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York contractors ban drinking while building railroad

Recorder 4-22-14

An item in the August 25, 1829 York Recorder newspaper microfilm at York County Heritage Trust recounts how some Yorkers managed to up productivity in their work crew—don’t let them drink. The article reads:

“Messrs. Gardner & Jessup, of this place, contracted to make the road formation on a section of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and determined on commencing the work to take no man into their employment who would not agree to dispense altogether with the use of spirituous liquor. With this stipulation, they succeeded in procuring an adequate number of hands; and we are gratified to learn from the Baltimore American that the experiment thus to prosecute the work has been fully successful.

The labourers perform their duties with exemplary industry and expedition, are in good spirits, and confess that they can do their work better, and with more ease to themselves, under the present restrict, than they possibly could without it. We may add that good evidence in proof of this is furnished by the fact that the larger portion of the work is already completed, though not near half of the time stipulated for its execution has expedited.

Several ingenious cars, to facilitate the removal of the earth, on a temporary railway, are to be seen in operation on that section of the road, and do credit to the inventive genius and skill of the contractors, whose contrivance they are.”

Gardner and Jessup (also Jessop) were no strangers to construction in Maryland. Between 1808 and 1810 John Small, George Small, Michael Gardner and Jonathan Jessop had constructed five stone bridges as part of the Baltimore and York-town Turnpike, still today the scenic route from York to Baltimore. One of these bridges, the Parkton Stone Arch Bridge, still stands, as far as I know. It is recognized as Maryland Historic Bridge and State Historic Site.

Jessup, Maryland is also said to have been named for York’s Jonathan Jessup, who spent a good bit of time in the area implementing construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.