Only in York County

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Ask Joan: Are you ready for the fair?

Ready for this year’s York Fair? I’ve already been there twice and it hasn’t even opened yet! (Dropping off contest entries, and helping set up the YDR’s booth in Memorial Hall.) I hope you’ll come see me there next Wednesday, Sept. 10, from 2 to 4 p.m. Make sure you say hello!

What’s inside

1. Is it really “first fair”?
2. and 3. Seeking info on name origins

1. I know the York Fair is “America’s First Fair”, but has it always been held at its current location?
– Phillip Macracken

I received this question some time ago and I’ve had… well, mixed success. I did ask our resident historian Jim McClure of York Town Square, who said, “Not sure that America’s First Fair is accurate. I’ve never seen any documentation of that. But that aside, it was at first in Centre Square, then moved to the southeast corner of King and Queen and finally to the West Manchester Township location where it is now located. There were some years, many years, in which York didn’t have a fair, by the way.”

So to specifically answer the question, yes, the York Fair has changed locations. But to that idea of it being America’s First Fair… well, I can tell you where it comes from, but whether you say we can claim the “first fair” title for our current extravaganza, well, that’s up to you!

According to the York Fair website:

“The traditions of fairs in the New World began with the York Fair, America’s first fair, held in the historic old Town of York in 1765, eleven years before the nation was founded. A charter to hold that fair was granted to the people of York by Thomas Penn, son of William Penn in recognition of ‘the flourishing state to which the town hath arrived through their industry.’ Those early gatherings were reported to have been ‘the liveliest days of the whole year.'”

You can read more about the fair’s history – including its previous locations in what’s now Penn Park (recently home of Foodstruck, which was YUMMY) – here on the fair’s website. And if anyone else has any thoughts on whether we should or shouldn’t use that title, I’d be interested in hearing your comments!

2. Do you know why (and for whom) Innersville, York County, was renamed Spry? Do you know why Powder Mill Road was named that?
– Ray Wallace

3. Might you or any of your sources know when Rathton Road was constructed? For whom it is named?
– Charles Letocha

These are all great questions and ones I’m hoping we, as a community, can shed some light on. Fellow blogger Scott Mingus tells a fun story about Innersville on his Cannonball blog, and mentions the Innersville name came from, not surprisingly, all the people in the area surnamed Inners, but even the York Township website doesn’t describe the reason for the name change.

Even the most detailed reference I can think of, Prowell’s History of York County, tells the what but not the why. It says, “When it was decided to ask the government to establish a postoffice, the people of the community met to select a name. After some discussion, the name ‘Spry’ was chosen. This was during President Cleveland’s second administration. William H. Conway, who also kept a store, was appointed postmaster in 1886, and held the office seven years.”

So… we have a when, but any details on the why and the “some discussion” mentioned in Prowell’s would certainly be welcomed!

To Powder Mill Road… well, that one is answered just a couple paragraphs earlier in the same part of Prowell’s Vol. 1. “The York Powder Mill in this township was once an important industry. It was owned for many years by the Johnson family.” So there you have it! (One would have to assume this is gunpowder, if, like me, it took you a second to get that at first.)

You can read more from all of Prowell online here!

Finally, to Rathton Road. So it turns out this question has been making the rounds for a while… Jim McClure shared a few possibilities in this 2009 post, but we still don’t have anything conclusive, so more details are welcomed!

Got any questions? Ask Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer them in a future “Ask Joan” column on this blog. I get a large volume, but I will feature three each week and answer as many as possible!

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