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Memories of Dallastown, Violet Hill, Spry and more

Wade Kehr of Dallastown shared this photo of the town’s former Dallas Theater. Based on the movies shown, it’s almost certainly from the 1940s (The Grapes of Wrath was released in 1940 and Tobacco Road was released in 1941; the two films together were re-released in 1948.)

I thought I’d mix it up this week with some memories from a different part of York County. All of today’s notes are about Dallastown, Spry, Leader Heights and Violet Hill, all areas south of York. I’ve written about some of these places in the past, and today’s reader memories are a combination of responses to some earlier columns as well as some new questions and memories, starting just south of York City and heading downward along South Queen Street. I hope you’ll enjoy them!

I last talked about Violet Hill sometime in 2013, when I shared some reader stories about how this area straddling Spring Garden and York townships got its name.

Reader Jennifer wrote, “My eighth-great-grandfather was Colonel David Chambers, who after the Revolutionary War, sometime in the 1780s, bought land and established a farm, calling it ‘Violet Hill.’ Is there a chance that this was the beginning of the town? If, perchance, you are aware of this farm, later given to his son, Joseph Gaston Chambers, I would appreciate your sharing with me.”

Jennifer, that could certainly be the case if it’s in the right area, south of York; that’s certainly the earliest mention of the name I’ve yet seen recorded.

Another reader, John Kennedy, wrote that he attended Violet Hill kindergarten in the early 1960s, but can’t find it on Google Maps. He’s wondering where the kindergarten was located specifically, and what happened to it. I don’t know a specific location, and can only find various mentions of people graduating from it, without a detailed location. The last graduation year I found a record of was 1969, but that’s not to say it didn’t continue on longer! Any info would be great.

A final note on the Violet Hill area came from Carolyn Sue Brenneman, who noted that her great-grandparents, the Dentlers, lived on Duke Street in the Violet Hill area. She said she has historic photographs of the area, including some of her favorites, those of her great-grandfather and her grandfather, Norman Brenneman and Chester M. Brenneman, on the Violet Hill pond, cutting blocks of ice in the winter, to be stored for warm-weather use. She noted that for interested readers, copies of the photographs are available in the Brenneman/Kelly family notebooks at the York County History Center Library.

Moving down the road a little bit, I had a question some time ago from reader Terry Parr, who wondered, “Does anyone know exactly where the borders of Spry are? Does Spry go right up to the edge of Dallastown?” Well, Spry is not an official municipality – it’s a neighborhood that’s part of York Township – so I can’t say that there are any “official” borders. The York Township line does go right up to Dallastown borough as you go south on Queen Street; however, I would say that most uses I’ve heard have “Spry” ending at about the intersection with Leader Heights Road and Queen Street, or maybe at the Y at Iron Stone Hill Road, with everything between there and Dallastown either getting lumped in with the Leader or Leaders Heights area (also part of York Township) or just generally going without a name. Anyone from the area want to weigh in on that? (And, if you’re interested, I’ve written in the past about how the former tiny town of Innersville came to be called Spry.)

And while we’re on a related topic, then there’s a letter I had from Janice Rehmeyer, who had been reading an earlier column on the name of Leader or Leaders Heights.

Janice wrote, “My mother, back in the early ’50s, bought land and had a home built by Frank Larkin. Our home was on Merrin Road right off of Leaders Heights. It was a dead-end road with York Township School off of Queen Street backing the street. My mother lived there until her passing in 2008. I always remember calling the road Leaders Heights. Now it is so built up around Merrin Road. Merrin Road has many beautiful old homes built by Frank Larkin. To this day, to me, it’s Leaders Heights.”

While the York Township Commissioners decided in 2007 to use Leader Heights on all official road signage, I know a lot of people who agree with Janice!

Going yet further south, I had a quick Dallastown note from reader Steven Kohler, who writes, “I have many fond memories of going to The Dallas Theatre in Dallastown during the 1970s. Many of my neighborhood friends went to see Star Wars, several times. They always had great a great candy counter in the lobby.” I had been in the Dallas myself during its brief revival between 2005 and 2009, and it was so beautiful – I miss that local theater experience!

Finally, as we finish our journey south for today, I wanted to share some notes from fellow blogger Stephen H. Smith of Yorkspast, who shared information with me some time ago about some swimming holes in the area of Rye, which is below Dallastown.

Stephen replied to some earlier reader memories of an area known as The Swamp, noting that it “is just a little south of Rye; it is just before Barshinger Creek empties into the East Branch of the Codorus Creek. At that general area five roads converge: Hess Farm Road, Dunkard Valley Road, Arbor Drive, Swamp Hollow Lane, and Swamp Road. When my Mom was young (1920s and 1930s) she swam along Barshinger Creek at her uncle’s place, only a short distance upstream from The Swamp. I remember Mom saying that spot was a popular swimming hole when she was young.”

Stephen shared a blog post of his own, How Barshinger Creek Got its Name, which includes a map showing where The Swamp was located; I encourage everyone to check that out by searching for Barshinger Creek at!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed our memory journey south of York today. I’m excited to hear your thoughts on these areas as well!

Have questions or memories to share? Ask (or Tell) Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer or share 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!