Readers Choose Top 10 Posts during June 2015; Third Month with YorksPast Readership at a High Level

Stats2015Jun

For the third month in a row YorksPast readership continued at a high level. Thanks to all my loyal readers. It was nice to meet several of my readers while touring the French frigate Hermione when it was docked in Annapolis; enjoyed your feedback. At the beginning of every month, I’m sharing with my readers the top 10 posts from the previous month. These are your favorites during June 2015:

Yt168Experience the Marquis de Lafayette sailing to America

In 1780, the Hermione was assigned to transport the Marquis de Lafayette upon his second voyage to America. It was imperative that Lafayette arrived safe; therefore the captain was instructed to avoid military action. A meticulously detailed replica of the Hermione was completed in France last year and earlier in June, the maiden transatlantic voyage was completed; arriving at Yorktown, Virginia, on June 5th. Among the other east coast cities the Hermione visited during June were Annapolis, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Yt169S. Morgan Smith’s Grist Mill; Smith Signatures

S. Morgan Smith owned a Grist Mill, located in the extreme southwestern corner of Dover Township, where Big Mount Road crosses the Conewago Creek. This Grist Mill went by several names, including Ort’s and Diehl; however Bigmount is the name most often used.

Yt170Readers Choose Top 10 Posts during May 2015; YorksPast Readership Continues at a High Level

YorksPast readership continued at a high level during May 2015. At the beginning of every month, I share with my readers the top 10 posts from the previous month. This post provides links to those favorites during May.

Yt171York’s Life Size Statue of General Marquis de Lafayette

In front of the stone house at 157 West Market Street in York, Pennsylvania, stands a life size statue of General Marquis de Lafayette. The statue was sculpted by Lorann Jacobs and placed in the sidewalk at this location in 2007. The statue of Lafayette is located at this spot due to a significant toast he gave on the second floor of this house during 1778. In all likelihood, that toast played a role in thwarted a scheme to oust George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.

Yt172Susquehanna Trail Bridges

Many in York remember the long-standing truss bridge spanning the Codorus Creek on North George Street. The 1968 artwork of Cliff Satterthwaite depicts a northward looking view of that bridge with the former Western Maryland Railroad track crossing in the foreground. This majestic truss bridge stood into the 21st Century, although just barely. This bridge was replaced with a four-lane concrete bridge; that opened July 16, 2001.

Yt126Reading the HEADLINES: An Index to ALL YorksPast posts

This link is on the menu bar and at the end of every post; providing a linked quick view of all the YorksPast Headlines. I continually get complimented on this feature; one reader summed it up, “It’s just like reading the headlines on various pages or sections of the newspaper.” She liked using my listing of headlines sorted into broad categories; especially the ability to virtually see all headlines in each section, all at one time.

Yt173Bloomingdale, a Remarkable Historic Home

Bloomingdale, a remarkable home located at 3405 East Market Street, is one of the historic properties threatened for yet another shopping center in Springettsbury Township. Historic York, Inc., prepared a Pennsylvania Historical Resource evaluation for this property in 1989. They concluded the home was built in 1887 per tax records; however a comparison of proportions and attributes against earlier 1800s properties, suggest it may be older.

Yt174Avalong Dairy drawn by Cliff Satterthwaite

Cliff Satterthwaite created artwork of Avalong Dairy in 1964. It is a southwest looking view from the vicinity of the miniature golf course next to the Avalong Dairy Bar & Drive-In. At the extreme left, is the small creek bridge over Whiteford Road. At the extreme right, behind the trees, the chimneys of the Avalong Mansion can be seen; this mansion now houses Christmas Tree Hill. The two big dairy barns, that once stood, directly east of the mansion are partly obscured by the massive sycamore tree and farmhouse; which are prominently located at the center of Cliff’s artwork. This sycamore tree and former farmhouse still stand at 2901 Whiteford Road.

Yt175How Black Bridge got its Name

Old timers on the railroad recalled how a long-ago railroad bridge maintenance crew misunderstood their painting instructions for that bridge. Instead of only painting the iron tie rods and all other iron hardware, that crew painted everything black; timbers included. The bridge maintenance crew took a lot of ribbing about their Black Bridge; which became its nickname, until eventually becoming its official name.

Yt176Saga of the Watch that Washington presented to Lafayette

Following the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, George Washington presented a watch to Lafayette. It was inscribed, “G. Washington to Gilbert Mottiers de Lafayette; Lord Cornwallis Capitulation (Yorktown) Oct’ 17th 1781.” Upon Lafayette’s visit to the United States during 1824/1825, the watch was stolen; learn about the outcome in this post.

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

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The Design of America’s First Iron Steamboat

America’s First Iron Steamboat Marker (Located a short distance west of Wrightsville on the south side of Route 462, opposite Blessing Lane; 2015 Photo by S. H. Smith)

America’s First Iron Steamboat Marker (Located a short distance west of Wrightsville on the south side of Route 462, opposite Blessing Lane; 2015 Photo by S. H. Smith)

America’s First Iron Steamboat marker is located a short distance west of Wrightsville, York County, Pa., on the south side of Route 462, opposite Blessing Lane. It states, “The Codorus, built in York by John Elgar, was launched at present-day Accomac, on the Susquehanna River, Nov. 22, 1825. The site is about two miles distant.”

In 1824, a group of Baltimore businessmen wanted to test the practicality of running steamboats on the Susquehanna River. The rocky, steep swift flow at some places and wide shallows at other places, nature of the Susquehanna did not lend itself to the deeper draw, wood-hulled, steamboats that already traveled the relatively placid rivers in America, such as the Hudson River. The businessmen, many of whom were already associated with the Merchant Flouring Mills at York Haven in York County, advertised in Baltimore papers requesting proposals for a steamboat capable of navigating the erratic nature of the Susquehanna River.

Continue reading to discover how the design of America’s First Iron Steamboat evolved. Continue reading “The Design of America’s First Iron Steamboat” »

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Iron Steamboat Codorus tackles Nanticoke Falls

Illustration of Iron Steamboat Codorus tackling Nanticoke Falls (From the Article “America’s first iron ship,” by Alexander C. Brown, in Steelways issue of Sept./Oct., 1966; page 24.)

Illustration of Iron Steamboat Codorus tackling Nanticoke Falls (From the Article “America’s first iron ship,” by Alexander C. Brown, in Steelways issue of Sept./Oct., 1966; page 24.)

A cutting wind blew down the Susquehanna River whipping into freezing spray the water cascading over Nanticoke Falls near Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Despite the cold, John Elgar had taken off his coat and was prepared to swim in case his little steamer, the Codorus, met disaster in her attempt to surmount the hazardous rapids. It was April 1826, the testing time for Elgar’s belief in the quality of iron as a boatbuilding material.

So begins the opening paragraph in an article by Alexander C. Brown, entitled “America’s first iron ship.” The article, with illustration, appeared in the Sept./Oct., 1966, issue of Steelways; The Magazine of the American Iron and Steel Institute.

If you mention First Steamboat; most people think of Robert Fulton, because of his self-promotion and the many books written about him. While Fulton did not invent the steamboat, he was the first to successfully develop them into a viable form of transportation, after the maiden voyage of the wooden-hulled Clermont up the Hudson River on August 17, 1807.

If you mention First Iron Steamboat; John Elgar comes-to-mind for few people. John Elgar, a Quaker from York, Pa., was the first to prove metal-hulled boats were viable in America with the November 22, 1825, successful maiden voyage of his Iron Steamboat Codorus on the Susquehanna River.

Many historians wrote about Fulton’s achievements, including numerous school readers and textbooks. John Elgar’s achievements were primarily the subject of local history books until Commander Alexander C. Brown, U. S. Naval Reserve, championed The Codorus, and the accomplishments of John Elgar, in numerous publications between 1950 and 1966.

Commander Brown was called to active duty in the Naval Reserve in 1942 as a Communications Officer. Following the war, he was a member of the staff of Captain Samuel E. Morison, USNR, and assisted in the preparation of the early volumes of his History of U. S. Naval Operations in World War II.

The quote at the end of this post is from Commander Brown’s 1950 article “John Elgar—America’s First Iron Shipbuilder.” This work appeares in Volume 76 of the United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Annapolis, Maryland.

Continue reading for John Elgar’s own words describing the Iron Steamboat Codorus tackling Nanticoke Falls. Continue reading “Iron Steamboat Codorus tackles Nanticoke Falls” »

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Unlocking the Mystery of Baltimore Factory of York Safe & Lock Co.

Item in Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record (Issue of August 5, 1920; Page 153)

Item in Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record (Issue of August 5, 1920; Page 153)

Thomas Brenner found this item in the August 5, 1920 issue of the Industrial Development and Manufacturers Record. This was a key find in unlocking the mystery of the Baltimore Factory of the York Safe & Lock Company, which I posed in the post: York Safe & Lock Company factory in Baltimore.

The item states Miller Safe & Lock Company, at Wilkins Avenue and Catherine Street in Baltimore, was a subsidiary of York Safe & Lock Company, York, Pa. They were having a new plant built in 1920. The architect for the project was J. A. Dempwolf of York, Pa. They were also planning to build 3 additional factory buildings as well.

Continue reading to unlock the mystery of the Baltimore Factory of York Safe & Lock Company. Continue reading “Unlocking the Mystery of Baltimore Factory of York Safe & Lock Co.” »

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York Safe & Lock Company factory in Baltimore

YorkSafeLockABC

This image of a York Safe & Lock Company manufacturers plate is from a vault door captured within an ABC News story; now available at this link: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/rare-shakespeares-edition-dcs-folger-library/story?id=31756897

Joe recently brought this image to my attention, via his comment to the YorksPast post: Eliot Ness cracks the York Safe & Lock Company

Just saw a segment on This Week with Stephanopolis about an underground bunker storing Shakespeare works. The Door to the safe said “York safe and lock company” & Balto., MD. & York, PA. Was this an abbreviation for Baltimore? Your excellent article stated that all the plants for the company were in York city in PA. Can you explain the “Balto”

I knew that Baltimore, Maryland was a direct sales branch, plus one of the major export sales offices for York Safe and Lock Company. Therefore my first thought was maybe for export sales, York Safe & Lock placed both the export city and the York, PA factory on the manufacturers plate. However, when Joe informed me this bunker was actually in Washington D.C., near the Capitol, this caused some deeper digging into the collections of the York County Heritage Trust yesterday.

I examined many photos of York Safe & Lock Company manufacturers plates on vault doors. They all only noted the York, PA location. I also found no mention of a Baltimore factory in the York Safe & Lock Co. catalogs. The following 1926 testimonial letter, to the Baltimore direct sales office at 5 West Redwood Street, is from the collections of the York County Heritage Trust. Besides the manufacturers plate, from a vault door captured within an ABC News story, this letter is, thus far, the only other reference uncovered as to the existence of a York Safe & Lock Company factory in Baltimore:

MANO SWARTZ
Furriers since 1889
225 North Howard Street
Baltimore, MD.

July 26th, 1926

York Safe and Lock Co.
5 W. Redwood St.
Baltimore, Md.

Gentlemen:

After careful investigation for a period of six months of the fur safes manufactured by the different safe companies in the United States, we decided to place our order with you for one (1) five compartment, three (3) four compartment and two (2) three compartment fur safes, to be manufactured at your Baltimore plant and to be painted mahogany to match the wood in our store.

After these safes were installed, we certainly were glad we did place our order with you, because we consider these fur safes the finest fur safes that have ever been built in the United States.

Your method of doing business and the attention we have received from you proves without any question of a doubt that it certainly is a pleasure to do business with a concern like the York Safe & Lock Co.

It is needless to say that you can use this letter as you see fit and if we can be of any service to you in helping you to make sales, you can refer any furriers in this city or anywhere in the United States to us, as we are now among the many boosters of the York Fur Safes.

Thanking you and wishing you success, we are

Yours very truly,

Signed: James M. Swartz

My initial search via Baltimore directories from the 1920s for the mystery factory has not produced results. My search will continue. However, if any of my readers can help unlock the mystery of this York Safe & Lock Company factory in Baltimore, please comment.  comment contained key find, resulting in the post: Unlocking the Mystery of Baltimore Factory of York Safe & Lock Co.

Here is the link to another Neat Comment to Eliot Ness cracks the York Safe & Lock Company.

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

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1860 Buildings 1-10 in North Region of Springettsbury Township

Northeast Region in what is now Springettsbury Township; from Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County, PA & Penn Pilot Aerial Photo, from Nov. 25, 1937, of Same Area (Annotations by S. H. Smith, 2015)

Northeast Region in what is now Springettsbury Township; from Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County, PA & Penn Pilot Aerial Photo, from Nov. 25, 1937, of Same Area (Annotations by S. H. Smith, 2015)

At the top of this illustration, I’ve pointed out, and marked, ten 1860 buildings in the northeast region within what is now Springettsbury Township. At the bottom of the above illustration is a 1937 aerial photo of the same region. I’ve zoomed in on the 1937 aerial photo to provide better detail in locating the 1860 properties (n1) through (n10).

DetailN1to10

I’m working my way around Springettsbury Township, ten buildings at a time, until all buildings from 1860 are visited. See the post: Springettsbury Township building tally during 1860,  for my specification of the four regions.

Other posts in this series include:

Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County  contains the owner/occupant of most buildings; for example (n9) is J. Billet. Additional information on J. Billet can be found by consulting the 1860 Census of the United States; where one discovers this is John Billet, a 51-year-old, farmer, with $4,400 in real estate holdings.

The results after consulting 1860 Spring Garden Township census records are shown below. Spring Garden Township 1860 Census records must be used because Springettsbury Township was formed from the northeast part of that township on April 20, 1891. The order of visitation, of the census taker, often provides assistance on who are neighbors and the tabulation of “value of real estate” separates the landowners from the renters or tenants:

StCensusN1to10

Seven of these 1860 buildings still stand at these addresses:

  • [n1] – 2751 Trout Run Road
  • [n5] – 3640 Trout Run Road
  • [n6] – 3580 Trout Run Road
  • [n7] – 3751 Druck Valley Road
  • [n8] – 3755 Druck Valley Road
  • [n9] – 4029 Druck Valley Road
  • [n10] – 3692 Druck Valley Road

Pennsylvania German Farmhouse

In May of 1989, Historic York, Inc. evaluated the property, designated as [n1] on the 1860 map and now having the address 2751 Trout Run Road. The stone house, barn and outbuildings of this classic Pennsylvania German Farm have been listed on the Springettsbury Township list of the most historically significant properties, ever since the inception of the initial list in 2001. The Pennsylvania German Farmhouse on this property is shown in the following photo.

Pennsylvania German Farmhouse at 2751 Trout Run Road (S. H. Smith, 2015)

Pennsylvania German Farmhouse at 2751 Trout Run Road (S. H. Smith, 2015)

The other structures on the property include a Sweitzer barn, stone springhouse, stable, and wooden Summerhouse with a brick chimney. Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County has very light leader lines from a few of the dots marking house locations to the owner names; such is the case for [n1] with “P. Williams, Jr.” tailing off and curving upward. The two Philip Williams in the area are placed per their age difference, via the Jr. and Sr. notes on Shearer’s 1860 Map.

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

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They Sailed with General Lafayette

Experience the Marquis de Lafayette sailing to America

Illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine off Malta on November 6, 1831 (From opposite page 26 of the book “Old Naval Days” by Sophie Radford de Meissner; a Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

Illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine off Malta on November 6, 1831 (From opposite page 26 of the book “Old Naval Days” by Sophie Radford de Meissner; a Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

Sophie Radford de Meissner wrote sketches from the naval life of her father Rear Admiral William Radford, U.S.N. These sketches were published in her 1920 book “Old Naval Days.” The illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine is from Chapter III; entitled “Lafayette.” As a young midshipman, William Radford had the honor to sail on The U.S.S. Brandywine as it conveyed General Lafayette on his final return trip from the United States to France in the fall of 1825.

General Lafayette requested that The U.S.S. Brandywine include Midshipmen from as many states as possible; with preference given to those men whose father or grandfather served in the Continental Army. The papers of William Radford contained a list of everybody on board that voyage of The U.S.S. Brandywine. His daughter included that list on page 27 of “Old Naval Days,” because, as she noted, “it may interest some of their descendants.” Which is the reason, I’m including the list here:

PASSENGERS on the 1825 Voyage returning Lafayette to France on The U.S.S. Brandywine

  • General Marquis de Lafayette
  • George Washington Lafayette
  • A. Levasseur, Secretary to General Lafayette
  • D. McCormick, U.S.N. (Surgeon, J.)
  • Capt. George C. Read, U.S.N.
  • Lt. Isaac Mayo, U.S.N. from Virginia
  • Lt. Bonneville, U.S.A.
  • Mr. Summerville, U. S. Minister to Stockholm

OFFICERS on the 1825 Voyage returning Lafayette to France on The U.S.S. Brandywine

  • Captain, Charles Morris
  • 1st Lt. Francis H. Gregory
  • 2nd Lt. Blanden Dulany
  • 3rd Lt. Ralph Voorhes
  • 4th Lt. Thomas Freelon
  • 5th Lt. Irvine Shubrick
  • 6th Lt. David G. Farragut
  • 7th Lt. John Marston
  • Purser, Edward N. Cox
  • Surgeon, William Birchmore
  • Surgeon’s Mate, William Plumstead
  • Surgeon’s Mate, John Brooke
  • Sailing Master, Elisha Peck
  • Captain Marines, Thomas S. English
  • Lieutenant Marines, William A. Randolph

MIDSHIPMEN on the 1825 Voyage returning Lafayette to France on The U.S.S. Brandywine

  • George M. Bache from Philadelphia PA
  • Samuel Barron from Virginia
  • Solomon D. Belton from Georgia
  • Thomas W. Brent from District of Columbia
  • John B. Cutting from District of Columbia
  • John A. Davis from Louisiana
  • Ezra T. Doughty of New York
  • Charles W. Gay from Massachusetts
  • Cary H. Hansford from Virginia
  • Paul H. Haynes from South Carolina
  • Henry Hoff from South Carolina
  • Harry Ingersoll from Philadelphia PA
  • William F. Irving from New York
  • Andrew M. Irwin from Pennsylvania
  • Kinsey Johns from Maryland
  • James L. Lardner from Pennsylvania
  • William F. Lynch from Virginia
  • James W. Marshall from Kentucky
  • M. F. Maury from Virginia
  • Henry Mifflin from Pennsylvania
  • Lewis Ogden from New York
  • William S. Ogden from New York
  • Richard L. Page from Virginia
  • William D. Porter from District of Columbia
  • William Radford from Missouri
  • John W. Willis from Virginia

William Radford was only 16-years-old when he made this 1825 voyage on the U.S.S. Brandywine. It was his first voyage across the Atlantic in a naval career spanning the years 1825 to 1870. His daughter, Sophie Radford de Meissner, used her father’s memories and correspondence to write about this voyage of The U.S.S. Brandywine; quoting from page 28 of her 1920 book “Old Naval Days.”

The midshipmen on The Brandywine were each and all enthusiastic admirers of General Lafayette, while he himself was “deeply gratified”—(we have his secretary’s word for it)—“thus to find himself surrounded by these young representatives of the Republic he had visited with so much pleasure, not only as their presence recalled spots he loved, but also as some of them being sons (or grandsons) of old Revolutionary soldiers, gave him an opportunity of speaking of his former companions-in-arms; and the young men, or their part, proud of the mission they were engaged in, endeavored to render themselves worthy of it by strict attention to study and the performance of their duties.”

The passage was a stormy and most uncomfortable one, notwithstanding which, they made excellent time, sighting the French coast twenty-four days after leaving the Chesapeake.

“The morning after our arrival,” writes Commodore Morris, “the wife and children of George Lafayette, with M. de Lasteyrie, son-in-law of Lafayette, and his children, came on board to meet the General and his son, and after passing a few hours they all returned together to the shore. Before leaving the ship the General was entreated to ask for anything he might desire to take with him, when he requested the flag of the ship under which he had been received on board, and this was immediately presented.”

Links to related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

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The Susquehanna becomes The Brandywine for Lafayette

Experience the Marquis de Lafayette sailing to America

Illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine off Malta on November 6, 1831 (From opposite page 26 of the book “Old Naval Days” by Sophie Radford de Meissner; a Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

Illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine off Malta on November 6, 1831 (From opposite page 26 of the book “Old Naval Days” by Sophie Radford de Meissner; a Public Domain Image in Wikipedia)

Sophie Radford de Meissner wrote sketches from the naval life of her father Rear Admiral William Radford, U.S.N. These sketches were published in her 1920 book “Old Naval Days.” The illustration of the U.S.S. Brandywine is from Chapter III; entitled “Lafayette.” As a young midshipman, William Radford had the honor to sail on The U.S.S. Brandywine as it conveyed General Lafayette on his final return trip from the United States to France in 1825.

The U.S.S. Brandywine was originally known as The Susquehanna when construction of the 175-foot, three-masted, 44-gun frigate began at the Washington Navy Yard. President John Quincy Adams decided to have one of Americans newest warships carry the Marquis de Lafayette back to France upon completion of his year-long visit. George C. Mason’s 1879 book “The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart,” contains memories of Stuart while in discussions with Adams about painting his portrait. One of those memories was President Adams account about the name change for this frigate; quoting from page 247:

The first of June [1825] the Superintendent of the Navy Yard came to inform me [President John Quincy Adams] that the frigate, then on the stocks, was nearly ready to be launched, and that they called her The Susquehanna. I told him to apprize me of the day, as I intended to be launched in her. Accordingly, on the 16th of June I went on board the frigate, and when all was ready, and a lieutenant, with a bottle on a string, asked me her name, I said, “The Brandywine.” Amazement appeared on every countenance. But when I explained that the Battle of the Brandywine was the first Lafayette fought in our cause, and in which he was wounded, and that I intended to send him to France in this frigate, approbation and pleasure became universal.

The next day, the 17th of June, I wrote to Lafayette, expressing my regret that I could not be with him on Bunker Hill on that day; but to prove that we had been thinking of him at Washington, I mentioned the name of the frigate to be placed at his command for the voyage home. His reply to me was that he was indeed highly delighted.

Links to related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

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Civil War Era Bridge Types at Black Bridge Location

Article on Northern Central Railway Bridges (The Adams Sentinel, Gettysburg, Pa., August 11, 1863)

Article on Northern Central Railway Bridges (The Adams Sentinel, Gettysburg, Pa., August 11, 1863)

Today, Black Bridge carries trains over the Codorus Creek as railroad traffic moves between York and Emigsville. This bridge is a prominent feature viewable from the new section of the rail trail, recently opened in Springettsbury Township.

The August 11th, 1863, issue of The Adams Sentinel tells about the Northern Central Railway plans to build permanent replacement bridges to replace temporary bridges that were erected within days after being destroyed during the Civil War. The Northern Central Railway bridges were destroyed during June 28 and June 29 of 1863 when Confederate Troops invaded York County. (see Rebels destroy the Codorus Bridge (Black Bridge)).

The Adams Sentinel article states that the new permanent bridges “over the Codorus near Loucks’s mill, the Gut and the Conowago, are to be of wood of the Howe-truss patent.” The Eighth Annual Report of the Northern Central Railway, i.e. as of December 31, 1861, records that the Codorus Bridge (# 98), Gut Bridge (#118) and Conewago Bridge (# 119) were all initially built as 2-span Howe Type bridges in 1848. These were the three longest span bridges on the Northern Central Railway in York County; of which Codorus Bridge (now Black Bridge) was the longest, at 336-feet total length.

In 1848, the York and Cumberland Railroad (later part of the Northern Central Railway) was in the process of being built from York to Harrisburg, therefore the bridges destroyed by the Confederates in 1863 were the original bridges. This railroad partly opened to York Haven by 1850 and rail connections to Harrisburg were completed in 1851.

In 1848, the Howe Truss bridge was a relatively new truss design; it was patented in 1840. Early on, it was a bridge type that thrived because of its heavy use of timber and minimal use of iron. The Howe Truss quickly became the preferred long span railroad bridge, not only because of its strength, but also railroads of that era favored this bridge for its ease to partially prefabricate offsite and to ship by rail.

A competing Pratt Truss bridge design was patented in 1844. This truss design was pretty much opposite the 1840 Howe Truss; the Howe having timber diagonals (in compression) slanting to the center of the bridge and vertical iron ties (in tension). The Pratt Truss has internal diagonals (in tension) slanting away from the center of the bridge and verticals in compression.

Both the Howe Truss and Pratt Truss bridge types transitioned from a combination of wood and iron construction to all iron construction; although the design of the Pratt Truss lent itself to a smother transition. The further transition to all steel bridge construction heavily favored the Pratt Truss type, which is the reason photos of Howe Truss bridges (of any construction) are rare.

The bridge that the Confederates encountered and destroyed in 1863 at the Black Bridge location has been described a whole host of ways. Some histories say it was a metal girder deck bridge, some say it was an iron truss bridge, however very few note it being of primarily wood construction; which the findings of this post point to as the actual bridge type.

The records of the Northern Central Railway indicate the original bridge is of a Howe Truss type. The Adams Sentinel article notes the new permanent bridges will be “of wood of the Howe-truss patent.” If the original bridge were all-iron, why would the railway suddenly take a step back to an older material; i.e. wood. Furthermore in the bridge design books that I’ve read, I’ve never seen any all-iron Howe Truss bridges built before the mid-1850s, therefore the original 1848 bridges being of primarily wood construction appears logical.

Diagram of a Howe Truss Bridge (S. H. Smith, 2015)

Diagram of a Howe Truss Bridge (S. H. Smith, 2015)

The basic design of a primarily wooden Howe Truss Bridge is shown in this diagram. The design features timber diagonals (in compression) slanting to the center of the bridge and vertical iron ties (in tension).

The following photo shows a typical 2-span Howe Truss Bridge of the construction common in the mid-1800s. This photo is of a Howe Truss Railroad Bridge that was in Boone, Iowa, and is from the Iowa State Archives. The Codorus Bridge (now Black Bridge), built in 1848, probably appeared similar.

HoweTrussB

I discovered that primarily wooden Howe Truss Bridges were easily destroyed during war. General Herman Haupt was known for this civil engineering and rapid bridge rebuilding skills, however he also devised methods to efficiently destroy bridges in the south. One such method focused on destroying the primarily wooden Howe Truss bridge by boring only two strategically placed holes and inserting explosive charges, named the “Haupt’s Torpedo.” The Library of Congress collections contain the following photo of a primarily wooden Howe Truss bridge in Northern Virginia, showing a man boring a hole in the bridge timber and a man sitting, holding a “Haupt’s Torpedo.”

Andrew J. Russell photo of Railroad Operations in Northern Virginia, 1862 or 1863 (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Andrew J. Russell photo of Railroad Operations in Northern Virginia, 1862 or 1863 (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

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Saga of the Watch that Washington presented to Lafayette

Experience the Marquis de Lafayette sailing to America

Illustration of Inscription Side of Watch presented to Lafayette by Washington (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Illustration of Inscription Side of Watch presented to Lafayette by Washington (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

The siege of Yorktown, Virginia, reached a crescendo on Wednesday October 17th, 1781. The American and French Troops had been systematically closing in on the enemy, until, at last, the last two major British defensive earthwork fortifications fell; one to troops commanded by General Lafayette. At ten o’clock in the morning, with the fury of the cannonading continuing to rain down upon the trapped British, an officer appeared in the lines waving a white handkerchief. He carried a letter from General Lord Cornwallis to General Washington, asking for terms of capitulation.

Washington sent the officer back with a refusal and demanded total surrender. When an immediate reply was not forthcoming, the firing upon Yorktown resumed. At four o’clock in the afternoon, Cornwallis’ letter of surrender ended the fighting. The formal surrender occurred two days later, on Friday October 19th, 1781.

Before returning to France, Lafayette was presented a watch by Washington. It was inscribed, “G. Washington to Gilbert Mottiers de Lafayette; Lord Cornwallis Capitulation (Yorktown) Oct’ 17th 1781.” On December 23rd, 1781, Lafayette set sail for France and within ten years is a key figure in the French Revolution.

In 1824, President James Monroe invited Lafayette to visit the United States. Lafayette arrived in New York Harbor on August 15th, 1824. His son George Washington Lafayette and his secretary Auguste Levasseur accompanied Lafayette. The trip was originally planned as a four-month visit through the original thirteen states.

The celebrations honoring Lafayette were so enthusiastic, he extended his stay to over a year; visiting all twenty-four states that were in the union at that time. Lafayette sailed home, for the final time, on September 7th, 1825.

Nashville, Tennessee was one of the stops as Lafayette toured the United States; he arrived there on May 4th, 1825. While there, the watch given to him by George Washington was stolen. This illustration of the decorated side of the watch is from the Library of Congress. The illustrations of both sides of the watch are from a print off a wood engraving; used to print the January 23rd, 1875 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

Illustration of Decorated Side of Watch presented to Lafayette by Washington (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Illustration of Decorated Side of Watch presented to Lafayette by Washington (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

The 1875 illustration was made from the recovered watch. The June 20th, 1874 issue of The New York Times provides the details:

The [United States] House [of Representatives] went into the business of collecting historical antiquities by adopting a resolution giving the Secretary of State $300 with which to purchase a watch, believed to be the one given to Lafayette by Gen. Washington. The watch, presented to Lafayette by Washington at the capitulation of Cornwallis, was subsequently stolen from Lafayette upon his visit to this country in 1825, at Nashville, Tenn. Although large rewards were offered, the watch was not heard of until four years ago, when a gentleman from Texas accidentally discovered it at a pawnbroker’s sale in Louisville.

However that is not the end of the saga. Congress adopted a further resolution in June of 1874; the outcome was reported in the December 10th, 1874 issue of The New York Times:

Paris, Dec. 9.—In conformity with the resolution adopted by the American Congress on the 22d of June last, Mr. Washburne, the United States Minister, to-day handed to M. Oscar de Lafayette, Deputy in the National Assembly from the Seine-et-Marne, and grandson of the Marquis de Lafayette, the watch Washington presented to the latter as a souvenir of the capitulation of Lord Cornwallis.

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