WHAT is now the borough of York was by no means the earliest Settlement of our county. Although there were many habitations in its neighborhood, yet so late as the year 1740 there was not one building within the present limits of the borough of York. The "queen of wilderness" then held "her solitary throne" where now the "city full" is cheered with everything that art and industry can render lovely or attractive.
The "tract of land on both sides of Codorus Creek," within the manor of Springettsbury, upon which the town of York was to be laid Out and built, was, by the special order and direction of the propriataries, surveyed by Thomas Cook-son, then deputy surveyor of Lancaster county, in the month of October, 1741. The part east of Codorus, was immediately laid out into squares, after the manner of Philadelphia. For doing this the following instructions were originally given. "The squares to be 480 feet wide, 520 long; lots 230 by 65; alleys 20; two streets 80 feet wide, to cross each other, and 65 feet square to be cut off the corner of each lot to make a square for any public building or market of 110 feet each sidel the lots to be let at 7 shillings sterling, or value in coin current according to the exchange; the squares to be laid out the length of two squares to the eastward of Codorus when any number such as 20 houses are built." On the margin of the original draught of the town as then laid out, are these words, "the above squares count in each 480 feet, on every side, which in lots of 60 feet front, and 240 feet deep, will make 16 lots; which multiplied by the number of squares, (viz. 16, for the original draught contains no more) gives 256 lots; which together with the streets, at 60 feet wide, will not take up above 102 acres of land."
After the town had been thus laid out, if any one wished for a lot therein he applied at the proper office, or in the words of his certificate lie "entered his name for a lot in the town of York, in the County of Lancaster, No." &c.
The first application or entry of names for lots in York town was in November 1741. In that month 23 lots were taken up, and no more were taken up until the 10th and 11th of March 1746, when 44 lots were disposed of. In 1748, and the two years following, many applications were made, for York had then become a county town. The names of the persons who first applied for and took up lots in York, (Nov. 1741,) are as follows, viz: John Bishop, No. 57, Jacob Welsch, 58; Baltzer Spengler, No. 70; Michael Swoope, No. 75; Christopher Croll, No. 85; Michael Laub, No. 86; George Swoope, No. 87, 104, 124 and 140; Zachariah Shugart, No. 92; Nicholas Stukc, No. 101; Arnold Stuke, No. 102; Samuel Hoake, No. 105; Hermanus Bott, No. 106; George Hoake, No. 107 and 117; Jacob Crebill, No. 108; Matthias Onvcnsant, No. 118; Michael Eichelberger, No. 120; Andrew Coaler, No. 121; Henry Hendricks, No. 122 and Joseph Hinsman, No. 123.
The manner of proceeding to obtain a lot was this: the person wishing for one, applied for and requested the proprietors, to permit him to "take up a lot." They then received a certificate of having made such application; the lot was then surveyed for him.
The paper given to the applicant certifying that he had entered his name and mentioning the conditions was then usually called "a ticket," or else the particular applicant was named, as "George Swoope's ticket." These tickets were transferable; the owner of them might sell them, assign them, or do what he pleased with them. The possession of a ticket was by no means the same as owning a lot. It only gave a right to build, to obtain a patent; for the lots were granted upon particular conditions strenuously enforced.
One of the usual conditions was this, viz: "that the applicant build upon the lot, at his own proper cost, one substantial dwelling-house, of the dimensions of sixteen feet square at least, with a good chimney of brick or stone, to be laid in or built with lime and sand, within the space of one year from the time of his entry for the same." A continual rent was to be paid to the proprietors, Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, for every lot taken up. This was a yearly rent of seven shillings, sterling money of Great Britain, or the value thereof in coin current, according as the exchange should be between the province and the city of London." Beside this, the lot was held "in free and common soccage, by fealty only in lieu of all other services."
When the applicant had built or in some cases had begun to build, he received if he so wished, a patent. But this patent most explicitly stated the conditions; and if these conditions were not fulfilled, he was deprived of his lot, and it was granted to some one else.
The building of York town proceeded but slowly: for though many took up lots, yet few were enabled fully to comp1y with the conditions; the consequence was, the lots were forfeited, and thereby honest industry discouraged. And indeed the fear of not being able to accomplish, in so short a period, what they wished to commence, deterred many from beginning what might end in folly. It should be remembered that at that time, the conveniences for house-building were few. It appears from a statement made by George Stevenson on the 10th April, 1751, that at that time there were fifty lots built on, agreeably to the tickets. Three of these lots were then occupied by churches, viz: two by the German Lutheran, and one by the German Reformed. Hence there could not have been at that time more than forty-seven dwelling-houses in the town of York, and many of them must have been truly miserable.
At about this period, York must have been a most desert place, very unlike what she now is in the "splendour of her domes" and the "richness of her profusion." In an old record it is alleged as a heavy offence against George Hoak that "within the very limits of York, he had cut down the proprietaries timber in large quantities for burning brick and lime." In a letter written in 1750, it is said that "sundry persons have cut off the wood of the town land to burn brick, and are now burning brick on lots not granted, to the damage of the inhabitants, who ought to have the wood for firing, and of the purchasers of the ungranted lots, which are spoiled by clay holes."
In the first settlement of York many inconveniences and difficulties arose from persons taking possession of lots without having in the first place, secured a legal title. Some erected small houses on different lots "without licence or entry;" but for this they were reported to the governor and were obliged to leave their tabernacles. Of this many instances are found recorded in old papers. Thus Jac. Bilimayer built on lot No. 55, Jacob Falkler on lot No, 60, and Avit Shall on lot No. 74, "without the propriataries licence." Each of them was obliged to deliver up possession: and this they did on 10th April 1751, "to Nicholas Scull, Esq., agent for the honourable proprietaries."
The early settling of York town was one continual scene of disturbance and contention; there were warring rights and clashing interests. It often happened that different men wanted the same lot; and when the lot was granted to one, the others were watchful to bring about a forfeiture. The loss of lots by not fulfilling conditions was for a long time a serious evil, concerning which clamours were loud.
'We will here insert a letter dated at Lancaster, the 24th April, 1750, and addressed by Thomas Cookson, "to Geo. Stevenson Esq. at York."
Christian Oyster in his life time entered for a lot in York, No. 82. The time for building expired, but no new entry was made till lately, as I understood, with you. The widow is since married; and her husband had put up logs for a house on the lot. He told me that he applied to you, and acquainted you with his intentions of building, and that you had promised him that no advantage should be taken of the forfeiture of the lot, and that he might proceed to build, and since, through neglect, you have suffered another person to enter for that lot, who insists on a right to it, notwithstanding the building erected on it. I find that taking advantage of the forfeiture of lots is a greatspur to the people's building. But where there is an intent and preparation for building, I would not be too strict in insisting on the forfeiture, as the sole intent is to have the town improved; and if the first takers up of lots will build and settle, their priority of application should be favored. A few examples will be necessary to be made; and they should be made of such persons as take up lots for sale without improvement. There are some others here about their forfeited lots. But I am well satisfied that you will do every thing that is reasonable and equitable to the people, and for the advancement of the proprietor's interest. Our court being so near, I could not spare time to come to York. Please to let me know in what forwardness my house is.
I am your most humble servt.
Lancaster, April 24, 1750.
The following letter is of a much later date, and shows that difficulties still continued. It is dated at York, the 8th June 1764, and is addressed by George Stevenson to William Peters, Secretary of the land office.
"Yesterday at 6 o'clock P. M. Mr. Homel and myself met the two Doudels together, with sundry other inhabitants of the place, to try to settle the difference between them about the lots lately granted to Michael, on west side of Codorus creck, and south side of High street continued. After many things said on both sides, Michael proposed to bind himself by any reasonable instrument of writing, not to build a tan-yard on the said lots for the space of five years next to come; which I thought was reasonable. But nothing would satisfy Jacob but the lots; and he offered to give Michael the two opposite lots on the other side High street, and to plough them and fence them, (for Michael has ploughed and fenced his.) This offer gave great offence to all the company, "what, said they, is no body to have a lot but the two Doudels?" For my own part, I do acknowledge they are industrious men, and deserve a lot as well as their neighbors; but at the same time there are other people who have paid dear for lots here, and have improved them well, and deserve lots as well as they. Sundry persons arebuilding on the proprietors' lots on the east side of the creek, saying they deserve and want lots as well as the Doudels, I think an immediate stop ought to be put to this; otherwise it will be productive of great trouble to you. I make free to write this account of these things to put you upon your guard, and beg leave to advise you not to grant any other lots, until I see you, which will be in about two weeks. In the mean time, I shall lay out the parson's lot for his pasture, and shall bring down an exact draught of it and of all the low bottom lands. Pray let me hear from you about these people that will build, and have built. Fas aut nefas, I am
It is said that Thomas Cookson who surveyed the York town lands in 1741, never returned the survey into office. To supply this deficiency George Stevenson re-surveyed them in December 1742 when lie found them to contain 436 acres and a half. The "tract of land situate on both sides of Codorus creek, whereon the town of York stands" was again surveyed ii July 1768. John Lukens who made the survey, found the tract to contain "the quantity of 421 acres and 37 perches, with allowance of six per cent for roads and high-ways, or 446 acres and a half, neat measure."
York town was not incorporated during the first forty-six years after it was laid out. On the 24th of September 1787, it was erected into "the Borough of York." The first burgesses were Henry Miller Esq. and David Cantler, whereof the former was chief burgess. The first assistant burgesses were Baltzer Spengler, Michael Doudel, Christian Lauman, Peter Mundorf, David Grier Esq. and James Smith Esq. The first high-constable was Christian Stoer, and the first town clerk was George Lewis Leofiler.
The population of the town of York, in 1790, was 2076, in 1800, as taken by John Edie was 2503, in 1820, as taken by Penrose Robinson, was 3545, and in 1830, 4772.
About the year 1814 a considerable addition, (but within the limits of the borough) was made to the town of York. The heirs of John Hay deceased, owning 60 acres and some perches in the northern part of the borough, laid the same out into lots after the manner of the rest of the town, extending the streets and alleys north through the tract and laying out an entirely new street (called "Water street," the second of the same name) running nearly cast and west. The lots were sold by the heirs to the highest bidders, and the amount of the sum received therefor was 25,000 dollars. Those lots, how partly built upon, are known by the name of "Hay's Addition."
The number of houses in the borough of York in April, 1751, was 47 - in 1780, 290 - in 1820, 548 - in 1825, 567 - and at the present time more than 600.
In October, 1780, there were 43 slaves for life in York town.
At present there are in York:
9 ministers of the gospel,
19 attorneys at law,
6 watch and clock makers,
17 teachers of schools, (exclusive of those in the theological and classical institutions)
25 tavern keepers,
9 coppersmiths and tiniers
23 joiners and carpenters,
5 chair makers,
1 book binder,
15 storekeepers (exclusive of small shopkeepers in various parts of the town),
1 brass founder.
1 Iron founder,
2 pump makers,
7 house & sign painters,
1 augur maker,
10 cabinet makers,
2 soap & candle manufacturers
1 basket maker.
1 coal merchant,
4 coach makers,
The public buildings in the Borough of York are the following:
A Courthouse in the Centre Square, with Register's and Prothonotary's offices adjoining. (Note. - In this ancient Courthouse it was that Congress sat while in York.)
A commodious market house in the same square.
A German Reformed Church on Main, between George and Beaver streets.
A Lutheran Church in South George street.
St. John's Episcopal Church in North Beaver street.
A Methodist Episcopal Church in Newberry street.
A Presbyterian Church near the extreme eastern end of Main street.
A Moravian Church in Princess street.
A Roman Catholic Church in South Beaver street,
A Jail in South George street.
An African Church in North Duke Street,
An Academy in North Beaver street, and a Theological Seminary in Main street, west of the bridge. (Note. - A particular account of each of these institutions will be found in another part of this volume.)
A few pages back we gave a list of the names of those who first "took up" lots in the borough. We think it may not be uninteresting to show what parts of the town were first chosen by the early settlers in it.
The first lot taken up in York town was that on which the tavern stands, now owned by John Hartman and occupied by Daniel Eichelberger.
Then the adjoining lot toward the Courthouse, was taken up.
The next lots were that on which Nes' Brewery stands, in North George street, and another cast of it, the latter of which is still vacant.
Then a lot nearly opposite the German Reformed church, and the two lots adjoining it on the west.
Then were chosen at about the same time, the lot on which Isaac Baumgardner's dwelling house stands; that occupied by the house of John Lay, on the corner of Main and Water streets; that occupied by the house of Doll, gunsmith; those by Judge Barnitz, Charles Hay's store, the York bank, William Sayres, and the house on the S. W. corner of Main and Beaver streets, belonging to the estate of David Cassat, Esq. deceased.
Source: Page(s) 19 - 27, History of York County From its Erection to the Present Time; [1729-1834]; New Edition; With Additions, Edited by A. Monroe Aujrand, Jr.