York Town Square

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Dover’s uneven history runs deep into well-tilled German soil

The Rev. Rene Kinard gives his final prayer after an outdoor baptism ceremony in the stream at the Dover Area Community Park during a Civil War re-enactment church service in 2005. The Dover area loves its history and has made some, too. Background post: York, Cumberland counties longtime companions.

In previous posts, we’ve seen that Dover borough in York County is more than the hometime of internationally acclaimed artist Jeffrey Koons.
And it’s more than home to the celebrated Dover intelligent design trial, brought to public view again recently via “Nova.”
I’ll get to another noteworthy part of Dover in a minute… .

As did many local towns, Dover started as a tavern along the route between newly minted county seat hamlets with equally straightforward English names – Carlisle and York – in 1752.
According to historian John B. Gibson, Dover’s first proprietor was Gerhart Greaff, later Graves, who established a memorable American Revolution record. He and other German company members were jailed as British prisoners after the Battle of Long Island, giving added weight to evidence that Germans made game Revolutionary War soldiers, too.
Along the way, Jacob Joner became Graves’ neighbor, and his name became the unofficial name of the hamlet: “Joners town” and “yonerstettle.” The town resisted its English moniker until a post office was established there in 1815, and German was commonly spoken on the town’s streets well past the 1880s.
As with many small towns in York County, it developed carriage makers who serviced the heavy traffic moving between Cumberland and York counties.
And a cornet band, originally organized for militia purposes, entertained at community functions.
And a union church, Salem Church – jointly owned and used by Lutheran and German Reformed congregations – grew up nearby and remains to this day one of about four such union churches in the county.
But what put Dover on the map came during the Civil War, when Jeb Stuart and 4,500 gray-clad cavalrymen in frantic search for commanding Gen. Robert E. Lee camped in town the morning of July 1, 1863.
Stuart was in fact in the Dover area when the first shot was fired in Gettysburg. He didn’t arrive in the field of battle until sometime the next day, July 2, having continued his march to Carlisle before Lee’s scouts found him.
So, in the film “Gettysburg,” when Robert E. Lee kept asking the whereabouts of his vaunted scout Jeb Stuart, the answer, at least on the outset of the battle, was: “Dover.”
Other York Town Square posts involving national newsmakers or news stories with Dover ties: Jeff Koons, Ray Krone, Daniel Drawbaugh, Jeb Stuart, John Kuhn , Scott Strausbaugh and the intelligent design case.
Also: John “Clarkie” Souza, Cate Reinart (mother of Nick and Drew Lachey), long trumpeter Bill School, rock group Blind Melon’s Chris Thorn, Jeff Koons, Part II, Gov. George Leader, weightlifting guru Bob Hoffman.