York Town Square

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We must have long memories of wars that shaped America – and York County

Franklin Ginter was a soldier’s soldier. He was an early responder from York in the Civil War, serving with a unit, the York Rifles, that guarded bridges in northern Maryland against sabateurs. He was the last of that unit to died in 1935. He was buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, resting alongside veterans of all of America’s major wars. (See additional photos related to this solder below.) Also of interest: York’s Prospect Hill Cemetery bears rich Civil War tales.

I had the opportunity to write today’s Memorial Day editorial for York Daily Record/Sunday News.

Fortunately, I had a fine YDR/YSN story to lean on.

Here’s what I wrote:
Notice those brave veterans of wars gone by profiled in today’s Living section?
The service and bravery of those fighting men might seem so remote, so long ago.
But on this day, Memorial Day, we would do well to realize that our American history is not that old. And that is all the more reason that the sacrifices of our veterans should not be forgotten.
In researching a Memorial Day story of those fighting men buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery, York Daily Record/Sunday News journalist John Hilton spent time with the great-granddaughter of Civil War veteran Franklin Ginter.
Ginter was an early responder for the Northern cause as a member of the York Rifles, a noted local unit. He later joined up with the 87th Pennsylvania, a regiment made up mostly of York and Adams countians. He marched in many campaigns with the 87th and was the last of the York Rifles to die in 1935.
Along the way, he met Abraham Lincoln in Gettysburg, according to family tradition.
Late in life, the long-lived Ginter briefly held his great-granddaughter, Shirley Strayer.
“Daddy always said, ‘Great-grandpap, it’s a fact, he shook Abe Lincoln’s hand,’” Strayer said.
Strayer is one of many people living in York County today who linked with Civil War soldiers. Many residents traveled to Gettysburg for the 75th anniversary of the battle in 1938 and shook hands with long-bearded vets of that terrible war.
But there’s another story suggesting our American history is not that remote.
Dr. John M. Hyson, 1850-1931, commonly known as the father of Red Lion, treated an old soldier as a medical student in the 1800s. It turned out that the soldier had been a drummer boy in the American Revolution.
“Interesting,” Red Lion’s 1980 centennial history states, “in that Dr. Hyson was known by many Red Lioners living today.”
Twenty years later, some Red Lion residents would point out that Doc Hyson delivered them into the world. Some folks who knew the physician no doubt are living today.
So we have people living in the 21st century who knew a doctor who knew a veteran from the American Revolution.
There is meaning to mine from all this on Memorial Day.
Our past wars affect us today.
They’re not ancient happenings — our past has not passed.
Events from our past still touch us.
We must work to keep these links strong. Support of efforts to preserve Springettsbury Township’s Camp Security prisoner-of-war site is one way to get started.
Our freedoms to believe aswe believe and to say what’s on our minds came because those dozens of men and women buried in Prospect Hill donned uniforms and put their lives on the line.

Shirley Strayer of Hellam Township is the great-granddaughter of Franklin Ginter. She stands near his gravesite (below) at Prospect Hill Cemetery. 

Also of interest:

 For Memorial Day, ProPublica collects best stories on how we treat our troops.

Read about veterans rebuilding their lives, and share your own story, at American Homecomings. 

*Photos courtesy of Shirley Strayer and the York Daily Record/Sunday News