Most Lancastrians know that Lampeter was one of the first areas in the County to be settled when groups of Swiss Mennonite refugees fleeing religious persecution arrived here in 1710. Attracted by the liberal proposals of William Penn, they made the hazardous voyage across the Atlantic and came to what was then literally Penn’s Woods. They settled in the vicinity of Willow Street and Lampeter.
‘Lame Peter’ Township?
When Lancaster County was laid out twenty years later in 1729, Lampeter was one of the original townships to be formed. Then in 1841, Lampeter was split in two to create East and West Lampeter. Around this time, a story began circulating that Lampeter township had been named in honor of early resident and handicapped tavern keeper Peter Yeordya. Apparently, the man was affectionately called “Lame Peter.”
Eventually, the name was abbreviated into Lampeter. The legend originated from a unique work of fiction entitled The Legend of Hell Street Lane or the Man with Two Heads, written by Ezra Lamborn, an old school teacher who lived in the neighborhood of Lampeter Square. Over time, the fictitious story gained credence until it was accepted as fact.
In addition to the Swiss Mennonite, Welsh immigrants also settled in the area. While fewer in numbers, the Welsh proved both intelligent and influential, taking prominent roles in public affairs. It was from this position of power that these Welsh settlers named the township Lampeter after Lampeter, Wales. In Wales, Lampeter is a place of theological learning. Furthermore, in Welsh Lampeter means The Church of Peter or St. Peter’s Church.