York County “molasses”

York County historian of a century ago, George R. Prowell, was a prolific (and sometimes wordy) recorder of York County history. Some of the stories he wrote were passed on from others, perhaps with occasional errors creeping in. Still, Prowell’s writings are the only source for quite a few interesting accounts, such as the one below.

A lengthy newspaper clipping pasted in one of Jere Carl’s dozens of turn-of-the-century scrapbooks in the York County History Center Library/Archives is headed:




Historian Prowell Relates How Captain John J. Young Brought First Sorghum Seed to York—South Killed Industry Here.

Prowell says David Heckert told him that retired naval Captain John J. Young introduced the sorghum plant into York County in 1858. Young was said to have been on the Lawrence during the Battle of Lake Erie. The ship was commanded by a Captain Elliott, whose wife was a daughter of General Jacob Spangler of York. After recovering from a later shipboard accident that resulted in partial loss of his legs, Young came to York to visit the family of now Commodore Elliott, and he stayed. Continue reading

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1907 York news, trivial and tragic

Here is what was happening in York County in 1907, according to the York Daily of June 13.

News from Dallastown: “The mail from York due here at 7:30 o’clock on account of a freight wreck at Waterville did not reach here until 2 o’clock this morning. [Another item on the same page described the multi-car pileup at Waterville, between Delta and Baltimore on the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad.] This pouch is carried through to Red Lion on the 5:40 train from York which does not run in here and returned on the train over an hour later. In other words Red Lion and Yoe get the same mail an hour sooner than do the people here, much to the inconvenience of the business men and the people in general.”

Miss Annie Reider of Hanover Street, Glen Rock attended the York Collegiate Institute commencement exercises; her brother Bert I. Reider was graduating.

It was reported from Airville: “Chester Girvin and Ernest Miller, each aged about 13 years, were driving a horse hitched to a spring wagon Monday afternoon, when the horse became frightened at the rattling noise which the wagon made. The animal became uncontrollable and commenced to kick, striking Chester Girvin on one of his hands and one leg, bruising him considerably. The boys were rescued by William Stokes and the Rev. Samuel Ham.”

The Red Lion reporter thought the unseasonable cold weather for June was causing the leaves of trees, especially maples, to turn yellow and fall. Yoe area growers were having their worst strawberry season ever, with the insides of the berries being as hard as pineapple cores.

Delta residents were probably glad to know that: “Melvin Ayers has greatly improved his property by building an addition to his house and filling in an old foundation in an adjoining lot and enclosing it for a chicken yard.”

A more sobering item recounts a serious industrial accident: Continue reading

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More art from Yorker Margaret Sarah Lewis

Do you recognize this house?

Thanks to everyone who responded so far to my column and blog posts on York artist and teacher Margaret Sarah Lewis. I would like to know about as many examples of her art work so that I can print them out and add them to her file at the York County History Center. You can email digital images to me at ycpa89@msn.com. If you have trouble sending them, email me at that address and we will think of an alternative way to share. (All images will be identified as being in private collections, without your name being shared.)

Four images from a private collection are shared here.  Please let me know if you recognize the unidentified house or unnamed woman.

Probably Mount Vernon, home of George Washington

I am pretty sure this is Mount Vernon. I took a similar photograph of the covered walkway on a trip there with the York County History Center last year. A Mt. Vernon painting was included Margaret Sarah Lewis’s one-woman 1938 exhibit of over 60 watercolors at York’s Martin Memorial Library.

Continue reading

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Want to learn more about York County and the Underground Railroad?

1812 York Recorder newspaper ad


The York County History Center has a treasure trove of newspapers going back over two centuries. Most have been microfilmed, making these outstanding historical sources easily accessible. I often use them as sources for blog posts and my York Sunday News columns. (Some, but not nearly all of the local papers are available and searchable on newspapers.com. YCHC Library/Archives does subscribe to this service, and it is available for researchers to use.)

With our proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line, the local papers carried many ads for runaway slaves. I have shared some before, but I just recently came across the one below, which is quite descriptive. No matter how many I read, I am always jolted anew by the realization that people could actually own other human beings, and not all that long ago.

The York County History Center recently published The Ground Swallowed Them Up: Slavery and the Underground Railroad in York County, Pa. by well-known author, Scott Mingus. On March 31-April 1, YCHC is sponsoring a symposium on the Underground Railroad featuring Scott Mingus and other respected speakers. See below for detailed information on the program and registration information. In the meantime, here is the runaway ad from the October 24, 1812 York Recorder.  It had been running since July, so we can hope that George made it to freedom, perhaps with assistance from Adams and York County persons.

Twenty Dollars Reward

RAN AWAY from the subscriber, near Emmetsburg, Frederick County, Maryland, A Negro Man, named GEORGE. He is about 5 feet 4 or 5 inches high; inclines a little to the mulatto; an active, well set fellow, about 23 years of age; has a small scar over one of his eyes; is fond or liquor and, when intoxicated, is very impudent; plays on the violin. He had on, when he left home, a lead colored, country cloth coat, a black and white striped waistcoat, tow linen trowsers and shirt, the sleeves of which later are striped; a rorurn hat, much worn, But it is probable he may change his dress. He has been accustomed to tending masons. It is probable he had gone to Pennsylvania, and will attempt to pass as a free man. Ten Dollars will be paid for securing him in any gaol within thirty miles; if at a greater distance, the above reward, and reasonable charges if brought home, by William Long

Friends Creek, July 14, 1812.

Click here for the symposium brochure and full schedule.

Click here to register for Paths to Freedom: A Regional Underground Railroad Symposium.

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York artist Margaret Sarah Lewis taught and created art for many years.

General Jacob Devers home by Margaret Sarah Lewis





My recent York Sunday News column on York artist and teacher Margaret Sarah Lewis is below. I am also including photos of a younger Lewis and also in later years, as some of you might remember her.

As outlined in the column, Lewis worked in many media. Two of her works are shown here, and I will share more in future posts. If you have access to any of her work, please snap a photo and email images to me at ycpa89@msn.com, and I will print them out for her file at the York County History Center. (Ownership will be kept confidential.)

Continue reading

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York family shows off pet crows

The July 7, 1941 Gazette and Daily shows a picture of two cute little girls holding their pet crows, Jim and Pete. Judging by the length of the detailed article, the reporter was quite taken with them.

The two girls, Patricia and Dolores, and their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Selak, lived at 525 Cleveland Avenue, York. Found in Baumgardner’s woods by friend, the crows, estimated to be about six weeks old, were already about a foot long. The Selaks hand-fed them hamburger, milk and bread and soaked corn.

According to the story, Jim was friendly with everyone and Pete more standoffish. They were being taught to talk, with Pete doing better. Pete wandered a bit, having a run-in with a dog at nearby Penn Park before being rescued by a friend. Because of their relatively large size, cats didn’t seem to be a problem. The pair stowed away “any bright object they can get their beak on,” moving the stash if discovered.

The crows amused workers at nearby cigar factory. The article indicates that they will be allowed to go back to the wild if they care too, but it sounds like the family was happy to have them for pets for the time being.

There is a federal law that prohibits private individuals keeping birds like these at pets without a permit, which is rarely granted. It seems to have been in effect long before 1941, but the family and the reporter obviously didn’t know about it. I wonder if a game warden came calling after the article appeared.

(Baumgardner’s Woods is in the vicinity of Penn State York off Rathton Road.)

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Margaret Sarah Lewis paints York First Moravian Church




My upcoming York Sunday News column is on the popular and prolific Yorker, Margaret Sarah Lewis. York Daily Record editor and fellow blogger, Jim McClure, has already posted the column on the Retro York Facebook page. I will be sharing it soon on my Universal York blog and several other sites.

Jim also shared an image of Lewis’s painting of York’s First Moravian Church (see below).

Here is an August 4, 1944 York Gazette and Daily clipping from the York County History Center’s file on Lewis creating the image. It shows her working on the painting in the bright summer sunshine.

The lengthy caption reads:

Continue reading

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Wonders of the world often came to York County

Lewis Miller drawing of a giraffe in a traveling menagerie, 1839.

Due to York County’s crossroads location, its residents have had access to many experiences during the past few hundred years. We were not nearly as far off “the beaten path” as we are sometimes made out to be. For instance, children in more remote areas could read about exotic animals, but they would often be brought in person to our area.

An example is the extensive ad below from the August 26, 1840 York Republican. It reads:

Continue reading

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1824 ads paint a picture of York

Advertisements in old newspapers give us a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors. Here is a sampling from the December 21, 1824 York Recorder, on microfilm at the York County History Center:


The Subscriber begs leave to inform his friends and the public generally, that he has received from Baltimore, A GENERAL ASSORTMENT OF Fresh Drugs & Medicines, of the best quality, which he offers, Low for Cash. He has also received with the above, A QUANTITY OF FRESH CRANBERRIES, COCOA NUTS, FILBERTS, ALMONDS, CONFECTIONARY, RAISINS, CRACKERS, &c. &c.

Samuel Leitner.

York, October 19, 1824.—3m.

Leitner placed the ad to start running on October 19 and run for three months in the York Recorder. The cranberries and nuts would have been especially popular during the holiday season.


George Morris’s ad for his dry goods store on the square was also first placed in October. It illustrates that local merchants were buying their wares from Philadelphia, as well as Baltimore, shown by the Leitner ad above. Morris advertises:


in the house of WILLIAM NES, Esq. corner of Main Street and the public square and directly opposite the Post Office,–where he has just received from Philadelphia, and is now prepared to sell, the best and cheapest assortment of CLOTHS, CASSIMERES, CASSINETTS & VESTINGS, &c. to be had in York.


He respectfully solicits the custom of his friends, being determined on all occasions to sell CHEAPER than any other house in York.

Geo. S. Morris.

York, October 19, 1824.

A few things to note in the ad above: Merchants often rented their storefronts, so you cannot find out how long Morris was at this site by checking deeds. Nes had an interest in part of original York Lot 70, so the site was probably on the west side of Market Street at the square. Click here for my blog post on that quadrant of the square. Waterloo shawls seem to have been made by the Waterloo Woolen Company of Waterloo, New York. Marino handkerchiefs were probably made from the fine wool produced by merino sheep. The Tartan and Circassian plaids might have been imported, as he also mentions domestic plaids. Tartans are plaids that are woven the same way both vertically and horizontally, forming a grid. Circassian seems to refer to goats from a region of present day Russia near the Black Sea and Caucasian Mountains. Perhaps that plaid was woven yarn from the goats’ hair.


Druggist Charles A. Morris also posted a small ad in the same issue of the Recorder. He was selling:

JUDKINS’ PATENT Specific Ointment.

A quantity of this ointment so celebrated for the cure of Rheumatism, White swellings, Ulcers, Felons, Sprains, Tetters, Chilblains, Burns and Scalds, has just been received and is offered for sale at the drug store of Charles A. Morris.

November 2.

It is amazing how all-purpose some of those patent medicines were purported to be. And they promised a cure, not just a treatment. White swelling is the swelling of a joint; a felon is a painful abscess on a finger, tetters are skin rashes caused by eczema or ringworm and chilblains are small itchy bumps on extremities caused by cold exposure.

According to Prowell’s History of York County, Charles A. Morris, who first opened a drug store on South George Street, removed to the third door on East Market Street in 1823. Charles A. Morris might have been the brother of merchant George S. Morris. Charles was married to Cassandra Small, sister of leading businessmen Philip Albright Small and Samuel Small. The Morrises were also philanthropists in their own right.

This link will take you to a previous post on a mid-nineteenth century cure-all.

Posted in 1820s, advertising, drugs, drugstores, food, groceries, medicine, merchants, newspapers, occupations, retail stores, textiles, Universal York, York City, York County | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on 1824 ads paint a picture of York

York notice bilingual and courteous

The bilingual notice above (transcribed below) illustrates two points.

One is that, because the great majority of 18th century York County residents were from the Germanic lands of Europe, official notices were printed in German as well as English, as shown by this broadside. It was printed by Edie and Willcocks, who printed anything that needed to be printed. Starting in 1789, they also published The Pennsylvania Herald and York General Advertiser newspaper.

The other thing that strikes me as different is how politely William Kersey, acting an agent for the Penns, requests that York lot buyers pay up. It reads: Continue reading

Posted in 1780s, finance, German language, government, newspapers, Quakers, real estate, taxation, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on York notice bilingual and courteous