Small Family Left a Large Mark on York County
Philip A. Small examining Christian Roth’s wheat
Whenever I start researching some York County history, it seems like someone from the Small family turns up. Pennsylvania German immigrant Lorentz Small settled in Windsor Township in 1743, but soon the family became involved in carpentry, building, mills, iron furnaces, retail and wholesale hardware and groceries. Their successful businesses allowed succeeding generations to generously share the proceeds of that success with the community.
The P.A.& S. Small Company touched many lives through their enterprises, as did the institutions founded by family members, such as York Hospital, York Collegiate Institute and the Children’s Home of York.
The Smalls figured prominently in York County Civil War action. I’ll do a later post on which Small did what in that era. In the meantime, my recent York Sunday News article below gives an overview of how one not so small family can help shape a region.
Small Family, Big Accomplishments
When immigrant farmer Lorentz Schmall settled in Windsor Township in 1743, he had no way of knowing that his descendants would soon become leaders in York County business and community affairs. Son Killian, who changed the surname to Small, inherited the land and farmed it for a while, but in 1761 he bought a farm near the town of York and also became a carpenter and builder.
Killian Small’s son George, born in 1767, followed his father’s trade. He is credited with building Christ Lutheran Church and the York County Almshouse along with many “Sweitzer” barns. George started a lumberyard about 1800 and opened his hardware store on the northeast corner of the square at Market Street in 1809.
George and Anna Maria Albright Small had three sons: Philip Albright, Samuel and Alexander and one daughter, Cassandra. They would each become well known in York in their own right.
In 1817, Cassandra’s young husband, Charles A. Morris became a partner with his father-in-law in the hardware business. According to a York Gazette ad Small and Morris sold hardware and all kinds of metal implements, such as cutlery and scythes. Morris left the firm in 1820 and opened a drug store that became a long-time downtown York fixture. He was replaced by Philip Albright Small, and the company became George Small and Son. Second son Samuel came into the business in 1823, and it was now George Small and Sons. When George retired in 1833, the name changed to P.A.& S. Small Co., under which it operated for the next 150 years.
They were a busy 150 years. George Small & Sons has already built the large Codorus flour mill in 1831. In 1847 P.A.& S. Small leased Loucks Mill and ran it until 1899. Their mill in Goldsboro helped make them the leading purchaser of all the wheat produced in the upper part of the county during the 19th century. The company was eventually exporting 90,000 barrels of flour to Brazil alone each year. The exporting business developed as P.A.’s sons, George, William Latimer, and Samuel came into the business with merchandising skills learned in Baltimore, where Small’s eventually opened a commission house for flour and wheat.
P.A. & S. Small Company not only sold items made of iron–they made iron themselves. They built Manor Furnace in Chanceford Township and Sarah Furnace in Harford County, Md. in 1843 and then, with the Pattersons of Baltimore, opened the large pig iron operation at Ashland, near Cockeysville in Baltimore County, in 1847. It is said that, at one time, 1/6 of all freight on the Northern Central Railway between Baltimore and York was Smalls’.
The Smalls were extremely active in the community. George’s father Killian Small served in the Revolutionary War, as did his father-in-law, Philip Albright. George helped form the York & Maryland Line Turnpike Co., York & Gettysburg Turnpike Co., the York Water Co., Codorus Navigation (canal from York to the Susquehanna), and the York & Maryland Line Railroad (later part of the Northern Central). He was also the Chief Burgess of York (similar to Mayor).
George’s son, Philip Albright Small, was one of the incorporators of the York & Wrightsville Railroad, completing a rail connection to Philadelphia, in 1835. He was the president of the York County Bank and York Gas Co. and a promoter of the York County Agricultural Society.
P.A.’s brother, Samuel, was a director of York’s first building association and of the York and Cumberland Railroad (to Harrisburg), but he is better known for founding the York Benevolent Association in 1863, the York Children’s Home for orphans of soldiers in 1865, York Collegiate Institute in 1873 and York Hospital in 1879. His wife, Isabel Cassatt Small, and sister and brother-in-law, Cassandra and Charles A. Morris, joined Samuel Small in supporting these institutions throughout their lives and beyond.
George’s youngest son Alexander obtained a medical degree. He only practiced for eight years before he also entered the business world. He struck out on his own with Edward G. Smyser to form Small & Smyser. That business eventually became the huge Variety Iron Works. Alexander was active in many of the same public works as his father and brothers. He is also credited with organizing the Thomas A. Scott Regiment during the Civil War. It later became the 87th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Schools, such as the York County Academy and York Collegiate Institute, which combined to form York College, usually had at least one Small on their board of directors. Succeeding generations of Small descendants, even today, continue to give both their time and monetary support to community institutions and organizations.
The business of P.A. & S. Small prospered under family leadership down through the next several generations. The hardware business grew into a large wholesaler of plumbing, heating and industrial supplies, headquartered at 320 N. George St. Grocery items were gradually expanded and the company eventually became the leading wholesale grocery distributor in the region. That operation was moved to a new building at Sherman St and Arsenal Rd. in 1964.
Around 1984, P.A. & S. Small was bought out by Scrivner, an Oklahoma based wholesaler. Scrivner operated out of the Sherman St. location for some time, but the Fleming Companies later purchased the business and closed the York facility. Even though the P.A. & S. Small Co. hasn’t existed for over 25 years the name is still familiar. Many York County residents have been touched by the Smalls, as employees of their varied business enterprises or as beneficiaries of the institutions they generously established and endowed.