Universal York

Part of the USA Today Network

Lewis Miller lists York County cooks in the early 1800s: “No Better”


Taverns were the place to go for a good meal 200 years ago. This Lewis Miller drawings shows Mrs. Hersh at the family tavern with her open hearth and squirrel tail oven. Most importantly it gives a great list of the typical foods our ancestors would have prepared and dined upon at home.

The York hotels kept in 1800.

No better, and good cooks can be found nowhere to prepare victuals for the table as these taverns. See the names—Mrs. Abraham Miller, Mrs. Polly Waltemyer, Mrs. Gossler, Mrs. Lamb, Mrs. Upp, Mrs. Rumel, Mrs. Baltzer Spangler, Mrs. George Hay, Mrs. Beard and Mrs. Eichelberger—not far from town, the last two names, old style cooking.

They had plenty of raw materials, to cook them; beef, veal, lamb, mutton, pork and fish, oysters, poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, milk and honey. And all kinds of vegetables and fruit. See Mrs. Hersh in 1809. She could take every bone out of a chicken for the table, it was good to carve for the customers at her tavern.

Old Style cooking. The Bake oven baking bread. Smoking sausage and ballones.

In the text, Miller names the cooks at many of York taverns around 1800. They were usually the wife of the tavern owner (or the owner herself, if she had been widowed). The drawing above depicts a tea kettle and a coffee pot and the pots hanging from their trammels over the hearth. A fish awaits frying in a spider (three-legged, long-handled frying pan). Mrs. Hersh is putting bread loaves in the oven with her peal, and two more rising loaves await in their rye straw baskets. Sausage and baloney are being smoked and a dressed chicken is ready. Note the coffee grinder on the mantel.

Learn much more about Pennsylvania German heritage at the upcoming Researching Pennsylvania Germans genealogy conference, which will be at the York County History Center, 250 East Market Street, York on Saturday, September 22. It is being sponsored by the South Central Pennsylvania Genealogy Society and the York County History Center. For more information and registration go to www.scpgs.org/.

I have drawn on both published and unpublished Miller drawings for the new slide presentation, which will premier at the September genealogy conference. And if you are interested in owning published copies of Miller drawings, Lewis Miller’s People (2014) and The Hessians of Lewis Miller (1983) are available from the York County History Center bookshop. Miller’s Sketches and Chronicles of York (1966) is out of print, but previously owned copies can usually be found online. Through a recent partnership with Google Cultural Institute, Miller’s drawings in his own copy of Henry L. Fisher’s The Old Market House have been digitally scanned and are viewable on the York County History Center website.

Lewis Miller drawing of York Square. Hersh’s tavern is to the right of the court house and county office building