The York/Adams day that birthed memories of falling stars and silkworms

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This story, from an unspecified paper as found in Jere Carl’s scrapbook at the York County (Pa.) Heritage Trust, spins together a strange tale about the night when the sky over York and Adams counties seemed to be falling. Background posts: Iron-mine-turned-into-party-spot turned into York County park and Site filled with wealth of York County geological info and Quarrying in Delta-Peachbottom.
A July fireball has sent searchers looking for pieces of the meteorite in York and Lancaster County.
But that single falling star was nothing like the 1833 Perseid Meteor Shower that made York/Adams residents think that the world might be ending.
A 1902 newspaper clipping tells the impact of the meteor bursts. And it gives a glimpse of a local industry – silkmaking – then at its height:


In the year 1902, an aged Hiram House of York provided to the York County Historical Society a ball of silk woven at Two Taverns, Adams County.
It took House back to Nov. 13-14, 1833, when the sky was so full of meteors that it seemed that white snowflakes were falling from the sky.
People believed small stars were falling to the earth.
House, then 9 years old, was awakened and ran downstairs from his bedroom. There, he fell over his mother’s reel of silk, from which she had gathered the silk from silkworm cocoons the previous day.
“That is the reason he remembers the day so vividly,” the newspaper reported.
The earth still turned the next day and the silk worms ate their diets of mulberry leaves with “a noise like horses crunching oats.”
Mrs. House mended the reels and continued spinning silk.
People in 1902 could still remember the 1830s when silkworms were raised on a reported one-third of the farms in the region.
The worms initially thrived on the mulberry leaves and later the multicaulis tree.
“The ‘craze’, as it was afterwards called, to raise and spin silk in this region lasted only five years,” the newspaper reported, “when it became a lost art, for it was not profitable.”
Five years after that newspaper article, a farmer in Shrewsbury Township found what became known as the “The Shrewsbury” meteorite, on display today in a Pittsburgh museum.
Did that fall from the sky on this strange night in 1833, the night a young boy tripped over the hard day’s work from a bunch of silkworms?

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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