Adams County Bicentennial Tidbits

August, 1999


8-1-99-          King orders stop to border dispute

          Temporary state line quiets ‘Tumults, Riots, or other Outragious Disorders’ of the 1730s.

The first of two parts

          Although much has already been written about the persistent boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland, there may be some value in a look at the conflict from a somewhat different perspective than the usual one.

          When the 17th century English officials prepared documents for their monarch to use in granting land some 3,000 miles away, they knew little or nothing about its terrain or its wealth in agricultural or mineral resources. They could have had no realistic idea of the numbers of people who would eventually settle on the lands to be granted. Moreover, what did it matter to them if the king they served was not averse to giving away the same foreign territory more than once?

          King Charles I granted the proprietary charter of Maryland to George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, in 1632. His son Charles II, granted a similar charter to William Penn almost 50 years later, 1681. It is important to note that only one of the 13 provinces in British North America, Georgia, was founded after Pennsylvania.

          Questions about the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania arose almost as soon as William Penn arrived in his province in 1682. This was one of the reasons he hurried back to England less then two years later. He believed he needed to be there to protect his claim. Simply put, what was at issue was whether the eventually prevailing interpretation of the two charters would fix the boundary line at 39 degrees or 40 degrees north latitude. Or, to state it differently, what was at issue was a band or strip of lane about 69 miles wide. If the Penns could have carried their extreme claim – 39 degrees – Baltimore, Frederick, Hagerstown, in deed most of Maryland, would be Pennsylvania today. If the Calverts had succeeded in establishing theirs – 40 degrees – Philadelphia, York, Hanover and Gettysburg would be among the places now in Maryland. Both provinces grew rapidly, tripling in population between 1700 and 1730. While some newcomers to Pennsylvania moved north toward the Blue mountains, many others moved west from Philadelphia, close to the as-yet-undetermined boundary line.

          It was Penn policy not to authorize settlement in areas not yet acquired from the Indians. The treaty with them covering most of the area of the present York and Adams counties was not made until the fall of 1736.

          Since Maryland had no such policy, their authorities issued warrants for land in southern York county as early as 1724. By 1732 more than a dozen warrants for land in townships from Chanceford to Manheim were granted; they totaled about 9,000 acres of land. This does not include either the large Digges Choice or Carroll’s Delight grant to the west.

          The fact that many immigrants, acting on their own, began moving westward across the Susquehanna before 1736 only complicated the situation. Some of them purchased land from Maryland, then changed their minds, and tried to come under Pennsylvania jurisdiction. Calling themselves "most of the Inhabitants on the west side of the Susquehannah River," petitioners explained to the Pennsylvania authorities in 1736 that Marylanders had assured them that the river was in fact the boundary between the two provinces. West of the river it was all Maryland. Now, they knew differently.

Establishing a temporary line

          The proprietors agreed in 1732 that they would make another effort to determine where the boundary line should be. Unfortunately, they still could not agree on how to do this together. Some of the most violent disputes occurred in the years immediately following 1732, most of them in eastern York county. In 1736 the governor of Pennsylvania characterized the area as "that fertile Source of Contention and Disquiet."

          Finally, in March 1738, King George II ordered the two governments, "upon pain of incurring His Majesty’s Highest Displeasure," not to ‘permit or suffer any Tumults, Riots, or other Outragious Disorders to be committed on the Borders of their respective Provinces, But …immediately put a stop thereto." The order called for drawing a temporary line, which was to prevail until such time as the two provinces could agree on a permanent one. Key provisions of the order specified that all lands in contest, whether vacant or occupied, which were north of a line stated in the order should be under the temporary jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, and all such lands south of the line under the temporary jurisdiction of Maryland.

          Following the royal order, later in 1738 both proprietors appointed commissioners to run the temporary line, beginning at the place near Philadelphia which it stated. It is clear from the regular reports which the Pennsylvania commissioners sent to their governor that there were serious disagreements between the two sides almost from the start. When they reached the Susquehanna, illness and death in the family of one Maryland commissioners led him to leave. His colleague then declared that, since he was not authorized to act alone, he was leaving too. Upon learning this, the governor of Pennsylvania sent his representatives a new commission, authorizing them to proceed alone, "to finish the temporary Lines, for that the Peace of the Government absolutely depended thereon." Whereupon, the Pennsylvanians vowed in early May 1739 that they would "continue the West Line to run…to the notch’d hickory Tree, on the Western Bank of Susquehannah, and extend it from that Tree as far as the peace of the Government should make it necessary."

          Now acting alone, the two Pennsylvania commissioners, together with their chief surveyor, moved rapidly westward across southern York and Adams counties. On May 28, 1739, they informed the governor that they had "proceeded from day to day and extended the Line to the Top of the most Western Hill of the Range of Hills called the Kittochtinny Hills, distant from the Place of Beginning about eighty-eight Statute Miles." They had halted at this point, close to the present boundary between Franklin and Fulton counties, because "this Hill is one of the Boundaries of the Lands purchased by our Honorable Proprietaries from the Indians, and no persons are permitted to settle beyond that Range of Hills." This was "far enough to settle the Jurisdiction of the two Provinces, and to answer all the purposes of our Commission."

          Although the temporary line of 1739 is often neglected in any discussion of the Pennsylvania and Maryland boundary dispute, it did effectively bring to an end the tumults and disorders which had been so prevalent in the early and middle 1730s. Some disputes and violence remained, but they arose from disagreement over land ownership, which might have arisen even had there been no boundary disputes in the first place. The royal order of 1738 had established clearly by whose jurisdiction, with its established legal procedures, a dispute should be resolved.


8-15-99-          Inhabitants avoid taxes in Heidelberg

          We do not really know how the first townships in the present York and Adams counties were created or how their boundary lines were drawn. We do know that townships were important units of local government in colonial Pennsylvania. Their existence meant that the Penn proprietors were committed to requiring a degree of self-government in the province. There is always the possibility that more information about the founding of early townships will surface some day, but unless it does we should assume that only the surveyors employed by the proprietors knew exactly where township line were. We should also assume that sometimes they forgot.

          The Heidelberg Township (sometimes the name was spelled Heidelberg), which is the subject of this article, was not the present Heidelberg, which is in York County. In fact, none of the present township with that name was included in the old Heidelberg. As the portion of the 1792 reading Howell map of Pennsylvania shown here demonstrates, the old Heidelberg was bounded on the east and south by Manheim (nowhere did it touch the temporary line of 1739), on the west by Germany, and on the north by Mount Pleasant, Berwick, and Paradise Townships. Although most of the townships consisted of land within Digges Choice, it was not conterminous with that famous Maryland grant. For example, when in 1750 the proprietors issued a warrant for land now owned by Christ United Church of Christ, near Littlestown, they described it as being in Heidelberg Township. When Adams was separates from York in 1800, the new county acquired well over half of the old Heidelberg.

          When the first York County commissioners met after their election in October 1749, they proceeded to levy taxes for the following year upon 24 townships, one of which was Heidelberg. They appointed John Kuntz township tax collector for 1750, later Michael Will for 1751, and still later Anthony Sell for 1752. In March 1751, so the minutes say, Will told the commissioners that "Sundrey of the Inhabitants of sd. Township died or absented and left noe efects to pay their taxes." A year later, in April 1752, the commissioners agreed to pay Sell more than 13 pounds, including his collector’s fee, because fire had destroyed, not only his dwelling house, but also "Most part of his Substance."

          One might conclude from the royal order of 1738, in compliance with which the temporary line was drawn the following year, that until the boundary dispute was finally settled, Pennsylvania authorities would recognize the validity of all Maryland grants made north of the line, but in other respects would treat their owners as all other residents, entitled to the privileges of Pennsylvanians and responsible for bearing equal burdens. But there was another reading of the royal order, which held that while those with Maryland titles would be under the protection of Pennsylvania authority, they would be responsible for bearing the burdens of their neighbors who held Pennsylvania titles, especially annual payment of taxes.

          That this latter reading was held, at least in part, by some Pennsylvania authorities its indicated by the fact that the York county courts did not appoint constables, overseers of the poor, or supervisors of highways for Heidelberg. Also in July 1751 the county commissioners told the Hellam township tax collector not to insist that those in his township with Maryland titles pay taxes. A year later, the York township tax collector was given similar instructions.

          The issue of what jurisdiction Pennsylvania had over persons, holding Maryland grants and living north the temporary line came to the fore early in 1752, when Jacob Kitzmiller murdered Dudley Digges, son of John Digges. York authorities arrested Kitzmiller and placed him in the county prison. There followed a heated correspondence between the governors of the two provinces. Maryland claimed that it had jurisdiction because the murder occurred on land within Digges Choice. Pennsylvania insisted that it had jurisdiction because the murder occurred within its limits, possibly on land not legally Digges’. The latter position prevailed. Kitzmiller was tried in York and acquitted.

          In one of the letters written during this dispute (July 1752), the governor of Maryland sent his Pennsylvania counterpart a copy of the warrant which the York county commissioners had issued to John Kuntz in January 1750, ordering him to collect taxes from 40 taxables in Heidelberg Township. Most of these persons held land in Digges Choice. The Maryland governor claimed to have "the greatest Reluctance" in sending this two-year-old document, but insisted that he was acting to end "want may Incroach on the Rights of this Government and Derogatory to his Majesty’s Order."

          If only because the governor of Pennsylvania declared that he knew nothing of the taxing policies of the York county commissioner until his fellow-governor informed him, the action of the Pennsylvania government was swift in coming. The provincial secretary informed the York county commissioners "in the most positive terms" to cease and desist taxing any persons living on "any tracts of land possessed under Maryland rights, though to the Northward of the temporary Line." He warned all York county officials, including sheriff, magistrates and constables, that they faced repudiation and punishment if they disobeyed the order.

          The county complied, but the last word on the subject had not yet been heard. In February 1757 the justices of the peace, grand jury, commissioners, and assessors of York County presented a petition to the provincial assembly in Philadelphia. They stated that "near two townships, and many other small tracts of the best" in the county, are held under Maryland grants. As such, "the Inhabitants of these Lands are not liable to pay Taxes, or other public dues for the support of this government." Nor, they stated, do they pay anything to Maryland, probably because they live anywhere from five to more than 20 miles north of the temporary line and are separated from Maryland by Pennsylvania grants.

          According to the petitioners, some persons living on Maryland grants take advantage of their independence from any established authority by distilling "great quantities of spirits" without paying taxes on them and keeping taverns without obtaining a license. Also, they harbor servants, hirelings, debtors and criminals "to the manifest injury of the public." At the same time, the petitioners complained, these persons "enjoy all the other privileges of government with those who contribute towards the support thereof."

          The petitioners prayed that the assembly would "consider the Premises, and grant such remedy as shall seem expedient." The assembly did what seemed, and indeed was, expedient. It ordered the petition "to lie on the table." What else could be done, other than make a rather forlorn effort to speed up drawing a permanent boundary line?

          A reverberation of this petition can be detected in the obituary of William Gitt (1745-1844) which appeared in the Hanover Planet for May 10, 1844. The author of the obituary of this longtime public servant wrote about Gitt’s "description of the daring and turbulent scenes and adventures of the early settlers." He remembered when Hanover, founded in 1763, was "no longer a ‘Town of Refuge,’ or in the language of the day ‘Rogues Harbor’ once it "was discovered to be in Pennsylvania and subjects to her laws."

          An effective answer to the prayer of the 1757 petitioners came only when proprietor and Governor John Penn unilaterally proclaimed the Mason Dixon line in effect in 1774. Late in 1775 the county commissioners named Casper Reinecker tax collector for Heidelberg Township, the first such appointment since 1752. Later, the county court began naming constables, overseers, and supervisors for the township.

          As the revolution began, one might say that Heidelberg had rejoined the Union.

          (Map caption reads: the Reading Howell Map of 1792 shows "Heidelberg" Township in York County.)


8-22-99-          A TALE OF 6 TOWNS: Colonists settle ‘upper end’ of York County

          Towns do not just happen of their own accord. There must be a reason why they appear. And that reason must be strong enough to enable them to survive. Not all towns do last. The 1792 Reading Howell map of Pennsylvania identified a town west of Fairfield called McKessenburg. It was still there when the next important map of the county was published in 1821, but soon thereafter it disappeared. And who has heard of the town of Richland, which Jacob Sherman began to develop south of Hanover in the 1780s?

          The main reason for almost all of the earliest towns in colonial Pennsylvania was political. There had to be a seat of provincial government; for that reason Philadelphia came into existence. Also, there had to be a seat of government. This helps explain the towns of Lancaster, York, Carlisle and Reading.

          One should not expect more towns than these in colonial Pennsylvania until the economy, indeed the whole society, had developed to the point at which it could support persons who were willing and able to leave the farm and take up residence where they could spend all or most of their time as merchants or as craftsmen, such as blacksmiths, weavers, shoemakers, potters or gunsmiths. The skills of these persons were needed even before there were towns, but they were often practiced in conjunction with farming.

          It is evident that a crucial period in colonial Pennsylvania history occurred during and immediately after the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Undoubtedly for a number of reasons many people developed a sense of confidence in themselves and optimism about the future which stemmed largely from belief that, rather than the British government and army, they themselves were largely responsible for defeating and removing the French and Indian threat to themselves and their families. They had proved they could handle their own affairs.

          Certainly related to this feeling of confidence and optimism was the rapid founding of a sizable number o new towns, both in Pennsylvania and neighboring provinces. Included among them were Lebanon (1758), Middletown (1761), Allentown (1762), Elizabethtown (1763), Chambersburg (1764), and Bedford (1766).

          During this development and within the short span of two years, six new Towns were formed in what was sometimes called the "upper end of York County." They were Hanover, Abbottstown, Hunterstown, East Berlin, McSherrystown and Littlestown. When this short period of town formation had run its course, about 20 years had to pass and a revolution had to occur before a similar period began again.

          For any thoughtful and realistic person in late colonial Pennsylvania considering founding a town, there were certain questions to be asked and answered even before announcing his intention. Do I own enough land? Do I have a full and clear title to that land to enable me to pass on to lot purchaser such a title? Is my land located along a well-used public road? Is it within a sufficiently settled area so that merchants and craftsmen who might make their homes in my town can export to make a living there?

          Once having decided that he could give a yes answer to these questions, and that he still wanted to proceed, the time had come for our would-be founder to make his specific plans. If we read carefully the early deeds which the six founders in the upper end of York County prepared to give purchasers (they were, by the way, terribly long documents), we might be tempted to conclude that they all met secretly somewhere near the site of the present New Oxford and agreed that their deeds could contain just about the same statements of purchaser rights and responsibilities.

          These deeds stated clearly that the founder had a patent from the Penn proprietors (giving the book and page number) or a deed from John Digges. They announced that there was a general plan of the town and gave the lot number or numbers being purchased. The average purchase price for a lot was about three pounds; the average size was 65 feet along the street and 220 feet to the back of the lot.

          All of the deed except those for McSherrystown continued a requirement similar to the one David Hunter imposed on each purchaser; to erect, build and finish "at his or their Own proper Costs and Charges one Good Substantial Dwelling house of the Demension of Sixteen feet Square at Least with a good Chimney of Brick or Stone to be laid in or Built with Lime and Sand."

          All six of the founders imposed upon purchasers a permanent annual ground rent, averaging seven or eight shillings and over and above the purchase price. Richard McAllister phrased the requirement this way: buyers of his lots had to pay "at the said Town of Hanover at or upon the first Day of May in every Year for ever…the yearly Rent of Eight Shillings Sterling money of Great Britain for the said Lot of Value thereon in Coin Current according as the Exchange then shall be Between the said Province and the City of London." Furthermore, purchasers in accepting the deeds recognized the right of town founders and their successors "to enter and Distrain for the said Yearly Rent" if it was overdue.


          The oldest of the six towns in the upper end of York County was Hanover. Its founder was Richard McAllister (1725-1795), who spent his early years in Cumberland County and was supervisor of highways in Monaghan Township, York County, from 1751 to 1753. Because the town he founded was located in Digges Choice and in Heidelberg Township, an area largely outside York County jurisdiction until the 1770s, it is difficult to determine when he came into the area. The conclusions reached by John R. McGrew after a careful review of the evidence presently available is that McAllister cannot be found in Heidelberg Township before 1755.

          What we do know is that in 1763 McAllister obtained a 241-acre tract in Digges Choice, which carried with it a clear and full title. His land was located along two important roads, the Monocacy Road and one leading from the north and west to Baltimore. The earliest recorded deeds for Hanover were dated June 4, 1763, but the earliest one John McGrew has found was one dated May 30 of that year.

Abbott’s town: Berwick

          The second oldest town is the one we know as Abbottstown. John Abbott (1700-1786), obtained a warrant for land in 1745. It implied that he was living on the land as early as 1737. When his land was surveyed in 1746, it contained 506 acres, part of which was east of the present Adams County line. At the time York County was formed in 1749, Abbott’s name was on a short list of names of person west of the Susquehanna who were deemed "fit to discharge Public Offices." He was, in fact, one of the six persons elected to a three-year term as county assessor at the county election in 1749.

          Abbott’s land was located along one of the main roads through the present Adams County. West of the present New Oxford its northern branch become the Black’s Gap Road and the southern branch the Marsh Creek Road. The Penn properties conferred upon him a patent deed for his 506 acres in 1762.

          On Oct.19, 1763, in a document which was eventually entered into the Adams County deed book, Abbott made certain promises to lot purchasers. One of them was that "every Person that has taken lots in said town shall have liberty to make use of a proportionable part of all the Stones (that) can be found on any part of my land." There are several recorded deeds bearing that date, and none an earlier date. Oct. 19, 1763, is surely as definite a birthdate as any town can have.

          John Abbott gave the Berwick to his town. Although many persons soon came to know it as Abbottstown, the name was not legally changed until 1911.

Hunter’s Town: Straban

          The third oldest town was Hunterstown. Its founder was probably the David Hunter who was commissioned (1757) and then decommissioned (1759) a captain in the Pennsylvania service during the French and Indian War. In 1760 he purchased from Michael Drumgold 182 acres in Straban Township, neat the Great Conewago Presbyterian Church and along the Black’s Gap Road. Four years later the Penns gave him a patent deed for this land. Within three weeks, on April 2, 1764, he issued the two earliest deeds on record for lots "Situate in the Town of Straban."

          David Hunter’s town, which very quickly took his name and discarded the one he gave it, was the least successful of the six discussed here. He sold out in the fall of 1769 and left the area. After the revolution the town in effect had to be refounded.

Berlin/East Berlin

          The forth oldest town is the present East Berlin. Its founder was John Frankelberger (d.1777), whose 1756 warrant for land in Paradise Township, not far from Holtzchwamm church, suggest that he may have occupied the land since about 1745. After York County was formed, he was often summoned to serve as a grand juror. He was elected a county assessor in 1757 and the next year was appointed to serve the remaining term of a county commissioner who had resigned to enter the Pennsylvania service during the French and Indian War.

          In September 1764, the Penns surveyed for Frankelberger a 186-acre tract along the Menallen Road in Berwick Township. The survey shows that already there was "a Town laid out of on this Land, called Berlin." By April 20, 1765, there was in existence a "Plan of Berlin," showing 84 lots available for sale.

          There is no evidence that John Frankelberger ever lived in his town, indeed that he ever wanted to. In 1774 he sold out to the first of a number of successors proprietors. He died in Paradise Township.


          The fifth town has a history all its own. In 1763, Patrick McSherry (1725-1795) purchased a tract of 300 acres from the Digges family, part of which he laid out in lots of five acres. Did he have in mind at this time nothing more than making available out lots for residents of Hanover, where they could graze their animals and obtain wood? The early deeds for these lots are the only ones from the six towns which contain no requirement that a dwelling house be constructed on them.

          The first known deed for one of these five-acre lots was dated June 27, 1765. It recites that the lot being sold ran "along a certain Number of Lots lately laid out by Christian Hoover and the said Patrick McSherry." Hoover died in 1771 and little is known of his role in founding this town. Tax lists for 1778 name 26 taxables in McSherrystown, not all of whom where necessarily residents, and charge its proprietor for ground rent. Patrick McSherry may never lived in his town. In 1765 he was described as a farmer in Mount Pleasant Township. Later he was a travernkeepr in Littlestown.

Little’s Town: Petersburg

         The last of the six towns is the present Littlestown. Its founder was Peter Klein or Little (1724-1773). After holding a number of Germany Township offices in the 1750s and being elected to a three-year term as a county assessor in 1758, he purchased a 311-acre tract of land in Germany Township for which the Penns awarded him a patent deed in 1760.

          Located along the Monocacy Road, Little was in a good position to establish a town. The first several deeds he issued were dated July 15, 1765. These deeds proclaimed that he "hath laid out a Town on the above recited Tract of Land which he called Petersburg and is desirous that the same shall for ever hereafter be called by the same Name of Petersburg." But as was the case with Berwick and Straban, those who came later preferred to call his venture something else, in this case Peter Little’s town and still later Littlestown.

          Peter Little soon sold out his rights and moved to Frederick County, Md., but when he died his body was brought back to Pennsylvania to be buried in the Christ Church graveyard, near his home.

          More than 230 years after their founding, all six of these towns still exist. The earliest United States census to list them separately from the townships in which they were then located was taken in 1820. At the time Hanover had 946 inhabitants; Abbottstown, 313; Hunterstown, 102; East Berlin, 418; McSherrystown, 191; and Littlestown, 305.

          Eventually, five of the six became boroughs with their own municipal government: Hanover in 1815; Abbottstown in 1835; Littlestown in 1864; East Berlin in 1879; and McSherrystown in 1884. Only Hunterstown remains unincorporated still part of Straban Township.


8-29-99-          ‘Upper end’ well represented in county offices

          Responding to a special and formal invitation to join in the observance of the 250th anniversary of the establishment of York county, the fifth in what long ago was called "the upper end of York county," appeared in the city of York late on the morning of Aug. 19, 1999. It was on that day in 1749 that Pennsylvania’s unicameral legislature enacted into law a measure creating a new county, to be named York and located "westward of Susquehanna and south-eastward of the South Mountain."

          He delegation from the "upper end," from what is now Adams county, included the three commissioners – Thomas J. Weaver, Harry V. Stokes and Thomas L. Collins. Their York county counterparts had invited Lancaster, Cumberland and Adams counties to send their commissioners. Instead of inviting these guest to read their proclamations ad give their congratulations in the order of formation of their counties, the master of ceremonies called upon Adams, the daughter, to go first, not last.

          When Weaver, Stokes and Collins appeared before the microphones, they not only presented a proclamation and congratulations, but also reminded the many who attended the event that Adams was already beginning to celebrate its bicentennial, the actual date of which will occur on January 22, 2000. Commissioner Stokes then introduced four bicentennial committee members who were present: Chairman Harry P. Seifert, Honorary chairman J. Melchior Sheads, Program Chairman Donald E. Smith, and member Charles H. Gladfelter.

          All seven of us appeared in York early enough to witness the first events of the day in Cherry Lane, where the present York County commissioners commemorated the initial meeting of that body, which followed soon after the first election held in the county, on Oct. 2, 1749. Regrettably, but true, the most important item of business which it had to face on that day 250 years ago was to set in motion the wheels which would quickly bring into being the first round of county taxes. With a delicacy appropriate to the occasion, the town crier did not cry out for a long time the county commissioners were actually called commissioner of taxes.

          After Cherry Land ceremonies, those who had witnessed them walked (the three York commissioner rode in a horse-drawn carriage) a block or so west on Market Street to the rear of the restored colonial York County Courthouse, constructed during the U.S. bicentennial a quarter century ago. Here the colors were presented, there was music well rendered by the county’s honor choir, and both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (despite the fact that he was only six years old in 1749) participated in the ceremonies.

          Perhaps the thing most of these present on the beautiful summer day will remember was the long procession of proclamations which were read. Almost all, perhaps all, of these carefully prepared documents reminded listeners of the meaning to York County of the date Aug. 19, 1749.

          Long ago William Knox (1789-1825) might well have asked his question: "Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud?" Perhaps the seven persons who journeyed from the "upper end" of the county to participate in the ceremonies on the 19 the might be warranted in feeling a permissible and modest sense of pride in what they heard in Cherry Lane, where the crier read off the names of the first three commissioners and six assessors who were elected to serve York county on Oct. 2, 1749. It is not surprising that George Swope of Paradise township, near York, was elected commissioner, but would one have expected the other two to have come from the "upper end"? Patrick Watson lived in Mount Pleasant and Walter Sharp in Hamiltonban township. Where was the one from Warrington, or from Fawn? If the six assessors (until 1780, they were elected each October to serve the entire county) John Abbott was from Berwick, John Blackburn from Menallen, and William Greer from Mount Pleasant.

          We do not know how these men were selected to be candidates in 1749, but there survives in Pennsylvania State Archives a rather remarkable document in which Surveyor George Smith forwarded to the proprietors "a List if the most remarkable Inhabitants in the Several Town’ps and Settlements over Susquehanna in the Sd Valley fit to discharge Publick Ofices." This list was undoubtedly intended for use in making appointment, rather than in arranging for elections, but it does illustrate how many qualified people in the "upper end" were already identified as being "fit to discharge Publick Ofices." The names of Patrick Watson, William Greer and John Abbott are among them.

          What happened in the fall of 1749 continues until Adams county was created in 1800. The "upper end" furnished more than its share of county officers. For example, from 1750 to the revolution at least one of the two York County representatives in the provincial assembly, which met in Philadelphia, ere from the "upper end": John Witherow, David McConaughy, John Blackburn, robert McPherson, Archibald McGrew and john pope. I 1778 Thomas Lilly from Berwick township became the first Roman Catholic to represent York county in the legislature. He may have been one of the very first members of that church ever chosen to serve in that body.

          When County Commissioner Walter Sharp died in Hamiltonban township in 1750, William McClellan of the same township was elected to complete his term. Between then and 1800 the "upper end" continued to be well represented on he board, by such persons as John Mickle, James Agnew, Thomas McCartney, Robert McPherson, William Delap, Samuel Edie, Thomas Stockton, Hugh Dunwoody, John Monteith, Thomas Fisher, and others.

          Beginning in 1749, "upper end" sheriffs included Hance Hamilton, Robert McPherson, David McConaughy, Samuel Edie and William McClellan, each elected for a three-year term. County treasures from the same place, also chosen to serve for three years, included David McConaughy, Thomas McCartney, Robert McPherson, William Delap, and John Blackburn. Between 1749 and 1769 there were only two years during which the county treasurer was not from the "upper end." What is most remarkable about all this is that none of these treasures could arrange for regular deposits of county monies in a York bankd (there were no York banks until after 1800) and then write checks whenever presented with an authorized request for payment. Only in 1769 did the county commissioners, who for many years appointed the treasurer, decided that it would be more convenient, efficient, and even safer to have treasurer who was a resident of the county seat.

          On segment of the colonial York County population which was not often represented in the county offices, at least not until the revolution, was the very large German and Swiss contingent, most of whose members lived within the present York County. In all probability most of these people were quite content just to be living in free Pennsylvania, fulfilling township offices (but not particularly eagerly) for short terms when the court or the commissioners called upon them, and deferring to fellow-countians for providing most of the other functions of government. Anglicans and Quakers in both the York and Adams parts of the county were willing and able.

          But it is clear that the Scotch-Irish were the ones called upon to do yeoman service in colonial York County government, even though there was little love lost between them and the proprietary authorities. Some of these Scotch-Irish officeholders came from such south-eastern townships as Fawn and Chanceford, but more were from the "upper end."

          The widespread participation in colonial Pennsylvania government, both at the county and township level, by persons living in the "upper end" of the county helps to explain, not only why within less than a generation after the American revolution they and their descendants wanted their own county government, but also why, once their wishes were granted, they were able to move swiftly to establish Adams county on a firm and lasting bases.


          The Adams County Bicentennial Committee has a speakers’ bureau, one of whose members, Anthony Redding, a master’s candidate at Shippensburg University, is prepared to lecture on this very topic. The bureau can be reached by calling 337-5274.


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Copyright 1999 Adams County Bicentennial Committee