Dauphin County History

Dauphin County is one of six counties formed out of Lancaster County.  The land that made up the original Lancaster County (then part of one of Pennsylvania's original three counties) was part of the tract of land originally deeded to William Penn in 1689.  In 1729, Lancaster County became the fourth county formed in Pennsylvania.  

Kids and historyJohn Harris Jr, founder of Harrisburg and son of John Harris, a trader and the constructor of Harris' Ferry across the Susquehanna River, petitioned the provincial assembly of Pennsylvania beginning in 1782 to create a separate county around his ferry site.  He argued that it was in-convenient to travel the considerable distance from Harris' Ferry to Lancaster in order to conduct legal business. In 1783 the Pennsylvania General Assembly ratified Harris' request, and by act of the assembly Dauphin County was formed.

Settlers began to arrive in the area shortly after John Harris Jr.'s father John Harris, Sr. settled at Harris' Ferry in 1719.  The earliest to inhabit the area were Scotch-Irish Presbyterians seeking freedom from persecution and land who had been lured to Pennsylvania by William Penn's promise of religious tolerance and freedom. Immigrants from the southwestern region of Ger-many known as the Palatinate soon followed.  The early settlers to the area were hardy pioneers who established a community of independent farmers, tradesmen, and entrepreneurs.

Named in honor of King Louis XVI of France's son, Dauphin Louis-Joseph, Dauphin County comprises 557.7 square miles.  At the time of the county's creation, John Harris Jr. allotted two lots on Market Street and two lots on Walnut Street in Harrisburg to be used for county business.  He also set aside the southern part of what is now Capitol Park for the use of state government. Through an act of the General Assembly in 1810, Harrisburg was named Pennsylvania's capital, and in early 1812 the government took up temporary residence in the Dauphin County courthouse.  In 1822, Pennsylvania's first capitol building was completed on the land John Harris, Jr. had set aside for that purpose.

Today Harrisburg remains Pennsylvania's capital city, and Dauphin County stands rooted in its history as an important center for government, commerce, and industry.

For more information on Dauphin County past and present visit www.dauphincounty.org