The changing face of York County
Rural York County pastoral scene. Exact location unknown. Marion Post Wolcott photograph from the 1930s; courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Often on weekends and during lunch hour, I enjoy traveling the byways and back roads of my adopted home of York County, Pennsylvania. Usually armed with period maps (either the 1860 Shearer & Lake map or the 1876 Atlas of York County) and modern Google maps, I hunt for farms known to have been visited by the Confederate army in the summer of 1863 during the Gettysburg Campaign. Dozens of photographs of these house and barns have been previously posted on this Cannonball blog, and I have a healthy backlog of photos awaiting future publication.
In most cases, particularly in extreme southern and northern York County, the vintage farmhouses and barns are still extant, albeit in some cases heavily modified or modernized, and, in a few instances, modern barns have replaced the antebellum structures.
However, around York city, the old barns and houses in many cases are long gone, having been swallowed up by modern construction and urban sprawl. This is particularly true in Spring Garden, Springettsbury, and York townships.
At times, I have been lucky enough to find old photographs of these long ago farmhouses once visited by the Confederates. Here’s one example…
In searching through the Library of Congress’s on-line catalog of old photographs and art prints, I discovered the above photo (date unknown) of the Dietz house. This old, crumbling long neglected stone farmhouse sat near today’s York Galleria Mall off of Pleasant Valley Road. Owned in 1863 by prosperous farmer Michael Dietz, the house was torn down I believe in the 1980s.
On June 28, 1863, this area was part of Spring Garden Township (Springettsbury had not yet been created). Neighbor John Miller saw Rebels leading Dietz’s 8-year-old horse out of an alley near his stable. Powerless to stop the Confederate cavalrymen (believed to be a patrol from the 17th Virginia Cavalry which was camped in the vicinity off of what is today East Market Street), Miller simply watched as the thievery occurred. He later testified on behalf of Dietz to support the latter’s $180 damage claim. Micheal Dietz was never compensated for his loss. Nearby, a relative, Samuel Dietz, lost 85 pairs of horseshoes from his barn off Ore Bank Road (near today’s Rocky Ridge Park).
The old Dietz house was on the south side of Pleasant Valley Road about a tenth of a mile west of Alpine Road. From 1909 until 1970, it was occupied by a reclusive hermit named Kurwin Hauser. The house dates from about 1810 and was documented in July 1984 as part of the U.S. government’s Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS).