York Town Square

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Hames made in Shrewsbury Township’s Hametown fueled early American horsepower

For years, a hame was displayed on a sign in Leon Saubel’s front yard in the Shrewsbury Township (Pa.) village of Hametown. The display has been taken down. Background posts: Codorus collector exhibits collection of conveyances – wheels and sleighs and ‘I didn’t know a peach tree from an apple tree, but we learned quickly.’ and Trees commemorate World War I I vets.

In putting up the recent post on a Hametown one-room school and its upcoming reunion, it occurred to me that viewers might not know how the school’s host village received its name.
Hametown between Shrewsbury and Loganville on the Susquehanna Trail was a major center for the making of hames.
Hames, along with collars and traces, form the pulling part of a horse’s harness. (Other parts of a harness – a bridle, for example – relate to guiding the horse.)
J. Emory Seitz, whose great grandfather founded the village’s hame-making factory circa 1850 defined a hame in a 1970 letter: …

“A Hame is either of the two rigid pieces along the sides of a horse’s collar to which the traces are attached.”
(A trace connects the hame – and the horse – to the wagon.)
Seitz explained in his letter that family member Frank Seitz operated the business until the 1930s when tractor power succeeded horsepower.
“During my public school years,” he wrote, “I spent many evenings and Saturday painting, hames, hooks and rings used on same.”
Seitz wrote that about 16,000 pairs of hames came from the village to fill U.S. Army orders during the Civil War.
George Prowell wrote in his history of York County that the village played host to at least two dignitaries in its main role as a stop along the turnpike: Gen. Andrew Jackson and President Martin Van Buren. Most other presidents or presidential candidates later chose the smoother route along the Northern Central Railroad, a short distance to the west.
Just as tractors replaced horses and their hames, automobiles and trucks contributed to a decline in the Northern Central, later Pennsylvania Railroad.
And Interstate 83 replaced the Susquehanna Trail as the major north/south route through York County.
So Hametown today has become a quiet village, forgotten as a turnpike stop and as a contributor of its namesake to the actual horsepower that fueled early American transportation.
Source of photo and Seitz’s letter: Joe Boose’s “Hametown School, History in Review.”