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.
The park grew in popularity through the early 1900s, with a maximum ridership on the trolley line of 212,605 passengers in 1906. The park and trolley line remained in business until 1918, when both went into decline. The location’s popularity began to decline after the closure of the roller coaster, and was further diminished by flooding that damaged the dam supporting the park’s 30-acre lake.
The Great Depression and the rise of personal automobiles finally led to the closure of both the park and trolley line in 1930. There do not appear to be any remaining visible remnants of the park in Mount Holly Springs.
In the twentieth century, Mount Holly Springs was home to a diversity of shops and businesses, including: clothing manufacturers, a sand quarry, various dry goods and grocery stories, several bakeries, and a theater. Throughout the decades, with changes in ownership and modifications to the mills, the paper industry has continued to thrive in Mount Holly Springs.
Today, the borough remains a center of industrial production in Cumberland County. Two paper mills remain in operation, along with a nearby glass factory and microchip production facility. Mountain Creek, Mount Holly Springs’ lifeblood since the eighteenth century, continues to flow down from the mountains bolstered by the borough’s eponymous springs, passing the paper mills and former park before skirting residences and businesses on its way to the Yellow Breeches Creek.