Former Soviet spy called York County home

Reino Hayhanen/Eugene Maki/John Linden

You never know what fascinating stories you might uncover in the York County History Center files. I never expected to find one on a Soviet spy who allegedly hid from the world in plain sight in the little village of Delroy. (Delroy is in Lower Windsor Township on Route 124, the East Prospect Road, where it intersects with Blue Stone Road and Barcroft Road.) My recent York Sunday News column on Reino Hayhanen/Eugene Maki/John Linden is below.

His name might not be familiar to us, but the name of top Soviet spy Rudolf Abel might ring a bell, lately thanks to the recent Bridge of Spies motion picture. If not for our eventual York County resident, the United States would probably not have had someone of Abel’s rank to exchange for our spy, Francis Gary Powers. How might that have changed history?

If anyone has any further information or clues on Linden’s York County stay, please email me at Here is the column: Continue reading

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More on York County research and connections

York Daily clipping. Courtesy of

My York Sunday News column last month illustrated how you often to take several sources and put them together to round out the story on a person, an event or a place that you are researching.

Speaking of research, a couple occurrences this past week reminded me that you should never give up. Just when you least expect it, that proverbially “brick wall” might develop a crack.

First, after my search of about 40 years for the parents of my great-great grandfather, Henry Burk (c. 1810-1871), a fellow volunteer at the York County History Center, LoAnn Clark, shared recent emails from a cousin who lives in another state. Their research seems to match up with clues I have found in records at YCHC and Henry’s Civil War pension papers, as well as some information posted online by another researcher. It’s always exciting for anyone working on family history to find a new generation, and that often leads to identifying even more ancestors.

Secondly, I received an email from an out-of-town reader of this blog. He said:

Hello-  I recently found an article you wrote for the Universal York Blog about my Great Grandmother, Henrietta Stair, in the June 22, 2008 issue.  I have been trying for years to determine who her parents were, since my family records do not mention more than Henry Stroman. I have not been able to find a family or marriage record for Henry, so it is difficult to find who his wife was or who his parents were in York.  Where did you turn to get the historical background on Henrietta?  Does York have a historical society which may be able to help me? Thank you for your help, and thank you for the informative article from the Civil War.

This link will take you to my lengthy post of nearly nine years ago of Henrietta Stroman Stair’s Civil War memories of Hanover.

I emailed back to Henrietta’s descendant and told him that I do practically all my research at the York County History Center, and that he will probably want to visit to continue research on the Stroman and Stair families, both old York County names. He replied that he too “thinks it will be worth a trip to York.” I am looking forward to seeing what he finds.

To continue the story—I did a Google search on Henrietta Stroman and found this gem on, from the March 17, 1876 York Daily:

A RELIC—The Hanover Citizen of yesterday states that Mrs. D. F. Stair, of this place, formerly Miss Henrietta Stroman of York borough, has in her possession a lock of hair cut from the head of Henry Clay, the great orator and statesman. The following letter accompanied the lock of hair:


Dear Miss—I received your note requesting a lock of my hair, which I have the pleasure according to send you. I subjoin sincere wishes for your health, happiness and long life.

I am respectfully, Your obedient servant.

H.CLAY. Washington, Jan. 19th 1850.

(The YCHC Library/Archives subscribes to for patrons’ use.)

I wonder if Clay’s hair lock still survives, perhaps passed down in Henrietta’s family. There is another one of those connections between York County and the larger world.


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More on Lewis Miller and the York County Jail

In a recent York Sunday News column I used Lewis Miller’s carpenter work on the 19th century York County Jail, which stood on the northeast corner of George and King streets,  to illustrate that you can tie together several sources to paint a more complete picture of the past.

When I posted the link to the blog post and the column on the Retro York and Preserving York groups on Facebook, I received several comments about the Lewis Miller drawing that I used with the column and post. Here is a larger portion of the drawing, from the York County History Center collections, showing more of the neighborhood. Miller gives details of the 1808 incident of “Arresting the Irishmen” that inspired him to draw the jail, and also lists the York County jail keepers from 1799 to 1846. Miller describes the incident:

Michael Kleinfelter, Sheriff, taking a gang of Irishmen as prisoners in goal, the[y] brought them one-mile from town, working on the Baltimore turnpike. Kleinfelter had a man arestet for murder, and the Irish meddled and should not be taking him from them. The mob knocket the Sheriff down, and the murderer made his escape, the Sheriff came to town for assistance.

The picture shows ten armed men on foot, five on each side, escorting a group, probably the Irish road workers who had helped the alleged murderer escape. A man on a horse, most likely Kleinfelter, leads the party to jail, and another mounted man brings up the rear. Continue reading

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Putting historical pieces together with York’s Lewis Miller

Lewis Miller drawing of the early century York County Jail

Doing historical research? Can’t find much on a particular person or family? Don’t despair—just keep looking and widen your search to include many resources. Sometimes you find what you are seeking where and when you least expect it.

See below for my recent York Sunday News column using York’s 19th century folk artist Lewis Miller as an example. When I first became acquainted with Miller’s work through the York County History Center, I thought that much wasn’t known about his life, but there is lots when you put the pieces together. The same could be true for whoever or whatever you are pursuing. Continue reading

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York County native makes national news in tense 1960s

Rina and Ernest Evans (Chubby Checker) with Reverend George and Betty Garver (Picture from Bradenton Herald, December 2015)

Remember “The Twist,” the dance craze from the 60s? Remember Chubby Checker who brought “The Twist” to life? What connection could this have to York County? Read on.

A friend recently mentioned that her cousin, Reverend George Garber, a retired Lutheran pastor who now lives in Florida, was over 100 years old. She was planning to get some family information to him that another relative from their shared Bahn family had recently given to her.

I Googled Reverend Garber and found that he had made national news in 1964, retold in 2015 during his 100th birthday celebration. See below for further discoveries from those news accounts. Continue reading

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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 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 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, and I will print them out for her file at the York County History Center. (Ownership will be kept confidential.)

Continue reading

Posted in 1900s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, artists, education, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on York artist Margaret Sarah Lewis taught and created art for many years.