York County covered bridges lost to progress–Part Four

The covered bridge at Grantham station was slated to be replaced in 1955

 I could go on about the dozens of picturesque covered bridges that used to dot the York County countryside, but this will be my last post on them for now. I realize that they were rendered obsolete by mid-twentieth century transportation needs and were not really sustainable. It is a shame, as I mentioned in my previous post, that the two chosen to be preserved, Bentzel’s Mill bridge and Detter’s Mill bridge were lost, one to Hurricane Agnes flooding and the other to collapse and fire, possibly arson.

Still, one covered bridge with one foot in York County and the other in Cumberland County does endure. It is the Bowmansdale/Stoner bridge that was moved in 1972 from its Bowmansdale location to the Messiah College campus at Grantham, and it was been nicely restored. Click this link for more on that bridge.

When I came across the clipping transcribed below, from the August 26, 1955 Gazette and Daily, in the covered bridge file at the York County History Center, I thought the Grantham station bridge (pictured above) might be the same bridge as the one that is now at Messiah. After comparing images and looking at the 1876 Beech Nichols Atlas of York County, however, I am believe they were two different bridges that were a short distance apart on the Yellow Breeches.  I am not as familiar with the northern part of the county as the southeastern townships, so please let me know if this is not correct.  This link includes a 1948 photo of the Bowmansdale bridge.

The August 1955 Gazette and Daily item reads: Continue reading

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York County covered bridges lost to progress–Part Three

Ah, hindsight. By 1957 people were beginning to think that maybe we should preserve a covered bridge or so “for historical value.” This short article from the July 2, 1957 York Dispatch article tells of two York County covered bridges that were being considered for preservation. It reads: Continue reading

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Why the Mifflin-Wright house, Hybla, must be saved

Jonathan Mifflin (1753-1840) painted by John Houston Mifflin. Courtesy of Duncan Ely.

As stories fly about the possible planned destruction of Hybla, the Mifflin-Wright house near Wrightsville, more concern has surfaced about this important York County historical site. Hybla has just been named one of the 11 most endangered properties in Pennsylvania by Preservation Pennsylvania.

Click these links for media coverage of a recent demonstration showing support for preservation of the site from the York Daily Record and WGAL-TV.

Other historians, such as Scott Mingus and Randy Harris, are doing a fine job stressing that it was an essential link on the Underground Railroad, one of the few that has been documented in the area, and how crucial the Mifflins of Hybla: Jonathan and his wife Susannah Wright Mifflin, and their son Samuel Mifflin, were in safely passing along many freedom seekers. I also want to remind everyone of Jonathan Mifflin’s service and patriotism during the Revolutionary War, another very good reason to preserve this sturdy stone home built well over two centuries ago. Even though of a Quaker background, as well as a very successful merchant and importer in the Far Eastern trade, when war seemed imminent in 1775 Jonathan Mifflin offered his services.

Mifflin seemed to be one of the few who realized the soldiers needed some training. According to his Revolutionary War pension papers from the National Archives, before reporting for duty he hired a British deserter to teach him “military exercise.” After entering the service, he trained other officers, as well as enlisted men, with the help of that British sergeant. This was well over two years before most soldiers finally began formal training under Baron von Steuben at Valley Forge in February 1778.

In 1776 Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Mifflin became Deputy Quartermaster General of the American Army, serving directly under General Thomas Mifflin, his relative and father of his second wife. Jonathan Mifflin often reported directly to Commander in Chief George Washington, as evidenced by much existing correspondence. Below is a transcription of just one of those many letters to. (Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.) It shows the scope of his responsibility in supply necessities for the army: food, housing, tools, ammunition and anything else needed. He also includes important military news for the General.

To George Washington from Jonathan Mifflin, Jr., 3 October 1777

From Jonathan Mifflin, Jr.

Trenton [N.J.] 3rd Octor 1777


I am happy to inform you that the Removal of the Stores is now in a very good Train—There are remaining about 80 Loads of Arms unfit for Service, belonging to the States, 20 Loads the Property of the State of Pennsylvania, 30 Loads fixed Amunition, 80 Loads of Rum, Rice & Salted Provision; the Comm’y has besides 3000 Barrells Herrings, Flour & Indian Meal—The Stores in the Qr. Mr. Gen’l Department are removed except some Tent Poles, Hand & wheel Barrows, the Artificiers Tools & other lumbering Articles will amount to 150 Loads—The Cloathier Gen’l has sent all his Stores to Lancaster—On my Arrival at this Place I was greatly distressed for Want of Men to impress Teams there being no Troops here either Continental or Militia to procure that Assistance from the Country which the relaxed State of the Civil Authority especially in Pennsylvania could not afford. I was therefore obliged to detain Col. Flowers Artificers & a Company of Masons whom I have employed in impressing Teams, & loading them.

This Day Major Vancleve with 100 of the Jersey Militia came here by Order of Gov’r Livingston—The Waggons from Easton are now Returning & with those coming in from the Country I expect to have every thing removed by Sunday Night.1

The Naval Comittee at Borden town have taken Charge of the Stores belonging to the Marine Department.

Capt. Charles Biddle with 3 small armed Vessells lies off Borden Town, the Frigates commanded by Caps. Barry & Reed are at White Hill 2 Miles lower down the River at which Place I am informed they propose mounting some Cannon—A heavy firing has been heard this Morning supposed to be at Fort Mifflin. I am Your Excellencys most obdt hbl. Servt

Jonathan Mifflin ⟨Jr.⟩ D. Q. M. G.

This site and its occupants are far too important to our national history to fall by the wayside.

Nineteenth century view of Hybla

Click this link for my recent York Sunday News column on Hybla and the Mifflins and Wrights.

Another former post indicates that Jonathan Mifflin was so respected in York County that he was even elected to a position for which he didn’t run.

Samuel Wright Mifflin (1805-1885) painted by James Reid Lamdin. (Courtesy of Duncan Ely)

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York County covered bridges lost to progress–Part Two

Site of the Kunkle’s Mill covered bridge

My last post outlined the 1948 fate of a covered bridge over the Little Conewago Creek just east of Zion’s View on Canal Road. It linked Conewago and Manchester Townships. At the same time a Hellam Township bridge over Kreutz Creek was also demolished for a more modern span.

York County bridges continued to be removed at a fairly rapid pace. See the June 7, 1954 York Dispatch article below, from the York County History Center covered bridge file, on the planned destruction of the Kunkle’s mill bridge: Continue reading

Posted in 1880s, 1950s, bridges, Conewago Township, floods, highways, Manchester Township, newspapers, Universal York, Warrington Twp., York County | Tagged , , | Comments Off on York County covered bridges lost to progress–Part Two

York County covered bridges lost to progress–Part One

While researching my recent York Sunday News column on the 1815-1818 McCall’s Ferry Bridge, I came across quite a few clippings in the Covered Bridge file at the York County History Center on the county’s covered bridges biting the dust. Many of them fell in the 1940s and 1950s, not to natural forces or vandalism, but to “progress.”

Here is an example from the May 1, 1948 Gazette and Daily: Continue reading

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More Susquehanna bridges proposed in 1933

As I mentioned in my recent York Sunday News column on Theodore Burr’s 1815 bridge at McCall’s Ferry, the lower part of York County did not have a lasting river bridge until the Norman Wood bridge was erected in 1968.

The Harrisburg Evening News article below, dated December 8, 1933, tells of York County native Sam Lewis’s try to obtain funding for two new York County bridges over the Susquehanna River. Many bridges were constructed as part of WPA projects during the depression, but neither of these York County bridges was built, nor was the one proposed further north. Continue reading

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York County covered bridges had rules

We look at covered bridges, or memories of the now mostly extinct bridges, as picturesque remnants of the past. But they were not built to be charming. They were vital links in the transportation system. The walls and roof were added to protect the bridge from the elements, preserving its life. Some sources suggest that they also added structural strength and calmed crossing livestock.

Bridge rules were necessary. Traffic across the covered bridge needed to be fairly slow for safety and for less wear and tear on the bridge deck. Also, with all that wood, fire was a constant danger. Below is a transcription of rules found on an old photograph of bridge rules at the York County History Center Library/Archives: Continue reading

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Burr’s 1815 McCall’s Ferry bridge was no match for Susquehanna ice

Interior of covered bridge with Burr arch truss
Courtesy of pennsylvaniacoveredbridges.com.

In 1801 famed engineer and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe was commissioned by Pennsylvania to survey the Lower Susquehanna, with an eye to navigation and canals. A few years later, in 1807, Latrobe also reported on the Susquehanna to the U.S. Congress: “Four miles below Burkhalter’s ferry, the river arrives at the high range of granite hills, abounding in copper, in which the gap mine is situated, and at a place called McCall’s ferry, it narrows to the width of sixteen perches. Here I attempted to find bottom with a line of one hundred and eighty feet, but failed, notwithstanding every precaution taken to procure a perpendicular descent of the weight attached to it. Through this pass the water is rapid, but smooth and safe. The river rises here rapidly, and very suddenly after the fall of rain above; and it will never be possible to erect a safe bridge at this place, so often mentioned as the most practicable.”

That advice was not heeded. See below for my recent York Sunday News column on prominent bridge builder Theodore Burr’s dramatically successful, but short-lived, bridging of the McCall’s Ferry gorge. Continue reading

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1920s York bank designed to recognize World War One veterans

1920s First National Bank, courtesy of Google street view

Most people know the imposing stone building on the northeast corner of York’s Center/Continental Square was erected as a bank building in the 1920s and that it served in that capacity until just a few years ago. It is now awaiting another use. But, did you know that the bank’s impressive arched entrance was planned to serve as a World War One war memorial?

Here is an April 5, 1921 news clipping that tells the story:

Continue reading

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One more Lincoln at Hanover Junction encounter

This photo, one of six taken at the same time, shows a camera with its black cloth in the center of the photo. (Library of Congress photo)

President Lincoln at Hanover Junction was a hot topic during the 1950s after some previously misidentified photos taken at Hanover Junction were discovered. Below is still another second generation account of Lincoln at Hanover Junction, taken from the October 25, 1952 York Gazette and Daily. It reads:

Clayton Strickhouser, 89-year-old son of a late Hanover Junction, Pa., hotel owner, says his father often told of shaking hands with Abraham Lincoln on the town’s railroad station platform when the president was en route to Gettysburg to deliver his famous address.

The recollection adds a bit of authenticity to the currently-debated premise that Lincoln appears in an 1863 photograph taken at the station, although the location shown in the picture also is controversial. Strickhouser says his father’s hotel is shown in the picture.

The historical debate began when Russell Bowman of Seven Valleys, convinced officials of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., that the photo was snapped at the York county Hanover Junction and not in Hanover Junction, Virginia, as the Archives’ files indicated. Bowman also is trying to prove that a tall, stove-pipe hatted figure pictured in front of the station is Lincoln.

Strickhouser, who lives at 204 South Duke Street, said his father, Peter Strickhouser, although elected a county commissioner on the Democratic ticket in 1872, was politically broad-minded, and was one of the few prominent men of the area allowed to know Lincoln would be stopping at the station for a short time. This explains the fact that no crowds are pictured at the station to see the president, he feels. Opposition to “Abe’s” Republican administration was strong in the area and the president was heavily protected, he continued.

Historians have believed heretofore that Lincoln was not photographed during his Gettysburg trip, and a letter sent to the New York Herald Tribune this week by a Lincolnian author supports the opinion.

Stefan Lorant of Lenox, Mass., pointed out in the letter that Matthew Brady, famous Civil War photographer who, according the National Archives, took the picture never tried to sell any prints of the picture. He also emphasized that the beard of the figure in the debated photo is thin, but fully grown in a picture taken by Alexander Gardner three days before the Gettysburg address.

Lorant also doubts that the cumbersome dark room equipment necessary in those days, when wet photographic plates were used, could have been at the station; that the sun was bright enough at 5 p.m. when Lincoln would have arrived to produce a clear picture, and that the people photographed at such a distance could have stayed still for the one minute necessary for an exposure under those condition. Lorant is author of “Lincoln, a Picture Story of His Life.”

Elected recorder of deeds for York County in 1895 and chairman of the county’s Democratic party in 1896, the younger Strickhouser also was a delegate to the party’s national convention in Chicago which nominated Williams Jennings Bryan for president in 1896. He left the post of minority registrar in the county courthouse four years ago after serving for eight years.

The controversy still continues. Check out Scott Mingus’s Soldiers, Spies & Steam: A History of the Northern Central Railway in the Civil War for some of the latest research, available at the York County History Center bookstore and other retail outlets.

Click here for my previous Hanover Junction posts.

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