The making of Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County
I’ve depicted D. J. Lake surveying the 1860 Map of York County, Pennsylvania, in this illustration. D. J. Lake “went around pushing a wheelbarrow in front of him, and in this barrow he carried his instruments. He did not talk to any one except to ask at every place the one question, ‘who lives here?’”
Can you imagine someone pushing a wheelbarrow along every road that existed throughout York County? Country folk thought he was crazy. D. J. Lake likely counted the revolutions of the wheel to measure distance, while noting direction with a compass. The map surveyed by Lake and published by W. O. Shearer in Philadelphia is remarkably accurate; even down to the proper placement of the principal residence(s) within each property.
I’ve used this 1860 map extensively for family history research for over twenty years and have recently used it for other purposes; see example links, from around York County, at the end of this post. An original Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County hangs in the Library of the York County Heritage Trust.
The complete article describing the making of Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County appeared in the December 25, 1893 issue of The Gazette:
There is to be found in several places in York a York County map that is remarkable for its size and accuracy. Perhaps the best specimen is the one that hangs in the Sheriff’s office. The map is larger in size than the common wall maps of the state and bears the date of 1860.
Deputy Heindel said to a GAZETTE reporter, who chanced to make some remark about its accuracy, that although the surveys were made a few years previous to 1860, it was still of great value, especially as to the things that have changed but little, such as the roads and township lines, etc. The names of the proprietors of the different farms, and the map gives them nearly all at their proper positions along the road, do not of course correspond with the present  owners.
“The man who made the surveys for that map,” continued the deputy, “was D. J. Lake, and he was thought by some of the country folk for a long time to be crazy. He went around pushing a wheelbarrow in front of him, and in this barrow he carried his instruments. He did not talk to any one except to ask at every place the one question, “who lives here?”
“I became acquainted with him through a courteous act he did. While driving along the road one day, I encountered him and his wheelbarrow. My horse became frightened at the thing and might have given me some trouble, except for the fact that Mr. Lake promptly came forward and took him by the bridle and led him past the barrow. That night just at dusk he got to my house and staid there all night. On that occasion he told me what he was doing.”
“It was a long time after he went away before the maps were printed and placed on the market. The people had come to the conclusion before he left that he was all right mentally but this delay again brought out opinions from the skeptics. All was satisfied that he was perfectly sane, however, when the maps were seen.”
“The profits on the venture were $5,000 and were a disappointment to both Mr. Lake and the publisher, Mr. W. O. Shearer. They expected to realize at least $12,000 off of the venture. They would make a great deal more than $12,000 if they were to publish an equally good one now . About three people would subscribe for it to one that subscribed for this one.”
The section of the 1860 map within the illustration shows the Stony Brook area of what is now Springettsbury Township. Some of the abbreviations are: B.S. stands for Blacksmith Shop, W.S. stands for Wheelwright Shop, S.H. stands for School House, and Grist M. stands for Grist Mill.
I’ve selected example YorksPast posts, one in each of eight localities in York County, where Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County was utilized:
- Lower Windsor Township
- Second & Third Union Church Buildings at Canadochly
- Hellam Township
- Schoolhouse Symbols on Maps; and Introducing the Longevity Code
- North Codorus Township
- Are these Three Schools in or near Potato Town, North Codorus Township?
- Paradise Township
- Jacobs “Factory” Mill in Paradise Township gets first S. Morgan Smith Turbine
- Spring Garden Township
- Violet Hill in Spring Garden Township; Assorted Maps, Hotel & Schoolhouses
- Springettsbury Township
- The Humpback Bridge at Stony Brook, Part 3: John and Hannah Hauser Family
- York City
- Borough of York in 1860s; Six Newspaper Offices for a Population of 10,000
- York Township
- Where was Raab’s One-Room Schoolhouse Originally Located; When was it Built?