The Original Town of Elizabeth

It is well documented. Elizabethtown is named after Barnabas Hughes’ wife. The land descended from the William Penn Family down thru several owners to Barnabas on Jun 15, 1753. Sometime before Oct 4, 1763 Barnabas laid out his new town of Elizabeth and by that date had sold his first lot. Barnabas died Jan 2, 1765. His real estate, including his surveyed lots, descended to his sons, who released their rights to their brother Samuel on Jul 20, 1786. Samuel continued the sale of the remaining lots.


Neither the original town plan nor a copy have ever been found. What did the original plan look like? What were its dimensions? How many lots were there? After reviewing a mountain of deeds and other historic sources, we think we know (See below diagram).

Barnabas Hughes’ Original Town Plan 1/

(not to scale)

Barnabas’ son, Samuel is believed to have added lots 65-80 to the original plan.  Also note that “Manheim Street” is now High Street.

We believe Barnabas’ plan included 64 lots divided into 16 blocks. Each block measured 198 feet by 240 feet. The frontage or width of the lots depended upon their orientation, north-south (49.5 feet) or east-west (60 feet). We, also, believe Samuel added an additional 16 lots (same dimensions) to the plan to the west of what he named Poplar Street sometime between Oct 28, 1790 – Jun 10, 1791. These lots were numbered 65-80.


To date, we have been able to identify deeds that either directly or indirectly relate to the owners of 64 of the 80 lots sold by Barnabas and his son Samuel. For the 16 remaining lots we have been able to locate documentation of ownership back to within the period 1783-1884 for all except one lot.


Barnabas sold his lots as perpetual leases. We have identified 10, of his perpetual leases sales, of which 2 are referred to in his 1763 deed to a John Blazor (original is held by the Seibert Library) and 4 are inferred in deeds written by his son Samuel, after his father’s death. We have located 22 deeds relating to 55 lots signed by Samuel on 5 different dates between 1787 and 1793.


Our review of the remaining “mountain of deeds”, which are now cataloged by town block, helped identify the numbering system and street layout for the town plan.


Much can be read about the early lot owners in Richard K. MacMaster’s book “Elizabethtown, The First Three Centuries”. Our deed research has confirmed much of what he wrote as well as brought to light some new facts. Did you know?


– Market Street follows the old Lancaster-Middletown-Harrisburg Turnpike as it was laid out by 1738. Prior to the incorporation of the Town of Elizabeth in 1827, owners of lots to the east of Market Street were residents of Mount Joy Township and to the west of Market Street residents of Donegal Township.


– Barnabas’s town encompassed about 25 acres. It was situated south of Conoy Creek and did not straddle nor border on it.


– St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church on Cherry Alley is located on Lot #1.


– The original, log Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on East High Street, through a mix-up, was built on a lot other than the one sold to its Elders (lot #16) by Samuel Hughes in 1787.


– The second owner of lot 16, whereon the Winters Heritage House Museum is now located, served in the Revolutionary War. His father was killed by Indians.


– St. Peter’s cemetery’s eastern boundary, which slants to the northwest, coincides with the slanted boundary of the original 252+ acre patent granted by the Penn Family to Thomas Harris in 1746.


– Many of the known original lot owners may still have descendents living in Elizabethtown today, including those with the surnames: Auker, Balmer, Bishop, Blazor, Brant, Coble, Derr, Frey, Gross, Jamison, McLaughlin, Myer and Sheaffer.


The deeds researched for this project now form the foundation of a Seibert Library historic property database. If you are interested in researching the history of your property please call the Seibert Library staff. They would be pleased to assist you.

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