Paxtang, Pennsylvania

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Paxtang is a borough in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, United States. The borough is a suburb of Harrisburg and is one of the earliest colonial settlements in South Central Pennsylvania.



Paxtang dates to the 18th century when Euro-American settled at the site of the Conestoga village of “Peshtank”. Peshtank means “still waters”[citation needed]. Several important trails and routes crossed the area. William Penn purchased the area known as Paxtang, or Paxton.[citation needed] The population was 1,570 at the 2000 census.

Paxtang is the site where Presbyterian Scots-Irish frontiersmen organized the Paxton Boys, a vigilante group that murdered twenty Native Americans in the Conestoga Massacre. On December 14, 1763, more than fifty Paxton Boys rode to the settlement near Millersville, PA, murdered six Natives, and burned their cabin. Governor John Penn placed the remaining fourteen Conestogas in protective custody in Lancaster, but the Paxton Boys broke in, killed, and mutilated all fourteen people on December 27, 1763. In January of 1764, 140 Natives living peacefully in eastern Pennsylvania fled to Philadelphia for protection. The Paxton Boys marched on Philadelphia in January of 1764 with about two-hundred and fifty men. British troops and Philadelphia militia prevented them from doing more violence.

Old Paxton Church

Paxtang is home to the Old Paxton Church, one of the earliest in the area. Built in 1740 the church is the oldest Presbyterian Church building in continuous use in Pennsylvania, and the second oldest in the United States. In 1726, the Rev. James Anderson of Donegal, Pennsylvania, became the first regular preacher. The history of the church is interwoven with the history of central colonial Pennsylvania.

In 1732, the congregation was officially organized as a Presbyterian Church by the Presbytery of Donegal, with the Rev. William Bertram as the first installed pastor. The Rev. John Elder, the "Fighting Parson," became pastor in 1738. He was pastor during the French and Indian, and Revolutionary Wars, and served as a commissioned officer. Many pastors have served long pastorates; the terms of four of its ministers totaling 140 years.

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