York Town Square

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Illegal cockfighting common in 19th-century York and Adams counties

The last line in this multi-deck newspaper headline tells of the days of cockfighting in the York and Adams counties area. Michael Vick’s activities indicate that the sport of animal fighting hasn’t gone away. Other posts of interest: Famous York County cockpit painting might not be about cockfighting and A short test of your York black history knowledge – Part II, Exhibit captures decades-long flow of wide Susquehanna and Artist Jeff Koons came back to York for a show.

In the mid-1800s, cockfighting matches were common in York and Adams counties.
So says The York Dispatch in May 1902, quoting an 85-year-old resident.
Animal fighting was against the law then, too, but a tavern a few miles from Hanover along the the York/Adams border put a work-around in place.
Here’s how it worked, according to the newspaper article: … .

The matches sometimes pitted two teams of up to nine game roosters.
“The battle ended in the death of all the cocks except the victor, then the money was paid over to his owner, and another fight was planned,” the newspaper reported.
The border location was important for this venue. When York County lawmen would come to make a bust, the action would move across the Adams line. And vice versa.
But here’s how that particular story ended, according to the newspaper:
“But the officers of the law came in on both flanks, on one occasion, and captured the human game, and left the roosters free to wander at large, to the alarm of the other roosters in the farm yards.”