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

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one of the representatives from this county.
It was approved by Governor Geary on May
10, 1867. The charter members who were
empowered to receive subscriptions and
organize a company, were Joseph Smyser,
Jason H. Slusser, Philip A. Small, Samuel
S. Hersh and Jacob Graver. The charter
allowed a capital stock company of 2,500
shares of $20 each, and required that within
a specified time at least five miles of the road
be completed.

At an election held in the court house De-
cember 26, 1867, Samuel S. Hersh was chos-
en president of the company, Jere Carl,
treasurer, and Joseph Smyser, Stephen G.
Boyd, Jacob Craver, Jason H. Slusser and
Jacob Weiser, managers. At a subsequent
meeting, George A. Heckert was made secre-
tary. Upon the resignation of Joseph Sm}'-
ser, Z, K. Loucks was selected one of the
managers in March, 1868. On the same day
Joseph Russell was appointed superintendent
and empowered to employ workmen. Daniel
M. Ettinger was appointed engineer of the
proposed road, Jacob Loucks became a mem-
ber of the board of managers upon the resig-
nation of Jason Slusser, and Z. K. Loucks
succeeded S. S. Hersh as president. Part of
the road being completed, tollgate No. 1



was established and Augustus G. Weiser ap-
pointed keeper. The first dividend was declar-
ed November 9, 1870. The 28th day of August,
1871, toll-gate No. 2 was erected and Charles
Keesey, appointed keeper. Five and one-
half miles were completed the same year,
and the work was discontinued until 1879,
when one-half mile more was added. Peter
Grim kept gate No. 1 for many years; in
March, 1885, Michael Grim succeeded him.
Henry Stabley is present keeper of gate No.
2. The present capital of the company is
140,120 or 2,056 shares. Z. K. Loucks is
president, Jere Carl, secretary and treasurer,
Jacob Loucks, N. Lehmayer, Jonathan Jes-
sop, William E. Patterson and John B. Say-
ers, managers.



One of the most notable events in the
history of internal improvements in the
State of Pennsylvania was the opening
of a navigable canal around the Conewago
Falls, on the west side of the Sus-
quehanna River at the point, since the
year 1814, known as York Haven. It was
the tii'st canal built in this State, and, so far
as definite records go, the first in the United
States. Its history antedates the history of
York Haven many years. It was the initia-
tory step which inaugurated a great system
of artificial navigation and internal improve-
ment in our State.

Early River Navigation — The original
mode of transportation on the Susque-
hanna, as on many other rivers, was with
the "dug outs. " They were made in im-
itation of the Indian canoe, and consisted of
a log, usually of pine, with a portion of it
dug out like a trough. The Indian traders
used them to convey furs and other products
down the stream. The "battoe," a sort of flat-
boat was used next, and was considered of
great value to early settlers and traders along
the Susquehanna. But for river navigation
on a more extended scale, the "keel-boats"
were of great importance in the transporta-
tion of goods and products. Many thousands
of bushels of rye, oats, corn, wheat and po-
tatoes were brought down the river in them.
They obtained their name from the fact that
the lowest piece of timber in them, named a
keel, ran the whole length of the boat from
the lower part of the stem to the stern-post,
and supported the whole boat. Sometimes
two keels were used. On account of the
rapids or falls at the mouth of the Conewago
creek, these boats could not pass down the

river further than Middletown, which, until
1797, was a great port for them. It was
about the time of the close of the Revolution-
ary war, in 1783, possibly, earlier, that the
"dug outs" were succeeded by the ''keel
boats." The former were no longer consid-
ered adequate to the business. The latter
were generally built in the valuable wooded
districts up the Susquehanna and its
branches, and floated down with the current,
bearing from five to thirty tons of jiroJuce.

Middletown, at the mouth of the Swatara,
was the lowest port of entry. Here the
produce was transferred to the shore and
transported overland, by means of wagons,
to the Eastern markets. The return trip of
these boats was more difficult. They were
forced up the current with "set poles," and
contained usually a light load of groceries,
hardware and other merchandise. Boatmen
would start at the head of the boat and set
their poles on the bottom of the river, and
then walk down what was called "runs," thus
forcing the boat up the stream as fast as a
person could walk. Many thousands of
bushels of wheat, corn and potatoes were
thus conveyed down the stream and unloaded
at Middletown. The business interests of
the town became very important. On account
of the increase of the business, some boats
I were landed on the west side of the Susque-
; hanna above the Conewago Falls which was
the great barrier to further navigation of keel
bolits. The products from these boats were
conveyed to the city of Baltimore. The town
of Falmouth was then laid out on the east
side of the river, opposite the site of York
Haven, by James Hopkins, Thomas Bailey,
James Keys and John Greer. But the ex-
pense of overland transportation of goods
from Middletown, Falmouth and the port of
entry on the York County side of the river,
was too great to afford merchants much profit
on acceunt of competition from other sources.
Plans to extend Navigation and remove
Obstacles. — Enterprising business men then
began to consider the great question and
devise some plan by means of which the
obstacles to navigation at Conewago Falls
might be avoided, and a passage down the
Susquehanna River to its mouth be accom-
plished. Bertram Galbreath, a prominent
land surveyor, who lived at Bainbridge,
Lancaster County, and other influential citi-
zens were appointed by the State authorities
, a committee to explore the river and report
I some feasible plan of avoiding the obstruc-
tions. The Revolutionary war prevented
further action immediately, and the matter
was deferred. In the year 1789, Thomas


Hulings, Berti-am Galbreath and Samuel
Boyd were appointed commissioners to ex- !
plore the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers.
On the SOth of January, 1790, they reported :
"The Conewago Falls, about fourteen miles
above Wright's Ferry, was the great obstruc
tion and bar to the wealth and population of
our western country." They urged that a j
canal should be built around them. This
proposition was encouraged by all enterpris-
ing citizens who were directly or indirectly i
interested, and the legislature of Pennsyl-
vania was soon petitioned to furnish aid. It
became an important subject of discussion
among legislators. On which side of the
river to construct the proposed canal was a
subject which caused considerable debate.
The commissioners appointed to view the
obstructions recommended that a canal be
built one mile long, thirty-three feet wide
and nine feet deep, with a fall of nineteen
feet. They did not recommend locks to
raise the boats to a level with the head of the
falls. Gov. Thomas Mifflin, who was elected
in 1790, and was a gi-eat advocate of further-
ing any enterprise that encouraged internal
improvement, called to his counsel some of
the most skillful civil engineers of the time.
They decided that nineteen feet fall in one
mile would make it impossible for a keel
boat to ascend it against the rapid current.
State Aid Received and Canal Constructed.
On April 13, 1791, the legislatixre of Penn-
sylvania appropriated £5,250 "to improve the
Susquehanna River from "Wright's ferry, to
the mouth of the Swatara." One hundred
and fifty pounds of this sum were spent at
Chickie's Falls, and £100 at Hadleman's
riffles. On the 3d of July, 1 792, a contract
was entered into by Gov. Mifflin on the part
of the State of Pennsylvania and a number of
prominent citizens of the commonwealth, most
of them from Philadelphia, as follows: Robert
MoiTis (the great financier of the Revolution ),
William Smith,Walter Stewart, Samuel Mere-
dith, John Steinmetz, Tench Francis, John
Nicholson, Samuel Miles, Timothy Matlock,
David Rittenhouse, Samuel Powell, Alexan-
der James Dallas, William Bingham, Henry
Miller, Abram Witmer and Dr. Robert Har-
ris. These gentlemen were apjjointed a
committee to construct a canal forty feet wide
and four feet deep around Conewago Falls.
James Brindley, their engineer, seems to
have estimated the entire cost of the canal at
$20,000. The State appropriated one-half of
this amount The comj^any found, how-
ever, that by the time it was completed
$102,000 were expended. It was well con-
structed, the work being excellently done

and the canal substantially built. The bricks
used are still in an excellent state of preser-
vation, and are now again being put to
practical use by the paper-mill company,
which is erecting works there. They were
made from clay found in the vicinity, the
pits being still visible.

The canal, when completed, was about one
mile long, and contained substantial locks.
It 'was finally completed in 1795 or 1796.
It was a great event to the interests of the
interior of the State, and became a great cen-
ter of attraction.

Interesting Events at the Opening of the
Canal.^ Governor Mifflin Present. — The sig-
nificance of this improvement was shown
from the importance attached to celebrating
its completion and the opening of it. This
occurred on the 22d of November, 1797.
Thomas Mifflin, one of the projectors of it,
and who was still governor of the State, and
a number of distinguished attendants arrived
on horseback at the foot of the falls on the
Lancaster County side. A large concourse
of people from York and the vicinity, had con-
gregated along the canal. The commissioners
and the Rev. Dr. Smith had already crossed
the river to the York County side. Some of
the ingenious workmen began to drill holes
in the adjoining rocks, which they filled with
powder. The governor and his party came
across the rivet in flat-boats, amid the sleet
and snow, fully determined, even though the
weather was inclement, to fulfill their
intentions. Just as he set foot on the York
County shore, there was one grand triumphant
cheer from the gathered crowd, and a loud
explosion from the amateur cannon as a sig-
nificant salute. The dignified officer, who
had been a general in the Revolutionary Army,
and under whom some of the mingled multi-
tude had bravely fought in the battle of
Brandywine, was thrice welcome to again set
foot on the soil of York County. As he
up and down the canal in a flat, boat,
number of salutes were fired in order to
enliven the occasion. The canal had two
locks at the lower end, each eighty feet
long and twelve feet wide. When the dis-
tinguished guests arrived, they were placed
on flat-boats prepared for the occasion, and
when they entered the chamber of the first
lock and the lower gate closed behind them,
they were astonished to find that their boats
in a few minutes had risen nine feet. Ice
had formed on the canal, and it had to be
broken with poles to enable the boats to pro-
j ceed. They passed up the canal amid the
I exultant cheers of the multitude, and the
I firing of salutes from the adjoining rocks.


At the head of the canal were several keel
boats, that had come down from Middletown.
By the time the governor returned to the
lower end again, an audience of over GOO
people had assembled, awaiting a speech
from their honored and worthy chief
magistrate. Gov. Mifflin was of Quaker
ancestry, and was a gentleman of line literary
attainments, and of handsome appearance.
He served nine years as governor of Penn-
sylvania, and had distinguished himself in
other capacities, as a civilian and a soldier
of rare distinction. He addressed the de-
lighted audience, congratulating them on the
auspicious event, and then departed for the
Lancaster County side.

Navigation to Columbia and to Tide Water
Opened. — The canal was now completed and
opened for free navigation. A German by the
name of Kreider, from the Juniata Valley,soon
appeared with a boat heavily freighted with
flour, which he safely landed three days later
at the city of Baltimore. His success became
known, and the following year many others
did the same and were handsomely paid for
their efforts. Many landed at Columbia, and
their merchandise from there conveyed to
Philadelphia. Just what were the conditions
of the venture at first cannot now be accu-
rately told. Experienced pilots had soon
after succeeded in guiding large "arks"
. safely through the falls of the river. By the
charter incorporating the company it was to
afford free navigation, and just how the canal
company was to be remunerated does not at
first seem clear, especially if the arks were
successful in passing the falls, and disposing
of the produce transported on them to any
desired market. Many thousands of dollars
were at first lost by the company, and they
applied to the legislature for relief. Event-
ually some State relief was received, and a
small amount of toll charged for each boat
that passed through the canal. From 1797
to 1814, the affairs were managed by the ca-
nal company, and proved quite a success. An
attempt was made by James Hopkins, a
wealthy personage, during this period, to
build a canal around the falls on the opposite
side of the river, in which venture he lost a
large fortune. It was intended as an oppo-
sition canal to the one on the York County
side, but proved to be a disastrous failure.
A flouring-mill and other buildings were
erected in the immediate vicinity of the canal
on the York County side, by the company that
controlled it. This property, in 1797, was
valued at £1,280 currency, which valuation
included 150 acres of land. In 1810 a Phil-
adelphia company, of which Thomas Willing

Frances was president, owned a large mer-
chant mill, ferry, and sundry buildings val-
ued at $30,000.

The further history of this important busi-
ness center will be found under the title of
York Haven, in the chapter on Newberry


Causes which led to its Origin. — The
Pennsylvania Railroad from Philadelphia to
Columbia, and canal to the junction there,
thence by the Juniata to Hollidaysburg and
Portage road to Johnstown, west of the Alle-
ghany Mountains, and canal to Pittsburgh,
constituted what was, in 1831, known as the
" Main Line," and as such is still maintained
in the system of internal improvement of
Pennsylvania, with the exception of the aban-
donment of a part of the original canal de-
partment of the works from Pittsburgh east
as far as Huntingdon, on the Juniata. The
canal, from the junction to Northumberland,
thence by the North and West Branch to
Wilkesbarre and Williamsport respectively,
is known as the North and West Branch
Division of the system mentioned. These
works were put under contract in the order
given, as early as 1826 and 1827. The main
line of canal was finished to connect with the
Union Canal at Middletown, in 1830, and to
Columbia in 1831, the North and West
Branch a year or two later. Trade over the
line was promptly commenced under the aus-
pices of several transportation companies,
conspicuous which were " D. Leech & Co's
Transportation Line," "Union Line,"
"Dougherty's Section Boat Line," and in
due time several other lines, besides several
packet boat lines running from Columbia in
connection with the railroad to and from
Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, thus making the
traveling and freight facilities over the main
line, complete at that time, and during the
subsequent two years to Northumberland,
over the North and West Branch of the Sus-
quehanna, to Wilkesbarre and Williamsport,
the two remotest points on the Susquehanna
at that time. The packet lines were thus en-
abled to supplant the "old stage coach"
lines, stopping at all the regular stations, and
eligible points for the accommodation of the
traveling public. The lines were cast, and
" all aboard,'' and a blast of the bugle-horn,
set them off to the nest station, and thus it
went on to the close of navigation every fall.

Plans for and Construction of the New
Canal. — This route was soon discovered to
be too long, tedious and expensive, and a
s-reat clamor went forth for a canal from


Columbia down the Susquehanna to the
Chesapeake Bay in order that an outlet to a
better grain market might be reached and
for the development of the coal helds and
lumber interests of the north and west
branches, for which purpose a stock company
was formed in 1S24, with a paid up capital
of $1,500,000, and the Susquehanna & Tide
Water Canal was chartered by the States of
Pennsylvania and Maryland, respectively, on
April 15, 1835, with the following-named
persons as commissioners: Robert Mc-
Curdy, James M. Sanderson, Edward Cole-
man, Simon Gratz, Charles S. Boker, Henry
White, George H. Hickling, of Philadelphia;
Jeremiah Brown, James A. Caldwell, Lancas-
ter County; Evan Green of Columbia, Lancas-
ter County ;Chas. A. Barnitz, York, Jacob M.
Haldeman, Harrisburg; Simon Cameron, Mid
dletown; James Hepburn, John C. Boyd,
Northumberland County; Joseph Todhunter,
William Bose, Samuel Jones, Baltimore;
James Evans, Port Deposit, Md. ; Eolaud
Curtin, Center County, Penn.; Wiliam Mc-
Elvay, Columbia County, and George M.
Hollenback, Luzerrne County, Penn.

At the first meeting of the stockholders
after the incorporation, a board of directors
were elected and James Hepburn of North-
umberland, was made the first president; F.
Palmer oE Philadelphia, treasurer, and
Edward F. Gay, chief engineer. The first
survey and location was made on the east
side of the Susquehanna, and on March
21, 1836, a supplementary act was passed
authorizing the commissioners to change the
location to the west side of the river, by
means of a dam and a tow-path bridge at
Columbia. The work was then let, and the
construction commenced immediately in the
spring of 1836, and finished so far as to ad-
mit the water, late in the fall of 1839.

Opening of the Canal. — In order to test
the retentive qualities of the bed and banks
of the canal, and immediately thereafter the
gi-and opening took place, upon which occa-
sion were present some of the most dis-
tinguished persons of Pennsylvania and
Maryland. It was on that memorable occa-
sion, that Hon. Nicholas Biddle, of Philadel-
phia, made his famous speech on "Internal
Improvements," then a subject of paramount
importance, in view of the development of
the great material wealth of the States. The
excursion was a great success, but the gentle-
men composing it, had scarcely reached
home, when disastrous breaks occurred, ex-
tending along the greater part of the line,
the most extensive of which occurred at the
Otter Creek aqueduct, at the York Furnace,

in lower Chanceford Township, owing to de-
fects in the puddling of the wings forming
the junction with the aqueduct. The bed
and banks of the canal at this point are held
in place by winged abutments, and retaining
walls of huge blocks of granite, thirty-five
feet above the bed of the river. The inter-
val embracing the work is four miles long,
fifty feet wide, six feet deep, and when a
body of water, occupying so large an area
gains egress through an artificial earth struct
ure it instantly becomes irresistible, leaving
nothing behind but absolute destruction.
Even the heavy blocks of stone were washed
away into the river.

Cost of Construction and Repairs. — Al-
though this break was much the largest
of the series, it nevertheless cost less to re-
pair it than the aggregate cost of the nuiner
ons smaller breaks. It was unfortunate that
these disasters should have occurred at a
time when there was no money in the treas-
ury, no credit, and the company deeply in-
volved in debt. Means were nevertheless
availed by the directors upon their individual
responsibility, and the work was repaired
during the winter, and the canal formerly
opened to the public in the spring of 1840,
at an entire cost of nearly $4,000,000. Of
this sum the Columbia dam cost $220,000.
Towing-path bridge, including cost of right
to attach the same to the superstructure of
the Columbia Bank and Bridge Company's
structure, cost $90,000; and the Havre de
Grace lock, four miles long, and outlet lock, cost
$500,000. The reason why the work cost so
much more than the chief engineer's esti-
mate was largely due to unforseen contin-
gencies, for the cost of which no provisions
were made, and, once under process of con-
struction, had to be surmounted at a cost
however great. The sudden advance in labor,
and the extra cost in suitable material for the
bed and banks of the canal, which had to be
dug from the fields on the tops of high hills,
and dumped into expensive shute-ways to the
rocky bed of the canal, and then disposed in
carts to such points which were largely defi-
cient in material, were also a cause of great
expense. More than nine tenths of the work
is founded on the foot rocks of the hill-side
in the river, and numerous points of bold
rocky bluffs were blasted away in order to re-
duce the radius within the lines of free and
easy navigation. Deep pools and chasms
were filled and crossed upon substructures
of huge oak timbers, adjusted longitudinally
several feet below the lowest stage of the
river, upon which many of the high vertical
retaining walls are founded, and remain



intact, except below Conewingo, 100 feet of
which slipped from its footing into "Job's
Hole," 150 feet deep, in 1861, and although
the wall has not been rebuilt, the notch is
permanently closed and more reliable than
before the occurrence took place.

Navigation. — During the season of 1840,
the trade was dull, and the revenue proportion-
ately small — owing in a great degree to the in-
stability of the canal, the want of boats, and a
change in the development of the coal and
timber interests in north and west branches
of the Susquehanna. The trade, however, soon
commenced to increase rapidly for many years,
until it reached its maximum in 1870, when
it was largely divided and gradually dimin-
ished, by reason of many railroad lines tap-
ping the sources of a large trade created by
the opening of the Susquehanna and Tide-
water Canals. In the meantime, however, the
capacity of the work has been greatly in-
creased, boats have descended with cargoes
as high as 150 tons, instead of sixty tons in

Description of Canal and its Benefits toYork
County. — This canal starts atColumbia,Penn.,
where it unites with the Pennsylvania Canal,
crosses the Susquehanna to Wrightsville, and
extends from thence along the river to Havre
de Grace, Md. , at the head of Chesapeake Bay.
Its length is forty- live miles, of which thirty
miles are in York County and lifteen in Ma-
ryland. The lower portion south to the State
line is the Tide-water Canal. As early as
1814 a route had been surveyed by Baltimore
capitalists, with the design of building a canal
from the Susquehanna, near York, to Tide-
water, for the purpose of attracting the trade
of the upper Susquehanna Valley to Balti-
more. There was nothing accomplished at
that time, and the era of railroads had al-
ready begun in York County before this canal
was constructed. On its entire line are forty-
three locks, four dams, five culverts, eighteen
bridges, thirty-three waste-ways and wiers,
and six aqueducts. The surface width of the
canal is fifty feet, and its depth five and a
half to six feet. The locks are one hundred
and seventy feet long, and seventeen feet
wide. In January, 1872, the Beading Rail-
road Company leased the canals, and have
operated them since. The people of the
lower end of York County gave it hearty en-
couragement. Before its constniction all the
lime used in the lower end of York County
was hauled in wagons from the valleys around
York to the lower townships. Lime became
extensively used in the azoic slate soils, and
either in the form of the natural stone, or as
quick- lime, was transported down the canal

from the Canojohela and Grist (Kreutz) Creek
Valleys. It had a magic effect on the land
at first, and caused the crops of wheat,
rye, corn and oats, to produce much more

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 69 of 218)