York County’s Camp Security questions abound: But one about POW camp’s ghosts is answered

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This is a view of the terrain that at one time accommodated Camp Security, an American Revolution British prisoner-of-war camp in Springettsbury Township, Pa. Jonathan Stayer of the Pennsylvania State Archives, who has studied the camp extensively presented on the camp at the York County Historical Society’s Second Saturday program. (See aerial view of the camp site – it’s actual location is unknown -below.) Also of interest: Camp Security memories tucked inside memoir and Story revives memories of oft-forgotten York County POW camp, Camp Stewartstown and German prisoners from two wars came to York County.
The Camp Security POW site near York has long fascinated Jonathan Stayer.
That interest led him to an exploration of the site, even before the head of the reference section of the Pennsylvania State Archives studied it professionally.
Thus he found himself at the site one Christmas Eve, sporting a flashlight and looking for the fabled ghosts of Camp Security. These apparitions reportedly appeared on the night before Christmas, and he had joined a group of young people there to meet up with them.
Stayer’s group was there, that is, until they heard a wailing in the distance. Which set them off to their homes not far away… .


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This aerial view captures of the Camp Security site.
Only later did they realize that the wailing was the New York Wire Factory whistle concert, that other rite of midnight, Christmas Eve.
Its notes had drifted about four miles to the east, to Springettsbury Township site of the old camp and the ears of those in Stayer’s group.
Jonathan Stayer told this story at a recent Second Saturday program about the camp, a topic that fascinates many people and concerns the community because the undeveloped site is threatened by a housing development.
Stayer’s talk was filled with information about the camp that accommodated prisoners from the battles of the Saratoga, N.Y. (1777), and Yorktowne, Va. (1781), between July 1781 and May 1783.
But he concluded with questions that deserve much further exploration:
– What was the physical layout of the camp?
– How many prisoners were on camp rolls each month? (At its peak, the camp is believed to have detained 1,500 to 2,000 British prisoners. No German units were assigned for detention in the camp.)
– How many prisoner deaths occurred in the camp. (The number might have come to 150-350 prisoners.)
– How many guards were on duty at one time?
– How was the camp supplied?
– What was the relationship to a sister camp across the Susquehanna River in Lancaster?
Many questions about the camp remain, including its exact site.
But one is answered.
The source of wailing for those brave enough to search for the ghosts of Camp Security on Christmas Eve.
Photographs courtesy of York Daily Record/Sunday News files.

About Jim McClure

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