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LAHS History

Littlestown Community Early 1700s-1875
Kenneth K. Kroh
March 2, 1976

This paper covers a period from early 1700s up until around 1875. This will cover about 150 years of local history. Littlestown was laid out by Peter Little in 1765. One migh think that this event was the birth of this community. But this is not true. Life had started in 1734; 31 years before Little’s new town. By the year 1765 there were over 100 taxpayers in Germany township. Roads had been opened, a church school was in operation, two churches organized. Christ Reform 1747 and Saint John’s Lutheran in 1763. Taverns were open for business and a mill was grinding grain. This community was well established by the time Littlestown itself was founded.

This area in its earliest days was considered a part of Chester County. Chester was one of the three original counties of Pennsylvania. Lancaster county was erected from Chester in 1729; York County was erected in 1749 form Lancaster County; Adams County was erected in 1800 from York. This Littlestown Area was also claimed by Maryland as being a part of Baltimore County. Many of our early settlers paid taxes to Maryland for a number of years.

Germany Township was erected in or before 1749. Before Littlestown or any other towns were in existence the broad valley in which these towns are located today was known as “Conewago” of “Little Conewago”.

Digges’ Choice

On June 30th, 1632 Charles I of England granted Maryland to Cecilius Calvert. On March 4th, 1681 Charles II King of England granted Pennsylvania to William Penn. For many years the boundary line between these two grants was not ascertained. Lord Baltimore and Penn each claimed the neighborhood of Conewago as comprised within their grants; each claiming granted rights to lands in opposition to each other. In 1727 John Digges of Prince George County Maryland obtained a warrant from the Land Office of Maryland for a tract of land in the “backwoods” to contain 10,000 acres to be called “Digges’ Choice”. It was surveyed in 1732 but it included only 6822 acres of the 10,000 warranted to him. A story id told to the effect that an assistant surveyor in the Warrant Office who was assigned the task of plotting the tract as described was annoyed by the irregularity of the are with it’s multiplicity of course angles. It is said that without consulting with Digges or the Surveyor General he took the liberty to eliminate some of them. It lay on the “Little Conewago” Creek and took in part of Germany; the best part of Union and Conewago Townships in Adams County and quite a large part of Penn Township in York County. From a point about a mile southwest of Littlestown close to Saint John’s Lutheran Church Germany Township it extended in a north easterly direction a distance of nearly nine miles to about a mile beyond Hanover in the vicinity of Bair’s Meeting House along the York Road. At one part near the middle of the tract it was only a quarter of a mile in width; while at the line between York and Adams County it measured about three miles in width. When granted the land was thought by the Land Office of Maryland and by Digges to be within the limits of Maryland. But the survey in 1739 of the temporary line which was to mark for the present the division between Maryland and Pennsylvania threw it within the limits of Pennsylvania. But Digges and Maryland did not honor this survey of 1739.

On August 1st, 1745 Digges under a warrant from Maryland had surveyed a parcel of land adjoining the original patented tract containing 3,679 acres and on the 18th of October 1745 a patent was issued for the same. This second grant included a number of tracts which already had been grante5d by the Penns to settlers. Digges however claimed that he had only marked the true courses of the land that had been granted to him by Maryland; and that he proposed the sale of the lands included in his resurvey. The settlers on his resurvey and who had bought their land from the Pens complained and wanted Pennsylvania to mark the lines. There was no doubt that the resurvey took in lands not included in the first survey but Digges claimed that his original warrant was for 10,000 acres; that he had located it and that the mistakes of the survey in not including all of his land should not deprive him of his original right of claim and possession by virtue of his Maryland warrant. Digges tried to collect from the settlers who had bought their plantations from the Penns. For many years much misery and distress came to all parties concerned. On May 10th 1749 a petition was presented to Governor Hamilton of Pennsylvania asking for relief from continued pressures of Digges. It was signed by 14 settlers of “Little Conewago”. This petition stated that Digges daily threatens to sue them; that they were under great concern and daily terror that they would be carried into Maryland and jailed anf they were aware of the bad treatment that they would meet with there.

A son of Digges was killed in one of many arguments over his father’s efforts to enforce his claims. These continued up until the running of the Mason Dixon line in 1767. This put an end to these border troubles forever.

When we look over the broad and fertile fields of the “Conewago Valley” today we can well understand why every foot of it’s ground was so bitterly contested. This valley has contributed much to the prosperity and well being of the Littlestown community for well over 200 years.

First Settlers

John Digges sent his agents across the Susquehanna River to attract buyers for his new land. A number of familes from the Goshenhoppen and Trappe areas of upper Montgomery County Pennsylvania bought land from Digges and they became the first settlers in our local area. The Shriver family came in 1734 and were followed soon thereafter by Young (Shriver’s stepbrother), Koonz, Sell, Will, Middlekauff, Kitzmiller, Little, Dutterer, Bankert, Maus and Feeser families. These were German people and had come to Philadelphia from Palatinate State of Germany. Land was cheap and the average farm contained 100 to 150 acres. Andrew Shriver the first settler was a shoemaker and tanner as well as a farmer. He was 21 years of age when he bought his land from John Digges. Having very little money he made a deal with Digges to pay for his land of 100 acres by making 100 pairs of Negro shoes for his land. Digges owned a number of slaves and had use of the shoes for them.

First Road

Many years before settlers had crossed the Susquehanna there were Indian trials for pack horses across Conewago to Maryland and into Virginia. Fur traders in large numbers followed these trails long before this region was permanently settled. The first settlers of this region some of who came in wagons but most of them came on horseback. They cut their way own roads through the dense forests to the places where they made a selection of land for their new home.

It was in 1739 under the authority of the Lancaster Court that the “Monocacy Road” was opened upon the petition of many settlers west of the Susquehanna. The road started at the river on to the site of York (not yet laid out) on to Adam Forney’s land (now Hanover) on through presentday Littlestown and on to Frederick Maryland.

This Monocarcy Road became a prominent highway of travel to the South and Southwest. Thousands of German and Swiss who had entered the port of Philadelphia used this route on their journey to Maryland and on into the Shennadoah Valley of Virginia. The Rev. John Casper Stover the pioneer missionary of the Lutheran Church traveled this road on his numerous visits to Conewago. He lived at Earltown beyond Lancaster and came to Conewago in the Spring and Fall every year. He would baptize the new children and perform marriages. He kept very accurate recordsof his work and those records are today priceless for research. His first records concerning this area start in 1735. The Rev. Michael Schlatter the organizer of many Reformed Congregations including the Christ Church used this road on numerous visits. The Rev. Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg the famous Lutheran minister and the priests of Conewago also traveled this early road.
In 1755 Benjamin Franklin passed through Conewago on his way to Fredrick Maryland to meet General Braddock of the English Army to lay plans for the expedition against the French. The horses and wagons Franklin collevted for Braddock were started on their way to Fort Cumberland over this road. (Some of them from Conewago.) It was also used by General Wayne on his trip with 1000 American soldiers on their way to Yorktown during the Revolution. According to diaries of that time this group canpmwed for a night in the vicinity of Littlestown. Many Hessian and British prisoners were moved over this road to Maryland and Virginia during the Revolution, George ans Martha Washington also used this route on their way from Mount Vernon to Philadelphia. During the war of 1812 when the British Army occupied Washington and threatened Baltimore immense trains of wagons convoying cotton from Alabama, Geogia and other points South used this road on the way to Philadelphia and New York.

First School

When the settlers had cleared some land and built a cabin they then proceeded tobuild a school house. In most cases this building was used for a number of years as a church building as well as for the school. It was many years before the different settlements were able to have a regular minister. In the absence of a pastor the religious services were usually conducted by the local schoolmaster. He was very often the most important person in the community. He was usually fairly well educated and generally he was the one to whom nearly everyone went for advice on almost any matter. He also was the notary for drawing up legal papers such as wills or writing letters for those who were unable to write. Generally he was an expert penman and frequently was called upon to draw up marriage certificates or certificates of baptism. Very often they were executed in a very artistic and beautiful manner. The ones that have survived the years bring fantastic prices today. There seems to be a very of them in this area. This could be accounted for by the fact that in different communities it was the custom to bury the certificates with the deceased person. The remark has been made that perhaps this was the pass used to enter the pearly gates of Heaven.

The first will of this community was written in the winter of 1754. It was written quite likely by the schoolmaster for Johann Jacob Kuntz. Kuntz was born in Waldorf near Heidelberg Germany in 1686. He came to Philadelphia with his wife Maria Elisabeth in 1727. He first settled in the Goshenhoppen area of Montgomery County and as livng in Conewago by 1736. In that year a son George was baptized by Rev. John Casper Stover. He died in the fall of 1754 and his German will was recorded at York.(Copy of this will at the end of this document.)

The Schoolmaster very often led the singing in church and at times substituted for the minister in recording church records. If he was unmarried he generally lived with the families whose children came to school. Children were not merely sent to school and their entire mental training left to the schoolmaster; but parents assisted their children in learning their lessons at home. When schoolmasters were wanting the parents were the teachers of their children. The subjects studied included the German A.B.C. book, Spelling and Arithmetic. The Catechism and Hymn Book and the New Testament for reading. In many homes the children would gather in the long winter evenings at the table at which the meals were served during the day so that the parents might assist in the learning of their lessons. A school was functioning at Christ Church as early as 1745 making this school the first in Adams County. After the passage of the public School Law in 1834 schools of this type were no longer maintained.

We might wonder today what chance a man had to achieve any degree of success in life with the limited education this early school offered. A youth by the name of David Schriver would have been a pupil of this school. He was born in 1735 at the Present Leroy Basehoar farm. His parents Andrew and Anna Maria Shriver had settled there in 1734. He married and moved to Avondale beyond Westminister on the New Winsor road then Fredrick County Maryland. Carroll County was not formed until 1837. David took a very prominent part in the Revolution. He was a member of the Convention which adopted and established the Declarations of Rights and the Constitution of the State of Maryland. He also represented his country as a member of the Legislature for more than 30 years at Annapolis Maryland.

Peter Littles’s town

On September 18th 1760 Peter Little obtained a patent for 311 acres from the Penns located in Germany Township adjoining Digges’ Choice. In 1765 he laid it out as the town of Petersburg. Little palced his town at the crossing of tow very important roads; the Monocacy Road leading from York on to Frederick. And the South. The other road leading from Carlise to Baltimore. Littlestown became a very important stop for stagecoaches and Conestoga wagons. This is borne out by the fact that as early as as 1756 a tavern license was issued to a Thomas Butler in Germany Township and by the time of the Revolution eight taverns were located in Germany Township. One of these taverns was operated at the time of the Revolution by Adam Wintrode. He served during the war and attained the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel. Adams Wintrode is buried at Christ Church. A license still in existence was issued by the state in 1795 to Andrew Shriver who was a grandson of the first settler. This license was signed by Governor Thomas Mifflin the first governor of the state. Shriver’s tavern was located on the square of Littlestown. The building was removed during the past year. In 1795 Shriver was appointed the postmaster when the office was created. The Post office was located in the tavern. In 1797 Andrew Shriver resigned as Postmaster and moved to Union Mills Maryland where he and his brother David built a mill and home. These buildings are known today as the Union Mills homestead. Jacob Will who was an uncle of Andrew Shriver was appointed the next postmaster.

Peter Little included a yearly ground rent along with his deeds and this rent was in force until about thirty years ago. The late Harry Zeigler was the last owner of these rents.

The town grew steadily and in 1800 the population was 250; in 1820 - 305; in 1850 - 394; 1860 - 702; in 1870 - 847 including three colored and in 1880 - 913. Daniel Rupp in his “History of Adams County” published in 1846 says that Littlestown is a brisk town in Germany Township; on the road leading from Gettysburg to Maryland consist of about 50 dwellings; several stores; a tavern, and an Academy in which the higher branches are taught. The town is pleasantly situated in a fertile, highly improved country.

William McSherry in his recollections of Littlestown which cover the period from about 1850 to 1880 says “Several lines of stages carrying mails and passengers passed through the town daily; and the horses and highly colored stage coaches on their arrival and departure created as much excitement and interest among people as do the arrival and departure of railroad trains. Nothing remarkable in the improvement of the town or it’s progress occurred untill 1857 when the railroad was built connecting the town with the line at Hanover. It was commenced on July 4th in 1857 and completed the latter part of June in the following year. About this time Littlestown commenced a new life. Additional town lots were laid out by James Renshaw and George Myers known as the Renshaw and Myers addition to Littlestown. Renshaw was married to Rebecca Shriver a daughter of Andrew Shriver the first postmaster and tavern keeper. Old town lots of desirable location brought very high prices for building purposes and the new lots were in great demand. Two new warehouses were built along the terminus of the rairoad; also a new hotel. Practically all the stores were renovated. A few tears after a new store and dwelling house was erected by Ephriam Myers which is probably the finest and best constructed building in Adams County. Business of all kinds revived and the population of the town in a few years nearly doubled. One of the new businesses to flourish was that of carriage making. Hundreds of buggies and carriages were made yearly by Blocher and Mehring families. Much of their business was with the South. In 1871 the railroad was extended to Frederick Maryland. Littlestown was incorporated by the Court of Adams County in 1864 by the faithful and persevering energy of Doctor Seiss, Frederick Bittinger, Joseph Barker, David Schwartz and Samuel Weikert. The Streets were graded and new pavements were laid and the general appearance of the town improved. In 1872 a very commodious and substantial school house was built of brick. This new school accommodating over 200 pupils. In August of 1864 the first election of borough officers was held. William F. Crouse being elected Chief Burgess. His successors were Doctor Seiss, Simon Bishop, James Colehouse, Henry Raughter, Martin Steffy, J. M. Hinkle, and H.S. Klein. There are now in town five (5) well built churches; Catholic rebuilt in 1840; the United Brethern built in 1822 and rebuilt in 1862; St Paul’s Lutheran built in 1866 the German Reformed (Redeemers) built in 1868; and a very beautiful church of modern architecture rebuilt in 1870 by the Methodists. Still quoting William McSherry: A new banking house for Littlestown Savings Institution of great architectural beauty was erected on West King Street in the year 1879. Mount Carmel Cemetery occupies a lovely spot on the southwestern portion of the borough and it’s elevated position commands a splendid view of the surrounding countryside. Littlestown is a distance of ten miles from Gettysburg and forty two miles from Baltimore. The population of the town according to the late census is 913. Littlestown which is located in a rich, fertile and healthy neighborhood: Its citizens are remarkable for their energy, industry and hospitality. They display much taste in the neatness and cleanliness of their town and especially of their homes. Mr. McSherry concludes by saying that almost every house has two yards beautiful and adorned with flowers.

In 1875 Littlestown contained the following business places: Five dry goods stores, three boot and shoe stores, two hardware stores, two drug stores, three stove and tin ware stores, one jewelry store, six grocery stores, two warehouses where all kinds of produce are bought and sold, two coal and lumber dealers. One coal dealer, one lime factory, four hotels, four carriage factories, six cigar factories, one livery stable, two confectionaries, two ice cream parlors, four physicians, one dentist, two cabinet makers and furniture dealers, four ministers, one bank (Savings Institution) , one fire insurance company (protection Mutual) one tribe of Red Men, two first class schoolhouses: a very active, enterprising and clever population.

Civil War Days

On June 29th 1863 4000 Union troops were encamped at Littlestown. Most of them at McSherry’s woods and under the command of Major General Judson Kilpatrick. That night Kilpratrick and George A. Custer (23 years of age) along with other officers spent the night at the Barker House on the square know today as the Herring Apartments. General Custer was killed at the battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana by the Sioux Indians under command of Sitting Bull. The next morning these troops marched to Hanover arriving there at 10 o’clock. They were soon engaged in combat with Jeb Stuart’s Confederate Cavalry. On the 29th while the Union troops were at Littlestown; just seven miles South at Union Mills Maryland Stuart’s Confederates were camped for the night. Jeb Stuart’s scouts were aware of the troops at Littlestown; but the Confederate general did not want contact at that time as he had 125 army wagons loaded with supplies which he had previously captured near Washington; and did not want to chance losing them. Had Stuart attacked the forces here at Littlestown the town and people might have experienced a great battle such as Gettysburg did a few days later. After Gettysburg hundreds of wounded soldiers were brought from there to Littlestown and placed on trains. General Daniel Sickles who lost a leg at Round Top was brought here and sent to his home in Washington by rail. It is said he was treated at the Weikert home on West King street. Daniel Sickles was the foremost proponent in the establishment of the National Park at Gettysburg after the war. Many were taken care of at the Barker House (Hotel) and the United Brethren church was used as a hospital. Colonel Dudley later U.S. Pension Commissioner had his leg amputated at the home of Ephriam Myers (Kump Building) by Doctor Kinser a local physician. The offices of the town’s doctors were filled with the wounded awaiting treatment. Fences were burned for fuel, crops were destroyed and many horses taken from the farms. Most farmers took their horses far into the woods to keep them from th eyes of soldiers.

Miss Rose Barker relates these two stories concerning her family in the war days: When the Union troops were here on June 29th 1863 a knock was heard on the front door by her Grandmother Starr. Mrs. Starr opened the door and a young captain was standing there. He presented his card to her and she was taken by surprise to see that the young man’s name was Frederick Starr. It turned out that the captain was her nephew. Mrs. Starr had never seen him as he was born after his family had moved to Ohio. He asked his aunt if it was possible for her to prepare a meal for some of the officers. She obliged with the help of neighbors who brought additional tables and food.
Captain John Barker of Littlestown who was a son of Joseph Barker who conducted the Barker house on the square was killed in the battle of Antietam Maryland in September 1862. Antietam is regarded as the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. When the parents learned of his death shortly afterwards they drove to Antietam by horse and buggy and made arrangements to have the body of their son brought back to Littlestown. This was done and now rests in Mt. Carmel Cemetery. A local G.A.R. post was formed after the war and was known as Barker post in honor of Captain Barker.

The Rifle Makers of Littlestown

In Joe Kindig’s book “Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in it’s Golden Age” he has this to say about a famous Littlestown family of Gunsmiths. Mr. Kindig is regarded as a foremost authority of early gunsmiths. He says “there were three very fine gunsmiths in the Sell family. The father Jacob and his two sons Jacob Jr. And Frederick. The Jacob Sell guns appear to have been made from before the Revolution to about 1820. Both Jacob Sells were very fine artisans in the Golden Age of the Kentucky Rifle; but Frederick Sell was superior to both in the writer’s estimation. All three Sells represent a school of Gunsmithing around Littlestown which was one of the finest to ever exit. They produced the Kentucky Rifle at it’s artistic zenith.

This concludes my story of this community. Many important events no doubt have been missed. One must remember that records were scarcely kept in the early days; and many times are non existent. Newspapers did not appear until many years after the birth of this community; so there are no paper files to check over on those early days.

Kenneth K. Kroh
Littlestown, PA 3/2/76

Will of John Jacob Kuntz

In the name of God amen:
I, John Jacob Coons Dwelling in Little Conewago in Germany Township in the County of York firmly by these presents have now fulfilled the end of my days brought to in this troublesome world in this Sixty Eighth year of my age and in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and fifty four as hath been pleased God to visit me with sickness and on my Death Bed and I hope to be moved out of this troublesome world into the long and endless pleasure of Eternity also I am Resolved as God Almighty spares me life and I have strength and understanding this my last will and testament as followeth:

I will that my wife Mary Elizabeth Coonson and my Children as followeth:

Firstly: Is my Last Will and Testament that my wife and children after my Death shall remain on the Plantation and with other Labour build and Plant as along as they please and again it is my will and Testament: and if they cannot agree or Dwell together: when one or another should marry so shall they the Plantation Cows and Horses Mares and Household Goods shall be valued by indifferent Persons and they valuing the Plantation with Cows and Horses and all other creatures and necessary belonging to the Plantation and the Legatees cannot agree among themselves in dividing of the moneable Estate; so is my last Will and Testament that two indifferent Persons shall be legally chosen to divide the estate according to the best of their judgment; that the Legatees may be satisfied also is my Last Will and Testament when anyone of my sons should keep my Plantation that then my wife shall have her part allowance. One Hundred Pounds of Swine Flesh and fifty Pounds of Beef and twelve Bushels of Wheat - Six Bushels of Rye and one Good Cow the said Cow well wintered with the others and when the Cow is old or unprofitable they shall take the Cow back again and give Mother another and if the Cow should die the Legatees shall give another Cow in Place of the dead Cow. Likewise my wife is to have one Sheep and to renewed or made good if it should die and the produce of one quarter of an acre of land yearly in flax from the Brake and this is my last Will and Testament that my wife shall have the Liberty of Benefits of the Garden to her use as much as needfull: Likewise the Liberty of the orchard for apples and Peaches to her own use and not to be hindered. Likewise shall my Wife have Seven Gallons of stilled liquor yearly: Farther it is my Last Will and Testament that my wife shall have one barrell of Syder yearly. If the Orchard beareth well; in case the orchard dotn not beareth well she is to have but a Half a barrell/and it is my Last Will and Testament that my wife shall have the liberty of the house to her own use and not be hindered. Be as it will and it is my Last Will and Testament what ever of my Sons keeps the plantation shall maintain his Mother shall have two parts in proportion with the other Legatees and if she should marry shall have a third Part according to laws and afterwards in this event that one child shall be equal with the other in Proportion and this is my last Will and Testament. But when one or more of my Children should depart from the Religion that they were brought up in Namely the Reformed Religion and take up with any other Society shall have one English Shilling; farther and this is my last Will and Testament acknowledge wiyh my own hand and Seale which was done in the Year 1754
Conawago the 23 of February
August Shearer John Jacob Kuntz
Andrew Shriber Witness



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