Nestled in the foothills of the South Mountain range separating Cumberland and Adams counties, Mount Holly Springs serves as a regional employment center as it remains connected to its historical industry of paper-making and the water source (Mountain Creek) that powered local industry and recreation during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Industrial Beginnings (ca. 1785-1873)
The area comprising present-day Mount Holly Springs was first settled by Europeans following the French and Indian War. The early settlers engaged in agriculture and various small-scale industries including lumbering and iron production.
The iron producers owned hundreds of timber or wooded acres on the South Mountain, which they used for the production of charcoal for their furnaces. Today, a few small stone dwellings from this era remain standing along S.R. 34 and S.R. 94 in the southern reaches of the borough.
In addition to the iron industry, the paper industry began in Mount Holly Springs in the early nineteenth century. The first mill was constructed along Mountain Creek by a firm named Barbour, McClure and Knox in 1812. As was common in the paper-making industry, the mill owners purchased used rags and brought them to their factory where the water of the creek supplied both the motive power for their machines and clean water needed to produce high-quality paper. Although originally sites of handwork, the mills were later converted to using Fourdrinier machines, which were introduced to the United States in ca. 1830.
The village clearly provided a hospitable location for the industry because, by 1858, there were a total of four paper mills lining Mountain Creek. The 1858 Atlas of Cumberland County, prepared by H.F. Bridgens, shows the mills, and the various names given to the industrial enclaves including Mount Holly and Papertown.
Industry and Recreation (1873-1930)
Mount Holly Springs was incorporated as a borough in 1873. The town continued to grow in large part due to the paper-making industry, which evolved from making general writing paper to producing book stock, and eventually to safety checks (checks that were more difficult to counterfeit) in the early twentieth century. The strength of the paper industry led to successful ancillary industries like the Mount Holly Stationery & Printing Company, located on East Pine Street.
However, not all business in Mount Holly Springs was tied to industry. Due to the borough’s location at the foothills of the South Mountain, it was often 5-10 degrees cooler than in neighboring industrial centers like Carlisle and Harrisburg. To take advantage of this, a recreational park was developed along Mountain Creek. Mount Holly Park opened in 1901, and was made accessible to surrounding communities by what became known as the Holly Trolley, which ran from Carlisle to Mount Holly Park. The park contained various activities including boating, picnicking, and hiking trails as well as dance halls, a baseball field, a bowling alley, and a roller coaster.