York County History Center shares unpublished Lewis Miller drawings online
The York County History Center has entered into an exciting new partnership with the Google Cultural Institute. The first project was the digitalization of Lewis Miller’s own annotated and illustrated copy of Henry Lee Fisher’s ‘S Alt Marki-Hous Mittes In D’r Schtadt (The Old Market House in the Middle of the Town). Fisher grew up in Franklin County, but his mother was a Harbaugh from York County, making him a descendant of some of the earliest settlers of York County. Fisher became an attorney, and then spent the rest of his life in York, becoming a prominent citizen. Click here to access the November issue of Center Piece, the YCHC newsletter, and go to page four to learn more about the partnership.
Fisher wrote several lengthy poems in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, eventually publishing them in several volumes. The Old Market House text is all about York. It centers on the square of York, from the time Continental Congress governed the country from the courthouse that stood there in Revolutionary times to the market sheds in the square that Fisher saw daily. The publication of the poem was illustrated with appropriate York scenes by local artist and photographer Henry Barratt.
We know that Fisher was an admirer of our prolific chronicler of 19th century York, folk artist Lewis Miller. Fisher wrote the profile of Miller included in Gibson’s History of York County. He also inscribed an Old Market House volume to Miller, who by then was living near relatives in Virginia.
Miller seems not to have been as enamored with the book as Fisher probably hoped he would. In fact, he wrote on the dedication page that “Mr. Fischer who has written this book was not born in York nor in the county of York…he did not see the old buildings. I could make more than a hundred pieces that I know of York in my time that I saw—and happened, and all fun of high sport.” Which is exactly what Miller did with his copy, filling it with colorful drawings of his own memories of York and Yorkers.
You can peruse the volume at your leisure by going to the York County History Center website, clicking on Museums and then clicking on “Lewis Miller Unpublished: A Virtual Exhibit” on the drop down menu. Click on Start to read the introduction and page through the book. Miller’s comments on his drawings have been transcribed by YCHC Assistant Director of Library and Archives Nicole Smith for ease of reading. As far as we know this poem has never been translated into English, as have some of Fisher’s other Pennsylvania Dutch dialect verses, but you can get a good idea of what is going on through Barratt’s illustrations and Miller’s comments and colorful drawings.