York Town Square

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Freedman kisses earth as canalboat crossed Mason-Dixon Line

A favorite story linked to the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal involves Aquilla Howard, a leader in York’s black community in the late-19th and early-20th century.
When Howard, a former slave, passed the Pennsylvania line he jumped off the canal boat full of lime, grabbed a handful of soil and repeatedly kissed it… .

Howard lived his life as if he appreciated the lime boat captain’s words spoken when he crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, “Now, my man, you’re in Pennsylvania on free soil.”
Howard, who worked for P.A. Small, of York’s leading business, P.A. and S. Small, for 47 years, went on to carry a wreath for the bier when Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in York in 1865.
It was a moment full of meaning in which a leading freedman honored the leader who freed many men.