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Rebels ride by Detters Mill in Dover Township

A view taken December 28 of the historic Detters Mill in northwestern Dover Township in York County, Pennsylvania. A lengthy column of Confederate soldiers passed by this mill, watering their horses in the nearby Conewago Creek. The old mill has been converted into apartments.

On July 1, 1863, as J.E.B. Stuart’s column continued it march from Dover, Pennsylvania, to Carlisle, a portion of the division under Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee and Col. John Chambliss, Jr. turned off the main road (State Road / Carlisle Road; portions of which are today’s State Route 74). and headed down Harmony Grove Road. Shortly after passing the white frame country church, they reached the Conewago Creek, dividing Dover Township from Warrington and Washington townships.

Modern view of Conewago Creek just west of the old mill. It provided a welcome source of fresh water for Stuart’s horses and saddle soldiers on a very hot July afternoon. Just out of view is the creek’s confluence with Bermudian Creek.

Confederate patrols were quite active in the area, visiting most of the farms within easy riding distance of the main column, while keeping a wary eye for Yankees dispatched from Judson Kilpatrick’s Union division at Abbottstown. Many residents has fled, taking their horses into hiding in neighboring counties, or secreting them in the hills, woods, and hollows of the vicinity. Rebels came away empty-handed at most places, but scores of farmers were caught unprepared, and dozens of horses were taken while grazing in fields or sheltered in stables or barns. In a few cases, Rebels left behind played out nags in exchange for the fresh horses.

What was later known as Detters Mill was constructed in 1830 along Conewago Creek by a man named George Sheffer. It was rebuilt in 1912 to the modern configuration, but its predecessor was also a stone construction. A mill dam was built in 1852 to form a pond of water to feed the mill race to power the milling wheels. The dam was 200 feet long and 7 feet high.

     Detters Mill Covered Bridge was erected sometime about 1815, according to the township history. It is believed to have been built by famed master bridge builder Theodore Burr, who constructed several bridges in this part of Pennsylvania, including the famed Camel Back bridge that spanned the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. Detters Mill Bridge featured two of Burr’s characteristic arch trusses on either side. The bridge was nearly 300 feet in length and must have been quite noisy as thousands of horse hoofs crossed over it as Fitz Lee headed toward nearby Wellsville.
The bridge was torn down in 1965. At the time, it was one of the longest remaining covered bridges in the commonwealth.
Interesting, I have not found a single reference to the bridge in Confederate accounts of the trek through York County, although two of Stuart’s three brigades used it to cross the creek (Wade Hampton‘s brigade and captured Union wagon train were on a different road to the northeast).

Old photo of the interior of the bridge; courtesy of the Library of Congress.