Harrisburg (population 48,950), the capital of Pennsylvania, is located on the east bank of the Susquehanna River in south central Pennsylvania. Harrisburg’s identity is closely linked to the Susquehanna. As early as 1710, Englishman John Harris established his trading post and ferry service here. The site he chose was where long-established paths used by the Shawnee and Delaware tribes converged at a river crossing.
In 1785, John Harris, Jr. and William Maclay, Pennsylvania’s first U.S. Senator, planned a village just north of that very crossing. Four acres of land were set aside for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in hopes of creating a new state capital. By 1810, the state legislature, recognizing the community’s growth and central location, had approved moving the state capital from Lancaster to Harrisburg.
As the community grew, ferry activity was replaced in 1817 by the first of many bridges to span the Susquehanna at Harrisburg, thus opening trade to the west. During the Civil War, Camp Curtin (named after Pennsylvania’s wartime governor) was established at Harrisburg. Throughout the war, more troops were mustered into service at Camp Curtin than at any other facility in the Union or Confederacy. Harrisburg’s importance in the war is recognized to this day, as it is the location of the National Civil War Museum.
Harrisburg, along with several other Pennsylvania communities, is participating in the “Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: Prelude to Gettysburg” project. The goal of the project is to link together and share the rich history of the many Pennsylvania communities affected by the Civil War for the benefit of local residents, as well as regional, national, and international visitors.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2006.