York Town Square

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Old York County town jails: ‘They’re kind of hidden history’

John McDonald opens the old lockup in Seven Valleys, a holding pen for overnight detention, typical of many that dotted towns around Yok County. ‘This is really a neat structure,’ said Police Heritage Museum’s John Stine told the York Daily Record/Sunday News. ‘It’s plain. But this is what they were, they were plain.’ Background posts: Police museum, Web site packed with York County law enforcement info, ‘There were only so many cells in that old stone prison’, First county prison housed irksome Brits

The Police Heritage Museum, based in York, remains on the huntfor information about the old lockups that decades ago operated in towns throughout York County.
The museum Web site contains capsules of information about some of the lockups.
The most intriguing is an all-slate box in Delta… .

“The River and the Ridge” quotes a 1885 Delta Herald report about the planned “Delta Lock-up”: “From the course things have been taking lately, it will be needed frequently.”
Even in those days, folks were concerned about crime in their town.
The still-standing structure has interesting lore linked to it. The person who built the structure had two other firsts: He was its first detainee, and its first escapee.
Here is the lead-in from a recent York Daily Record/Sunday News (9/28/08) article about the quest for information about such lockups:

Inside a small brick building in Seven Valleys is an old town lockup where criminals or even travelers would have spent the night years ago.
It still has the handmade iron bars, a metal bed and a cast iron stove. A small wooden sign between the two cells reads “Over Night Lodging ONLY.”
“They’re kind of hidden history,” John Stine, chairman of the Police Heritage Museum in York, said of the old lockups. “. . . It just amazes me that they’re still around.”
Stine and other museum officials have been searching for these small-town jails to record their history and encourage communities to preserve the ones that still exist.
Lockups offered police a place to detain criminals overnight.
Some stood near railroad tracks, presumably, so that criminals could be transported to the county prison by train, Stine said.
The buildings served a dual purpose. They also provided cheap, overnight lodging for travelers who couldn’t afford lodging, or if it wasn’t available in the town.
During the Depression, hobos spent the night in the Seven Valleys lockup, said 78-year-old Wayne Kessler, who has lived in the town his entire life.
Some have been kept by the municipality. The Seven Valleys jail served as a town office years ago.
Others, such as one in Red Lion, are in private hands.
Not all have survived over the years.
One of the first lockups in the City of York was in the ground basement of the west-most markethouse in the square, Stine said.
Officials released the prisoners the night they tore the market down in the 1880s.
While museum officials have located some of the lockups, the hard part has been finding anybody who knows anything about them because of their age, Stine said.
He’s hoping that residents in the community will share any photographs and information about the old lockups in York County and elsewhere.
“It’s a part of our history, and it should be preserved,” Stine said.

Anyone who has information about these old lockups can e-mail it to info@policeheritagemuseum.com