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In 1729, John Wright, John and James Hendricks, Joshua Minshall and others began settling the land immediately west of the Susquehanna River. After applying, and finally receiving a patent in 1733, Wright began ferry service across the river. The crossing at Wright’s Ferry connected the road from Philadelphia to Columbia with another, going to the Monocacy Road, which led into Maryland. For a number of years, this area was claimed by both Pennsylvania and Maryland, and Cresap’s War was fought in and around the town. By 1735 the dispute had ended, and the growth of Wrightsville had begun.
Throughout the 1700’s Wrightsville grew as a major stop on the road west. During the Revolution, many supplies, soldiers, and members of Continental Congress passed through the town. At one time, the Wrightsville – Columbia area was considered a prime location for the nation’s capital.
The first bridge, completed in 1814, was destroyed by ice and a flood in 1832. It was soon replaced in 1834 with the covered bridge that was later burned to halt Confederate forces in 1863. The piers for the second bridge can still be seen north of the Route 462 bridge. In the early 1800’s Wrightsville was actually two towns: north of Hellam Street was Wrightsville and south of Hellam Street was Westphalia. After the towns incorporated on April 11, 1834, rapid development began.
In 1836, construction of The Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal began. By 1840, the canal was complete. By traveling south along the river to Havre de Grace MD, one could gain passage to Liverpool, England. With the combination of bridge, railroad, and canal, Wrightsville became a busy transportation and commercial center. However because of a devastating flood in 1894, the canal closed.
In June, 1863, the Confederate soldiers under the command of General John B. Gordon pushed east from York and invaded the town. After a brief skirmish, the Union troops fled across the bridge over the Susquehanna River and it was set on fire behind them. Thus ended the Confederate advance and earned Wrightsville the title of “Farthest East”.
Throughout the remainder of the 1800’s and into the last century, Wrightsville was a quiet river town. Residents raised their families, worshipped in numerous churches, and worked in local foundries, lumberyards and other industries. The town experienced a period of growth and prosperity. During the last 100 years, change has been slow in Wrightsville, thus retaining its small town heritage. For the visitor, it is a town offering a glimpse of the history of our country from its first settlement to the present.
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