Friday, July 18, 2014

Thoughts, speculation and hypotheses regarding High Rock

Last week I featured a postcard of "High Rock, York, PA" that had been originally mailed in 1910. It wasn't clear to me where this formation was located within York County, and so I asked some local experts for help.

Going into this, we knew very little for sure. Just that:
  • The postcard is from 1910 or earlier.
  • Printed on the front is "High Rock, York, PA."
  • It shows a large, white rock face, perhaps as tall as 30 feet.
  • There are a dirt path and a wooden fence next to the rock face.

Beyond that, we're in the realm of speculation.

One Pennsylvania gazetteer indicates that there is a geographical feature (a summit) in southwestern York County labeled High Rock. But that doesn't seem to be a location that is easily accessible, that ever had a walking path or that would be featured on a postcard.

High Rock, it turns out, is a fairly common and unspecific place name. There have been numerous spots dubbed High Rock in York County history. And some of those spots have surely been altered radically in the past 100+ years.

But our local historians and experts came up with a number of thoughts regarding the possible location of this particular High Rock. Here's what they shared with me:

Joan Otto (Only in York County): My wife believes this High Rock could have been in or near what was once known as Dogtown, a former community that was located in the West York area. Parts of that area now include a former quarry that has turned into a lake and a golf course. Is the site of this postcard now underwater? You can read about Dogtown in these three Only in York County posts from 2011: 1, 2 and 3.

June Burk Lloyd (Universal York): June generally agrees with Joan, stating: "I have always thought maybe it was along the creek west of Richland Avenue, after you go past the back of Bickel's chip plant, maybe as far as where Highland Avenue would intersect if it was extended. I've never explored there — it looks kind of inaccessible. Regent's Glen golf course would be right across the creek — I wonder what you could see from there."

Jim McClure (York Town Square): "That does have the look of the old Highland Park area, in the vicinity that June is describing."

Greg Halpin (firefighter and local history buff): "I always understood it was somewhere near Highland Park."

We do have a dissenting vote, though.

Jeri Jones, who is a local geologist and historian and serves as program coordinator at York County Parks, believes this postcard does show the geological feature in southwestern York County. He states:
"The High Rock I know is in the Pigeon Hills near the intersection of High Rock Road and Moulstown Road. The quartzite outcrop is behind the microwave tower that sits on the north side of High Rock Road on top of the mountain. I took a look at the rock structure on the postcard and it is not limestone as you would see near the Codorus Creek and Highland Avenue. I recognized the view of the rock in the postcard as it was taken from the west side of the High Rock exposure. Although it is now on private property, it once was a popular recreational spot. Until the trees got larger it was a fabulous view to the north to South Mountain in the distance. High Rock was a popular area about the same time as Indian Rock was a popular recreational area at the base of the same-named dam."
Jones makes a fairly compelling case. (And if you love geology, you should check out his Rocks Beneath Your Feet blog.) So that has things narrowed down, perhaps, to two strong possibilities for the "High Rock" location on the 1910 postcard.

But here's one more possibility from Jim Fahringer, whose knowledge of York County history never ceases to delight and amaze me:
"I am not 100% sure, but I think this rock formation is along the Codorus Creek. It is on the south side of the creek about a mile beyond the North Sherman bridge that crosses the Codorus just beyond the Springettsbury Township Sewage Treatment Plant. This rock formation is along the remains of the old Codorus Canal. You used to be able to get to it through a path off of Old Toad Road close to the legendary Mad Doctor's House or 'Gates of Hell.' My brother-in-law grew up in that area and his grandfather operated a sawmill along the Codorus Creek not far from this rock formation. The sawmill was located about 3/4 of a mile to a mile beyond the Sherman Street bridge. When my brother-in-law saw my exact postcard, he immediately recognized it, he told me about the stone and walkway and how he often walked there."
So that gives us three candidates within York County for the location on the postcard.

Maybe we can solve it once and for all with further research. Maybe not. If nothing else, we've given future sleuths something to work with, so they don't have to start from scratch!

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P.S. - There is at least one other High Rock in York County, along the railroad in the southern part of the county. But some of our experts agreed that this postcard does NOT show that particular High Rock. Phew!

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