Part of the USA Today Network

York #17, the Simpson. A modern replica pulls excursion trains along the route of the old Northern Central Railway from New Freedom to Hanover Junction (SLM photo)

Alert York merchant foiled horse thief

In the Civil War years, the two main modes of transportation between York and Baltimore were the horse and the “iron horse,” or locomotive. The Susquehanna Trail / York Road was the main interstate highway and the tracks of the Northern Central Railway provided a faster alternative route.

Horses were critical to farm work, as well as for general transportation.

Stealing a horse was a serious offense, punishable by significant prison time.

An alert professional horse dealer in York, suspicious of a potential seller, helped apprehend a Maryland-based horse thief. The story is found in the March 25, 1864, edition of the Baltimore Sun.

A Stolen Horse Recovered by Advertising

“On Wednesday night of last week a valuable horse was stolen from the farm of Col. Solomon Hillen, six miles from the city [Baltimore], on the Hillen road. On the following morning an advertisement appeared in The Sun, describing the animal and offering a liberal award for the recovery of the horse, but nothing was heard of him until the following Saturday, when Colonel H. received a telegraphic dispatch from York, Pa., requesting him to go on immediately, as it was thought the horse and thief were both in custody at that place.

It appears that the man who had possession of the horse called at the house of Mr. Kendig, near York, Pa., a dealer in horses, and offered the animal for sale. He asked one hundred and seventy-five dollars, but accepted an offer of seventy-five dollars. Mr. K. at once suspected that the horse was stolen, and told the man that he had not the money in the house, but would go into York the next morning and get it out of the bank.

On Saturday morning the horse was hitched to a buggy, and the man accompanied Mr. Kendig to the town, expecting to receive the money. Mr. K., however, drove up in front of a hotel, and pretended to have some business, which would only require his absence for a few minutes, and went into the house. There he found an officer, to whom he related the circumstances, and asked if such a horse was advertised. The officer at once replied that such a horse was advertised in The Sun, and by the direction of Mr. K. he arrested the party. Col. Hillen reached York the same afternoon, and identified his horse, which was promptly delivered to him, and the man is now in jail in Towsontown, awaiting trial. This is but one of the many instances where advertising has been the medium of restoring lost or stolen property.”

Blogger’s note: Colonel Solomon Hillen, Jr., (1810-1873) was a former Democratic U. S. congressman and mayor of Baltimore.