Living historians bring spotlight to York’s Civil War story
Cassandra Morris Small witnessed the Confederate invasion of York in late-June 1863. Letters she wrote about the occupation to a cousin remain valuable primary sources detailing the rebel occupation in the wake of the borough’s surrender. (Courtesy, York County Heritage Trust.)
A group of living historians have been making the rounds in York and Adams counties recently.
As an example, The PA Past Players will be at Brown’s Orchards & Farm Market, Loganville, from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17.
As part of the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails Program, these historical interpreters have been trained to educate others about this region and the Civil War.
The presence of these characters has special meaning in York County. For years, York’s surrender to the Confederates has clouded discussion about the York’s area’s Civil War past.
In the past 20 years, recognition of Civil War achievements, long overshadowed by the questionable surrender and humilitating Confederate occupation, have been increasingly part of community discourse. These living historians are further evidence of this trend.
Supplied by the PA Past Players, the following are brief bios of people from history portrayed by the group:
Cassandra Small, Citizen, York
The 34 year old Cassandra Morris Small witnessed the Confederate occupation of York in
June 1863 from her family home on East Market. She described the experience in a series
of letters which form the basis of understanding of commerce and daily life during the
William Goodridge – Merchant and Social Activist, York
William C.Goodridge was a free man and entrepreneur who was well known throughout
York and the region. He became a property owner and developer, constructing York’s
first 4-5 story building and owning up to 20 properties at one time. Goodridge also started the Reliance Line of railcars, eventually providing service between York and
Philadelphia. He was widely known as a collaborator in the Underground Railroad.
Dr. Henry Palmer, Surgeon- York
Dr. Henry Palmer was surgeon in charge of the wounded in York at the time of the
occupation and battle of Gettysburg. Over 14,000 soldiers were treated in York between
the summer of 1862 and summer of 1865. Palmer himself was captured and escaped to
return to medical service. Dr. Palmer represents the men and women who discovered the
hard way the movements of troops and militia as a result of those fallen and wounded in
Elizabeth Ann Hipple, Seamstress, Marietta
Elizabeth Ann Hipple, a 25 year old seamstress lived throughout the Civil War period and
kept a diary of the events affecting commerce and daily life. She writes of attending
Abolitionist meetings and of the impact of Lincoln’s assassination on her community.
She frequently prepared ball gowns for the women who joined both the Ladies Patriotic
Circle and the Society of Marietta. Passing between races and class structures, she
provides a vehicle for composite stories of daily life.
Steven Smith, Entrepreneur and Change Agent, Columbia
Born into slavery in Paxton Township, Dauphin County in 1795, Stephen Smith was
purchased by General Thomas Boude in 1802.
General Boude brought Smith to Columbia where he owned a lumber yard. Smith was an
intelligent young man and Boude had him manage his lumber business by the time he was nineteen. Stephen Smith bought his freedom for $100. For another $50, he bought a little lumber and began a very profitable business of his own.
By the 1830s he owned one of the largest lumber yards in Columbia. In August and
September of 1834, racial tensions in Columbia increased and riots erupted. Stephen
Smith sold his business in Columbia and relocated to Philadelphia.
At this time, Smith was one of the wealthiest African-Americans in Pennsylvania. He
owned $9,000 worth of stock in the Columbia Bridge Company and $18,000 worth of
stock in the Columbia Bank. He also owned several homes in Columbia, Lancaster, and
Philadelphia. Smith was also an active abolitionist and took part in many meetings of the
Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society.
He also contributed and helped found many charitable organizations including the House
for Aged and Infirmed Colored People and the Zion Mission in Philadelphia. At the time
of his death in 1873, he was one of the wealthiest African-American men in the United
Josiah Gitt, Dry-goods Merchant, Hanover
Josiah Gitt , a Hanover merchant, was especially hard hit not only by the confederates,
but also by the Union troops moving through the area in June of 1863. One of his
properties was a farm in York County that suffered great loss. Gitt represents the long list
of farmers who sued the government to receive reparation for their loss. These farmers’
law suits were filed by their relatives well into the 20th century.
If you need any further information about the group, their coordinator’s names for the York/Lancaster are are Bob & Jo Bookwalter, and they can be reached at 292-2610.