Memories of Kissel Hill

By on October 28, 2013

Many readers have asked me, “When are you going to write about Kissel Hill, the small hamlet just south of downtown Lititz?”

I had it on my to-do list, but it took my friend Clair Amand to call me recently to let me know that he had some supplemental information that may be of use for an article. Clair grew up around Kissel Hill and has many wonderful memories of “the good old days.”

Well, readers, (and Clair) here it is!

The Lancaster/Lititz trolley is seen here, chugging along through the “S” curve that made up the Kissel Hill portion of this trolley line. Photo from the Robert “Sketch” Mearig Collection

The Lancaster/Lititz trolley is seen here, chugging along through the “S” curve that made up the Kissel Hill portion of this trolley line. Photo from the Robert “Sketch” Mearig Collection

It was in October, 1734, when a total of 165 acres of land were transferred by Thomas and Richard Penn to Hans George Kiesel for the sum of 25 pounds, 11 shillings and 5 pence. Early on, this area was known as “Kiesel-berg” (the hill belonging to Kiesel), but the name eventually changed to New Haven. When a post office was established, the name was permanently changed to what we know today – Kissel Hill.

Additionally, for many years, Kissel Hill served as a very convenient trolley stop for passengers traveling between Lancaster and Lititz. This village also boasted a hotel, blacksmith shop, and a family roadside produce stand that grew into a multimillion dollar supermarket chain. Other thriving businesses throughout the years helped Kissel Hill fast become a popular place to live and to transact business.

During the early 1900s, a toll road was established on what is now considered route 501 and was called the Lancaster-Lititz Turnpike. A small toll had to be paid for a traveler to enter or exit the area.

As I mentioned, the trolley line extended from Lancaster into Lititz, making a stop at Kissel Hill. This building, which also served as a general store and the Kissel Hill post office, was located at 907 Lititz Pike, and is now a private home. The trolley followed an “S” curve – the tracks ran along the west side of the pike from Neffsville to the bottom of Kissel Hill on the south side (across the road from where Target now stands). The path then crossed over the pike going east, then north, crossing under what is now East Woods Drive. The trolley could then stop at the Kissel Hill station before heading west, running past what was once the Kissel Hill Hotel. Currently, this location is PNC Bank. This is why the road going back to Isaac’s and Pizza Hut is called Trolley Run Road. The path then continued west (behind what is currently Weis Markets and Woodridge Swimming Pool), then eventually east again towards the Pike, heading north towards downtown Lititz, eventually stopping at the railroad tracks in front of Lititz Springs Park. The reason for this “S” curve was due to the fact that the trolley did not have enough power to climb steep hills.

During its heyday, the village, like many small towns, had a cast of memorable characters that everybody knew and loved. Sol Strohm was one of them, and was unofficially deemed the “Mayor” of Kissel Hill. The area also had one grocery store. Run by Beatie Stauffer, the structure was located on the current spot of Scooter’s Restaurant. Directly across from Stauffer’s store at the corner of Lititz Pike and West Woods Drive was a restaurant owned by Harry and Mabel Shreiner. In the 1950s, it was sold to a new owner and renamed The Whistle Stop.

Hertzler’s Gas Station was located on the opposite corner of Lititz Pike and West Woods Drive. It was the place for many residents, both young and old, to gather and solve the world’s problems, or catch up on the latest gossip. Regulars included the Amand brothers, Clyde (Bud) Gehman, Ray Ober, and Bob Landis, just to name a few.

Jerry Hertzler, the proprietor, is described as a very easy going man, and never seemed to mind the crowds that would congregate there seven days a week sun-up to sundown. Many games of checkers were played, along with many bottles of soda consumed from the Coke cooler on hot summer days. Harry Vogt’s Texaco station, which is currently the location of the Trans Am cycle shop, employed both Ray Bixler and Charlie Smith part-time. This location also served as a gathering place for older men in the community.

Kissel Hill also had a schoolhouse, which still stands at the corner of Landis Valley and Owl Hill roads. It was converted into a home many years ago.

There was a blacksmith shop directly across from the school, which was owned by Jim Ricksicker for many years up until the early 1940s. Heading west from this schoolhouse toward the pike, one passed Edward Jerome Vogeler’s home. This beautiful English Tudor-style building can still be seen at 3 Landis Valley Road. Vogeler was the advertising manager for the Animal Trap Company (currently Woodstream) and was the author of several books. He also penned articles in many national magazines.

Almost directly across the road, continuing west, at the current location of LaPiazza Italian restaurant, was a large farmhouse owned by the Miley family.

In 1823, the Salem Lutheran Church was founded on Owl Hill Road. The congregation continues to worship at this location today.

Harvey (HH) Martin owned and operated a trucking firm many years ago at what is now 23 Owl Hill Road. Utilizing Brockway tractors and two trailers, he and his employees hauled lumber from South Carolina and fruit from Florida.

Behind Pizza Hut was the Jamesway dealership of Milt Snavely. He sold poultry feeding equipment and farm ventilating systems.

If a local resident was in need of a car, they looked no further than Owen Hershey’s auto dealership, which was at one time located at 927 Lititz Pike, the current location of Ronald C. Achey’s Auto Sales.

Although Kissel Hill is no longer the “bustling” hamlet it once was, many residents who grew up there still have fond memories of this area. It’s their version of America’s Coolest Small Town.

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