History of Mount Joy

Our story begins, once upon a time, in 1685, when Catholic James II became King of England, and a Protestant parliament opposed him vigorously. In 1688, after several years of tension and turmoil, James II’s Protestant daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, returned to the kingdom at the invitation of the disgruntled Parliament, causing James to abdicate and flee from England to France, and later to Ireland, which was a fortress of Catholicism. By 1689, Mary and William ruled Great Britain jointly.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, James received the backing of the Irish Catholics, and, after taking Dublin, continued marching north. Eventually, in April 1689, the Jacobite army arrived at Londonderry in northern Ireland. The city was held by Scottish Presbyterians, whose slogan in the defense of Londonderry was “No Surrender.” James and his army responded to that defiance by waging siege warfare against the citizens, who remained trapped inside the walled city for 105 days.
By July 28, 1689, the besieged Scots were facing starvation, when three supply ships, protected by the frigate Dartmouth, sent by King William, sailed up the River Foyle, headed directly for the “boom” (a floating barrier of tree trunks, chains and assorted debris) that blocked access to the city. The first vessel to ram the boom was the armed merchant ship “Mountjoy,” loaded with provisions for the starving people of Londonderry. The Phoenix and the Jerusalem followed with more supplies, and the city was liberated.

Over the next 30 years, many of these same Scottish Presbyterians left Ireland and came to America, looking for religious freedom and land of their own. One of the largest settlements was Donegal, in Lancaster County, and the Scot-Irish settlers commemorated important events and individuals in the names of their new towns and villages. Of particular meaning and reverence was Mountjoy, for the reasons cited, and there, again, is the 300-year-old story of how we got our name.

Mount Joy’s physical creation out of the frontier wilderness is the other part of our deep history.

In the early 1800s, the original plantations granted in this region by William Penn were divided into smaller parcels, after which three main villages emerged. Mountjoy was the eastern section of today’s borough. Richland occupied the western part, and Springville, laid out in 1812, became the Florin Ward. Four other small parcels developed between and around the three original villages: Wallickstown, Mountjoy Continued, Richland Extended, and Richland and Mount Joy Connected. Now that’s a lot of names to remember, but fortunately, the confusion was all sorted out when, in 1851, the two main villages of Mount Joy and Richland, plus the other smaller hamlets, incorporated to form the Borough of Mount Joy. It took another hundred years to annex Florin, but in 1963, the Borough of today was complete.

In conclusion, we are not a mountain. We are not abbreviated, as in “Mt. Joy.” We are an aristocratic English name, formerly one word (Mountjoy), but now two (Mount Joy). This explains the ship on the main street of a land-locked town, and the Irish names in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Ours is a distinct and distinguished heritage—one that every Mount Joyian, past, present and future can claim.

The Mount Joy story continues, with new memories to be made.
~ From Mount Joy Memories, Vol. 16 No. 1, 2011
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