Universal York

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Grow, Preserve, Eat—York County and food

From the time the first humans walked the productive soil of what is now York County, Pa., food has been grown, preserved and happily eaten here. Here a few examples from our history:

One of my recent York Sunday News columns told about York County’s very successful participation in the World War I Liberty Garden program in 1917-18. Local trolley employees showed a creative use of land by the tracks. An April 23, 1918 York Daily item reads:

CARMEN PLANT GARDENS. Trolleymen, including motormen, conductors and trackmen, with work-a-day clothes on are strung along the entire length of the Hanover line engaged in planting potatoes and preparing the soil for various kinds of vegetables to be cultivated this summer. Among those from the trolley crews who have taken up lots are Eli Eisenhower, Curvin Matthews, Jesse Hoover, Charles Landis, Clayton Koontz, John Bouseman, Robert Haas and Eli Leech. Night Superintendent Oberdick has a plot in the vicinity of Wolf’s church. The men are given every opportunity to get their plots, and to harvest crops. Free transportation is given the members of the family who go there to tend the growing vegetables during the summer, and also to bring the crops to the city after they have been harvested. Last year hundreds of bushels of potatoes were harvested by the men.

An short article from the December 3, 1964 Gazette and Daily commemorates the 90th birthday of James T. Smith of Fawn Grove, who still continued in food preservation, as he had done for 65 years. The National Canners’ Association deemed him “the oldest man continuously active in the American canning industry and probably the world.” Although his plant still processed corn, Smith decried the centralization of canning and demise of most local canning factories. “Smith recalled that he and some countians formerly in canning had recently toted up the number of canneries which used to operate along Route 74 between Delta and Red Lion. They could recall 16 once in business there. Today there is just one.” (On a personal note, I remember the Brogue canning factory just off Route 74 from my childhood, and also the smell of piles of discarded tomato skins basking in the sun.)  This link will take you to my Sunday News column on York County canning houses.

And then there is the eating of that which has been grown and preserved. One of my favorite Lewis Miller drawings shows a dog stealing a long link of sausage right out of the frying pan. Miller’s caption reads:

Woman Guard Your Kitchen. Mrs. Cath’e Weiser, frying a Sausage, and a hound came and Stole it out of the pan for his Breakfast. The dog devoured with much greediness while Mrs. Weiser was out for a dish & fork to Serve it on the table. Teach a dog and put him in a way to fulfill its demands and you make him a moral Agent.

The Weiser’s owned the Swan Tavern at Market Street on the square in the early 1800s. The nicely restored building now is the offices of Downtown, Inc.