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Malt, Castings and Turbine-Waterwheels

William Henry Kurtz [1822-1894] (Opposite page 768 of George Prowell’s 1907 History of York Co., PA; Vol. 1)
William Henry Kurtz [1822-1894] (Opposite page 768 of George Prowell’s 1907 History of York Co., PA; Vol. 1)
William Henry Kurtz [1822-1894] was a York industrialist who manufactured malt, castings and turbine-waterwheels. He had an elaborate downtown mansion built when he was 65-years-old. The Kurtz Mansion stood at 109 West Market Street in York, PA, from 1887 until it was razed in 1946 for a parking lot. Details about the Kurtz Mansion were provided in the posts: The Kurtz Mansion at 109 West Market Street and Stewartstown Mystery involved a Dempwolf Mansion in York.

The mansion replaced a home on the site originally owned by William Henry Kurtz [1804-1868]; a member of the United States Congress representing York and Adams Counties. William Henry Kurtz [1888-1948] was Executor of the Estate of the last Kurtz owner of the mansion. None of these three William Henry Kurtz’s are father/son, however each W. H. Kurtz was a prominent Yorker; with each deserving a separate post. This post is thus the first of three W. H. Kurtz posts.

Additional illustrations and the full story ofYork industrialist William Henry Kurtz [1822-1894]:

The portrait of William H. Kurtz [1822-1894] appears opposite page 768 in Volume 1 of George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, PA. Visits to the Library/Archives of the York County History Center and Prospect Hill Cemetery were used to resolve conflicts in the birth year for the W. H. Kurtz, that had the Kurtz Mansion built. I’ve seen either December 5, 1822 or April 9, 1823 presented as his date of birth on the Internet. In actuality, William was born December 5, 1822 and was baptized April 9, 1823. The following George Prowell article has him incorrectly born during 1823. His monument at Prospect Hill Cemetery is inscribed with his birth on December 5, 1822.

The photo of William H. Kurtz in Prowell has a “W. H. Kurtz” signature printed under the portrait. I decided to verify the signature, since Prowell’s History of York County was printed in 1907; 13-years after William died.

The estate files at the York County Archives contain the originals of most Wills; I collected five early “W. H. Kurtz” signatures in York County; including all three with known involvement with the 109 West Market Street site. The signature under the portrait has, by far, the closest match with that of William H. Kurtz [1822-1894]. The most prominent signature characteristic; see how the left side of his H & K almost resembles a big “J”.


A few other posts where I’ve utilized signatures include:

United States Census records and City Directories confirm this William H. Kurtz [1822-1894], and then his second wife Julia, are living at 109 West Market Street in York, PA, during the late 1800s. George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, PA contains a nice biography of William H. Kurtz [1822-1894] within the Volume 1 Section on “Manufacturing in the City of York.” Quoting from page 769 of Volume 1:

William H. Kurtz was born in York in 1823 and here he resided until his death in 1894. His early education was acquired at York County Academy, but his extensive knowledge of business has been acquired through his own efforts and in actual practical life. At fourteen years of age he was thrown upon his own resources, and for seven years he was employed as a clerk in a store. He established a malting business, still conducted under his name, in 1845, in which year he became associated with A. Hamilton Nes. The scope of the enterprise was limited at first, but by reliable methods and industry was enlarged until it became the most important of its kind in southern Pennsylvania. The original firm of Kurtz & Nes continued for about twenty years, after which Mr. Kurtz secured sole control of the business, in which he continued until 1872, when he became a member of the firm known as Baugher, Kurtz & Stewart, iron and brass founders, machinists, and manufacturers of turbine water-wheels. There is a connection with this establishment the Codorus Tannery, which was at that time one of the most extensive industries of its kind in Pennsylvania. However, Mr. Kurtz continued to be active in connection with the supervision of the malting business until his death. The present style of W. H. Kurtz & Son was adopted in 1855, when Mr. Kurtz’s son, Charles became identified with the business, which he still carries on.

The marriage of Mr. William H. Kurtz with Miss Mary Baugher was solemnized August 17, 1856. To this union were born three children: Charles, Julia and Mary, the last named dying in infancy. Mrs. Kurtz died in 1861, and, five years later, Mr. Kurtz was married to Miss Julia A. Baugher, a sister of this former wife, and daughter of Frederick Baugher, who was one of the leading citizens of York. Mr. Kurtz was enterprising in business, liberal in all affairs of true worth and merit, and ranks as one of York County’s most valued citizens. He was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

The foundry and machine shop, Baugher, Kurtz & Stewart, responsible for W. H. Kurtz’s castings and turbine-waterwheels business involvement is described in the post: Baugher, Kurtz & Stewart; The Prominent Foundry along the Codorus in York.  The extensive operations of the W. H. Kurtz & Son malting business were clustered nearly directly across the Codorus Creek. That is, in the vicinity of West Philadelphia Street, Baugher, Kurtz & Stewart was located on the west side of the Codorus Creek and W. H. Kurtz & Son was located on the east side of the Codorus Creek. The following 1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map section, from Penn State Libraries Online Collections, shows where the nine malting houses were located. The office/headquarters of W. H. Kurtz & Son was located on the northwest corner of West Philadelphia Street and North Pershing Avenue.

1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of York, PA showing W. H. Kurtz & Son’s Nine Malting Houses (Source: Penn State Libraries Online Sanborn Maps; Annotated by S. H. Smith)
1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of York, PA showing W. H. Kurtz & Son’s Nine Malting Houses (Source: Penn State Libraries Online Sanborn Maps; Annotated by S. H. Smith)

New grain was soaked in water on the floors of the malting houses, allowing the grain to sprout. In simple terms, the sprouts were then dried in kilns to stop growth. W. H. Kurtz & Son sold their malt product to beer breweries and food processing plants all over the South Central Pennsylvania area.

Related links include:

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts