Time almost forgot Welsh miner’s hamlet of Coulsontown
Don Robinson of Delta’s Old Line Museum is seen near one of four remaining cottages built by Welsh quarrymen. (For additional photographs, see below.)
The YDR’s Melissa Burke and Paul Kuehnel recently wrote about and photographed the rebirth of the nearly dead southeastern York County village of Coulsontown.
Fourteen years ago, the YDR’s Marianne Clay painted the town, near Delta, before this “renaissance.” So, here goes the story of another of York County’s unsung landmarks (search for “unsung” on this blog and you’ll discover the others):
Delta’s Old Line Museum opened two cottages in Coulsontown, Peach Bottom Township, to the public in early May.
You’ve heard about secret letters, secret treasure, even secret gardens. But a secret village?
Along the southeast border of York County the rural village of Coulsontown is hidden like a secret.
You won’t find Coulsontown on a map. You won’t find many people who can tell you how to find Coulsontown. But with persistence, you can locate this little village sitting along the southern slope of Slate Ridge about 35 miles south of York and a mile-and-a-half drive from the borough of Delta.
Coulsontown is worth your search. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the village looks like a setting in an Emily Bronte novel.
Only 20 people live in Coulsontown now, down from its population peak of some 75 people a century or so ago. There’s no church, no store, not even a little store to buy milk and rent videos. What Coulsontown has, is four stone cottages.
All four cottages date back to the 1840s, when they were built by Coulsontown’s first settlers, Welsh miners. The miners came from northwest Wales to work in the slate quarries here, and the miners built these four cottages.
Small with two rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second, the cottages are plain but beautiful.
Much of their beauty comes from the large blocks of pinkish stone the miners used to build their houses. Wherever slate could be used, they used slate — slate steps, slate fence posts and slate cistern covers.
“There’s probably nothing like these cottages in North America,” said Tom Schaefer of Penn State York, who has studied the Welsh influence in southern York County for years.
“These cottages are direct transfers of cottage form found only in the Snowdonia region of Wales. They’re very rare.”
By 1931, all the quarries were closed and all the Welsh miners gone. Today, all that remains of their years here are these four stone cottages set along Coulsontown’s only street, Green Road.
The cottages, stuck miles from Wales, surprise you, but so does the quiet of Coulsontown. No cars race down Green Road. No dogs bark. No music blares.
“It’s peaceful here, and peacefulness is one of the pleasures of Coulsontown,” said Marian Green, the only Coulsontown resident to have lived here all her life.
Her husband, Bob Green, doesn’t talk about Coulsontown as much as she does. After all, he’s not the native. He moved here only 55 years ago when they married.
The Greens live right next to one of the stone cottages without indoor plumbing. Their neighbor, an elderly lady, died this year. But for years, she hauled her water and used an outhouse.
“I miss her, Alberta,” said Marian Green. “She died six months ago, and in the morning in the kitchen, I still look for her to be going or coming across the yard to her outhouse. Seeing her was part of my morning.
“I’m glad she’s out of her misery, though I miss her. We all helped as as she got sick. We bought her water and meals. That’s what’s so nice about this little place. People help each other.
“When people ask me why I live way back here, I tell them. Why, if someone’s has trouble, we all pitch in to help. And these days,” she said, sitting in the house where she was born 73 years ago, “Coulsontown is as quiet as a retirement village.”
Coulsontown gets livelier in the early evening when the residents sit on their front porches. The Greens, the Halls, the Bones and the other families in Coulsontown visit from their porches, inquiring about grandchildren, sick friends and baseball scores.
“We don’t worry about the things people worry about in the city,” Green said. “You know, drugs and crime. It’s still safe and friendly here. Most of us go to church together at Trinity A.M.E. Zion church.”
All the residents of Coulsontown, except one, are black. “It just happened that way, I guess,” Green explained.
Don Robinson’s climbs to the second floor of one cottage.