For over 250 years, visitors coming into Lancaster County from the east have traveled through a small town known as Paradise. Officially, Paradise Township adopted the name during its organization
in 1843. Different sources credit different people with naming the area. Some say that the name Paradise was given by Joshua Scott, who later become known for his map of Lancaster County. Standing in the middle of a road admiring his surroundings one day in 1804, he remarked that the town should be called Paradise because its beauty made it “seem like a paradise.”
The story of Paradise and its first settlers goes all the way back to Europe, to the area of the Palatinate in Germany. Here many Protestants settled following the declaration of King Louis XIV that all Protestants in France would be persecuted. With fears of invasion by the army of France looming, many of these people decided to accept the invitation to settle in William Penn’s colony of Penn’s Woods in the New World. In 1708, Daniel Fierre (Ferree), along with his family and mother Mary, went to England to obtain citizenship papers before proceeding to New York.
By 1712, these French Huguenot settlers had secured land in Pennsylvania, in Lancaster’s Pequea Valley. They were the first white people in the area and lived peaceably with chief Tanawa and the local Indians. Mary Fierre died four years later at the age of 63. Hers became the first grave in the family’s cemetery. If you ride the Strasburg Rail Road, the ”Road to Paradise,” you will pass her gravesite at Carpenter’s Cemetery, one of Lancaster’s oldest. (Not surprisingly, some people also credit Mary Ferree with naming Paradise.)
Later on, Joel Ferree, who some say was involved in the development of the Pennsylvania Rifle, gained some fame for his gun shop during the Revolutionary War. Responding to a letter from a committee that included Benjamin Franklin, he decided to enlarge his shop “to promote my Business and to serve my Country in the Common Cause,” hoping to double his weekly production of 15 to 20 gun barrels.
It should be noted that David Witmer, Sr. “is credited with the naming of the town of Paradise. Members of his own family criticized him for selecting the name ‘Paradise’ when he could have used ‘Pequea’ or ‘Tanawa,’ in honor of the Native American chief.” David was apparently a friend of George Washington, and also a supervisor of a section of the Lancaster-Philadelphia Turnpike.
It was this road that was so important to the development of the village itself. The origins of Route 30, also known as the “Lincoln Highway,” go back to Lancaster’s colonial days when this frontier county needed a communication route between it and the provincial capital of Philadelphia. At that time, the first “planned” road between Philadelphia and Lancaster was what is now Route 340. It was called the “King’s Highway,” and today we still call it the “Old Philadelphia Pike.”
Construction of the King’s Highway began in 1733 and followed, in part, the old Allegheny Native American path. By modern standards, the name “highway” is really a misnomer because the road was only dirt, which became virtually impassable during rain and snow. As time went on, it became evident that the road could not accommodate the increasing traffic between Lancaster and Philadelphia.
A committee was created in 1786 to investigate the possibility of improving inland transportation within the state of Pennsylvania. The conclusion of the committee’s work appeared on September 30, 1790, and resulted in the appointment of a commission to survey a route between Lancaster and Philadelphia. Since the cost of such a road was too much for the state to undertake, the company charged with building it was given the power to demand “reasonable” tolls from users. Investors received dividends earned from the tolls collected along with the nine gates of the turnpike. (As the toll was paid, the gate or “pike” was turned, hence the term “turnpike.”) To prevent travelers from evading tolls, the number of gates was later increased to thirteen.
The 1792 Act described the construction of the highway, which was to be a bed of small crushed stones on top with larger stones underneath, rather than dirt, so as to prevent carriage wheels from cutting into the soil. Such a revolutionary system of road construction combined the ideas recently developed by a Frenchman and two Englishmen, one of whom was named John McAdam. We now take the term for paved roads or “macadam” from his last name. The turnpike officially opened in 1795 and was the first long-distance, hard-surfaced road in the country.
Originating in the Conestoga Valley of Lancaster County, the Conestoga wagon made an important contribution to the commerce and progress of our young nation. With patriotic red running gear, white canopy, and blue body, the wagon traveled the turnpike and rural roads from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s. The Conestoga wagon drivers often smoked thin, long cigars made from Lancaster County tobacco. These cigars were nicknamed “stogies,” a shortened version of Conestoga. Another bit of lore associated with the wagons is why Americans drive their cars on the right side of the road. The lead horse was kept to the left of the Conestoga wagon, and the teamsters walked or rode on the left side. Therefore, the drivers always passed other wagons headed in the same direction on the left side.
Of course, taverns and stagecoach shops grew up along the turnpike for the weary travelers (and horses) making the trip. Of these, the Revere Tavern still proudly stands today. Dating back to 1740, the stone building that was the “stage tavern” was called the “Sign of the Spread Eagle.” It was one of the better inns along the 62 miles of turnpike, and catered to the more prosperous class of travelers, providing fine liquors and fine foods in generous portions to satisfy the hearty appetites generated by a long day riding a rocking, jolting stagecoach.
Almost a century later, in 1841, the tavern would become the residence of Reverend Edward V. Buchanan and his wife Eliza Foster Buchanan, while the Reverend established and served as the pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church in Paradise.
Eliza, his wife, was the sister of Stephen Foster, whose immortal songs will always be a part of America. Foster not only penned some of his music at the tavern but sent many of his manuscripts to his sister, a talented musician in her own right, for her approval. There, on the banks of the Pequea Creek, Eliza and Stephen played many of the 200 songs written by Stephen, including “My Olde Kentucky Home,” Way Down Upon the Swanee River” and “Oh, Susanna.”
Nowadays, the Historic Revere Tavern remains an excellent place to dine and continues to offer lodging accommodations, just as it did hundreds of years ago. The tavern can be reached at 717.687.8602. And the back roads around Paradise remain beautiful to this day, as the lush greens of the summer give way to the fall colors of the harvest season. So, during your visit to Lancaster, be sure to spend a little time in Paradise.