What's in a Name? Newville

Most people are unaware of the unique origin of the Borough of Newville, Cumberland County. Early towns usually grew up around springs, taverns or industries. Newville was planned by a church and laid out on church property.

Newville really began with the formation of the congregation of the Big Spring Presbyterian Church in 1737. The trustees of the church applied for land on the Big Spring and on March 2, 1744, were granted a warrant to have a tract of land known as "Reliance" surveyed and patented. The plot contained 89 acres and 105 perches. For some reason, either misunderstanding or neglect, the patent was not received until September 23, 1794.

In the meantime the trustees had built their church building and parsonage and adjacent to them had reserved space for their cemetery. At this time they realized that about ninety acres of land was too much for their needs. They devised a plan to survey this extra land into building lots which they could sell and charge a ground rent to be paid on April first of each year.

In their town plan the trustees began forming and numbering the lots along Main Street, beginning at the Big Spring and moving to the west and north. Lot number 1 was the large one along the spring, opposite Laughlin's mill. This site was bought by William Laughlin.

The method of selling these lots was not what one would expect. They were assigned a set price, usually six dollars, plus a ground rent. However, lots in more advantageous locations such as the two lots along the spring and corner lots were assigned a higher price. This also meant a larger ground or quit rent since this was based on a percentage of the value.

These lots were offered at public sale from time to time over a period of ten years or more until they were all sold. The trustees of the church set the sale dates with the first one being held on September 9, 1790.

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Photo of High Street in Newville, Pennsylvania, decorated for the town's sesquicentennial.

The town of Newville lodges in the northwest corner of Cumberland County.1 The first settler, Andrew Ralston, arrived in 1728.2 The town was founded by Scots-Irish when the Big Spring Presbyterian Church, which dates to 1737, sold lots from its 89 acres in 1790.