History of The Susquehanna Trail

Section of 1925 Map of Major PA Route Numbers (Source: Pennsylvania Department of Highways; Road sign with annotation by S. H. Smith, 2017)

The History of The Susquehanna Trail has quickly become my top requested local history presentation since the initial offering during September 2016. Before Interstate-83 the prominent north-south road in York County was the Susquehanna Trail.

Last Saturday a nice crowd at Historic Wrightsville’s Olde Town Night learned about the origins and myths of the Susquehanna Trail; they also had some interesting questions about route numbers in reference to The Trail. This post provides expanded answers those questions.

I’ll illustrate route numbers associated with the Lincoln Highway as an example. In 1913, The Lincoln Highway Association selected the York and Wrightsville Turnpike, in eastern York County; and the York and Gettysburg Turnpike, in western York County, as the Lincoln Highway Route through York County. This route continued as toll roads until Pennsylvania purchased these roads in 1918. Until 1926, these roads became part of State Route 1, the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania, as indicated by the road marked “1” on the 1925 Map of Major PA Route Numbers published by the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. Likewise on the 1925 Map, the Susquehanna Trail is the road marked “4,” representing State Route 4.

Over the years 1925 to 1928, the “modern” state route numbering system was implemented throughout all of the United States; establishing US Highway Route Numbers. Within Pennsylvania, this change was implemented in 1926. Named roads signs, such as Lincoln Highway and Susquehanna Trail, had to be taken down and were replaced with numbered signs. Within York County, the Lincoln Highway became US Route 30 and the Susquehanna Trail became US Route 111.

Route Number Explorations on The Susquehanna Trail

This is the whole 1925 Map of Major PA Route Numbers, published by the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. I’ve highlighted State Route 4, the Susquehanna Trail, stretching across Pennsylvania from the New York border to the Maryland border.

1925 Map of Major PA Route Numbers (Source: Pennsylvania Department of Highways)

When Pennsylvania implemented US Highway Route Numbers in 1926, the Susquehanna Trail became US Route 111 in York County. Nevertheless the State Route 4 signs were not immediately taken down; dual signage existed for several years.

Likewise, starting in 1926, US Route 111 was used for the rest of the Susquehanna Trail in Pennsylvania; except for Harrisburg to Northumberland, which was designated US Route 11. From Northumberland, US Route 11 branches off along the East Branch of the Susquehanna River towards Scranton.

Timothy Reichard has done a fantastic job researching route numbers changes within Pennsylvania during the 1920s. His map of Pennsylvania’s US Highways and Their State Highway Numbers in 1928 nicely summarizes the complexities of Susquehanna Trail route numbering that occurred north of Harrisburg.

I’ve highlighted the Susquehanna Trail on a sliver from Timothy Reichard’s map. Before discovering this map, I found in researching old state route numbers, uncertainties abound; so it is nice that Mr. Reichard has included all uncertain route number designations in a grayed out manner.

Links to related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America.” Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.

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