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