Peculiar Names: Bird-in-Hand

Lancaster County has several towns with peculiar names. This series will examine the etymology of these curious community names. First up: Bird-in-Hand.

Have you heard the saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? According to local legend, this very proverb gave the village of Bird-in-Hand its unique name.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

In 1734, two men were surveying the Colonial highway between Philadelphia and Lancaster. Click here to read more about America’s first toll road: The Philadelphia & Lancaster Turnpike. As dusk approached, the men found themselves near an inn that wasn’t much more than a crude log hut built by William McNabb. The one surveyor quoted the proverb, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and the duo agreed to spend the night.

After this event, the inn became known as “The Bird-in-Hand.” Eventually, a swinging sign outside the inn depicted a man holding a bird was added making it easy for weary travelers to find.

Then, in 1873, the village officially changed its name to Bird-in-Hand.

Read about other Lancaster County towns with peculiar names such as Blue Ball, Intercourse, and Paradise.

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