The History of Dover Borough

In 1752 Gerhart Graeff, who afterward wrote his name Graves, petitioned “the worshipful justices of the County of York to grant him their recommendation to the governor of the Province of Pennsylvania for a license to keep a public house, on the road leading from York to Carlisle, being greatly burthened with travelers passing. To remedy that inconvenience he has furnished himself with liquor and other necessaries suitable for the entertainment of travelers, and is desirous of keeping tavern.” His petition was granted. Graeff also opened a store. In 1776 he organized a company of soldiers in Dover Township, which joined Colonel Swope’s regiment, then forming in York. Before leaving Dover for York, however, his men made a Tory stand on a stump and gave three cheers for General Washington and the Continental army. Captain Graeff and his brave German soldiers, all except eighteen, were captured in November, 1776, in the battle of Fort Washington, near New York City, and for a time lanquished in a British prison. Before the Revolution and during the year 1762, Gerhart Graeff had a neighbor in the person of Jacob Joner, (pronounced as in German Yoner), who purchased 203 acres of land, and in the year 1764 laid out the town of Dover. This was twenty-three years after the founding of York, and one year after Hanover. Joner had his town regularly plotted, and sold the lots subject to quit-rent. It was generally called “ Joner’s town,” until 1815, when a post office was established.

Dover in 1783.

At the close of the Revolution in 1783 the village of Dover contained a population of eighty-one. Of this number forty-four were males and thirty-seven females. Jacob Joner owned twenty-five lots and a house on the square. Dover was once called “Joners Town” (pronounced Yoners Town). Hans and Maria Joner settled in Lancaster County, PA with their sons, Jonas, Jacob and Nicholas. Jacob and Nicholas Joner came to what would later be named Dover and secured 203 acres from Patrick Kerrigan, who owned a portion of the land in the area. Dover Borough was organized in 1747 and deeded to Jacob Joner in 1764

Various trades were represented. Nicholas Joner and Henry Matthews were cord wainers and made boots and shoes for the surrounding populace. George Marik owned a house and six lots. John Gross, Samuel Wilt and Jacob Bigler were weavers, and with the old style thread machines, manufactured cloth for the wearing apparel of themselves and neighbors.

John Swan, a good-natured Irishman, was the village blacksmith. While diligently working at his trade he related many stories of his war history to the little boys and girls who frequently gathered about him. John Urban was a locksmith. Joseph Spangles and Rudy Barnhart, innkeepers; Martin Reisinger, tailor; Peter Trien, tanner; John Cook, Thomas Metzler, Michael Gross, James Montgomery, John Stewart, Conrad Miller, Abraham Fisher and George Stough, each owned houses and lived in Dover. Daniel May was justice of the peace. Over the years Dover has been known for its Cigar Chops, Blacksmiths, Hosiery and Sewing Factories. Over a number of years items manufactured in these businesses have been shipped throughout the country.


The town of Dover was incorporated in 1864, just one hundred years after it was laid out by Jacob Joner. Reuben Hoffheims was the first burgess and Jacob B. Fink, clerk. The town grew slowly until within recent years. Being on a line of travel from York to Carlisle, the central points of interest in the town were the two hotels, which have been kept for nearly 150 years. In the early days of wagoning to Baltimore, many teamsters stopped here for the night. The hotel in Centre Square was kept by George Darron, father, son and grandson, from 1809 to 1859, without change of name. It was conducted in the Wiest name, father and son, for a period of thirty years thereafter. Henry Brunhouse was the proprietor in 1907. The upper hotel is also an historic site and was kept in 1907 by Elmer Fink.

The first telephone line was completed from Dover to York in October, 1885. The line was erected by private subscription and a Bell instrument was used. Since that time, Weiglestown, Mt. Royal, Davidsburg, Admire and a number of other places have telephone communication established over an extensive territory.

The York and Dover Electric Railway line was completed to Dover November 25, 1901. The even was celebrated at Dover by an ox-roast. Public water works were installed in 1905 at an expense of $12,000. The water is supplied by an artesian well.


About 1842 pioneer United Brethren preachers held services in private houses in the town. Afterwards, when an organization was effected the meetings of the congregation were held in a building owned by Peter Rawhouser. In this building the congregation worshipped until the year 1851 when the present structure was erected. The ground upon which the building stands was presented by Peter Rawhouser, who was one of the first trustees. George Westhafer and Daniel Seitz were associates with Mr. Rawhouser as first trustees. The trustees in 1907 were Reverend J. W. Houseman, the pastor; Adam A. Neiman and Lewis Melhorn. The church belongs to a circuit of churches, six in number and together they constitute what is known as the Dover charge. The membership in 1907, of all the churches of the charge, is 236. The church building has recently been repaired and improved. A good parsonage, belonging to the Dover circuit, stands beside the church.

Calvary Lutheran congregation was organized by the citizens of Dover who were members of Salem Church. In 1899 this congregation erected a brick church with a brown stone front, at a cost of $8,000. Religious services were at first conducted by Reverend Joseph B. Keller. He was succeeded by Reverend J. M. Dietzler, who was pastor when the church was built and continued until June 1905. Reverend A. G. Fastnacht, D. D., pastor of the Salem charge, has supplied this congregation since July 1905. A town clock has been placed in the belfry of the church.

The members of the Reformed congregation of Salem Church who resided in Dover erected a church building in Dover, in 1903, opposite the school building, at a cost of

$7, 000. It is a handsome brick structure furnished with modern pews and contains some of the most ornamental stained windows found in any church edifice in York County. The roof was made of the best quality of Peach Bottom slate. The lot, upon which the church was built, was the gift of Dr. J. M. Gross, who has practiced medicine in the borough for thirty years or more. A Sunday school of 160 scholars meets regularly in this church. The erection of the church was the project of Reverend O. P. Shellhamer, pastor of the Reformed congregation at Salem Church. Since 1903 he has conducted services in this building.

Dr. Robert Lewis, grandson of Major Eli Lewis, founder of the borough of Lewisberry, settled in the practice of medicine, at Dover, about 1830, and was a prominent citizen of the community for more than a quarter of a century. In politics he was an ardent Whig and during the days of slavery in the south, his home was a noted station for the Underground Railroad, by which many Negroes escaped to the north and became free. Dr. Lewis was the grandfather of Robert J. Lewis, member of the fifty-sixth congress.

Dr. John Ahl practiced medicine at Dover for twenty years. He was succeeded by Dr. J. M. Gross. Dr. N. C. Wallace has practiced medicine here for twenty years. Dr. Lenhart, a well known veterinary surgeon, is one of the oldest citizens of the borough.

Reuben Hoffheins, an enterprising citizen of Dover, had a machine shop which he operated for many years. He was widely known as an inventor and in 1857 designed and patented a reaper and mower which he made at his Dover shops in large numbers, until his business had increased to such an extent that he moved his shops to York. His invention, known as the “Hoffheins Reaper,” was one of the earliest two wheeled machines used in this country. It also had a self-rake and revolving reel of an improved type. Mr. Hoffheims also manufactured the “Ball Reaper.” Carriage building has been an important industry in Dover for more than half a century. A sewing factory, owned by U. L. Glatfelter, has recently been started. Amos Swartz & Son own a cigar factory. E. D. Stough, who served as a soldier in the 87th regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, during the Civil War, is engaged in the harness making business.

Israel Melchinger was one of the Hessian soldiers who settled in and around Dover after the close of the Revolution. In 1815 Melchinger became the first postmaster of Dover and held that office at the time of his death in 1834; when he was succeed by his son, Englehart Melchinger. O. J. Yost, Samuel Aughenbaugh, Oliver M. Stough, E. D. Stouch, Dr. N. C. Wallace and Dr. J. M. Gross have been the successive postmasters within recent years.

A destructive fire occurred in Dover in March, 1844. Two houses, a tavern and a stable were destroyed on the Public Square. Soon after this event the town purchased the old engine from the Vigilant Fire Company of York. It is kept in an engine house on the square. The carriage shop of Theophilus Gross burned down about 1880. There being too small a supply of water in the vicinity, the engine could not be effectively used.

As early as 1770 a parochial school was started in a building connected with the Dover Lutheran and Reform Church. At this place most of the youths of the vicinity received their mental training. In the early part of the last century, schools were held in private houses. A school was built in the northern part and another in the southwestern part of the town, about 1830. In the year 1881, during the same night, both old buildings were destroyed by fire and two new ones were built, at a combined cost of $2,200.

Near the village of Dover was a noted place for the “big musters” and other military parades. Battalions were drilled on the surrounding fields. As many as ten or fifteen companies of militia and some volunteer companies annually collected here during the month of May and were reviewed by Brigade Inspector Archibald S. Jordan and later by Colonels Henry Stover, S. N. Bailey and George Hay. The local companies, toward the last of militia days, were commanded by Captains John Worley, John Sharp, Samuel Miller and Daniel Motter. These annual gatherings ceased about 1856. Conrad Kline, the last Revolutionary soldier of Dover Township, died in the village at the advanced age of ninety-seven years. His remains were buried with the honors of war by a local volunteer company, commanded by Captain Motter, father of George Motter, the manufacturer, of York. Conrad Kline was one of the many brave Germans, who early in the war for American Independence championed the cause of their adopted country. He followed the occupation of a gunsmith.

Confederate Invasion.

On June 27, 1863, during the Confederate invasion, Dover was visited by a small squad of Jenkins’s cavalry. These soldiers came here from Carlisle, being the advance of Ewell’s corps, part of which had proceeded as far east as Shiremanstown in Cumberland County. They remained at Dover for a short time and then returned to Carlisle. At this time Early’s division of Ewell’s corps was moving toward York and had encamped for the night of June 27, in the vicinity of Bigmount and Farmers Post Office in Paradise Township. A few of Early’s men reached Dover on the morning of Sunday, June 26. After spending a short time there obtaining provisions and securing a few articles in the village stores, they joined the division at Weiglestown, while on the march toward York.

Early in the morning of July 1, General J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry division began to arrive at Dover. This force numbered nearly 6000 men, composed of three brigades, commanded respectively by General Fitzhugh Lee, of Virginia; General Wade Hampton, of South Carolina, and Colonel Chambliss, of Virginia. Stuart came to Dover from Hanover, passing through Jefferson, and York New Salem. When he arrived at the last named place, he heard that Early’s division had fallen back toward Gettysburg or Carlisle and he proceeded to Dover. After the fight at Hanover between Stuart and Kilpatrick’s Union cavalry, the Confederate commander was entirely cut off from communications with General Robert E. Lee’s army which on July 1 had began the battle of Gettysburg.

Prisoners Paroled.

About 200 Union Cavalrymen, captured at Hanover and elsewhere, were paroled in the office of Dr. John Ahl at Dover. General Wade Hampton superintended the parole of these prisoners, who then went to York. Soon after the arrival of Stuart at Dover he ordered breakfast prepared for his staff, his brigade commanders and himself at the upper hotel on the west side of Main Street. About 8 o’clock in the morning, these officers partook of a bountiful meal and while eating engaged in conversation about the stirring events then taking place as a result of the Confederate invasion into Pennsylvania. While they were eating, army surgeons in an adjoining room dressed the wounds of several Confederate soldiers who had received saber cuts in the cavalry battle at Hanover the day before. Stuart, Hampton and Lee maintained a composed dignity during the two hours that this large body of Confederate cavalry occupied Dover. During the forenoon squads of mounted men, acting as scouts, were sent out in various directions into Dover and Conewago Townships and captured many farm horses that had not been taken across the Susquehanna.

Before leaving the hotel, General Stuart’s adjutant, who afterward wrote a biography of his commander, paid the hotel clerk, George Dick, later a resident of York, for the breakfast they had ordered. The money received was United States notes or “greenbacks” as they were called. This was exceptional, for the Confederate invaders at other placers always paid their obligations in confederate bank notes, which afterward became worthless.

While these cavalrymen remained at Dover, guards were placed around the hotel so that none of the men would drink intoxicating liquors to excess. In fact, neither of the two hotels had much whiskey at the bar or in the cellar. A few days before, when the proprietors had heard of the approach of the enemy, all the brandy, whiskey and other liquors in their possession had been placed in the cellar of the United Brethren church built in 1851, within the limits of the town, and was never discovered by the invaders.

Searching for Stuart.

The three guides, citizens from the vicinity of Hanover, who had been forced to accompany the Confederates on their march to Dover, were now released and other guides pressed into service at Dover in order to show the Confederates the most direct way toward Carlisle, where Stuart then thought the Confederate forces were concentrating. About the time that General Stuart, with almost the entire cavalry force of the army of Northern Virginia, left Dover for Carlisle, the battle of Gettysburg opened. Early in the morning of that day, General Lee near Gettysburg dispatched Colonel Venable, his staff officer, in search of Stuart. On his way toward York, where he expected to meet Stuart, he was intercepted by Kilpatrick’s cavalry, somewhere north of Hanover. He rode up to East Berlin, and then proceeded toward Davidsburg, and as he approached the borough of Dover, he again saw at a distance a squadron of Union cavalry around the old Dover church. He failed to find out the exact position of Stuart’s cavalry, thinking it was possibly then on its way toward Gettysburg. Colonel Venable returned to the scene of battle and was compelled to report to General Lee that he could find the enemy but not their own cavalry.

Stuart had been without communication with General Lee since he had crossed the Potomac, almost within sight of Washington, on June 28. He passed on to Carlisle but did not reach Gettysburg until the evening of the second day of the battle. Some military critics claim that if Stuart had reached the scene of action at Gettysburg on July 1, the tide of battle on July 2 might have been in favor of the Confederate army. He and his troopers rode on to Dillsburg, seemingly within hearing distance of the cannon’s roar at Gettysburg, but he knew nothing of the battle until he got to Carlisle.

The Wagon Train.

The train of 125 wagons which he had captured shortly after he crossed the Potomac River was driven through Dover on toward Dillsburg and York Springs and was delivered to the quartermaster general of the Confederate army, four miles northwest of Gettysburg on the evening of July 2. This wagon train contained provisions and munitions of war used by the Confederates on the last day of the battle.

The detour that Stuart made through York County was one of the most unfortunate episodes to the Confederate cause during the Civil War. This gallant soldier had won distinction for strategy on several occasions before, but his raid through Pennsylvania in 1863 will always be considered a military blunder. He was killed in battle the following year in a brilliant charge against Sheridan’s cavalry, near Richmond, Virginia.

History of York County, Pennsylvania

Prowell Vol 1 1907