Southeastern York County, Pa., student of history gives lessons about that region’s landmarks
The Stewartstown Railroad station is shown on a cleanup day in this York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News file photo. The southeastern York County railroad ended excursion service several years ago, and its future is uncertain. Its tracks remain passable for motor cars. (See additional railroad information and another photograph below.) Also of interest: With Main Street in Stewartstown covered, historical group compiling photos of side streets and Hello, York, Stewartstown, Pa., no longer calling and Miata, pool suggest changes in small-town Stewartstown.
Doug Winemiller is knowledgable about many things historical in the Stewartstown area and elsewhere in southeastern York County.
He responded with some additional information after reading my recent column about that scenic region of York County. That column featured comments on Centre Presbyterian Church in New Park, the former World War II prisoner of war camp in Stewartstown, the old movie theater in Stewartstown, Wallace-Cross Mill near Cross Roads and the restored village at Muddy Creek forks.
Doug’s observations will interest readers, as will his comments on a particular passion, the Stewartstown Railroad.
Here is his excerpted e-mail:
The interior of the Stewartstown Railroad’s station has not changed much over the decades.
You would be interested to know that the Keystone Brass uses the Centre Pres. Church to record our CD’s. The church has changed very little since 1888 -the only addition is electricity and heating, and some work around the choir loft and altar. Originally there were no restrooms in the building – the original privies are still there (Dempwolf design I would guess), although not used for decades, but constructed in the same stone style structure as the church. Restrooms were installed in the basement of the church, but were closed when the new educational building was built 1957. I do not know the exact dates of any of the above events, but Kathryn Jordan could give you answers to facts about the church’s history.
The prison camp, as you know, was located on the town’s baseball diamond. Since I have been a member of the historical society, we have tried to obtain pictures of the camp from residents of town, but have been unsuccessful. My uncle was a guard/driver at the camp. He met his future wife, my mother’s sister, when he was stationed in Stewartstown. Both he and my aunt are deceased. He had no pictures – it was my understanding that pictures of the facility or prisoners were forbidden by the government. A local resident, Irma Barnes (now deceased) somehow took three photographs of the facility, which she left to the historical society. To my knowledge, these, and one that Bob Shaub has, are the only photographs of the camp. We have been told there are others, but none have been brought to the HS for digital preservation. Mrs.Barnes did research on the camp, but found that very few records existed. We have a copy of one of her requests for records, and the response she received from the government agency. If I remember what Mr. Shaub stated at the program, he obtained his photograph from a guard or prisoner. He has copies of some of the photographs we have.
The movie theater should be restored! While I do not think it could survive as a theater, it could serve as performing arts center/cultural center for the community. Movies could be shown occasionally, concerts could be held, etc.
There were two beautiful apartments on the second floor. (Originally I think the Ramsey family lived on the second floor-they did). I helped paint and finish the floors (hardwood) when working for my father after its purchase by Emory Trout. It was very nice! It is my understanding that there were pool tables and bowling in the basement, although that was before my time!
The Ramsay Theatre was constructed in 1920. Previously, movies were shown on the second floor of a building located on West Pennsylvania Avenue. There was a billiard room and a bowling lane located in the basement of the building, which were quite popular with male members of the community. A local resident, Margaret Edie Jones, is known to have played piano music as background for the moving pictures. In 1926, a sound system was added to the movie theatre. Mr. Ramsay died in 1948, after which, his wife continued the operation of the theatre. Later the theatre was sold to Emory Trout who continued operations until about 1960. The apartments were rented after the theatre ceased operation, but I am not sure when the rentals stopped. I would guess it stopped when the current owner purchased the building.
Some think it is not salvageable, but the building is masonry, and that at least seems to be sound and able to be restored.
I live very close to the Cross Mill. In fact, Harry Cross sawed timber wood to construct some of the outbuildings on my property in the early 1970’s. Rambo Run had several mills located on it – Hyson Mill and Bacon’s Mill are two that we have identified. While these mills are gone, the stone dams still exist. I have attached the 1910 topo map which I neglected to attach on my previous email–you will notice all three dams are on the same branch. The stone dams are impressive, even though they were breached years ago.
What you see in Muddy Creek is what we have planned for the Stew. RR, if it can be saved. Unlike Muddy Creek and the M&P, the line has not been abandoned. They have only been able to obtain about three miles of the original M&P line because the line was officially abandoned. I do not think any more can be easily obtained.
I finally took a ride on the Stew. RR on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, via “Speeders” (motor cars). The track is not as bad as I imagined–we had no problems running the rails. It is an extremely scenic ride through the Deer Creek Valley. We left New Freedom and traveled to Stewartstown. The worst section is between New Freedom and Tolna. Much work would have to be done before any locomotive traffic, but rides such as Muddy Creek offers could begin almost immediately.
– To see another resident’s comments on my column on southeastern York County, click here.
– Another post of interest: Get around to seeing southeastern York County’s ornate Round Hill church.