York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

In bucolic Adams County countryside, royal body sat in the sun

Baron de Beelen travels to church in York. Years later, the Belgium businessman was buried in Adams County’s Conewago Chapel. (Lewis Miller drawing courtesy, York County Heritage Trust.)
Conewago Chapel surely would be near the top of any list of unsung or underrated sites in York and Adams counties.
It’s in the middle of nowhere, but that makes its wonderful paintings, frescoes and architecture all the more captivating. One simply wouldn’t expect to run into such artifacts in such a quiet place.
Which brings to mind a favorite story about the chapel and York history, as outlined in my York Sunday News column, a tour of York County’s historic southwest (and Adams’ southeast):

Baron de Beelen Bertholff, distinguished newcomer to the county from the Low Countries in Europe, promoted commerce with America in the late 1700s. Bertholff’s work benefited the foreign trade of both America and Europe.
Several years later, he died from a contagious disease, perhaps yellow fever. A man transported Bertholff’s body from York to Conewago Chapel, but left the coffin standing in front of the church.
Fearing the disease, people allowed the royal body to stay there all day.
“Toward evening Father de Barth (the local priest) sent over to the Lilly farm for help,” a history states, “and two colored men came and assisted him in the last sad duty in the burial of the once distinguished man.”