Part IV: Scholarly York County history journal feeds your sense of discovery

This is a photograph of the Cookes House as seen in circa 1900. The 1700s structure, long associated with  Thomas Paine of American Revolution fame, was the topic of a story in the 2011 “Journal of York County Heritage.” Those are the hands of Cookes House owner Michael Helfrich displaying the photo. Also of interest: Part I: Scholarly journal feeds your sense of history and  Part II: Scholarly journal and Part III: Scholarly journal.

Michael Helfrich’s piece on the Cookes House and Thomas Paine illustrates the value of a scholarly journal on York County topics.

Helfrich pulled together written and oral traditions in undertaking the most scholarly work to date on this venerable York County landmark and the revolutionary pamphleteer who has been long linked to it.

Now we have all this pulled together in one readable and accessible place.

Here’s a summary of that journal piece:

Title: “The Question of Thomas Paine in York Town”

Author: Michael Helfrich

About: Thomas Paine, pamphleteer of the American Revolution, lodged in York when the Continental Congress met here in 1777-78. Where he stayed has been long debated. Helfrich argues that he actually bunked in two locations: Near York’s square in James Smith’s office or a house rented by Daniel Roberdeau. Also, the Cookes House, the farmhouse for Johannes Cookes’ farm and Codorus Creek mills, southwest of York.

Quotable: “The conclusion of this research brings us to a rare occasion of agreeing with everyone. The author believes that the evidence points to Thomas Paine staying at both locations passed down through local traditions.”

Interesting point: This is the 250th anniversary of the building of the Cookes House. The author of this Thomas Paine piece owns the house that Mr. Cookes built.

Also of interest:

– All posts about the American Revolution from the start.

For more views of Michael Helfrich and his house, visit: Public getting views of Cookes House, the 1761 stone house in York, Pa.


For details about the journal, contact Lila Fourhman-Shaull,


About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in American Revolution, Archives, all posts, Books & reading, Explanations/controversy, Genealogy/research, Local journalism & Web, Local landmarks, People, Uncategorized, War and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Part IV: Scholarly York County history journal feeds your sense of discovery

  1. Michael Helfrich says:

    March 5, 2012
    My trip to NYC was amazing! At the Columbia University Butler Library I found a letter that puts Moncure Conway, the author of Thomas Paine’s Biography in 1892, at A. B. Farquhar’s estate at Edgecombe in May, 1891, a year before Conway published that my house was the Thomas Paine house! I also found in the same letter that Farquhar connected Conway with a guide to do a Thomas Paine tour of Bordentown, NJ, Paine’s home for much of his time in the United States. If Farquhar knew someone to recommend for a Thomas Paine tour, he obviously had some interest in Thomas Paine himself. So Conway actually came to York to study any local history of Thomas Paine before he published his book. While the information obtained in 1891 would still be considered oral tradition, 113 years after the fact, through A.B. Farquhar, one of York’s most respected citizens, he would have had access to the most knowledgable historians in York at the time. This is still circumstantial evidence, but it certainly supports the fact that Conway did his due diligence before publishing what he considered factual enough to put into the best biography of Thomas Paine written. While Conway may have been the first to publish that the Cookes House was the house that Thomas Paine stayed in in 1778, it is noteworthy that York historians John C. Jordan (1903) and George Prowell (1907) also recorded that the Cookes House was the house that Thomas Paine went to when he arrived in York (even if these historians had the timing of his arrival a little wrong).

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