The History or Dover Township

The form of Dover Township is irregular, with the southwestern boundary as a base resting upon Jackson and Paradise, Washington and Warrington to the west and north, and Conewago, Manchester and West Manchester to the east. The Conewago Hills begin in the western part of the township and Conewago, Manchester and West Manchester to the east. The Conewago Hills begin in the western part of the township and extend in a northeasterly direction to York Haven. From the first ridge of the Conewago Hills, near Mount Royal, along the public road to Rossville, the observer is afforded a landscape view to the south, east and west almost unrivaled for its enchanting beauty. The panorama unfolds to the eye large portions of the counties of York, Lancaster and Adams. Dover Township is drained by the Great Conewago which forms its northern boundary and the Little Conewago, which crosses its southeastern part.

Township Formed.
This township was organized under the authority of the Lancaster County court in 1747. Its exact limits were not then well-defined but it seems to have included a part of the present area of Washington Township. Dover also included the western two-thirds of Conewago Township which was formed out of Newberry and Dover in the year 1818.

Nearly all the original settlers in the township of Dover came directly from the Palatine country along the Rhine in Germany. Many of them settled in colonies while others migrated across the Susquehanna from the eastern counties of Pennsylvania. Some of these General Early settlers belonged to the German Baptist Church, but most of them were Lutheran and Reformed. These General Early Germans brought with them the customs of the Fatherland, also the church and the school. For nearly three-fourths of a century the training in the parochial and private schools of this township was given in the German language.

Fruit and Berries.
Most of the land of the township is fertile, producing abundant crops. Part of the area of Dover Township is red shale and the balance is sandy loam. There is a small outcrop of limestone in the southwestern corner of the township. Corn, wheat and potatoes are main products except in the northern part, where peaches are cultivated in several large orchards. Milton Betz of this township has raised peaches in large quantities. Since 1880, strawberry raising has been an important industry in the northern part of the township. In 1884 Jesse Crone raised 7,700 boxes on two acres, which were disposed of at seven and a half cents a box. Henry Wilt, of Conewago, raised 2,500 boxes; Henry Fahs, of Dover, 1,300 boxes; Joseph Boring of Newberry, 8,000 boxes on four acres of land. The Ball Hill country, mostly lying in Newberry Township but adjoining Conewago and Dover, is noted for the raising of small fruits and peaches. The land here is pure red shale, and generally slopes to the south, absorbing warm rays of sunlight during the General Early springtime. By proper cultivation the strawberry crop on this land yields luscious fruit abundantly.

The sandstone, for the trimming of the Harrisburg Court House, was quarried in Dover Township by Philip S. Crone. Furnace stones containing sixty cubic feet were also obtained near the base of the Conewago Hills. A quarry was opened on the Drawbaugh farm in 1884.

The population of Dover Township in 1820 was 1,816; in 1830, 1,874; in 1840, 1,920; in 1850, 1,918; in 1860, 2,258; in 1870, 2,281; in 1880, 2,378; in 1890, 2,349 and in 1900, 2313.

The present public school system, under act of 1834, was not accepted in Dover Township until the passage of the act of 1848, which recognized all school districts in the state as having accepted the system and during the winter of 1849-50, the great contest arose in this township to introduce the “free schools.” John Sharp, Peter Stough, Peter Boyer, Jacob Emig, George Beck, and Samuel Meisenhelder, composed the first board of directors. Schools had been regularly kept up before this time, under the supervision of two directors. Andrew Dinsmore, in the fall of 1849, held the first examination.

After the acceptance of the public school system in 1848, private and parochial schools were discontinued. The children of this township for many years labored under a disadvantage. They spoke the German language at home and on the playground but were taught entirely from English books. It is not easy to understand how good results could be accomplished by teachers who had to undergo such difficulties; yet by persistent effort, it can be said, to the credit of the teachers of Dover Township during the last thirty years, that the improvement shown in public school of this district has been encouraging. There are now within the limits of the township, sixteen schools, containing modern improvements and large playgrounds around the school houses. The names of these schools are as follows; Ramer’s, Davidsburg, Julius’, Emig’s, Weiglestown, Lenhart’s, Rupert’s, Stough’s, Hoover’s, Sheffer’s, Roler’s, Mt. Royal, Harmony Grove, Marsh’s, Trimmer’s.

John Sharp served thirty-two years as a school director for Dover Township. He was a son of Captain George Sharp, who was killed in 1814, by being thrown from a horse near Weiglestown.

Confederate Invasion.
On Sunday morning, June 28, 1863, General Jubal Early with three brigades of division, about 6000 men, crossed the lower part of Dover Township toward York, over the Canal Road. His other brigades under General Gordon entered York over the Gettysburg turnpike. Gordon had encamped the previous night at Farmer’s Post Office and General Early in the vicinity of Big Mount. The Canal Road extends east and west a few hundred yards south of Davidsburg. In order to see the Confederate invaders, some of the people of the village sat on the fence along the Canal Road and watched the movement of the troops toward York. Among these was John B. May, who held a York newspaper in his hand. General Early with his staff was riding near the head of his column. When he saw the newspaper in the hands of Mr. May he asked for it and it was given to him. He immediately began to scan it as he rode along stating, “This is just what I wanted.” He expected to find some information of local value in it.

General Early’s troops were nearly all infantry. When he arrived at Weiglestown he sent a detachment of about 200 mounted men, belonging to the Seventeenth Virginia Cavalry, to the mouth of the Conewago at York Haven. They were ordered to that place for the purpose of burning the railroad bridges there, which they did about noon of the same day. General Early crossed from Weiglestown to the Harrisburg turnpike, and entered York from the north. He remained at York until the early morning of June 30. Having been ordered to fall back to Gettysburg, he returned westward, nearly over the same route he had gone to York. When he arrived at Davidsburg about noon of June 30th, he ordered dinner for himself, his staff and two of his brigadier generals, Smith and Hayes, in all twenty men. At this time, General Early did not know but that he might meet an opposing force of Federal troops in the Paradise valley that afternoon. While the dinner was being prepared by the family of William Julius, proprietor of the hotel, General Early and his Brigadier generals held a conference in a small room where they spoke in low tones, discussing the situation,. The staff officers sat in a front room, some of them reading pocket Bibles which they carried, for they all knew a desperate battle was soon to take place. These twenty men, sat around a long table for half an hour eating their midday meal, which they all seemed to relish. There was very little conversation at the table for a serious air seemed to pervade the entire room, all the time they remained. As General Early and one of his officers passed out the front doorway of the hotel, they heard the booming of cannon toward the southwest.

“I suppose a battle has begun,” said General Hayes to his chief, as General Early mounted his horse, which was then being held by the proprietor of the hotel. Before leaving the hotel, General Early handed the proprietor four five dollar Confederate notes, in payment for the twenty dinners that he had engaged to be prepared. One of these bills has been preserved and presented to the Historical Society of York County by George W. Gross, of Admire, Dover Township, in 1904.

The booming of the cannon which the officers heard as they rode away from the hotel came from Hanover, where an engagement was then taking place between the cavalry and artillery forces of Kilpatrick and Stuart. This prevented a collision between General Early and Kilpatrick in the Paradise Valley, while the Confederates were on their march toward Gettysburg.

On the morning of July 1, the day following General Early’s retreat, General J. E. B. Stuart, who had been defeated at Hanover, crossed Dover Township with nearly 6000 mounted men. His troopers captured a large number of farm horses in this township and exchanged them for their worn-out nags which had seen hard service on the long march into Pennsylvania. They were never returned and many Dover horses were killed in the battle of Gettysburg two days later. The story of Stuart at Dover is told in the history of the borough, found elsewhere in this volume.

History of York County, Pennsylvania

Prowell Volume I 1907