You couldn’t keep this Dover boy down on the farm

The November 20, 1917 York Daily tells the story of a very eager World War I recruit from Dover. The article begins:


Dover Boy Anxious to Get to France “Now That Corn Husking is Over”

Edward Stubbins told the Daily reporter “Every able bodied young man in America ought to be over there fighting in the trenches. I am 18 years old and as healthy and sound as a bullock. So here I am, ready to enlist and ready to go to France.” The son of William Stubbins of Dover, Edward had just been accepted into the United States infantry by Sergeant Wall at the recruiting station in the Hartman building on York’s square.

The excited Stubbins continued to share: “I would have been in the army a year ago, but I have been waiting for my eighteenth birthday. I was 18 years old on the first day of October. I was working for a farmer near Dover and I did not want to leave him in the lurch as farm help is mighty scarce, you know. Now that corn husking is all but over, I thought this is my time to come to York and sign the papers that’ll make me one of Uncle Sam’s boys. On the farm where I worked I was paid 50 cents a day and was given my board. Uncle Sam pays better than that I know. I read somewhere that a private in the United States army gets as much pay as a general in the Russian army. Say, does it take very much education to get to be a corporal?”

The article relates that Stubbins passed his physical examination in excellent shape and that he was assured that the army offered educational opportunities that could lead him to the rank of corporal.

I often wonder what happened to the persons who pop up in these intriguing old newspaper stories. Thanks to Google and such sites as Find A Grave (free), (subscription), (subscription) and others, you can often piece together more of their story. Since the chatty Mr. Stubbins shared his exact birthday, it made it easier.

I found information and photo of his grave marker on Find A Grave that tells us Edward J. Stubbins, Sr. was born October 1, 1899 and died February 17, 1973. He served from Pennsylvania as a PFC in the US Army during World War I. He is buried at Grand Mound Cemetery, Rochester, Thurston County, Washington.

His obituary in the Centralia, Washington Daily Chronicle, found on, confirms that he was born October 1, 1899 at York, Pa. It adds that he had been a Centralia area resident since 1922, moving there from Pennsylvania. Goggle maps shows that Centralia (2010 population—16,336) and Rochester (2010 population—2,388) are about 11 miles apart. I only checked the 1940 census on, but it says he was living then with his wife Leone on James Town Road, Grand Mound, Washington [the same area]. So we know Stubbins made Private First Class, not quite to Corporal, but he did survive the war, spending the rest of his years far from the cornfields of Dover. We also know he married, and he must have had at least one child, since his grave marker gives his name as Edward Stubbins, Sr. Further searching could probably uncover more of his life.

(The York County History Center Library/Archives has subscriptions to the library editions of,, and Fold3 [military records] for the use of the library/archives patrons.)

Posted in 1890s, 1910s, 1920s, 1970s, Army, Dover, farming, newspapers, soldiers, Universal York, veterans, Washington, World War I | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on You couldn’t keep this Dover boy down on the farm

Delta bank funds saved by York safe

Tucked down in the far southeastern corner of York County, Delta has always been pretty quiet. According to the April 10, 1897 Gazette, some would-be bank robbers livened up the town two days before.  The front page article in the York paper goes into detail:

The writer says that the only usual excitement in Delta is when hard-driving boys from the countryside tear down the street about a mile, from the tavern at one end of town to the one at the other end, “in an effort to keep the interval between drinks down to a minimum.”

The two-story brick Miles National Bank stood in “South Delta,” which must mean the section adjacent to Cardiff, Maryland, since that is as far as you can go and still be in Pennsylvania. The three burglars gained entrance by climbing a ladder and going through a window in the rear of the building. They were allegedly prepared with “…saws, sledges, breast drills, files, chisels and in fact everything necessary to make an attack on a big safe or vault.”

The bank vault boasted three-feet-thick walls of brick and stone with a fire-proof vault door. A burglar proof York safe was inside the vault. After drilling a hole through the vault door and disconnecting the bolts, they went to work on the safe with nitroglycerine. The resulting blast destroyed the thick vault that held it, but not the safe.

The bank building, and just about everything in it except the safe, was badly wrecked, with the front of banking room and its plate glass windows scattered everywhere. Counters and desks added to the wreckage. The county-made York Safe held, only losing some exterior levers and a slight malfunction to the time lock, resulting in the bankers having to wait until noon to open it instead of the usual 9 a.m.

The burglars had managed to get into some safe deposit vaults outside the main vault, but the only loss reported was $75 from carriage builder Bulett’s safe deposit box.

The writer speculates that the burglars did not expect such “havoc and noise” and that as lights quickly appeared in neighboring windows, residents saw the three of them make off from the back of the building, disappearing into the hills by the dim light of morning.

Here is a link to a previous post with photos of some York Safe and Lock burglar proof safes.

And here is a link to some successful safe cracking in Red Lion and Dallastown.  Perhaps those post offices that were hit didn’t have York made safes.

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York County insects at Harvard, thanks to the Melsheimer family

Hanover Lutheran pastor Frederick Valentine Melsheimer has been called the father of American entomology (insects). He was also a “Hessian,” who came to America with troops fighting on the British side during the Revolutionary War. If you have Melsheimers in your ancestry, there is a good chance that you descend from this family of clerics, physicians, printers and scientists who made their mark in early York County.

Melsheimer’s extensive collection of insect specimens ended up at Harvard, where they reside today. See my recent York Sunday News column below for more on the family and their scientific labors as well as a link to the Harvard collection: Continue reading

Posted in 1770s, 1800s, 1840s, 1850s, doctors, entomology, Great Britain, Hanover, Hessians, insects, Lancaster County, Lutherans, pastors, prisoners, Revolutionary War, soldiers, Universal York, York County, York County History Center | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on York County insects at Harvard, thanks to the Melsheimer family

York County History Center shares unpublished Lewis Miller drawings online

(Resolution is much better on the YCHC website)

The York County History Center has entered into an exciting new partnership with the Google Cultural Institute.   The first project was the digitalization of Lewis Miller’s own annotated and illustrated copy of Henry Lee Fisher’s ‘S Alt Marki-Hous Mittes In D’r Schtadt (The Old Market House in the Middle of the Town). Fisher grew up in Franklin County, but his mother was a Harbaugh from York County, making him a descendant of some of the earliest settlers of York County. Fisher became an attorney, and then spent the rest of his life in York, becoming a prominent citizen.  Click here to access the November issue of Center Piece, the YCHC newsletter, and go to page four to learn more about the partnership.

Continue reading

Posted in 1800s, artists, Continental Congress, court house, Lewis Miller, markets, Pennsylvania Dutch, Universal York, York County, York County History Center | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on York County History Center shares unpublished Lewis Miller drawings online

Margaretta Furnace scrip to spend at the company store

This is probably the foundry building at Margaretta with piles of wood

In my recent column on Margaretta Furnace in Lower Windsor Township, I mentioned that the York County History Center has some examples of scrip issued by the company in the 1840s, and that it could only be used at the company store. I am sharing images of these notes as well as others courtesy of Bob Saylor. Some of these fragile bills have not aged well over the past 180 years, so I am posting the best examples of each. These are in the five cent, ten cent, 12 ½ cent and 25 cent denominations. I you have any that are of different value, please send a scan or photo to It would be interesting to see what other images might have been used.

On this note a horse cart hauls wood, probably to make charcoal.

The United States bills that we know today did not come into existence until during the Civil War in the 1860s. There have been changes over the years, but according to, all currency issued by the United States government since 1861 is still legal tender.

Continental Congress had currency printed by the Hall and Sellers press during the Revolutionary War, including one issue printed in York in April 1778 while Congress was meeting here. Because of rampant counterfeiting and inflation, the continental currency suffered from huge devaluation.

Chopping wood to make charcoal, essential in iron making

Paper money was also issued by the colonies/states until prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. Later, individual banks could print currency if they were authorized as National Banks.

Scrip was not legal tender that was accepted everywhere. It was printed for individual companies, such as the Margaretta Furnace firm, and could only be used to make purchases from them. Some employers used scrip to pay wages earned, while other scrip was an advance on future earnings. This could lead to debt high enough to make it difficult for a worker to leave his job. Some may remember Tennessee Ernie Ford’s song about owing his soul to the company store.

Local scrip is of historical interest because it could be tailored to the company. The images on the four different Margaretta Furnace denominations shown here seem to relate to their iron manufacturing enterprise.

Perhaps there are iron products in these barrels being transported on a river ark


Posted in 1770s, 1840s, 1860s, Continental Congress, industry, iron, Lower Windsor Twp., manufacturing, merchants, money, printers, shopping, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Margaretta Furnace scrip to spend at the company store

Duke Street School was York’s first high school

Courtesy of Google Maps

The York City School District recently sold the Duke Street School at the corner of South Duke Street and East Hope Avenue. Many people probably do not realize that the building dates back to 1860 and that it housed York’s first high school. According to Prowell’s History of York County: “The Duke Street building, opposite the City Market House, was erected in 1860. Later in 1868, a school house on the rear of the same lot was erected. The High School was founded in the Duke Street front school house in 1870 and remained there for two years.” A larger high school building, designed by architect Edward Haviland, was built in 1872. The second high school was situated across from the Quaker Meeting House and was torn down many years ago.

Prowell goes on to state that York High was founded to prepare students for higher learning “and for the active duties of life,” and that it graduated the first class in June of 1872. That was a coed class of two students, Miss Flora B. Hays, who later taught in York City schools, and Edward P. Stair, later Cashier of the Farmers National Bank of York. Commencement was held in the court house, with Dr. Edward Brooks, then principal of the State Normal School at Millersville (now Millersville University) as the speaker.

There were 65 students in all the first year of operation, and the initial curriculum included “careful training in mathematics, the English branches, and ancient and modern languages.” Electives were soon added in other subjects. George R. Prowell himself was one of the four initial teachers, along with William Shelley, Peter Bentz and Mary Kell. Miss Kell was also the first assistant principal of the high school.

There is a charming hand-written, detailed description in the York County History Center files of the Duke Street school and the classes the student took. It is faded, but in a legible hand, so I hope to transcribe it for a future post.

I have not heard who purchased the school, but I hope it will serve the sturdy building with the graceful fence will continue to serve the community for at least another 160 years.

Duke Street and Hope Avenue (then Baptist Alley) from the 1903 Roe Atlas of York

Posted in 1860s, 1870s, 1900s, education, schools, Universal York, York City, York County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Duke Street School was York’s first high school

Margaretta Furnace was a leading iron making center in 19th century York County

1876 York County Atlas

A few weeks ago I posted the tale of Spoonie Gohn’s supposed encounters with Slaymaker’s ghost at Margaretta Furnace. I had initially shared that story with the attendees at the York Daily Record annual Unraveling York County History night in early December.

Margaretta Furnace with the grand mansion house and huge barns that stand just outside East Prospect have always intrigued me, so I wrote my December York Sunday News column on the real history of Margaretta Furnace.

Because of the abundance of iron ore, limestone and forests for charcoal there were quite a few iron furnaces in operation during the 18th and 19th centuries in York County. You can still see some remnants of these York County’s furnaces; the best preserved is Codorus Furnace, a property of the Conservation Society of York County. It sits by Furnace Road near Starview, and you can stop by anytime and read the interpretive labels. The ironmaster’s mansion, a private property, still stands a short distance away, but it appears to badly need restoration.

There are two restored iron furnace complexes not too far away that my family and I have enjoyed visiting. Cornwall Furnace is about an hour from downtown York in Lebanon County. It is a National Historic Landmark administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It takes just a few minutes longer from York to get to Hopewell Furnace near the Berks County/Chester County line. It is a National Park Service National Historic Site. Both offer tours and either makes a nice day trip.

Here is my Margaretta Furnace column: Continue reading

Posted in 1820s, 1830s, 1840s, 1900s, 1910s, 1960s, East Prospect, food, historic preservation, ice cream, industry, iron, Lower Windsor Twp., merchants, mills, Universal York, York County, York County History Center | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Margaretta Furnace was a leading iron making center in 19th century York County

Preservation Pennsylvania and Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society working together to save Mifflin House

The campaign to save the historic Mifflin House, the extremely significant site in Hellam Township at the edge of Wrightsville, is moving on, but help is needed from the public.

To bring you up to date, in August 2017 Hellam Township denied a demolition permit requested by the developer of the industrial park that adjoins the Mifflin house to demolish the house and some of the historic farm buildings. The developer appealed this decision, which is now in the York County Court of Common Pleas. Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society and Preservation Pennsylvania have filed a joint brief in opposition to the appeal of Kinsley Equities II., as has Hellam Township.

Preservation Pennsylvania and Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society have launched a fund raising drive to pay necessary legal fees. Click here for more information on the current status of the challenge and to donate directly online, or for more information on sending a check or donating by credit card. Checks, marked for the Mifflin House, should be sent to the Mifflin House Fund, Preservation Pennsylvania, 257 North Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101.

The Mifflin House is one of the most important historic sites in York County. The Underground Railroad activity conducted out of the house by Jonathan Mifflin and Susannah Wright Mifflin and their son Samuel Mifflin is well documented. Also, the clash between Union and Confederate units culminating in the burning of the Wrightsville-Columbia bridge occurred partly on their property.

Jonathan Mifflin was a Revolutionary War patriot, serving under George Washington as Assistant Quartermaster General, supplying the American army. That by itself deems his home historically worthy of preservation. In addition, the architectural significance of this mansion house along, built around 1800, is a reason for keeping it intact. Much of the exterior and interior has not been significantly changed over the past 200+ years.

For much more detail on the Mifflin House and the family and their accomplishments, you can click on these links:

Click here for over two dozen articles, columns and videos pertaining to the Mifflin House posted by the York Daily Record/York Sunday News.

Here is a link for my several columns and blog posts on the Mifflin House.

And here is a link to Scott Mingus’s many blog posts on the Civil War and Underground Railroad significance of the Mifflin House.


Nineteenth century view of “Hybla,” the Mifflin House


Posted in 1770s, 1800s, 1830s, 1840s, 1850s, 1860s, architecture, Civil War, Confederate invasion, Hellam Twp., historic preservation, Revolutionary War, slavery, Underground Railrod, Universal York, Wrightsville, York County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Preservation Pennsylvania and Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society working together to save Mifflin House

York women found it took time to be fashionable

There is currently an interesting mini-exhibit in the entrance hall of the York County History Center museum at 250 East Market Street. Even though I sometimes mentally live in the 19th century, an exhibit like this reminds me to be thankful that I physically live in the 21st century.

The exhibit shows why it took women some time to get dressed, and why they often needed some assistance to get it accomplished. The label reads:


Shown here are four representations of the different stages of getting dressed during the late Victorian Period of the 1880s and 90s. The combination of these pieces allowed the wearer to achieve the highly-fashionable bustled look that was popular during this period.

The first mannequin is shown in two simple undergarments—a white chemise and white pantaloons.

The second mannequin includes a chemise with the addition of a petticoat and blue corset to cinch the waist.

The third mannequin includes the aforementioned pieces with the addition of a bustle to give shape and volume to the train and back of the dress.

Lastly comes a blue velvet evening dress which would be worn on top of these foundation layers. Though these pieces were not worn by a single Yorker, they come from various local families notes below.

The family names mentioned, either that of the donor or wearer of the garment, include Gallagher, Eisenhart, Forry, Tweedell, Emig, Skold, Geesey, Spangler, Gemmill and Keesey.

My photo of the midnight blue velvet dress with the blue roses on white silk doesn’t do it justice. Stop by and take a look at the exhibit yourself and ponder the time and care it took to be in style just a bit over a century ago.

Posted in 1880s, 1890s, clothing, exhibits, fashion, museums, Universal York, women, York County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on York women found it took time to be fashionable

Another York County ghost tale

James Ruby gravestone. (Courtesy Find A Grave)

My last post related the tale of Spoonie Gohn’s encounters with Slaymaker’s ghost at Margaretta Furnace. It was one of the two “Weird York County” stories I shared at the York Daily Record’s recent Unraveling York County History event.

My second account that night was “The Headless Horseman of the Codorus Valley.” The story was first told by historian Armand Gladfelter in one of his several books on the Seven Valleys area.

James Ruby was from eastern York County, but after their marriage, he and wife Mary moved first to Carroll County, Maryland and then back again to York County, this time in the south central area. They raised their eight children near Zeigler’s Church in North Codorus Township.

Besides being a successful farmer, James Ruby had the power to stop the flow of blood by laying his hands on the afflicted person and repeating a specific passage from the Book of Ezekiel. I guess you could call him a pow-wow specialists. He was often summoned to neighboring farms when an accident had occurred, arriving on his old white mare.

James Ruby and his old white mare passed away on the same day in 1859. He was buried in nearby Zeigler’s churchyard, but he didn’t exactly rest in peace. For nearly 100 years he was often seen riding his old white mare up and down the road that passes the church.

Neighbor Mrs. Depfer, who lived by that road, was ill, and a young woman names Katie Behler was hired as her nurse. Not being from that area, Katie was startled to look out the window and see what appeared to be a headless horseman riding a white horse down the road. Mrs. Behler said, “Oh, that’s old man Ruby, he rides there every evening.” (Even in life, Ruby slouched forward in the saddle, making it appear as though his hat sat on his shoulders, but he wasn’t really headless.)

Another time young Susan Hoff was out around dusk picking berries near Zeigler’s church. She suddenly ran down to her house shouting “Mam, ich hab de ald man Ruby gesehne.” (“Mom, I just saw old man Ruby.) Susan lived well into her nineties, never wavering that she had indeed seen Old Man Ruby riding his old white mare by the churchyard.

It has been 70 years now since anyone reported seeing Old Man Ruby, but if you happen to be over around Zeigler’s church just about twilight, keep your eyes open for a slouched over figure on a white horse.

This link will take you to the York Daily Record website with a video of me telling the story of Old Man Ruby and his white mare.

St. Paul’s (Zeigler’s) church as it appeared in James Ruby’s time. It was replaced by a brick church later in the 19th century.

Posted in 1850s, farming, North Codorus Twp/, pow-wows, Seven Valleys, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Another York County ghost tale