Conewago crossing near Manchester a hot spot, literally, for years – Part IIII

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The Gazette and Daily reported a raid of a bawdy house in the Conewago Heights area between Manchester and York Haven in 1918. Preparing for the raid was the easy part. Bringing the proprietors into custody proved to be much more difficult and dangerous. Background posts: Conewago crossing near Manchester hot spot for years – Part I and Conewago crossing – Part II and Conewago crossing – Part III.

The Conewago crossing near Manchester has seen Confederate raiders and Elm Beach contented sunbathers.
Conewago Inn-goers have long sipped prized turtle soup. A 750-pound snapping turtle, carved with a chainsaw, posing in that area can evoke a thought about how many bowls of soup his real-life counterpart would have produced.
For years, children licked ice cream cones from Elm Beach’s concession stand. Cold Springs Park played host to picnickers by the thousands.
Trolleys ran near there. Trains too.
And the crossing has long served as the symbolic boundary between York-oriented folks and Harrisburg-leaning commuters.
It’s an example how so much has happened at a single point in York County. Multiply that point by thousands and you have a rich history.
And as the following story shows, crime is not just a city problem. For years, newspaper headlines have related rural misdeeds – often with dangerous implications – even in recreational areas such as the Conewago crossing.
The crossing was abuzz after a police raid on a house of ill repute – the “Liberty Bell” – in the spring of 1919… .


The “Liberty Bell” was a bungalow located on the south side of the Conewago between the trolley and highway bridges.
Residents of the bungalows in the colony at the Heights – as that Cold Springs Park sector was called – complained to authorities about illicit action. As it turned out, The Gazette and Daily reported, five girls had worked at the bungalow the previous summer committing immoral acts.
So here’s how the 1919 bust came down, according to the newspaper.
A couple of constables and other law enforcement officials, staking out the bungalow one Saturday night, saw a number of persons exiting cars from the nearby trolley and making their way to the bungalow.
Several times during the evening, Mrs. M., as we’ll call her, apparently tipped off, came out onto the porch. She fired a revolver in an attempt to scare off intruders.
The constables waited until the next morning, and then they entered the house only to find Mrs. M. with a revolver.
She threated to kill one constable, Albert Lefever, who later said he laughed and told her to “bang away.” She continued the threat as Lefever and fellow constable John R. Willets searched the dwelling.
The law enforcement men went about rounding up the guests, then called inmates.
Several inmates tried to rush out the back door, but Deputy Sheriff D.W. Keuhn had it covered.
“Satisfied with the roundup, the constables fired several shots into the air to call their chauffeurs … ,” the newspaper reported, “and the entire party was brought to York.”
At the alderman’s office, Mrs. M. could not gain bail via the phone so she sought her freedom via foot.
Lefever caught up with her and subdued her after a struggle. Meanwhile, Mr. M. tried to help his wife and that ended in a tussle with the alderman.
All this was enough to land the Mr. and Mrs. M. in jail, facing charges of keeping a “common ill-governed and disorderly and bawdy house.”
The prosecution witnesses turned out to be the five men and five women who were in bed together in separate rooms at the bungalow.
The newspaper led the story with, “An early Sunday morning raid with sensational features… .”
And it ended with a footnote about the wife, in court on a separate matter that week.
It seems she was indicted for interfering with a railroad safety gate in York.
Several times, she defied the gateman by persisting in raising the barrier at the Beaver Street crossing, endangering motorists and pedestrians.
The law enforcement system rang the Liberty Bell that week.

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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