Birthday borough Dillsburg: ‘Seems to be York County’s wild child’
A large crowd listens to big band music over the weekend at Dills Tavern, part of Dillsburg’s175th anniversary festivities. The tavern serviced the plentiful passengers on the Harrisburg and Baltimore Turnpike, as they passed through the notch in the mountains. Background posts: Franklintown second cousin to neighboring Dillsburg, Flag expert: ‘I was interested in my nation’s heritage’, Dillsburg’s Jane Alexander pioneering county woman in state politics
The York Daily Record/Sunday News story (8/23/08) called Dillsburg York County’s
The 175th-anniversary celebration over the weekend was, indeed, a bright moment in the northwest York County borough.
The wild child comment brings to mind the most celebrated wedding of a townsman – or townswoman.
Anne Dill, 24 years old and the beautiful widow of a descendant of the town’s founder, married the distinguished clergyman and Declaration of Independence signer John Witherspoon… .
Dills Tavern is more than 200 years old.
Witherspoon had been in York County before, serving as part of the Continental Congress when that body met in York in 1777-78.
It was the influential patriot Witherspoon who spawned the British saying “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson.”
Now in 1790, Witherspoon’s wife of 41 years had died.The statesman, now in his late 60s, married the 24-year-old Dill, whose late husband had been a Witherspoon student at Princeton.
That marriage caused considerable discussion in Dillsburg and Princeton. In fact, Princetonians enjoyed a rare three-day vacation in honor of the new couple.
Witherspoon lived four more years, and his young wife bore him two sons.
The “wild child” newspaper story follows:
In 1833, Dillsburg’s major industry was entertaining travelers.
In 2008, the town is famous for dropping a giant pickle every New Year’s Eve.
In an area with such a traditional and conservative history, Dillsburg seems to be York County’s wild child.
Today, the borough will celebrate its 175th anniversary with a parade, dancing, music and other festivities.
One of the town’s gems, Dills Tavern, will recall its early roots and charm visitors.
According to the town’s historians, Dills Tavern became a landmark on early maps for travelers to Baltimore, Harpers Ferry and Carlisle.
“It would have been a busy place . . . good food,” said Joanne Klase, a member of the tavern keeper committee.
Near the tavern was a large-scale distillery that made thousands of
hogshead barrels of whiskey, she said. Some of it was sold to guests at the tavern and area residents.
But much of it was taken to Baltimore, where the whiskey was exchanged for fresh oysters packed in brine as a preservative inside the barrels.
“We are still doing archaeological work,” Klase said of the tavern’s four-year renovation, nearly complete.
The tavern was built in three stages: it was started in 1794 by the Dill family; then it doubled in size in 1800 by Leonard Eichelberger and in 1819 by his sons.
At one point, the tavern — a hub of commerce surrounded by farmland — was referred to as the Mansion Farm and Plantation.
According to Dillsburg’s 175th anniversary committee, the town at various times was named Monaghan Settlement, Dill’s, Dillstown and
To honor Dillsburg’s spirit and birthday, William H. Wessels, who lives and works in Dillsburg, hired local chainsaw artist Brad Heilman to carve a massive pickle from a tree trunk on property Wessels owns near the town’s square.
“This is just a neat little town,” Wessels said. “It still has its rural character. Over the years, a lot of people never left this town. People that have moved in seem to mesh well . . . For the most part, everybody gets along.”