The Spring Grove community is shown at play in the shadow of its primary employer, P.H. Glatfelter Co., circa 1895.
Spring Grove’s region has produced the unsung and famous
In prepping for a recent presentation about Spring Grove’s past, I checked Wikipedia to see if I had missed major moments.
I always do this as a backstop, but this time the Wiki entry for Spring Grove was lacking a key list. It did not contain a single entry for notable people from this borough and its large southwestern York County region.
I had come up with a bunch of accomplished people who could have been – should have been – mentioned. Wikipedia often lists notable people in their profiles of towns and cities.
People make communities, so one indication of a healthy region is the outstanding individuals, nationally famous or everyday heroes – that it produces.
I’ll fill in that Wikipedia gap here with a sampling of people, plus list other points from my presentation at the Spring Grove Area Historic Preservation Society’s annual summer picnic that interest me about that region:
Military heroes: William L. Glatfelter II and Allen J. Beck, Jr., World War II; and Earl H. Markle, Korean War, are representative of those who died in uniform. Fleet Master Chief Bradley LeVault served as a ranking officer at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
Political powerhouse: In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Spring Grove produced York County’s U.S. congressman, Franklin Menges, and its state senator, Henry Lanius. Menges was an expert on agriculture and Lanius, who was blind, served as champion for those with visual impairments. More recently, Bev Mackereth, former Spring Grove mayor, served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare/Department of Human Services.
Entertaining screen watchers: Laurice Elehwany is a writer of screenplays for the “Brady Bunch Movie” and “My Girl.” Some scenes from the latter are said to have come from the Jefferson Carnival. Sam McKoy-Johnson portrays Darius Coles in Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An America Saga.”
Top educator: Bruce McClellan is one of four known Rhodes Scholars from York County. Gregory Lippiatt, Spurgeon Keeny and Eugene Ludwig are the others. For years, McClellan served as headmaster of the famed Lawrenceville School in New Jersey.
Sports champion: Eli Brooks is Spring Grove High School’s all-time leading scorer and University of Michigan guard, believed by some to be the greatest player to come from a York County high school. Hali Flickinger swam in the 2016 Summer Olympics in the 200 meter butterfly, finishing 7th in the finals.
Groundbreaking medical researcher: For years, Mary B. Gibbs, a pioneering woman scientist, headed the immunochemistry laboratory at the Walter Reed Institute of Research.
Industrial giants: P.H. Glatfelter was a great-great-grandson of pioneering family member Casper Glattfelder. Four of P.H. Glatfelter’s descendants headed the paper mill that P.H. founded: W.L. I, P.H. II, P.H. III and George II.
Presidential connections: Frank and Hannah Nixon purchased a 350- acre farm in Menges Mills after World War II. One of their sons, Edward, graduated from West York High School in the late 1940s. Another son launched a long political career and visited his parents’ farm. Richard Nixon was that son.
Pieces of Spring Grove’s past
Other interesting things about the Spring Grove region, in brief:
Penchant for acronyms: The region hosted Girl Scout Camp Gi-Sco-Ha, water supply Lake PaHaGaCo and Christian Camp PaMaDeVa at Smith Station. Just try to pronounce them.
Hosting Jamaican workers: In World War II, squads of orchard workers came here from Jamaica to help alleviate wartime manpower shortages They worked in the Spring Grove region and were barracked at what is known as the AMP plant south of Jefferson. Other Jamaicans worked from a camp in Fawn Grove.
Spring Grove’s work of art: Historical artist Robert Griffing painted a mid-1700s scene in which young Mary Jemison was captured by the American Indians in modern-day Adams County. For years, Jemison lived with the Indians in New York state. George Glatfelter II donated the print in 1998, and it hangs today in Glatfelter Library. For years, Glatfelter paper owned the land where the Jemison family homestead stood.
Potato Town, York County: There’s not much left of this Stoverstown-area village of a half dozen houses except for an old schoolhouse, now a private residence. A town with that points to a major cash crop in this region over the years. It’s just interesting that many of the county’s snack food makers operate west of the Codorus: Martin’s, Snyder’s of Hanover, Utz, Bickel’s, Lay’s and Senft’s.
Porter Sideling, busy place with an unusual name: Trains moved in all directions in this small town, south of Spring Grove. Abraham Lincoln’s train passed through there on his way back and forth from Gettysburg. Confederate cavalry visited as part of their visit to the county in late June 1863. And actress Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly visited in the 1980s. Here’s that connection: Dale Danner, Blythe Danner’s cousin, taught at Spring Grove schools for years. Dale’s wife, Mildred, told the York Daily Record years ago that when her father-in-law died in 1984, they had an auction of his farm in Porters. Blythe Danner and her daughter, Gwyneth, attended that sale.
Church moves to Glen Rock area: St. Paul’s original Dempwolf-designed building went up about 1880. Less than 30 years later, a growing congregation called for a larger facility. So the original St. Paul’s was dismantled brick by brick and moved east to be reformed as Fissel’s Church.
Spring Grove’s unsung heroes
The stories about Spring Grove could go on.
We’ll end this with the stories of three unsung community contributors who likely will never appear in Spring Grove’s Wikipedia entry.
Virginia Ruth is one. She was recognized in 1949, as the leader in tenure with one company among all York County businesses. Ruth received a dedication plaque to her fellow men and women of industry who made York County a community of craftsmen. At the time, she had worked at Glatfelter paper for 60 years.
There was Lucille White, who with three employees and two switchboards, operated the Spring Grove phone exchange from her home, 24-7. One console was downstairs and the other switchboard? It was by her bed.
And Rodney Abel served the Spring Grove sewage treatment plant so, well, ably for so many years that his name appears on the plant – the Rodney C. Abel Wastewater Facility.
These residents helped make Spring Grove, Spring Grove and they represent the other thousands of unsung heroes who have made York County, York County.
Jamie Kinsley and I will moderate the next York County Writers Roundtable, set for 7 p.m., Sept. 5, at the York County History Center, 250 E. Market St. York. Joan Concilio, long-time York County culture and history blogger, will discuss her research on the Lassa fever, which claimed a county victim 50 years ago. She will also teach digital tips to expand readership. This event is free and open to the public.