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Close up of inscription on Susquehanna rock

Mystery rock in the Susquehanna

Why would a large rock at the edge of the Susquehanna River have numbers and letters carved on it?  (I am not talking about the petroglyphs of birds and animals left by the Native Americans, such as those on Big Indian Rock and Little Indian Rock just below Safe Harbor dam, although they are certainly worth a visit.)

William Halterman shared these photos of a boulder in the river in Lancaster County’s East Donegal Township, across from Hellam Township in York County .  He also marked its location on a Google Earth image shown here.  The site is just a little upstream from the foot of Vinegar Ferry Road near Marietta.  I have written a few times about Vinegar Ferry, actually named for an early operator, Christian Winiker. (Say Winiker a few times with a Pennsylvania Dutch accent, and you will see where the name comes from.)

Vinegar Ferry, which terminated on the York County shore near present day River Drive, operated for many decades.  It was one of the Susquehanna ferries scouted out during the Revolutionary War in 1778 for possible troop movement.   (The ferry got a good report, but the York County side was deemed too steep to be practical for large groups to pass.)  It is said to have continued in operation at least until the 1920s.

The arrow marks the location of the rock carvings. Courtesy of Google Earth.

The rock in question is engraved with an image of an arch with a large 2 ½ in the center.  The numbers 101  are below the arch.  To the right of the arch is a large S with C82130 or C82180 below it.  There might be traces of other letters or numbers.  The Google Earth image shows it surrounded by water, but Bill says it is accessible by land when the water is lower.

Could the figures have something to do with the ferry?  Or perhaps a survey of some kind? Anything to do with the Shock’s Mill railroad bridge about a mile upstream?  Are there similar examples elsewhere?  Please share any insight you might have.

Thanks to some of the comments below, more information was found.  Click here for a follow-up post.   It is still a mystery why the rock, and the carving, is by the river’s edge.  More insight is welcomed.

View showing letters and numbers on the rock.
The rock from another angle. The inscription is to the left of the arm shadow.

8 comments on “Mystery rock in the Susquehanna

    1. Thanks Bob for solving the mystery of the symbol. Any clue what it is doing on a rock by the edge of the river?

  1. I am just a reader and know very little about rock formations, but the boulder with the inscriptions looks a bit out of place to me. The surrounding rock formations look somewhat different, to my eye. The boulder has a rounded “corner” look to it. Could it have been a part of a structure? I may be way off, just a lay person’s perspective. Thanks for the interesting article and photo!

  2. This is really neat. I had never heard of the Orange Order.

    Just doing some quick googling, the number seems too large to be a lodge number. Could it be a member number? The symbol seems to be related to a particular “degree” within the Orange Order called the “Royal Arch Purple Degree”, or the “York Rite”.

    Maybe a Brother lived near by and decided to make his mark.

    The Orange Order still exists in the U.S.A, it could be interesting to contact them, they may find this interesting and it could shed some light on the mystery.

    Interesting factoid I came across… the term “hillbilly” may actually be derived fro Orange Order immigrants living in Appalachia, who’s founder was King William III, or “King Billy” for short.

  3. This was a great find and thank you for sharing the information. Below is a link to a YT video titled The Secret on the Susquehanna and connects the same (general) location of the stone to Francis Bacon (or at least his organization). Quite possibly the carving is part of something bigger….the game is afoot.


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