Only in York County

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Pennsylvania has everything! A look at what was great about York County from a 1937 book

Blame my husband.

As if I weren’t busy enough cataloging the memories many of York County’s residents have of its past AND trying to keep readers up to date on current fun things to do around town AND trying to answer all manner of questions from readers near and far, I’ve gotten into another niche.

Hubby – a noted old book and paper aficionado – has gotten me into collecting pamphlets, postcards and other older documents about York and York County.

Today’s treasure was especially fun. It’s fairly old – from 1937 – and it was not found inside York County. In fact, as Hubby documents on his own blog, it was found at a surprisingly cool indoor flea market, inside what used to be an Ames department store in Bedford, Pa., while we were on a trip out toward Pittsburgh for a good friend’s wedding.

It’s a book published by the Pennsylvania Scenic and Historic Commission titled “Pennsylvania Has Everything: Rocks and rills, woods and templed hills.” It lists points of interest and historical note for many places around the state. My copy is the second edition, published in 1937.

Well, you know me, right? I had to sift through the whole 128-page book and find the entries for places in or really near York County! There are six in all that I found: For Columbia (which includes Wrightsville), Delta, Hanover, Holtwood, Jacobus and, of course, York.

I’m going to include in the rest of this post the excerpts from all those areas, as well as links where pertinent to the material that’s mentioned. I hope you’ll read to the end and check these out! (And please note: I’m just quoting what’s written. Click on the links to learn more about, for example, the “First Capital Debate.”)


Columbia Bridge, a new $3,000,000 highway bridge, the longest concrete multiple span highway bridge in the world, is across the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville, joining the counties of Lancaster and York. The Railroad Bridge nearby was the fourth to be erected at this point and marks the site of the old bridge, which was destroyed by fire to prevent the advance of the Confederate armies on Philadelphia. Wrightsville marks the most northern point occupied by the Southern armies during the civil war.


Near Mason and Dixon line. Lovers of nature will want to see the beautiful White Oak Tree, 95 feet high; trunk circumference, 16 ft. and 9 inches, and a limb spread of 127 ft. by 132 ft. Location: North of Constitution, which is on road from Delta to Fawn Grove, along road between Constitution and Bryansville. (Note from Joan: I’m totally going to see if I can find this amazing tree. I believe it is the only place in the book where the sole point of interest is a tree.)


Pop. 12,000; alt. 599 ft. In a splendid agricultural region.

Hanover Battle Monument, erected by the State in 1904, commemorates the first blood shed north of the Mason and Dixon line. On the morning of June 30, 1863, about 10,000 men on both Union and Confederate sides clashed. The losses were: Union, 197 killed, wounded, and missing; Confederate, 70.


Pop. 525. On the east bank of the Susquehanna River, about 18 miles below Columbia. Of interest: Hydroelectric Dam, a half-mile dam built by the Pennsylvania Water and Power Co., eight miles below the great dam at Safe Harbor. Between Safe Harbor and Holtwood is lake Tucquan, formed by the Holtwood Dam. Visitors are welcome at the generating plant. (Note from Joan: Definitely check out the link above; I’m wondering if this lake’s name changed to Lake Aldred, which is what I knew it as, post-1937?)


Six miles south of York, situated on the top of a broad and picturesque hill which rises in the north and west from the waters of Lake Williams.


Pop. 55,250; alt. 399 ft. County seat. One of the largest and most beautiful fairgrounds in the United States. Center of fertile farm region.

During the darkest days of the Revolution, York was the capital of the nation. When the British occupied Philadelphia, the Continental Congress traveled westward, remained one day in Lancaster and then crossed the Susquehanna River and established itself in York, where it was in session from September 30, 1777, to June 27, 1778. The first Court House, erected in 1756, stood on the site of what is now Center Square. It was here that Congress received the news of Burgoyne’s surrender; passed the Articles of Confederation; issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation; received the news from Franklin at Paris that France would send a fleet, money, and an army; received Baron Von Steuben and Lafayette and commissioned them as Major-Generals.

York was the home of James Smith, a member of Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Lies buried in the first Presbyterian Cemetery at Market and Queen Streets. It also contains the body of David Grier, a Colonel of the Revolution and a delegate to the Convention that nominated Washington for the first term.

In Prospect Hill Cemetery lies buried Philip Livingston, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The Continental Treasury was located on the site now occupied by the First National Bank.

At the corner of Market and Beaver Streets stands the building used by General Wayne as headquarters while recruiting his brigade for the march upon Yorktown.

In St. John’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, which dates back to 1743, are buried the bodies of Thomas Hartley, Colonel in the Revolution, and member of Congress from York for twelve years; also John Clark, a Major in the Revolution and Chief of Staff for General Greene after 1778.

Penn Park, or Penn Common, was a direct gift of the heirs of William Penn when the city of York was founded.

The Quaker Meeting House, situated on West Philadelphia Street, between Beaver Street and Pershing Avenue, was built in 1765. It is used each Sunday for worship.

The new hospital, representing a capital investment of $1,200,000, is the result of the generosity of the citizens of York and York County. The city has fine parks and three golf courses.

Historical Society of York County has exhibits in the Court House, including a collection of coins made at the U.S. Mint and Continental money of the eleven issues made during the Revolution. Free; open week days 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, afternoon only. Three miles south of York on Route 111, is probably the best example of private reforestation in the United States.

York Furnace, on the Codorus River, east of York, is where iron was smelted for cannon balls used in the Revolution. Radio Station WORK is located here.

If you stayed interested this far – thank you! This has actually been one of my favorite posts to work on since starting this blog. It was really fun to tie together all those links to other blog entries and online work our history bloggers do, and to get a feel for what York County really billed itself as almost 75 years ago. I hope you enjoyed it too!

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