A Timeline of York History

Downtown York PA History

From the York Peppermint Patty to the "Made in York" campaign, York has had some spectacular historic moments. The following article written by Jim McClure appeared in the Daily Record's book, Never be forgotten, A year-by-year-look at York County's Past, published in 2006.

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25 meaningful moments in York County's past

1. 1608: Captain John Smith meets the Susqhannocks when exploring the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehannocks and their predecessors have peopled the land, later known as York County, for centuries.

2. 1727: Lord Baltimore of Maryland grants John Digges 10,000 acres. Digges Choice grew into Hanover and its surrounding townships.

3. 1728: Pennsylvania's proprietors authorize the first white families to settle west of the Susquehanna River. A great migration of German, Scotch-Irish and English Quakers follows. Wrightsville becomes the primary town of entry into the county and points far to the west and south.

4. 1730-67: When Pennsylvania Protestants and Maryland Roman Catholics cross paths, a border war erupts. British surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon establish the border in 1763-67. Their line finally resolves the conflict and later became an important marker between North and South in the nineteenth century.

5. 1749: York County separates from Lancaster County to become the fifth county in Pennsylvania and the first west of the Susquehanna River. The town of York is laid out eight years before.

6. 1777-78: British troops force the Continental Congress to flee from Philadelphia to York. Here, the Founding Fathers approve the Articles of Confederation.

Gates House Golden Plough Tavern York PA

7. 1787: York becomes a borough. The Revolutionary War sparks social and economic change, according to a local historian, that converts York from an isolated German peasant village into a mainstream American town.

8. 1816: Running spring water reaches York in wooden pipes suggesting that the local economy has progressed beyond the subsistence level. York now has a ready supply of water to fight fires and boasts of its supply of fresh water. Settlement along Codorus Creek apparently is making its flow unfit for human use.

9. 1825: Sixty-seven-year-old General Marquis de Lafayette returns to York and a welcome befitting a Revolutionary War hero. The county's proud Revolutionary heritage is alive fifty years after the war at the dawn of the Jacksonian period.

10. 1830-1861: William C. Goodridge, son of a slave who became a successful York businessman, operates a station on the Underground Railroad. Goodridge and others risk their liberty and fortunes in whisking runaway slaves through the county toward Canada.

11. 1838: Rail service, later known as the Northern Central Railroad, reaches York from Baltimore, developing a ready, southern market for York County's goods.

12. 1863: Confederate troops occupy York on the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg. Union troops stop the Confederate advance by burning the Susquehanna River Bridge in Wrightsville. Confederate and Union cavalry clash on Hanover's streets.

13. 1880-1930: A healthy industrial climate attracts newcomers from overseas, rural areas in the mid-Atlantic region, and the Deep South. York's population diversifies and quadruples. Some York factories become the largest of their kind in the nation and world.

14. 1929: The Hex Trial, called America's most notorious witchcraft case since Salem, ends with the conviction of three defendants accused of killing Nelson Rehmeyer. The victim had been suspected of practicing witchcraft on one of the defendants. The proceedings show eighteenth-century superstitions exist in local culture at a time when the county's industrial power reaches new heights.

15. 1939: The last trolley runs on a once far-flung network. The popularity of automobiles and buses contributes to the demise. Trolleys fostered suburbanization as housing grew along their electrified lines, but paled in comparison to automobiles in enabling residents to travel from rural homes to the city.

Downtown York PA History

16. 1941-45: The York Plan coordinates industries to back Allies in World War II. Rabbi Alexander Goode, Army chaplain, dies a hero in the sinking of the S. S. Dorchester and is counted among the county's 500-plus war dead. Gen. Jacob Devers, a York native, helps lead the Allied invasion of Europe.

17. 1945: Consolidated school districts construct more than fifty modern multi-class buildings to replace 327 one-room schools over the next twenty years. County schools are organized into sixteen districts.

18. 1952: Caterpillar Inc. builds a factory in Springettsbury Township that creates steady, relatively high-waged manufacturing jobs for decades. Cat announced its closing in 1997.

19. 1955: Massive Haines Acres in Springettsbury Township is built tract by tract, and the York County Shopping Center opens nearby. York reaches its capacity in population and lacks building space. A retail vacuum grows in York and other downtowns throughout the county.

20. 1960-1992: York County loses thirty percent of its farmland to suburban growth, and the use of land for non-agricultural uses passes the fifty percent mark for the first time. Migration from Maryland and elsewhere makes the county's population growth among the state's highest.

21. 1960-1999: Women and minorities make some gains in status and influence. Women gain county elected posts, the York mayor's office, and a state legislative seat. York selects a black police chief, and minorities gain seats on prestigious boards and membership in social clubs.

22. 1968-70: Two summers of racial unrest result in two deaths, scores of injuries, and armored vehicles patrolling the streets of a burning York. A charrette, a type of civic group therapy, brings the community together in search of solutions and contributes to the end of violence.

23. 1972: Tropical Storm Agnes brings death and destruction to the county. The county sustained devastating floods in 1817, 1884, and 1933, but the community is unprepared for the magnitude of Agnes' rage and devastation.

24. 1950-1989: One by one, out-of-town corporations acquire privately owned businesses. The sale of York Peppermint Patties, an internationally known local icon, is among the most visible. A later sale to Hershey Foods Corporation results in the relocation of candy-making operations to Reading. Meanwhile, numerous new local plants open and some private businesses reposition themselves.

25. 1993-1997: The Golden venture runs aground off the New York coast, and part of its cargo of illegal Chinese immigrants ends up in the York County Prison. A diverse group embraces the county's newest residents-jailed for more than three years without formal charges until their release. An expanding county prison becomes a center for illegal immigrants.