York’s Center/Continental Square–crossroads of a county

The eastern part of York, by Henry J. Young, based on Cookson's 1741 survey and Stevenson's 1754 draft.  Notice South is at the top of the page.

The eastern part of York, by Henry J. Young, based on Cookson’s 1741 survey and Stevenson’s 1754 draft. Notice South is at the top of the page.

In conjunction with the 275th anniversary of the laying out of York, I am working on a slide show for a November 12th program at the York County History Center. It is part of the regular Second Saturday series of programs at 10:30; they are held at the YCHC’s museum and library, 250 East Market Street in York. I’m calling the program Changing Crossroads: York’s Square over the Centuries.

We don’t notice the gradual changes from day to day or week to week, but when viewed together, they show a striking evolution from a small town square to a center of a city that is enjoying renewed interest. This link will take you to fellow blogger Jim McClure’s recent recap of some of the significant events connected with York’s square.

Earlier this year Dan Roe, YCHC Vice President of Interpretation, asked if I knew anyone who would do a program centering on York’s Square, historically the center of the city and of the county. Knowing of the many maps, drawings and photos depicting the square, variously known as Center Square, Centre Square and Continental Square over the years, I volunteered to put a program together. It has been quite interesting, if at times overwhelming, to sort through all the material available on the square at the Library & ArchivesYCHC .

I’ll be posting tidbits I come across while doing research for the program. An invaluable little known resource on the very earliest settlement of York is Henry J. Young’s Notes and Documents Concerning the Manorial History of the Town of York, York County, Pennsylvania. It was first published in the 1941 Yearbook of the Historical Society of York County (a predecessor of the York County History Center), where Young was Director. The South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society republished the work, with permission, in 192 as part of an ongoing Special Publications series. It is available through the SCPGS website.

The western part of York, by Henry J. Young, based on Cookson's 1741 survey and Stevenson's 1754 draft.  Notice South is at the top of the page.

The western part of York, by Henry J. Young, based on Cookson’s 1741 survey and Stevenson’s 1754 draft. Notice South is at the top of the page.

The first 265 lots of the town were laid out it 1741 by Thomas Cookson, hence the anniversary being celebrated 275 years later, in 2016. Cookson never filed the draft with the Pennsylvania Land Office, so it was resurveyed by George Stevenson with additional lots. Young based his research on the 1754 Stevenson draft, which includes the lots surveyed by Cookson.

The two photos here are of the eastern and western sections of York’s original lots; note they are oriented with south at the top of the page. If compared with a present day map, you might notice that many of the lots have been divided into smaller parcels over the years.

The information on each lot can be quite lengthy as the interest in that lot was sometimes sold several times before claim was fully released by the Penns and their heirs many years later. Wherever possible, Young followed the patent and deed trail up to that point.

In my next post, I’ll share Young’s research on the eight lots directly surrounding the square.

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