The Humane Hose Company on Manor Street

Jim Gerhart, January 2021

Cabbage Hill once had its very own volunteer fire company. From 1838 to 1882, it served the West King and Manor Street corridors. Starting very humbly as the Humane Hose Company, it fought many fires and was a source of much neighborhood pride.

The Humane Hose Company was established in 1838 by a group of civic-minded citizens of the west and southwest sections of Lancaster. In August of that year, they purchased a hose carriage from a company in Philadelphia and paraded it through the streets of Lancaster, with the “uniform of the members neat and appropriate” and its members “entitled to much credit for their zeal and public spirit.”

First location of Humane Hose Company on the north side of West King, just west of Concord Alley. From  Moody and Bridgens, 1850.

In March 1839, the charter of the Humane Hose Company was approved, limiting the company to 40 subscribing members and establishing its hierarchy of officers and directors. The company rented part of a lot on the north side of West King just above Concord, and built a small frame building in which to keep its hose carriage.

In the early 1840s, a few of Lancaster’s more established fire companies had their own horse-drawn, hand-pumper engines, but the Humane only had a hose carriage, which was simply a large reel holding a wound-up hose on a four-wheeled carriage. The members of the Humane would pull the carriage to the scene of a fire using ropes, unwind the hose and hook it to one of the city’s new fire plugs, and use the hose to fill the tanks of the hand-pumpers of the other companies.

Remains of the first house of Humane Hose Company on West King. Photo taken in early 1880s by George M. Steinman, Humane treasurer, some 30 years after the Humane had moved from the site, and just before the building was torn down in the mid-1880s.

In June 1853, for $225, the Humane purchased the rear portion of a lot on West King to be the site of their new larger hose house. The Humane’s lot fronted 21 feet on the northwest side of Manor and extended 30 feet in depth. The Humane built a two-story brick hose house on the site, approximately where the rear parking lot for Reveron Electronic, Inc. is today, across from 424 Manor. The hose house was topped with a bell tower from which fire calls would ring out.

Location of Humane Steam Fire Engine Company No. 6 on Manor Street. From Everts and Stewart, 1875.

At the time the Humane’s new hose house was built, the company boasted 75 active members. Only six were property owners; the others were minors or those “who earn their bread by hard labor”. Their hose carriage had become old and was in need of repair, eight sections of hose were deemed too old to function dependably, and the company was $550 in debt. Other volunteer companies also were struggling with hose problems, and in 1854, the city allocated $3,000 to be shared among the Humane and four other companies for the purchase of new hoses.  

Humane Steam Fire Engine Company No. 6 on Manor Street, about where the rear parking lot of Reveron Electronic, Inc. is today, across from 424 Manor. This house was built in 1853, and was the home of the company for about 25 years. Note the steam-pumper fire engine proudly displayed in front of building. The Humane bought their steam-pumper in 1867, so this photo was likely taken shortly after then. Photo from collection of George M. Steinman, treasurer of the company.

By 1857, the Humane’s situation had improved to the point that it was able to purchase its first engine—a used hand-pumper purchased from the Union Fire Company for $300. The hand-pumper engine was a metal tank mounted on a horse-drawn, four-wheeled carriage. In the tank, which was filled with water, was a set of pistons that were operated by long horizontal levers called brakes extending from either side of the carriage. Teams of men moved the brakes up and down in rapid succession to activate the pistons, drawing water in from a hose connected to a water source with one stroke, and then driving the water out under pressure through a hose leading to the site of the fire with the next stroke.

The Civil War had a major impact on the Humane. The call for soldiers drew on the same pool of young men who were active in the Humane. In early September 1862, about 10 days before the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), the Governor of Pennsylvania asked for all able-bodied men to start military drills in their neighborhoods, as the Confederate Army was moving north to invade the state. As a result, a large number of men from the “Hill” met at the Humane’s hose house to get organized. One of the speakers noted that 69 of the Humane’s volunteers had become soldiers and that only 18-20 volunteers were still available locally to fight fires.

By the mid-1860s, the Humane decided that it should have a steam-pumper like the one the Union Fire Company had recently acquired. A steam-pumper consisted of a steam boiler mounted on a horse-drawn, four-wheel carriage. The steam boiler was used to pressurize the water, forcing a stream of water through a hose directed at a fire. In 1866, the members of the Humane began canvassing the neighborhood for subscriptions to buy a new steam-pumper.

In early January 1867, after enough money had been pledged, a committee was appointed to purchase a steam-pumper. The committee went to Philadelphia to purchase the new apparatus, and a couple weeks later the new steam-pumper was delivered to Lancaster. The steamer was purchased for $2,800 from the Undine Steam Fire Company of Holland, New York, and had been built by A.B. Taylor.

On a cold January day, a parade was held to deliver the new steamer to the Humane’s house on Manor. Six Lancaster fire companies were represented, in addition to 75 men from the Humane. After the parade was over, the men of the Humane were anxious to see their new engine perform, so they took it back down to the square, where they fired it up and threw a stream of water 200 feet up North Queen.

In the early 1870s, the Humane is said to have declined in membership, and was saved from folding only by a reorganization in late 1875. Hugh Fulton was elected President, and the company officially modified its charter in April 1876, taking on the unwieldy new name of the Humane Steam Fire Engine and Forcing-Hose Company No. 6.

Lancaster City Fire Department Station House No. 1 in 1918. This house was completed in 1880 as the engine house of the Humane Steam Fire Engine and Forcing-Hose Company No. 6. The building is now occupied by Station One Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Ryan Conklin, Lancaster City Fire Department.

The revitalized Humane decided to move out of its aging house on Manor. A lot was purchased for $2,100 not far away on the north side of the 400 block of West King, and the foundation for a new larger building was laid there in 1878. The new engine house cost almost $5,300, and was completed in 1880. It still stands at 411 West King and is currently occupied by Station One Center for the Arts.

The grand opening of the new West King engine house in October 1880 was marked by a ball attended by 150 couples. The ball was held in the large second-floor room of the new house, which measured 40 by 100 feet. The newly energized version of the Humane seemed to be on its way, but within about two years, it went out of business when Lancaster City decided to take over the firefighting services that had heretofore been handled by the numerous volunteer companies.

In April 1882, the new city fire department was established, and in June 1883, the city purchased the Humane’s three-year-old house on West King for $5,200. The city designated the house on West King as its Station House No. 1, which would remain in use for many decades.

The Humane Hose Company on Manor is now a forgotten ghost of old Cabbage Hill, but in its time it was a formidable firefighting organization that helped protect the Hill’s buildings for some 40 years, as well as an important part of the Hill’s social scene.

The History of 434 West King Street

Jim Gerhart, December 2020

One of the better-preserved one-story houses in Lancaster is the blue house with the red door at 434 West King Street. This four-bay, center-chimney, Germanic-style house is typical of the many hundreds of such houses, also sometimes known as one-and-a-half-story houses, that once dominated the architecture of the city during the Federal period of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The 550-square-foot house is located on the very northern edge of the SoWe project area, less than a block outside of Cabbage Hill.

434 West King Street. Photo courtesy of its current owner, David Aviles Morales.

How old is the house? Who built it? Who owned it over the years? There is not much information available to answer these questions, and what little exists is somewhat contradictory. Real-estate websites date the house as early as the 1790s and as late as 1880. A 1985 survey by the Historic Preservation Trust and a 1995 report by the City of Lancaster both refer to the property as the Geise House and date it to about 1840. But an old map and tax records show that a Barbara Geiss owned the house next door instead. To try to resolve these conflicts and answer the questions above, extensive research into historic deed, tax, directory, newspaper, and other sources was undertaken.

The result of that research indicates that 434 West King has an interesting and fairly complicated history. Construction of this venerable old one-story frame house probably was completed in 1817. The lot where the house is located was originally 64 feet wide along the south side of West King and 245 feet deep to what would eventually become Campbell Alley. The house’s early history is closely tied to the Eberman family, a prominent family in Lancaster in the late 1700s.

John Eberman III (1776-1846) probably began building the house at 434 in late 1816. John III, a cashier and bank treasurer, was the son of John Eberman, Jr. (1749-1835), a famous clockmaker whose clocks are highly valued today. John, Jr. also was a prominent Lancaster citizen who served as Chief Burgess and Justice of the Peace, and as a sergeant in the Revolutionary War. John, Jr. made and installed the four-dial clock in the steeple of the second courthouse in the square about 1785. John, Jr.’s father, John Eberman, Sr. (1722-1805), was a soap boiler and tallow chandler who immigrated to Lancaster from Germany in the mid-1740s. The Ebermans were a prolific family: John, Sr. had 12 children, John, Jr. 13, and John III 10.

Part of the Lancaster County tax list for Lancaster Borough for 1817, the first year that 434 West King was on the tax rolls. Note that John Eberman, the owner,  had taken in “P. Sugar’s” as a tenant in his “unfinished” house. The four numbers at the end of the entry denote 1 house, 1 lot, 63 shillings ground rent, and $250 assessed value.

Several members of the extended Eberman family owned 434 from 1816 to 1838. Before John III had even completed the house, his first tenant moved in. Tax records show that John III rented the house “unfinished to P. Shugar’s” in 1817. (Presumably John III and/or Shugar completed the house shortly thereafter.) Peter Shugar was related to John III through marriage; he had married John III’s aunt, Elizabeth Eberman, in 1796. Upon marrying into the Eberman family, Shugar took over the aging John, Sr.’s soap and chandler business. The Shugars had six children.

Unfortunately, Peter Shugar, whose surname was later anglicized to Schucker, died a couple years after moving into 434. Immediately after Peter’s death, his wife Elizabeth bought the house, which was valued at $250, from her nephew, John III. A few years later, in 1823 or 1824, Elizabeth divided the lot into two, keeping 434 on the western half of the lot for herself and selling the vacant eastern half of the lot back to her nephew, John III. By 1829, John III had built a one-story frame house on the eastern half of the lot, the house number for which would eventually be 430. (This house, which had a brick front and was a little larger than 434, was torn down around 1900 and replaced with the three-story building that now stands to the east of 434.)

In 1830 or 1831, the ownership of 434 became more complicated. Elizabeth Shugar sold the house to Jacob Eberman, a shoemaker who was Elizabeth’s nephew, the son of her older brother Philip. Jacob was also Elizabeth’s son-in-law. He had married his first cousin, Peter and Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah Shugar, in 1824. Jacob’s ownership of 434 did not last very long. By 1832, Jacob and Sarah and their children had moved to Wooster, Ohio, selling 434 to Jacob’s cousin William Eberman, the son of John, Jr., the clockmaker, and the younger brother of John III. (Jacob and Sarah would return to Lancaster about a year later, and live in a one-story house on West King across from 434.) William Eberman, who bought 434 from Jacob, was a tinsmith and an innkeeper. William also bought the house at 430 at the same time.

Advertisement in the Lancaster Examiner, August 16, 1838, describing the public sale of William Eberman’s two houses, one of which was the house at 434 West King. 

William Eberman owned 434 and 430 until 1838 when he apparently ran into financial trouble and was forced to sell the two houses to pay off his debts. Dr. Charles Herbst, a pharmacist, bought both houses at a public sale in September 1838. In a newspaper advertisement for the sale, the houses were described as “two one story frame dwelling houses, one of which has a brick front a wood shed etc.” on a “full lot of ground on the south side of West King Street.”

Charles Herbst sold both houses on April 1, 1840. The house at 430 was sold to Barbara Geiss, a widow with a young son, for $475. The house at 434 was sold for $425 to Margaret Gantz, a widow who had two children. At about the same time widow Gantz bought 434, she remarried, to Joseph Kunkle. Joseph Kunkle was a peddler, and he and Margaret had four more children together over the next decade.

1850 map showing  the house at 434 West King and its owner J. (Joseph) Kunkle. Also shown is the house next door at 430 West King and its owner Mrs. (Barbara) Geiss (misspelled Dise).  From Moody and Bridgens.

Joseph Kunkle died in the mid-1860s. His wife Margaret continued living in 434 until her death in 1890. Margaret’s will stipulated that her daughters Mary and Rose were to continue to live in 434 as long as they wished. The two sisters lived there following Margaret’s death for five years until Rose came down from the attic level one day to discover her sister Mary dead in the summer kitchen.

Rose Kunkle continued living in 434 until she married Leo Myers in 1909 and moved with him to St. Joseph Street, where Leo ran a grocery store. (Leo Myers’ grocery was located in the recently-painted light green house on the corner of Filbert and St. Joseph Streets, with “Welcome to Cabbage Hill” painted on its side.) When Leo died in 1913, Rose moved back to 434, living there alone until her death in 1929.

After Rose’s death, the administrator for Margaret Kunkle’s estate sold the house at public sale to Sarah and Jack Winkoff, who paid $4,380 for the house and half lot. An advertisement for the public sale stated that the “Lot fronts 33 feet on the south side of West King street…” and “The improvements consist of a 1 ½ story frame house, with six rooms.”

The Minkoffs rented out 434 until 1965, when they sold it to Ronald Cook, who lived there until 1973, when he sold it to Carol Miller, who lived there into the 1980s. The current owner is David Aviles Morales, who has maintained it without changing its basic historical appearance. The house is now available for booking as an Airbnb rental.

So, to answer the earlier questions: 434 West King was built about 1817 by John Eberman III. For a 203-year-old house, it has not had very many owners, with the Eberman, Kunkle, and Minkoff families accounting for nearly 150 of those years. A good name for the house might be the Eberman-Kunkle House, in honor of its builder and the family that owned it the longest.

As a survivor from an earlier time in Lancaster’s history, 434 West King reminds us of what much of Lancaster used to look like. Hopefully, it will continue to have owners dedicated to its preservation, and serve as a reminder of our history for many years to come.

SoWe Give Extra

Support SoWe and Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership during the 2020 Extra Give on Friday, November 20th. Since 2016, Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership has been intentionally working with the residents of South West Lancaster City. The goal of the SoWe initiative is to stem the tide of disinvestment and create a neighborhood that is safe, attractive to economic investment, full of opportunities for residents, and welcoming to visitors. This has been a challenging year for neighborhood residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SoWe has worked hard with our collaborative partners to ensure residents have the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

SoWe is excited to the announce the opening of Culliton Park on November 20th to the public. Donate during the Extra Give to support our community!  Just put a note with your online gift: SoWe  (your gift will be designated to SoWe).              

Helvetia Leather Company: A Ghost of Cabbage Hill Past

Jim Gerhart, November 2020

1887 advertisement for Helvetia Leather Company.

Cabbage Hill has been home to many successful businesses over the past 150 years, some of which have succeeded over several generations. Kunzler & Company, Inc. may be one of the first to come to mind. But not all successful Hill businesses lasted that long. One of the most successful businesses was the Helvetia Leather Company, which is largely forgotten today. However, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, working out of a large lot on Poplar Street, the company achieved nationwide recognition for its unique products, but it was in business for only about 30 years.

In the mid-1870s, Albert Wetter, a Swiss immigrant living on West Strawberry near South Water, began experimenting with a new way to make leather. By 1879, he had patented his new method, which used hot air instead of tannin to make leather from animal hides. Soon Wetter’s new method attracted several investors and together they started to manufacture “Helvetia leather”, a tough but pliable leather that was well suited to manufacturing applications. (Helvetia was the Roman name for Switzerland, Albert Wetter’s native country.)

The new venture, known by the names of its largest investors, Potts, Locher, & Dickey, needed a place to conduct its business. In 1879, Wetter purchased a large lot on the southeast side of the 500 block of Poplar, where the houses at 520-538 are located today. The lot extended 202 feet along Poplar, and 87 feet to an alley that is now South Arch. Later, the company would purchase another lot adjacent to the first, this one fronting on Fremont 100 feet and extending 85 feet to the same alley from the opposite direction.

Wetter and his partners built a large two-story brick factory and associated frame and brick buildings in which they started producing leather using Wetter’s new method. The factory was powered by a steam engine using coal as its fuel source. Wetter purchased the house next door at 518 Poplar in 1880 and he, his wife Lizzie, and their son Robert moved in beside the factory. In 1882, Wetter enlisted the noted Lancaster inventor, Anthony Iske, to design machinery that would make the hot-air method of producing leather more efficient, and together they patented that machinery. The company began to make a name for itself in the heavy-duty leather field.

Diagram from patent application for “Machine for Treating Leather with Hot Air”, U.S. Patent No. 266,695, October 31, 1882, by Anthony Iske and Albert Wetter.

Ever since its founding in 1729, Lancaster had always had numerous tanneries. Tanning leather was a difficult and messy process. Fresh animal hides had to be purchased from butcher shops and farms, and they had to be cleaned, de-haired, cured, and dried for several weeks before they were ready to be tanned. Tanning usually was accomplished through the use of tannin, which was obtained from tree bark through a time-consuming process, but with Wetter’s new hot-air method, that part of the process could be avoided.

Even so, the tanning that took place on Poplar must have been a dirty, noisy, smelly activity, becoming especially bothersome as that block of Poplar was built out with houses in the 1880s. Also, tanning no doubt resulted in some nasty waste products that were drained off downhill into the small stream that ran where New Dorwart is located today. Following the burial of that small stream in a sewer under New Dorwart by the late 1890s, the company built their own sewer to connect to the one under New Dorwart, and discharged their waste that way.

Unfortunately, due mostly to bad management, the first incarnation of Wetter’s business failed after a few years. Wetter and his partners were forced to sell the Potts, Locher, & Dickey business in 1882. The business was bought by a different group of investors headed by John Holman and Philip Snyder. After a few years of gradual success under its new management team, the business went public on September 7, 1886, sold shares, and became a corporation called the Helvetia Leather Company. (Wetter was not part of the newly incorporated business; in fact, he seems to have left Lancaster.) The growing company, chartered for the purpose of “tanning and manufacturing leather by patented or other process”, soon became famous for its leather, which was ideal for belts in machinery, laces for boots and shoes, industrial aprons, and similar uses.

1897 map showing the Helvetia Leather Company complex at 520-534 Poplar Street; from Sanborn fire insurance map

The nationwide recognition of the company was mainly due to its belt leather, that is, belts used to run heavy-duty machinery in sawmills, cotton mills, silk mills, printing plants, iron forges, railroad shops, and similar factories. Helvetia leather was made only from the high-quality centers of the animal hides, with the edges being cut off and sold to other manufacturers of different leather products. The company’s leather belts were said to be strong yet pliable, no matter their thickness, and they could run machinery with less tension required than with other types of leather belts. The company’s belts performed equally well in cold and hot temperatures, and did not slip as much as others.

The Helvetia Leather Company made heavy-duty leather belts for factories as far west as South Dakota, as far south as the Carolinas, and as far north as Massachusetts. Companies such as the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, the Nonotuck Silk Mills, the Lancaster New Era, and the Clark Mile End Spool Cotton Company installed belts made by the Helvetia Leather Company. In fact, the Clark Mile End Spool Cotton Company in Massachusetts used nearly two miles of Helvetia belting in its factory, with one single belt being more than 2,100 feet long, a record for the time.

Throughout the 1880s and the 1890s, the Helvetia Leather Company on Poplar flourished under the leadership of John Holman and Philip Snyder, as well as several other prominent Lancaster businessmen. Robert Houston was President for most of those years, and local businessmen Allan Herr, Abraham Rohrer, Charles Landis, Elmer Steigerwalt, and Benjamin Atlee played important roles in officer positions. Gustavus Groezinger, owner of Groezinger’s Tannery at the foot of West Strawberry, also was an investor and officer. For many years, John Zercher was the factory superintendent, until he died suddenly at his desk one morning in 1906.

Advertisement for public sale of Helvetia Leather Company in 1909.

By the first decade of the twentieth century, Helvetia Leather Company had trouble paying its shareholders their annual dividends because of high prices for raw materials. By the end of the decade, the company struggled to meet expenses, no doubt partly because of the rising popularity of rubber belting. As a result, the company was put up for public sale in 1909, but the reserve amount was not met. It was finally sold in 1910 to Henry Schneider, and its buildings were almost immediately razed to make room for new houses. Within two years, eight two-story brick houses had been built at 520-534 Poplar.

Building at 536-538 Poplar that was once part of the complex of buildings of the Helvetia Leather Company tannery and factory. The eight two-story houses at 520-534 Poplar, just uphill from 536-538, were built about 1911 where the factory and other buildings once stood.

Two small, unusual  houses at 536-538 Poplar are all that remain of the Helvetia Leather Company’s complex of buildings; these two houses used to mark the southwestern extent of the tannery property. Looking at the row of eight tidy houses just uphill from 536-538 now, it is difficult to imagine that, in their place, a large, busy, noisy tannery once produced machinery belts and other products that helped run factories all around the country. Today, the Helvetia Leather Company is just another ghost of Cabbage Hill past.

The Long History of Schools on South Mulberry Street

Jim Gerhart, October 2020

The five-point intersection of West Strawberry, South Mulberry, and West Vine Streets, which is the gateway to Cabbage Hill from downtown Lancaster, has witnessed a lot of history. On the northeast corner of the intersection, bounded by South Mulberry and West Vine, a large school building now stands on a lot where 170 years ago some of the very first schools of Lancaster’s public-education system once stood. Let’s peel back the layers of school history at this site, starting with the first layer (today) and working back to 1850, with the emphasis on the fourth (earliest) layer, about which less is commonly known.

Layer 1, 1992-2020–The first and most recent layer of school history at this intersection covers 1992 to the present. Housed in the large Victorian-era brick building on the northeast corner of the intersection is the Intensive Day Treatment Program run by Catholic Charities of the Harrisburg Diocese. The program offers a five-day-a-week program of counseling, therapy, and life-skill education for at-risk Lancaster County children between the ages of nine and fifteen.


The Victorian-era school building on the northeast corner of South Mulberry and West Vine. Photo taken in 2020.

Layer 2, 1939-1992–The second layer of school history, just beneath today’s surface layer, covers 1939 to 1992. Many long-time residents of Cabbage Hill will remember this layer, when the current large brick building was the home of St. Joseph Catholic School. The Harrisburg Diocese bought the building on behalf of St. Joseph Catholic Church on July 10, 1939, and established a parochial school for the education of Catholic children on the Hill. The diocese purchased the building from the Lancaster City School District for $22,500 and renovated it to meet St. Joseph Church’s needs. The purchase was made to ease the crowding of the school located next to St. Joseph Church a block away. Many Cabbage Hill children received their primary-school education at St. Joseph School.

Layer 3, 1892-1939–Peeling back the second layer of school history, we expose the older third layer, which covers 1892 to 1939. No doubt there are a few old-timers who remember at least the later years of this layer, which begins with the completion of the current large brick school by the School District of Lancaster in 1892, and ends when the building was sold to the Harrisburg Diocese in 1939. The building currently at the site, then known as the South Mulberry Street School, was part of the City of Lancaster’s public-school system for nearly fifty years, and served as both a primary and secondary school. It was built to accommodate the growing numbers of students that resulted from increased immigration to the Cabbage Hill area in the late nineteenth century.

The architect who designed the South Mulberry Street School (1892) was James H. Warner, who also designed several other prominent buildings in Lancaster at about the same time, including Central Market (1889) and Christ Lutheran Church (1892). It is not surprising that the exterior of the South Mulberry Street School bears a strong resemblance to the exteriors of these other two buildings, in that all three are built in similar Victorian style with red brick highlighted by decorative brownstone accents.

Also built about the same time and in similar style was the three-story Victorian-era brick building on the corner across West Strawberry that until recently housed the Strawberry Hill Restaurant, and was originally the Centennial Hotel. In addition, the grouping of three three-story brick houses diagonally across the intersection, and directly facing the intersection on the south corner, was built in the 1890s. The late Victorian makeover of the intersection was complete by the late 1890s.

Layer 4, 1850-1892–Finally, way down in the layers of school history at this site is the fourth and earliest layer. It begins in 1850 and ends in 1892, when the large school building now on the site was completed. To clear the ground for the large current building, the School District of Lancaster razed two older school buildings built in 1850 and a third school building built in the late 1860s. All three of the earlier buildings were one-story brick buildings, with the third building being slightly larger than the first two.

Map showing the three school houses in 1874. The third, slightly larger, school house had just recently been built. Note that West Strawberry was still a narrow lane, and the southern West Vine extension was just being laid out. From Roe and Colby, Map of the City of Lancaster, 1874.

The first two of these early school buildings were among the very first public-school buildings built in Lancaster following the implementation of the city’s common (public) school system in the early 1840s. The first two buildings—essentially double one-story brick houses—were built in 1850. They were built on Hamilton lot 386, one of the original building lots laid out by James Hamilton in 1730. Lot 386 had been purchased by the Board of Directors of the Common Schools from Margaret and Catharine Yeates, daughters of Judge Jasper Yeates, on June 26, 1849, for $300. The lot was 64 feet on West Vine, extending 242 feet to Mifflin.

Map showing the first two one-story brick school houses on the north side of West Vine in 1850. Mulberry had not yet been extended south past West Orange, and West Vine had not yet been extended across West Strawberry. St. Joseph Catholic Church had just been built. From Moody and Bridgens, Map of the City of Lancaster, 1850.

At the time the Board of Directors purchased lot 386 and built the first two school houses, South Mulberry did not yet exist; Mulberry’s southern extent ended at West Orange. As a result, the two school houses were referred to as the West Vine Street School until Mulberry was extended in the mid-1850s. Also, when the school houses were first built, West Vine did not exist south of West Strawberry. Therefore, today’s distinctive five-point intersection was only a three-point T-intersection with the north part of West Vine truncating at West Strawberry, which was still a narrow dirt lane. In addition, in 1850, the foundation of the first St. Joseph Catholic Church was just being dug, and today’s Christ Lutheran Church was still several decades in the future.

Lot 386 was near the top of Dinah’s Hill and it looked out on downtown Lancaster to the north and was bounded on the south, in 1850, by pasture land of the still undeveloped central part of Cabbage Hill. Across West Strawberry to the south was Christopher Zell’s one-story frame blacksmith shop that would soon be enlarged into the Centennial Hotel and Saloon. There were only a few other buildings within a block of the two school houses, including the small log cabin across West Vine where 113-year-old ex-slave and fortune-teller Dinah McIntire had lived several decades before, giving her name to the hill on which lot 386 was located.

Enlargement of an 1852 lithograph showing the first St. Joseph Catholic Church and the first two school houses on West Vine. The flattened perspective makes it seem that the school houses  are across the street from the church, but they were actually a half block past the church across West Strawberry. Drawing by Charles R. Parsons.

When the first two small school buildings opened in 1850, they served both primary- and secondary-age children, mostly of German heritage. It didn’t take long for the two school buildings to become crowded as Cabbage Hill began to grow. Anticipating and reacting to that growth, the Lancaster School District acquired two more pieces of land adjacent to lot 386—a 16-foot strip of land between lot 386 and the recently extended South Mulberry to the west in 1860, and a 24-foot strip of land on the east side of lot 386 in 1878. Both strips of land extended to Mifflin.

The third school building was added to the south of the first two in the late 1860s to serve as a primary school for both boys and girls. It was a little larger and sat a little closer to South Mulberry, taking advantage of the strip of land added in 1860. By the late 1880s, the three small school houses were again becoming crowded as well as outdated, prompting the School District to plan for their replacement by a larger, more modern building—the one that is on the site today.

It would, of course, be historically interesting to have a photograph of the three early public-school buildings before they were torn down in the early 1890s, but it seems there are none devoted to just the three buildings themselves. However, partial images of the first school houses on the site were inadvertently captured in the corners of two other photographs before the early school houses were forever lost to history.

Photograph of Rose Bros. & Hartman Parasol & Umbrella Factory on South Mulberry in the late 1880s. The factory is now the rear one-third of the Umbrella Works Apartments. From LancasterHistory photo archive, no. A-13-01-28.
Enlargement of the lower right corner of the photograph to the left, showing the two one-story brick school houses (built in 1850), prior to them being torn down.

First, in the late 1880s, a few years before the current building was built, a photographer from the Fowler Gallery took a picture of the Rose Bros. & Hartman Parasol & Umbrella Factory in the first block of South Mulberry. This factory would soon be expanded down to West King and become the Follmer, Clogg & Company umbrella factory, and today the Umbrella Works Apartments. On the right edge of the photograph one can see the fronts of the first two small, one-story, brick school houses built in 1850.

South Mulberry Street School, at the completion of construction in 1892. Note the old one-story brick school house, built in 1850, on the left edge of the photograph, and the old one-story brick school house, built in the late 1860s, on the right edge. Photo from Riddle, 1905.

Then, in 1892, when the current larger building had just been finished, a photograph was taken to commemorate its completion. On the left edge of the photograph can be seen the side of one of the first school houses built in 1850, and on the right can be seen the front edge of the third school house built in the late 1860s. It seems that only the middle school house had to be torn down to build the new larger school, and the other two were used for classes while the new larger school was being built. Then, when the new school opened, the remaining two old school houses were torn down.

One can learn a lot about the evolution of schools at this iconic five-point intersection just by using historical records and photographs to peel back the layers of history.

The Origin of the 400 Block of Poplar Street

Jim Gerhart, September 2020

The 400 block of Poplar Street, one of the most picturesque blocks on Cabbage Hill, dates back to October 5, 1872. On that date, at 2:00 p.m., a public sale of building lots was held as part of the estate settlement of Henry C. Locher, the developer of the lots, who had died the previous year. 

First, by way of a little background…..In 1872, the central part of Cabbage Hill was in the midst of a development boom, spreading from Manor Street eastward. In the west, the 400 and 500 blocks of Manor and High Streets in the Bethelstown neighborhood were almost completely built up, with the former Lafayette and Buttonwood (West Vine) Alleys beginning to be built on as well. Moving east, the 400 and 500 blocks of St. Joseph Street had acquired houses on about half of their lots. But on Poplar Street, although St. Joseph Catholic Church was on the northwest side, the southeast side of the 400 block was devoid of houses. With the October 1872 sale of Henry C. Locher’s lots, that was about to change.

Thirty-one lots on the southeast side of Poplar had been staked out by Locher and his family in early 1870. All but two of the lots were 20 feet wide by 100 feet deep; the exceptions were the two end lots that were a little wider at 30 and 27 feet. All the lots backed to an alley that would eventually become South Arch Street. The lots were numbered from 7 to 37. Bidders on the lots could bid on single lots or as many as three contiguous lots.

The sale took place across Poplar from the rear of St. Joseph Catholic Church and the adjoining cemetery, which had been established less than 25 years earlier. According to an announcement of the sale in the Lancaster Examiner and Herald: “These lots are pleasantly situated, on high ground, and in an improving and rapidly growing part of the city, and very desirable for building lots…”

The land had been purchased by Henry C. Locher and his wife Cecelia Margaretta from Daniel Harman just two years earlier in 1870. Locher laid out building lots shortly after buying the land, and first tried to sell the lots privately, without success. When Henry died in April 1871, Charles A. Locher was assigned to be the guardian of Henry’s and Cecelia’s youngest daughter, Laura, who was 10 years old and still a minor. The public sale of lots was arranged to generate enough funds to provide for Laura’s share of her father’s estate, to be managed by her guardian until she became of age.

Henry C. Locher was able to invest in real estate because of his successful tannery located at the corner of West Strawberry and South Water Streets, where the wading pool in Culliton Park was until recently located. He and his wife Cecelia and their four daughters lived in a house next to the tannery. The tannery was established by Henry C.’s father and from the late 1830s to the early 1870s, it produced a specialized leather known as Moroccan leather that was made from goatskin.

The public sale of Locher’s building lots on October 5, 1872 went well. A dozen lots on the southeast side of Poplar were sold that day, ranging in price from $48 apiece for lots 11 and 12, to $69.25 for lot 7 (the widest lot). The purchasers were required to pay half the price by April 1, 1873, and the other half, with interest, by April 1, 1874. The twelve lots that were sold that day in the 400 block of Poplar were:

The building of houses on the recently purchased lots began shortly after the public sale. Most of the new lot owners kept their lots at the original 20-foot widths, but a few lot owners subdivided their lots before houses were built. Lot 7, with an original 30-foot width, was divided into two 15-foot wide lots. Also, two pairs of 20-foot wide lots, each pair having a total of 40 feet of width, were each divided into three lots a little over 13 feet wide. Lots 8 and 9, and lots 10 and 11, were combined and then subdivided in this way, so that four 20-foot wide lots became six 13-foot wide lots. The result was that thirty-four houses could be built on the original thirty-one lots. 

The first two houses to be built were completed by 1874 (see 1874 map). They were built by Frantz Siebold (lot 12) and Henry Bertschi (lot 13). Today those houses are 424 and 426 Poplar, across the street from the SoWe office in the rear of the St. Joseph Church annex. The third house built was that of Martin Kempf, who bought lots 36 and 37 for $475 about six months after the public sale. Kempf built a larger house on lot 37 on the corner of Poplar and Filbert, where he opened a beer saloon on the first floor. Kempf’s house and saloon is now 476 Poplar. 

The purchase of lots from Locher’s heirs, and the building of houses on the lots, continued for another fifteen years. In 1880, eight years after the public sale, eight houses had been built (416-424, 476). Just six years later, in 1886, another twenty houses had been built (412-414, 426-430, 434-436, 442-448, 456-472). Finally, by 1888, sixteen years after the public sale, all thirty-one lots had been sold and all thirty-four houses had been built (see 1897 map). Every house was a 2-1/2-story brick Victorian house.

In a little more than fifteen years (1872-1888), the southeast side of the 400 block of Poplar Street had gone from boundary stakes in the ground to fully built out, testifying to the intense development of the Hill that was occurring at that time. Today, the same thirty-four houses that were built more than one hundred and thirty years ago are still present, making the 400 block of Poplar perhaps the only block on Cabbage Hill where all the original houses pre-date 1890 and are still in use.

Today’s residents of the 400 block of Poplar are living with a lot of history just waiting to be discovered. If you live in one of those houses, the history of your property dates back to the lots laid out by Henry C. Locher in 1870. That would be a good starting point from which to develop the rest of your house’s history to the present. If you are interested in researching your house’s history, you can contact me at SoWeCommunicate@sowelancaster.org, and I will try to point you in the right direction.

The Early Years of St. Joseph Catholic Church

Jim Gerhart, December 2019

St. Joseph Catholic Church was founded in 1849, when a group of German parishioners from St. Mary’s Catholic Church convinced the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that a second Catholic church was needed in Lancaster to serve the growing German population on Cabbage Hill. The new church quickly became the spiritual, cultural, and social hub of the Hill, roles that it continues to fill today. Here, in honor of the church’s 170th anniversary, are nine factoids about the church’s early years, some of which may be familiar and others which may not.

Lot purchase: The lot on which St. Joseph Church was built was purchased for $260 from Casper Hauck on January 8, 1850, by Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of the Diocese of Philadelphia, on behalf of “the German Catholics of the City of Lancaster”. The lot, which was on the southeast slope of Dinah’s Hill, was 137 feet wide and 191 feet long, and had no buildings on it. In fact, at the time the lot was purchased, there were no buildings at all on the first two blocks of the streets that would soon become West Vine, St. Joseph, Poplar, and Fremont. The lot and the land surrounding it were pastures.

Church and street names: The original St. Joseph Church, the first ethnic Catholic church in the U.S., was built in 1850. Although it was St. Joseph Church from day one, it was commonly known around Lancaster as the “German Catholic Church” for its first few years. Also, when the church was built in 1850, the street on which it fronted was known as Union Street (not to be confused with today’s Union Street, which didn’t yet exist in 1850). Then, for a brief time, the street appears to have been known as West Washington Street. Finally, by the mid-1850s, at about the time the church became commonly known as St. Joseph Church, the street became St. Joseph Street.

First building: The original church was 50 feet wide and 105 feet deep, and it seated about 350 people. Its cornerstone was laid in May 1850, it went under roof in the fall of 1850, and it was consecrated in December 1850. It was made of brick, had a slate roof, and had five tall windows on each long side. There was a basement for the school and society meetings, and a small tower at the front entrance. By 1852, the tower had been built taller and a wooden spire had been added. By 1854, the finishing touches were completed—adding pews, finishing the basement, installing an organ, adding the altar, installing bells in the tower, and adding a clock with four faces in the tower.

Pastor conflict: St. Joseph’s had five pastors in its first five years. The third pastor was John Dudas, a young Hungarian priest who turned out to be a controversial choice. He had only served about five months when his pastoral assignment was revoked by the Diocese of Philadelphia because he had taken sides in political matters and had consorted a little too freely with Lutherans. In March 1852, he was asked to vacate the rectory next to the church, but refused to do so until the church paid him some money he was owed. Dudas then refused to open the church for a funeral, and when he left the locked church and went downtown for breakfast, a group of church founders broke into the building and threw his belongings out on the street. Dudas pressed charges against the offending parishioners but a verdict of not guilty was delivered. He quickly left his post at St. Joseph’s, and within a few years he had become a pastor of a Christian congregation in Constantinople, Turkey.

Cemetery: The lot purchased in 1850 did not include the cemetery that is now southwest of the church. Early burials took place in a narrow strip along the northeast side of the church where the driveway to the left of the church is today. The current cemetery lot next to the rectory seems to have been acquired by the late 1850s. The early graves on the northeast side of the church were moved to the larger cemetery on the southwest side in 1881 to make room for a new school building.

Political dispute: The German immigrants on the Hill had always been staunch Democrats, and were not shy about voicing their views on political matters. In early July 1863, just days after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln, a Republican, declared a new military draft to replenish the Union troops. Many members of St. Joseph Church, including a small group of about a dozen vociferous German women, disagreed with the draft and a large demonstration took place at the Courthouse on July 16, as draftees were about to start signing up. The demonstration was led by the German women, and a major riot was just barely averted. In his sermon the following Sunday, Pastor Schwartz of St. Joseph’s admonished his parishioners, especially the women who were “a disgrace to their womanhood”, making it known that good citizens of this country must obey its laws whether they agree with them or not.

Unique construction approach: By the early to mid-1880s, the growing number of St. Joseph’s parishioners necessitated a larger church. To avoid missing any Masses, a clever approach was taken to replace the old smaller church with a new larger one. The new church was to be 15 wider, 54 feet longer, and significantly taller than the old one. The church leaders decided to build the new church around the old one, enabling the congregation to continue to have Mass in the old church while the new one was being built. When the external structure of the new church was completed, the basement of the old church was set up for Mass, and the congregation then worshipped in the basement while the old church was dismantled and taken out from inside the new one. When the old church had been removed, Mass was held in the new church while the finishing touches were completed on the interior. Even the extensive painting and frescoing in the upper reaches inside the new church did not prevent the use of the church for Mass. Scaffolding that would have interfered with Mass was not required, as the artisans doing the high decorative work did so from scaffolds hung from ropes through holes in the roof. When the new church was completed in 1885, the only vestige of the old church that remained was the tower and spire, and even that had been modified a bit to harmonize better with the taller roof.

The builders: The new 1885 St. Joseph Church building, which seated more than 1,100 people, was designed by William Shickel, New York City. The principal contractor for the construction of the building and the finishing of the interior was Dionysius Rapp. John Mentzer and William Westman supplied the stone. The stone-cutting was done by Zeltman & Cron. Krieg & Streiner did the stone steps. Henry Drachbar laid the bricks and the lumber was provided by Sener & Sons and Baumgardner, Eberman, and Co. William Wohlsen provided the millwork. The plumbing was done by L.H. Bachler, and George M. Steinman & Co. provided the hardware. Jerome Dosch & Son did the plastering and Leonard Yeager did the painting.

German craftsmen: Tradition has it that the craftsmen and artisans who built the larger St. Joseph Church in the mid-1880s were German immigrants who lived on the Hill. This is mostly true. Indeed, nearly all of the principal contractors and companies were of German heritage, and about half of them had been born in Germany. Dionysius Rapp, Krieg & Streiner, Jerome Dosch & Son, and Leonard Yeager had their businesses on the Hill, while the remaining contractors were from other parts of Lancaster City. Most of the laborers on the contractors’ crews were no doubt Germans from the Hill. The gravestone of superintendent Dionysius Rapp and his wife Rosina still stands near Poplar Street in Old St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

There is much more to the story of this venerable old church on the Hill. Another 135 years of history has happened since the mid-1880s when the present-day church was built. The gravestones of the Old St. Joseph Cemetery adjacent to the church represent many interesting stories of the church’s founders, some of which may be explored in future posts on this site.

As many of you know, St. Joseph Church has willingly allowed SoWe to occupy office space in one of its buildings, and to hold monthly Board meetings in another of its buildings. Happy 170th anniversary from SoWe to the centerpiece of Cabbage Hill!

The George Moser Family of Cabbage Hill

Jim Gerhart, November 2019

We are all familiar with stories of immigrants who arrived in America with nothing and ended up being very successful. In fact, Cabbage Hill has had its share of German immigrants who were very successful through some combination of talent, ambition, hard work, perseverance, and luck. But no less important to the progress of the Hill were the many hundreds of German immigrants who struggled for years just to get by.

The great majority of German immigrants to the Hill in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were only able to achieve modest success, and for many, the fruits of their struggles only accrued to their children or grandchildren, who often succeeded because of the foundation laid by their parents’ and grandparents’ struggles. The small successes of these struggling immigrants, in aggregate, helped build a strong, resilient neighborhood. Their stories, as painful as some of them are, are an important part of the history of Cabbage Hill.

One such story is that of Georg Friedrich Mosser (George Moser), who arrived in New York City from Bavaria, Germany, on May 8, 1906. He was a single, 23-year-old laborer with $25 in his pocket. He was quickly processed through Ellis Island and got on a train to Lancaster, where he came to meet up with his friend Frank Bernauer on St. Joseph Street. George got a job as a laborer at a brewery, and started what he hoped would be a successful life in America.

Back in Bavaria, George had fathered two children (Theresa and Alphonse) with Rosa Reitberger, a woman five years his senior, who also had relatives and friends who had immigrated to Lancaster. A year later, in 1907, Rosa followed George to Lancaster, leaving her two young children with her widowed mother in Bavaria. On November 19, 1907, George Moser and Rosa Reitberger were married at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

In 1909, as they were getting settled in their new life on the Hill, George and Rosa brought daughter Theresa and son Alphonse to Lancaster from Germany, along with Rosa’s mother, Anna. One month after Anna, Theresa, and Alphonse arrived in 1909, George and Rosa bought a two-story frame house at 662 Poplar Street for $1,050. George and Rosa had two more children (Mary and George Henry) in 1908 and 1910. The Moser family unit had been established. Things were going according to plan.

George became an American citizen in 1912, and for the next eight years, he worked in various capacities at breweries in Lancaster, including laborer, brewer, and delivery wagon driver. He was arrested but found not guilty of assaulting a strikebreaker at Sprenger Brewery. He was elected vice-president of the Brewery Workers labor organization. By 1920, he was working at Empire Brewery on Locust Street.

Although George was having some success in the brewery business, he and Rosa had to borrow money several times in the 1910s, and each time they were unable to keep up with payments on the resulting debts. They were sued by their creditors and were just barely keeping up with the required payback plans handed down by judges in civil court.

Then, Prohibition took effect in January 1920, and it became illegal to make, sell, or transport alcoholic beverages. The Empire Brewery closed and George’s income from the brewery industry was suddenly gone. Out of necessity, George started his own business—peddling ice. He had a wagon and two horses (Jim and Dick) to pull it, and he and his 16-year-old son Alphonse began selling blocks of ice around Lancaster. His was one of eighteen ice-peddling operations delivering ice from the Lancaster Ice Manufacturing Company at Engleside. He ran his ice business out of the rear of the Moser house at 662 Poplar. To augment the family income, daughter Theresa worked as a weaver at the Conestoga Steam Cotton Mills on South Prince Street.

The ice business must have seemed promising. In 1921, George and Rosa purchased another two-story frame house and three lots at 615 Fremont Street for $1,500. They likely had to borrow money to make the purchase, but they must have thought the investment would pay off in the long run. When their daughter Theresa married Charles Kirchner in 1922, the new couple moved into the house on Fremont. George and Rosa continued to live with the rest of their family at 662 Poplar, and George and his son Alphonse continued to peddle ice. Soon, the youngest son, George Henry, was old enough to help in the ice business as well. Alphonse also worked for a while at the Conestoga Steam Cotton Mills, and daughter Mary took a job at the Follmer-Clogg silk mill on Manor Street to help out.

Despite all the hard work, the Mosers still struggled financially. Several times between 1920 and 1925, they were again unable to pay back various loans, and they were taken to civil court and ordered to pay off the loans, which they seem to have somehow done. Then, in 1924, their son Alphonse left Lancaster, and George lost a key pair of hands to help in the ice business. Again, out of financial necessity, George and Rosa decided to start a second new business—a café.

By 1927, they had established a café in the first floor of their house at 615 Fremont, and sold “light lunch and tobaccos”, as their sign on the front door stated. Daughter Theresa and her husband Charles continued living upstairs, and an extra room was rented to boarders. George brought on Philip Kirchner, a cousin of son-in-law Charles, to run the day-to-day café business. When Theresa and Charles moved out of the upstairs living quarters, George and Rosa rented out their rooms as well and the café became known as a hotel. George continued to peddle ice, with his son George Henry’s help, and daughter Mary continued to work at the silk mill. It seemed that George and Rosa and their family were finally going to be able to make ends meet, but things were about to take a turn for the worse.

George had purchased a touring car and in April 1927, he had a serious accident on Lincoln Highway East near Bridgeport. His car was demolished and he was taken to the hospital with what was feared to be a fractured skull, a broken jaw, and broken ribs. Fortunately, his injuries turned out to be only severe cuts and bruises. In October 1927, he had another accident in which his car was broadsided and overturned at the intersection of Manor and Filbert Streets. Again, he was not badly injured. Adding to the family’s problems, George, who had been a drinker for a long time, began to drink too much. Prohibition was in full effect, but George seemed to be able to acquire illegal beverages. In the same year, 1927, that he had his two car accidents, he was cited for being “drunk and running a car”.

Then, in December 1928, the police raided the café/hotel on Fremont and confiscated three cases of “high-powered beer”. It seems the Moser establishment had become one of the numerous speak-easies in Lancaster, and that George was manufacturing illegal beer for sale to his café customers. As a result of the raid, George was charged with violating the Prohibition liquor law, a crime that often carried a large fine and substantial jail time. A mid-January trial date was set, and George was released on $500 bail put up by his close friend and neighbor on Poplar, Albert Scheuchenzuber. But just two weeks before the case made it to trial, George suddenly died on January 3, 1929, at the young age of 45. The doctor attending him attributed his death to chronic alcoholism complicated by influenza.

Following George’s death, Rosa tried to make a go of the café and hotel business, but within a few years, the business had closed. Their son Alphonse, who had come back to Lancaster after his father’s death, teamed up with his younger brother George Henry to keep the ice business going, moving it from 662 Poplar to where Alphonse was living at 615 Fremont. This last of the Moser family’s two business enterprises lasted until the early 1940s.

In the less than 25 years since George Moser had immigrated to Lancaster, he had accomplished a lot. He had gotten married, bought two houses, raised four children, worked in the brewing industry, and started two businesses of his own. On the other hand, he had failed to repay loans, violated the liquor laws, and become addicted to alcohol. Although George’s immigrant experience was certainly not an unqualified success, he had accomplished enough to allow his four children to succeed. All four of the children of George and Rosa Moser got married and all four owned their own houses on the Hill by the 1940s.

George Moser’s story, with different details, has been repeated many hundreds of times over the years on Cabbage Hill, and the true history of the Hill cannot be told without those stories. Today, new immigrant families are creating their own stories of struggling to succeed on the Hill. A much more diverse group of immigrants are now calling the Hill their first American home, but their language, housing, and employment struggles are not all that different from those of German immigrants more than 100 years ago. SoWe is helping today’s new immigrants overcome their struggles, by trying to create a neighborhood that is safe, clean, and welcoming, and by providing services that facilitate their transition into their new community on the Hill.

Postscript: This story of George Moser and his family was prompted by correspondence with Robert Moser, Ph.D., former Executive Director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of San Diego. Bob, who was raised on Manor Street , contacted me after reading a history piece on the SoWe website, and expressed an interest in learning more about his grandfather George Moser’s business enterprises on the Hill. I thank him for allowing me to present this story of his grandfather’s immigrant experience. Appropriately enough, Bob’s position with the Diocese of San Diego involved helping immigrants—in this case refugees—start new lives in California.

Dinah McIntire and Her Hill

Jim Gerhart, August 2019

Dinah McIntire died 200 years ago in Lancaster, in May 1819, at the reported age of 113. She was well known around Lancaster in the early years of the nineteenth century as the fortuneteller who worked at the White Swan Tavern in the square. Her death warranted a rare obituary in the Lancaster Journal, something usually reserved only for prominent male citizens, as well as a note in Reverend Joseph Clarkson’s journal about her burial in the St. James Episcopal Church cemetery, despite the fact that he was in Philadelphia at the time.

Dinah was one of the few women of her time who owned property; she had a small house near the intersection of West Strawberry and West Vine Streets. The site of her house was said to be near the highest point in that part of Lancaster, at the angle between West Strawberry and West Vine, and her notoriety was such that the hill on which she lived became known as Dinah’s Hill (see photo). By all accounts, she lived a remarkable life—all the more remarkable because she was African American and a slave for most of her life, including here in Lancaster.

Photograph of the intersection of West Strawberry and West Vine Streets,
looking east down the hill on West Vine. Dinah McIntire lived in a small
frame house at this intersection, which is near the highest point in this part
of Cabbage Hill, which was called “Dinah’s Hill” throughout most of the 1800s.

According to several sources, Dinah McIntire was born into slavery in the town of Princess Anne, Somerset County, Maryland, about 1706. She spent the first half of her long life in Maryland, and raised four children there. She was already in her fifties when Matthias Slough, a prominent early citizen of Lancaster, bought her and brought her north to work at his White Swan Tavern.

When Dinah died in 1819, she owned two, and possibly three, lots of land on the northeast edge of Cabbage Hill. She owned two of the lots as early as 1798, when the lots were taxed as part of the 1798 federal Direct Tax. The tax was based on the amount of land owned and the number of windows and the total number of panes in the windows. One of Dinah’s lots was 62 x 242 feet and contained an 18 x 22 foot house and a 15 x 20 foot stable. The house was a one-story log and brick house with two windows of six panes each, and the stable was made of logs. The other lot she owned in 1798 was larger and apparently not built on; it measured 137 x 191 feet, adjoining the first lot.

In 1816, three years before her death, Dinah McIntire, having long outlived her four children, prepared a will in which she left all of her property and belongings to Jacob Getz, a young Lancaster silversmith. Like Dinah, Getz attended St. James Church in 1815, when he and his wife Martha had their first child baptized there. By 1816, when Dinah wrote her will, Getz had apparently befriended her to such an extent that she named him as her executor and sole heir.

Map showing the two lots that Dinah McIntire owned from at least 1798 to 1819 when she died. The lots are near the intersection of West Strawberry and West Vine, where Dinah is supposed to have lived. (The map is from 1875, so the features shown are not the same as they were when Dinah was living there. The map is modified from Everts & Stewart, Lancaster County Atlas, 1875.)

When Dinah died in 1819, Getz became the owner of Dinah’s property. Ground-rent records for Bethelstown, laid out by Samuel Bethel, Jr., in 1762, show that Jacob Getz became the owner of Bethelstown lot 45 after Dinah’s death. Lot 45 was 62 feet wide and 242 feet deep, and was bounded on its long dimension by West Strawberry between High and West Vine. This was clearly one of the two lots left to Getz by Dinah McIntire, and an examination of deeds shows that the other lot, which was a little larger, was immediately adjacent to the southeast across what is now the extension of West Vine southwest of West Strawberry (see map).

However, there is still some uncertainty surrounding exactly where Dinah McIntire actually lived. One obvious possibility is the 18 x 22 log and brick house on Bethelstown lot 45. But the most likely place for a house to have been built on that lot was on the High Street end of the lot. At the time Bethelstown was laid out, the other end of the lot did not front a street (the extension of West Vine Street didn’t occur until much later). And if Dinah had lived on the High Street end of lot 45, she would not have been at the angle of West Strawberry and West Vine, and she would not have had a direct view down the hill on West Vine, as numerous writers have claimed for her.

An article in The News Journal of Lancaster on June 9, 1898, provides an alternative, and I think more likely, location where Dinah may have lived. The article discusses how “another old landmark of the city” was about to be removed. The landmark had been condemned  because it was too close to the street and had become an eyesore. That landmark was a small frame cabin on the corner of West Vine and West Strawberry, and the article states that it was reputed to have been the house where Dinah had lived almost a century before.

An examination of an old fire-insurance map of the city from 1897 shows that a small one-and-a-half-story frame house, then being used as a tin shop, did indeed stick out into the street at the angle where West Strawberry and West Vine meet. A 1912 fire-insurance map shows that the small frame house was no longer there, which is consistent with the claim of the newspaper article that the house was about to be removed in 1898 (see side-by-side maps). I believe it is likely that this small house is where Dinah McIntire lived, and that this small piece of land was the third lot that some writers have attributed to her. The exact site of Dinah’s little house was where the flagpole is today in front of the memorial to fallen soldiers.

Dinah McIntire probably lived in the small house shown in the 1897 map as a tin shop (green)
jutting out into the street. An 1898 newspaper article stated that Dinah’s old house was about
to be removed. The 1912 map shows that Dinah’s old house was removed as planned. Maps
modified from Sanborn Insurance Maps of 1897 and 1912.

Now, to complete the story of Dinah McIntire, we are compelled to circle back to the potentially problematic life of Matthias Slough, Dinah’s Lancaster slave master. Slough was as prominent a citizen as there was in Lancaster in the late 1700s. During the Revolutionary War, he served as the Colonel of the Seventh Battalion of the Pennsylvania Militia, and saw action at the Battle of Long Island. He also served at various times as assistant burgess, county coroner, county treasurer, and member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly and General Assembly, all while he was running the very popular White Swan Tavern.

Certainly, this is a fine list of accomplishments worthy of our respect. However, just like numerous other prominent Lancaster citizens in the eighteenth century, Slough’s legacy is compromised by the fact that he was a slave owner. From 1770 to 1800, Slough owned at least three to four slaves at a time. In fact, a registry of Lancaster slaves indicates he owned eleven slaves in 1780.

Curiously, Dinah McIntire is not one of the eleven listed slaves in 1780. Did Slough free her before 1780? We know she was freed at least by 1798, because she owned property then. It is possible she was freed before 1780, because it was common for slave owners to free slaves when they reached old age and Dinah was already in her seventies in 1780. Whether he freed Dinah before 1780 or closer to 1798, it is reasonable to think that the wealthy Slough may have rewarded her for her years of servitude, and that her ownership of land may have been a result of that reward.

Whether we should temper our respect for Matthias Slough because he was so thoroughly invested in the “peculiar institution” of slavery is a question for individual conscience and professional historians. It seems fitting, though, that Dinah McIntire outlived her former slave master Slough, and that her newspaper obituary was almost as long as his obituary. On top of that, Dinah was the only one of the two for whom a hill was named.

The Largest Celebration in the History of Cabbage Hill

Jim Gerhart

August 1, 2019

The greatest expression of civic pride ever to take place on Cabbage Hill in the Eighth Ward of Lancaster occurred on June 15-16, 1923. On the evenings of those two days, a huge festival drew close to 10,000 people to Manor Street to celebrate the long-awaited completion of the paving of the street. More than $6,000 (about $84,000 in today’s dollars) was raised to benefit Rodney Park, a new city park on a triangle of land between Third, Rodney, and Crystal Streets.

The surface of Manor Street had been in terrible condition for many years. Finally, in early August 1922, work crews began the process of excavating the street so it could be paved with concrete. The city’s contractor, Swanger-Fackler Construction Company of Lebanon, was responsible for the overall project and the paving of most of the street, and Conestoga Traction Company was responsible for moving the trolley tracks from the edge of the street to the middle, and paving the street around the trolley tracks. The work proceeded slowly, as the crews ran into several unexpected complications as they excavated 150 years’ worth of old street surfaces.

When cold weather set in during the late fall and concrete could no longer be poured, work was halted for the winter, leaving some sections of the street torn up and virtually impassable. Fortunately, by the first week of April in the spring of 1923, the weather was good enough for the crews to get back to work. Progress was steady throughout April and May, and by late May the residents of the Eighth Ward were hopeful that the work would finally be completed by mid-June.

The Eighth Ward Community Association met on May 25, May 31, and June 7 to develop plans for a festival to celebrate the opening of the newly paved Manor Street. The festival was scheduled for June 15-16, 1923, and the Association decided to dedicate the proceeds of the festival to outfitting Rodney Park—acquired by the city just two months earlier—with playground equipment and a surrounding sidewalk for roller-skating.

Advertisement for festival in Examiner & New Era, June 15, 1923

In late May, the Association canvassed door to door in the Eighth Ward to gauge the level of interest and ask for donations to support the festival. The canvassing generated much enthusiasm and many donations; in fact, the level of interest was so high that the Association decided to expand the scope of the event from just a Manor Street opening  to “A Cabbage Hill Celebration and Festival”. One of the leaders of the Association said that “this is the first time in the history of the city that such a celebration has been held” and that “it is for all the people”.

To plan the festival, twenty-six committees were established, with each committee having a chairman and three to five other men as members. The women had their own committees, most of which corresponded in topic with the men’s committees, and the two sets of committees worked together to prepare for the festival. Committee chairs were selected for their expertise in the area of the committee’s topic. For example, Christ Kunzler of Kunzler’s Meat Market was the chair of the Hot Frankfurter committee, and Leo Houck of boxing fame was the chair of the Sports committee.

The committees included: Program, Publicity, Music, Decorations, Amusement, Sports, Dancing, Candy, Prizes, Hot Frankfurters, Soft Drinks, Popcorn, Flowers, Ice Cream, Fruit, Truck, Ice, Printing, Cigars, Equipment, Lumber/Chairs/Tables, Public safety, Tags, Cakes, Novelties, and Fancy Work. Probably to many people’s chagrin, there was no Beer committee—at least not officially—because the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) had gone into effect a few years earlier.

Advertisement for festival in Intelligence Journal, June 15, 1923

In the days leading up to the festival, several items were donated to be used as prizes. Congressman William Griest donated a new Ruud water heater that was put on display in the window of Louis Fellman’s hardware store (568 Manor Street) to help ratchet up interest. The Conestoga Traction Company donated a new Clark Jewel gas range, which was also displayed at Fellman’s store. The Friends of the Eighth Ward Community Association donated a $550 mahogany bedroom suite that was displayed at Hoffmeier’s furniture store on East King Street near the square.

Cash donations also were made. Christ Kunzler took up a collection of $87 at an Elks Club dinner held the week before the festival, and he also paid for the first hour of music by a band at the festival. Hamilton Watch Factory and Armstrong Linoleum Company each gave $50, as did the Fraim-Slaymaker Lock Company. The Select Council also presented a cash donation. In addition, the Intelligencer Journal and the Examiner-New Era newspapers would supply Rodney Park with a drinking fountain and a flagpole.

To the relief of all the committees, the paving of Manor Street was completed on time, and by the afternoon of Friday, June 15, the final preparations for the festival were underway. Two large banners were strung across the street at the ends of Manor Street—one at the crest of the hill near West King Street and one near South West End Avenue. American flags and bunting were displayed along the street and on many of the houses (Flag Day was the previous day), and colored electric lights were strung along and across Manor Street from West King Street to Fairview Avenue. Dozens of booths that had been built by the residents and decorated with flowers lined the street on both sides.

It was partly cloudy and about 80 degrees when the festival kicked off at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening. At that time, the leaders of the Eighth Ward Community Association, the American Legion Band, and some 500 school children of the Eighth Ward departed in a parade from the intersection of Manor and Dorwart Streets. They marched to City Hall, where they met Mayor Frank Musser and other city officials and escorted them back in the parade to the intersection of Manor and West King Streets, where a fence barrier had been erected across Manor Street.

At the barrier, the mayor was presented with a new axe, and with one stroke he broke through the ceremonial barrier, officially opening the newly paved street.  Immediately after the barrier was broken, a chorus of children sang a welcoming song, and a switch was flipped, lighting all the colored electric lights along the street. The Star Spangled Banner was played, followed by a short speech by the mayor. At the end of the ceremony, the whole group of officials, school children, and the American Legion Band paraded the length of Manor Street to great cheering. The festival was officially underway.

Photo of the ceremonial breaking of a barrier to open the newly paver Manor Street on June 15, 1923. The barrier is in front of 412-414 Manor St. Mayor Frank Musser stands in front of the barrier to the left. The banner reads, “Welcome to the Manor Street Opening, Friday & Saturday, June 15 & 16, A Cabbage Hill Celebration and Festival”.

For the festival, Manor Street was divided into three segments, each with a distinct focus—dancing, boxing, and amusements. Four bands, including the American Legion Band, the Iroquois Band, and the City Band, participated over the two nights, and each one was stationed at a different segment. The segments were linked together by the strings of colored lights that extended along the entire stretch of the street, and by 33 booths that lined the streets between the segments, offering the Eighth Ward’s best food, drinks, clothing, novelties, and hand-made items for sale.

The block of Manor Street between Laurel Street and Fairview Avenue was set aside for street dancing, with the music supplied by the American Legion Band. Rousing Roaring Twenties music was no doubt on the program, and the young people of the Eighth Ward danced until the festival closed each night. At one point during the dancing, the lights briefly went out, and the newspaper slyly reported that this unexpected feature was much appreciated by the young revelers.

The intersection of Manor and Dorwart Streets was designated for exhibition boxing matches, and a ring was set up in the street. Each night, there were five, three-round exhibition matches arranged by Leo Houck, the Eighth Ward’s own boxing hero. One match was for the championship of the Fraim-Slaymaker Lock Company (Young Biddy vs. Willie Bloom) and another was for the 125-pound title of Manor Street (Battling Fuzzy vs. Kid Carney). The final, much anticipated match was Leo Houck, who had fought many of the world’s best boxers in the previous two decades, facing off against his long-time sparring partner, Jule Ritchie. Unfortunately, Ritchie was late and the feature bout had to be replaced with a quickly arranged one between two different boxers.

The intersection of Manor and Third Streets was set up for amusements. Eddie Fisher, a well-known local clown, was in charge of the program at this location. Each night, the YMCA provided a gymnastics and stunts exhibition, and Fisher and a troupe of clowns performed. A little farther down the hill, the Strand Theater in the 600 block of Manor Street provided a free showing of a silent movie, and Brinkman’s Metropolitan Four sang a selection of songs. On Saturday night the Strand hosted a public wedding of a couple from Columbia, officiated by a pastor from Marietta.

An unusual feature of the festival that must have served as a good ice breaker was the Miss Rodney Park contest. Each evening, in three different hour-long time slots, a secretly selected young woman was designated as Miss Rodney Park for that hour. She went out among the crowd incognito and the first person who approached her with “You are Miss Rodney Park”, would be the prize winner for that hour. No doubt many young women were approached by many young men, but Miss Rodney Park was only correctly identified three times.

By the time midnight rolled around on Saturday night and the festival was over, it was clear to everyone that it had been a much bigger success than anyone had imagined. The crowds had been huge (almost 10,000 over two nights), the booths were almost completely sold out of their merchandise, and every featured event on the program had been a big hit. Over the next couple of days, as cleanup took place, the Eighth Ward Community Association counted up the proceeds and decided on the distribution of prizes, which were then awarded on Tuesday night, June 19, at Fellman’s hardware store. The amount of money raised exceeded $6,000, and on the night of June 20, again at Fellman’s store, the Community Association met with the City Parks Committee to discuss how to best use the money for Rodney Park.

The Eighth Ward had done itself proud. For two nights, the residents had channeled their abundant civic pride into accomplishing the largest festival ever seen on Cabbage Hill. The people of other parts of Lancaster who had joined in the festivities left with “a lot of respect for the manner in which the Eighth Ward does things”, as one of the newspaper articles put it. It was hoped that the paving of the street and the successful festival might end the long held opinion that Cabbage Hill was not treated like a fully accepted part of the city. In fact, one of the newspaper articles stated that the reconstruction of the street was “the first thing worth while the Hill has ever gotten from a city administration”. At least for two nights, on June 15-16, 1923, Cabbage Hill had finally gotten its due.

The City of Lancaster and SoWe are committed to promoting the same kind of neighborhood pride that made the 1923 celebration such a success. The city has installed pedestrian-style streetlights along Manor Street and part of West King Street, and has started the process of planting trees along the street as well. And SoWe, with its many partners, is working on numerous initiatives to build neighborhood pride, including a cost-sharing program to improve building façades on Manor Street, especially those that once had storefronts. It is hoped that all these efforts will help rekindle some of the proud neighborhood spirit of the past.