For many years, the main thoroughfare from Lebanon to Harrisburg was the meandering Hill Road, which followed the ridge in North Annville that overlooks the towns of Cleona, Annville, and Palmyra. It wasn’t until the Berks and Dauphin Turnpike — now US 422 — opened in 1817, that Hill Road was once again relegated to a farm road. However, at the same time, North Annville became important to the construction of the Union Canal. The summit level of the canal at Lebanon was fed by water pumped from the Water Works and carried via a wooden aqueduct across North Annville to the Union Canal Tunnel.
This photo, taken from Harrison Drive in the spring of 2006, fairly represents North Annville’s past and present. Residents will instantly recognize the Bomgardner farm, which fills most of the photo. In the background is the village of Bellegrove, with the Lutheran Church on the far right, and the old Bellegrove South School among the trees. The second ridge of the Appalachian Mountains can be seen in the distance.
The main industry has always been farming. Many of the farms, both dairy and livestock, have passed from generation to generation for more than a hundred years. Apart from a few family-owned businesses and two retirement homes, the only major employer is the limestone quarry, which mines the high-calcium geological formation known as the Annville Belt. The countryside is dotted with small residential villages, including Bellegrove (formerly called Belleview), Water Works, Steelstown, and Shanamantown. In earlier days, industry along the Quittapahilla Creek had created the villages of Clear Spring Mills, New Marked Forge, and Annville Mills (later called Syner), all of which no longer exist.
Although there are certainly a lot of new homes in North Annville, they are usually built along existing roads as parcels detached from former farmland. For the most part, the township has resisted the development of residential subdivisions, and the road map of 1875 differs very little from the road map of today. The township has no Post Office, stores, restaurants, or gas stations. The last general store, owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Struphar (the red brick building on the right), closed in the 1980s. The biggest social event of the year is the Bellegrove Fire Company Carnival, which has lit up the night sky on Saturdays in June for more than fifty years.