A leading York County name: ‘Keeping it in family is the Glatfelter way’
In this 2000 photo, Spring Grove players workout in their former football stadium, with the Glatfelter paper plant looming large. The team now plays in new digs – Papermakers Stadium – located near the new high school. (See related photo below.) Background posts: Private, public interests built Lake Marburg for manufacturing, recreation and Worker saved key historical surveys from Glatfelter pulping machine and White Woman of the Genessee captured 250 years ago in York County.
Glatfelters have been making news around York County for, well, more than 250 years.
Perhaps the most prominent Glatfelter is the Spring Grove papermaker. And just in the past few days, that Glatfelter was in the headlines because of a wonderful piece of land the company donated in Adams County and an air tank that ruptured (no one was injured) at its mill.
When Harry Potter climbs back into the news, it’s certain to bring back ties of the Glatfelter as the maker of the pages that people so devotedly turn.
But the descendants of Casper Glattfelter – Glatfelters, Gladfelters, Glotfeltys, Clodfelters and Clotfelters – are known for more than papermaking… .
Spring Grove’s new stadium reflects the influence of Glatfelter paper mill in York County.
So to bring all the sprawling Glatfelter clan together, we re-publish here a short story, first appearing in the 1999 York County 250th anniversary book “Builders and Heroes,” about the family that first settled in York County in 1743.
The following story was headlined “Keeping it in the family is the Glatfelter way” when it was published in the York Daily Record (11/11/99):
When Charles H. Glatfelter set out to publish an early history of his family in America (“The Early Glattfelder Family in America: An Overview”), he knew just where to go for paper: the P.H. Glatfelter Company in Spring Grove. He knew a good typesetter, too: Holly Glatfelter Burns of Lancaster.
Keeping it in the family is a piece of cake for descendants of Casper Glattfelder, a native of Switzerland who sailed to America in 1743 and spawned most of the Glatfelters, Gladfelters, Glotfeltys, Clodfelters and Clotfelters living in the United States today. They number in the thousands and occupy every walk of life, from farmers to physicians to historians such as Charles Glatfelter, a retired Gettysburg College professor.
A large concentration of Casper’s offspring remain in York County, where he made his home and was laid to rest. Family tradition has it that Casper and his brother-in-law established their homesteads along the south branch of the Codorus Creek be cause it reminded them of the hills of their homeland.
Casper farmed his land, and when he died, passed his plantation to his son Felix. To his wife, Anna Maria, he willed one cow, the best bed, an assortment of household items and generous yearly rations of wheat, rye, pork and other produce.
Casper had at least six sons who survived to maturity and an unknown number of daughters. His children gave him at least 55 grandchildren.
Nobody knows why Casper and clan decided to make the treacherous voyage to America, but Charles Glatfelter’s history, published in 1993 to observe the 250th anniversary of the family’s arrival, suggests that the Glattfelders probably were motivated by “the belief that sooner or later things would be better for them and their children in the New World.”
In time, family members would climb to the highest echelons of American culture. But their rise would happen later rather than sooner. Glatt- felders spent more than a century toiling as farmers, merchants, tailors and other tradesmen before the family name became synonymous with suc cess.
Writing in 1910, physician Noah Miller Glatfelter of St. Louis described the family as “industrious, economic, honest, patriotic, peace-loving citizens; neither rich nor poor; none found in almshouses or jails; not prominent in political preferment; prolific and long-lived, numbering now many thousands. . . . Until in recent years they have not been found in the higher educational walks and professions, though the spirit of the present augurs a future full of promise.”
Today their ranks include renowned educators such as the late Millard E. Gladfelter, who served as Temple University’s fourth president, and prominent public servants such as U.S. Rep. Bill Goodling, R-York County, and former Pennsylvania Gov. George M. Leader, a Democrat.
They also include captains of industry such as the late Philip H. Glatfelter, whose manufacturing legacy includes the paper mill and the plant that became York International Corp.
P.H. Glatfelter, Casper’s great-great-grandson, was 27 when he paid $14,000 for a small Spring Grove paper plant in 1864. Over the next 25 years, Glatfelter – the son of a farmer – expanded the mill to 20 times its original paper-making capacity. In 1886, during the writing of John Gibson’s “History of York County, Pennsylvania,” the mill was valued at $450,000.
P.H. Glatfelter had market forces on his side, according to Charles Glatfelter, the family historian.
“It could be that if events had turned differently, one would never have heard of him again,” Charles Glatfelter said. “But he got into a business at the right time – at a time when the manufacture of paper was turning from rags to wood pulp as the raw material. And that brought the price of paper down and the consumption of paper way up. He was at the right place at the right time.”
Another Casper descendant who became a successful businessman is Arthur J. Glatfelter, owner of Glatfelter Insurance Group. The Loganville native opened his own insurance agency in 1951. Today, his company grosses more than $150 million a year and ranks among the top 15 insurance agencies nationwide.
While expanding the company, Glatfelter pioneered insurance products for volunteer fire departments and other emergency service providers.
Locally, the Glattfelder descendants are as famous for their reunions as for their entrepreneurship. Hundreds of family members gather each summer at Heimwald Park in Springfield Township to connect with kin from across the country. The family built Heimwald, or “home woods,” in 1913 on land overlook ing Casper’s homestead. A patio in the park is paved with bricks inscribed with names of family members. The bricks form a rough family tree.
Casper’s great-grandchildren and great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren have held annual reunions since 1906, with the exception of the World War II years, when gas was rationed and pleasure driving discouraged.
“There are people who come maybe once in a lifetime,” said Charles Glatfelter. “They may come from across the country. They may come from most of the way across the country. Sometimes they never return because of the distance and cost. But there is a man from New Mexico who brings his wife just about every other year . . .”
A 1907 newspaper article about the second reunion, which drew more than 1,500 people, crows: “York County never welcomed such a gathering of clans.” More recently, the reunion has graced the pages of Country Living magazine.
Family members organized the Casper Glattfelder Association of America in the early 1900s to provide for the reunions. The association, which is run by a 17-member board of directors, publishes semi-annual newslet ters to keep the family in touch.