This map from York County Heritage Trust archives shows a branch of the main trolley line between York and York Haven ran from Manchester to Mount Wolf. Bradley Rentzel writes in his “History of Mount Wolf” that the trolley line ran from 1903 to 1937. The Mount Wolf depot sat next to the Market Street bridge near the Northern Central Railway-Pennsylvania Railroad crossing. Background posts: Wolf Man. Wolfchester. No, the Village of Mount Wolf and Caeserville, named after ex-slave, flourished as lumber center and When York County undertakers served as woodworkers … and vice versa.
For years, newspapers were delivered to York County’s hinterlands via trolley car.
In particular, I remember reading Bradley Rentzel’s account about their delivery to Mount Wolf.
“The first trolley car arrives at 5:30 a.m. from York with one or two workmen who head for the Wire Cloth plant,” Rentzel wrote in “History of Mount Wolf.” “A paper carrier picks up a bundle of papers, The York Gazette, which he immediately starts distributing. The first stop is at the Henry B. Hoff home.”
What I never connected, until recently, was how the trolley got to Mount Wolf. The main line ran through Manchester, some distance away.
Then I noticed a map of the trolley system in York County, and a brief perusal showed a trolley spur exiting the main line at Manchester and terminating in Mount Wolf… .
There was the answer.
No doubt, the spur was there to link the trolley with the railroad and to service workers at the Wolf lumber yard and the New York Wire Cloth plant, maker of screening for windows and other uses.
Rentzel’s work included Herman Greiman’s narrative that told about those trolley days.
Notice that the trolley not only brought workers into Mount Wolf, but also commuters, including students, from the borough to the trolley’s main line. And the account also suggests why the Gazette and Daily had more circulation throughout the county in those years. Subscribers could receive that day’s newspaper and the day-old evening York Dispatch.
Here’s more of Greiman’s narrative via Rentzel, showing a beehive of activity at the nexus of the trolley and railroad each morning, sometime during 1910 and 1915:
“The Hoff’s are staunch Republicans and The Gazette is read mostly by Democrats, but since the post office is located in the Hoff home, both the morning Gazette and evening Dispatch are received. One would imagine that at this early hour the town would be deserted, but not so. J.J. Rodes opens Wolf’s store at six and he is usually accompanied by Jacob Fitzkee, a teamster for Wolf’s. Jake doesn’t start work until seven, but he doesn’t want to miss anything.
“Soon men are on the streets, headed for the Wire Cloth Factory; the starting time there is 6:00 a.m. and these men will put in an eleven-hour day, a sixty-one hour week. Girls and women are now on their way to the sewing factory and wood workers to the furniture factory.
“At seven o’clock the mail train stops and people who work at the Capital and at Harrisburg board it. These people are commuters and usually arrive at the depot just a minute or two before train time. One young fellow is usually seen running with his coat in one hand and necktie in the other; he seems to like getting on a moving train; he makes it. The trolley car for York sounds its whistle at Walnut Street to notify students and workers of its arrival; this 7:20 a.m. car usually picks up a dozen or more passengers in Mount Wolf.”
This account shows that small towns like Mount Wolf near public transportation lines have always housed their share of commuters. Today though, the commuters leave in motorized vehicles. Some go to a park and ride for the bus trip to Harrisburg.
At any rate, Mount Wolf is much quieter nowadays from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
But it’s nice to solve a transportation mystery.
The Manchester-Mount Wolf-Conewago Creek area has long been one of the busiest areas of York County. For more details, click here.