Jamie and Domi talk York County history


Village of Newberrytown, York County

The situation

In Episode 1 of the video series “Hometown History: Jamie and Domi talk YoCo Backstory,” Jamie Kinsley and Dominish Marie Miller explore the Underground Railroad heroics of freedmen Ezekiel and Eliza Baptist, African-American station masters. They talked on location at the historic Miller farm in Newberry Township, an 1850s barn looming in the background.

Jamie and Domi talked about how the Underground Railroad operated until the Civil War, receiving untold scores of sweating and ragged freedom seekers from the South. The talked about the Quakers, people of strong faith, who had undergone persecution in Europe in their quest for religious freedom. These Christians, worshiping in a row of meeting houses in Newberrytown, Lewisberry, Warrington, York Springs and Biglerville, had undergone prosecution for religious freedom in Europe. They received freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad who had no freedom, fleeing chattel bondage where they were treated as property.

Jamie, a teacher, holds a doctorate in American studies, blogs about local history and culture and operates this digital site, WitnessingYork.com. Domi, a federal court archivist, holds a master’s degree in library science and moderates the Preserving the History of Newberrytown Facebook group. She is a re-enactor in the 87th Pennsylvania.

Here are some of the goals driving Jamie and Domi and “Hometown History:”

  • To introduce next generations of York County residents to York County history.
  • In so doing, we present the history of all people in a way that has weight and is winsome
  • To test a new, conversational way of storytelling about history.

Episode 2, was livestreamed in the Retro York and Preserving the History of Newberrytown Facebook groups at 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 13. Jamie and Domi talked in this episode about pain and trauma endured in two wars – the Civil War and World War II – and how veterans and civilians dealt with the lingering impact of war. They also discussed the aftermath of a major York County industrial accident – the York International Explosion of 1998.

Episode 3, “Four years in York County Prison,” was livestreamed in the Retro York and Preserving the History of Newberrytown Facebook groups at 7 p.m., July 29.

Jamie and Domi talked about the day when York County stepped on the head of the snakeheads … of the Chinese gangster variety. These venomous smugglers specialized in trafficking human cargo across the sea into America and other countries. Their impact in 1993 touched York County and its prison when INS detained 154 smuggled Chinese people crammed aboard the Golden Venture that ran aground in June 1993 on Rockaway beach, Queens. By 1997, about 50 Golden Venture seekers of freedom remained in York County prison, held four years without being charged. Jamie and Domi tell about those years when a group of faithful area residents advocated for them in court, the news media and with government officials. These prisoners were released after Congressman Bill Goodling brought their plight to the attention of President Bill Clinton. Their legacy includes scores of folk art sculptures created in prison that remain in private collections and local museums. And that legacy includes an engaged York County community who saw injustice and never gave up.

Episode 4, “A hill to die on: How we bury our loved ones – and the unloved” was livestreamed in the Retro York and Preserving the History of Newberrytown Facebook groups at 7 p.m., Aug. 26.

Jamie and Domi talked about three cemeteries sit atop a hill north of York. As you head north, you find that those laid to rest in Prospect Hill, York City and Lebanon cemeteries range from York area residents who could pay for burial, to those who were segregated by class and then those who were separated by race. In the latter two, abandoned and unmarked graves were common. At Lebanon, work is underway to find and mark burial sites. Will City Cemetery and the unrestored Friends Cemetery in Newberrytown, a Quaker cemetery, be next?

Jamie and Domi are choosing stories explored here on Witnessing York, plus adding stories from their own research.

Stay tuned … .

Episode 1: Jamie and Domi talk York County history at the Miller farm in Newberry Township.

Episode 2: Jami and Domi talk about pain and trauma sustained on the homefront and warfront and in times of peace on site at the Etters VFW near Newberrytown.

Episode 3: Jamie and Domi talk about the Golden Venture asylum seekers, their detention and their release. This was shot in the home of Jeff and Cindy Lobach, leaders is freeing the Golden Venture detainees.

Edisode 3, Extra: Jeff Lobach shows art made by the Golden Venture asylum-seekers during their detention in York County Prison, 1993-1997.

Episode 4: Jamie and Domi, from location in Newberrytown Friends Cemetery, tells stories about that old cemetery plus three others on a ridge, north of York: Prospect Hill, City and Lebanon cemeteries. To watch the archived livestream: “A hill to die on: How we bury our loved ones – and the unloved.”

The witness

Episode 1: The Baptists also hosted Harriet Tubman in their Steinhour Road, Newberry Township farmhouse. Learn more about this family that farmed by day and served as Underground Railroad operators at night:

How York County people coped after painful, traumatic moments

Meet the Underground Railroad conductors who hosted Harriet Tubman in central Pa.

Episode 2: Jami and Domi referenced a few of these links in this pain and trauma segment.

Earl Shaffer’s famous A-T thru-hike.

Turning to nature in the aftermath of an industrial explosion.

Pension battles offer insight into the Civil War.

Episode 3: Links to learn more about the Golden Venture.

“Access to Justice:” The mantra of liberty for the Golden Venture.

Golden Venture artwork: When Golden Venture refugees came to York County

A tale of two challenging moments of racial testing and how York County scored

Episode 4: Links to learn about Prospect Hill, City and Lebanon cemetaries:

Memorial Day 1893 observed at Prospect Hill and Lebanon cemeteries.

The unmarked graves of forgotten York County residents.

Segregated in Death: Lebanon Cemetery.

Related links and sources: The Underground Railroad books by Scott Mingus’ “Guiding Lights,” and “The Ground Swallowed them Up” provided essential background in the preparation for Episode 1 of “Hometown History.” Episode 2: See Michele Baker’s “Soldier’s Heart.” Episode 3: See Patrick Radden Keefe’s “The Snakehead.” Episode 4: Lila Fourhman-Shaull’s “Walking Tour of Prospect Hill Cemetery.” All episodes, please see sourcing in the original WitnessingYork.com stories. Jim McClure assisted in planning, research and production.

The Question

One of Jamie and Domi’s goals is to engage the next generation. They’ve found that, if local Facebook audiences are any indication, at least half are above 50 years in age. To fuel local history interest in those south of 50, these videos are meant to reach a broader audience, interesting people of all ages in York County history. However, this is just the first step. How else can we get our kids and grandkids into history?


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