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
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