The name "Paxton" has a long history in Pennsylvania and there are two theories about its origin. The first theory is that it may have been brought here from Scotland by the Scottish Presbyterian settlers who settled in the upper area of what was then Lancaster County. Possibly the name comes from the Latin "pax" meaning "peace." With the addition of "ton," Scottish for "town," the liberal translation can be "Peace Town."
The second theory is that "Paxton" is a derivation of the Indian name "Peshtank" which was originally given to the area by its Indian settlers, the Susquehannocks. "Peshtank" became "Paxtang" and finally "Paxton." John Harris, in fact, wrote his letters from "Paxtang" or "Paxton," not Harrisburg. This Indian derivation would roughly translate "Place-where-the-water-stands-still."
Paxton Township was created in 1729 within Lancaster County. Organized long before the City of Harrisburg, it was at that time about the size of Dauphin County. In the years after Dauphin County was established, the township was slowly divided. Hanover Township was cut off the east in 1736 and Upper Paxton Township was cut off the north in 1767. What remained in 1767 was then renamed Lower Paxton Township. The divisions continued.
Harrisburg Borough (now the City of Harrisburg) was formed in 1791 and Swatara Township was created in 1799. In 1878 more land was cut of the north and became Middle Paxton Township and in 1815 Susquehanna Township was formed.
Settling within the township during its colonial period were many German and Scotch-Irish immigrants. They established several farms and settlements throughout the area which eventually developed into the township's three villages. The oldest established village was created in 1765, and named "The Town of St. Thomas." After its founder, Thomas Lingle, died in 1811 the name was unofficially changed to Linglestown, as it is known today. The Township's other two villages, Paxtonia and Colonial Park, were developed in the 20th Century.
Paxton Township is well represented in the early history of our country. Township residents played a major role During the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War periods. Forts by the names of Gilchrist, Patton, Barnett, and Berryhill were located in the valley immediately south of Blue Mountain, along what is now known as Linglestown Road (PA Route 39). This road, originally an Indian trail, later became a major east-west road for settlers traveling to Fort Hunter (along the Susquehanna River) and beyond.
On Newside Road, just south of Union Deposit Road, is a small church yard. A tablet erected there in 1924 by the Harrisburg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution furnishes the following information on the early history of the site.
This tablet marks the site of the Newside Church Yard given by Captain Joseph Sherer to the congregation of which the Reverend John Roan was Pastor from 1745 to 1774. Here lies the pioneers, defenders of the frontier, soldiers of the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution and The War of 1812. This church yard is the symbol to the memorial of the early history of Lower Paxton Township and the men who served their country.
Another church of note is the Linglestown Church of God, which was organized in the village as the first congregation of this denomination by its founder, Rev. John Winebrenner.
Effects of World War II
Lower Paxton Township, with a great and glorious past, faced a different challenge in the years after World War II. A rural farming district until that time, it found itself in the direct line of advancement as the population expansion pushed development outward from the Harrisburg urban area. Federal census figures show a population of 4,157 in 1940. By 2010, the population had risen to more than 47,000.
With this growth came a corresponding increase in township government activity. New services have been added, while others have been expanded and improved. This website will present a concise, yet comprehensive, review of the organization, activities, and functions of the Lower Paxton Township government.