Springs and orchards were important to York County farmers
The real estate ads in the newspapers of 200 years ago were almost always for farms. Even if there was another enterprise on the property, such as a mill, there was usually quite a bit of acreage. Just about everyone farmed; even many business and crafts people in the town of York and the villages scattered throughout the county had at least a small farm to help feed their family.
Reading the ads on the microfilm at York County Heritage Trust, like the one above, makes me wonder how that land looks now. Might it still be farmland? (This is not impossible to figure out, using the resources at the YCHT Library/Archives and the records at the York County Recorder of Deeds office, but it is quite a time consuming venture.)
There were several listings for farms for sale in the November 29, 1831 York Gazette. Here are excerpts from two of them, in opposite ends of York County:
Two contiguous parcels were being sold at public auction in Shrewsbury Township to settle the estate of Jacob Klinefelter, one containing 239 acres and the other 102 acres. The larger tract was improved with “a large and commodious two story Dwelling House with a Back Building thereto attached, a spring of never failing water in the cellar, Bank Barn and other necessary outbuildings, a large Orchard of choice fruit trees and a good proportion of meadow ground and timber land. The other tract consisted of about 60 acres “covered with young and thriving timber, the remainer in a good state of cultivation, with a sufficiency of meadow ground.” Adjoining property owners were Jacob Koller, Peter Ehrmon, and Samuel Baarbach.
John Thompson, Administrator of the estate of Henry Hickernell, late of Fairview Township was offering at public sale: “A tract of land containing 115 Acres, situate in the township aforesaid, adjoining lands of the heirs of John Starr, the Yellow Breeches creek, and Sharp’s heirs. About the half is cleared, and the remainder good woodland. On the same are erected a large two-story house, with a spring in the cellar, and a fountain pump at the door, a large double log barn.–There is an orchard of excellent apples, peaches and cherries. The land is of an excellent quality, well covered with locust timber, and for the production of wheat peculiarly adapted.”
Springs were often mentioned. That was a plus, especially when you consider the alternative would be digging a well by hand. Both of the houses in these ads were built over springs. The families wouldn’t have to go out for water in the winter, and the spring could help cool the house in summer.
Notice that both sale ads featured orchards. That is true of many of the other ads, as many of the farms had small orchards to supply their family with fruit to eat fresh or preserve. Apples were also popular for apple butter and cider. Peaches and cherries could be distilled into brandy for the farmer’s own use or to sell to tavern keepers.
I’m not opposed to development. We all need somewhere to live. On the other hand, I was born on a York County farm and want to see as many acres of our fertile farmland and our beautiful woodlands and meadows preserved as possible. I’m proud to be a board member of the Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County. FNLT is a nonprofit organization that has been working with land owners for 23 years to keep those lands pristine and productive.