York Haven Borough Early History
North Eastern York County History In Preservation                          NeyChip
      



   "The interests of this place were first managed by the Conewago Canal Company,
composed of intelligent and wealthy men, mostly from the city of Philadelphia.  The 1810 land
purchased was a tract of 151 acres, a tract of 64 5/8 acres called “Hopewell,” and another
tract of 12 acres, projecting into the river called “Cape Francis.” ... The town of York Haven
was laid out in 1814 when a neatly designed plan was prepared under the direction of the
York Haven Company. There were two sections: the “upper town” was located on the hill and
the “lower town" was down by the canal. Before the railroads, the river canal was the subject
of great public interest and York Haven was to become an important town and business
center.... The interest at once began to loom up. Three new mills were built, one having a
capacity of 150 barrels of flour a day; for that time this mill had the largest capacity of any in
the State. [It is reported that the York Haven Grist Mills contained five pairs of 7-feet Burr
Stones. One of the mills burnt in 1826 and the others were for rent in 1832. See YDR "The
Massive Grist Mills at York Haven". Cooper shops, hotels and private residences were soon
built.  Old time fairs were held there with great hilarity. The Water’s Hotel was a very
creditable building. The love of gambling became a mania.... Gen. LaFayette, when, on his
way to Harrisburg, in January, 1825, stopped there for a short time.  The Canal Road to
Abbottstown was opened about 1814." The borough was incorporated in 1892 using the
company name York Haven (being a haven for transportation down the Susquehanna River) .
    The York Haven Paper Company purchased the site of the flouring mills, which had been
destroyed by fire and built great paper mills in 1880. This as one of the largest paper mills in
the state with 250 employees.  The Conewago Bag Manufacturing Company was a part of
the Paper Company with 30 employees.  By 1899, it had grown to become the sixth largest
factory employer in all of York County. The York Haven Paper Company extracted 2,100-
horsepower of hydropower, from the fall of the river water, to operate their paper mill. At the
time it was built, the York Haven Paper Company was the largest ground pulp paper mill in
the United States. Between 1885 and 1895 the biggest customer for their news print was the
New York Herald Tribune. See York's Past York Haven Paper Company.
   The Conewago Canal, enabled late 18th and early 19th century river craft to safely bypass
rapids at Conewago Falls. Work on the canal of less than 1 mile began in 1793 and was
completed in 1797.  Two lift locks overcame 19 feet of elevation between the ends of the
canal, and a guard lock blocked unwanted water, particularly during floods. Cargo could go
upstream as well as down.  A boat going upriver could navigate the canal in 37 minutes
compared to the whole day it would take 30 or 40 men to pull it upriver along the bank. That
canal was one of the earliest canals in America and it was the first working canal in the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The cost was over five times of the initial estimates.
Governor Thomas Mifflin traveled from the state capitol in Philadelphia to witness the official
opening on November 22, 1797. In 1825, the Pennsylvania legislature established the Board
of Canal Commissioners to oversee the construction and maintenance of the state's canal
system. About 200 men widen the canal in 1885. By 1901, nearly all the commonwealth's
canals were shut down because the railroad system became the main transplantation of
people and freight.  Parts of the canal locks are display by B.R. Howard Conservation
Historic Preservation. For more information see York's Past "First Working Canal in
Pennsylvania was in York Haven". 
   Cliff Satterthwaite painted two large murals for the York Haven State Bank in 1980. This
mural depicts canal operations in York Haven during the 1840-1850s era; and looks across
the Susquehanna River towards Falmouth, Lancaster County. The two murals were originally
produced for the walls of the York Haven State Bank.  When the York Haven branch closed,
the large Satterthwaite murals were donated to York Haven and now hang in the Borough
Hall. For more information see York's Past York Haven mural of first working canal in PA.
    In 1895, the York Haven Power Company built a power plant to the riverside of the paper
mill. In 1904, the power plant constructed the York Haven Dam.  At that time, it was the third
largest in the world.  At one time, the York Haven Power Company provide 85 percent of
York's power. The York Haven hydroelectric plant now produces over 2021 megawatts of
power. The plant is listed as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. The
plant is currently own by Cube Hydro Partners and " is one of the oldest and best run
hydropower plants in the US.with a long history of generating clean carbon-free and reliable
electricity."

Excerpts from:
Newberry Township
The Beginning 1700-1900
1988 Center Square Press
By: Newberry Township
Heritage Committee
 
View the above1788 Canal Act.
York HavenTrolley Car
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