York Town Square

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Foustown now a ghost town: Raid there once netted 300 barrels of quality firewater

The William Foust distillery outside Glen Rock was a village in itself. Only a smokestack, deteriorating superstructure and houses remain of this once-bustling company town in an undulating part of York County that serves as a reminder of one of the county’s chief cash crops. Background posts: With all those stills, the York County hillbillies?, York County rail trail extension to follow canal towpath and ‘You cannot stay stressed here for long’.

William Helb of Railroad was a patriarch in a family that operated the best-known brewery in York County.
Not far away from Railroad in a valley outside Glen Rock, William Foust went for a harder drink. He operated a whiskey distillery in a village that is now a ghost town… .

Whiskey-making had long served as a prime county cash crop, a means for farmers to turn grain in cash. The Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s helped turn York countians away from a strong federal government and toward states rights.
Stills simply were an engrained part of York County’s culture, and still-operators wanted 18th- and 19th- century revenuers to mind their own business.
Motorists looking for a destination for a Sunday afternoon drive are well served to head to the 125-foot smokestack near Glen Rock that marks the site of the distillery’s town, to be distinguished from the Foustown, northwest of York. Print out the drawing above, sit in your car and squint backward at what that area would have been like.
Here is “Never to be Forgotten’s” description of Foust’s distillery:

In 1858, William Foust starts a distillery in a hollow near Glen Rock that produces the nationally known Springfield Copper Distilled Pure Rye Whiskey. The distillery’s success prompts growth of a company town named Foustown on the distillery site, complete with a water fountain. William Foust becomes a man-about-town in Glen Rock, holding many positions of prominence. The distillery topped 3, 000 barrels annually in 1907 with some of its product stored in a six-story warehouse. The distillery never recovered from Prohibition. It made headlines and contributed to Glen Rock lore after a Baltimore gangster raided the closed warehouses in 1921. One history noted that the raid netted “almost 300 barrels of the best firewater the Foust family had ever made in the pre-Prohibition days.” Law enforcement officials reportedly stopped the raid and recovered some of the loot. The distillery was refitted to produce industrial alcohol during World War II, but the war ended before production started. Today, a 125-foot smokestack built, but never used, for industrial alcohol production is all that is left of the distillery operation. The company town has become a ghost town.

Also of interest: Those 1912 drivers and other stories around Glen Rock, Pa. and Pottery put the other Foustown, the one in Manchester Township, on the map and With all those still, the York County hillbillies?

(Drawing courtesy of York County Heritage Trust.)