Why Is Part of the Susquehanna River Called Lake Aldred?
McCall’s Ferry (Holtwood) Power Plant Under Construction, ca.1907.
Electric power was on the front page 100 years ago. The Merchants Electric Light, Heat, and Power Company distributed hydroelectricity generated by the York Haven Water and Power Company, which utilized giant Kaplan turbines. These turbines were manufactured in York by the S. Morgan Smith Company.
When York Haven went on line in 1904, they were said to be one of the three largest water powered electric plants in the world. Just three years later, by the fall of 1907, there was a much larger hydro project underway. A 3,000 feet long high dam was being constructed at McCall’s Ferry. A Gazette article of the time reported that it was believed that York, as well as Baltimore, would be receiving electric current from the McCall’s Ferry Power Company by August of 1908.
Two days after the initial article another article appeared in the Gazette that raised doubts about the McCall’s Ferry project:
It was reported that the McCall’s Ferry Power Company was partially underwritten by the Knickerbocker Trust Company of New York. That bank, one of the largest in the country, had just failed, and that failure figured heavily in what is now known as the Panic of 1907 and the resulting nearly 50% fall of the stock market.
At the time, the power company’s agents assured the public that the company would not be affected by the financial crisis. They were wrong. Construction stopped with the dam about 80% completed, according to a contemporary article in the New York Times.
All was not lost. According to a 1931 article in Time magazine, John Aldred came from Canada in 1909 to be receiver for McCall’s Ferry Power Company, which he reorganized as Pennsylvania Water and Power Company. Construction resumed, and in 1910 the waiting communities started receiving current from the plant, now called Holtwood.
Aldred stuck around too, becoming one of the largest backers of Safe Harbor Water and Power Company, building another huge dam and hydroelectric plant just up the Susquehanna River. Look at any fairly detailed map–the stretch of river running between Safe Harbor and Holtwood is aptly named Lake Aldred.