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Readers recall cemetery, Willis House and more

I have two very nice letters to share today, both of which I received some time ago and which were in response to earlier columns. So not only am I glad to finally get to share them, but I’m also glad to get more details on a few topics from the past that were lingering out there, on topics ranging from a Dover cemetery to the Willis House.

First today is a letter I received a year and a half ago from Shirley (Coble) Hite, who in addition to being a longtime Yorker was my third-grade teacher at Dover Elementary School! I have shared letters from her before and they are always a treasure trove of information about the county, especially the Dover area, which is what she is writing about in this case.

She began with information about a cemetery in Dover, on East Canal Road.

Shirley wrote that it “is located behind the property where my parents and we three children lived for more than 35 years at 95 E. Canal St. in Dover, Pa., 17315. I visited the cemetery several times with my dad. Some of the tombstones dated back as far as the late 1800s and even earlier. It was hard ot read the writing on some of them. By the time I moved out of my family’s home in the early 1970s, many of the tombstones had fallen to pieces and even disintegrated.”

She continued, “What is still there I don’t know. Maybe nothing. It can be checked by walking through the lot (unmarked) between 95 and 99 E. Canal… check with owners first for permission.”

Shirley also remembered the tragic accident in which four young boys were killed when a bazooka exploded. She recalled it taking place in August 1957, when she was preparing to begin fifth grade at Dover Elementary School. “It was the day (Saturday) of the Red Run Church Picnic, which was held at Hofmann’s Woods,” she said, when they received word that the four boys had died, two sets of brothers – the Weavers and the Bakers. “I was shocked,” she wrote. “I knew Lynwood because he was in the same classroom as I was at Dover Elementary School. At that time, students were arranged in rooms by alphabetical order. His last name began with a B (Baker) and mine began with a C (Coble). He was the first member of the Dover Class of 1964 that we lost due to an accident. Our class lost a member but worse, the Bakers lost both of their children.”

On a final, happier note, Shirley noted, “Some time ago, we discussed the North Pole sandwich shop in Weigelstown (now part of Dover).” In 2016, she was on vacation with her husband and brother, she said, and the group “came across a sandwich and ice cream shop located in Chittenango, New York. It sold 24 flavors of self-serve ice cream.” She included a picture of herself in front of the shop, taken by her husband, Steven.

Shirley (Coble) Hite shared this photo of a North Pole ice-cream shop in Chittenango, New York. She grew up going to Ernie McCall's North Pole in the Weigelstown area of Dover Township.
Shirley (Coble) Hite shared this photo of a North Pole ice-cream shop in Chittenango, New York. She grew up going to Ernie McCall’s North Pole in the Weigelstown area of Dover Township.

Finally for today, I have a letter from Karen Gentzler, who wrote about the Willis House in Manchester Township, one of the earliest brick houses in York County, which is now used as a wedding venue.

Karen wrote, “The house was first rented, as far as we can remember, to my mother’s grandparents, on her father’s side, by Tilley and Clarence Henry Lehr. My mother’s parent and, at that time, five of their children moved in. My mother was the oldest… when her parents moved in, Della and Ervin Lehr, her grandparents, were also there. All of the uncles had moved out to get married; the only uncle there was Uncle Stewart Lehr. He also got married but his wife died shortly after marriage; she had cancer.”

Karen continued about her mother’s childhood, “Her grandparents did their cooking in the basement, due to so many children being there. My mother said that they had linoleum and their own table and chairs. Sometimes they would come upstairs also to eat with the family.”

She added, “My mother’s parents also had two more children after they moved in. My mother said they moved in around 1947. Her parents rented it from the (Prospect Hill) Cemetery. My mother married on June 28, 1951.”

And, she continued, there was a coal cellar which she believed slaves may have been hidden in as part of the Underground Railroad. That fell down in 1951, Karen said.

She wrote, again about her mother, “Her grandparents moved out and lived on Parkway Boulevard and Smith Street, right across from where Jim and Nena’s used to be. Before that it was a gas station. The house itself had bedrooms on the second and third floor. The fireplaces on the second floor were boarded up. My mother slept on the third floor. She would have her clothes for the next day laid out in the winter, because it was too cold to go downstairs to get dressed. The second floor had heat, from the heater pipe on the first floor, which went through the ceiling to keep it heated.”

Karen continued, “The stairs were off the kitchen, to lead to the second floor. The back door was boarded up and everyone always used the door off of the porch. The kitchen had a big black stove with the pipe going into the wall. I remember Grandma cooking on it a lot when we would visit, when I was younger. This house was the home of a total of eight children and parents.”

And, she said, “I also remember the outhouse at the bottom of the hill. Where the wall of bricks is, just aside the house, is where the garbage was burnt. I also remember during the winter months, especially around Christmas, my father drove the car up the hill, since my brothers and sister would have a hard time with snow on the hill.”

Karen went on to say that a few years ago, she took her mother back to look at the house. She said, “It’s beautiful, but it’s not the Willis House I remember.”

She finished, “After all the children had left home, Della and Ervin Lehr moved to Tioga Street… I just wanted to write this to honor my mother, not only for what she is but for what she became: A mother to all her brothers and sisters.”

She also listed all the Lehr children:

  • Her mother, Dorothy Mae (Lehr) Mathison
  • Ervin Lehr
  • Marti Lehr
  • Sarah (Lehr) Borrow, who died in a car accident along with baby Barry
  • Jane Clara Lehr
  • Butch Lehr
  • Nancy (Lehr) Bowman
  • Jean Lehr

Karen and Shirley, I want to thank you both for sharing your memories, and apologize for taking so long to publish them!

Have questions or memories to share? Email me at or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.