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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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but an apostle, of the great founder of this
commonwealth. He sought out those who
were oppressed for conscience' sake. A few
years before he obtained his charter he had
visited that portion of the continent of Eu-
rope which to many of our people is most
deaT and famous, the Palatinate upon the
Rhine. He sympathized with the Swiss re-
formers and others who had taken refuge
there; and when that fertile country was
made the scene of devastating wars, when
their Elector, Frederick V, could not main-
tain his principality, and the armies of Louis
XIV, under Marshal Turenne, caused the
people to experience the worst calamities of
lire and sword, and were compelled to flee
frona their homes, they found an asylum by
his invitation on these shores. A number of
Mennonites went to England in 1707 and
made an agreement with William Penn, at
London, for taking up lands.f Thus com-
menced that great German emigration that
made the English fear that their new land
would be possessed by aliens ; but which
added to the stability of the province and
became the means of its agricultural wealth.
The forests disappeared before that people,
and, as has been said, like the lichens and
mosses of nature, they fastened themselves
to the fertile soil where they were planted,
and the agricultural regions of this common-
wealth where they settled are the boast of
Pennsylvanians. They seem to have paid
iittl e attention at first to the political features


t ni Col. Rec. 374. Eupp's Hist. Lane. Co. p. 74.

I of their new home. They accepted the free-
dom they enjoyed as a means of exercising
their industry, and of practicing their thrift.
They seemed to dwell apart from others, and
formed, as it were, a separate population,
and in many portions of the State, to this
t day, they are distinguishable from their fel-
I low citizens, maintaining a language pecul-
iarly their own. For a long time, with
conversation and books in German, they and
their children were ignorant of the English
tongue. They preserved their usages, "'and
held among themselves the superstitions of
the peasantry of the land from which they
came.* The howl of the dog, the hoot of
the owl, the croak of the raven were to them
prognostics of evil. They believed in dreams,
love spells and charms, and in incantations
for the relief of aches and hemorrhages.
Sorcery and witchcraft were as much matters
of reality to them as to the New Euglander.
The horse- shoe nailed to the door was fatal
to the witch, and the tail or ear of the black
cat or young dog would counteract the mach-
inations of the sorcerer.f Some of these
superstitions in a modified foriTi linger
amongst their descendants in these days of

Yet, with all this, they were firm in their
religious faith. Their preachers came with
them, taught in the schools of the Reformers.
Churches were established at once, and it re-
quired no laws, like the Blue Laws, to com-
pel their attendance on the services. They
were Lutherans and German Reformed, and
among them were Mennonites and Amish.
The latter had come over in the first immi-
gration and remained where they had settled
in the territory now comprising the counties
of Berks, Lancaster, and Lebanon. Those
who subsequently crossed over into what is
now York County, were generally orthodox
followers of Luther and Zwingli. The im-
press of their worship and theology has a per-
manent hold here that cannot be displaced.

When licenses to settle opened the rich
regions of Codorus and Kreutz Creeks to
them, they at once occupied the choice
places, extending their settlements toward
the site of the jjresent borough of Hanover.
The names of the beautiful cities of Mannheim
and Heidelberg, capitals of the country from
which they principally came, are remembered
in the townships bearing these names. Man-
heim is one of the original townships of the
county. The Rhenish Palatinate, and places
adjacent, have furnished the ancestors of many
of those citizens of York County who now


constitute its principal families in wealth
and culture. If one visits that section of
Europe, he will find those same idioms of
speech which are the peculiar features of
the celebrated Pennsylvania Dutch lan-
guage, except so far as they may have been
corrupted by Germanized Anglicisms or

On the 2d of January, 1738, Gov. Thomas,
in a message to the General Assembly,
said: "This province has been for some
years the asylum of distressed Protestants
of the Palatinate, and other parts of Ger-
many, and I believe it may with truth be
said, that the present flourishing condition
of it is in a great measure owing to the in-
dustry of those people; and should any dis-
couragement divert their coming hither, it
may well be apprehended that the value of
your lands will fall, and your advances to
wealth be much slower, for it is not alto-
gether the goodness of the soil, but the num-
ber and industry of the people that make a
flourishing country." To which the Assembly
replied: "We are of opinion with the Gov-
ernor that the flourishing condition of this
province is in part owing to the importation
of Germans, and other foreigners; but we beg
leave to say, that it is chiefly to be ascribed
to the lenity of our government, and to the
sobriety and industry of the first settlers of
this country, and of the other British sub-
jects inhabiting the same." *

The jealousy of foreigners expressed by
the English settlers was soon diverted b}'
another class of immigrants, whose antagon-
ism to the views of the Friends was more
to be apprehended than the aggregation
of Germans. This was the Scotch-Irish,
a people of peculiarly marked character.
They were the descendants of the Scotch
•and perhaps English, who had been settled
a century before in the province of Ulster,
in the north of Ireland. James I had
parceled out that part of Ireland to Scot-
tish and English settlers in the early part
of the seventeenth century, which is known
in history as the plantation of Ulster.
And later, after the Restoration, when
Charles II attempted to introduce Epis-
copacy into Scotland, many of the Coven-
anters took refuge in the north of Ireland.
And still later, when the Union was formed
between the kingdoms of England and Scot-
land in 1707, in the reign of Queen Anne, f
the dissatisfied seeeders took refuge in the
same country. The province of Ulster be-
came a flourishing and enlightened part of

1 the "Green Isle," where the Presbyterians
obtained control. From thence the more ad-
venturous sought a more secure asylum here.
Of the counties of the province of Ulster,
Monaghan is the only name which is fixed in
the county of York, being one of the original
i townships; while in that portion of the
' county which was afterward made the county
I of Adams, are the names Menallen, Tyrone
and Strabane. The Scotch-Irish were a hardy
and brave race. They are described as hot-
headed, excitable, invincible in prejudices,
warmly attached to friends, and bitter antag-
onists to enemies; the hand opened as impe-
tuously to the one as it clenched against the
other. They were Calvinistic in faith, and
haters of prelacy, as they venerated Calvin
and Knox. They lost none of these character-
istics here. They did not respect the Quak-
ers and they hated the Indians.*

Their ancestors had experienced persecu-
I tion on the hills of Scotland, and the world
: owes much to those barren heights and to the
sturdy Covenanters who came from them, and
passed through many trials for freedom and
the rights of man. This people, in their set-
tlements, did not locate on the rich limestone
lands, which it was said were liable to frost
and heavily wooded, but found their way to
the barrens and red lands, to which they
were accustomed, and which their sturdy in-
1 dustry has made fertile. They have been the
progenitors of statesmen and of lawyers of
{ distinction and influence, who have been the
peers of any in the world, and whose intel-
lect and energy have molded the free
institutions of America. Such men as James
Smith, James Koss, Hugh H. Breckenridge,
: James Buchanan and Jeremiah S. Black are
• numbered among them.

i From these two peoples, the Germans and
' the Scotch-Irish, are descended the larger
' portion of the inhabitants of this county.
At the time of its settlement, the population '
of Pennsylvania by immigration, principally
from Germany and the north of Ireland, was
increasing at the rate of 5,000 or 6,000 a
year. That of the Scoth-Irish began about
1715, and the number annually increased to
such an extent that the Provincial Secretary,
in writing to the proprietaries, says : "It
' looks as if Ireland is to send all her inhabi-
tants, for last week not less than six ships
arrived, and every day two or three arrive
I also. The common fear is that they crowd
where they are not wanted." So the Scotch-
Irish possibly thought of the Germans. By
reason of feuds, in 1749, between the Germans
and Irish in York County, the proprietaries

* Introductory Memoir-supra.


instructed their agents, in order to prevent
further difficulties and disturbances, not to
selJ any more lands in York County to the
Irish, but to hold out strong inducements by
advantageous overtures to settle in the north,
in the Kittaning Valley.*

We must not overlook the fact that the
peculiar people to vfhom the colonization of
Pennsylvania is due, had some settlers here.
The hills of Newberry were found by the
Friends, who came from Chester and planted
themselves on that land known as Sir William
Keith's Tract. There still linger among the
inhabitants of that section and the surround-
ing region of country some of their peculiar
marks. One is that of affirmations in courts
of justice instead of the oath on the Book.

These people were peacemakers and were
opposed to war. Yet their descendants could
not long maintain their peaceful attitude, for
that section of country was subject in some
degree to incursions of the Indian. That
race, whom the followers of Penn had
made friendly, appeared in tierce and deadly
array as the allies of the French, and the
Friends here upon the border imbibed to
some extent the martial spirit of their fellow-
citizens?? /But there will be occasion here-
after to n&te, in passing, the embarrassments
of the province on account of the anti -bel-
ligerent principles of the Friends, as well as
of large bodies of Germans, whose religious
faitl^ contained the same doctrines regarding

~ It seems strange to us, of the present day,
that the religious peculiarities of the original
settlers upon the soil of Pennsylvania should
be so expressly noted. But the history of the
seventeenth century, in which the colony of
Pennsylvania was planted, was that of
struggles for religious freedom. In England,
dissenters of all kinds had boldly proclaimed
their opinions and had been subjected to
punishment for them, and the Covenanters
of Scotland had been hunted in their recesses
by the armies of the king. While the greater
struggles around monarchical thrones were
can-ied on by Catholic and Protestant, the
quiet religionists like the Quakers and the
Anabaptists were securely working their way
among the peasantry. A sympathetic feeling
extended itself from land to land, and hence,
when the colonization of this great common-
wealth began, immigration was opened to
those peasants, to a country where they could
worship God according to the dictates of
their own consciences, and enabled them to
become that power in political life known as
the People. Religious toleration became at

*Egle's Hist. Penn., Cumb. Co., p. 615. Gordon's Prf. 241-2.

once in Pennsylvania a fundamental princi-
ple, and that, rather than political freedom,
had been the real object of its first settlement.
The wars that devastated Europe so many
years had been religious wars. They had
ceased at the time when this history begins.
There was the dawn of a new era. The pol-
itical rights of the individual had begun to
clamor for recognition. The opening of the
eighteenth century had already changed the
aspect of afl'airs. The treaty of Utrecht had
ended the war of the Spanish succession,
which placed Philip V on the throne of
Spain. Louis XIV, the grand moiiarque,
had calmly passed from earth, and from the
State of which he had declared himself
the impersonation. Charles XII of Sweden
had fallen by the fatal cannon ball in Nor-
way, soon after,

" On dread Pultowa's awful day,
When fortune left the royal Swede."
Peter the Great had founded his mighty
empire, and hitherto barbarous Enssia had
taken its place among the powers of Europe.
The Scottish and English union had been
formed, constituting the kingdom of Great
Britain. The second king of the House of
Hanover, George II, had ascended the throne.
There was a period of peace on the continent
of Europe, and democratic ideas had begun
their advance — an advance which before the
close of the century secured the independence
of the American colonies and plunged a
great nation on the continent of Europe into
a state of anarchy — a nation, which, after suc-
cessive periods of democratic and monarch-
ical rule, has at length become an established
republic. Even as a monarchy, France had
helped our people to republican freedom.

/The government of Pennsylvania had been
established on a purely democratic basis. It
had been instituted by William Penn, with
the advice of one of the noblest and wisest of
men, Algernon Sidney. The right of popu-
lar representation was enjoyed to some extent
in all the other colonies, but the system of
Penn was a holy experiment — the experiment
of a commonwealth in which the whole
power lay with the people, the trial of a pure
democracy, to bear witness to the world that
there is in human nature virtue sufficient for
self government.* The gi'eat founder had
died in 1718, some years before the first set-
tlers crossed the Susquehanna River into
our territory. They came on this side of
the river with his principles of government
tixed for them in theii - new homes. An
account of the organization of the govern-
ment of the province will show how speedily

*Dixon's Life of Penn.


the hold of the people on its administration
was secured. On the 4th of March, 1681,
Charles II had constituted William Penn
proprietary of the land in America, which the
monarch himself named Pennsylvania. In
1682 Penn visited the country, landing at
Newcastle on the 27th of October. He called
an assembly of the freemen, which met at
Chester on the 4th day of December, and which
though it continued in session but four days,
passed Jaws for the government of the prov-
ince. He then divided the territory into
three counties, namely, Pliiladelphia, Bucks
and Chester. Writs were issued for the
election of members of the Council and
Assembly provided by the charter — three
from each county for the Council and nine
for the Assembly. This Council and Assem-
bly met for the first time on the 10th of
March, 1683, and over the Council the pro-
prietary himself jsresided, giving personal
assent to its transactions. These represent-
atives sooQ manifested jealousy of their rights.
The Frame of Government under the charter
had provided for a number not exceeding
seventy-two for the Provincial Council and
200 for the Assembly. This included the
three lower counties, as they were called,
namely, Newcastle, Kent and Sussex, which
had been annexed as Territories to the Prov-
ince. It was supposed that the seventy-two
chosen by the writs issued had the power of
the whole freemen of the Province and Ter-
ritories and so were capable of serving as a
Provincial Council and General Assembly
and thus hinder the people from the benefit
of the charter. The Governor answered
"that they might amend, alter or add for the
public good, and that he was ready to settle
such foundations as might be for their hap-
piness and good of their posterities accord-
ing to ye powers vested in him."* The
number was to be increased by the governor,
council and freemen, in Provincial Coun-
cil and Assembly met. A new charter of
privileges was granted by the proprietary in
1701, which was approved and agreed to by
the Assembly and Council. This allows four
members out of each county for the Assem-
bly. The three lower counties did not accept
the charter and separated themselves from
the province, hence the representation was
increased to eight members from each county.
The Assembly had by the last charter been
given the right to sit upon its own adjourn-
ments, and could not be dissolved during the
term for which it was elected. It passed
bills of every character, took upon itself the
reorganization of the judiciary, refused to

vote supplies or not, at its pleasure, and
claimed the right generally to meddle ' with

the affairs of state, and assuming full leg-
islative power, the government virtually fell
under its control.* Settlers in all parts of
the province were thus, from the start, accus-
tomed to the right of suffrage, not alone for
the purpose of representation, for the right
had also been extended to the choice of sher-
iff and coroners in each county, at least to
name the persons from among whom these
officers should be selected, a century and a
half in advance of the mother country, which
has not even yet attained to popular suffrage
in representation. The great Reform Bill
did partially relieve the jaeople of Great
Britain from the oppressions of government,
but the property qualifications still exist.
There was no test here for holding office but
a belief in Christianity. The Friends held,
the wealth of the province and the control of
the Assembly. The Episcopalians were the
next in influence, though not numerous."}"
In addition to the religious denominations
of Germans already mentioned, the Moravi-
ans claimed consideration, and there after-
ward sprang up the sect of the Dunkers and
the Menists.

The very first law passed by the General
Assembly of the Province was "The Law
concerning Liberty of Conscience,"" and
though repealed by the Council, there was a
similar law passed on the 14th of October,
1705. So when the first Roman Catholic
Church was built on Walnut Street, Phila-
deljjhia, in 1734, and Gov. Gordon objected
that it was contrary to the laws of England,
passed in the reign of William III, the
Council doubted whether the act of 1705,
passed in the fourth year of Queen Anne,
was repealed. Besides, it was contended that
there was warrant for the provincial law in
the charter of privileges. The church there-
fore remained.^ " This " says Hildi'eth,
"was the only Catholic Church allowed in
any Anglo-American colony prior to the Rev-
olution." The act of William and Mary
seems to have been in force in Maryland;
though by a law of 1704. chapels were al-
lowed in private houses, or where they were
under ^a common roof.§

[It will thus be seen how religious and
political freedom had been already established
in the province, at the time of the commence-
ment of our history. Before any authorized
settlements were made on the west side of the
Susquehanna, the county of Lancaster had

HiWreth's Historr, U. S.
III. Col. Eec, pa'ge 563.
Hist, of Bait. Sharff.


.befin organized in tbe year 1729. In the
spring of that same year the first settlements
were made, under the authority of the
government, in what is now called York
County. During the interval of time from
1729 to its organization in 1749, oar- people
had their representation in the Assembly as
citizens of Lancaster County. Among the
Delegates during that period were John
Wright and Samuel Blunston, who were
Quakers, and who are so well known in the
history of the province and of this county,
as foremost men in Indian affairs and in re-
sistance of Maryland encroachments. The
history of that period of time on our soil is
of the most intense interest, and forms a
very considerable part of the trials of the
early settlers. John Wright and Samuel
Blunston were in the commission of the
peace, and were by virtue of their oiSce
Justices of the Courts of Quarter Sessions.
In pursuance of an act of Assembly in 1739,
providing for the division of Lancaster
County into districts, the first district was
constituted of Hempfield, Lancaster and
Hellam Townships.* This last named
appears to have been the township formed
in the territory now York County, and was
the seat of the fiercest border contests. In
1741 the town of York was laid off on the
Codorus Creek, within Springetsbury Manor,
and became a center of renown and enterprise.
During this same interval of time, namely,
between the time of the first settlement and
the county organization, .there were born men
who were destined to take conspicuous part
in the affairs of the county and of our coun-
try's history. James Ewing was born in
Manor Township, Lancaster County, in 1736.
Henry Miller was born in Lancaster City in
1741. Thomas Hartley was born near Reading
in 1748. John Clark was born iu Lancaster
in 1751, just two years after the formation
of the county of York. The names of these
patriots suggest reflections upon the spirit-
stii'ring times in which they lived and acted.
/'"York took a very prominent part in the frans-
"actions of those day.?, as will be seen here-
after. The Revolution occurred scarcely
forty years after the settlement of the county,
and the eloquence of that period does not
alone belong to the Roundheads and Cavaliers
of Massachusetts and Virginia. The Scotch-
Irish of Pennsylvannia seconded with voice
and pen the great struggle for freedom, and
the rolls of honor contain numerously the
names of their descendants, as also of those
of Palatine ancestors.

*Rupp, 274. . .,' . > I. -■,,%!= -^


/The following interesting account of the
earTy settlers is copied from Glossbrenner's
History of York County, 1834:
>'' '{Kreidz CreeM-^The first settlements in
this county were made on Kreutz Creek* and
in the neighborhood where Hanover now
stands. Before the erection of the county of
Lancaster in 1729, a number of persons
resided on tracts of land lying on the west
side of the Susquehanna, within the bounds
of what is now York County. These persons
remained, however, but a short time on the
lands they occupied — were not allowed
to warm ia the nests on which they had
squatted — and may not be looked upon as
the progenitors of the present possessors of
the soil of York County. They were known
only as '^Maryland intruders?' and were
removed in the latter end of the year 1728,
by order of the Deputy-Governor and Coun-
cil, at the request of the Indians, and in con-
formity with their existing treaties.
'*In the spring of 1729 John and James
Hendricks, under the authority of Govern-
ment, made the first authorized settlements
in what is now called York County. They
occupied the ground from which some fam-
ilies of squatters had been removed, some-
where about the bank of Kreutz Creek. They
were soon followed by other families, who
settled at a distance of about ten or twelve
miles west and southwest of them.

"The earliest settlers were English; these
were, ho^vever, succeeded by vast numbers of
German emigrants. It is a remarkable fact,
that, when the first settlements were made in
this county, the greater portion of the lands in
the eastern and southeastern part of it were
destitute of large timber. In sections where
now the finest forests of large timber stand,
miles might then have been traversed without
the discovery of any vegetable production of
greater magnitude than scnrboak; and in
many places even that diminutive representa-
tive of the mighty monarch of the forest was
not to be found. This nakedness of the
country was generally, andwe have no doubt
correctly, attributed to a citstom which pre-
vailed among the aboriginal owners of the
soil, of annually or biennially destroying by
fire all vegetation in particular sections of

* Some persons say that the proper name of this creek
is Kreis' Creek, from "an early settler near its mouth, whose
name was George Kreis. But others with greater appearance of |
triitli sav that the common name is the correct one. It is called
Kreutz Oreek not from a man of the same name, as some assert,
but on account of the union of two streams, and thereby the
formation of wliat the Germans call a Kruetz li. e. a cross). In

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 3 of 218)