York Town Square

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Big Conewago serves as physical, symbolic divider of York County culture

Camp Ganoga athletic director Don Roehm leads Boy Scouts in exercises in 1921. Scouts trooped about three miles into the isolated camp on the bank of the Big Conewago Creek near Strinestown after disembarking from the trolley in Manchester. This York County Heritage Trust photo was published in the book “On My Honor, 70 Years of Scouting in York & Adams Counties.” The Big Conewago is the symbolic divide between northern York County and the other two-thirds of the county. Background posts: Part of Elm Beech still visible and Northern York area strawberry part of Neapolitan county.

Monica Goodling, in the news recently for her practices in hiring federal prosecutors, lived in a region where northern York County met southern York County.
In a forthcoming York Sunday News column, I tell about the Conewago Creek region where she lived and how at least intra-county cultures met on its banks.
The column follows:

Monica Goodling left a light footprint on this area.
Not many York County people seem to remember much about her.
But the former York Haven-area resident became known to millions when she was named in a Justice Department report last week for allegedly playing politics in the hiring of career prosecutors.
Goodling attended high school south of the Big Conewago Creek at Northeastern Senior High School. But when the final school bell rang each day, she returned to her home north of the creek.
She might not be remembered for another reason.
When you get north of the Big Conewago where she lived, it’s a different world. Despite its name, that creek is not wide or deep, but it divides the county north and south.
Its northside residents consider Harrisburg their hub, and many people travel east for diversion.
Some go to Ocean City, N.J.
South of the Conewago, people gravitate to York and Baltimore.
They sun in Ocean City, Md.
The Big Conewago, draining the northern part of York County, forms an interesting cultural barrier, slicing the top angle of the triangular county away from the southern two angles.
The Redlands region is squarely located in this northern angle.
When trying to understand York County, local historian Jim Rudisill says, think Neapolitan ice cream.
In the southeastern part, a stone of a medium brown color was used for construction. In the Kreutz Creek and Codorus valleys extending from Wrightsville to Hanover, builders used white limestone.
The stone of choice in the county’s northern part was dark, reddish sandstone, hence its name, Redlands.
English Quakers largely settled north of the Conewago, and their band of meeting houses stretched from Newberrytown to Warrington Township. Their farmland was not as fruitful as the county’s limestone-rich central valley. But they had the Susquehanna River nearby that provided opportunities for commerce and transportation.
Agriculturally oriented Germans were the primary group south of the Conewago, with Scots-Irish in the southeast angle and spotted throughout.
And in the days before bridges, even the shallow Conewago spelled transportation problems during certain seasons.
Much of this discussion about the north and south boils down to the ease of traveling from, say, York Haven to the closer Harrisburg compared to the trip across the Conewago to distant York.
Even today, many people north of the Conewago prefer to shop in suburban Harrisburg or the West Shore.

The Conewago crossing between Manchester and York Haven — where south meets north and Monica Goodling crossed on her way to high school — has been the site of many significant moments.
The invading Confederates burned bridges along the creek during their pre-Gettysburg raid in 1863.
The Northern Central Railroad crossed there, as did the pike to Harrisburg.
Trolleys traversed a Conewago bridge on the run from York to York Haven during the first third of the 20th century.
Each summer in the 1920s, Boy Scouts would disembark from the trolley near Cold Springs Park in Manchester. According to one Boy Scout history, they would then trek to Camp Ganoga near Strinestown, about three miles upstream.
Picnickers from Cold Springs, a park designed to spark weekend trolley business on the south side, would ride the trolley across the bridge to a cement slab called Elm Beach on the north side.
After swimming in the Conewago, sunbathers could go to the nearby Conewago Inn for their specialty — turtle soup.
Monica Goodling gravitated northward to college, of course, graduating from Messiah College in the mid-1990s.
She has long since left the county, and people seem to be straining their brains to recall much about her.

But soon, any thought of her might be eclipsed.
There’s something else to occupy minds in the Conewago borderlands in August – an event that at last might draw York County’s north and south a bit closer together.
Varsity football is coming to Northeastern Senior High School.
For years, the school has been the only public high school in the county without football and its inherent community-building qualities.
Come 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 29, that will change and people from both sides of the creek will view gridiron action versus East Juniata High School.
May concessionaires grab the symbolic moment and sell Neapolitan ice cream.