York Basket Makers in Bull Frog Alley
You may have heard of Bull Frog Alley and wondered where it was. The following 1878 York Gazette article tells about the basket makers living there.
“MAKING BASKETS–To many, says the Dispatch, the classic neighborhood of ‘Bull frog alley’ is well known. It would, perhaps, by any other name, smell quite as sweet, but as it has been so christened from time immemorial, it is probable that name will be handed down to posterity, signifying that portion lying east of the Peach Bottom railway, and south of Market Street in Freystown.
The hovels, for such they are, are occupied by the poorest classes of York, whose sole occupation is making baskets. An adjoining marsh forms a splendid growing ground for willow brush, and is filled with willow trees. At present the whole population is engaged in stripping willows for making baskets. Every man, woman and child are seated about their doors, busily engaged, and the scene presented is a novel one. To watch the deft fingers of these basket makers as they are engaged in twining the wielding willow branches, and shape them into market, hand and other baskets is quite interesting.”
On an 1876 map of York, Freystown lies between Philadelphia and King Streets and extends from Broad Street to Sherman Street. It was part of Spring Garden Township at that time, not yet incorporated into York City. As the newspaper article indicates, Bull Frog Alley was the low swampy area around Fulton Street.
The Peach Bottom Railway became the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railway. I wrote earlier about hunters taking the train from the station in the Freystown area.
Click here to read about city hunters going to the country by train.
The basket makers were also known as gypsies. As the area was drained and willows became scarce, the inhabitants took up other trades. There is more information on these families in the manuscript files of the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives. Perhaps they number among your ancestors. I understand the baskets made in the Bull Frog Alley are quite collectible. Do you have one?