Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

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Lewisburg is a borough in Union County, Pennsylvania, United States, 30 miles (48 km) south by east of Williamsport and 60 miles (97 km) north of Harrisburg. In the past, it was the commercial center for a fertile grain and general farming region. The population was 5,620 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Union County.[1] Located in central Pennsylvania, on the West Branch Susquehanna River, Lewisburg is northwest of Sunbury. It is home to Bucknell University and Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. Its 19th century downtown was recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.



Lewisburg was founded in 1784 by Ludwig Derr. A settler of the area (since as early as 1763-1769), Derr had purchased several tracts of land from the [William] Penn family and other neighboring land owners; the largest of which was known as "The Prescott". Having been on the land for such a long time, Derr had befriended the local Native Americans (Indians) of the area. Even as many of the other inhabitants routinely were sacked by Indians, Derr managed to keep his own tracts of land free from Indian molestation. Subsequently, in 1783, he worked with Samuel Weiser (son of Conrad Weiser, the famous Indian liaison who died in 1760, and with whose family Derr's own paternal family had been friends) to layout his combined land tracts, and create Derrstown. The name was later, after Derr's death, changed to Lewisburg.

Much has been considered regarding 'how' the name changed from Derrstown to Lewisburg. The most likely truth is that Derr's first name "Ludwig" translated into English as "Louis" but, being of German decent, it was spelled "Lewis". Later, after Derr's death, the traditional germanic "burg" was appended to his first name to create Lewisburg.

The street names that run East and West are a local urban mystery. St. George, St. Catherine, and St. Louis etc...they appear to be named for Saints. However, since Derr was a Lutheran, and did not pay homage to Catholic saints, this is unlikely. Rather, the street names are more likely named for Derr's family members, as those streets are consecutively parallel, and emanate from what was then Derr's home, and the location of the first available lot sold (which were both situated on, what is now, Brown Street). George was Ludwig's son, his wife Catherine and Ludwig/Lewis (sic) himself. The other original street names that still exist are St. John, St. Mary and St. Anthony...and are probably the names of other children from families with whom Derr's own family were friends. However, the writer admits inconsistency, since there is an indication that Derr also had a daughter named Mary. Overall, however, the premise is further supported by the notion that the German word for street is Strasse (Straße...abbreviated St). At the time, street names were pronounced as Strasse Mary or Strasse George. Later, when signs were made to note the street names, the abbreviation for Strasse was allowed to remain, but the US/English abbreviation was redundantly added to the signs.

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