Maytown, Pennsylvania is a small, well-preserved, charming town in western Lancaster County.
Although the town may lack the abundance of boutiques and shops found in other Pennsylvania Dutch country towns, the town makes up for it in small-town atmosphere. Largely residential, the town is famous for its well-preserved architecture that ranges from Colonial-era log cabins to 19th-century buildings utilizing locally produced brick to beautiful high-style Victorian homes and retail buildings.
Maytown is the ideal Lancaster County town to visit if your goal is to be transported back to a simpler time when life seemed to move at a different pace.
Fur Trading Origins
Maytown began as an important fur-trapping center populated initially by Scottish-Irish immigrants.
During the Colonial period in the early 1700s, fur traders carved out paths and primitive one-lane roads along rivers and Indian trails.
One of the most famous trappers of the region who was responsible for carving out many of the wilderness trails surrounding Maytown as well as those surrounding
was the French fur trader, Pierre Bezaillion. Even today, the picaresque network of narrow and twisty roads carved by Bezaillion still remain for you to witness.
During the early 1700s, many Scottish-Irish immigrants settled to the area and even founded the Donegal Presbyterian Church on the outskirts of the town in the 1720s.
A Colonial Town
As the century progressed, more and more German immigrants settled in the area.
As the region's population grew, businesses sprung up to meet the needs of the settlers. Despite the 1762 date listed on state historic markers, the 150-acre region was officially founded as a town on the first day of May in 1760 (thus, the town's name) by a German Mennonite couple.
Like most Colonial towns, Maytown was self-sustaining. It became a popular resting place for travelers heading west. Businesses such as blacksmiths, hardware stores, taverns, and inns thrived because they served the needs of the travelers as well as those living in the surrounding territories.
The land around the town was used for growing tobacco. In the winter, during the off-season, the residents sustained themselves as cobblers, coopers, and cabinetmakers.
The town benefited from trade made possible by its close proximity to the Susquehanna River. Although river towns such as
which was only a few miles away, had a reputation for rowdiness due to the transience of those participating in the river trade, Maytown remained quiet and peaceful.
A small 19th Century Commercial Town
By the close of the 1800s, the town was primarily known for the fine brick manufactured there as well as the tobacco grown in the surrounding land.
The town also manufactured cigars, shoes, and children's clothing. The town had many printers, potters, distillers, plumbers, hatters, and carriage makers.
The town even had its own baseball team during the turn-of-the-century which played the teams of neighboring towns.
Although the town's commercial days are in the past, there still remain some surviving businesses such as Houseal's General Merchandise Store on East High Street.
Although the town does not have as many unique Pennsylvania Dutch shops and boutiques as some of its Lancaster County neighbors, the town does offer many attractions that justify a visit.
Most important is the small-town feel of the town. It has become a cliche to compare the towns and villages of Pennsylvania Dutch country to walking back in time. However, it really is true here.
From the intimate residential homes to the small town square, the town is the epitome of small-town America.
When you visit the town, you will be struck by its well-preserved architecture. From Colonial-era log cabins to 19th Century buildings utilizing the traditional local brick to Victorian-era homes.
In fact, on Maytown's Square, can be seen the 1910 National Bank on East High Street as well as the 1881 commercial building known as Three Center Square.
There is also the 1 1/2 story stone home where Rebecca Way, mother of the 19th century poet Bayard Taylor, was raised.
There is also Donegal Presbyterian Church on Donegal Springs Road, just outside the town. As mentioned before, the church was built by Scottish-Irish settlers in the early 1720s.
Also, nearby, is the Samuel S. Haldeman Mansion at 230 Locust Grove Road in neighboring Bainbridge. The 1782 Federal-style house was the former home of Samuel S. Haldeman who was a famous scientist, naturalist, and author. Haldeman was cited in Charles Darwin's Origins of Species.
Maytown is also famous for being the birthplace of Simon Cameron (1799-1889). Cameron served on the Presidential Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln and had also been elected as a United States Senator. Cameron was also a gentleman farmer on his Donegal Springs estate just outside town.
His former home has since been transformed into a Federal-style brick house that is used today as a Bed & Breakfast known as the Maytown Manor B & B.
To celebrate the town's founding, on the first weekend of every May, there is the Maytown May Fest. At this event, residents and visitors celebrate with a maypole dance which is a traditional pre-Christian agricultural celebration. It involves a faux wedding ceremony believed to commemorate a real marital union that occurred shortly after the founding of the town.
Also, in May, is the annual Memorial Day Craft and Antique Art Show. This popular event is held around the town square.
Also popular amongst locals is the Octoberfest held on the second Saturday of every October.
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