I want to learn about Lancaster’s history. Can someone tell me how an ordinary person like me, who doesn’t have much extra time, do that? Is there a book that gives a survey-level overview of our local history?

This desire of mine to know more about where our community has come from came to a head this weekend when David Moulton and I interviewed my neighbor Christine Minnich on The Lancast. Late in the conversation, I made these remarks:

I’ve been thinking lately about how more and more of our focus right now culturally is about what’s local and what’s nearby. I watch the national political talk shows and read national magazines and I think this stuff is so detached from me and Washington is so screwed up, that I’m just happier focusing on Lancaster. But one of the things if you want to understand America or the current cultural scene or political scene is, you have to know the history. You have to understand the Civil War, you have to understand JFK’s assassination, how the political parties got to be where they are, and so on. But it seems like the awareness of our local history, if we really want to be l0cal and we really want to figure out what we’re dealing with and how to overcome it, or what to celebrate about what we’ve got, we have to understand our history. I think, for me, that’s something I definitely don’t understand.

I’m totally curious, and I think it would totally change my outlook on the world and our community, if I can just understand, how did we start with the Herr House in 1710, and then go through becoming our own county, our town that became a city, then we had all these men from our community go off to fight in the Civil War, many of them never returned, then we hit the mid-1900s and the city starts to become dilapidated and there’s this whole urban renewal project where they knock down lots of buildings and build Binns Park and the Lancaster Square area. So how did we start with the Hans Herr house and get to here, and what can we learn from that?

Any guidance or advice? Anyone else feeling this need for some history lately, or is it just me?

4 thoughts on “To do ‘local’ right, we need to learn our history

  1. Start w/the Lancaster County Historical Society. Corner of President and Marietta. They have old newspapers on microfilm. Pick a date, say 12th of the month and read the newspaper for that date every three months. This will give you and idea of what was going on in the community and in the county. Politics, entertainment, law, etc. It’s all there. Read the ads in the paper.

    Read! Research your family line. If they were in Lancaster County, you can go back, and find out where they were and what they were doing.

    Do your own timeline. Start w/Hans Herr in 1710. Find an event for 1711, and then 1712, etc. put it on the timeline.

    . . can you tell I’m a researcher? I love history, and especially the history of this county!

    1. Thanks, Tim. That looks like a fascinating book, and it’s now on my wishlist.

      I have to admit I’m surprised that no one seems to know of a book that gives a broad overview of Lancaster’s history. It would be good to have a full, general timeline before digging deeper into specific periods of its history.

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