“That Good York Water”

If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, no doubt you have fond memories of playing Oregon Trail at school. In this early computer game, you are a wagon leader responsible for successfully guiding a group of settlers on the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon.  Along the way, you face obstacles the original pioneers encountered: severe weather, injuries, illness, and the constant threat of running short on food and water. Newer, more complex civilization-building games like Age of Empires challenge you to build an entire kingdom from scratch, starting only with what the good Earth provides. Games like these drive home a fact of life largely taken for granted in an advanced civilization: one of the basic ingredients for successful human settlement is water. Now we see bodies of water as part of a pretty cityscape, or a lucrative source of urban recreational revenue, forgetting that the first settlers planted their stakes at that particular location because there was water.

Unlike many parts of the country, York County has always been blessed with abundant sources of water due to a perfect combination of climate and geography. There’s no doubt that our region has been well populated both before and after the arrival of European settlers in large part due to the presence of water, as well as other basic resources. Back in 1816, a group of enterprising Yorkers took advantage of this bountiful natural resource and formed the York Water Company. Up to this time, people dug wells in their backyards, or carried water from one of many public pumps or wells to their house. In either case, keeping a steady supply of water on hand was a laborious process.

The first pipes were wooden, created by boring out the centers of large tree trunks, still plentiful in what remained of Pennsylvania’s old-growth forests in those years just after European arrival. According to Miller, George Small, one of the company’s first managers, put a tin pipe in one of the hollowed out trunks to see how high the water would squirt, presumably to test the vigor of the water pressure, and to demonstrate that this network of wooden pipes would successfully deliver water to every residence and business in the Borough. With the arrival of its first public utility, York was about to shed its frontier-town status and take a major step toward becoming a modern, thriving, permanent settlement.

December’s Second Saturday program features York Water Company President Jeff Hines, who will share highlights of the history of the oldest publicly-traded utility in the country. Join us at the Historical Society Museum on Saturday, December 10th at 10:30 a.m. for Mr. Hines’ presentation. All of our Second Saturday programs are free, and we invite everyone to join us for these monthly opportunities to learn about various aspects of York County’s history and culture. Check out our line-up of Winter/Spring 2017 programs on our website!

Another one of our free public programs is the Tannenberg Organ Concert Series, which brings you a wide variety of music played by local professional organists on our very own pipe organ, which is over 200 years old. Our next concert features holiday music with Victor Fields to put you in a festive mood for the season. Join us next Thursday, December 8th at 6 p.m. at the Historical Society Museum for our last concert of the year, and stay tuned for details about next year’s concerts!

Speaking of the holidays, do you have a historian in the family who poses a gift-giving challenge? Why not check out our Museum Book Store? We have a wide selection of books on local, regional and national history, so you’re sure to find something to please everyone from the budding historian to the life-long history buff. If you’re a busy elf who doesn’t have much time to shop in-store, all our merchandise is available on our online Gift Shop and Book Store, so you can click your way to more free time this holiday season. There’s even free shipping on all orders of up to $70, now through December 15th, so don’t miss this opportunity to save even more on your holiday shopping!

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