The Village of Intercourse was at one time called Cross Keys, after the name of a tavern built c.1754 at the junction of two main highways. No one knows exactly how the town became to be known as Intercourse, but it is possible that the name derives from the “intercourse” of these two main roads. Another theory regards a local race course in the early 19th century and holds that this was the location at which one would “enter course.”
Intercourse is the hub where the Amish and local folks do their business and host thousands of visitors each year. Neatly kept Amish farms surround the town, which is located on the Old Philadelphia Pike (Route 340), earlier known as King’s Highway, in Eastern Lancaster County. Intercourse is in close proximity to all Lancaster County attractions. Before the United States became a nation, the days when the territory was still a British colony, the town of Intercourse was welcoming travelers. Like many towns, Intercourse got its start from a tavern constructed near the intersection of two major highways. It was constructed of logs in 1754 and later rebuilt with brick. Today, that tavern houses a restaurant.
Growth was slow through the 1800’s, with mostly residences being built along the major roads. By the early 1900’s the town had numerous business places, including grocery and dry goods stores, a flour mill, tinsmith shop, and woodworking and furniture stores. There was also a bakery, a bank, garages, a barbershop, a machine shop, a watchmaker, a jewelry store and a shoe repair shop.
One of the major occurrences late in the 19th century was a fire that took place in 1892, on Election Day, which brought more than the usual excitement. As citizens cast their ballots for Grover Cleveland or Benjamin Harrison at the Cross Keys Tavern, a fire started in a barn owned by William Ream. A brisk breeze soon spread the flames to several other buildings, and eventually to the general store where W. L. Zimmerman & Sons is presently located, but was owned by I. N. Diller at the time. By the next day, at least 7 buildings had burned.
Until 1900, roads were mostly dirt, with only a few main roads constructed using stone foundations. The condition of the roads was either dusty or muddy, often making travel difficult. In the spring, the dirt roads were graded by teams of horses pulling a drag, leveling the roads and removing some of the major ruts. By 1930, the main roads had been finished with macadam.
A stagecoach line between Lancaster and Intercourse was established in the late 1890’s. They served the town until 1921, when they were replaced by buses. Area residents not only rode the coach into Lancaster, but also gave the driver lists of items to purchase for them. In addition, he picked up milk cans along the way, as well as butter and eggs, to deliver to grocers. In 1910 a freight truck replaced the old stagecoach line.
The Intercourse School was built in 1882 and is currently the home of the Pequea Valley Pubic Library, a one-story frame building at the Hollander Road and Old Philadelphia Pike.
Numerous civic organizations have existed in the town throughout its history. The Intercourse Improvement Association saw to the construction of sidewalks in the town and having the streets oiled to keep down dust prior to their being paved. The Intercourse Association of Lancaster County, for the Recovery of Stolen Horses and Other Stolen Properties, and Detection of Thieves, more familiarly known as the Intercourse Horse Thief Association was formed in 1852 and not disbanded until 1999. The Intercourse Civic Association, still active, developed a park and ball field in the town in the mid-1950’s.
Recently, restrictions on further commercial development on the east side of town have been passed in order to maintain the residential nature of the community. Today, Intercourse, surrounded by neatly kept farms, is truly in the heart of America’s Garden Spot, Lancaster County PA.
You can learn more about the town by visiting these sites: