Perry County, Pennsylvania

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The Perry County Courthouse is located at 25 West Main Street, New Bloomfield, PA 17068; phone: 717‑582‑2131.

O'Donel House


Beginnings [1]

The settlement of Perry County began as traders followed the Indian trails into what was then Cumberland County. The Iroquois Indians drove the first settlers from their lands, as these areas had not been purchased from Indians. Andrew Montour was the first authorized settler in what is now Perry County following the signing of an agreement with the Indians on April 18, 1752.

The Penns purchased the land, which is now Perry County in 1754. The settlers came to Perry County in 1755 with the opening of the land office for settlement of lands, on February 3, 1755 and in 1755, George Robinson built a fort for protection against the Indians in Sherman Valley along Bixler Run. After 1760, many more pioneers of Scotch Irish descent came over the mountains from the Cumberland Valley followed by settlers of German descent. By 1767, the best farm plots were claimed and by 1778, most of the land in the County was spoken for.

Perry County was part of Cumberland County and was created by an act signed by the governor William Fidley on March 22, 1820. The county was named after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry an American naval hero of an engagement with England on Lake Erie in the War of 1812. Perry County became the 51st County in Pennsylvania. This was the time when the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe was serving the third year of his eight-year term. Initially the County compromised of seven (7) townships: Tyrone, Toboyne, Rye, Greenwood, Juniata, Buffalo and Saville with Landisburg as the first County Seat.

The first Court of Common Pleas ever held in Perry County was convened in Landisburg on December 4, 1820. The County Seat was later moved to lands donated by George Barnett in 1824 at its present location in Bloomfield Borough. The removal of the public documents from Landisburg to Bloomfield took place on March 12 and 13, 1827.

During the first half of the 1800s, the County was traversed by numerous roads including the William Penn Highway (Routes 22/322) and the Susquehanna Trail (Routes 11/15). One of the major vehicles used on these roads were Conestoga Wagons that were ferried across the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers at Clark's Ferry. By 1849, the railroad was built from Harrisburg to Lewistown and became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1857. The railroad replaced the Pennsylvania Canal, which began operation in 1829. Today the railroad still functions along with modern highway systems such as U.S. Routes 11/15 and 22/322, which cross Perry County.

Today Perry County is largely an agricultural County as it was when it was first settled. The principal crops grown by the early settlers were wheat, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, and corn. Today, the farm economy centers on dairy, followed by other livestock and poultry. Field crops still have a significant place in the farm economy. By the middle 1800s, the industries included iron furnaces, tanneries, distilleries, fulling mills, woolen manufacturing, and flour mills. Duncannon had the largest iron foundry and rail factory that operated for more than fifty years to the end of the century.

  1. Perry County Comprehensive Plan, draft, 2005, New Bloomfield, PA

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