The Borough Of Bonneauville

is located in Adams County, Mount Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania.

Although Bonneauville existed by name since 1789 or earlier, it was not incorporated until 1961. It was on May 27, 1789 that Richard McAllister, a store owner in Hanover, PA, penned the word “Bonaghtown” behind the name John McClean, in his store ledger. McAllister’s is the earliest usage of the town’s name that has been found to date.

Right: A century ago. Cigar manufacturer E. L. Golden experimented with a Model T Ford dealership.

The town appears to have had its humble beginnings when a blacksmith shop, a log hotel and a few houses sprang up at the intersection where the roads from New Oxford to Two Taverns and Hunterstown to Littlestown crossed at odd angles (“The Bonneauville Square”.) The original building plots were carved from a Low Dutch Plantation named “Beautiful,” on which the town now lies. Some current Bonneauville Borough borders still follow the same property lines as the 1743, pre-French and Indian War plantation. Though somewhat concealed, the original home for Beautiful Plantation still stands. Until the year 1800 the small settlement of Bonneauville was populated primarily by the Low Dutch who of course, spoke the Dutch language. From the year 1800 on, Pennsylvania Germans occupied the village homes and surrounding farm land. They spoke German until around the time of the Civil War when both the state and the church slowly convinced most individuals to learn and communicate in English. (At first, the parish priest preached the sermon in English every other week to encourage the transition.)

Bonneauville Civil War soldier and accompanying lady.

By the mid-20th Century, the population of the town was about 97% Catholic. Slowly over the past half-century the town has transitioned into a bedroom community of nearly 2000 persons with a broad range of cultural backgrounds. The Bonneauville Post Office was closed down about 1912. By then the evolution of the automobile allowed economical mail delivery from Gettysburg.

Right: In 1909 the town’s only church was completely rebuilt for its fiftieth anniversary.

Bonneauville was once home to one of the most famous cigar manufactories in the country. Chain, buggy, wagon, casket and furniture manufacturing businesses prospered. Shoe makers, a tanner, a harness maker and a goodly population of skilled craftsmen, carpenters and masons, plasterers, seamstresses, mechanics, farmers and others shared space with general store owners, blacksmith shops and garages. New and used automobile dealers, banks, barbers, beauticians, and many others also plied their trades.

As a result of the mix of languages and cultures; during a time when some folks were still signing their names with an “X”, spellings of the town’s name have varied greatly. Among the various spellings that I have found in old letters, documents, maps and books are: Bonaghtown, Bonaghs Town, Bonneaus Town, Bonagton, Bonaughton, Bonneautown, Bonnichtown, Bonneville, Bonnichtown, Bonningstown, Bonaughtown, Bonoughtown, Bunnichtown, Bonneaus Town, Booneville and Bonneauville. Additionally the town was called Newville for a few years around 1872.

Interesting Facts about Bonneauville:

Famed Potter Anthony Baecher, voluminous writer John T. Reily and the famous John Burns; “The Hero of Gettysburg” once lived in Bonneauville. Fossils reveal that life existed in the area for millions of years before human occupation. Relics prove that for thousands of years before the first Europeans settled the area, and many lifetimes prior to Columbus’ discovery of America, Native Americans lived on the land that is now Bonneauville. The largest meteorite ever found east of the Mississippi River was found two miles from Bonneauville. Slaves/servants worked plantations in the area during the 18th Century. The town was part of Lancaster County and later a part of York County before Adams County was formed in the year 1800, (Coincidentally 1800 was the year that most Low Dutch plantation owners sold their property and left the area.). Men from the area have fought in every US war including The American Revolution. During both the Revolutionary War and WWII six brothers from the town went to war. In both conflicts all six returned safely. During the 19th Century there was a copper mine located within the town limits. During the Civil War, thousands of troops marched through and slept in the streets of Bonneauville on their way to the already raging Battle of Gettysburg. Later, one soldier’s most fearful experience of the entire war occurred in Bonneauville where Southern sympathizing Copperheads were not uncommon. General Custer of “Last Stand” fame led perhaps North America’s largest cavalry battle about one mile from the town. During the battle he placed troops “one mile to the rear” to protect the rear of his forces. Bonneauville was approximately one mile to his rear. The town would have been of strategic importance because at least six roads from North, East, South and West intersected there. Throughout the town’s history there were four schoolhouses; one private, one public, one parochial and one that alternated between public and parochial. Much of the original Catholic Church that was built in 1859 still stands within the brick mantle of a later structure. Several 1700’s and early 1800’s log homes and a log hotel still stand in the town, obscure and preserved in their cladding of modern siding. The foundation for Squire Brinkerhoff’s early log school still exists, preserved in the crawl-space of a home later built over the same site. At least four cigar manufacturing buildings stand from the era when an estimated twenty percent of all cigars smoked in America were made within ten miles of the town. At least four buildings that were once used as sewing factories still stand. Most of the structures have been converted to living space. No industry currently exists within the town.