magnesia. Roofing slate is still obtained in large quantities, but of late the quarries are not worked to as great an extent as formerly. The state capitol, at Harrisburg; Friends Asylum at Frankford; Swarthmore College, and many other public buildings are covered with slate from quarries at Peach Bottom.

Serpentine, a beautiful green stone well adapted for building purposes, exists in large quantities, but as yet has not been generally introduced, being situated near the Mason Dixon's line (a political boundary between slavery and freedom never to be forgotten). This part of the county was the scene of many adventures between slaves, slave catchers, and abolitionists of former times. In the days of Missouri compromises and fugitive slave laws, not less than two main lines of the underground railroad passed through this region. The Susquehanna was ferried at many points by trusty blacks, who would place the panting fugitives in places of safety until night , when his journey would be resumed in the direction of the north star. Kidnapers would often cross from Maryland , and sometimes succeed in capturing whole families of fugitives and returning them to eternal bondage. But they were not always successful. Among those noted as humble benefactors of their race, at least as far as being successful pilots of slaves out of a cruel bondage to freedom, we mention the names of David McCann, Bristow Wilson, and Dennis Forman. The former are characters in a recent serial showing up the workings of the peculiar institution in days prior to the rebellion.

While there were many colored men, living along the line true to the welfare of their race, be it understood there were others equally as false. For paltry sums given by slave catchers, many low, black characters were induced to betray the fugitive in his hiding place. Through base treachery, many years ago, a whole family by the name of Hunter, consisting of a husband, wife and four children were taken from Peach Bottom. They were never afterwards heard from. The wife and children of William Burleigh were twice taken by slave catchers and as often as recaptured returned to freedom. The last foray constituted the last great slave hunt of 1844.

In this end of the county at the present time, the traveler passing from the Octoraro to Union, Chestnut Level or Peach Bottom, traverses as finely improved and as thickly populated, a section of country, as is to be found in Eastern Pennsylvania. We have already stated that this soil was naturally poor and unproductive. Fifty years ago, in many portions of it, corn enough for home consumption was not raised. Many farmers in 1813-14 purchased grain for their cattle. This ground has all been improved and brought to its present standard of fertility by the use of that greatest of all fertilizer - lime. Thousands of bushels are annually applied to this end of the county and father south. The first lime stone taken in little Britain was hauled by William or Abraham Peters (we forgot the first name) about fifty years ago, and burned in a kiln situated on the farm of the late Hon. Jeremiah Brown. Since that time old man Peters lived to see hundreds of thousands of bushels of this valuable stimulant and renovator of soils applied to lands in Lancaster county.

For thirty years or more the farmers of this section were engaged in feeding and breeding cattle, but late the slight advanced realized on each bullock is making the business unprofitable. Many are turning their attention to dairying, while others are preparing to enter into it, in a few more years the occupation of the cattle feeder in this part ofPennsylvania will be gone.

No part of the state equally as well improved, has been so long without railroad facilities. It would appear, however, that ere long it will have direct intercourse by rail with two of our principal cities. When the Columbia and port deposit railroad, now under construction is finished, a large area will come closely connected with Baltimore. The narrow-gauge from Oxford to Peach Bottom will bring in daily intercourse with Wilmington and Philadelphia. These two lines completed, all that is necessary to make this county grow rapidly in population, in agriculture and mineral wealth, will have been accomplished. C.H.S.


Fulton township, Lancaster county, is bounded on the north by Drumore, east by Little Britain and the Octoraro, west by the Susquehanna, on the south by Cecil county Maryland. It is situated in latitude 39 degrees north and in longitude about 76 degrees west of Greenwich area, 42 square miles.

The surface is undulating and some what broken - the latter more especially in the western portion, as we approach the left bank of the river. The streams are few and unimportant. The principal ones are the Conowingo, rising in Providence township, flowing southward, passing through Fulton from north to southward, emptying into the Susquehanna at the village of the same name in Maryland; and Peters creek, named after an early settler, rising in Drumore township and finding an outlet in the river, near Peach Bottom.

As a natural sequence, the productions are the same here as found in other sections of the same latitude, wheat and corn are the chief crops. The surplus of these cereals, with the profit arising from grazing, are the chief sources of revenue of a majority of our land proprietors.

The territory now included in Fulton, constituted until the year 1844/5, the western portion of Little Britain. In that year Little Britain was divided, and at the suggestion of a citizen, now no more, the new district was named Fulton, in honor of the celebrated American inventor, whose birth place is generally supposed to be within its limits.

"At the February session, 1737/8, of the court of Lancaster county, the petition of many of the inhabitants of Drumore township, setting forth the inconvenience they lie under by the largeness of the township, and praying the same may be divided by a line running from a marked spanish oak, standing on the brow of a rounded little hill by Susquehanna, opposite an Island called Mount Johnson, north east by east to Octoraro creek, and that the said western division may be called the township of Little Britain, which said petition being considered and approved of, the same is ordered pursuant to be recorded in manner aforesaid."

Such, in brief, is the history of the line that now separates on the north - it being nearly half a century older than Mason and Dixon.

On the 4th of July, 1760, Thomas and Richard Penn, surviving proprietors of the providence of Pennsylvania, entered into a definite agreement with Lord Baltimore touching the final adjustment of the long disputed boundary between Pa. & Md..

In 1762, two surveyors, Charles Mason and Jerimiah Dixon, were employed. The next 3 or 4 years following their appointment, they run and determined what has since passed into history as "Mason and Dixon's Line". Blocks of limestone neatly dressed, fluted and some 7 feet high in length, were placed at a distance of a mile apart, from the place of beginning, to mark the line. These stones were imported from England, and on each is cut the letters P. and M., excepting those placed at every 5th mile, on which, in lieu of the letters, are neatly engraved the coat of arms of the proprietors of each providence.

One of the latter is situated in the "Barrens" 3/4 of a mile west, northwest of the hotel at Rock Springs and marks a part of our own southern boundary.

According to the census of 1860, the population was 2026. Of these 997 were males and 1029 females, there were 227 Negroes, now mildly designated as "American citizens of African decent. Fifteen of these were land holders, and possessed tracts ranging from half an acre to sixty acres.

Ninety - three of her citizens, over twenty one years of age, were as ignorant as the horses they marked - that is to say they could "neither read or write"

The number of dwelling houses was 345 and farms 139. The estimated value of real and personal property was set down at 1,244,529.00.

In 1869 there were 235 freeholders, 129 tenants, 95 single men and about twice as many single women. The number of children in the public schools 475. Her citizens pay this year (1869) a county tax of $1684.46, a state tax of 417.26 and militia fines amounting to $104.50. There are nine schools in the township and for their support they are required to pay a tax of over $3000.

Fulton contained eight churches, viz; one Methodist, one Presbyterian, two Friends, one Baptist, one Welsh and two colored Methodist.

There are nine grist mills (the walls of one erected prior to the revolutionary war), six saw mills, two cabinet makers, three wheelwrights, and six black smiths shops. There are five hotels, and six post offices, two of the latter - Goshen and Pleasant Grove - were established more than thirty years ago.

The principal villages are Goshen, Bethel, Wakefield, New Texas and Peach Bottom.

If we except the "dirt roads" which positive necessity require in every civilized community, there are no public improvements in Fulton township.

Much has been said, and some money has been spent within the last decade, but so far her citizens have no of the advantages of either railroad, canal, or turnpike.

As long ago as 1792 the legislature of Pennsylvania passed an act requiring a state road, sixty feet in width, to be made from the ferry at Peach Bottom, on the Susquehanna, to the bordering State of Delaware, " in the direction of the head water of Christiana Creek."

The order was not taken out until 1794, when Roger Kirk, of Nottingham, Chester county, with Jeremiah Brown and Levi Hollingsworth, of Little Britain as sureties, entered into a bound a contract to make said road. The consideration was five hundred dollars. The eastern portion of the highway intended at that day to connect two important points, was finished; but the Lancaster county end, the part extending though this township was never made. At this period in history of the state this road was considered a great public work, to be made for the common good. We refer to it in the closing lines of this paper as an evidence of the progressive spirit of our ancestors, which their descendants of to - day should foster, and would do themselves credit of imitating.

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