Help support efforts to save York County's Mifflin House and its Underground Railroad history.
We're pleased to report good news for Underground Railroad history in Pennsylvania! The York County Common Pleas Court, in a ruling handed down Thursday, July 18, agreed with the arguments of Hellam Township and statewide education and advocacy organization, Preservation Pennsylvania, and Hellam Township-based Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society. These parties maintained that it is was necessary and proper that the Zoning Officer denied a demolition permit for the Mifflin House because the historic farmstead should be retained and preserved in any plans going forward based on a specific note placed on the business park site plan, recorded in 1998, that states: "Existing Farm Complex to Remain." Judge Flannelly agreed with the Hellam Township Zoning Hearing Board’s determination that the note constituted a condition on the overall approval of the business park that was binding on Kinsley and could not be ignored. Click here to read more
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: A new subdivision plan was filed in early March with Hellam Township and York County Planning Commission. It calls for the demolition of all historic buildings on the site, immediately south of US Route 30, just off the Cool Springs Road exit in Hellam Township. The plan calls for interior road changes and utility and storm water management installations to allow for the expansion of the existing warehouse facilities that are currently adjacent to the historic farmhouse and its surrounding acreage. Follow "Help Save Mifflin House" on Facebook
The Mifflin House (Hellam Township, York County) was built around 1800. Jonathan and Susanna Mifflin opened their home as a safe house of the Underground Railroad through the late 1850s.This property on the hillside above the Borough of Wrightsville has been recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places because of its association with the Underground Railroad, which is now seen to be our nation’s first mass uprising against the institution of slavery. This was essentially America’s first Civil Rights movement.
This significant property continues to be threatened with demolition by the current owners and the Kinsley Corporation of York.
Fortunately, a coalition between Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society of Hellam Township, York County and Preservation Pennsylvania, with collateral support from Hellam Township, are challenging the plans by the developers to clear this site to expand their warehouse and trucking operations.
As of mid-December, 2017, this challenge has moved into the Court of Common Pleas of York County. The Township of Hellam in August 2017 denied a demolition permit requested by the developer to clear the Mifflin House and some of the historic farm buildings on a parcel of about 10 acres.
The developer has appealed that decision in County Court and the two non-profit preservation groups, represented by the Lancaster law firm of Gibble Kraybill and Hess have filed a joint brief in opposition to the Kinsley’s appeal. The Township has also filed an opposition brief.
A decision is expected shortly after the first of the year. Any decision can be appealed to Commonwealth Court.
Mifflin House significance
The Mifflin House is a key property in an important collection of historic resources that exist in the Lower Susquehanna River Valley. These historic buildings and structures are located in active in active communities and set amid a landscape of beautiful natural resources.
This landscape holds an unparalleled opportunity to rekindle the spirit of the Underground Railroad, one of the most important yet least-understood chapters in American History in a place where some of its earliest episodes happened. This secret system aided the pathways to freedom of formerly enslaved people of African descent who, for the most part, liberated themselves from bondage in America’s southern states.
Communities should be taking actions to develop a better understanding of the links between Underground Railroad sites and the individual histories of those who participated. These brave humanitarians supported formerly enslaved people who traveled through this area along the Underground Railroad from the late 1700s through the early 1860s.Two prominent Quaker families, the Mifflins and the Wrights were allied with the famous African American ferry boatman, Robert Loney (b.1815), who shuttled freedom seekers across the dangerous Susquehanna River between Mifflin House (also known as "Hybla") and the Wright Family (relatives of the Mifflins) in Columbia, Lancaster County. Most of the freedom seekers coming from Maryland and Virginia passed through the Lower Susquehanna River Valley area en route to Philadelphia and points north.
Call to action
These stories have the potential to inspire and to help heal our continuing racial divide. How? By showing and telling history where it happened - how people, across the barrier of race, with moral conviction and courage, worked together against great opposition to eventually help overcome the inhumane and unconstitutional institution of slavery in a country conceived in a form of limited liberty with the goal of achieving equality among all its citizens that we still find elusive.
With sound planning, physical protections and community support, a successful project can emerge in this multiple site area. It can become a historic landscape that will tell the nationally-significant story of the origins of the Underground Railroad.
The Mifflin property and surrounding landscape was also the site of one of the most consequential but little-known conflicts of the Civil War: The Burning of the Susquehanna River Bridge on June 28, 1863. This event, in large measure, brought about the epic Battle of Gettysburg three days later, just 40 miles to the west.
Among the many historic resources in the Columbia & Wrightsville area are:the existing properties of the Mifflins and the Wrights; the ruins of the two Columbia-Wrightsville Bridges, the more recent of which was used as a railroad crossing and a tow path that connected two canals: he remains of the Pennsylvania Canal on the eastern shore of the Susquehanna and the remains of the Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal on the western shore can still be seen. In addition, the two historic industrial towns of Columbia and Wrightsville face each other across the Susquehanna River — the natural resource foundation of this historic, cultural landscape.
How your donations help
Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society and Preservation Pennsylvania have established a coordinating relationship to raise funds for increasing public awareness of the pending threat and to help cover legal fees.
Your donation to the preservation advocacy and legal defense fund will help challenge the threat of demolition to the Mifflin House in Hellam Township, York County and help bring about the vision of a regional historic area to tell the story of America’s first civil rights movement, the Underground Railroad. Click here to mail in a donation
, or click the button below to give online.
If successful in holding off the threat of demolition and if a property transfer can be arranged, the next steps will be to advance preservation plans to show how Mifflin House can be retained and preserved. This single farm dwelling can be linked by trails, bikeways, personal autos and shuttles, combining the heritage of Columbia and the Wright Family with the natural resources of the River, all as part of a major heritage tourism development vision that includes the early settlement period, the Revolutionary War, the Underground Railroad and Civil War as its thematic sweep.