Adams County Bicentennial Tidbits

January, 2000

 

1-1-00-          CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE

          To celebrate the anniversary of American Independence, "a number of gentlemen" gathered at the house (tavern) of Capt. James Scott on July 4, 1806. During the festivities the group drank 20 (!) toasts. Among them were: "May that patriotic spirit which produced (Declaration of Independence)… never cease to glow in the breast of every citizen… Our State Constitution – May the hand of paralized (sic) that would destroy this ark of our political safety… The Fair Daughter of America – May they always be willing to reward the honest and sincere lover, but let the indignant frown shew to the debauchee that virtue is not barely a name."

 

1-2-00-          Cigar making prominent in Adams County’s past

          "Life without good cigars is intolerable to the man who has all his life been accustomed to them. Few… ever have a chance to visit the home of their favorite cigar…" For many, Adams County would have been the place to visit. Beginning to flourish in the late 1880’s, the cigar industry, including handmade cigars, box making, packing and the stripping of tobacco leaves, was the most rapidly growing industry in the country.

          In 1863 F. X. Smith was in the business of producing handmade cigars at Irishtown. Later moving to McSherrystown, his company was soon producing about 6 million cigars annually, with two of the popular brands being "Lord Baltimore" and "Betsy Ross." For Abbottstown in the 1880’s, "The manufacture of good cigars at reasonable prices is a marked feature of its enterprise." From White Hall in 1894 George W. Parr relocated his factory to Littlestown, continuing there for more than a half century.

          The growth of the cigar industry centered in McSherrystown. Shortly after the Civil War John McKinney established the first cigar factory in the town. J.A. Poist's company began in 1877 and soon produced the brands "Sam Wilson" and "Edmund Cook" which "have a clientele among lovers of the enticing weed…." Samuel Johns, dubbed the "Tobacco King," commenced operations in 1880 and within five years was producing 4 1/2 million cigars annually. The C.E. Mattingly Co. opened in 1892, employing only the most skilled Union Workmen and producing the "Union Rule."

          Owners and workers were proud of the label "Union Made." Probably, the.first labor union to enter Adams County was the organization at McSherrystown of Cigarmakers Union 316, affiliated with the International Cigar Makers Union.

          Comparisons were often made between the working conditions in McSherrystown and those in city "sweat shops." One factory was described thus, "... is built in the open among the virgin fields. There are no houses on any of the four sides of it, giving it light and ventilation that could not be procured for any amount of money in a big city. It is sanitary to the limit, neat as a new pin from top to bottom...."

          By 1902 there were fourteen cigar factories in McSherrystown. The products were known far and wide. "From the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico... the 'Union Reserve' is favorably known and always finds a hearty welcome" was the claim made for a J.D. Yantis cigar.

          Throughout 1919 and 1920 the cigar industry employed more persons than any other industry in the county. Cigar factories were located in Abbottstown, Centennial, East Berlin, Gettysburg, Irishtown, Kingsdale, Littlestown, McSherrystown, New Oxford, Two Tavems and Edgegrove. Altogether there were 34 firms, some with only one worker, and they had 678 employees.

          The industry remained vigorous. In 1927, 25 million cigars were produced in the county, enough "to give two to every man, woman and child in Pennsylvania and still have enough left to give 15 additional to every man, woman and child in the county...." In addition, more than 1 1/2 million boxes were manufactured, many of them going to cigar manufacturers in other sections of the county.

          Over the decades the industry waned. Factories began to close. Of the 34 companies in 1920, only one remains today, the F.X. Smith Company in McSherrystown.

 

1-3-00-          BEAUTIFUL PLACE

          By the end of 1928, Gettysburg has at least four "beauty salons" serving the women of the area. Five years earlier, Melva K. Heiges opened the first salon in the Borough, "offering the latest styles in hair dressing and hair care and culture." Perhaps the establishment offering the greatest variety of services was the Beatrice (Minter) Salon. Here the customer could obtain "all that appertains to Milady’s fair complexion and make-up…, from permanent waving, shampooing, manicuring, facials, hair dyeing, eye-brow plucking and arching, to hair cutting and countless other forms of face and hair treatments." And a specialty – "eye-lash curling, a new fad in the community."

 

1-4-99-          AMBITIOUS TRIP

          Twenty-one member of the South Mountain Chapter of the Future Farmers of America (Arendtsville Vocational High School), with the leadership of Charles A. Smith, began an ambitious trip on July 31, 1940 of 9,000 miles. Traveling in the truck owned by the Chapter, the group headed to the Pacific coast. The itinerary included many exciting and spectacular sites: Niagara Falls; Detroit and Chicago; Black Hills of South Dakota; Sequoia, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks; San Francisco; El Paso with a side trip to Mexico; Carlsbad Caverns; and Norfolk and Washington. To return by August 31, the group had to travel an average of 300 miles a day.

 

1-5-00-          WAYWARD ROCKET

          Revelers celebrating the nation’s birthday with great enthusiasm on July 4, 1928 set off a skyrocket in an untended direction. The missile’s trajectory sent it through the window of the Beatrice Beauty Salon on the second floor of the Kadel Building, today the Plaza restaurant building. The rocket set fire to a quantity of matches which threatened to destroy the brick structure which had stood on Gettysburg’s square since about 1821. "Trooper C.B. Rebanolt, George Bender and Chauncy Buohl broke through a door and extinguished the fire. Damage was trivial." However, a fire in the 1930s did severely damage the building.

 

1-6-00-          DINOSAUR TRACKS

          Adams County has "a tangible and surviving record of prehistoric life" in the area. In July 1937, Elmer R. Hite discovered many dinosaur footprints on a large boulder at Trostle’s Stone Quarry near York Springs. These tracks, "put down there eons ago," are "an early record of vegetable and animal existence in Adams County." At the State Museum in Harrisburg, on a stone bridge over Plum Run in the National Military Park and at the Adams County Historical Society, some of the tracks can be seen in stones taken from the quarry. These foot prints found in the County are among the finest discovered in Pennsylvania.

 

1-7-00-          STUDEBAKER

          Covered wagons painted blue, drawn by teams of horse and some traveling to Maryland and Virginia was a familiar sight to Adams countians during the 1830s. John C. Studebaker, a blacksmith, and his skilled employees produced a fine quality of conestogatype wagons in the shop between Hunterstown and Heidlersberg. In the middle 1800s, Studebaker moved his Family to Indiana and there produced the prairie schooner. At South Bend in 1852, two sons, Henry and Clem (born in 1831 in Pinetown-New Chester) organized a company considered by some to be the world’s largest for manufacturing wagons and carriages. And in early 20th century, Studebaker’s descendants were producing automobiles.

 

1-8-00-          TAX TAKEDOWN

          In the late 1920s the Gettysburg Times ran the story, "Husband Allows Wife to Be Arrested for Failure to Pay $8.54 in Taxes." Refusing to pay his wife’s taxes, the man told the deputy Sheriff, "Put them in Jail. There is no law that compels a man to pay his wife’s taxes." To the Adams County Jail the wife and six children were taken. The District Attorney intervened, ordering the children, except the babe in arms, to the county home and issuing a warrant charging the man with abandonment. Having secured funds to cover the taxes. She was released, "and returned home, taking her children with her." The husband, after his arrest, posted bond and was released, pending a hearing on the charges.

 

1-9-00-          Adams County militia defended the Union

          Since the formation of Adams County, the most pivotal historical period in her history has been the Civil War, or more precisely, the Battle at Gettysburg followed by President Abraham Lincoln's delivery of his famous address. The war, however, affected Adams Countians more than just four days in 1863.

          Within a week of the firing on Fort Sumter, Charles H. Buehler signed up 77 Adams County men to reactivate the Independent Blues. They served three months as Company E, 2nd PA Volunteers.

          Soon after the Blues’ departure, the Adams Infantry was organized, commanded by Edward McPherson, that later was designated as Company K, 1st PA Reserves. The Keystone (Mountjoy or Rock Creek) Rangers, organized by John Horner, became Company C of "Cole's Maryland Cavalry." Upon their return, many former members of the Independent Blues re-enlisted under the command.of William J. Martin. They were joined by Captain Thadeus S. Pfieffer's (New) Oxford National Guards to form companies F & 1, (respectively) of the 87th PA. Later, a company raised by Henry Chritzman was immediately mustered into service as Company K, 101st PA.

          During 1862 the following Units entered federal service; Company I, 127th PA, Captain Ira R. Shipley commanding, consisting mostly of Adams Countians; and two units of the 138th PA - Company B, commanded by Captain John F. McCreary, formerly the Bendersville Home Guards, commanded by Captain James H. Walter.

          By the spring of 1862, the number of volunteers dwindled. Consequently, the first wartime draft of men (18 to 45 years old) was instituted. Of some 5,059 eligible men enrolled in Adams County, 2,892 were subject to the draft. Of that number, 683 were already serving in Pennsylvania units while some 66 others served in units from other states. Since the county's quota was to be 1,692 men and some 749 were already in service, 963 men were drafted. The result was the formation of eight companies of the 165th PA, commanded by Colonel Charles H. Buehler. Of those eight units, Company C had been the Fairfield Zouaves, Captain Ebenezer McGinley commanding; Company D, formerly the Arendtsville Independent Riflemen, Captain Jacob H. Plank; and Company G, formerly the Mt. Rock or Union Riflemen, Captain Jacob E. Miller.

          One of the more interesting units was the Adams Dragoons that had been organized in 1861. By the late spring of 1863, the unit had reorganized under Captain Robert Bell and was known as Bell's Adams County Cavalry. In August, Bell's command became Company B, 21st PA Cavalry.

          Other units raised (partially or entirely) in Adams County during the reminder of the war were: Company K, 184th PA, Captain William H. Adams; Company C, 202nd PA, Captain John Q. Pfeiffer; Company I, 205th PA, Captain Ira R. Shipley; Company G (Partial), 209th PA, Captain Charles F. Hinkle; Company D (Partial), 210th PA, Captain Henry H. McKnight; Company I (Partial), 210th PA, Captain Perry J. Tate; and the second Company G (Partial), 74th PA, Captain William J. Bart.

 

1-10-00-         DANCING SCHOOL

          Advertisements in The Centinel during May 1811 announced the opening of a "Dance Academy." Mr. Colome (no first name given), Professor of Dancing, wished to "acquaint" the ladies and gentlemen of Gettysburg that his dancing school would open at the ballroom of the McClellan House on May 13. Tuition for a quarter was eight dollars, plus a dollar at the time of subscribing. In October, Mr. Colome announced a "Practicing Ball" on Friday, October 11. Charge was "half a dollar." The "Professor," apparently encouraged by results in Gettysburg, announced to the "Ladies and Gentlemen of Millerstown and its vicinity" that his dancing school would begin in Millerstown, November 1.

 

1-11-00-          ADAMS ELECTRIC TURNS ON THE POWER

          On May 3, 1941 the Adams Electric Cooperative threw a switch, providing electrical service for the first time to thousands of Adams County residents in rural areas. Most rural areas in the nation had no electrical service in the 1930s. A group of Adams Countians organized and incorporated the Adams Electric Cooperative, August 21, 1940. The Incorporators, canvassing the county for members and applications for electric power, soon had 2,000 members. Using the loans available through the federal government’s Rural Electrification Administration, in less than a year it was able to construct more than 300 miles of lines providing a "new power" to many homes.

 

1-12-00-         BETTY BLAIR

          Who was Betty Blair? According to a 1928 Brazilian newspaper, "Betty Blair comes to us from the United States…a figure of full grace, intelligent of look, with smiling mouth and manner of an American girl – entirely at ease wherever she is, as though the world belonged to her. She is at Rio…fulfilling a contract at the Copacabana Palace Theater." In March 1929, having turned down several "lucrative stage offers" Elizabeth Stallsmith alias Betty Blair, daughter of the P.W. Stallsmiths of Gettysburg, returned to her home town with her sister Ruth, and brother-in-law Louis Quintnella, a graduate of the Gettysburg Academy and a Mexican diplomat recently assigned to Washington.

 

1-13-00-         ‘LAND FOR SALE’

          An 1805 "Land for Sale" description reveals what was so necessary and desirable in 19th century agricultural life. It pictured a 240-acre farm in Hamiltinban Township thus: About one half…is cleared…including 30 acres of excellent meadow, the remaining part well covered with oak, hickory, walnut and locust timber; an excellent stone quarry…,a never-ending spring convenient to the dwelling house; three orchards of Apple and Peach Trees,…a large two-story stone house, log barn and small buildings…situated within three miles of four places of worship, English and Dutch; a grist mill, a saw mill…within a half-mile placed on Marsh Creek…and two merchant mills within a mile and a half.

 

1-14-00-         KATALYSINE SPRINGS HOTEL

          Located in Cumberland Township just west of Gettysburg, the splendid three-story Gettysburg Katalysine Springs Hotel was erected during the three months of Spring 1869. With elegant accommodations, a wide range of facilities and entertainment and "modern privies" for each room, the spa-resort attracted clients from near and far, especially from cities east and south. It was asserted by some that the near by spring had "curative" qualities. In 1868, the Gettysburg Lithia Springs Association began bottling and selling the "medicinal waters." The resort thrived in the 1870s and 1880s, but by 1901 it declared bankruptcy. The building was destroyed by fire on December 17, 1917.

 

1-15-00-         ‘A SURE FOAL GETTER’

          To possess fine horses was a desire for farmers in the 19th Century. The Centinel (1800s) ran advertisements which offered "superior" stallions for "breeding service." One read: "Will stand to cover Mares the ensuing season, (April to July)." Location and cost of service were announced. It stated "the low rate of Three dollars and Fifty Cents (cash) the single leap…, Fourteen Dollars and one bushel of oats to insure a colt." The assets of the stallion were trumpeted. "He was got by the noted Horse Old Mercury, his dam by the celebrated Horse Wilddeer…For beauty and elegance of action he is allowed to be equal…to any horse in the United States, and is a sure foal getter."

 

1-16-00-         Adams County’s birthday is Saturday

          As Jan. 22 fast approaches, the 200th anniversary of the creation of Adams County, we should focus on some of the events which led directly to the creation of the 26th county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

          The question of whether or not to form a new county from the townships located in what was known as "the upper end" of York was considered off and on, both in and out of the legislature, for about 10 years. Until near the end of that period, there simply was not enough demonstrable support generated to prompt the lawmakers to act.

          It was not that the senators and representatives were either unaccustomed or reluctant to create new counties. Between 1781, the years in which the British army surrendered at Yorktown, and 1798, they established 14 new ones, bringing the total from 11 to 25. By 1785, with one small exception (the Erie triangle), all of the present area of the Commonwealth was included within the limits of some county. Several of these, especially Luzerne, Northumberland and Allegheny, were then as small in population as they were enormous in size. Any new counties formed after 1785 would be carved, not out of an unorganized part of the state, but from one or more already existing counties.

          A thoughtful person living in the York County town of Fairfield in 1798, who somehow learned about what was going on elsewhere in the state, would probably know that among the recent new counties were at least four which were familiar to him. In 1784 Montgomery was created out of Philadelphia and, much closer to home, Franklin out of Cumberland County. In 1785 Dauphin was cut off from Lancaster. Ten years later, the legislature agreed to detach the western townships of Bedford and establish the new county of Somerset.

          Our Fairfield friend would recall that whenever he wanted to record a deed or settle an estate he was obliged to go to York one or more times to do it. If he had a legal problem which was beyond the competence or jurisdiction of his local justice of the peace, he had to go to York to consult an attorney. If he had long been interested in political affairs, our Fairfield friend would have remembered how many of the York County officers since 1749 (such as commissioners, treasurers, and sheriffs) had come from the upper end. Since 1783 Fully half of the 16 county commissioners elected were residents of these townships. If any people had demonstrated their capacity to govern themselves, surely he and his neighbors were among them.

          Our friend would probably not have thought very much about what some persons claimed later was a telling reason for the creation of two counties: that there was animosity and friction between the Scotch-Irish in western and the Germans in eastern York County. Simply put, these people believed they did not like each other and should have gotten a divorce. While there was certainly some truth in this contention, many Germans in the county continues to be content to have others represent them in county government. Not one of the 16 commissioners elected between 1783 and 1797 was a resident of one of the heavily German townships. The three Germans among them lived in York borough.

          Presented with a petition favoring a new county, our Fairfield friend would probably have been one of the more than a thousand votes to sign it.

          But we are fortunate enough to have other friends. When we begin talking to one in Abbottstown in 1789, we are quickly reminded that not all thoughtful and free people, after reviewing the very same evidence, are going to reach the very same conclusions.

          Our Abbottstown friends would tell us that people in the upper end have gotten along very well with the way things have been, ever since 1749. How often do we need to record a deed or settle an estate? How often are our local justices of the peace unable to handle all of our legal needs? After all, the town of York is not an ocean, not even a river, away. The fact that we continue to have effective representation from the upper end in York County government should not lead us to separate. Our guide should be that if the thing is not broken, we should not try to fix it.

          Just because people in Dauphin, Franklin, and Somerset have decided that they needed their own separate county government does not mean that we do. A new county will just mean another set of county officers to be paid. They will probably be overpaid and underworked. If the people of Franklin county go jumping into a lake, why should we fellow them?

          Presented with a petition opposing a new county, our Abbottstown friend would probably have been one of the more than a thousand voters to sign it.

          The voices for and against a new county continued to sound. Toward the end of the 1790s, several able and experienced persons in and near Gettysburg presented their arguments in favor of a new county and of locating the county seat in that town. In 1799 James Gettys, the proprietor of Gettysburg, formally promised to assign to a new county the ground rents on 200 of his town lots and also a lot for a jail, but only if his town was chosen as the county seat. About the same time, 13 men formally promised to give the new county a total of $7,000 to be used for constructing a courthouse and other public buildings, in Gettysburg. None of the advocates for locating the County seat elsewhere came close to this offer.

          When the legislature assembled in early December 1799, it met not in Philadelphia , which had been Pennsylvania’s capital for more than a century, but in Lancaster, with the understanding that it would settle in Harrisburg as soon as the necessary facilities there became available. Apparently, locating the seat of government closer to the center of population was an important consideration after all. We wonder what our Abbottstown friend would have had to say about that.

          After a few more political skirmishes, the legislature finally passes a bill and on Jan. 22, 1800, Governor Thomas McKean signed "an act for erecting part of the county of York into a separate county." To be "henceforth called and known by the name of Adams County," its inhabitants were to "enjoy all and singular" the rights and privileges, as granted "by the constitution and laws of this Commonwealth."

          We simply do not know how this news was received in Menallen or Germany townships, or in parts betwwen. Were there public meetings, parades, militia drills or fireworks? Available sources do not say. How long would it take before the new county government could be organized and begin to operate? Within seven weeks of the act creating Adams County, the legislature established nine additional ones, all in the northern and western part of the state. The move was more political than anything else, since it took several years before there were enough people in some of these new places to justify organizing a separate jurisdiction. As late as the census of 1810, only three of these nine counties had more than half the population than Adams County. One (Warren County) still had fewer than 1,000 inhabitants.

          How the people of Adams County went about establishing their new station in the political life of Pennsylvania will be the subject of next week’s article in this series.

 

1-17-00-         REWARDS FOR RUNAWAYS

          While, during the first several decades of the 1800s, slave owners advertised rewards for the return of runaways, the county jailer was busy arresting "Negro men" on the suspicion of being runaways. Asking the owners "to come and take (them) away," the jailer described each with some detail in the newspaper. "He is a stout fellow…23 years of age, a good countenance, stammers in his speech…(has) a mixt broad cloth coat with yellow buttons, the name and likeness of Thomas Jefferson on each…" Another was described "with an iron collar about his neck." If the Master did not come, the prisoner would be discharged – perhaps to be arrested in another town.

 

1-18-00-         TEMEPERANCE MOVEMENT

          In an environment of 18 distilleries and two breweries plus many of both in homes (1843) and a yearly average of about 50 taverns or houses of entertainment in the county, temperance movements had "rough going." In the 1790s Rev. John Black urged the Upper Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church to embrace a mild form of temperance, moderation. Only a few followed. The Gettysburg Sentimental Society, October 1807, debated the question, ""Should the Use of Spiritus Liquors be prohibited?" The affirmative won. In June 1830, a group in Gettysburg pledged total abstinence except when recommended by a physician. Yet, the state referendum of 1854 on prohibition was rejected by Adams County, 2,584 to 1,236.

 

1-19-00-         ELOQUENT, ATTRACTIVE ORATOR

          The Temperance Movement gained strength and momentum throughout the nation following the Civil War. The liquor business was viewed increasingly as a vicious threat to society and its institution. Francis E. Willard, founder of the World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union, was a tireless proponent of prohibition. Prior to her April 1883 Gettysburg appearance, the Star and Sentinel wrote, "(She) is one of the most eloquent and attractive orators in the world…And wherever know, she is honored and loved. Her work in the cause of Temperance, Social Purity, etc is appreciated by all good people. The opportunity of hearing this gifted lady in Gettysburg will be embraced by our people as a rare privilege and blessing."

 

1-20-00-         TRIAL MEETINGS

          Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, AME Zion Church in Gettysburg took seriously its responsibility to call its members to account for their behaviors, to admonish and discipline. The "Trial Meetings" served that responsibility. Drinking whiskey and drunkenness, disputes between mothers and daughters, dancing, acting "unchristianly," business disputes and "criminal connection" between a man and woman, all could be cause for a trial. Pettiness, spite and gossip were often present. But in each instance, the accused was able to face the accuser and free to state his or her case. Striving for peace, order and good ill, those in charge might exonerate, admonish, put on probation or even expel the accused.

 

1-22-00-         ANNIVERSARY DAY

          This is the anniversary day. On Wednesday, January 22, 1800, Governor Thomas McKean signed a bill creating the 26th Pennsylvania county, named for John Adams, then president of the United States. The question of whether to divide York County had been discussed intermittently for about a decade. While that issue was now settled, a much larger one, reaching to our own day, was not. Supposedly someone asked Benjamin Franklin after the Constitutional Convention: "We" I Dr. Franklin, what kindof government have you given us?" Supposedly he replied: "A republic, if you can keep it." In a day far different from January 1800, can we keep Adams County, now entrusted to our care, the free republic it was intended to be?

Governor appoints officials to run new county

          The ink was scarcely dry on the act of Jan. 22, 1800, before Gov. Thomas McKean began exercising his authority to name officers to begin putting the new county of Adams into operation. Pennsylvania was then operating under a constitution, which had gone into effect in 1790, replacing the one adopted at the very beginning of the revolution. Whereas the 1776 document provided for a very weak executive authority, the one in 1790 established a very strong governor and granted him wide appointive powers. Flying from one extreme to the other is not a new phenomenon.

          On Jan. 24, 1800 only two days after he signed the bill into law, Gov. McKean appointed James Duncan to the Adams county offices of clerk of courts, prothonotary, recorder of deeds and register of wills. It was not then uncommon for one person to fill all of these offices. The first estate was created was created on Feb. 13, 1800, when Duncan issued letters of administration to John and Robert Simpson to settle the estate of their father, David Simpson of Straban township. The first two deeds were recorded in March, one on March 14 and the other 16 days later. Duncan held his four offices for 21 years, until a later governor replaced him; at the same time he was dismissing similar officers in virtually every other county in the state.

          McKean moved next to select some members of the new county’s judiciary system. Its president judge, who was expected to be an attorney, was John Joseph Henry, a resident of Lancaster whose jurisdiction included five counties, from Delaware west to and including Adams. In early April 1800, the governor appointed three associate judges for Adams County, John Agnew, William Gilliland, and William Scott. These three men would handle many of the cases coming before the courts. They were not lawyers, but citizens in whose judgment and good sense the governor and those on whom he relied had confidence. The three opened the first sessions of the civil courts on June 9, 1800. Judge Henry made his first appearance in November, to conduct criminal court.

          The act of Jan. 22 stated clearly that, "the Sheriff Coroner and public officers of the county of York, shall continue to exercise the duties of their respective offices within the county of Adams, until similar officers shall be appointed agreeably to law."

          In those days annual elections to Pennsylvania were held on the second Tuesday in October. Several weeks before, two political groups (one might say two parties) met and agreed upon their ticket for federal, state and county offices. Both sides agreed on their candidates for most offices to be filled. They differed only in their choices for federal Congress and state Senate.

          On election day Adams County voters elected Henry Slagle and Thomas Thorn burg to the state house and David Edie, Jacob Greenamyer (or Greenameyer), and Robert McIlhenny to the first board of county commissioners. Under existing law, the names of the two persons receiving the highest number of votes for sheriff and coroner in an election were then submitted to the governor, who named one of the two (usually the top vote getter) to a three-year term.

          The most sought-after office in the county in 1800 was that of sheriff. At least six persons stepped forth as candidates and solicited support. The governor appointed George Lashells, a Straban township tavern keeper, who had announced his candidacy about two weeks after Jan. 22. The returns indicated that only one person had been chosen for coroner. Whether the governor decided he could not act since he did not have the required two names from which to choose or whether the one person chosen decided he did not want the job, we do not know, but the fact is that the office remained vacant for three full years. In October 1803, Gov. McKean reviewed the two names submitted to him and commissioned John Arendt as the first coroner of Adams County.

          As county leaders studied the act of Jan.22, seeking guidance in putting the new county into operation, they read the section which authorized the county commissioners still to be elected to secure lots on which to build a courthouse jail and offices "for the safe keeping of the records. "Since some of the $7,000 pledged for these buildings was due before October, these leaders secured a supplementary piece of legislation (March 15,1800), which named William McClellan, Henry Hoke and William Hamilton to begin building the courthouse and jail, "as early as possible in the ensuing summer." Further they were permitted to obtain up to $3,000 in tax money for that purpose. These three commissioners made their final report on Jan. 27, 1804. They had spent $9,802.70 on the two buildings.

          One important task still remained to be done. Although the act of Jan. 22 described in some detail the boundary between York and Adams counties, it remained for a team of surveyors to locate the line on the ground and properly mark it. On Oct. 2, 1800, the governor commissioned Jacob Spangler, Samuel Sloan and William Waugh to perform this task. Less than three months later, they reported the completion of their assignment.

          By the end of the year 1800, except for the office of coroner, the government of the new county was in full operation. Three elected commissioners were busy doing the things most other Pennsylvania County commissioners were expected to do. Three commissioners appointed by the governor were at work building a courthouse and jail. Three commissioners, one of them from York County, appointed by the governor to "run, ascertain and mark the dividing line" between the counties, had done just that. Three appointed associate judges, acting under the leadership of an absentee president judge, had already conducted sessions of the several county courts. There was no coroner and would be none for three more years, but there was a sheriff properly commissioned and functioning. The county’s two representatives in the lower house of the state legislature had already attended their first meetings, beginning in December 1800. Adams shared with its parent county a representative in Congress and a state senator. The former was John Stewart from York and the latter was William Reed from Adams.

          How shall we characterize the 17 men (excluding the surveyor from York County but including John Arendt) who were given the primary responsibility of setting the government of Adams County in motion?

          First not surprisingly, most of them were of Scotch-Irish and Presbyterian origin. Four were Germans (Slagle, Greenamyer, Arendt, and Hoke); one was Low Dutch (Lashells); and one was Quaker (Thornburg).

          Second, some of these men were members of the oldest families in the "upper end" (including Agnew, Edie, Gilliland, McClellan, and Reed). The families of some had arrived during or since the Revolution. One should remember that the bill creating Adams County was signed into law only 39 days after the death of George Washington and 13 months before the first transfer of power under the Constitution of 1787 from one political party to the other. The new president was the chief author of the Declaration of Independence.

          The obituary of William Gilliland in 1831 reminded its readers that "his youthful ardor was identified with the spirit of ‘76" and that "he felt for his country’s wrongs, and as a soldier of the Revolution; assisted to maintain its rights, and secure its liberty and independence."

          The obituary of William Scott in 1823 asserted that he had been "intimately acquired with many of the important changes of his country, and especially with the eventful circumstances by which it became a free and independent republic." In addition to serving in a number of other capacities during the war, he was York County lieutenant from 1780 until 1792. As such he was in charge of the organization and training of its militia.

          Henry Slagle, one of the first Germans to be chosen to a position in York County government, as early as 1761, was a member of the Pennsylvania constitutional convention in 1776, served as county subliutenant under William Scott, represented York County in the Pennsylvania convention which ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1787, and was president judge of York County from 1784 until 1791. His 1811 obituary explained "Col. Slagle was an active partisan in the cause of American Independence, and rendered many services to his country in a military as well as civil capacity."

          Finally, soon after being graduated by Princeton College in 1775, James Duncan decided not to pursue theological study but instead to join the Army. He was with his regiment at Valley Forge in 1778 and at Yorktown three years later. He left the Army in 1783 with the rank of captain. After living in Philadelphia for some years, Duncan returned to York County following the death of his father, a longtime Abbottstown tavern keeper. He was living there when the governor appointed him to office in January 1800.

          With such a complement of leaders, Adams County was off and running by the end of its first year of existence.

 

1-24-00-         ‘AN ELOPEMENT FROM ME’

          The Sentinel frequently carried advertisements announcing spouse abandonment, always "without just cause" and offering an important warning. One women, in 1812, noting that her husband had "made an elopement from me, having no just cause," warned the readers "against trusting him, as I am determined to pay no debt of his contracting." A husband, in 1810, informed the public that his wife "has left his bed and board without a just cause, and refuses again to live with him." All persons were warned not to trust her "on my account, as I will pay no debt of her contracting…, unless she returns to her duty."

 

1-25-00-         VALUABLE VOLUNTEERS

          For their fire protection, Adams County residents have relied on volunteer firefighters. Fire protection in the county goes back to 1806 when the Gettysburg Borough Council "ordered" the formation of "volunteer" fire companies, which were nothing more than bucket brigades. Today, there are 27 volunteer fire companies in the county. To provide the protection requires countless hours of volunteer service both fighting fires and raising funds to cover the millions of dollars needed for up-to-date equipment and facilities. For example, in 1990, McSherrystown’s company had 160 active members; Littlestown, almost 350. To all members of fire companies, past and present, the county is indebted.

 

1-26-00-         WITCHCRAFT AND POW-WOWISM

          Stories of witchcraft and pow-wowism practices in the county were rampant in December 1928. Newspaper articles told of the claims made by the self-styled "Professor…Chief Science Healer," A.C. Lenhart of York. He claimed to have cast out spells and placed spells on Orrtanna women. He removed a spell from a New Oxford boy. He claimed the power to cast spirits from dwellings. Charging a $150 for his "permanent cure," he "insured" his patients against flu, smallpox and all other diseases. "They never get sick after that cure." While the District Attorney was investigating, the Gettysburg council passed a ruling prohibiting the practice of the "black arts" in the Borough.

 

1-27-00-         LILLIAN RUSSEL

          On October 1912 the former actress Lillian Russel arrived in Gettysburg with her husband and maid to gather material for a play she was writing about the area. She had come by automobile from Philadelphia by way of the turnpike from York. She announced her intention to give half of the proceeds from the play to the repair of turnpike. Informed that work on the road had already been completed, Lillian Russel replied, "At any rate I am willing to do anything I can to relieve the actual suffering other automobilists must endure who motor this way. I have traveled all over the United States and Europe but never encountered worse roads than this.

 

1-28-00-         PERMANENT CONCRETE HIGHWAY

          Something new had come to Adams County; more was expected. "The bumps are gone. The ruts are missing and the grades are easy and uniform," thus did the Gettysburg Times extol the benefits of the first completed four miles of "permanent" concrete highway in the county in November 1919. The completed miles were on the Harrisburg Road in Straban Township. On that short stretch of road, "The traveler will be able to experience all the joys of motoring." The paper continued, "Automobilists who have tried the road are unanimous in their opinion that the county is fortunate not only for having this stretch of road but of the proposal…(for) a great number of miles more of permanent roadway…"

 

1-30-00-         1866 vision was largely unfulfilled

          In the King James version of the Bible, there is a passage from the book of Proverbs which was translated as "where there is no vision the people perish." One could assemble hundred of statements by Americans, beginning with the earliest settlers, in which they expressed their vision for the future of their country, but before proceeding beyond this point it might be useful to pause long enough to examine a dictionary in order to define a word.

          The word, of course, is vision. What does it mean? A good dictionary may have six or more meanings. Vision is sight. Vision is an experience in which something appears vividly enough in one’s mind, but is not physically or actually present. Still another definition expresses most closely the meaning of the word is "the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be."

          Two Americans who lived a century apart from each other expressed their vision of the future of this country in a manner which included the number of people who would eventually inhabit it. In 1755 Benjamin Franklin published an article on "the Increase of Mankind," in which he predicted that the American population would double every 25 years.

          Little more than a century later, in his annual messages to Congress in 1861 and 1862, Abraham Lincoln went beyond the then-customary reporting on foreign and domestic concerns to state his firm conviction that the American union of states must remain one, if the people were ever to realize what he believed was their great potential. He used this argument effectively to justify continuing the war until the North won.

          In 1862 Lincoln singled out for discussion the "great interior region" of the country, whose deep and rich agricultural resources made it "naturally one of the most important in the world." We are overwhelmed, he wrote, by "the magnitude of the prospect" of its development.

          One can argue that Lincoln’s vision in 1862 accurately presaged, not what might happen, but what did indeed happen. Like Benjamin Franklin, however, Lincoln was less accurate when it came to predicting population growth. His 1862 message contained a table which predicted a 1900 population of 103 millions (actually it was 76 million) and a 1930 population of 252 million. The actual population in the latter year was 123 million. It did not reach 250 million until 1991 or 1992.

          Less than a year after the end of the Civil War, there appeared in the Gettysburg "Sentinel" an article entitled "Adams County – Her Undeveloped Resources and Future Prosperity." Using the name Lillie Lake, the otherwise unidentified author claimed that until 1863 Adams occupied a "comparatively unimportant" rank among her sister Pennsylvania counties. Because of her many hills and unproductive soil, people called her the buckwheat county. All of this began to change, the author claimed, after the battle and the great influx of visitors, most of whom were come mourn over the graves of their relatives and friends.

          Moving from "these sad thoughts," the writer proposed to "bury the past and turn to the future." To compensate "for much thin soil, and for irreclaimable mountains," the author thought, Adams county "may possess beds of limestone and coal, mines of iron and lead, and inexhaustible resources of petroleum which may yet help to light the world."

          Evidences of these resources have already been found, the reader was told. One farmer might already "dream of his farm changed to an immense limestone quarry, and the secret drawer in his old desk filled with golden eagles." Others, having found some coal, experience "floating through their minds visions of beautiful mansions, splendid equipages, and front pews in the church." Still another, "in his vivid imagination…sees huge oil wells, throwing out from the subterranean regions of the earth their rich products, which may make him independent." Since it is already known that the county has springs with "the same medicinal elements as far-famed springs of other lands," not much time might be needed "to turn the great army of the afflicted to the county of Adams to drink of its life-preserving waters."

          In conclusion, Little Lake wrote, if Adams County develops her resources among her sister counties. And, if she continues to exhibit "a general desire to educate the present generation better than the past," then "we know not but there may be in some of he unseemly log school-houses, the germ of a future President, or of scholars and Statesmen that may become the pride of a nation, and thus ass another niche to her temple of fame."

          Our unknown writer of 1866 was correct in identifying mineral resources in Adams County which were in fact being developed, but far wide of the mark in failing to see that competition from similar resources elsewhere in the country would soon make further local development unprofitable. He, or she, was also far from the mark in failing to predict that what was described as the "thin soil" of Adams County, when properly cared for, would make it in 1998 the fourth leading wheat producing county in Pennsylvania. Likewise, this writer did not see that, properly cared for, the "irreclaimable mountains" would in 1998 make the county at or near the top in production of apples, peaches and cherries in the Commonwealth.

          We may all agree that where there is no vision, the people, while they might not perish, will fall far short of their potential. It is clear from the experiences of Franklin an Lincoln, as well as from our own, that the ability to know with any certainly what might or will happen in the future is limited indeed. As is the case with predicting the weather, even now, the need always to be prepared to revise and adjust yesterday’s forecast of the future exists.

 

1-30-00-         MINOR BASILICA

          In the presence of 100 priests, seven bishops, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States and a large congregation, Conewago Chapel was named a Minor Basilica in July 1962 on the 175th anniversary of the Chapel, so designated by Pope John XXIII. The first American Roman Catholic Church to bear the name, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, it had been a missionary center from its beginning. It ministered to American Indians and early settlers in and passing through the Conewago area. Roman Catholic parishes in Adams County and many in western Pennsylvania were developed from the Chapel. There are only four major basilicas, all in Rome, and each high altar is reserved for the Pope alone.

 

1-31-00-         VALENTINE JAILED

          On November 8, 1912 the Gettysburg Times announced to the community that "Carson Valentine, colored, who is alleged to have been living for about four or five years with Ella Cook, white," had been placed in the county jail by the chief of police to wait the next term of Court. Expressing its pleasure with the action, the paper continued, "…to bring Valentine to justice is a matter that will be received with gratification by all good thinking citizens…Colored residents as well as white people were indignant when the affair become known…" But Ella Cook was not jailed; the charge against Valentine was not stated; the nature of justice to be rendered was ignored.

 

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Copyright 1999 Adams County Bicentennial Committee