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Exercising Buffaloes via Airplane in Springettsbury

Article in the Nov. 14, 1925 issue of The Evening News (Harrisburg, PA)
Article in the Nov. 14, 1925 issue of The Evening News (Harrisburg, PA)

Mahlon Haines utilized an airplane to exercise buffaloes kept in a pasture at his Yorkshire Ranch in Springettsbury Township. On November 14, 1925, local newspapers reported: “BUFFALOES ARRIVE IN YORK—Directly from the plains of the Government reservation at Hot Springs, S.D., three buffaloes, a bull and two cows, arrived here yesterday. They were consigned to Mahlon N. Haines, of the Stirrup Club.” If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.

The United States Government had a short-lived program in the 1920s to provide Bison breeding stock to ranchers willing to abide by certain guidelines. This was an attempt to expand the buffalo population in America, where great herds had been decimated from the Great Plains.

Ultimately this program did not achieve its goals.   Bison breeding on ranches was not very successful and there was the high cost of feeding the buffaloes, compared to cattle. When the program came to an end, the ranchers were allowed to butcher the ranch buffaloes; to recoup some of their costs. There was also the hope that bison meat would be a hit with the public; thereby spurring ranchers to take another look at the economics of raising buffaloes.

Mahlon Haines came up with a unique way of exercising the buffaloes on his Yorkshire Ranch. The following article appeared in newspapers across the country; here I’m quoting from the July 21, 1926, issue of Simpson’s Leader-Times in Kittanning, PA:

KEEPS BUFFALOES ON RUN. Buffaloes belonging to Mahlon N. Haines, of York, Pa., are “off their feed.” They need exercise, but no one could be found who would enter the enclosure and chase them around. So Karl S. Ort has been retained to exercise the animals by using his airplane. He flies over the field, which causes the buffaloes to run about.

Aviator Karl Ort and Mahlon Haines’ buffaloes are also mentioned on page 173 of John F. M. Wolfe’s chronicle “Profile of Aviation, York County, PA., 1925-1998.” Quoting from Wolfe’s excellent work; located in the Library/Archives of the York County History Center:

A local barnstormer who flew from Stony Brook Field was Karl Ort. A favorite feat of his was to fly over a town and toss out cigars attached to small parachutes, which advertised the “Uncle Green” cigar. Also, Mahlon N. Haines, York’s shoe merchant, would engage Karl to fly over his herd every Sunday afternoon at 3 P.M. so the buffalo would get their “exercise.”

John Wolfe’s chronicle of the Stony Brook Army Air Field notes it was one of the first officially recognized airstrips within York County, when it opened on the grounds of the Lincoln Realty and Amusement Company during July 28, 1925. John places the location of Stony Brook Field “in the region where Campbell Chain Company and Motters Printing Company are now [1998] situated.” In 2016, the company names occupying these buildings are APEX Tool Group and Kinsley Manufacturing, respectively; i.e. plants located along the south side of East Market Street and west of Stonewood Road in Springettsbury Township.

John Wolfe’s early aviation insight also answers a question from a post I did two weeks ago, it pinpoints where the Great Lincoln Speedway of 1925 was going to be located East of York.  Newspaper articles quoted within that post noted, “The Lincoln Realty and Amusement Company, which was planning to build the second largest speedway in the country east of the city, offered the interior oval of their track to the War Department to be used as a landing field.” John records Stony Brook Army Air Field as having a 2000-foot grass runway. A 2000-foot runway does fit within the infield of a 1.25-mile-length oval speedway; with room to spare.

This is a United States Department of Agriculture photo of an American Bison; also commonly referred to as the American Buffalo, or simply as a Buffalo in North America. This is the animal that roamed Mahlon Haines’ Yorkshire Ranch in Springettsbury Township, York County, Pennsylvania during the 1920s.

United States Department of Agriculture photo of an American Bison
United States Department of Agriculture photo of an American Bison

What happened to the Yorkshire Ranch Buffaloes? Mahlon Haines did like most ranchers at the conclusion of the Buffalo Program; the buffaloes were butchered and the meat was sold. Mahlon’s buffaloes were killed and butchered in October 1928. However, whereas most ranchers did this to recoup some of their costs; Haines donated all proceeds to the Visiting Nurse Association. The local bison meat sold for $2 per pound. It is not know if buffalo meat was a hit with Yorkers. Years later, Mahlon Haines obtained another herd of buffaloes after acquiring a ranch in South Dakota.

In terms of present road names, Haines’ Yorkshire Ranch was located approximately south of Eastern Boulevard and west of Edgewood Road in Springettsbury Township. After the Great Depression hit in 1929, Haines developed streets on the Yorkshire Ranch and gave housing lots free to the unemployed who agreed to build upon them.

Within the Yorkshire development, Haines built a 2-room brick schoolhouse in 1930. For the first three years, it was leased at $1 per year to the Independent School District of Springettsbury Township. This schoolhouse stood on the north side of Fifth Avenue and was located between Mills Street and Maywood Road. As population in the area increased, several additions were made, adding classrooms to the 1930 structure, until in 2010 a completely new elementary school was built on the baseball field and playgrounds behind the original school.

Those original school buildings were torn down to create the playgrounds for the new Yorkshire Elementary School on the southeast corner of Eastern Boulevard and Mills Street. Several elements of the original school are displayed in the new school building; such as the former entrance columns and an original black board slate.

Links to related posts include:

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts