About Hellam Township, PA

Hellam Township Historical Facts

Presented by the Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society

The KCVPS Museum is in The Rudy School House, located at 5345 Lincoln Highway Hellam, PA 17406

Hours: Open the 2nd Saturday of every month, 10:00AM-2:00PM, or by appointment

For more information, please visit http://www.geocities.ws/kcvps/ or email  kcvps@pa.net


This period was a turning point in the history of the land that would become Hellam Township. Before that time, the land was inhabited by native Indian tribes and a handful of fur traders. The Iroquois claimed the land by way of their conquest of the Susquehannocks in 1675. The land between the Susquehanna River and the Potomac River was shown on old maps to be Conestoga and Shawnee hunting grounds.


In 1722 the Governor of Pennsylvania made a treaty with the Indians to lay off 70,000 acres as a Proprietary Manor to be known as Manor of Springettsbury, named for Springet Penn. The area was surveyed three times, changing configurations each time, when finally the boundaries were established in 1768 containing 64,250 acres.

Squatter, Englishman, John Grist settled in the area illegally in 1720 and began to grow crops. Grist was ordered off the land by 1722 following complaints by the Indians. Authorized settlement of the area began in 1728, when John Wright, Joshua Minshall and John & James Hendricks were granted land by the Penn family. Two years later, John Wright received a charter to operate a ferry from Columbia in Lancaster County to the western shore of the Susquehanna, and a foothold to the west was established. Legal titles to the land were not finally negotiated with the five Indian nations of New York State until 1736. From 1736 to 1739 the area was under the authority of Hempfield Township, Lancaster County.

The Penn family appointed Samuel Blunston to act as their agent and authorized him to grant permits for settlement of the new territory. Blunston named this new land after his birthplace, Upper Hallam in England’s York County. The first settlers were English, but German farmers would quickly outnumber them.
At the same time, Maryland laid claim to parts of the area. There were many battles, arrests and bounties levied over what land was Maryland and what land was Pennsylvania with the boundary not settled until 1767 when the Mason & Dixon line was established.
Soon ferries were operating to transport settlers to their new homes. Anderson’s Ferry, located upstream from Wright’s Ferry received a charter in 1742. Another crossing, known as the Vinegar Ferry, was also nearby upstream.
Once across the River, many settlers headed for destinations farther west. They followed the Monocacy Road, an old Indian trail that ran from the Susquehanna River to the Monocacy River in Maryland.

The first in York County

By 1739, the Provincial Assembly of Pennsylvania authorized the Lancaster County Court to establish townships in the land west of the Susquehanna. The first township established under the Act was called Hellam Township. The boundaries at that time included parts of what is currently Adams, Cumberland and York County. Since, the Township was still part of Lancaster County, all legal matters required a trip to Lancaster County. Therefore, in 1746 a petition to form a new county was requested. York became the first County west of the Susquehanna River in 1749.
The 1783 Tax List notes there were 16,037 acres of inhabited land, 101 dwellings, 86 barns, 8 mills, 7 slaves, 345 male and 320 female adults. There are 12 of those homesteads still standing. Constables were the original law enforcement officers and first mentioned in 1750. Also supervisors of the Highway (now Board of Supervisors) and overseers of the poor, who levied taxes on residents for relief of the poor, were appointed.
Funding by the Dutch in the latter part of the century established the first school which was operated at the Kreutz Creek Church.
One of the earliest privately owned industries in the Township was the Codorus Forge located on the south side of Codorus Creek near the Susquehanna. The forge [no longer standing] was opened in 1765 and operated until 1850. The Furnace was built in 1837 and is listed on the National Register of Historical Sites.
At the latter part of the century, privately owned grain mills, saw mills, tanneries as well as mills used for manufacturing are shown on tax records.


In 1818 a macadam toll road, known as the York-Wrightsville Turnpike [currently PA Route 462] provided the primary thoroughfare through the Township. It later became part of the first transcontinental route from New York to San Francisco in 1913. The Wrightsville and Columbia Bridge increased traffic through the Township to York. For many years, this was the only bridge along the River between Maryland and Harrisburg.
The Iron Ore industry took hold in the middle of the century. While iron ore had been discovered in the township as early as 1762, it wasn’t until the years between 1850 and 1852 that many companies began to mine the ore. At one time, Hellam township had more ore banks than any other township in the County.
Because of the prime farm soil, agriculture was, and continues to be, an important asset. Around 1828, in an orchard located in Druck Valley and owned by John Kline, the apple variety that would become known worldwide as the “York Imperial” was perfected. Tobacco became a profitable crop in the area around 1855.
Many of Hellam’s families begin to build solid new homes on their land. The primary building materials readily abundant were log and limestone. Hundreds of those homesteads are still standing. {refer to Exhibit in the Comprehensive Plan} The majority are private homes.
Due to the 1854 PA Common School Law establishing a system of publicly funded education, one room schools sprang up. In the latter part of the century, Hellam had ten such schools. Those still standing are mostly private residences.
The Township’s present boundaries were established from the 1722 Manor of Springettsbury by the creation of Windsor Township in 1758, Lower Windsor in 1838, Spring Garden in 1822 (of which Springettsbury was a part until 1891) and the boroughs of Wrightsville in 1834 and Hallam in 1908.
Most cemeteries are on private lands. KCVPS has a copy of the 1934 inventory of cemeteries’ graves. Only the Dietz, Rudy, Strickler, Forry, Highmount and Kreutz Creek are public.


The Wrightsville trolley line, completed in 1904 brought more newcomers to the area. By the year 1939, when the trolley was discontinued the population had grown to 1,765.
From 1904 until 1920 tolls were collected on the York-Susquehanna Turnpike [now route 462] by the York Borough and Susquehanna Turnpike Company. The toll collector was also employed by the Township as a Road Supervisor.
Due to suburban development after WW II and increased traffic on the Lincoln Highway, in the late 1960s a bypass [route 30] was built to relieve congestion.
The first Planning Commission was implemented in 1961. Zoning was adopted in 1965 and the first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1968. The Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance was instituted in 1981. From the beginning, the township recognized its rural character and planned to preserve it [albeit general in form]. The 1996 Comprehensive Plan states a goal of “preventing wasteful and costly urban sprawl. Open spaces between town and country will also be maintained and enhanced by protecting valuable natural and historical resources. Moreover, the scenic beauty and rural character of the township will be retained for future generations to enjoy”.
The population doubled in the 70s and 80s. Small housing developments, apartment complexes and small commercial and industrial ventures were begun.
Eventually the township was governed by 3 elected supervisors. In 1989 an additional 2 were added to the Board.
The 1990 census shows: population 5,200 with a median household income of $37,473. This causes pressure for development of land within the Township to increase steadily.
Most roads never had names but were referred to as the road to a specific business or a prominent family’s land. In 1992 in response to a mandate by the U.S. Postal Service, the township named all the roads and assigned house numbers.


The 2000 census shows: 5,930 population, 1.727 families, $49,750 median household income, $114,800 median home value, median age 40 and most homes built in the 1980s.
In 2004 in compliance with State Regulations, an on lot sewage disposal system Ordinance (OLDS) was adopted to help protect the above and below ground water from contamination.
The first 20 years continued to see farmland disappearing. However, zoning was adopted that had incentives to preserve farmland. In consort with the vision in the revised 20?? Comprehensive Plan.
Woodlands compose 35 percent (6,000 acres) of the total area and are recognized as a valuable natural resource. Most are privately owned. Fortunately, approximately 1000 acres has been designated as a public state park and another 600 acres are designated as public natural conservancies. There is also 300 acres as a part of a County public park.
The township is now engaged in developing a Regional Comprehensive Plan with our neighbors Hallam and Wrightsville to best include the over 1000 acres of land being utilized as a State Park and the additional land being used as public recreation. This plan will largely determine what the 21st century brings.
The Township is keeping alive a consciousness, a character, a feeling that helps set a community apart—it offers a sense of place.
As the Township continues to grow it still retains its rural open space character as its predominant feature.

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