Cliff Satterthwaite’s Artwork of Battle Hill One-Room Schoolhouse; “City Slickers” Fox Hunt in Chanceford Township
Last month I asked my readers to help identify a Mystery One-Room Schoolhouse drawn by Cliff Satterthwaite. Cliff remembered this artwork was from about 1971 and that the schoolhouse burnt down sometime afterwards, however he could not exactly place where this schoolhouse was located.
Several readers recognized the mystery schoolhouse as Battle Hill School; which was located along Battle Hill Road in Chanceford Township. One reader recalled the schoolhouse burnt down sometime during the Spring of 1976. The newspaper microfilms at the York County Heritage Trust contained a York Daily Record article about the fire in the old schoolhouse, then owned by Rose Tree Hunt Club; see photocopy of article at the end of this post. The Battle Hill One-Room Schoolhouse burnt down in the early morning hours of April 15, 1976.
I had planned to look into the Rose Tree Hunt Club reference, however did not need to, since reader Eleanor Boggs Shoemaker of Felton provided extensive comments about “city slickers” from the Philadelphia area moving the Rose Tree Hunt Club to the wide-open countryside of York County in the mid 1950s for fox hunting and steeplechase racing. Eleanor wrote that Cliff Satterthwaite’s drawing brought back pleasant memories of the Battle Hill One-Room Schoolhouse in Chanceford Township:
I happen to know one of the students who attended [Battle Hill School]. Hesse Leiphart, now deceased, shared memories with me of his days at the school in the 1940s, so the old school was in operation until at least that time. After the school closed it stood largely unused until Mr. and Mrs. John Richards of Media, PA bought it and some adjacent land for what is known in fox hunting circles as a “hunt box” to host “hunt breakfasts” following hunts to entertain and encourage other fox hunters to invest in land.
Jack Richards and William Elliott Esq. were Masters of Foxhounds of the Rose Tree Hunt at the time. The Rose Tree was established on rolling hills in the environs of Philadelphia at an old tavern, The Rose Tree in Media in the 18th Century. By mid-twentieth Century the pastoral farm fields were inundated by burgeoning masses stretching ever outward from Philadelphia to the suburbs being created along the main line of the commuter train. Competition for open land heretofore the bastion of fox hunting was intense. By the mid 1950s land scarcity for hunting was tenuous enough to warrant consideration of a move west to preserve the sport in a place more amenable to country life.
York County was proposed as sufficiently far from Philadelphia to provide safe haven for long-term investments in real estate to preserve the open space required for foxhunting. As a first step Jack Richards and Bill Elliott brought half of the pack of foxhounds to York County in the mid 1950s. Jack bought a farm, “Feathering Farm,” near New Bridgeville and established a kennel and hired a local huntsman. Eleanor Blouse bought land in York County and Dr. William Oakey MD followed suit.
The plot thickened in the early 1960s however when the entire pack was relocated to York County and the clubhouse and grounds in Media were sold. Termination of the Media club grounds were cause to seek a suitable place to conduct the annual Rose Tree steeplechase races. There were numerous parcels of land for sale at reasonable prices for a race site within the territory assigned by the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America to Rose Tree. Despite this, it was however agreed by the board of Rose Tree, now headquartered in a spacious suite of rooms in York at the Yorktowne Hotel, that a suitable site outside the parameters of the assigned country was available at no cost.
The board agreed to use the land of a board member situated near Dillsburg despite it being outside the Rose Tree Country assigned hunting land. The owner, Stanley Gladfelter, offered to “lend” his farm as a steeplechase site if funds to reconfigure his farm for racing were provided. Two board members anted up the funds and several hundred thousand dollars later the race course was ready. Much to the surprise of the investors and Gladfelter the races did not generate revenue.
As the cost of maintaining the pack of foxhounds, staff, hotel suite, and race course mounted and notes came due on the borrowed earth moving loans the board sought to remedy the shortfall by dipping into the funds accrued from the sale of the Media club house and grounds. Their solution was met by loud objections since it was understood that the funds from that sale were to be used exclusively for the perpetuation of fox hunting and did not mention racing. Also, there was a dispute over what was said to be the vested interest of the old equity members from the Media club. The dispute raged through the courts and, at last, was resolved. The funds were to be used exclusively for fox hunting and there would be no distribution of assets since the club was still functioning.
The racecourse moneylenders were stuck with the total expense of the borrowed money, invested on borrowed land, beyond the parameters of the assigned hunt country of the Rose Tree Hunt. Interesting, unintended consequences resulted. The suite at the hotel was vacated to economize. Jack Richards bought Battle Hill out of pocket as a repository for the many fox hunting treasures brought from Media to the Yorktowne.
I’ll continue Eleanor’s comments after detailing exactly where Battle Hill Schoolhouse was located in Chanceford Township. Battle Hill School was opened in the Fall of 1857 and was used as a schoolhouse continuously into the early 1950s. I’ve marked up a 1937 Aerial Photo with present road names to indicate the location of Battle Hill Schoolhouse along Battle Hill Road. The upper right of the illustration is a zoomed-in view of the schoolhouse, where I’ve pointed out the long shadows from trees, school and outhouse; the locations of which exactly correspond to Cliff Satterthwaite’s artwork from the vantage point of the large arrow.
Continue reading the remaining comments of Eleanor Boggs Shoemaker:
The [Battle Hill] schoolhouse was refurbished at his [Jack Richards] expense and became a charming site for hunting memorabilia. Festive gatherings at the schoolhouse brought city slickers to visit the fox hunting country cousins at social events. But no buyers appeared to invest in hunt country land.
Another consequence was the departure of club members who preferred fox hunting to entanglements with steeplechasing aficionados. My husband and I owned land in the assigned Rose Tree hunt country, which we bought to preserve hunt country. Upon his expulsion from Rose Tree for leading efforts to prevent the use of club funds to pay loans on land outside the assigned country on improvements on borrowed land we established a pack of Pennmardel foxhounds on our farm with an emphasis on fox hunting and Pony Club. This further added to the difficulties of all.
Rose Tree had no resident landowners who fox hunted apart from the Richards. Rose Tree had the added expense of meeting a payroll for staff while our pack was owned and operated by our family and we served as staff. We invited all the local farmers to join in hunting on horseback or as hill toppers in their trucks with our pack The Weybright Hounds. All local children were invited to join the local United States Pony Club, the Old Rose Tree headquartered at our farm.
All entertainment was provided to all in simple style by our family. Battle Hill continued to serve as a social gathering spot for Rose Tree until it was vandalized and torched. Soon after the arson the Richards returned to Media and Rose Tree had a rough road for a number of years as various individuals attempted to save the hunt. One, enduring member, Thomas Green MD, rose to each challenge and is today, without doubt, the man most responsible for keeping Rose Tree afloat.
The family pack my husband and I began The Weybright Hounds became the subject of another legal dispute when our marriage culminated in divorce. The Masters of Foxhounds Association on court order recognized my pack as the affiliate of the Masters Association in 1987. I carried the horn and hunted the pack up and until 1996 when, Mrs. Shoemaker’s Weybright Hounds, were relocated to Iron Mountain Wyoming and shared kennel space with Mr. Jeffords Hounds on the hundreds of thousands of acres of open hunt country at his ranch. This caused consternation among the leaders of the Masters of Foxhounds Association back East since sharing kennels was not approved.
Needless to say, the country being hunted in Wyoming exceeded the combined hunting areas of several dozen Eastern packs. It is, therefore, baffling to contemplate why this posed a problem for the Masters of Foxhounds Association. Foxhunting is and has been beset by “anti” hunting groups so why a strong, well endowed Western move was opposed is curious.
In any event, at this time, there are few members of the Rose Tree, unlike the old Media club members, who own land on which they enjoy hunting in the assigned hunt country. The country is still at risk for development now and/or in the future. The best hunting is conducted in countrysides where the landowners also fox hunt.
The country in York County that I hunted, primarily North Hopewell Township, is now peppered with houses and shrinking farmland. It is far too densely populated to hunt the land successfully. It is problematic as to the future of fox hunting in York County. The story is still being told.
The role of Battle Hill School House was an interesting chapter in the quest to preserve material treasures along with the treasured field sport of fox hunting. The Richards invested in endeavors to acquire open space to hold in perpetuity for hunting which was and is a laudable goal. Visitors to private land astride horses are seldom as welcome as neighbors and friends. It continues to be a conundrum in the land in and around the old Battle Hill School.
I suppose the real question centers around open space for the cultivation of food. York County and Lancaster County was heralded as the breadbasket of the world for years. Today, the verdant fields are being laid to waste by linear housing development making the tax base so great for schools, public services, water, power, fire, police etc. that young people with an interest in agriculture, the staple of the community until very recently are unable to even consider a career as a farmer.
Saving land for fox hunting was, quite possibly, a frivolous notion of privileged people but is seeking prudent means to protect and preserve land for food such a bad idea? One solution that has gone begging in York County was the mandate permitting the “transfer of development rights.” The only equity farmers have for the most part lies beneath their feet. If they are forced to sell land the implications are severe. Once the land is gone the use is less likely to be agricultural. The transfer of development rights allows farmers to cash in on their equity by selling their building rights to landowners in boroughs where attendant facilities for growth are factored into the design. This leaves the open land safe for farming and the future.
Western Europeans benefited from this due to feudal systems, which clustered development in villages and left open space for agriculture. Be it recreation, agriculture, or environmental reasons the aim of preserving open space is worthy and we should, by all means, give it attention before it is too late to preserve space for food, fun or unspoiled environments. Battle Hill School was a symbol of a time when the need to provide education for the children of farmers was recognized and a way of life that is rapidly disappearing, was preserved.
The newspaper microfilms at the York County Heritage Trust contained this York Daily Record article about the April 15, 1976 fire in the old Battle Hill One-Room Schoolhouse, then owned by Rose Tree Hunt Club. The Rose Tree Hunt Club previously had space on the fourth floor of the Yorktowne Hotel. The Steeplechase Course of the Rose Tree Hunt Club was between Wellsville and Dillsburg; it was named the William duPont Jr. Memorial Steeplechase Course.
On April 10, 1857, John Rains sold a small parcel at this schoolhouse spot to the Chanceford Township School District (Deed Book 20-K, page 301). The 40 x 30-foot frame Battle Hill Schoolhouse was likely built in the six intervening months before the beginning of school in the Fall of 1857. Do any of my readers know the origins of the Battle Hill naming of this school?
Related posts include:
- Mystery One-Room Schoolhouse drawn by Cliff Satterthwaite
- Rose Tree Fox Hunting Club moves to York County