(An article written by Hiram M. Eberly about the beginnings of Lititz)
The Warwick High School is today occupying what had been a popular Indian camp site for thousands of years. An early Indian trail followed the Lititz creek to its confluence with the Conestoga. Near here it joined the main east-west trail later known as Old Peter’s Road. In 1722 Christian Bomberger was the first pioneer to venture into the unexplored wilderness now known as Warwick Township. Soon others followed from Philadelphia. They left the road to Conestoga at Downingtown and followed the narrow road that the famous Indian trader, Peter Bazaillion made famous. Near Oregon they again left this road and continued along the trail that followed the Lititz Creek.
The direction of Main Street was not planned. It was simply an improved trail that followed level ground toward the Big Spring Head. Indian trails never went over a hill that could be circumvented. The spot chosen by George Klein for his home was not by the great swamp which is now the Lititz Park, but by the “Big Spring” near Church Square. Here were the meadows that would soon become farmland.
When Klein arrived here in 1740 there was only one tract of land left unsold. This for the most part was unsuitable for farming being rocky, uneven and covered with scrub oak. Only the lands following the creek were cultivated. One of the chief crops was rye which when properly bottled brought some much needed hard money into the community.
The first church built in Lititz was Old Saint James on West Center Street. When Count Zinzendorf pleaded for a unity of all Protestant Churches here, the Lutheran, Reformed, and Mennonite settlers joined hands and built a small log church. Rev. Laurence Nyberg of the Trinity Lutheran Church of Lancaster was their first minister. This attempt at uniting churches was the only one of its kind in America, it is believed. It is hoped that some day this church may be restored at the most historic spot in Lititz.
The fact that this first attempt at a unity of churches was a failure does not detract from its importance. By 1748 part of this congregation joined with the newly formed Moravian Church and School built along the banks of the carding mill dam just east of Locust Street. In 1756 the church decided to start another “Settlement” and the town of Lititz was organized.
The strict rules governing the town seem quaint and antiquated today but at that time were actually fair and well-balanced and met the need of the times. The rules included health and sanitation morals; finance and trade; community welfare; and personal action of all kinds, from the choosing of a help-mate to entertaining a guest over night. The powerful “Committee of Overseers” saw to it that all rules were strictly enforced.
The “Economy” for business purposes was highly successful until the end of the Eighteenth Century. The unique history of Lititz that came into being by much sacrificial effort on the part of many people did not “just happen”. Many of the original buildings two centuries old are here in their original state and we hope to keep them that way.
H.M.E. LITITZ HISTORICAL FOUNDATION