William Wagner seal dug up in West Virginia

Wagner seal, courtesy of Greenbrier Historical Society

Wagner seal, courtesy of Greenbrier Historical Society

In 2010 a Greenbrier County, West Virginia resident was plowing his garden and unearthed a round metal object, probably brass. It was somewhat weathered, with some stains that a collector indicated that it might have been through a fire. It was a seal of the type used to emboss official papers, widely used in the 19th century.

The lettering on the front of the seal reads “Circuit Court, Greenbrier County, Va.” (West Virginia didn’t achieve statehood until June 20, 1863.) Stamped on the reverse is “Wagner, York, Pa.”

The seal ended up with the Greenbrier Historical Society, whose staff recently contacted York County Heritage Trust for more information on our nationally known engraver, die sinker and creator of seals, William Wagner. YCHT has a large file on Wagner, as well as some of his original seals and casts of seals, plates for engraving money and advertisements and also his book of original watercolors depicting York in 1830. Director of Library and Archives Lila Fourhman-Shaull was able to provide a good bit of information on him for the West Virginians.
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Posted in 1820s, 1830s, 1890s, 2010s, occupations, Universal York, Virginia, West Virginia, York County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for York County one-room schools?

KnaubSchool

York County had hundreds of them, many still operating well into the 1950s. There are a lot of people around who attended one, and many of the schools still stand. Some have been converted into residences and others are in various states of repair. The York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives has several resources on the schools, including files and photos of some individual buildings and a large general file on the subject.

One of the first items I look at is an album of snapshots from the 1940s compiled by former Assistant Superintendent of York County Schools Scott W. Knaub. Born in Windsor Township, Knaub attended rural schools and then York County Academy and Millersville State Teachers’ College. He started his teaching at Yoe Elementary School and was principal and supervising principal of Manchester High School from 1909 to 1931. He served as Dover High School Principal from 1931 to 1938, when he took an assistant county superintendent position, retiring in 1950.

KnaubAlbumMap
The album consists of clear black and white snapshots of one-room schools in the northern portion of the county, perhaps the schools over which Knaub had jurisdiction. In the 1940s Harvey E. Swartz was the county superintendent and Scott W. Knaub & Harry W. Shenk were the assistant superintendents, so I wonder if perhaps Shenk would have visited the schools in the southern half. It would be wonderful if another album, with the southern schools, would turn up.

KnaubMap
Map cutouts of each of the townships are included in the album. They are marked with locations of the schools depicted in the snapshots. The album is not indexed, but a YCHT Library/Archives volunteer has created a list of the schools included in the photos. Scans of the lists are below. Continue reading “Looking for York County one-room schools?” »

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York County Commissioners blamed for 1940s lack of isolation unit

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Those of us who were born in the first half of the 20th century remember what a big deal polio, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and other communicable diseases were, before effective preventative vaccines were developed and immunizations were routinely available. Even those of us who were very small recall how ill we were. We also remember hearing of children who developed complications and died or were left handicapped for life.

As I explain in my recent York Sunday News column below, I remember a particular case involving a relative. What I didn’t know is that York County residents campaigned through most of the 1940s for an isolation unit, since most existing medical facilities turned away patients with contagious diseases. Two of the York County Commissioners were seen as procrastinating for years, seemingly because they couldn’t come to an agreement as to where the facility should be built.

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The newspaper articles are too numerous to cite, but here is a synopsis of the story:
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Posted in 1940s, 1970s, disease, doctors, drugs, hospitals, local government, medicine, politics, Universal York, York County | Leave a comment

York County’s Wills School students of 90 years ago identified

Wills School 1926-SM

I’m sharing this 1926 photo of Wills School, which is on the East Prospect Road (Rt. 124) just east of Yorkanna for a couple of reasons. First, it is nice to have one of these photos with the people identified, so many leave you guessing. Secondly, the Wills School has been preserved, just as it was when it closed in the early 1950s, and it can still be visited.

The building is owned and maintained by the Conservation Society of York County, and volunteers from the Lower Windsor Area Historical Society have it open from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the Second Sunday of the month from May through October. (That would leave September 12 and October 10 this year.) Visiting the school is fun for all ages, from those who remember attending similar one-room schools on down to the youngsters that can hardly believe this is how schools used to be. Click here for more on the school and my visit on a summer afternoon two years ago.

Joe Brillhart shared the photo with me, but he wanted to make sure I acknowledged Lois Beryl Ruby Leber, who shared it with him, and Dennis Attig, who identified the children and did additional research. Accompanying notes identify the teacher as Nora M. Keller Waltimyer. There are also notes identifying the possible parents and spouses of a good many of the children, so I am also posting that. If you have trouble reading the notes, or if you have additional information, just comment below, and I will get back to you. I believe at least one of these students is still with us.

On slate: Wills school. Oct. 1926.
First row: Samuel Paules, Clair Leiphart, Lester Paules, Arthur Frey, Allen Frey
Second row: Robert Busser, James Paules, Anna Fox, Ruth Abel, Emily Dietz, Verna Abel, Janet Kraft and Mahlon Leiphart.
Third row: Aden Ruby, Alvin Ruby, Erma Crumling, Myrtle Kline, Marie Holtzinger, Richard Keller and Nora Waltimyer
Fourth row: Margaret Busser, Ruth Leiphart, Vera Busser, Richard Paules and Gladys Horn.

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Posted in 1920s, 1950s, education, Lower Windsor Twp., schools, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

History, art, fiction and more at York County Heritage Trust’s “Book Blast 2015″ this week

BookBlastRudisill

Stop by York County Heritage Trust’s Agricultural and Industrial Museum at 217 West Princess Street the next few days for a special 15th edition of the very popular Book Blast.

In addition to the usual great selection of gently used books in all categories—fiction, history, medical, cooking, travel, art, children’s books and many more—this year’s sale features well over 2,000 books from the personal collection of well-known artist and historian Jim Rudisill. The art books alone take up several tables. (See above for a brief overview of Rudisill and his books.)

The festivities will begin with a members-only session from four to seven p.m. on Wednesday August 12. This is one of the benefits of YCHT membership. Staff will be on hand to instantly sign up new members.

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The sale continues from nine a.m. to six p.m. Thursday and Friday. Prices on Thursday for most books are $2 for hardcover and $1 for paperbacks and drop to $1 for hardcover and $.50 for paperbacks on Friday. Both days will also feature tables of specially priced collectible volumes of local history and genealogy and “coffee table books.”

There are also bargain tables of slightly more worn books on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but readers can find even more bargains on Saturday, August 15 from nine a.m. to one p.m., when most books are sold for a “buck-a-bag” (bags provided) and the specially priced collectible books are marked down to half price.

Don’t miss this opportunity to stock up on reading material while supporting the organization charged with preserving our significant local heritage.

Just starting to sort at a previous Book Blast

Just starting to sort at a previous Book Blast

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York County Easter egg hunts 70 years ago.

EasterApr1946

I know Easter was several months ago, but I was just researching other subjects on the 1940s newspaper microfilms at York County Heritage Trust, and I came across many stories about Easter egg hunts of about 70 years ago. Some were large and some small, for preschoolers and/or older children, and they took place in just about every hamlet in the county. Many sound similar to those held today, and some were quite elaborate, with entertainment as well as prizes for finding “lucky eggs:

One thing that was interesting was the awarding of live rabbits as the top prizes at some of the hunts. My children participated in Easter egg hunts as children, but I would not have been thrilled if they brought home a live bunny as their prize. Just the thing the average preschooler needs.

Here’s an example from the April 11, 1946 York Gazette and Daily:
Continue reading “York County Easter egg hunts 70 years ago.” »

Posted in 1940s, animals, celebrations, children, Easter, holidays, recreation, Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to keep away conflagrations, dire epidemics and pestilence

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The field of folk belief among our Pennsylvania German ancestors is a rich one, replete with words. Certain rituals go along with many practices used for healing known as pow-wow, but the words are also specific for each one. They are readily available in books such as John George Hohman’s The Long Lost Friend, probably purchased today mostly as a curiosity. I doubt that it has been out of print since it was first published in 1820.

Charms written by hand on little slips of paper seem to have been fairly common. In a previous post I showed a charm for good luck while hunting game. A friend found that scrap of paper rolled up and inserted in the stock of his grandfather’s shotgun.

Many editions of broadsides printed in German were produced and sold in the Pennsylvania German region, including York County, during the 18th and 19th century and perhaps later. Examples of these larger documents could be house blessings and “letters from Heaven” warning away all kinds of disasters. A friend recently shared the fire charm above, probably from a York County printer. See below for my recent York Sunday News column, which includes further description and translation:
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Posted in 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, charms, fires, German language, Pennsylvania Dutch, Pennsylvania Germans, pow-wows, printers, Universal York, York County | Tagged , | Leave a comment

York County’s St. Jacob’s (Stone) Church 1887 encounter with lightning

Stone Church photo from the St. Jacob's UCC website

Stone Church photo from the St. Jacob’s UCC website

Summer brings thunder and lightning. Here is an account of a quite powerful lightning strike at St. Jacob’s (Stone) Church in Codorus Township. It is from the June 28, 1887 York Gazette.

FEARS OF LIGHTNING—During the storm on Monday, the 20th inst., about noon, the lightning struck the Stone (St. Jacob’s) church in Codorus township and did considerable damage. The fluid entered at the gable-end of the building, knocked down the ceiling, then passed down to the floor, ripped the carpet and splintered the flooring, throwing the fragments into the gallery. The fluid then passed out of the church and struck a tree, glanced to a post, from there it ran over a metallic wash-line and into the ground. Two men and a horse, which happened to be near, were knocked down and stunned by the shock, but not seriously injured.

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Posted in 1750s, 1780s, 1880s, churches, Codorus Township, electricity, German Reformed Church, Lutherans, Pennsylvania Germans, storms, United Church of Christ, Universal York, weather, York County | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Prehistoric and other finds at Camp Security

Spear point of rhyolite from the South Mountian region, possibly Caledonia area.   Late Archaic period (1800-1000 B.C.)

Spear point of rhyolite from the South Mountian region, possibly Caledonia area. Late Archaic period (1800-1000 B.C.)

In my last post, I shared some of the artifacts found at the 2015 Camp Security dig that could be from the 1781-1783 period, the years that the Revolutionary War prisoner of war camp was in operation. Here are some photos of more objects that were discovered; these are from a much earlier time or from a later period

The site, in Springettsbury Township just east of York, was inhabited, or at least visited, by humans long before the Revolutionary War, as it continues to be today. Many of those generations left their mark in some way on these fields.

Partial spear points: top left quartz from the Middle Archaic period (4000-5000 B.C.), the middle piece chert from the Ohio Valley of the Late Archiac  period(1800-1000 B.C.) and the quartz (locally sourced) on the right also Late Archiac. The bottom piece is rhyolite from the South Mountain region dating to the Early Archaic period (6000-8000 B.C.).

Partial spear points: top left quartz from the Middle Archaic period (4000-5000 B.C.), the middle piece chert from the Ohio Valley of the Late Archiac period(1800-1000 B.C.) and the quartz (locally sourced) on the right also Late Archiac. The bottom piece is rhyolite from the South Mountain region dating to the Early Archaic period (6000-8000 B.C.).

The earliest visitors were, of course, Native Americans. No evidence of their any village has been found as yet on these particular acres, but spear points, a stone knife and scrapers show that the area was being hunted as early as the Early Archaic period (6000-8000 B.C.). Some of these items were not of local minerals, indicating travel and trade during prehistoric times. (Archaeologist Steve Warfel kindly shared his identification of these objects, including the minerals from which they were fashioned and the period of origin.)

Top—tip of spear point of jasper from the Allentown/Bethlehem area, bottom left stone knife of argillite of Susquehanna River origin and bottom right scraper of jasper from Allentown/Bethlehem.

Top—tip of spear point of jasper from the Allentown/Bethlehem area, bottom left stone knife of argillite of Susquehanna River origin and bottom right scraper of jasper from Allentown/Bethlehem.


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Posted in 1780s, archaeology, Camp Security, Revolutionary War, soldiers, Springettsbury Twp., Universal York, York County | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

What’s new with Camp Security?

English musket or pistol flint and hand-wrought nails

English musket or pistol flint and hand-wrought nails

The 2015 archaeology dig at the site of Camp Security has come to a close. Over eighty volunteers participated in various ways: shuttling workers to the somewhat remote site, visual and metal detector surveys, digging and sifting tons of soil, or cleaning and cataloging artifacts. These activities were professionally supervised by archaeologist Steve Warfel and his assistant, Amanda Snyder.

Even though the stockade location at Camp Security wasn’t found, this year’s dig ruled out one more possible location. Fundraising continues so that other logical possible stockade locations, and there are several, can be explored in the not-too-distant future.

My hat is off especially to those who actively dug into the sometimes very muddy soil, often in the broiling sun. I didn’t physically participate in the dig, but did get a chance to help clean and catalog some of the objects. They showed humans have trod these fields for thousands of years.

The chronically earliest objects found were Native American spear points and scrapers, used as they hunted the area. Some were of non-native minerals, demonstrating trading or traveling activity.

Pewter spoon handle

Pewter spoon handle

Ceramic shards

Ceramic shards

How about the Camp Security era, 1781-1783? Part of a pewter spoon handle was found; it could date from that time, as could the hand-wrought nails. There were also numerous shards of redware. These cannot be specifically dated because of the long period of redware use, but they could be of the time. A piece of English white salt-glazed stoneware, perfect for the period, a piece of English flint, and several creamware pieces were found. All of these date to the 22 months the camp was in operation.

There were also some scraps of 19th century creamware and of bottle glass, which could even be early 20th century. These latter items could have been broken items discarded in pre-trash collection days and eventually dispersed by heavy rains or a farmer’s plow.

Some of the items that could date from the Camp Security era are shown above. I’ll share a sampling of the objects that date either earlier or later in a subsequent post.

This link will take you to the Camp Security web site to learn more about this important Revolutionary War Prisoner of War center.

Click here for my previous posts and York Sunday News columns related to Camp Security.

Posted in 1780s, archaeology, Camp Security, Revolutionary War, soldiers, Springettsbury Twp., Universal York, York County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment