The Borough of Elizabethtown is located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It lies 21 miles southeast of Harrisburg. Like many of the other Villages and Boroughs in Lancaster, Elizabethtown has a long and rich history. The Borough’s website currently lists the population at 11,545 residents.
The story of how the town got its name is under some dispute. Some say it was named after Eliabeth Reeby, Michael Reeby’s wife. Reeby is said to have sold the first building lots in the area around 1795. Others claim that the Borough derives its name from the wife of Captain Barnabas Hughes who owned the Black Bear Tavern in 1750. Either way, the Borough’s name owes a debt to the early settlers of the area and the Borough’s first entrepreneurs.
The area’s early settlers were Scot-Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch and the Borough still displays evidence of this.
Elizabethtown officially became a Borough in 1827. A railroad was built through it in 1830s, but the area remained largely agricultural until the turn of the century. At that time, the Klein Chocolate Company, now a part of Mars, Inc. and several factories manufacturing shoes were founded.
Elizabethtown College was established in 1899, and the Masonic Homes in 1910. Both the Borough and the college have affectionately become known as e-town.
Like many areas of the time, Elizabethtown experienced a boom after World War II and its population doubled between 1950 and 2000. Because of the expansion into nearby farmland, preservation and downtown revitalization became important issues to Elizabethtown.
In 1980, the Kreider Shoe Manufacturing Company was listed on the National Register of Historic Places gaining further attention and tourist value for the area.
Elizabethtown is also home to the Continental Press and White Oak Mills. It also has a newly renovated historic Amtrak station helping to bring in travelers to the Borough. The Elizabethtown Historical Society is a great landing spot for visitors who wish to learn more about the history of the area. It is located in the restored Peach Alley Schoolhouse and holds monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of each month from September to May. The society is also a museum that features collectibles, books and gifts relating to the history of Elizabethtown. Visitors can also see the Ober Clock which was made by a resident in the 1840s and is one of the society’s prized possessions. There is a very informative dairy exhibit at the society as well relating to the local dairy industry.
The Elizabethtown fair is held in late August and showcases the local agriculture. There are a variety of contests held at the fair each year that range from photos contests to sack races. It is great family fun and a perfect stop for anyone traveling through in the month of August. Going to the Elizabethtown fair is a wonderful way to meet the locals and soak up some unique Elizabethtown culture.
Nothing quite beats a stop in the many small towns and boroughs in Lancaster to get a true feel for the sense of community and life in this area. Its rich history and friendly residents are welcoming and engaging and it is sure to be a trip you will remember.