Jamie and Domi’s York County history: Season 1
Village of Newberrytown, York County
Please see Season 2 of “Hometown History: Jamie and Domi’s YoCo Backstory.”
The situation – Season 1
In Episode 1 of the video series “Hometown History: Jamie and Domi’s 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,” complete with a YouTube channel:
- 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.
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. The show was presented from the home of Jeff and Cindy Lobach, Springettsbury Township.
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. The show was presented from the grounds of Friends Cemetery in Newberrytown.
Jamie and Domi talked about three cemeteries sitting 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?
Episode 5, “Millers’ Tales: 360 mills spun in well-watered York County” was livestreamed in the Retro York and Preserving the History of Newberrytown Facebook groups at 7 p.m., Oct. 6. The show was presented before a live audience at the Blue Sky Tavern in Etters.
In 1876, about 360 mills spun, churned and turned on York County’s creek. These wood,stone and bruck mills point to a well-watered county that supported one of the mightiest farm economies in America for decades, centuries. To process, say, wheat into flour, farmers would bring their grain to water-powered mills along a nearby stream. These mills served multiple needs – from community meeting places to banks. And the colorful feedbags could be used for clothing. Today, some farmers depend on mills, now powered by other means. And these old buildings have been adapted to other uses – event venues, apartments and eateries, a reminder of those days that millers served their communities in so many ways.
Episode 6, “Susquehanna Trail in York County: This Old Trail keeps rolling on” was livestreamed in the Retro York and Preserving the History of Newberrytown Facebook groups at 7 p.m., Nov. 18. The show was presented before a live audience at the Newberrytown Township Municipal Building.
This road, part of a Roaring 20s “Susquehanna Trail” marketing campaign connecting Niagara Falls and Washington, D.C., entered York County at New Cumberland/Fairview Township and exited at the Mason-Dixon Line. Just as the Lincoln Highway created an early 1900s east/west transportation artery, the Susquehanna Trail provided a 1920s north/south corridor. It replaced Route 181, the old road from York to Harrisburg, as the preferred route. But the Susquehanna Trail’s spotlight soon dimmed. In the late 1950s, the Trail was subsumed by the Interstate 83, as the Pennsylvania Turnpike had done 20 years before to the Lincoln Highway. When you add this up, York County’s geography has made it a major transportation hub and the Susquehanna Trail has been – and is – an integral part of it.
Jamie and Domi are choosing stories explored here on Witnessing York, plus adding stories from their own research.
Stay tuned to Season 2 in 2022 … !
The witness, Season 1
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:
Episode 2: Jami and Domi referenced a few of these links in this pain and trauma segment.
Episode 3: Links to learn more about the Golden Venture.
Episode 4: Links to learn about Prospect Hill, City and Lebanon cemetaries:
Episode 5: Links to learn about mills in York County:
Episode 6: Links to learn about the Susquehanna Trail/Old Trail
Check out Stephen H. Smith’s Yorkspast blog for multiple stories: Susquehanna Trail.
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. Episode 5: Lila Fourhman-Shaull’s “Millers’ Tales. Episode 6: Stephen H. Smith’s Yorkpast blog.
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?
— By JAMIE NOERPEL and JIM McCLURE