New Salem History

After York County was established in 1741, the area was settled, primarily by industrious, thrifty German farmers. In 1810 the land that is the borough was granted to John Knoll and Nicholis Messersmith. 1798 maps show the road that becomes George Street in the Borough. As early as 1812, what is now New Salem was a cross roads.

Around 1830, a hotel was opened on the west corner of the crossroads. Jonathan Ness owned a farm on the east side of the road. People began calling the village Neffstown. By 1860 the town had grown to 28 houses. A Post Office, Pine Hill, was established in 1848. In 1862 Schwartz & Kailbaugh started a store on the crossroads that still stands today.

During the Civil War, General Jeb Stuart’s Cavalry entered New Salem on July 1, 1863. Six thousand mounted men- 150 heavy wagons-all rumbled by on dirt roads. Their passage through New Salem was peaceable. In fact, General Stuart had guards posted at the two hotels to keep his men out of the barrooms.

It was during the period after the Civil War that the name New Salem started to be used. There are no accurate records of the origin of the name. Some say it was because the borough was settled by people from York County and Salem Massachusetts. Other say it was named for New Salem, Illinois, of Abraham Lincoln fame. On December 17, 1874, the name of the Post Office was changed to York New Salem because there was a New Salem Post Office already established in western Pennsylvania.

The village had increased to a population of 200 during the decade following the Civil War and many people felt that it was time New Salem became a self-governing community. On July 24, 1876, the Grand Jury approved the petition to officially incorporate the Borough of New Salem.

The great industrialization that swept America the last half of the 19th century did not affect New Salem to any great degree, so the Borough entered the 20th century as a rural village touched very little by the rapid changes going on elsewhere.

World War I began in 1914 and 50 young men from the New Salem area served in the armed services. An impromptu parade was held in New Salem to celebrate the end of the war.

The decade of the 1920’s was the period of greatest change for New Salem. The returning war veterans had seen much of the new industrialized society and borough home with them the desire for a different way of life. Slowly the borough changed from a business and trade center to a residential community.

Electricity and Street Lights were installed in 1923. In 1925, the main roads through New Salem were paved. The first gasoline station was opened on the square in 1927. The late 1920’s also saw the first bus service between New Salem and York.

Most of the 168 area men returning from World War II had a common set of goals, get a job, establish a home and raise a family. The increased population, development and on-lot sewage systems were causing low water supply and water contamination problems. In 1953 Borough Council floated a bond issue to build a municipal water system and provide the money to acquire a large spring, install the necessary plumbing equipment and piping, and build a reservoir. The water system was sold to the York Water Company in 1982 for a sum of $100,000.

In 1969 Harry Wright started building houses on a farm in the northern section of the Borough. The new Development was called Sherwood Forrest. Mr. Wright petitioned to have the entire farm and development annexed as part of the Borough. In 1972, the court approved the Annexation. The population had increased to 500.

A traffic signal replaced the four way stop at the square in1981.The Borough contracted with West Manchester for Police Services in 1991.

As the borough continued to grow, it brought the need for Zoning, which was adopted in 1984 and the need for a sanitary Sewer System, which was completed in 2007.

The Borough of New Salem has, over the years, passed through a process of legislative change common to many American communities. While only a few simple laws were necessary at the time of establishment of the borough, subsequent growth of the community, together with the complexity of modern life, has created the need for a new and more detailed legislation for the proper function and government of the Borough. The recording of local law is an aspect of municipal history, and as the community develops and changes, review and revision of old laws and consideration of new laws, in the light of current trends, must keep pace. The Orderly collection of these records is an important step in this ever-continuing process. Legislation must be more than mere chronological enactments reposing in the pages of old records. It must be available and logically arranges for convenient use and must be kept up-to-date. It was with thoughts such as these in mind that the Borough Council ordered the codification of the borough’s legislation.