Four-Volume Regional History Books Published

James Fritz And Gettysburg Institute Of History Put Out Series

May 13, 2022

A four-volume set, titled “Historic Architecture of Adams County, Pennsylvania,” are coffee table books but also a treasure trove of the latest scholarship by celebrated academic scholars with copious citations and foot notes for the historian. Photographs of the architecture of Adams County’s best appear with an in-depth treatment of history about the German Baptists, Mennonites, and Scots-Irish, who predominated in government and secular leadership. This work surveys the influence of the Protestant Reformation, including Martin Luther, the Quaker movement and Puritan efforts to purge the Church of England of its Popish practices held over from the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, many of the early religious divisions traveled from England to the colonies. Maryland was chartered in 1633, almost 49 years before William Penn’s charter, and the narrative describes the thousands of acres of land warranted to the wealthy Iris Roman Catholic Carroll family of Maryland in the 1720s.
Book One
The setting for this first volume is the bucolic village of East Berlin. This town has been seemingly suspended in time from the early 19th century. Settled in 1738 by German Baptists, this pacifist religious group created a synergy of family, farm and meeting houses. Their numbers and faith are still there in modern times on their farms and traditional occupations. Their lives also included the central place of some socialization with other ethnic groups at Sweigart’s Mill, located on Beaver Creek. Beautiful photographs of date stones, log structures and brick ender barns provide the reader with a portrait of early farming life. The John Fox House, ca. 1790, adorns the cover of this work.
Abbottstown (Berwick Village) was also formed in 1738 and is considered the gateway to Adams County. The county was carved from York County in 1800. The log and German siding home of John Abbott, ca. 1735, remains as a sentinel and introduction to the town. The Captain Peter Ickes House, ca. 1765, also remains as a beacon of 18th-century architecture and history. Ickes was a Revolutionary War militia officer originally from Montgomery County. The mug created by famous pewterer William Will, of Philadelphia, is featured in this work. The mug resides at the Winterthur Museum.
Abbottstown boasts the largest number of extant early log structures in the region, albeit most are under brick or siding. A “Gilded Age” Victorian beauty overlooking the town circle has been restored by Angelo Galantino. This imposing structure was constructed in 1881 by the celebrated architect, J. A. Dempwolf.
The town of New Oxford, with its many buildings and antique shops, is also featured in this work.
Book Two
This volume presents modern and vintage photographs of Gettysburg and its environs; however, the work begins an architectural journey originating in Lancaster County at Columbia featuring the Ferree House, ca. 1730s, Wrights Ferry House, ca. 1738, and then crosses the Susquehanna River into York County and arrives at the Dritt Mansion, ca. 1758 at Long Level. Traveling west along Route 30, the work pauses briefly to make comparisons with the General Gates House, ca. 1741, and the half-timbered Plow Tavern in York City.
At the branch of Route 30 and Route 116, one encounters the heretofore uncelebrated Wolf Mansion, ca. 1750. The discovery of the Wolf Mansion in photographs is a major contribution to our local history. It is, arguably, the most sophisticated architecture of its er in York-Adams counties. The interior boasts of carved interior wood paneling and hand-wrought “rat’s tail” pintles with strap hinges. High style interior “crossette style” interior door frames with thick paneled doors speak of a master joiner-carpenter.
Upon arrival in Gettysburg, the famous Wills House, ca. 1816, is featured along with several outstanding examples of architecture within the borough.
Book Three
Titled, “African & Dutch (Holland) Experience,” book three chronicles the history and culture of the African-American community within Adams County. The discovery is that their story is linked with not only the northward escape from slavery, but also the history of events in Columbia, Pa. More research begs to be written and stories revealed of the many African-Americans who sought freedom.
The brief settlement of a congregation of Dutch Reformed congregants from New Jersey provides a snapshot of history in human migration in the mid-18th century to Adams County. A presentation of Dutch culture and tombstones of the Dutch settlers begins the portrait of this early ethnic group and their struggle for a place in the colonies of America. Subjects range from post and beam Welsh and Irish cottages to indentured servitude. The work also features English Georgian Architecture to works of Palladio. Even the English Civil War that began in 1642 and its far reaching consequences to Pennsylvania and the American colonies are presented to illuminate our architectural heritage.
The flagship of Adams County religious heritage is found in the Scots-Irish Presbyterian Church of the Great Conewago, which is displayed on the cover of this volume. This 309-page work contains much, much more than the foregoing material and contains buildings from Hunterstown, Cashtown-McKnightstown, Fairfield and Orrtanna.
Book Four
The book is titled “Mansion in the Wilderness” and presents for the first time the “jewel in the crown” of Adams County’s most significant Federal period building called, Middlekauff Mansion, ca. 1810. It is located near Cashtown and is a rival to Wheatland Mansion, ca. 1828, the home of the 15th president, James Buchanan in Lancaster, Pa. Moreover, there are familial connections to the Buchanan family at both dwellings. Almost eight pages of this 276-page volume are devoted to this mansion in the wilderness. When visiting this serene location, it is as though one has returned to the dawn of the 19th century as your mind absorbs the vast vistas of distant mountains and the grand three-story manor seen in the distance.
This work also features an in-depth treatment of the several Quaker meeting houses and treatment of the Quaker movement that originated in northern England in the mid-17th century.
This publication also presents several works of an early 19th-century water colorist, Johanne Bard, who resided in Union Township, Adams County. Some of his works are also in the collection at Winterthur Museum.
The Roman Catholic Church, called Conewago Chapel, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, ca. 1785, is featured in this work with its “squared” brown stone construction and its inspirational interior. It has early connections to the Roman Catholic community of Maryland and the narrative of the wealthy Irish Catholic Carroll family that acquired warrants well into York and Adams County even before Penn’s Walking Purchase of 1736-37.

To order single volumes or the entire set, contact Masthof Press in Morgantown, Pa., at 610-286-0258 or email Lori Jones at


More Articles