John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Lebanon County - Swatara

The following is reproduced from the 1875 Atlas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania

Swatara township was originally included in Bethel and Hanover townships. Its boundaries have been changed since 1830, by erecting Union township. On the east it joins Bethel, Union on the west and North Lebanon on the south. The surface is diversified; the north and south are hilly, and the central part level. Some of the soil is Lime-stone, but the greater portion is graveland slate, but generally well improved. It is well supplied with water power, mills, &c. The Big Swatara is the dividing line between Swatara and Union townships their entire length. The Little Swatara crosses the townships a little south of the Borough of Jonestown, and in its course across the township, it propels two grist-mills and one saw-mill. The firrst in the townships, is the grist-mill and saw-mill now owned by J. F. Foswocht, Esq. The second one is owned by F. Walter, Esq., just within the borough limits of Jonestown. Jonestown Borough or Williamsburg, as it was first called, was laid out into lots by Wm. Jones, about the year 1761. The tract of land which the town is built on, was originally granted by warrant, dated the 13th of December, 1753, by the honorable Proprietors Wm. Penn's Sons, of Pennsylvania, to a Mr. Kline, who afterwards conveyed the same to William Jones. Jonestown is very beautifully situated near the forks of the Big and Little Swatara Creeks, and contains about 1000 inhabitants. It has not made as rapid strides in progression as its neighbor Lebanon, which was laid out in 1750, and now contains over 6,000 inhabitants. But with the brilliant future opening before it; from its position at the intersection of that great thoroughfare the South Mountain R. R., with the Lebanon and Tremont, and the Union Canal, it may regain its lost prestige, and will undoubtedly become a town of considerable importance. It already has fine stores, Hotels, Bank, and Insurance Co., and is the seat of the main office of the South Mountain R. R. Co. The inhabitants, with few exceptions, are Germans, of Pennsylvania birth, and it is unnecessary to state, that the town is prosperous and thrifty, like all whose inhabitants are of this nationality. The road leading from Harrisburg to Reading and Easton, passes through Jonestown, which is 24 miles east of Harrisburg and about 80 miles west of Easton, and 31 miles from Reading. The Pine Grove branch of the P. & R. R. R. passes close by and follows the Big Swatara to Pine Grove. The South Mountain R. R. passes east and west. Swatara township before 1830 was a part of Bethel. Loskiel, alluding to the Indians, says: "The savages continued to commit depredations, and roving parties infested the borders of the county, the public roads and all other places in which they found no resistance; so that the colonists who first settled what is now Swatara township, held out with uncommon patience, but were at last obliged to take refuge in Bethlehem and Lebanon." This was in 1750. Some of them soon returned to their farms, and not a few of them were surprised by the Indians and cruelly murdered. One John Spitler was shot by the Indians while putting up a pair of bars on the farm now owned by M. Lighton, the 16th of May, 1751. The house now owned by D. Shugar, about two miles north of Jonestown, was used for many years as a Fort, and a place of safety where the neighbors would go for shelter through the night, and return to their farms in the morning. This part of the history is however connected with that of Bethel, to which it originally belonged, and to which we refer the reader. The population of Swatara and Jonestown combined, in 1870 was 2015.