Conewago Township was created by an Act of the State Assembly on April 2, 1850 from parts of the original Derry and Londonderry Townships with an area of four and a quarter miles in length and three and a half miles in width. The Township takes its name from the creek which forms its entire southern boundary. Conewago or Conewaugha, in Iroquois, means “at the place of the rapids.” The central Pennsylvania area has several streams named Conewago emptying into the Susquehanna River.
The earliest settlements in the area occurred primarily in the northern and central sections of the Township, where springs gushing out of the conspicuous sandhills dotting the area provided a steady source of running water. Some of the early families in Deodate were the Shenks, Grubbs, Brandts, Bowers, Clarks, Moyers, Hoffers and Foltzes. In Bachmanville the early families were the Ebys, Bachmans, Harps, Yetters, Balmers, Longeneckers, Bosers, Glendeatners, Zimmermans, and Stauffers. In 1799 Goss’s Mill, which was both a grist and saw mill, was erected. Around 1780 distilleries were built on the farms of John Risser and Benjamin Longnecker. Risser’s mill was built in 1770, and Redsecker’s mill in 1776.
The Township originally had two separate post offices. The Bachmanville post office was established in 1872. The post office was discontinued in 1937. Then mail delivery was from Hershey by a rural carrier. The post office in Deodate was established in 1886. The residents of Deodate and the surrounding areas came to Foltz’s store to pick up their mail once a week. The post office was given the name Deodate because its original name, Mt. Harrison, was too close to an already established major town in the state (today’s Harrisburg)
Two villages came into being during this period – Bachmanville, in the northeast part of the Township, and Deodate near the center. Bachmanville was named for the Bachmans who erected the first building of any importance – a hotel built in 1852. Deodate was first known as The Mt. Harrison or Foltz’s store. It was named Mt. Harrison during the Harrison presidential campaign of 1840. Deodate was the stopping point for drivers of horses, sheep, mules and cattle from stockyards of Middletown to the stockyard in Lawn. Three gristmills served the township populace: Risser’s Mill, built in 1770 and located along Prospect Road in the southeastern corner; Redsecker’s Mill, now Aberdeen Mill, built in 1776 and located along Mill Road in the southwestern part; Goss’s Mill, now Shiffer’s Mill, built in 1799 and located along Schoolhouse Road in the center area.
There were three early churches. The Mennonite Meetinghouse (today’s Stauffers Mennonite Church) was built in 1780 and is located along Bachmanville Road. The German Baptist Brethren Church (today’s Conewago Church of the Brethren) was built in 1854 and is located along Schoolhouse Road. The original Brethren Church was located near Deodate. The Union Meetinghouse (today’s Shenks Union Church) was built in 1869 and is located along Schoolhouse Road.
The first school was taught by ministers of the area. In 1790 there were only five schools in the area, all of which were mainly German. In 1795 an English school was organized near what is now Shenks Church. In later years there were six one-room schoolhouses; namely, Bachmanville, Deodate, Witmer’s, Mapledale, Hertzler’s and Fuhrman’s. The present elementary school was built in 1957 on grounds donated by Glenn and Evelyn Farver and the Hershey Estates. In 1960 the Lower Dauphin School was built and all high school students were transported to Hummelstown. Before the high school was built, students went to Hershey High School. Many rode the trolley to school. A few students went to Elizabethtown High School.
In 1900, the population of Conewago Township was 830 persons as given by the U.S. Census returns. In 1904 the assessed valuation of all real estate within the Township was $548,480. At this time there were six schoolhouses in the Township, with a total enrollment of 184 pupils.
From early settler days, through the turn of the century and up to the present day, Conewago Township has retained an essentially rural character, with agriculture serving as the chief industry and one of the major occupations of the populace. Despite the construction in the middle part of this century of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Harrisburg – Lancaster expressway (Interstate 283), which traverse the Township in the central and southern portions, very little commercial and residential development had occurred. Development began in the early 1970’s with Laurel Woods, followed by the Chestnut Road development and Cedar Woods in the 1980’s, and then The Pines in the 1990’s and Hills of Waterford in 2003. These developments were mainly due to the emergence of the nearby Hershey Company, Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company and the Hershey Medical Center as major commercial, employment, and tourist activity centers.