Electric lights were uncommon in the southern end of Lancaster County in the early years of the 20th century. There were five such lights on the porch of the old River View Hotel at Pequea. They brightened or dimmed depending on how much power the trolley to Pequea was drawing at the time.
Jim Prangley heard this story from his father, Lawrence, who said he traveled to the River View by trolley for the weekend when he was 13 years old in 1910.
That’s when he watched the electric lighting on the porch of the hotel grow bright or dim.
Let’s back up a bit to put this story into context.
Mark Arbogast presented a talk to the Millersville Area Historical Society a few weeks ago about the Lancaster and York Furnace Street Railway that ran from Millersville to Pequea. He illustrated his talk with PowerPoint copies of old postcards and photos of the trolley line.
One of the illustrations depicted gas lights in the dining room of the hotel. Upon seeing that image, Prangley spoke up from the audience about his father’s experience. Arbogast and Prangley are PPL retirees, so they bantered back and forth.
“There was a string of five electric lights on the front porch, right where the trolley came in,” Prangley said. “The lights would dim as the trolley was going uphill (and using more electricity) and get brighter when it went downhill.”
Trolleys operated on electric power produced at generating stations along the way. The closest station to Pequea was about 3 miles away at Colemanville, Prangley said.
Lawrence Prangley purchased the River View in the 1940s and Jim Prangley lived there for a year before his father sold it in 1948. He said that if the hotel had not been fully electrified by then, his father, who also owned an electrical business in Lancaster, would have replaced any remaining gas lights.
The old hotel, opened in 1901 by Frederic Shoff, was demolished in the early 1970s.
Arbogast showed other pictures of the River View, a major resort hotel until the 1930s. It had its own tiny “beach” on the Susquehanna River. Hotel guests rode around the property on a miniature railroad. Guests enjoyed ballroom dancing. And, of course, eating in the gas-lit dining room and sitting on the electric-lit porch.
Gary Landis lives on Yummerdall Road in Clay Township. He recently discovered what may be a clue to the origin of the road’s name.
John Landis Ruth, in “The Earth is the Lord’s,” a comprehensive history of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, discusses the dual nature of John Bomberger, a carpenter and “otherworldly” hymnist who left a very practical will when he died two centuries ago:
“Here is the internal contrast so typical of the Lancaster Mennonite spirituality: in practical matters we see an earthy, colorful specificity; in religious expression this world is portrayed only by pious cliche as a ‘vale of tears (Jammerthal).’ ”
Millie Brubaker, of Landisville, asked a few weeks back about the origin of the name “Little Texas”' for the section of neighboring Salunga in which she grew up. Now she has answered her own question.
In “Salunga? Where’s That,” a book of memories written by Miriam Kendig in 1904, the author mentions that one of the businesses in “Little Texas” was E.G. Myers Well Driller.
There are plenty of oil drillers in the state of Texas, Millie notes.
Alternative theory: Jim Way wrote a booklet on historical Salunga. He said “Little Texas” was so named because its layout resembled the shape of the state.
Take your pick.
Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes “The Scribbler” column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at email@example.com.
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