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Abbottstown Borough

Abbottstown Borough Hall is located at 4 West Water Street, Abbottstown PA 17301; phone: 717-259-0965.

Borough of Abbottstown, Adams County, PA

Beginnings [1]

Abbottstown, situated in the township of Berwick, in the county of Adams, where the Hanover and Berlin turnpike crosses the York and Gettysburg turnpike, is the oldest town in the county. It was laid out in 1753, by John Abbott. The first lot was purchased by Jacob Pattison on the eighth of October, 1763. Quite a number of the deeds of John Abbott, and Alice his wife, of Berwick township, county of York, and Province of Pennsylvania, are still in the hands of persons owning property which he sold. These deeds were printed at Ephrata, Lancaster County, in 1763. From one of these indentures it is seen that a lot of ground was sold to George Miller for "Three Pounds," on the 1st of October, 1781, and Tobias Kepner and W. Momeger were witnesses to the transaction. In 1786 George Miller, potter, sold this property to John Ditty, blacksmith, for one hundred pounds.

John Abbott had two sons, Thomas and Edward. He gave to his son Thomas all of his land along the north side of the York and Gettysburg turnpike; and that which lies on the south side he gave to his son Edward. It is said that they did not prosper — one ultimately dying a pauper — and the land of their father passed into the hands of strangers. Thomas had a daughter, who is the mother of Dr. Abbott Carnes and of Mr. Calvin Carnes, at this time worthy citizens of the town laid out by their great-grandfather. Dr. Abbott Carnes relates a story which he often heard his mother tell. When the last company of wild Indians roamed through the town, they called at her house for something to eat. She gave them a ham, which they ate in Baugher's meadow, now owned by Mr. Daniel Baehr, and then departed, never to return.

The first house has been torn away. It stood where Mrs. Agnes Wolff now resides. Some of the logs and other material were used in building the house now owned by Mrs. Grove. A large stone house in the east end of the town, belonging to the estate of William Gitt, bears this inscription: "Built by G. H. A. D. 1781."

The location of the town is elevated. From the square, at which point the turnpikes cross, the ground descends in all directions; and hence is always free from mud. The land around is of excellent quality. Splendid crops repay the toil of the husbandman. The large barns and good farm houses attest the fertility of the soil and the industry of the tiller. In the south and southeast loom up the Pigeon Hills, large enough to form a respectable mountain. These hills certainly add greatly to the beauty of the scenery, and their wild picturesqueness beget emotions of grandeur in the mind of every beholder. They abound in timber of first-class quality, and for years, if not for all time, will be the chief depository on which the neighboring farmers must depend for fencing material. It also is supposed that immense deposits of rich minerals lie hidden in those hills. Traces of coal and of copper have sometimes been found. A good quality of stone coal was discovered in quarrying stone for the Reformed church, in June, 1843, a short distance below the town. Also a small vein was found in digging the foundation of the Paradise Catholic church, near Abbottstown. Several years ago a company was formed for mining purposes, and after working for several weeks on the farm of Mr. Henry Miller, one mile south of town, in tracing what was supposed to be a vein of coal, it was found to be lignite, and was abandoned. Years ago there was a vast amount of travel through Abbottstown, it being on the turnpike road leading from Philadelphia through Columbia, York, Gettysburg and Chambersburg to Pittsburgh. On the stage lines of this thoroughfare thousands of passengers traveled annually, while merchandise, in immense quantities, was carried on wagons. The farmers of the lower end of the Cumberland Valley, in hauling their grain to Baltimore, entered the turnpike at Berlin and then passed through Abbottstown to Hanover, where they joined the Carlisle and Baltimore turnpike and had a good road to the city. Old citizens tell of the time when the town square and streets were crowded with wagons and horses, and when the teamsters and travelers filled up the hotels.

The turnpike from York to Gettysburg was built in 1818-19, at a cost of $4,000 per mile. And the turnpike from Berlin to Hanover was made in 1816-17.

It was natural that a place so felicitously located, should, with the progress of the country, desire the advantages of more rapid transit, by which to hold the travel and trade, which was being diverted to other channels. Hence we find that as early as 1835 the question of a railroad through Abbottstown was agitated by its citizens. In 1836 surveys were made by Dr. Pfeiffer for the extension of the Wrightsville and York railroad through Abbottstown and Oxford to Gettysburg, to connect there with the so-called tapeworm. The road was located, over eight hundred thousand dollars were expended and the project was abandoned in 1838-39. Had not political animosity frustrated this plan, this no doubt to-day would be on the main line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

After several years of agitation on the part of the citizens, in which Sebastian Haeffer, Sr., Col. Geo. Ickes, Michael Hoffman, Frederick Dellone and Wm. Bittinger took an especial interest in raising a subscription, a survey was made in 1856 by Joseph S. Gitt, C. E. The effort however was not successful. The matter then rested till 1865 when a survey was made from Oxford through Abbottstown to York and the Susquehanna River. It was expected that this road would be built but also failed.

In 1872, Mr. Maltby, who had purchased the Hanover and Gettysburg railroad, ordered another survey. He did not receive as hearty a response from the citizens of York as he thought the interests of the case demanded, and soon after he sold his road to the H. J. & H. R. R. Company. On the completion of the Short Line, the project of a road from Abbottstown to York was abandoned, perhaps forever.

The citizens now felt that they must look in another direction, and strive to get on a line from Harrisburg to Baltimore. In accordance with this plan surveys were made by Jos. S. Gitt, in 1875-6, and a road was located from Red Hill, on the H. & G. R. R., five miles west of Hanover, through Abbottstown to East Berlin. This road is now completed, built of the best material and in the most substantial manner, and is doing a large and remunerative business. The people of Abbottstown and vicinity acted nobly in the work of constructing this road. But to no one is greater praise due than to Mr. Wm. Bittinger, both for personal influence and pecuniary aid in making this project a success. A few short links yet, to be made, and it will form a new line from Harrisburg to Baltimore as direct as the Northern Central, with much easier curves and far lighter grades, passing through a country more thickly settled and more fertile in soil.

  1. Reily, John T., publisher, History and Directory of the Boroughs of Gettysburg, Oxford, York Springs, Berwick, and East Berlin, Adams County, PA; with Historical Collections, J. E. Wible Printer, Gettysburg, 1880
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