Nursing education pioneer remembered for her kindness and her interest in the Civil War

Postcard from Andersonville, Ga.

Postcard from Andersonville, Ga.

Several people responded to my post of myYork Sunday News column on Dr. Florence Gipe , a York County native who was a leader in modern nursing education.

June Snyder shared that upon graduating from Eastern York High School in 1960 she wanted to obtain a BSN degree in Nursing. That wasn’t yet possible in York County, and the University of Maryland wasn’t accepting out-of-state freshman nursing students. Dr. Gipe, who was then Dean of Nursing at the UMd School of Nursing, set up a program so that June could take her first two years of college at York Junior College and then finish at UMd.

Dr. Gipe kept an apartment near the school in Baltimore, but she returned to her home in Red Lion many weekends, and June often rode the bus with her. When York College initiated their School of Nursing in the 1970s, June served on the Advisory Board and also taught there in the 1990s.

Sue Nace and her family became close to Dr. Gipe when they moved to New Bridgeville in the early 1960s and started attending St. Luke Lutheran Church, Dr. Gipe’s lifelong church. Sue mentioned Dr. Gipe’s scholarly interest in the Civil War, and her family often accompanied her to battlefields and Civil War Roundtable meetings in Harrisburg, which predates York’s group.

Because of her interest in the Civil War, Dr. Gipe knew authors Carl Sandburg and Dr. Bell Wiley. Sue remembers receiving a letter from Dr. Wiley thanking her for the meal she made when Dr. Gipe had him visit at St. Luke.

Dr. Gipe spent her vacations pursing Civil War history. Her file at York County Heritage Trust has a couple of postcards from Civil War sites that she sent back to her brother in Red Lion. One reads: “Was in Atlanta and came here to Andersonville. Saw Uncle Jere Daugherty’s grave. Nice little head stone. See you soon. Florence.” I’ll have to do a little research to see who Uncle Jere was, in what unit he served and why he, sadly, ended at Andersonville.

Posted in 1860s, 1960s, 1970s, 1990s, authors, Baltimore, Civil War, postcards, prisoners, Red Lion, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learn more about Latrobe’s 1801 mapping of the lower Susquehanna River

[MAP] Susquehanna River Survey Map Map courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

I will be doing a PowerPoint presentation this Saturday, April 12 on Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s wonderful map of a portion of our section of the Susquehanna River, as part of the York County Heritage Trust Second Saturday free lecture series. It will be at the YCHT museum and library/archives building, 250 East Market St., York, Pa. at 10:30 a.m.

Latrobe’s 1801 instructions from Pennsylvania Governor Thomas McKean were twofold: survey the lower Susquehanna and also clear a channel so that the river would be navigable at least part of the year. Latrobe, working with mostly local crews, accomplished this in October and November 1801. He then spent the next several months completing the beautiful, detailed 17 feet long map to be used by Pennsylvania and Maryland to plan future improvements, such as canals.

For more on this formidable venture, see my former York Sunday News column below

Famed Architect Benjamin Latrobe Mapped Lower Susquehanna River

Benjamin Henry Latrobe is best known as one of the fathers of American architecture. He designed the U.S. Capitol, Baltimore Basilica, Bank of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Waterworks. In 1801-1802 Latrobe used his engineering skills to complete a project much closer to (our) home, channel improvement and detailed surveying of the Susquehanna River from Columbia to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Susquehanna was only navigable, even during spring freshets, south to Columbia. From there to its mouth at Havre de Grace, it was fraught with dangerous rapids, falls and obstructions. By 1800, hundreds of thousands of barrels of flour and bushels of wheat, beef and pork, whiskey, iron, coal and lumber arrived at Columbia on barges and arks, virtually unsteerable, box-like boats up to 90 feet long and 20 feet wide. Arks drew only two feet of water, but because of the dangers south of Columbia they were offloaded, broken up and sold as lumber there. The cargo continued by wagon to Philadelphia and other markets. Only heavy rafts, often of timber, would venture to ride the spring freshets on down to the Cheseapeake.

The Pennsylvania government wasn’t keen on improvements to the lower Susquehanna, which could divert more commerce to Maryland’s Baltimore instead of Pennsylvania’s Philadelphia. Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware finally agreed, around 1800, to cooperate on Susquehanna improvements that would then allow for canal connections to benefit all three states.

Pennsylvania Governor Thomas McKean contracted with Col. Frederick Antes to survey the lower Susquehanna. Antes asked his nephew, architect Benjamin H. Latrobe, to assist him as engineer and surveyor. Antes started work August 1, 1801, scouting out the river from Columbia to the Maryland line for channel clearing. He hired local contractors, set up a tool repair shop and bought supplies such as black powder and brimstone for blasting. By the time Latrobe arrived at Lancaster on September 7, Antes was gravely ill, but he spent the last two weeks of his life planning, with Latrobe, the completion of the channel clearing and the river survey. Latrobe immediately took over, and channel clearing and obstruction removal were pretty well done by October.

Latrobe wrote: “All my exertions were bent to force through all obstructions, a channel clear of rocks, of 40 ft. wide close to the Eastern shore, never leaving any rock upon which a vessel could be wrecked between the channel and the shore, so that in the most violent freshes a boat should always be safe, by keeping close in shore. Rocks of immense magnitude were therefore blown away, in preference to the following a crooked channel more cheaply made, but more difficult and dangerous… .

The survey phase was conducted during October and November 1801. It was done in two directions with Latrobe starting at Columbia and assistant surveyor Christian Hauducoeur working north from the Maryland line, meeting at McCall’s Ferry. Each survey crew included an assistant surveyor, chain bearers, axe men and canoe men. (Hauducoeur had already published a map of the Maryland section of the Susquehanna in 1799.)

Latrobe’s part of the survey, from Columbia to McCall’s Ferry, took close to a month. The crews worked every day but Sunday, lodging and eating at the few riverside inns and farmers’ houses. Latrobe wrote to his wife Mary from Burkhalter’s Ferry: “The little incidents of our journey have been often extremely laughable, and almost always curious. The very reception we have met with has been so various, that I could fill a letter with description of character, and manner that would often make you laugh. And as to the natural Scenery in which we have been engaged, it is so Savage in many instances, and so beautiful in others, that I could not fail to find in that alone matter enough for twenty letters.”

Latrobe wrote his report for Governor McKean soon after the project was completed. Even with blasting obstructions and clearing a narrow channel, the Susquehanna was still very hazardous. He felt Turkey Hill was especially formidable, where the two mile wide river “suddenly contracts itself on breaking through the mountains to the width of 3/4th of a mile.” High ridges of rock made up the river bed there and current was “astonishing rapid in autumn.” He noted other danger spots and the geology that created them.

It took Latrobe about a year after the survey to produce a large scale, high quality, strip map 17 feet long and two feet wide. The Pennsylvania section was rendered in detail with pencil, ink and watercolor. Latrobe completed the Maryland section, mostly based on Hauducoeur’s 1799 map, without the coloring. Shorelines, streams, falls, rapids and channels were clearly defined. On shore, including on large islands, buildings were shown, as were woods and trees and the few existing fields.

Latrobe later complained of having seen his map “in scandalous condition,” stained by fly dirt and smoke from hanging…near the ceiling of the state house” in Lancaster (the capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1812. Worse was to come—the map was in the House chamber in Washington in 1814 and destroyed when the British burned the Capitol.

Luckily, Benjamin Latrobe had drawn a facsimile copy for himself. It is now in the Maryland Historical Society, and has been reproduced in black and white. A reference copy may be used at York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives.

About $20,000 was spent by Latrobe and his colleagues in 1801 on the survey and channel clearing. Latrobe estimated it would take $100,000 more to make the lower Susquehanna “fit for the common purpose of convenient intercourse.” It was never provided, and not until 1840, with the opening of the Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal from Wrightsville to Havre de Grace, was that section safely navigated.

Posted in 1800s, architecture, Columbia, PA, Lancaster County, Long Level, Susquehanna River, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

York County relatives retained ties to President McKinley

While researching the Bacon family, friend Jean Robinson shared an August 24, 1909 obituary from the York Dispatch that she found on the newspaper microfilms at York County Heritage Trust. It reads:

Agnes Bacon
Mrs. Agnes, widow of George Bacon, died at the home of her son, George W. Bacon, 142 East Market Street, yesterday afternoon at 2:15 o’clock from infirmities due to old age. She was 89 years, 6 months and 18 days old.

The maiden name of Mrs. Bacon was Agnes McKinley. She was a second cousin of the martyred president, William McKinley. During the life time of the president it was his custom to send Mrs. Bacon a bunch of red carnations, one for every year of her age, to which Mrs. Bacon reciprocated in like manner.

Mrs. Bacon was a member of the Presbyterian church in Chanceford, where interment will be made. She is survived by two sons, George W. Bacon and Dr. W. F. Bacon.

The McKinleys came to York County from County Antrim, Ulster, settling in the southeastern part of the county by 1745, joining many other Scots-Irish immigrants. David McKinley, born in Chanceford Township in 1755, served in the Revolutionary War. Several generations later, President McKinley’s immediate family had migrated to Ohio, where the future president was born in 1843. After serving in the Civil War, William McKinley was a member of Congress and then Governor of Ohio before becoming president in 1897.

(Susquehanna Real Estate and National Penn Investors Trust Company now occupy the 142 East Market Street site.)

Posted in 1740s, 1800s, 1840s, Scots-Irish, Universal York, York | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Modern nursing education owes much to rural York County’s Florence Gipe

Dr. Florence Meda Gipe

Dr. Florence Meda Gipe

Dr. Florence Gipe was a very interesting woman. She was a pioneer in modern nursing education and also deeply interested in York County History and Civil War history.

I only met Dr. Gipe once, even though she was a childhood friend of both my parents and my stepfather. They all grew up together in the New Bridgeville/Brogue area. When she found I didn’t have my own personal copy of her history of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, where both my and my husband’s families go back for generations, she immediately autographed a copy and gave it to me.

I wish I had known her better, especially after reading comments about my recently York Sunday News column on Dr. Gipe. You can tell how much she was respected and admired. I’ll share some of those comments in a future post. The column is below: Continue reading “Modern nursing education owes much to rural York County’s Florence Gipe” »

Posted in 1890s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, authors, Baltimore, Chanceford Twp., education, hospitals, Lutherans, medicine, occupations, professions, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Potato roots run deep in York County

Unidentified potato pickers.

Unidentified potato pickers.

The Potato Association of America says Americans eat more than 41 billion pounds of potatoes a year.

An article in the York Daily Record a few days ago indicated that new techniques and varieties of potatoes might help York County farmers again make the county the potato growing center it was in the mid-twentieth century. That got me thinking about how important potatoes were to my family on their Chanceford Township farm, where they lived from 1925 until 1947.

My father, Wiley Burk, faithfully wrote a few lines in his diaries every day. In addition to the weather, just about every entry recorded what he did on the farm that day. A quick search of the transcribed volumes yielded nearly 1,400 results for “potato.”

Over the years, my father, with help sometimes from family members or hired help: cut, measured, planted, worked, harrowed, scraped, weeded, hoed, sprayed, scraped, raised, picked, took out, hauled in, sorted, bagged, sprouted, covered, and moved potatoes. He mowed the patch, raked and burned weeds and hunted potato bugs. Sharing equipment with neighbors, he fetched potato pickers and potato sorters.

After keeping enough to feed the family for the winter and distributing small amounts to family and friends, he sold the rest to buyers for grocery stores and probably chip manufacturers. Potato activity started in April with cutting potatoes in preparation for planting and ran through November, until they were all harvested, sorted and bagged.

Potatoes also got the family through the Great Depression. You couldn’t make much selling your potatoes then, so my parents made and sold their own brand of chips, just like the Utz, Martin, Snyder, Musser and other families. As the depression wound down, so did the Burk’s Potato Chips brand, an economic decision that might be viewed ruefully with hindsight.

The first mention of potatoes in the diaries is April 22, 1925, three weeks after they moved to the farm: “Finish plowing cornstalks. Sowed seed tomatoes. Cut potatoes at home. Fair,” and on April 27: “Planted potatoes. Fair.”

The last reference is December 1, 1947, the week they moved from the farm. By that time, my father was working at the Safe Harbor hydroelectric plant, and my cousin, already a potato farmer, was doing the farming by shares. It reads: “Worked at Safe Harbor… . Dean Bacon finished sorting potatoes, Katahdins 675 bu., Cobblers…Fair, cold 14.”

My favorite entry reads, in part: “June 7. Baby born. [“June” written above line, may have been inserted later.]…Worked 1 acre of potatoes evening second time. Fair.” You can say I have been closely associated with potatoes since birth.

This link will take you to the many posts I have written about area potato chip manufacturers.

Posted in 1930s, 1940s, agriculture, Chanceford Twp., farm machinery, farming, potato chips, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Train wreck at Hanover Junction


The account below, from the May 26, 1913 York Gazette tells of a train wreck caused by human error. It also illustrates how stories become exaggerated as news travels.

It is rather remarkable that, with the damage and injuries cited, the train and passengers were able to travel on in a very short time. The report reads: Continue reading “Train wreck at Hanover Junction” »

Posted in 1910s, accidents, North Codorus Twp/, Northern Central RR, railroads, trains, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

York County native among the first female officers in U.S. Navy

Lt. Mary Appler Moon, USN

Lt. Mary Appler Moon, USN

I attended a memorial service a few days ago for another one of the World War II veterans that we are losing so fast. This one was for a very special lady, Lt. Mary Appler Moon, one of the first woman officers in the regular Navy, the very first one from York County.

Mary donated her naval uniform, papers and other items some years ago to York County Heritage Trust. Her uniform and some of the material now preserved by YCHT were featured in last year’s From Front Porch to Front Lines comprehensive exhibit on York County participation in 20th century conflicts.

I was fortunate to have done an oral history interview with Mary in conjunction with her YCHT donations. A hard copy transcription of the session can be read at the YCHT Library/Archives. Since YCHT is one of the partners of the Library of Congress with its ongoing Veterans’ History Project, a copy of the taped review and transcription is also on file at the Library of Congress.

A plea for help: The YCHT Library/Archives, with the assistance of individuals and also York College’s oral history students, has completed numerous oral history interviews for the Veterans’ History Project, but there are many, many more veterans that need to be talked to before they, and their memories with them, are gone. Interviews are very easy to conduct and transcribe, with just a little instruction from the YCHT Library/Archives staff. This can be done in a short time, at your convenience. Whether you are thinking of sitting down with veterans or your own family members, you might want to attend the free May 6 session of Lunch with the Librarians at York County Heritage Trust. The subject is “Oral Histories: The Basics of Where to Start and What to Ask.” Contact Assistant Director of Library and Archives Amanda Eveler for registration at

Now—here is a very brief synopsis of Lt. Moon’s story:

Mary grew up in Hanover and graduated from Susquehanna University. After teaching for a year in Hershey, she joined the Navy in the fall of 1942. Upon completion of officer’s training school, she was assigned to Naval Operations, serving in Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Cleveland; Great Lakes; Seattle and Yorktown, Va. during her career. She would never divulge exactly what she did during much of her time in the Navy, citing a lifelong oath of secrecy that she had taken.

You could tell, over 50 years later, how much Mary loved her time in the Navy. She served until 1951; married by then, she resigned to start her family. She later taught English, mostly at York Suburban High School, and also at York High, Penn State York and HACC. Many of her students still relish the quality English education they received.

At the memorial service, her children aptly conveyed not only how much they loved and respected her as a mother, but how she broadened their world through travel, perhaps a love she acquired with the U.S. Navy.

Mary felt that the servicewomen of World War II do not get the recognition they deserve. I hope that will change. I wish I had taken more time to stop by occasionally and hear more of her adventures, but I am glad to have had the privilege of meeting this interesting woman.

This link will take you my posts on another York World War II servicewoman, WASP pilot Mary Reineberg Buchard.

Posted in 1940s, education, exhibits, Hanover, military units, museums, U.S. Navy, Universal York, World War II, York County | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Sculpture celebrates end of World War II in a big way


I have to stretch the York County, Pa. history connection a bit for this post, but I can do it. First, in one of my recent posts on the York County World War II USO, I mentioned that my former neighbor, Muriel Smith, who was one of the local USO hostesses, related that she and a friend happened to be in Times Square when photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt recorded the V-J Day kiss made famous in Life magazine. The 26 feet tall sculpture above is said to have been based on that photo. New Jersey based sculptor J. Seward Johnson has said that it was instead modeled after a similar photo of the same incident taken by another photographer. (Copyright issues seem to be still in play.)

In a broader sense, York County certainly played a large role in World War II, sending many men and women to the armed forces, and switching from civilian to military manufactured products, giving name to the nationally recognized efficient York Plan. Besides, a York countian (me) just took the photo above in Sarasota, Florida last week.

According to news reports today, one of several veterans who claimed to be the sailor in the photo died today. He was not the same veteran that made the news last fall when a sailor and a nurse reunited at the Sarasota statue.

The statue itself has an interesting past. The plaque beside it describes the celebration in Times Square and how it came to be installed it Sarasota. It reads, in part:
Continue reading “Sculpture celebrates end of World War II in a big way” »

Posted in 1940s, 2000s, 2010s, magazines, photographers, sailors, sculptors, Universal York, World War II | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Life in 19th century Wrightsville


Even small newspaper items and advertisements can give clues on life in the past, such as these ads from the May 7, 1857 York County Star and Wrightsville Advertiser, These two are for Wrightsville businesses, Reuben Simpson’s barber shop and Daniel T. Lehman’s restaurant, but other ads in this issue are for varied establishments in York, Columbia, New Bridgeville and even Philadelphia. More on them later.

Notice that the restaurant and barber shop are very near each other, using Samuel M. Smith’s store as a reference. They both give their location as Hellam or Turnpike Street, today know by only the former name.

Simpson had been running his poetic ad regularly for three years, as indicated by the date and “tf,” which stands for “till forbid.” In other words, it was to run until the person placing the ad cancelled it.

The undersigned takes pleasure in announcing to his old friends and customers that he still continues the above business in
Hellam or Turnpike Street,
Next door to Samuel M. Smith’s Store, Up Stairs
where it will always afford him much pleasure to serve all who may be kind enough to patronize him, and where he will shave you as clean as any city broker, and cut and dress your hair to suit the contour of the face.
“My room is neat and towels clean,
Scissors sharp and Razors keen,
And all my art of skill can do
If you’ll just call I’ll do for you.”
My friends will always find me at my post ready to accommodate all who may be pleased to call.
Wrightsville, April 6, 1854.—tf


Oysters, Fried, Roasted, Stewed, &c., &c.

Philadelphia and York Ale and Beer,
AND all kinds of Fruit in Season, Confectionary, &c., can be had served up in every variety, at the Refectory of the subscriber in Hellam or Turnpike Street, in the Borough of Wrightsville, Second door above S.M. Smith’s Store.
Wrightsville, April 9, 1857.

“Refectory” is usually defined as a dining hall in an academic or religious institution, so Lehman broadened the definition somewhat to include his restaurant’s dining room.

Posted in 1850s, advertising, food, fruit, newspapers, restaurants, streets, Universal York, Wrightsville | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

More rural York County news, 1894


Here are more local news items from the small towns and rural areas of York County. These are from the October 19, 1894 Delta Herald and Times, under the heading “Brogueville Items.”

The correspondent, who coyly signed himself or herself “WHO DO YOU THINK,” managed to created news items out of scant substance. (On second thought—is it that much different from today’s social media?)

Still, besides letting the citizens of “the lower end” know what their neighbors were up to, the brief items do provide clues as to where our families lived, who their friends and family members were and even to where some of those elusive relatives may have moved.

Mrs. McKee of Collinsville, and Mrs. Reed, of Brogueville, paid Wrightsville and Columbia a visit last week returning home on Thursday evening, saying they had a very pleasant time.

Quite a number of the young folks attended the fair last week and thought it was very good.

Mrs. John Small’s family moved to York last week, after spending the summer in the country.

Mr. John Bowman and daughter of Illinois are paying their friends in Chanceford a visit.

Mr. James Kilgore’s new house is completed and his tenant, Mr. Burk has moved in and thinks it very comfortable.

Mr. Tom Pyle of Gatchelville, spent Sunday with his brother near Brogueville.

Mr. James Lyons has returned to Philadelphia after spending some time with his friends at this place.

We are waiting patiently for the wedding bells which we think will be soon from Chanceford.


Posted in 1890s, Chanceford Twp., Lower Chanceford Twp., newspapers, Universal York, York County | Tagged | Leave a comment