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Early Days:

1729  Samuel Blunston started issuing warrants to settle the South Central Pennsylvania region. Irish, Dutch, German, and English (Quaker) immigrants answered the call. The industry and religion of these early settlers helped them build bonds and put down roots.

1736  A vast acreage west of the Susquehanna River was officially acquired from the Susquehannock Indians.

1749  York County and several other counties were carved out of sprawling Lancaster County.

1764  Our founder, John Frankenberger, purchased 200 acres from William Penn’s sons, Thomas and Richard, to establish a town that would serve early settlers and attract new ones. On May 8th, 1764, he officially laid out 85 lots, with one main street, 4 cross streets and 5 alleys. He named it Berlin for his hometown in Prussia (Germany).

1797  Berlin’s new owner, John Hildebrand, Sr., added 100 lots north of town and became a town leader. Two dozen Hildebrands are buried in East Berlin Union Cemetery.

1800  Adams County was carved out of York County with Berlin on its northeast boundary at the junction of Conewago Creek & Beaver Creek.

1827   When the official post office was established, the town became East Berlin to distinguish the location from another town named Berlin in Somerset County.

1863 During the tumultuous Civil War, as Confederate troops led by General Jubal A. Early made their way toward York, they reportedly forced East Berlin women to bake bread for them at 412 W. King St. After the Wrightsville Bridge was set on fire by militiamen from Columbia to stop the Confederates from advancing to Harrisburg. General Early then changed plans and concentrated his troops in York. They marched west, staying overnight in Big Mount, then marched through East Berlin on June 30, 1863. On the way, they ransacked nearby Eisenhart Mill (read more about it here), made camp near Hampton, and then advanced to the fierce, bloody Battle of Gettysburg, July 1 to July 3, 1863.

1879  On November 10, 1879, East Berlin was incorporated as a Borough. The first Borough election was held February 17th, 1880. Elected were a Burgess, Town Council, School Directors, Assessor, Judge, Inspectors, Justice of the Peace, Auditor, and Constable. At the time, East Berlin had 243 taxpayers, 72 horses, 33 cows, 63 pleasure carriages, 9 gold watches, and 14 acres of timber.

Historic Highlights:

  • East Berlin Borough’s first fire engine was purchased in 1892. Liberty #1 Fire House, on 4th St and South Avenue, was built the same year. On January 1, 2019, Liberty Fire Company No. 1 of East Berlin officially merged with Lake Meade Fire and Rescue Inc. to become Northeast Adams Fire & EMS.
  • The town water system was begun in 1898. A municipal authority was organized in 1945 to construct a sewer system, in full operation by 1957. A storm water system was begun in 1958 when PA State Routes 194 and 234 were improved. The East Berlin Area Joint Authority which maintains the water & sewer system for the Borough and Hamilton Township, became a separate entity in 2007.
  • York Telephone and Telegraph first installed telephone lines in 1912. An electric light company was organized in conjunction with Abbottstown and installation completed by 1921. Natural gas pipelines were installed beginning in 1933 by the former Gettysburg Gas Company.
  • Kuhn’s Fording Covered Bridge once spanned Conewago Creek southwest of town. Built in 1897, it was an example of a covered Pratt truss bridge with wooden Burr arch. Despite efforts to restore it after 1975 hurricane damage, its timbers were donated to Lancaster County for their bridge repair program.
  • Preceding the Civil War, residents would have been aware of the network of Quaker families in nearby Lewisberry and York Springs who, with other prominent abolitionists in and around Gettysburg, spirited many slaves to freedom along the infamous “Underground Railroad.” They held well-attended events with speakers such as Frederick Douglas and William Lloyd Garrison.
  • The Church Schoolhouse, built ca. 1770, still located on the grounds of East Berlin Union Cemetery, was the town’s first school. This was well before Pennsylvania’s Free School Act was enacted in 1834.

Starting in 1870, the Select School was renowned in the region for its thoroughness of instruction. Teachers included the beloved J. Curtis Hildebrand (1845-1887). 

The Church School House also served as a meeting place for the Berlin Beneficial Society who provided comfort and aid to many in the community, and the Berlin Improvement Society (1836-1910) who amassed a 600-book lending library, now stored in Red Men’s Hall. Literary societies like this one contributed to the establishment of Pennsylvania’s public school system. Thaddeus Stevens (1859-1868), U.S. Representative, crusader for universal education and abolition of slavery, was an honorary member. For a time, he owned the sandstone house at 426 West King Street.

The Borough’s first election and early Borough Council meetings were held at the schoolhouse, too. The East Berlin Lions Club, Union Cemetery Board of Trustees, and others restored the cherished schoolhouse in the 1960’s. The East Berlin Historical Preservation Society now uses the building for its education program.

A new East Berlin School was built in 1878. It housed primary grades and East Berlin High School. The first principal was J. Curtis Hildebrand. In 1957, Conewago Independent School District, East Berlin Borough and Reading Township became part of the Bermudian Springs Joint School System, which included Huntington Township, Latimore Township, and York Springs Borough. A high school (grades 7-12) was built near York Springs. East Berlin and York Spring schools were expanded to accommodate all K-6 students in the new district. Both elementary schools were closed in 1990 and students were moved to a new elementary school campus in the Bermudian Springs School District complex.

  • In 1990, the Borough purchased the old East Berlin school complex from the school district. East Berlin, Abbottstown, Reading, and Hamilton Townships in Adams County and Paradise and Washington Townships in York County joined together to form the East Berlin Area Community Center. It is a busy place once again, with classes, events, a thrift store, special-needs day care center, and adjacent fitness center. Numerous organizations use their classrooms and gymnasium.
  • Religion has always played an important role in the lives of many in East Berlin. Trinity Lutheran Church and Zwingli United Church of Christ, both now on King Street, have served the community since the borough’s beginnings. The original German Lutheran and German Reformed congregations shared a church building on the edge of the cemetery. Finished in 1822, it was later demolished when both congregations made plans for their own buildings.
  • A community initiative has been revived to build a Rail-Trail on or near the abandoned right-of-way of the historic Berlin Branch Railroad, (1877-1940). It would be a walkable connection between Hamilton Township and East Berlin and provide another recreation option in the region.
  • On the east end of King Street near the confluence of Conewago Creek and Beaver Creek is the landmark Swigart’s Mill. It was built in 1794, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
  • With community support and efforts of the East Berlin Historical Preservation Society, our downtown was designated a National Historic District in 1985, with over 170 notable structures built from the late 18th century to the early 20th century.
  • Lake Meade Community, started in 1965, just north of East Berlin, is a large lakeside community whose residents share our schools, churches, business services, library, community center and post office.

East Berlin Historical Preservation Society

The East Berlin Historical Preservation Society owns and/or maintains five of the Borough’s historic buildings: Swigart’s Mill, Red Men’s Hall, Liberty #1 Fire House, the Church School House, and the Log House (relocated from the New Oxford area to a parcel behind the post office).

They hosted and planned East Berlin’s iconic Colonial Day, their main fundraiser from 1975 to 2017. They host a bi-monthly Speaker Series at Red Men’s Hall, Thanksgiving Craft Sale in the Log House, and biennial Christmas House Tour of historic buildings in and around East Berlin.

Wheels of Time II, a book to commemorate the first 250 years of East Berlin, was published for our 2014 Founder’s Day celebration. It is available for loan at Jean Barnett Trone Memorial Public Library or for purchase at the East Berlin Borough Hall office and East Berlin Beverage Distributors at 219 W King St.

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