Where Did You Say You Live?

Some Unusual Town Names of Lancaster County

A few years ago someone gave me a list of colorful town names, with the stories behind them, compiled by a gentleman named Ralph Worst. It was printed in a book titled Album of Lancaster County, published in 1971 by the Mary Ferree Society. Since visitors are often struck by some of the unusual town names here in Lancaster County, I compiled the following information on some lesser known names according to Ralph Worst's list, with added information from other sources. The origins of many of the towns and villages have been lost to history, so unfortunately, I cannot vouch for their authenticity.

Smoketown, according to an old sign posted by the State, got its name from three Indian maidens who smoked pipes. Another explanation I have heard concerns the smoke that permeated the area as people cured meat in their smokehouses. Yet another source says it was so named because the very first house built there burned down!

Gap received its name from the gap in the hills leading into the Pequea Valley. The "Gap Gang" often preyed on travelers in this area, particularly freed and escaped slaves.

Leola is actually a combination of two names --- the first two letters of Leacock, and the last three of Glenola, the name of an old railway station.

New Holland originally had the German name "Saeue Schwam," which means hog swamp. Later it received the more attractive name of New Design, before becoming New Holland.

Oregon was known as Catfish, because of all the fish in the Cocalico Creek. But when the western territory of Oregon was acquired in 1846, the town was given that name in honor of the occasion.

Columbia was known as Wright’s Ferry, and the town of Wrightsville remains on the other side of the bridge. But the name Columbia was given in an effort to encourage Congress to make it the U.S. Capital. It is said this attempt was defeated by only one vote.

Buck, in southern Lancaster County, once had a store with a sign "Don’t Pass the Buck." The owner, Squire Abner Musser,  apparently gave out silver dollar "bucks" when they were still being made.

Paradise supposedly got its name from remarks made about the beauty of the area. One story says some settlers met in the post office to discuss a name, and Abraham Witmer commented that "this place is paradise to me."

Blue Ball, like many towns in the nation's early days, took its name from a tavern which was located "at the sign of the Blue Ball," established by Robert Wallace in 1766.

Kinzer was named for a hotel which was built by Harry Kinzer in 1843 for men who were in the area working on the railroad.

Sporting Hill, located in the northwest part of the county, was named for four men, known as the "old sports."

Grasshopper Level was a very high elevation where one could see for miles, and a lot of grasshoppers have also been seen there!

And then there was Turniptown. A farmer was on his way to Strasburg with a wagon full of turnips. He had an accident which resulted in his endgate opening, sending turnips down the hill. Thank goodness he wasn’t hauling watermelons!

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou.



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