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Establishment of the Susquehanna Trail in York County during 1918

Story of the Susquehanna Trail in the Good Roads Movement: Part 9

Map showing Initial Routes and the Final Route during the Establishment of the Susquehanna Trail in York County, Pennsylvania during 1918 (S. H. Smith, 2014)
Map showing Initial Routes and the Final Route during the Establishment of the Susquehanna Trail in York County, Pennsylvania during 1918 (S. H. Smith, 2014)

We have the Susquehanna Trail road name in York County as a result of the Good Roads Movement in Pennsylvania. This map shows initial routes and the final route during the process of establishing the Susquehanna Trail in Northern York County during 1918.

The Susquehanna Trail Association was established in Williamsport on February 2nd, 1917; it was modeled after the successful nationwide Lincoln Highway Association, founded four years earlier. Just as with the Lincoln Highway, the Board of Governors of The Susquehanna Trail Association deliberated and made site visits to select the existing road segments that would be part of the Susquehanna Trail. By the fall of 1917, the Board of Governors had selected the road segments they would champion as the Susquehanna Trail between Harrisburg and the New York state line.

Early in the spring of 1918, an announcement was made; “On June 12th [1918] the Board of Governors of the Susquehanna Trail Association intend to make an Inspection Trip for the tapping of the Lincoln Highway below Harrisburg, and the idea of the Governors is either to make Gettysburg the terminus or York.”

From the start, the Board of Governors favored Gettysburg. The Board insisted on choosing between a Harrisburg to Gettysburg route that went through Dillsburg, versus a Harrisburg to York route that also went through Dillsburg. By that decision, the York route no longer had the shortest distance advantage; which is why the earliest proposed route of the Susquehanna Trail in York County went through Dover.

On June 12th, a 150-member York delegation, in 50-cars, caravanned to Harrisburg to escort the Board of Governors of the Susquehanna Trail Association back to York over a more direct route that the York Committee preferred; i.e. direct to Newberrytown, then through York Haven Boro, Manchester Boro and Emigsville. However, the Board of Governors insisted on traveling the route through Dillsburg and Dover to York; although the York Committee was able to convince the Board to take a peek at their suggested route through York Haven.

The clubhouse of the York Motor Club is where the York delegation entertained the Board of Governors during the evening of June 12th. That impressive building still stands today at 2025 East Market Street in Springettsbury Township. Remarks made that evening give a clue as to the influential person that will champion the York cause on the Board of Governors. Former State Senator Walter T. Merrick, from Wellsboro, a town north of Williamspost in Tioga County; however not directly on the Susquehanna Trail.

Walter Merrick is already talking about extending the southern terminus of the Susquehanna Trail to Washington D.C. He points out the strategic importance, from a military point of view, of such a route for the proposed Susquehanna Trail passing through the industrial cities of York and Baltimore. Remember, in June of 1918, the United States is still involved in World War I.

Headlines in July 2, 1918 issue of The Gazette and Daily, York, PA (From Newspaper Microfilms at York County Heritage Trust)
Headlines in July 2, 1918 issue of The Gazette and Daily, York, PA (From Newspaper Microfilms at York County Heritage Trust)

The notification that York has been officially selected to be on the Susquehanna Trail appears in the July 2nd, 1918, issue of The Gazette and Daily:


Local Committee Formally Notified That York Has Been Finally Selected FOR NATIONAL HIGHWAY

The local committee of the Susquehanna Trail Association has been officially notified by Secretary Max Lindenheimer, Williamsport, Pa., that the Board of Governors of the association has voted in favor of York, and the men of York have been asked to nominate two men from York County to represent them on the Board of Governors. This notification was read at a meeting of the local committee held in the Chamber of Commerce rooms last night, presided over by the chairman, Senator Henry Wasbers. In addition to a number of York committeeman, there were several representatives from the Lewisberry Automobile Club, to urge that the route between York and Harrisburg include Lewisberry Borough, which in all probability it will do. From Lewisberry there were Elmer C. Wise, E. S. Wolf, H. M. Sutton and George Bower. It was decided to meet next Monday morning at 9:30 o’clock to select the two men to represent the York committee on the Board of Governors.

The proposed Susquehanna Trail traverses one of the richest and most populous sections in all Pennsylvania. Starting at the northern boundary of Pennsylvania, it cuts the state into two portions almost as directly as a crow flies. The start is at Lawrenceville, Tioga County, and its present southern terminus, York. It runs through a pretty valley to Tioga, then on to Mansfield, to Covington and Blossburg and the centre of the Tioga County bituminous coal fields. Next on the route are Liberty, Trout Run, then following the old Williamson trail to Williamsport, skirting Lycoming Creek. Then it passes on to Montoursville, Muney, Montgomery, Watsontown, Milton, Northumberland, Sunbury, Shamokin Dam, Selinsgrove, New Buffalo, Liverpool, Clark’s Ferry, Dauphin, Harrisburg, New Cumberland, Lewisberry, York Haven and then terminating at York, for the present.

A study of this route reveals at once its value as an economic and military seat. It forms a direct route between York, only 100 miles from the national capital, and the southern boundary line of New York state. To the east the highway is protected from the seacoast by a natural barrier of mountains—ranges of the Alleghenies. The rich agricultural counties through which it passes and the numerous industrial towns and cities it reaches are capable of supporting large numbers of people passing along the trail, while it affords possibly the only well-protected straight line highway connecting the Great Lakes with Washington and the South.

Efforts will be made to obtain financial aid from the government to make the road a national highway.

Several weeks would pass for the expanded Board of Governors to finalize the Susquehanna Trail route through Northern York County. They ultimately selected the most direct route through Newberrytown and Zion View; i.e. the Susquehanna Trail route we know today in York County. With the Susquehanna Trail foothold established to York, a Trail route south of York was guaranteed to follow.

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