The History of Dauphin County, America’s First Crossroads

The local history of Harrisburg, PA is a tale that spans thousands of years, but we have a briefer version. Enjoy these quick facts about the community and how it came to be.

From Prehistory to Early Settlements to Sprawling Cities

It might not feel it at first, but the history of Dauphin County stays essential. Without the initial developments made in the 1700s, several wars could have ended differently. Yet, not many understand the vital role our region played during the nation’s first years. Even before we declared independence, Dauphin County continued to thrive.

We at Szar Bail Bonds believe it’s important to tell the tale of our community. Otherwise, people forgot that it was Pennsylvania that heeded the call time and again. 

From the Revolutionary War to the American Civil War, we’ve stood tall against every threat. Continue reading the story of Dauphin County and why we love living here.


Why Do We Call It “Dauphin County” Anyways?

Those worried can breathe easy learning that it isn’t a misspelling of “dolphin.” In fact, it’s accepted that it comes from the eldest son of a French king. During the American Revolution, French forces played a prominent role in our nation’s success. Without their help, our militias would have long run out of food, supplies, and funding.

And it wasn’t only money and guns, but the training to use them. Many generals, especially those directly under George Washington, gave us the skills we needed.

It is unclear who, exactly, Dauphin was, or what his title wound up becoming. Either way, it’s a way of saying thanks throughout the generations to our French allies.  

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Prehistory and Indigenous Nations

The Stone Age Tribes of Pennsylvania

Historians in the area have evidence that people have lived here for thousands of years. 11,000 years ago, ancient tribes ruled through the region, about 6,000-7,000 B.C. Archeologists have uncovered lots of unique tools and equipment these early people used daily. That includes findings like spears, hide removal scoopers, stone tools, and even ceramics.

Although primitive, these artifacts are equally impressive, showcasing these groups’ ingenuity. These tries would continue to thrive until the colonists began settling in the 1700s, A.D. Besides the excavations and tools discovered by researchers, not much else seems known. However, there are plenty of sites to analyze to continue learning about our ancestors.


Early 18th Century Settlers

From Wild Landscapes to Settlements

After thousands of years of obscurity, European colonists found the area ideal for development. Here, the new residents set up stores, trade routes, and settlements that saw rapid growth. Those indigenous tribes still around traded with these new settlers, especially for fur and pelts. Soon, Harper’s Ferry became established, improving trade and transportation in the 1800s.

Success didn’t last long without conflict, though, and the area also included many military facilities. These became quickly needed during the Revolutionary War, French and Indian War, and the American Civil War. Finally, after years of skirmishes from many different enemies, peace returned to the area. Now, technology catches up to these early settlements, modernizing them quickly.


The Early 1900s

Modern Cities Take Root

Before, most transportation in the region stayed restricted to the rivers. Over time, however, trails became roads, driven by new Model-T cars. Throughout the 1800s, communities got established, and land became increasingly more developed. By the 1900s, these early settlements transformed into modern towns and cities.

Agriculture remained an important staple in the history of Dauphin County, as did housing, manufacturing, and other industries. Soon, European immigrants would flock to the area, especially from Germany. The growing pains of the 1800s had transferred the capital from Lancaster to Harrisburg. In 1943, the city flourished, welcoming a new courthouse that replaced the older brick one.


WWII Manufacturing

Keeping the Allies Armed and Ready to Fight

While Pennsylvania was already well known for its manufacturing efforts, it soon got tested. Once our armed forces entered World War II, they needed plenty of ammunition. Not everyone from Dauphin County wanted to partake in the violence. Many of the area’s immigrants and settlers came from pacifist backgrounds.

However, even without these individuals aiding war efforts, they served the community. As these families tended to farms and agriculture work, most others manufactured steel. The nearby smelting facilities also led to weapon development and testing. Soon, the United States armed forces had everything they needed to defeat Hitler.

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