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More old-time donations of Civil War items to the historical society

Glenn Rock Item, August 14, 1903 (Glen Rock Historical Society)
(Glen Rock Historical Society)

Cannonball reader John Hufnagle is a strong supporter of the Glen Rock Historical Society, one of the many excellent community heritage organizations to seek to preserve the history of their respective regions. John noted my blog post on the 1902 donations of Civil War relics to the York County Historical Society, and he graciously sent me the above clipping from the Glen Rock Item of August 14, 1903.

It reads: “Henry Gable, of Larue [between Glen Rock and Hanover Junction], has presented to the York County Historical Society a collection of relics which were found in Codorus township during the exciting times of the Civil War. They include a haversack, knapsack, canteen and cavalry cartridges. Mr. Gable also presented to the museum the old-time knee buckles, which were worn by the early settlers of this country, when they dressed in continental suits with knee britches, long stockings and shoes with buckles.”

Scott Mingus photograph
Railroad crossing in modern-day Larue, Pennsylvania (Scott Mingus photograph)

The identity of the military items that Henry Gable found in Codorus Township remains unknown, but Larue was the site of a camp of a company of the 20th Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia that was guarding the Northern Central Railway in the area. Perhaps these relics were from the emergency militiamen? Another possibility is that they were Confederate. A company of the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry passed through Larue after chasing off the militia on June 27, 1863, en route to burn a nearby railroad bridge. Could the equipment and ammunition have come from one of the cavaliers?

The early 1900s were a fertile period for the York County Historical Society in terms of boosting its collection of Civil War artifacts. Here are a few more examples of donations received during the period.

Just two months after Henry Gable donated the things he found, William F. Seifert of East King Street in downtown York presented the Historical Society with relics of a more personal nature. During his wartime service in the Union Army, he carried a small pocketbook with two old copper half-cents, one dated 1808 and the other 1835. They became his lucky charms. He was wounded five times while carrying the pocketbook and coins, but he (and they) survived the war. On December 23, 1903, the York Daily mentioned Seifert’s generosity in donating the items of “special historic interest.”

Gable and Seifert were not the only York Countians donating relics to the historical society that year. The same York Daily article mentioned that Dr. G. Sumner Musser, an Aaronsburg, Pa., resident who had “many pleasant memories of his visit to York while attending the State Medical Society. He presented four specimens of script printed at Woodward, Penna., during the Civil War in 1862. They are five, ten, fifteen, and twenty-five cent notes neatly printed and put into circulation by John Mott’s private bank.” The article went on to explain, “This kind of notes sometimes called ‘shin plasters’ were put in circulation after the opening of the Civil War when gold and silver were above par. They antedate the circulation of U. S. fractional currency which [were] issued by Slaymaker, Gortner & Co., to January 1877, the period when gold and silver were above par. There were notes of this kind printed at York, Hanover, Wrightsville, Glen Rock, and Goldsboro during this period.”

The fore-mentioned Henry Gable also appears in this same article for his recent donation of an old banknote dated January 14, 1777, one of the earliest examples of printing done in York when Continental Congress met there for nine months while the British occupied Philadelphia.

David Crider of York donated a neatly framed copy of Robert E. Lee’s farewell address to the vanquished Army of Northern Virginia following its surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, in April 1865. A Richmond firm had published the souvenir address and circulated it after the end of the War Between the States.

Not everyone donated their items, of course, to the historical society. In some cases, they told reporters about their collections and prized possessions. On September 27, 1910, the York Daily noted that a Felton man, James Stewart, owned several “rare and interesting articles,” including a Navy revolver that his brother William Stewart found on the battlefield after the Second Battle of Winchester in June 1863. The old pistol was still in firing condition. James Stewart “also owns a turkey dish that was brought to this country from Scotland, more than 150 years ago, and a tomahawk that belonged to his father, Peter Stewart, who carried it through the war of 1812.”

Here in York County, Pennsylvania, we are blessed with numerous local and regional historical societies, as well as an outstanding county-wide organization and museum, the York County History Center. Take a long look at their impressive website and plan your next (or first!) visit. You will not be disappointed!

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