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

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the Civil war, can now be named. The sugar
beet could be cultivated.


The COWS brought here first were long-
horned, hooked backward, many of them of
brindle color. They were a large-sized, clean-
limbed animal. Short-horns were not intro-
duced until 1830, Devons much later, and
Jerseys during the civil war. Long-wooled
sheep were raised. Many farmers during the
Revolutionary period owned from ten to
twenty of these animals. Merino sheep were
introduced from Spain early in the present

Previous to the settlement of America, the
domestic animals of Europe fed on "natural "
pastures. The grasses were not culitvated as
they now are. The artificial seeding to grass
only became common in Europe and America,
toward the close of the last century. There
were many kinds of grasses indigenous to this

section, but they were not well suited for pas-
turing piu-poses; hence domestic animals
deteriorated. The faithful horse and the ox,
both of which were much used for farming,
as well as the milk cow, deteriorated in size
and form, and became smaller than their pro-
genitors. The native Indian corn was found
to be healthful and nutritious food for them,
and greatly counterbalanced the influence of
the grass food.

During the colonial period, the products
of agriculture and of the forests constituted
the principal articles taken " to market;" first
conveyed from our county to Philadelphia
and Baltimore on pack horses and afterward
on rudely constructed -^^agons.

Since 1870, the fattening of cattle for mar-
ket has become a very important business.
Thousands of them are sold annually in the
town of Hanover and shipped to Baltimore,
a few to Philadelphia. In the fertile lands
around York, and in many sections of the
county, farmers find it a profitable business.


The successful introduction of rye, and
the gradual increase in the cultivation of In-
dian corn, led to the business of distilling
liquor from these cereals. Wheat was also
used in distilling. In fact, among the agri-
cultural classes, it was a very important in-
dustry, especially with the Germans and the
Scotch-Irish. As early as 1770, there were
sixteen distilleries in Dover Township,
eighteen in Manchester, and equally as
many in Hellam, Windsor, Shrewsbury,
Manheim and Codorus Townships. Whisky
after being made was hauled to Balti-
paore. The industrious Teuton and the
impetuous Hibernian or Scotchman, did
not fail in those days to quench his own
thirst with some of the inspiriting fluid. It
was a very common drink among the agricul-
tural classes, and considered a necessity at
harvest time. The whisky of those days, it
IS claimed, was pure and undefiled. Those
were halcyon days for the manufacture of
whisJjy. No internal revenue assessor need
apply. Strange as it may seem, the Friends
used it, but woe unto the one who drank
too freely. He was sure to be " put out of
meeting." There are a number of cases in
the records of the Newberry and Warrington
meetings, of members of the Society of
Friends, being "brought before meeting"
for imbibing too freely of ardent spirits. It
was necessary for them to make a public
acknowledgement of it, and they were then

The business of distilling greatly increased.


At first rye was mostly used. Then corn was
found to be especially valuable for the same
purpose. Fi-om 1810 to IS-IO, nearly one-
fifth of the farmers of York County owned
a "copper still," by which they, distilled
their own cereals into whisky and hauled it
to Baltimore. Hundreds of those stills were
made in York and Hanover.


Wagoning to Philadelphia and Baltimore
became a great business, taking to these
markets the supplies of grain, distilled
liquors, etc., and returning with goods and
merchandise for local merchants, or to be
hauled to towns farther north or west. Most
of the hauling was done in the winter, when
the horses were not needed on the farm. The
famous "Conestago wagons" were used, and
many teamsters made it a business, year after
year, to follow wagoning from Philadelphia
and Baltimore to Pittsburg. Four, six, and
eight-horse teams were common; some of the
animals were furnished with bells, fitted so
as to form an arch over the collar. The
large wheel-horse carried the bass bells, and
the other animals had bells producing differ-
ent notes, selected to harmonize or chime.
The wagons were masterpieces of workman-
ship, with the wheels painted red and the bed
blue. This wagoning business caused tav-
erns to spring up without number along the
leading thoroughfares. To men who followed
this wagoning, the railroad was an innova-
tion and an unwelcome improvement. The
following song, which many persons yet re-
member having heard, will illustrate the
teamster's opinion of the new invention:

"May the d — 1 catch the fellow who first invented

the plan
To make a railroad or a canal,

For they ruin our plantation wherever they do
And they spoil om-marliets that we can't sell ahoss.

Chorus — Can't sell a hoss.
"Now come all you bold wagoners that have good
Go home to your farms and there spend your
When your harvest is over, and your corn is in the
You have nothing else to do but to curse the rail-

Chorus — Curse the railroad.''

The bar-room of the wayside tavern was
often made to ring with this ballad, as well
as the turnpike road in the morning, lined
with these wagons.

"Philadelphia was the nearest place to mar-
ket," to which the first settlers, until about
1770 conveyed most of their surplus grain. For
more than a century of our early history that
city was the metropolis of America, and the

most important emporium for the exportation
of wheat. Later, the tendency of York
County farmers was to market in Baltimore,
until York Haven in 1811 became a great
wheat emporium on account of the merchant
mills there. Since 1830 York has been the
great center for the sale and purchase of
grain; Hanover second in importance. Large
quantities are purchased at Groldsboro, Dills-
burg, Wrightsville, and at the numerous
merchant mills and railway stations at which
le been erected.


Carriages are a luxury of recent use to the
farmers of York County, and yet to-day there
are thousands of them owned by farmers and
their sons. If our great grandfathers were
now to attend a modern camp-meeting and
see the array of these modern vehicles, they
would be astonished. The old-fashioned gig
was owned by a few persons, and some of the
wealthy owned a chaise, for a pleasure wagon
as far back as 1770. In 1783 there were
but thirty of them assessed in the entire
county, including Adams County. They
were then generally called a "chair." In
1830 the modern carriage began to be made.
Previous to that time most of the traveling
was done on horseback. People went to
church in that way. In the southern part of
the county many went in ox carts. Among the
Quakers horseback riding was the universal
mode. The women of those days became
very skillful and daring in the practice.
Children were frequently taken along and
made to sit in front or behind the rider.
Maidens of sixteen or eighteen would take
! butter and eggs to market in a basket on
horseback and heartily enjoyed it.


The fields were plowed in "lands'' by
several furrows being thrown together. In
hai'vest time two or four reapers would take
a " land." The harvest season was a time of
great enjoyment. Neighboring farmers as-
sisted each other. Ten, fifteen, and some-
I times as many as a hundred reapers, both
I meu and women, worked in one field as a gay,
1 lively company. Town people went to assist.
One "through" was reaped, the "grips"
' were bound on the return, and the keg of
ardent spirits tapped at the end of each
"round." Before the introduction of the
j cradle, tradesmen and townspeople all tem-
I porarily dropped their vocations, and went
\ to "help harvest." On the farm of George
Hoke, now William Hoke's place, in West
1 Manchester, in 18:^8, there were 102 reapers,


men and women, reaping with the sickle in
one field. They soon cut the grain of that
field, and went to another. About the same
time, near by, Peter Wolf had fifty-four
reapers at work. They passed along like a
moving battle line, and made an interesting
sight. A good reaper could cut forty-two
dozens of sheaves a day. The German scythe,
made of malleable iron, sharpened by ham-
mering the edge on a small anvil, was used
for mowing. The whetstone was carried by
the mower, with a horn containing water
mixed with vinegar. For cutting spelts, rye
and wheat, the sickle was almost universally
used until about the beginning of the war of
18r2, or possibly five years earlier, when the
grain cradle came into use in York County,
and in the country in general. The sickle
was indeed extensively used much later.


The following advertisement, which ap-
peared in the Pennsylvania Herald, published
then in York, dates the successful introduc-
tion of clover seed into York County. It had
been used by a very few persons as early as
176"i, but not much cultivated. The first
seed sold at a rate of what is now equivalent
to $20 a bushel. Owing to the dry season of
1838, the following year it sold for §20 a
bushel in York County, and for §17 during
the civil war.


Those farmers who would wish to improve their
land tind stock, and put money in their purses by
cultivating that valuable new article, CLOVER,
w ;uld be supijlied with SEED by applying to the
subscriber, near York, or to Samuel C. Updegraflf,
iu said town. Caleb Kirk.

February 14, 1793.

Pied clover and timothy, native grasses of
Europe, were not grown much in Pennsylva'-
nia before 1800, except to experiment. About
this date their introduction became general.
In some sections of York County they were
never successfully grown until after the era
of commercial fertilizers. The German scythe
could not cut them well, which caused the
introduction of the English scythe. These
new grasses grew well on upland regions.
They were found to be better food for domes-
tic animals than the native meadow grasses.
Spelt -wheat and barley held sway in York
County for nearly a century, when they gave
way, in the decade between 1820 and 1830,
to red wheat and the blue-stem wheat. The
ears were smooth. Many varieties of wheat
have since been cultivated with success. In
order to yield most abundantly, it is found
necessary to change the seed once in five or
six years.

cultivation of fruit trees.
As soon as a tract of land was cleared and
the young fruit trees could be obtained, an
abundance of apple, peach, pear and cherry
trees were planted. In no country did they
grow more luxuriantly than that of our an-
cestors. Winter apples, "cherry bouace,"
"apple jack" and "peach brandy" soon be
came plentiful. The "snitzings" and "apple-
butter boilings" were parties where mirth
and hilai-ity reigned.


There were no large barns, such as seen
now by the hundi'eds, in York County. The
fii'st ones were either log or stone. After a
few years, as saw-mills became established
along the streams, the huge trunks of the oak
and the walnut were sawed into scantlings
and boards, and some of the later immigrants,
who came from eastern counties of the State,
began at once to construct large buildings.
The rye. the only winter grain that produced
well at first, was very useful. Its straw was
used for thatching roofs, for making bee-
hives and bread-baskets. A well-made straw
roof lasted many years.

The second house built was two stories
high, of stone or logs, with weather- board-
ing. Many of them had a large chimney in
the center, after the German custom. The
English and Scotch custom was to build
chimneys on the outside of the house, one at
each gable end. They were made of stone
or brick. Among the wealthier classes large
buildings were constructed about the year
1812, and even earlier. In York, at a very
early day, there were some massive and im-
posing structures, with large apartments,
spacious hallways and easy stairs. Some of
the wood carving was beautifully done, show-
ing artistic workmanship. Among the farm-
ers, when a large mansion was built, it was
always the custom of the owner to honor his
wife by placing her name beside his own,
with the date of erection, on a tablet at a
conspicuous place on the building.


The price of land varied greatly at differ-
ent periods of our history. Some of the
most valuable was piu-chased of the proprie-
taries at a few shillings an acre. Owing to
the depreciation of the continental currency, it
became enormously high dui'ing, and shortly
after the war of the Revolution. In this
State it rose enormously in price after the
passage of the bill in the Pennsylvania legis-
lature, in 1814, establishing forty State
banks. Gov. Simon Snyder vetoed this bill,


but it was passed over his veto. Money in a
depreciated form became enormously plenty,
and farm land sold for more than double its
former and real value. In this cou^nty several
new towns were laid out that year on account
of the apparent prosperity. Among them
were Liverpool, Jeiferson, Franklintown, New
Market, Sowego, Georgetown, Millerstown,
Jacobstown, Siddonstown, and the old town
of Manchester. Some of them were only
"paper cities," and when the collapse soon
after came, their prospects of future great-
ness ended.


The first fertilizer used was barnyard
manure, which is still considered the best.
Plaster was applied before the present cen-
tury. Lime was used for plastering houses,
and for mason work, many years before its
virtues were known to generate the necessary
sustenance, and furnish it to the roots of the
growing crops. In 1817 it was experimented
with in Hellam and Spring Garden Town-
ships, but it was not much used in the
county on the land until about 1828; by 1830
it was put into general use. The conservative
sentiment of many farmers prevented them
from applying it for many years after, and
those who did use it were at first ridiculed as
foolish and visionaiy.

Societies and associations for the diffusion
of knowledge and the growth of the physical
sciences, especially chemistry and geology,
about this period, led to great developments
in agriculture. From that time forth agri-
culture began to be studied as a science, and
lime became very extensively used.

Bonedust, guano, phosphates, and other
artificial fertilizers, ate now used in great
abundance in York County, and seem to pro-
duce especially good results in slate and
shale lands.

The rotation of crops began with the intro-
duction of lime.


The introduction of the thrashing-machine,
superseding the laborious methods of tramp-
ling with horses and pounding with the flail,
was a great curiosity. At first only the
wealthy farmers bought them. Laboring men
and fogy farmers opposed them as an innova-
tion, injurious to the interests of the poor
man. It was not many years, however, be-
fore all enterprising farmers used them, and
the laboring man found his task much easier.
The same discussions arose when other labor-
saving machines were invented. " Taking
bread out of the poor man's mouth," was the
cry. Most men now would rather not put

the bread into the mouth at all, than re
turn to the old methods of sowing, harvest-
ing and thrashing the crops. It is quite
probable that the ancient Egyptian could
thrash and clean his grain, 3,000 or 4,000
years ago, as well as the York County farmer
could before the introduction of the thrashing
machine, when from six to twelve bushels per
day were what one man could thrash out with
the flail. By treading with horses, he could
possibly treble this amount. Then came the
horse-power, thrashing first 100, then 300 or
more bushels per day and cleaning it; finally,
the steam thrasher of to day, traveling from
farm to farm, and thrashing 600, 800, and
sometimes over 1,000 bushels in a day, or
50,000 bushels in a year.

The double- toothed, turning grain rake and
hay rake succeeded the common hand rake
about 1838, and continued in use until 1860.
The modern sulky rake, a still greater im-
provement, has since been used. The old
Colter plow gave place to the present much
easier running plow of to-day.

All the small cereals were, for an entire
century of the history of agriculture in York
County, sowed by hand and " harrowed or
plowed in." The grain drill came into use
in 1843 or thereabouts, and has, like many
other implements, undergone many changes
since. Perhaps the greatest triumph and
the one which created the most curiosity
among farmers, was the invention and suc-
cessful use of the mower and reaper. If a
farmer purchased one of these, all his neigh-
bors, for miles distant, went to see it operate.
It was then that the would-be friend of the
laboringman shook his head and said: "It is
taking bread out of the poor man's mouth. "
The McCormick reaper was the first to be
used in this county, introduced in 1853.
Various other kinds soon were purchased in
Hanover, York and Dover. Reaping ma-
chines, like thrashing machines, had been
devised centuries before in a crude form, but
it was not until the time of the great World's
Fair in London, in 1852, where the Amer-
ican machinery attracted so much attention,
that they came into prominent use. From
1852 to 1855 their circulation was immense,
and their manufacture very profitable. In
1855 Conrad Moul, of Hanover, began man-
ufacturing the "Hussey " reaper and mower.
Ilgenfritz & White, of York, the next year,
made the "Atkins." The following year,
Flickinger Bros., of Hanover, began making
the ''Dorsey," and Hoffheins, of Dover, his
own invention soon after. The McCormick
was invented and tried in 1831, and the
" Hussey " reaper in 1833. These were the



first American machines. A noticeable his-
torical fact is that Obed Hussey. the inventor,
was a descendant of Nathan Hussey, who was
one of the commissioners to lay off York
County in 1749, and one of the first Quaker
settlers in the county.

The typical York County farmer of to-day
is conservative, industrious and, in general,
prosperous. He labors hard from sun-up to
sun- down, during the summer months; strives
to constantly improve his laud and make his
farm and farm buildings more attractive
every year. The Pennsylvania German is
now the x^redominating class, many of them
lineal descendants of the first settlers. They
pursue their honorable and independent oc-
cupation without miTch knowledge of the
science of agriculture, yet by industry and
frugality have generally prospered. The
farm mansions and the large bank-barns,
painted in some predominating color, dot
every section of York County, and lend great
charm to the attractiveness of the landscape
scenery. The section occupied by the de-
scendants of the Scotch-Irish of recent years,
by improved cultivation has been made to
produce cereal crops beyond the expectation
of the most sanguine landowner of twenty
years ago.


The census of 1880 reports 4,008,9Q7 farms
in the United States, 213,542 in Pennsylvania
containing 91,791,341 acres, of which land 6,-
368,334 acres are unimproved and generally
covered with woods and forests. The value
of Pennsylvania farms is estimated at $975, -

The number of farms in York County in
1880, was 7,327, containing 516,269 acres.
There were 5,579 farms cultivated by their
owners, the rest by tenants. There were
101,096 acres of unimproved land, 91,839
acres of which was woodland, the balance
waste land. Value of farms in York County,
including lands, fences, and buildi'ngs, $31,-
142,021; value of farming implements and
machinery, $1,283,115; value of live stock,
$2,626,362; cost of fertilizers purchased,
$480,576; estimated value of all farm pro-
ductions for the preceding vear (1879) was
$4,623,232. During the same year there
were raised in York Countv, 1,211,340
bushels of wheat, on 81,805 acres; 141,052
bushels of rye, on 13,776 acres; 1,066,110
bushels of oats, on 46,120 acres; 1,739,885
bushels of corn, on 63,053 acres; 55,066
bushels of buckwheat, on 3,425 acres; 471
bushels of barley, on 28 acres.

There were raised 68 bushels'of flax seed,

producing 1,994 tons of straw, or 7,333
pounds of fiber, and 1,200 gallons of sor-
ghum molasses made. Of hay, there were
87,617 tons made and 5,543 bushels of clover
seed raised; poultry of all kinds, 247,704.
Number of eggs laid fgr the entire year oE
1879 was 1,537,900; honey taken from bees,
22,122 pounds, from which 707 pounds of
wax were made.


The tobacco plant, now so extensively cul-
tivated in America and Europe, is indigen-
ous to our country, being originally found in
a wild state by early settlers of the sub-
tropical regions. It was introduced into
England by Sir Walter Raleigh, and as early
as 1614 its use had become fashionable in
England, Spain and France. About the date
mentioned it became one of the great staples
of the Jamestown colony in Virginia. The
colonists brought over by Penn engaged in
tobacco culture, and as early as 1689 four-
teen cargoes of tobacco were exported from
this province to the mother country. The
amount of these cargoes is unknown, and it
soon ceased to be an article of exportation
from Pennsylvania, as its cultivation de-
clined. The first settlers of our county may
have cultivated it to a limited extent, for
home consumption, but as far as it can be
authoritatively stated, the first tobacco grown
in this county was introduced during the
early part of the present century. It was of
an inferior quality, familiarly known to the
common populace as the "shoe-string to-
bacco," a hybrid of the Kentucky seed. It
was raised principally along the low districts
adjoining the Susquehanna River, on both
the York and Lancaster County side and on
the islands in the stream. It was a heavy,
black, gummy product, and narrow in the
leaf, hence the origin of the nick-name given
to it. The climate here did not seem to be
suited to the growth of the pure Kentucky
tobacco. The inferior tobacco, after being
cured, was sold at low figures ranging from
$1 to $3 per hundred pounds. The cigars
manufactured from it by unskilled workmen,
were of the crudest form, and were commonly
called "tobies." They were sold at an
average price of $1.25 per thousand, and re-
tailed at four for one cent ; no revenue tax
was paid on them. Persons who indulged
in "the weed," were usually accommodated
with one of the " fragrant tobies," free of
charge, at many of the taverns, after partak-
ing of a meal and paying for the same. It
is amusing to hear old citizens relate how
rudely constructed those cigars were. They



contained a vast amount of nicotine, the
stimulating element in tobacco, and were
doubtless very injurious to the smoker.

A New Era. — Previous to the year 1837,
Pennsylvan ia was not known as a tobacco grow-
ing State. The early census reports scarcely
recognized tobacco as one of the agricultural
products of the State. It was the year above
mentioned that Benjamin Thomas, father of
John F. Thomas of York, who was then an
enterprising farmer and tobacconist of Wind-
sor Township, York County, conceived the
idea that if a finer <|uality of cigar leaf were
obtained, the soil of this county, when prop-
erly fertilized, would be specially adapted to
the cultivation of tobacco. He accordingly
secured some Havana seed, a specimen of
Cuban tobacco, experimented with it himself,
on his farm, which is now owned by ex-
County Commissioner Charles F. Haines of
Windsor, and then distributed the seed ho
raised the first year among his friends in
York and Lancaster Counties, along the river
districts. This was really the beginning of
the better seed-leaf tobacco raising in Penn-
sylvannia, and antedates its introduction into
Lancaster County, which county has for many
years past become famous for this valuable
product. That county has long had a national
reputation for the production of an excellent
quality of tobacco ; whereas, when the abso-
lute truth is known, it is not to-day, and
never was superior to the York County to-

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 73 of 218)