Jack Brubaker

Jack Brubaker

Dear Dr. Scribblergang:

I just finished reading a book named “Stolen,” about five free African American youths sold into slavery in the South. The book makes several references to the Gap Gang of body snatchers as part of the “reverse Underground Railroad” in Lancaster County. It doesn’t provide much information about them. What do you know about the Gap Gang?

Hugh Coffman


Dear Hugh:

The Gap Gang operated primarily in eastern Lancaster County and western Chester County before the Civil War. They truly were bad guys, not only kidnapping free African Americans and selling them into slavery, but stealing, murdering and creating general mayhem.

The gang took its name from the Gap Hills, where many of them lived, and more specifically from the Gap Tavern, where they usually plotted their activities. Their membership varied. As members were arrested and jailed, other men took their places.

Amos Clemson led the gang. William Padgett, another member, accompanied the Gorsuch family of Maryland slaveholders in their ill-fated effort to recapture runaways.

The gang was particularly active in the months between passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required anyone to apprehend fleeing slaves and return them to their owners, and the Christiana Resistance of September 1851.

But some members of Clemson’s gang operated from the 1840s until the 1870s. During the years following the Civil War, they concentrated on thievery until a group of local vigilantes raided their headquarters on Gap Hill and put them out of business.

The gang’s chief notoriety, however, came from its focus on kidnapping African Americans and selling them to southern slave owners. They did not stop with runaways, but also took free men.

The Gap Gang deeds are mentioned frequently in old Lancaster newspapers. Bud Rettew’s “Treason at Christiana” (2006) discusses the gang in remarks introducing his history of the Christiana Resistance. Thomas Slaughter briefly describes the gang in “Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North” (1991).

Dear Dr. Scribblerpink:

I was born in 1932 and everyone I talk to who is about my age doesn’t remember the Pink Funnies. Can you give input on this?

Claire Lincoln


Dear Claire:

Discussing the first issues of Lancaster’s Sunday News (beginning Sept. 16, 1923) in “The Steinmans of Lancaster: A Family and Its Enterprises” (1984), John H. Brubaker III says of the earliest comics:

“Four full-page comic strips —‘Bringing Up Father,’ ‘Polly,’ ‘Jerry on the Job,’ and ‘Tilly the Toiler’ —appeared in black and white. The presentation of these same strips in full color the next week and in pink in subsequent weeks suggests mistakes were made on the first orders.'”

Dear Dr. Scribblerfulton:

A friend of mine has said that her mother once owned the Fulton Theater. Her name changed over the years. Her maiden name was Grace Kathryn Black. Her first husband was Horace Finch. Then she married Jack S. Reider and, lastly, Charles Howard.

Ron Henderson


Dear Ron:

To answer this question, the Scribbler turns to Leslie Stainton, author of a 2014 history of the Fulton, “Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts.”

Stainton says that in 1925 Horace Finch took over operation of the Fulton. He showed rerun movies. Price of admission: 20 cents for adults, 10 cents for children.

Finch and his family, which presumably included his spouse, Grace Kathryn Finch, lived for a time in the gallery of the old opera house. The Finches were the only family known to have made the Fulton their home.

Stainton took her information from Gerald S. Lestz's “143-Year-Old Love Story,” a brief history of the Fulton Opera House published in 1995.

Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes "The Scribbler'' column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at scribblerlnp@gmail.com.