Penn Township lies at the junction of the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers , almost in the form of a triangle. The Township is bounded on the north by Wheatfield Township ; on the east by the Borough of Duncannon and the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers ; on the south by Rye Township ; and on the west by Rye and Wheatfield Townships . Penn Township encompasses 21 square miles.
In 1840, upon petition to the courts, Penn Township was created with the boundaries as they now exist and became the 14th Township of Perry County. Prior to its creation, the territory comprising Penn Township was part of Tyrone, Rye and Wheatfield Townships.
Early inhabitants warranted lands throughout the Township, settlingalong waterways, such as the Little Juniata Creek and Shermans Creek. These areas became centers for industrial activities such as a saw and gristmill, an iron works, a woolen goods factory, and cloth manufacturing. In an effort to accommodate inhabitants, businesses, and travelers, ferry service was established across the river as the sole means of passage across these waterways until bridges were built.
Clark 's Ferry crossed the Susquehanna from the end of Peter's Mountain to Clark 's Run. Established in 1788, the Ferry was owned and operated by the Clark family until 1838, when the Juniata Bridge Company erected a bridge. Established where the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers meet, the Baskins' Ferry dates back to before the spring of 1767. Owned and operated by James Baskins, the ferry enjoyed many years of service. It was operated by various generations of the Baskins family until 1839, when a bridge spanning the river was constructed. The ferry was reestablished in 1865 when the bridge was swept away in a flood. A special act of the Pennsylvania Legislature mandated the rebuilding of the bridge by January 1, 1874 . Ferry service resumed again in 1889 after yet another flood swept away the bridge. This time an iron bridge was built to cross the river.
Upon the end of the Revolutionary War, the United States and its people were turning their attention to the matter of transformation. Gradually, but steadily, the tide of immigration had extended westward from the Atlantic Seaboard, leaped the Alleghenies, and pushed into the Ohio Valley . A large population was becoming established, and it was essential to have avenues for the products of their toil. With that in mind, surveys were made for canals or waterways to connect the Delaware River with the Ohio River and railways to provide transportation through valleys and around mountains.
Pennsylvania played a monumental role in the establishment of the railroads in America . A general convention was assembled in Harrisburg on March 6, 1838 , to urge the building of a continuous railroad system across the state. In the 1840s our government, realizing the need for a railway to Pittsburgh , offered a challenge of competition to the two giant railroad companies, the Baltimore and Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroads. The challenge was to determine which of these companies could build 20 miles of track and still have $20 million in capital remaining upon its completion. The "Pennsy" won the challenge, and on June 22, 1846 , books were opened throughout the state for sale of stock in the Pennsylvania Railroad. It should be noted that 13 of the 20 miles of track are in Perry County , seven miles of which are in Penn Township .
The first locomotive steamed into Penn Township on July 16, 1849 . The railroad was described as a single track with two passenger trains each way daily. Freight trains ran three times a week each way. All trains were drawn by very small engines with their huge funnel-shaped smokestacks towering over the locomotive. Mixed trains, both freight and passenger, traveled over the main line as late as 1877.
(Photograph courtesy of A. H. Morscher)
On August 1, 1857 , this Northern Central Railroad line was purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was successfully run until the decade of the 1960s, when it merged with the New York Central Railroad to be called Penn Central. However, in the early 1970s Penn Central entered bankruptcy. Although there were many reasons for the economic difficulties they faced, chief among them was competition from trucks, subsidized by the federally-built Interstate highway system, and an archaic system of economic regulation which prevented railroads from responding to the needs of the market.
The federal government, recognizing the national economic importance of the railroads, responded by creating Conrail and appropriating the funds needed to rebuild tracks, locomotives and freight cars. By 1981 Conrail began its financial turnaround. Under the operating plan approved by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in July 1998, CSX and Norfolk Southern began operating most Conrail lines and facilities on June 1, 1999 .
(Photograph courtesy of A. H. Morscher)
The presence of families necessitated the need for local schools. The first record of a schoolhouse in Penn Township was contained in a law regulating election districts. Signed by Thomas Mifflin, the first Governor of Pennsylvania, in 1797, it declared that the Union Schoolhouse at Petersburg (now Duncannon) should be the voting place for the district then formed. This structure, built of logs, was about 25 feet square and contained a fireplace at one side. It was in use until about 1845, at which time a four-room building was erected. In its space now stands the Duncannon National Bank.
Before the public school law of 1834 became operative, there was a school where the Michener Schoolhouse stood. There was an early school at Young's Mill, which was attended by pupils within a radius of four miles. The old Methodist Church at Young's graveyard, near Duncannon, was purchased in 1840 and used as a school building for many years. These one-room schoolhouses closed when the Penn Township School opened atop Carver's Hill. Built in 1929, this elementary school provided classrooms for education to the eighth-grade level, after which students would transfer to the Duncannon High School to complete their education. The school gained additional space when the new Susquenita Junior-Senior High School opened in January of 1955, as it now contained only grades one through six. The Penn Township School closed in 1972, its students entering the new Susquenita Elementary School . Today, the building is now used as a municipal building and recreation center.