Universal York

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William Wagner seal dug up in West Virginia

Wagner seal, courtesy of Greenbrier Historical Society
Wagner seal, courtesy of Greenbrier Historical Society

In 2010 a Greenbrier County, West Virginia resident was plowing his garden and unearthed a round metal object, probably brass. It was somewhat weathered, with some stains that a collector indicated that it might have been through a fire. It was a seal of the type used to emboss official papers, widely used in the 19th century.

The lettering on the front of the seal reads “Circuit Court, Greenbrier County, Va.” (West Virginia didn’t achieve statehood until June 20, 1863.) Stamped on the reverse is “Wagner, York, Pa.”

The seal ended up with the Greenbrier Historical Society, whose staff recently contacted York County Heritage Trust for more information on our nationally known engraver, die sinker and creator of seals, William Wagner. YCHT has a large file on Wagner, as well as some of his original seals and casts of seals, plates for engraving money and advertisements and also his book of original watercolors depicting York in 1830. Director of Library and Archives Lila Fourhman-Shaull was able to provide a good bit of information on him for the West Virginians.

Back of Wagner seal, courtesy of Greenbrier Historical Society
Back of Wagner seal, courtesy of Greenbrier Historical Society

She also told them about a Wagner Seal that had been “liberated” from Appomattox County, Virginia during the Civil War and was fairly recently returned to Virginia by the family of the Union soldier. Using the number stamped on the back of the Greenbrier seal, probably 076, and the number on back of the Appomattox seal, 1015, the Greenbrier staff speculated that it might have been made about 1823.

How did this piece of metal that originated in York County end up in the West Virginia garden? The GHS also speculates that it remained in the old courthouse building until 1897, when that building was destroyed by fire, and that fire debris was dumped onto a vacant lot, which is now the donor’s garden.

You just never know where a piece of York County might show up.

This link will take you to previous posts on William Wagner.