York Town Square

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York, Pa., town character Squire Braxton’s shack: Home to mongrel dogs, a long-barreled gun

E.A. Greiman illustrates York, Pa., Squire Braxton’s residence in Penn Park, top, and the town character at work, bottom. Also of interest: York City Police Blue Coats played baseball at Penn Park’s stadium to raise funds for uniforms and A short test of your York black history knowledge and Black history on display throughout York County.

E.A. Greiman was an illustrator and writer, associated with local printers for most of his long, adult life.
He straddled the turn of the 20th century so his work, particularly in his colorfully illustrated “Memoirs” give a look into York County in the late 1800s.
That booklet, often available at used book stores and in York County libraries, gives a colorful look, for example, at town character Squire Braxton.
The former slave lived in a self-made Penn Park shanty.
Here’s Greiman’s description:

Edwin A. Greiman, as pictured in his “Memoirs,” published by Graphic Services Inc., White Rose Engraving Company and the Historical Society of York County.

“It was built of bricks, stones, mud, metal signs, bottles of all kinds and was covered with old tin roofing. “Old Squire,” as he was familiarly called, had several mongrel dogs and an old, long-barreled gun. The kids in the neighborhood had a habit of teasing him by throwing stones at the old shanty. Then the dogs would start barking, and soon you’d see the old gun barrel come through a hole in the side of the shanty, and the kids had to dig for it, as he let go a blast from the gun.
“In order to earn money to buy food, he had an old two-wheeled push cart that he used when he was to clean water-closets, for which people paid him small sums. He usually stopped at Nispel’s Grocery Store to buy a loaf of bread and get a swig of whiskey. The bread was wrapped in an old newspaper. Then, he’d stick the bread down in the corner of his cart.
“The women along the route that he followed usually were up in arms when he came along, for this stuff in the car would dribble over the pavements. Besides the mess, it left a lingering and delightful (?) odor. The people guessed his age at a hundred years or over.
“This stuff that he collected from water closets he mixed with ashes, making a compost, which farmers would buy for on their land. All around his shanty there were piles of this compost which were about three feet in diameter and about two feet high. The boys of the neighborhood took delight in daring boys that came down town to jump over these piles; and they’d have a good laugh if some kid landed in the middle of one of these piles. This might literally be called a “dirty, stinking trick.” Of course, it all came out in the wash, but, Oh! what a wash!”

The kids who taunted Squire Braxton might not have known the kindness townspeople felt toward the freedman, who had first come to York in 1827.
Upon his death, 500 people attended services and a eulogy appears on the front page of a local newspaper.
Also of interest:
– More on Squire Braxton in my “Almost Forgotten: A Glimpse at Black History in York County, Pa.”
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