How did Lancaster County end up with such unusually named towns?

Lancaster

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, Lititz, Blue Ball…Lancaster County is known for having some unusually named towns. Here’s how they got those names.

Intercourse

Located at the intersection of King’s Highway (now Route 340) and Newport Pike (now Route 772), the original name of Intercourse was Cross Keys, explains Mike Sensenig, president of the Intercourse Merchants Association and elected supervisor of Leacock Township, the municipality in which Intercourse is located.

Sensenig says the name Cross Keys came from a local tavern. Then in 1814, the town’s name was changed, and no one today is exactly sure why. There are three theories explaining the name Intercourse.

The first theory is that there was a racecourse on one end of the town. Visitors entered the course from the eastern end of town, explains Sensenig, so the entrance was dubbed “Entercourse,” and that may have evolved into “Intercourse.”

Another idea is that the intersection of Routes 340 and 772 gave the town its name: it’s the “intercourse” of the two major roadways.

A third theory (and Sensenig’s favorite) is based on the knowledge that intercourse hasn’t always been a suggestive term. The word can also be defined as “connections of dealings between persons or groups,” according to Merriam-Webster.

“Intercourse was a term that really was referring to the community and the involvement, the interaction of the people in the community and how everybody was working together,” says Sensenig. “I still believe we’re just a great community and a lot of fun to be a part of.”

More information about Intercourse can be found on The Village of Intercourse website.

Bird-in-Hand

This Lancaster County town got its name from the proverb “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” meaning it’s better to be happy with what one has than to risk losing everything by trying to attain something more.

The story is that two men were surveying a highway between Philadelphia and Lancaster in the 1730s when it started to get dark, explains Terry Buda Moser, director of marketing for the Bird-in-Hand Corporation. The men found themselves at an inn, and one said to the other, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” so they decided to stay there for the night.

That inn became known as The Bird-in-Hand, and it gave the town its name. The Bird-in-Hand Corporation’s logo pays tribute to the original painted sign that hung at the inn.

Bird-in-Hand Corporation Logo (Credit: Bird-in-Hand)

More information about Bird-in-Hand and its history can be found here.

Lititz

When pronounced incorrectly, the name Lititz can elicit some giggles. Here’s how to say it the right way:

Lititz (originally “Litiz”) is named after a castle in Kunvald, which is a town in the Czech Republic, explains Lititz Historical Foundation President Cory Van Brookhoven. Followers of the Moravian faith took refuge from religious persecution at this castle in the 15th century, he says.

When Count Nicholas Von Zinzendorf came to Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s from his hometown in Germany to found the Lancaster County town, he called the settlement “Litiz” after the castle. According to the Lititz PA website, Von Zinzendorf wanted to establish a community based on Moravian ideology.

The second “T” was added to “Lititz” by the post office in the late 1800s “to make it sound just like it’s spelled,” says Van Brookhoven.

More information about Lititz, dubbed “American’s coolest small town,” can be found on the Lititz PA website.

Blue Ball

Like Bird-in-Hand, Blue Ball was also named after an inn, says Robin Sarratt, vice president of LancasterHistory.

In 1766, Irishman John Wallace built an inn at the intersection of two Native American trails (now Routes 23 and 322) in what used to be called Earl Town. Rather than hanging a sign with a name outside of the inn, Wallace hung a symbol: a blue ball.

The town revolved around the inn for nearly a century, says Sarratt. In 1833, Earl Town officially changed its name to Blue Ball.

Blue Ball Inn in 1850 (Credit: LancasterHistory)

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