Who was Norman Wood (of York/Lancaster bridge fame)?

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A worker takes time out from preparing the Norman Wood Bridge, connecting southern Lancaster and York counties, to lead a horse pulling an Amish buggy. The horse, spooked by a generator, stopped in the middle of the bridge. Background posts: Amish: ‘We are making a commitment to forgive,’ and Holtwood Dam thrust into the news again.

Eagles nesting on the Norman Wood bridge, slowing painting work on the one-third-long structure spanning the Susquehanna River, have captured the interest of readers.
But all this has raised a question in the mind of this reader.
Who was Norman Wood?


The question was posed to Lancaster countian Jack W.W. Loose, and the historian with a mind like an encyclopedia gave a response about his late friend and Lancaster County State Rep. Norman Wood. Loose’s wonderful observations about Wood are presented with only minor editing:

“We had many things in common! He was born in Fulton Township, Lancaster County, on 24 January 1891, son of Alfred and Elmira (King) Wood. Norman attended the Fulton Twp. High School, the George School (a Quaker private school) and Penn State where he earned a degree in agriculture.
Norman was a member of the Little Britain (Penn Hill) Friends Meeting at Wakefield, Lancaster County. He was a Mason and a member of the Fulton Grange. He was elected to the Pa. House of Representatives in 1922, and was reelected every two years until his retirement in 1964.
He served as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He was a member of the Pa. Historical & Museum Commission during which time he used his power on the appropriations committee to secure the Robert Fulton birthplace as a state historical property despite the Historical Commission’s executive director who did not want the Fulton birthplace. (The latter claimed the PHMC already was “overloaded” with properties it had difficulty in maintaining.)
Norman was married to Esther Nolt, and they lived at Peach Bottom in Fulton Twp.
Norman was selected as a candidate for the House of Representatives by the late Wm. Griest, US Congressman from Lancaster County 1906 to his death in 1929.
Griest was the powerful Republican leader of Lancaster County. He also was head of the gas, electric and trolley companies of Lancaster, with his office in the “skyscraper” Griest Bldg. on Penn Square, Lancaster.
When Wood’s predecessor died or quit, Griest sent one of his “lieutenants” down to Fulton Township with the order to bring “that Wood fellow, the hard worker for the Part” up to my office.” The lieutenant went down to find that “Wood” fellow, and made inquiries. “Oh, I guess you want Norman Wood,” answered the fellow asked. So Norman was summoned to Lancaster, and when he arrived at Griest’s office (then in the old Woolworth Bldg., Griest was surprised to see Norman because the person he wanted was Samuel Wood. But Griest decided Norman would do, and with Griest’s political power, Norman was elected in 1922.
After Griest died in 1929 (Bright’s Disease), G. Graybill Diehm became the Republican leader of Lancaster County, and he was quite happy with Norman, and kept having him reelected until Norman decided to retire, which was about the time Diehm retired.
Norman was well-known for his reluctance to speak. He surely was more quiet than Cal Coolidge! One time at the meeting of the Solanco Historical Society soon after Norman retired and was being honored for his many years of service, I was talking to him, and I asked Mrs.Wood, “Does Norman say much in Friends’ Meeting.” She laughed and said he doesn’t say much.
When the new Route 30 was built across the Susquehanna River at Columbia, a discussion arose about naming the “old” bridge and the new bridge for famous Columbians, John Wright and Gen. Daniel Strickler.
One fellow interjected, “The State has a policy of not naming bridges for living persons.” “But,” asserted another, “What about the Norman Wood bridge at Holtwood? Norman is still living.” Laughter followed, and the remark was made that “How does one know if Norman is alive? He never says anything.”
My personal opinion of Norman Wood is that he was a gentleman of great integrity, filled with common sense, and always practical. Despite his reluctance to talk, he was a genuinely friendly person as well as an astute politician. He was an old-fashioned politician and never sought the “limelight.”

For additional perspectives on the bridge – both visual and written – visit fellow blogger Joan Concilio’s blog post: York County’s “other” Susquehanna bridge.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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