Universal York

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Hermits in Hellam and Rabbits at Delta

One hundred and ten years ago this week, the Gazette noted the semi-annual visit of hermit Joel Strong of Hellam township to see his friend, Al Boll, of Ebner’s Cafe. It seems Mr. Strong walked the eight miles each way to stock up on his winter’s supply of tobacco. The article notes that the “little hermit is away up in years, but his kindly blue eyes are as clear looking as the eyes of a boy.”
Records at York County Heritage Trust indicate that Mr. Strong was born on

December 29, 1829, so he would have been not quite 68 in the fall of 1897. Most people in their sixties today don’t see themselves as elderly, but perhaps living by himself out in the wilds of Hellam township aged him. Or maybe it was the tobacco.
We don’t know how the Hellam hermit supplied himself with food, but rabbits were extremely abundant in parts of the county at the time.
In fact, the next article on the page announced that the York Southern Railroad would run a special train for hunters the next Monday morning. It would leave from the East Market Street station at 5 a.m. for the opening of rabbit season.
The York Southern ran from York to Delta and later became part of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, with the Market Street station just east of Fulton Street. Since the “lower end” was “fairly overrun with rabbits,” a large turnout of hunters was anticipated for the excursion.
Since many town folk relied on public transportation in those pre-auto days, a rabbit train makes sense. The game would make a thrifty addition to the hunters’ family meals. It does, however, conjure up an interesting picture of the returning train filled with dead rabbits and hunters who had been tramping the woods the whole day. I hope they thoroughly hosed out the cars.
Click here to read about a Hellam tree house.