We have the worldwide paper company Glatfelter based in York today, with one of its mills, very much expanded, operating in Spring Grove, where it all started. Even though now gone, there were many other local paper mills, both large and small, operating at various periods during the county’s history.
We don’t think of York Haven as a hot bed of industry these days, but it was quite busy over a century ago, when transportation of products could be easily done via the Northern Central Railway, later the Pennsylvania Railroad. For example, here is a report on the York Haven paper mill, written by a correspondent for the Harrisburg Call and picked up by the York Gazette on July 2, 1887:
The York Haven Paper Company’s paper mill at York Haven in turning out eighty-four tons of first-class newspaper per week. Superintendent Thomas Green has his hands full in managing this immense establishment, but he is doing it splendidly, and is building a large stock warehouse alongside of the railroad, and making other additions and improvements. By another summer I predict that the surroundings of this mammoth establishment will be as complete in every respect as the interior is a present.–The principal material used is spruce and poplar wood from West Virginia. It requires about 70 cords per week for this amount of paper. Of course other material to give strength is added, such as gunny bagging, cotton waste and sulphite pulp from Norway. Two hundred tons per month is furnished from this and the Conowingo mill to the N.Y. World. The Burlington Hawkeye, New York Herald, and New York Sun also get considerable of the product. The 94-inch four drinier machine runs 194 feet per minute. This is the regular speed of these machines, and it is due to the excellent management, skill and ability of Albert K. Harrigan, the superintendent of the paper making department, who has occupied this position since the mill started last fall, and who is an able assistant to Mr. Green. John M. Shure, the finial and accomplished chief clerk, still occupies the same responsible position he did during the erection of the buildings, and if any Harrisburg visitor to that pretty little nook in York County, near the mouth of the Conewago, should stop the cars to take a look around, or to go over to the gem of the island opposite, or want to know how, by any possibility, newspaper can be made out of those logs lying around, John will politely furnish the desired information.
The article concludes with a few words extolling the beauty of York Haven as a pleasure destination from Harrisburg:
The Northern Central Railway Company is erecting a depot which, it is said, is to be about the style of the one a New Cumberland. When it shall have been completed, I know of few places around our city within fifteen miles, where a picnic party could find more real enjoyment in shaded places, boating and fishing.
I suppose the “gem of the island opposite” refers to Brunner Island, now the site of the large steam-generated electricity plant. Part of it still hosts a recreation area, so some leisure time can still be spent there on the Susquehanna, even though those 19th century pleasure seekers might not recognize the site.