Dillsburg Borough: A Small Town with a Big Heart

May 9th, 2023

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with South Mountain in its backyard, lies the borough of Dillsburg, York County. The borough is home to approximately 2,700 residents in a 0.8 sq. mi area. For those commuters traveling to work in the larger cities of York and Harrisburg, living in the borough and surrounding area is indeed a convenient location.

At one time the settlement was known as “Monaghan Settlement”; other times it was “Dills”, “Dillstown”, and even “Dillston.” The town officially became “Dillsburg” when incorporated in 1833. It was named in honor of one of the earliest settlers, Matthew Dill, who located to the area around 1740 from the Irish county of Monagahan. In 1749, Dill became one of the eight court justices of York County. He was one of five commissioners, one of who was Benjamin Franklin, appointed to make a treaty with the Indians. He died in 1750 at the age of 52.

The exact date of the earliest settlement in or near Dillsburg is uncertain. It is noted, however, that Captain Matthew Dill’s name appeared in the records of Chester County, PA, as late as 1735. The lands within the present limits of York County were, at one time, a part of Chester County. Later the lands became part of the new Lancaster County and finally in August 1749, York County was established “West of the Susquehanna” and was separated from Lancaster County.

One of the townships that was laid out before 1749 was Monahan, (later Monaghan), including the area now comprising Dillsburg. Since the land west of the Susquehanna River was purchased from the Indians in 1736 and, since it is recorded that preaching services were held locally as early as 1737, it may be concluded that the approximate date of settlement is between 1735 and 1740. Records show that Thomas and Richard Penn, Esqs., and proprietaries and governors of the Province of Pennsylvania, granted to Captain Dill, for a sum of money, a tract of land containing 504 acres.1

A must-see is Dill’s Tavern, a historical site located at the northern end of the borough. The stone tavern was built in 1794, and was expanded to have a stable for herders and drovers moving livestock, a granary, bakehouse, and spring house to improve lodging conditions for travelers. Today, the tavern is owned and operated by the Northern York County Historical & Preservation Society and is open to the public as a living history museum. For more information, go to Northernyorkhistorial.org.

With the Farmer’s Fair, New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop, quaint architecture, quintessential town square, and the annual lighting of the Christmas tree on the square, the Dillsburg Borough is truly iconic small-town America.

The Dills Tavern. Courtesy of the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society, owner of the Dills Tavern.

1 “Dillsburg 1983 Sesquicentennial”

Every October, for over 108 years, the borough streets come alive with the Dillsburg Farmers Fair. This event takes year-round work from a dedicated group of men and women, and attracts visitors from near and far who dare to try the deep-fried pickles and pickle soup.