POW Camp Security site: ‘There’s a lot of history waiting to be discovered’
Camp Security, in present-day Springettsbury Township, probably resembled this British prisoner-of-war encampment in Charlottesville, Va. Some prisoners from this camp moved to Camp Security in 1781 when Cornwallis’ redcoats moved northward into Virginia. Later, other prisoners from Cornwallis’ surrendered command at Yorktown, Va., were detained there. Background posts: York County has done its share in playing host to POWs, Camp Security offers beauty, history and First history trail stop: Camp Security.
Even as a jury awarded Peter Alecxih $17.25 million for Highpoint, another prime piece on the preservationists’ list made the news.
That’s the Springettsbury Township acreage that was site of Camp Security, a British prisoner of war camp in the American Revolution. It’s been placed on another high-level list of most-endangered historic sites… .
York County historian June Lloyd wrote in a column that will appear in the York Sunday News that the site is significant: The land is the last remaining undeveloped tract in the United States that houses a Revolutionary War prisoner of war camp.
A similar site in Reading was developed in 2002, she wrote.
Developer Tim Pasch apparently still has plans to build housing on that site – upscale housing that would be far different from the conditions available to those red-clad American Revolution prisoners.
Will this turn into another protracted legal battle?
Is there a way to just pay Pasch for the land and be done with it?
Or will Pasch recognize the importance of the site and give it to the community at cost?
Those questions have been out there for several years. The good news is that the land is still undeveloped.
But it’s best to answer them lest preservationists find a bulldozer on the site some day.
That’s what brought on the battle of Highpoint hill.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News story (7/16/08) on the tract placement on another most-endangered list follows:
For the second time in three years, a Revolutionary War prison camp in Springettsbury Township has been nationally recognized as one of the most historically significant and endangered sites.
The camp is listed in a 114-page report to Congress about the historic preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites. Congress asked for the study, produced by the American Battlefield Protection Program, in 1996 because of its concern about the historical integrity of the sites.
The report lists Camp Security, which is off Locust Grove Road, as one of 26 sites that is a priority for preservation. It is one of only five considered to be threatened in both the short and long term for being damaged or destroyed.
Camp Security is listed as a Class B site, meaning that it had a “significant objective or result that shaped the strategy, direction or outcome of a campaign or other operation.” Class A, such as the Valley Forge Winter Encampment, sites had a “vital objective.”
“I think it’s great that it made the list,” said Scott Butcher, who serves on the board of directors for Historic York. “There’s a lot of history waiting to be discovered.”
Developer Tim Pasch, who owns the 65-acre parcel where the prisoner of war camp once stood, plans to build houses on the property. Friends of Camp Security have been trying to preserve the site for years. Pasch could not be reached for comment.
“I think the significance of the site has been recognized,” Carol Tanzola, president of the Friends of Camp Security, said. “Where it will get us, I don’t know.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation identified Camp Security as one of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places three years ago.
Butcher said he hopes the report to Congress will keep the plight of the property in the forefront.
Limited excavation was done at the site in 1979, and it revealed pottery shards, buttons, gold coins and other artifacts from the era.
But more archaeological work needs to be done to document the entire camp, historical researcher June Lloyd said. It included a 15-foot high stockade, a village of huts and a cemetery.
The report to Congress calls for all levels of government and national organizations to focus immediate attention on the priority sites, which include Camp Security.
A bill in Congress, if approved, would provide matching grants for acquisition of sites listed in the report, said Tanya Gossett, preservation planner with the National Park Service.
Grants are available through the American Battlefield Protection Program as well, such as for studies, but would not include money for acquisition, said Kathy Schlegel, historical landscape architect with the National Park Service.
Tanzola said the Friends of Camp Security has applied for grants and will continue to do so in hopes of promoting awareness and research about the site.
Whether houses will be built on the site remains unclear. Four years ago the state Department of Environmental Protection refused to issue a stream permit until Pasch conducts an exhaustive archaeological excavation under the supervision of the state Historical and Museum Commission.
Nothing has happened since that time, DEP spokeswoman Lauri Lebo said.
Camp Security in Springettsbury Township opened in 1781 for Revolutionary War prisoners taken at the Battle of Saratoga in New York and at Yorktown, Va., after Lord Cornwallis’ surrender.
About 1,500 prisoners and their families and Continental Army guards and their families lived in the camp.
An epidemic killed hundreds, who were then buried on the grounds. The camp closed in 1783.
For more information, visit the Friends of Camp Security’s Web site at www.campsecurity.com.
An excerpt from a study prepared for Congress on the preservation of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites:
“In times when our nation faces troubling challenges in the world, Americans instinctively seek the authentic fabric of history. Historic places provide a kind of physical reassurance, akin to the comforting ‘touch of elbows’ often described by comrades who faced combat in line of battle.
“It is true that not every
battlefield or historic site can be protected, nor do all sites deserve equal preservation. It is also true that every loss, every bulldozed acre of battlefield, every razed structure, diminishes our ability to commune with our nation’s past. Without these places of pilgrimage, we are left with words and fading memory. We preserve these sites so that our national history may continue as a living presence.”
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/history/hps/abpp/Rev1812_ Final_Report.pdf.