With urban sprawl spreading across the county, it is easy to forget there was a time when Lancaster County represented the frontier. Wild and dangerous creatures such as wolves and snakes roamed the untamed countryside attempting to feast on the unexpecting.
Christopher Ludwig Franciscus was nearly one such victim. But it was his grit and determination that helped him wrestle a wolf while successfully taming a wilderness.
Franciscus came to America on June 29, 1710, after purchasing 530 acres in the “new world.” When Franciscus arrived in Philadelphia, he was accompanied by his daughter, Johanna, from his first marriage. The duo had sailed out of London on board the Maria Hope with approximately 55 Swiss Mennonites from Holland and 94 German passengers. They had all come to Pennsylvania at the request of the British Ambassador of the Netherlands via an invitation from William Penn.
Franciscus and his daughter soon migrated west with the Mennonite group they had sailed with. They settled in modern-day West Lampeter Township, becoming some of the first settlers in what would eventually become Lancaster County.
They built a log house near a spring—located on the present-day Lampeter-Strasburg School District campus— approximately a half-mile from what would later be known as Lampeter Square.
On a cold night in January 1730, Franciscus heard a scratching sound at his door. Upon opening it to investigate, a giant wolf lunged at Franciscus, seizing him by the breast of his jacket.
The two were instantly locked in a death match. Franciscus gripped the ravenous beast in a mightly bear hug, his face inches from the creature’s snapping jaws. Franciscus called to his sleeping daughter to bring the butcher knife.
The girl lost no time, and with the same spirit of fearlessness as her father, she slashed at the wild beast until it was dead.
According to legend, the head of a fine spring marks the location of the great battle. The springhouse pictured here sits upon that spot.
Even now, stories persist that people living near Lampeter on occasion hear nighttime scratching at their door. They know better than to investigate.
An updated Carpenter House still exists on the edge of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District campus. If you are one for tempting fate and challenging the supernatural, the house is available for rent on Vrbo and Airbnb.
Should you spend the night and hear something scratching at the door, please do yourself a favor and keep it shut. The wolf may be back for his revenge unless your daughter is handy with a butcher knife.
Click the link to learn more about Christopher Franciscus and the Carpenter House.