Situated along the scenic Susquehanna River in Central Pennsylvania, the area that includes the Borough of Marietta was settled early in the 18th century. In 1740, Rev. James Anderson received a patent for a ferry across the river. The area thereafter was known as Anderson's Ferry until 1803 when David Cook laid out lots for a town called New Haven that was to become the east end of Marietta. In 1804, James Anderson IV laid out lots for a town he called Waterford that became the west end of Marietta. In 1812, these two towns were incorporated to form the borough of Marietta, a name that was possibly formed by combining the names of members of the incorporators' families. It was the first borough to be incorporated outside of what is now the city of Lancaster. Further development by Jacob Grosh, John Myers and Benjamin Long extended the boundary of the borough. The west end of town, laid out by John Pedan, James Mehaffey and James Duffy and known historically as Irishtown, was not annexed until 1967. Through its long history, Marietta has always had about 2,500 inhabitants, resulting in its retaining its small-town charm.
Growth was brisk for a few years, but was slowed by the economic crisis or panic of 181 7. The economy rebounded when the Pennsylvania Canal was located through the town between the years 1825 and 1832. The canal boats and river rafts loaded with lumber, coal and other commodities kept the town bustling. Local deposits of iron ore and limestone, the raw materials needed for smelting of iron by anthracite coal-fired hot blast furnaces, led to eight furnaces being built in the two miles along the river between Marietta and Columbia. The canal trade began to fade with the coming of the railroads about 1850 as the demand for pig iron for rails grew. The era of The Industrial Revolution led to Marietta's having the first chartered bank in the county-The First National Bank of Marietta. Mansions were built in the town, and there were lavish parties attended by Presidents Grant and Cleveland, Supreme Court justices and railroad magnates. This boom subsided in the early 1900's when Pittsburgh became the center of steelmaking.
The borough is remarkable for its large inventory of homes on the National Register of Historic Places, the majority of which date back to the 19th century. There are 430 properties on this National Register and their proximity creates streetscapes that capture the look and feeling of nineteenth century life. The Borough has always been associated with various aspects of life on the Susquehanna River, from its being a hub for raft traffic down the river, to its many factories in the 19th Century along the river, to the famous ferries that brought out.of-state visitors to York and beyond. Lying on an S-bend in the wide and powerful Susquehanna, the borough also abuts Chickies Rock, a geological marvel. Scientists believe this sheer rock face was uplifted from the river bottom from the shifting of the Earth's tectonic plates thousands of miles away.
The borough has always been a magnet for artists, scientists, and artisans, as well as a hub of the river life in taverns. The Pennsylvania School of Art and Design started in Marietta and grew here until its later move to Lancaster. Dr. H. M. Alexander and his son-in-law, Dr. Gilliland were pioneers in the research and development of vaccines, most notably for smallpox and rabies, which are still manufactured and researched here by the later companies of The Gilliland Laboratories, Wyeth Laboratories and now GlaxoSmithKline. The town has a historical museum in it. Old Town Hall, the Union Meeting House (which has recently been further landscaped and restored), and a repertory theater company, as well as many dining places.
† Marietta Borough Heritage Plan, undated. boroughofmarietta.com/, accessed November, 2022.
Nearby Towns: Columbia Boro • East Donegal Twp • East Prospect Boro • Elizabethtown Boro • Hallam Boro • Mount Joy Boro • Wrightsville Boro • Yorkana Boro •