|Excerpts from the 1965 Littlestown Bicentennial Book and Adams County Independent of 1914.
The Conewago Settlement was a colony, made up principally of Germans, situated in the Southeastern part of
what is now Adams County, Pennsylvania. The long and somewhat tragic border disputes between the Penn's
and the Calvert's were the cause of the first settlers coming into this section.
On this disputed tract, settlers purchased lands from both John Digges and the Penn's. Digges began selling
land in "Digges Choice" territory as early as 1731 before the first official survey was completed in 1734.
Fighting began when some of the pioneers refused to pay taxes to Maryland, claiming that the territory belonged
to the Province of Pennsylvania. Among the casualties was Dudley Digges, John Digges' son.
Andrew Schreiber (Shriver), historically-speaking, is regarded as the first settler "At Conewago". The Schreibers
moved to Pennsylvania in 1721 and settled locally in 1734 on a farm (later owned by Elias Basehoar) about three
miles east of town, near Christ Church, along the former trolley line to Hanover. The Schreibers purchased
100 acres from John Digges and paid for it with 100 pairs of negro shoes.
In 1752, according to the records, there were forty persons living on tracts sold under the Maryland rights.
The long years of trouble came to an end with the establishment of the Mason Dixon Line.
Littlestown, or Petersburg, located in the extreme southwestern portion of Digges' tract, was part of the
Conewago Settlement. It is probably the oldest town in what is now Adams County, having been laid out
in 1765 by Peter Klein (or Little), 15 years before James Gettys laid out Gettysburg and one year after
Richard McAllisterfounded Hanover. Adams County was formedfrom part of York County
thirty-five years later.
For at least 50 years, the village was known as "Kleina Stedtle" (in English "Little's Town"). Later it became
Petersburg, but since the present York Springs was also known by the same name, a great deal of confusion
resulted. Both communities changed their names. One became York Springs, the other Littlestown after a
post office was established in 1795. Peter Klein died eight years after laying out the town and is buried in
the graveyard of Christ Church off Route 194, a church which had been founded in 1747 by the
Rev. Michael Schlatter.
Peter Klein (Little) had been granted a patent on September 18, 1760 by the Proprietaries of the Province of
Pennsylvania for 311 acres. As originally laid out, Littlestown contained 48 lots, systematically arranged, in
equal and regular order, fronting on both sides of what are now King and Queen Streets. Each lot was 66-feet
wide and 264 feet deep and sold for three pounds with the provision that the buyer pay an annual ground rent
of seven shillings, six pence ($1.00). Although when and where the first house was erected could not be
determined for certain, the house at 316 East King Street is supposedly the oldest in town.
It was near Littlestown that the first school in Adams County was opened - near Christ Church, about 1747.
The first teacher was John Krentz and German was exclusively taught. For many years, Littlestown had two
log school buildings - one at the east end and one at the west end of town. In 1872, the first brick school
building was erected where the present Community Center stands. The present Community Center building
was built in 1901.
General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, with a division of Washington's Army, passed through Littlestown in May of
1781 on the way to Yorktown to capture Cornwallis at the end of the Revolutionary War. His stop-over may
have led to rumors that Washington had visited Littlestown.
An important early event in the community's history came about in the 1807-1809 time period with the building
of the Littlestown (Petersburg)-Gettysburg Turnpike. This made Littlestown an important stop for those who
drove from Pittsburgh to Baltimore. It was the last stop before entering Maryland. Littlestown was thus a
cross-roads town with the Baltimore-Pittsburgh route crossing the Monacacy Road from Frederick to Wrightsville
and the Susquehanna River.
With the coming of the railroad in 1857 came new lots, two warehouses and a new hotel. The Barker House,
a hotel at the northwest corner of King and Queen Streets, had been built in 1848. The population climbed
from 394 in 1850 to 702 in 1860. In 1797, it had been reported in the AMERICAN GAZETTER that "Petersburg"
had a Catholic Church and about 80 houses.
Littlestown was not to escape the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg. On the morning of June 26th, a band
of Confederates entered Littlestown, the advance of Early's Division, Ewell's Corps, the Army of Northern Virginia,
which was crossing the Maryland line into Pennsylvania. On June 29th, General Kilpatrick's Division of Union
Cavalry bivouacked for the night around Littlestown. Kilpatrick and General George Custer, of Little Big Horn
fame, lodged at the Barker House. The next morning, the division of 5000 men took part in the cavalry engagement
with 600 Confederates under Jeb Stuart at Hanover.
General Pleasanton, commanding the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, headquartered at the Barker House,
where he received the word that Stuart had been defeated at Hanover. Slocum's Corps of 13,000 infantry entered
Littlestown that evening and was dispatched to Gettysburg the next day. General Sedgewick's Sixth Army Corps
of 15,000 also passed through Littlestown on their way to the Battle. After the Battle, hundreds of wounded soldiers
were brought in ambulances from Gettysburg placed on railroad cars at Littlestown. General Daniel E. Sickles,
who had lost a leg at Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg, was among the wounded treated in Littlestown.
It was nearly a century after its establishment that Littlestown was legally recognized with incorporation as a Borough
by the Court of Adams County on February 23, 1864. A vote to determine the status of the community had been
ordered held on February 28, 1863. Thirty four votes were cast in favor, 28 in opposition of the incorporation.
There were 96 freehold residents in the new borough.
The first election was held in August of 1864 with W. Frank Crouse elected Burgess (Mayor). Elected as
Councilmen were Noah P. Weikert, John Spangler, Sr., David Schwartz, George Stonesifer and Dr. J. S. Kemp.
The first official act of the new Council was to borrow $2,000 "for the purpose of procuring volunteers to fill
the quota of said Borough".
Littlestown grew steadily with a population of 250 in 1800. Twenty years later, the population had reached 305.
In 1850, it was 394 and by 1870 had reached 847. The 1880 census listed 913 residents. The 1886 census showed
298 taxpayers, 75 horses, 18 cows, 53 pleasure carriages, and 27 gold watches.
Among other historical milestones in Littlestown's past:
• Church going has been a way of life for many in Littlestown over the years. St. John's Lutheran Church was
established in 1763, St. Aloysius Catholic Church in 1790, the United Brethren Church in 1822, the Methodist
Church in 1828, Redeemers United Church of Christ in 1859, and St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran
Church in 1863-66.
• Mt. Carmel Cemetery was dedicated in 1861 with 608 lots.
• The Littlestown Savings Institution was organized in 1867.
• The first electric light plant went into service in 1897.
• Columbia Gas acquired an oil line which crossed Pennsylvania in 1930 for the purpose of transporting
natural gas. Gas service to the community began in 1933.
• Public water was discussed and a Water Works approved by Borough Council in 1895.
• Crouse Park was laid out in 1913 by I. H. Crouse who made it a gift to the Borough.
• The Playground was established by the Littlestown Community Welfare Association in 1919, and, after its
development along Maple Avenue, was deeded to the Borough in 1939.
• Memorial Field was added in 1948 when the Littonian Shoe purchased the five acres and with financing from
community activities, developed the field. Subsequently the land, including a small portion donated
by I. H. Crouse and Sons, was given to the School District.
• McSherry Little League Field, the gift of Thomas C. and Grace McSherry, was dedicated in 1958.
• The Borough's sewer system was built under the WPA (Works Progress Administration in 1941.
• Traffic signals came to Littlestown at the intersection of King and Queen Streets (Routes 194 and 140
[now 97]) in 1946.
• Although no longer with its own newspaper, Littlestown has had its own publication in years past.
The Weekly Visitor was the first one printed locally in 1847. It was followed by the Weekly Ledger,
The Crystal Palace, The Littlestown Press, Littlestown News, News Citizen, The Littlestown Courier,
Littlestown Era, and Littlestown Independent. The Jeffersonian, a weekly published Saturdays, and the
Adams County Independent were both published in 1900. The Independent, the community's last paper
continued in business until 1942. Another short-lived newspaper was printed locally in the 1960s.
• The Littlestown-to-Hanover Trolley was completed in 1908 and continued till 1932 when the automobile
led to its demise. It had first been talked about in 1895.
• The railroad, begun in 1857, had its last passenger run from Littlestown in 1948.
• Telephone service brought quicker communication to Littlestown in 1896.
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