The 12-acre property in South Londonderry Township today sits atop a hill that, on a clear day, provides views out to Indiantown Gap and Blue Mountain. It’s a view that likely makes one feel calm and safe.
But a little more than 250 years ago, well the view would have likely inspired very different feelings.
During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), a dozen or so garrisons popped up to defend the Swatara Gap – Fort Swatara foremost among them.
Although it’s not known exactly when the property now owned by Dr. Rugh and Sylvia Henderson became occupied, Dr. Henderson believes the older part of the house dates back to the early 1800s, and may have been at one time used as a garrison or military outpost for early settlers.
Perhaps the structure was conceived when there was still an active threat from the frontier; perhaps the wartime posture lingered for a generation or two. What’s known is that the main farmhouse itself is original and includes a unique panel for the main door that slides and bolts over the glass top. Other elements, like the recessed butter coolers in the basement, are also original. The land itself has been farmed more than 200 years.
Now the property is set to be preserved indefinitely. Located near State Game Lands 145 (a.k.a. the home of Dinosaur Rock) as well as two other large farms previously preserved by the Lebanon County Conservation District, these 12 acres will now remain conserved indefinitely thanks to the Hendersons, along with some help by The Lebanon Valley Conservancy.
Since 2000, the conservancy has preserved more than 1,000 acres of land. Across Lebanon County, the Lebanon County Conservation District currently tracks more than 20,000 acres of perpetually preserved land.
“The property provides a safe place to roam for white tail deer, red fox, eastern box turtles, great horned owl and turkey vultures, as well as habitat for monarchs and swallowtails,” said Courtney Reimman, land protection director for TLVC. “Other highlights include a mixed forest of tulip poplar, birch, catalpa, and oak trees.”
Reimman said that preserving this farmland will also help control runoff to the Spring Creek tributary of the Swatara Creek, which runs directly north of the property.
The conservation was announced before the holidays on Dec. 16. The Lebanon Valley Conservancy conserved more than 35 acres this year, all unique properties which will now remain preserved farms in perpetuity.
Early in 2022, Dr. William Schaeffer and the late Kathleen “Kitty” Schaeffer preserved a historic Coleman-era Cornwall property, and in November the Minnich family did the same for their 16-acre farm along the Kittatinny Ridge in Union Township.
To learn more about establishing a conservation easement, visit The Lebanon Valley Conservancy’s website.
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