Maytowns 250th birthday

Maytown, PA

 Maytown 250th souvenirs

 Maytown 250th pottery

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Maytown, PA 17550

Maytown Historical Society

Maytown 250 Event - HOME -
Maytown 250 Event
PO Box 96
Maytown, PA

Maytown History

   Maytown is one of the oldest, and for many decades, was one of the most important towns in the Donegals. The principle pioneer family was Lowery, headed by Lazarus Lowery, an Indian trader.

A patent for 411 acres of land was recorded for Lazarus Lowery in 1748, through which ran the "Great Road." This was also known as "Peterís Road" named for Pierre Bezallion, a French fur trapper who had a hand in carving out wilderness trails in the early days of the country.

On May 1, 1760, Jacob and Elizabeth Downer, German Mennonite land speculators who had earlier been active in the real estate market on the eastern side of Lancaster County, laid out the town of Maytown, in Donegal Township, on 150 acres that they had just purchased from Scots-Irish landholder, Lazarus Lowery.

maytown_map The Downer's dream was to create a community on the frontier, near the Susquehanna River, in the environs of Great Peter's Road, where new immigrants could find a home and serve as a supply center for the legions of pilgrams who would follow after them--ever westward.

They planned their town well, and Maytown quickly became a busy center of the fur-trading industry. The first settlers were Scotch-Irish, but Germans soon became the most numerous of Maytown's early settlers. Lots sold readily, though only ground rents were given, and the Downers hoped to become rich, themselves, through collection of annual rental fees on each deeded property.

So it was, that they devised a town plan, which would feature a central "diamond" square and a grid pattern of surrounding streets--with "High" Street serving as the main thoroughfare--bisecting the square on the East-West axis, and bring pioneers from civilized Lancaster to wild York County, via the Vinegar Ferry crossing of the river. A North-South artery bore no name, originally, but it too bisected the square and eventually became known as River Street.

early maytown lots

Alleys or "back" streets were created parallel and perpendicular to the main axes, and so it was that the town consisted of 16 blocks, measuring 250 x 250 feet, arranged in 4 tiers. Each block was then subdivided into four lots, creating space for a moderately sized dwelling, a small barn or stable, and a goodly-sized garden.

All of the original town lots, with the exception of the 4 lots with frontage on the town square, therefore measured 62½ x 250 feet. They were numbered in sequence, beginning with lot 1, which was located on the Southwest corner of the square, and proceeding to lot 8 on the south side of West High Street, at King Street. Numbers then went up the entire North side of High Street from King to Queen Street, lot 9 to lot 24. Lot 25 was opposite 24, and the sequence continued back to the square along the South side of East High Street, arriving finally at lot 32.

During the revolution, Daniel Gilman manufactured muskets and John Nicholas made broadswords in his smithy. Brick making and cigar factories were the most important industries in Maytown for many decades. The 1½ story stone house, located on the square, is where Rebecca Way, mother of the 19th century poet Bayard Taylor, was raised.

History Timeline

1718 - Old Peter's Great Road is laid out near present-day Maytown
1729 - Donegal Township, in which Maytown is located, is established
1748 - Lazarus Lowery acquires patent on land that becomes Maytown
1752 - Donegal Presbyterian Church is built
1760 - Maytown is founded on the first day of May, laid out by Jacob and Elizabeth Downer
1762 - Maytown's first tavern, a stone building is erected by Frederick Gailbach on the northwest corner of the Square
1770 - Alexander Lowery, youngest son of the original owner, Lazarus Lowery, acquired all the land and ground rents of Maytown
1799 - Simon Cameron, diplomat, U.S. Senator, War Secretary in Lincoln's cabinet is born in Maytown
1814 - John Esterlie opens a shop in Maytown to manufacture beautiful tall case clocks
1820 - Maytown becomes a brick manufacturing center
1853 - Maytown's first Public Hall is erected
1871 - Maytown Cemetery was incorporated
1875 - Maytown becomes tobacco-clearing house
1881 - The three-story, high style Victorian general store is built on the Square
1882 - Dr. H.M. Alexander, nearby Maytown resident, establishes what is now known as Wyeth Laboratories
1889 - Maytown High School is founded. Simon Cameron dies
1900 - Houseal's General Merchandise store is built
1906 - The first house lights installed in Maytown by the Elizabethtown Electric Company
1910 - Maytown National Bank building is built
1916 - Maytown Volunteer Fire Company is established
1945 - Donegal American Legion Post is established
1967 - Maytown Bank is robbed, police chief Marvin Foltz dies in the line of duty
1976 - East Donegal Township adopted the first agricultural zoning ordinance in the county
1985 - Maytown's 225th birthday is celebrated - Maytown Historic Society formed
2002 - Maytown/East Donegal Museum dedicated

- Information courtesy of Rev. Robert M. Lescallette and the Maytown Historical Society-