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

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limits of York County. There were in addi-
tion to this, 657 colored slaves.

The first official census, taken by the
authority of the United States Government
in 1790, gave York County a population of
37,747, which was an increase of about 10,000
in seven years. This would seem to be enor-
mous, but illustrates that immigration to the
county during that period was rapid.
The next census was taken in 1800, after
the formation of Adams County from
York County, when the latter had a popula-
tion of 25,643; in 1810, York County had
31,938; in 1820, 38,759; in 1830, 42,859;
in 1840, 47,010; in 1850, 57,450; in 1860,
68,200; in 1870, 76,134; in 1880, 87,841.


5y an act of the Legislature passed Janu-
_ "22, 1800, Adams County was erected out
of York, with an area of 548 square miles.
It was named in honor of John Adams, who
was then President of the United States.
This reduced York County to its present area
of 921 square miles or 589,440 acres. It is
the shape of an irregular quadrangle, with
far-famed Mason and Dixon's line for the
base, a distance of forty miles, and is the
fourth in line westward of the southern tier
of counties, with Lancaster and Dauphin
Counties on the east and northeast, the State
of Maryland on the south, Adams County on
the west and Cumberland and Dauphin on
the north. The Susquehanna River washes
the eastern boundary from the mouth of the
Yellow Breeches to the Maryland line, a dis-
tance of fifty-five miles. The southern

boundary is a due east and west line, located
by the astronomical and mathematical calcu-
lation of the distinguished English survey-
ors whose name it bears. The western bound-
ary line from the southern line north eight
and one-half miles, is an exact meridian;
from thence the Beaver Creek and a public
road from a winding liae northwestward to
a point on the South Mountains, where York,
Cumberland and Adams Counties meet. From
here the boundary is a due northeast line
along a ridge of the South Mountains to the
Yellow Breeches Creek, continuing in nearly
the same direction along the many remarka-
ble bends of this placid stream to its mouth
at the Susquehanna, ^two miles below the city
of HarrisburgTl yAs^eording to the census of
1880, there - w!re' 498,344 acres of the land
embraced in York County improved, and 101,-
096 acres unimproved, leaving one-third of
the entire county woodland and uncultivated
land. This estimate seems high.

The fortieth parallel, which is the latitude
of the northern limit of Philadelphia, enters
the county at Wrightsville, passes through
Bmigsville is a short distance above the vil-
lage of Dover, and strikes Adams County
where the south branch of the Bermudian
Creek enters York County.

The seventy-seventh meridian, or the line
designating the longitude of "Washington, ■
the capital of the United States, crosses the
county one-half mile east of Hanover, pass-
ing out of the county two miles east of Dills-


The surface area of York County is sub-
divided irregularly into thirty_-gne townships,
within whose limits are twenty-one incorpor-
ated boroughs, and about forty small villages
and hamlets. York, the oldest, the largest
town, and the seat of justice, is near the
centre of the county, corresponding exactly
to the position of York in Yorkshire, Eng-
land, after which it was named. Nearly all
the original townships were marked by nat-
ural boundaries. Many divisions and sub-
divisions of townships have been made since
the erection of the county, but now a num-
ber of the boundaries are artificial lines. Al-
though there were at least 2, 000 _ settlers
west of the Susquehanna in what is now
York County before 1739, there is no
official record to establish the fact that
townships were laid ofi before that date.
On church records, diaries of travelers,
and in the correspondence of first settlers
and surveyors, the name Conewago set-
tlement (Hanover), Marsh Creek (Gettys-
burg), Codoras, Newberry and Manches-


ter, appear as names to designate places.
A special act of the General Assembly was
passed in October, 1739, for dividing the
region west of the Susquehanna into town-
ships. The name HalljuB-tii-st appears for that
year. Between 1740 and 1744. Chanceford,
Fawn, Shrewsbury. Newberry, Dover, Codo-
niB, Manchester, Warrington, Monaghan, Par-
adise, Manheim, in what is now York County,
and Tyrone, Straban Menallen; Cumberland,
Hamilton's Ban, Mount Joy, Germany,
Mount Pleasant and Berwick, in the present
territory of Adams County were laid oflf by
ivarious surveyors.


jThe inhabitants who first gazed upon the
primitive forests, hunted the wild animals
that roamed and sported in their dense shade,
and caught the fiah which abundantly stocked
the winding streams, and whose squaws
raised small patches of corn and beans,
were Indians, a dark copper-colored race,
whose origin and history previous to the set-
tlement of the whites in this section, as far
as can be ascertained, will be found in the
general history.

From the time of the earliest authorized
settlements made west of the Susquehanna,
York County contained three distinct classes
of people. Among the first to enter the
county with proper permits to locate laud
were the English Quakers, nearly all of whom
located north of the Conewago Creek ; some
of them located in the Eedland and Fishing
Creek Valleys as early as 1732, and a goodly
number of them the following year. They
migrated thence from Chester County. A
year later Warrington Township, which then
included Washington, was settled by people
of the same religious society. A few located
in Manchester. The Quakers obtained free
gi'ants of land from the Penns, on which to
locate their meeting houses. One of these
is still standing in the village of Newberry-
town, one midway between the last named
town and Lewisberry, and a third in War-
rington, one-half mile from Wellsville. Mon-
aghan, which included the balance of the
territory in York County north of the Cone-
wago, was at first populated by the Scotch-
Irish, the same class of people who" first
settled Cumberland County, and that portion
of York now embraced in Adams County.

The vast body of the early settlers were
Germans, who populated the fertile valleys
of the central, western, and southwestern
portions of the county, beginning their au-
thorized settlements as early as 1731. An
excellent chapter devoted to them will be

found elsewhere in this book. There were a
few English located in and ai-ound York.
They were either Friends or members of the
Church of England. The county officers
were nearly all English for many years after
the county was formed.

In the southeastern portion of the county,
in the Chancefords, Fawn, Peachbottom and
Hopewell, a colony of sturdy Scotch-Irish lo-
cated, commencing their settlements contem-
poraneously with the Germans and the Eng-
lish above them. Some of them had located
there and obtained lands under Maryland
titles a few years earlier. This section was
not at first populated so rapidly, however,
the census statistics will show, as the upper
sections, which was owing greatly to the ster-
ility of the soil, after a few years' cultivation.
By the descendants of the same class of peo-
ple, of late it has been rendered exception-
ally fertile and productive. The Marsh
Creek settlement, now Adams County, was
almost entirely composed of Scotch-Iri sh.~} j^


V ■ /Dpnse forests of valuable oaks, chestnuts,
walnuts, hickory, poplar and ash covered the
hills and valleys of York County, when the
whites first came. Many of these the ax of
the industrious settler soon felled, in order to
clear the land to sow his crops, while yet the
red man of the forest was his neighbor. The
timber of all of them could not be used, con-
sequently such of what would now be of great
value, then decayed, as trunks of large trees.
Some were hewu into logs to construct rude
cabins; the chestnut and the oak to build
the fences; the walnut for making articles of
household furniture, and a portion for fuel.
A large forest of primitive trees is now al-
most a curiosity to the prosperous York
County farmer. If there be one, some ava-
ricious individual is on the alert to purchase
it, and fell the grand old trees for gain. An
occasional old white oak, a tree which lives
the longest in this section, is seen here and
there on the farms of judicious husbandmen,
whose reverence for grandeur, beauty, and
antiquity, will allow no one to "touch a single
bough," and yet it is just the object the in-
dustrious wagon maker loves to feast his eyes
upon. There are still a few chestnut trees
standing along the fences and road-sides,
under whose venerable boughs our fathers'
grandfathers rested their weary limbs during
the harvest noon, and later in the season
their children, dressed in homespun and
linsey-woolsey, gathered the precious fruit,
while on the alert for the wolf and the deer.
The introduction of the charcoal forges



and bloomaries, and the vast number of tan-
neries erected, ruthlessly destroyed hundreds
of acres of valuable timber land, which two
hundred years of undisturbed growth could
not now replace. On account of the scarcity
of valuable bark, the tannery business has
greatly declined. Hundreds of cor^ of bark

are yet annually hauled to market^ ^



An act of the General Assemby
August 19, 1749, named Thomas Cox, Mi-
chael Tanner, George Swope, Nathan Hussey,
and John Wright, Jr., as commissionei's to
carry out its provisions in forming the Coun-
ty of York, and also to purchase land at some
convenient place in the county, to be ap-
proved by the governor, and held in trust for
the purpose of erecting on it a coiu't house
and prison. Centre Square of York was se-
lected as the site.

The sessions of the courts from 1749 to
1756 were held in the houses of the court
justices until the completion of the first
court house. In April, 1754, the county
commissioners entered into an agreement
with William Willis, a skillful bricklayer,
and one of the first English Quakers, who
located in Manchester Township, to erect the
walls of the court house. Henry Clark, also
a Quakei', from Warrington, entered into a
contract to saw and deliver scantlings for the
building. He then owned a saw-mill near
the mouth of Beaver Creek. John Meem,
who generally was called "doctor," and
Jacob Klein of York, both Germans, were
employed as carpenters. Robert Jones, a
Quaker, who lived a few miles from town, in
Manchester Township, was engaged to haul
seven thousand shingles from Philadelphia.
The building was not completed till 1756.
Attached to one end of it was a building
called, in its day, the State House, and in it
were the county offices. At the other end
was the market house. This court house
stood from 1756 to the fall of 1840— a period
of eighty-four years. The most historic
period of its history was from September,
1777, to June, 1778, during which time the
members of the Continental Congress held
their deliberations within its hallowed walls.
This was the darkest period of the Revolution,
the account of which is given in the general
history. The Articles of Confederation were
passed by Congress while sitting here, which
alone would make it an historic building. It
should never have been destroyed, but the
people of York County, like Americans in
general, did not, at that time, properly rev-
erence historic old landmarks. The walls

around the three enclosed sides of the pres-
ent court house yard, were made of the bricks
that formed the walls of the old court house,
and this is all that is left of a building which,
if it now stood, would be one of the greatest
and most important objects of veneration in
the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The
State House was torn down in 1842.


When it was decided to erect a new court
house, a great controversy arose concerning
the location of it. The commissioners finally
selected the site where the present one now
stands. For the erection of this building
Jacob Dietz was master-carpenter, and Henry
Small was associated with him. Charles
Eppley was master-mason, and George Oden-
wall, assistant. The county commissioners
then were William Nicholas, John Rieman
and John Beck. The bricks and wood were
obtained in York County. Part of the gran-
ite used in its construction was hauled in
wagons to York from Baltimore County, Md.
The granite pillars used as supports in the
front of the court house were brought from
Maryland on the railroad in 1840, soon after
its completion, to York. The cost of the
building was nearly $100,000. County notes
of the denomination of $3 were issued, and
also county bonds. It was completed in 1840.
The cupola was placed on it and the bell put
in position in 1847. The bell on the old
court house was brought to York from Eng-
land, and belonged to the Episcopal Church.
It has since been recast, and now is on St.
John's Church, North Beaver Street.


Prothonotavij, Recorder, Register, Clerk of
the Orphans' Court and Clerk of the Court of
Quarter Sessions. — These several offices were
established when the county courts were or-
ganized at York, in 1749, and were filled by
appointments made by the Governor of the
province before the constitution of 1776, and
under it, and the constitution of 1790 ap-
pointments were made by the supreme exec-
utive council or the governor of the com-

The constitution of 1838 changed this
plan to an election by the people. These
offices were for the first time filled in York
County by the voice of the people at the
general election held October 11, 1839. The
term of office then beganon the Ist day of
December after the election, until the adop-
tion of the New Constitution of 1873, when
the first Monday of January following the
election was authorized aa the time for aa-



suming the duties of oflSee. It will be noticed
from the following lists that during our early
colonial history the different ofBces were
tilled by one person for many years. George
Stevenson, who was an intelligent English-
man, and one of the first men of political
influence in the county, and who was also a
large land owner and a practical surveyor,
served continuously in all of these offices from
1749 to 1764. He soon afterward moved to
Carlisle, where he died.

rrothonotaries. — The following is a list of
the prothonotaries — George Stevenson, ap-
pointed in 1749; Samuel Johnston, 1704;
Archibald M' Lean, 1777; Henry Miller, 17S6;
John Edie, 1794; Charles William Hartley,
1800; William Barber, 180C.; Michael W.
Ash, 1823; Richard Porter, 1830; John W.
Hetrick, 1833; Benjamin J_,anius, 183fi; Will-
iam Ilgenfritz, elected Octoberll, 1839; Will-
iam Ilgenfritz, 1842; .John R Donnell,lS45;
John R. Donnell. 1848; Elijah Garretson,
1851 ; Josej)h Holland, 1854; Henry G. Bussev,
1857; Henry G. Bnssey, 1860; William Ilgen-
fritz, 1863; Thomas G. Cross, 1806; James
B. Ziegler, 1869: Frank Geise, 1872; William
Y. Link, 1875; Samuel B. Heiges. 1878; W.
H. Sitler, 1881; Samuel B. Hoff, 1884.

Recorders. — George Stevenson, appointed
in 1749; Samuel John.ston, 1764; Archibald
M'Lean, 1777; Jacob Barnitz, 1785; Jacob

B. Wentz, 1824 ; Frederick Eichelberger,
1829; Charles Xes, 1830; Michael Doudel,
1833; Daniel May, 1836; William Schall,
elected in 1839; William Schall, 1842; Edwin

C. Eppley, 1845; Edwin C. Eppley, 1848;
William Tash, 1851; William Tash, 1854;
George Wehrly, 1857; Amos Shearer, i860;
William B. Woods, 1863: Henry Reisinger,
1866 ; Noah Ehrhart. 1869 ; William H.
Schweitzer, 1872; James R. Schmidt, 1875;
Jacob Lanius. 1878, E. C. Grevemeyer,
1881; Wesley Glatfelter, 1884.

Registers. — George Stevenson, appointed
in 1749; Samuel Johnston 1764; Archibald
McLean, 1777; Jacob Bai-nitz. 1785; Jacob B.
Wentz, 1824; Frederick Eichelberger, 1829;
William P. Fisher 18.30; Jesse Spangler, 1830;
Michael Doudel, 1833; James R. Reily, 1836:
John Stable, elected in 1839; John" Stahle,
1842; David Bender, 1845; Jacob Glessner,
1848; George Maish, 1851; William Davis,
1854; Abraham Hershey, 1857; Amos Shearer,
1860; William Philby," 1863; Jacob Stickle,
1866; George Pollinger, 1869; John Giesey,
1872; Christian S. Gerber, 1875; (Mr. Gerber
died while in office); James Kell, appointed
February, 1877; John S. Hiestand, elected in
1877; Oliver Stuck, 1880; Henry W. Bow-
man, 1883.

Clerks of the Orphan's Courts and Court
of Quarter Sessions. — George Stephenson,
appointed in 1749; Samuel Johnston, 1764;
Archibard M'Lean, 1777; Henry Miller,
1780; John Edie, 1794; Charles W. Hartley,
1800; William Barber, 1806; Adam King,
1818; Robert Hamersly, 1821; Adam King,
1823; Jacob Spangler, 1827; Jacob B.
Wentz, 1830; George Frysinger, 1838;
George A. Barnitz, elected October, 1839;
George A. Barnitz, 1842; John A. Wilson,
1845; John A. Wilson, 1848; Thomas Jami-
son, 1851; Joseph O. Stewart, 1854; John
Reeser, 1857; William Tash, 1860; Samuel
I Ziegler, 1863; William Tash, 1866; Will-
iam L. Keech, 1869; E. D. Bentzel, 1872;
I B. F. Koller, 1875; William A. Thompson,
i 1878; J. Alexander Blasser, 1881; William
F. Ramsay, 1884.

Treasurers. — From 1749 to 1841, a period
of nearly 100 years, the county treasurers
were appointed annually by the county com-
missioners. Some of them were re-appointed
several times as the accompanying dates will
indicate. An Act of Legislature, passed
May 27, 1841, made this an elective office,
the incumbent to serve two years. The con-
stitution of 1873 extended the term to three
years. David McConaughv, appointed in
; 1749; Thomas McCartney, 17"52; Hugh White-
1 ford, 1(54; Robert McPherson, 1755; Fred-
erick Gelwicks, 1756; William Delap, 1757;
John Blackburn, 1(59; David McConaughy,
1764; John Blackburn, 1766; Robert
McPherson, 1767; Michael Schwaabe, 1769;
Michael Hahn, 1777; John Hay, 1778; Ru^
dolph Spangler, 1801; John Forsyth, 1805;
John Strohman, 1808; Peter Kurtz, 1811;
I George Spangler, 1814; William Nes, 1817;
j Henry Smyser, 1820; John Voglesong, 1823;
Peter Ahl, 1826; Jacob Bayler, 1829; Daniel
I Hartman, 1832; John W. Hetrick, elected,
; 1841; John McConkey, 1843; Samuel
I McCurdy, 1845; Peter Ahl, Jr., 1849; Samuel
j Fry, 1851; Edie Patterson, 1853; Alexan-
der Wentz, 1855; John Stough,1857; George
W. Stair, 1859; Henry Bender, 1861; Zacha-
riah Heindel, 1863;" George Daron, 1865;
; John Glalfeller, 1867; John M. Deitch,
1869; Henry Bortner, 1871; Herman Noss,
: 1773; William Frey, 1875; Adam F. Geesey,
! 1878 ; John Landis. 1881 ; Henry Neater, 1884.
Chief Ranger. — George Stevenson, who
was so much honored in the early days of
this country, filled an office which is now
unknown in our laws. James Hamilton,
deputy governor of Pennsylvania, constituted
him on January 7, 1750, Chief Ranger of
and for the county of York ; granting "full
, power and authority to range, view and in-


spect all our woods and lands within the
said county, and to seize, take up, and ap-
propriate to our use all and every such wild
colts or young horses, cattle, and swine, as
shall be found within the bounds of said
county, that are not marked by the owners
of their dams, and ai'e liable to be seized by
law ; and also all marked strays for which
DO lawful owners can be found, that may
be taken up in the said county, and to
publish every such stray in the most public
places in the said county for the space of
one year, and also keeping some public
mark of their being strays for the said
space about theia, hereby requiring you to
sue and prosecute all persons presuming to
act contrary to law in cutting down and
destroying any of our timber, trees or wood,
or that shall in any wise invade the powers
hereby granted to you within the said

This commission of Chief Ranger induces
us to transcribe a few passages connected
therewith from the records of Quarter Ses-
sions for the county.

" Moses Wallace of Chanceford Township,
his marks for horses, cattle, sheep, swine,
&c., a crop on the left ear, etc. Brand an
I on the near shoulder and buttocks. April

" James Hetrick, his marks, a crop and
slit on the off ear, and a slit in the ear.
Brand, a fleur-de-luce, on the near buttocks.
May 2, 1751."

"Alexander Creighton, Shrewsbury Town-
ship, his brand for horses, etc. A C on the
near buttocks ; and marks for cattle, sheep,
swine, etc. , a crop in the off ear, a half penny
out of the forepart of the near ear. June
26, 1751."

" The marks of Jacob Shetter's hogs and
cattle ; the off ear cropt, and the near slit.
Entered January 10, 1757."

County Surveyors. — The office of Surveyor
General of the State was created by act of
April 9, 1784 This office was empowered
to appoint a deputy in any county of the
State. The first appointment made for York
County was Jacob Spangler, in 1800, who
was many times reappointed and afterward
elected surveyor -general. On April 9,
1850, an act was passed, making this an
elective office. The first election was held
in October, 1850. The county surveyor under
the provisions of this act serves a term of
three years. The following is a list of
those elected by the people : Christian S.
Gerber, 1850 ; Christian S. Gerber, 1853 ;
Christian S. Gerber, 1856 ; Benjamin Leeae,
1859 ; Benjamin Leese, 1862 ; Samuel N.

Bailey, 1865 ; Benjamin Leese, 1868 ; Ben-
jamin Leese, 1871 ; William L. Keech,
1874 ; William T. Williams, 1877 ; William
T. Williams, 1881 ; James H. Blasser, 1884.


The laws of England were strictly carried
out by our Provincial Government, hence it
was not uncommon during the early history
of our county courts, for criminals, convicted
of crime, to be sentenced to undergo the
excruciating punishment of the whipping-
post and the pillory. Some were sold into
temporary slavery. There were a few con-
victs sentenced to the " county gaol " in 1750,
during the second year after the establish-
ment of county courts.

At the July session of court, 1768, the
county commissioners, Joseph Updegraff,
Hugh Dunwoodie, and William Gemmill,
requested that the ''county prison be en-
larged, as it was too small for a work-house
and prison, and the walls are not safe,"
whereupon the court ordered them to erect an
additional building. It was erected of blue
limestone, from quarries near York, the next
year. The work was superintended by Will-
iam Willis. It stood on the corner of South
George and King Streets, familiarly known
aa " the old jail corner," was used until
1855, and torn down a few years later by
Ambrose Schmidt, of York, now of Hanover,
and ex-sheriff Pf abler.


The old prison became dilapidated, was
too small for the demand and not at a suitable
place, consequently in 1854, county commis-
sioners, George Dick, John Myers and Felix C.
Herbert entered into contracts for the erection
of the present jail and work-house, with Jacob
Gotwalt, of York. The sandstone in the
front wall and in the tower, were furnished
by Henry Kochenour, of Conewago Township.
The blue limestone used was obtained from
John Winter's quaiTy near York. Edward
HaviJand, of York, was the architect. The
chief contractor let out subcontracts for
work to Peter and James McGuigan and
William Gearing, of York. The rough stone-
work was done by Joseph Toiler, and the
tower and sandstone work by a man from


The laws now in force in Pennsylvania
for the maintenance of the poor and helpless,
were borrowed in their leading features from
those instituted in England in the reign of


Queen Elizabeth. They were introduced
into the State by act of Assembly in 1771.

During our early colonial history the
poor of each township were maintained by
the people of the district, and '"overseers of
the poor, " one for each township, were ap-
pointed by the coui't justices.

At a court of private sessions of the
peace held at York, for York County, on
March 26, 1750, in the twenty-third year of
the reign of George IT, before John Day,
Thomas Cox, George Swope and Patrick
Watson, Esqrs., the following named persons
were appointed overseers of the poor for
York County:

Yorktown, William Sinkler (Sinclair), and

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 63 of 218)