Elizabethtown (Pennsylvania Dutch: Betzischteddel) is a borough in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Harrisburg. Small factories existed at the turn of the 20th century when the population in 1900 was 1,861. There was a slight increase in the next decade, with 1,970 people living in Elizabethtown in 1910. As of the 2000 census, the population of the borough was 11,887. Elizabethtown is commonly referred to in south-central Pennsylvania as "E-Town." This nickname is also used for the local college and high school.
There are two stories about the origin of the town's name. In one version it is named after Elizabeth Reeby, wife of Michael Reeby who sold the first building lots here in about 1795. Another version has it named after the wife of Captain Barnabas Hughes who purchased The Black Bear Tavern in 1750.
The officially accepted history is that, in 1753, Captain Barnabas Hughes acquired land and laid out a town, naming it for his wife, Elizabeth. The early settlers were primarily Scots-Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch.
Elizabethtown became a borough in 1827, and a railroad was built through the area in the 1830s. The town was primarily agricultural until the early 1900s, when the Klein Chocolate Company (now part of Mars, Inc.) and several shoe factories (the last of which closed in 1979) opened. Elizabethtown College was established in 1899, and the Masonic Homes (now the Masonic Village) followed in 1910.
After World War II, Elizabethtown grew rapidly, more than doubling its population between 1950 and 2000. Homes and businesses expanded into nearby farmland, making sprawl, farmland preservation, and revitalizing the downtown area important issues.