Wrightsville now a featured stop on self-guided Civil War history tour
Two new signs sharing the stories of Wrightsville's Civil War history are on display near the historic Mifflin House, thanks to the combined efforts of the borough and two Civil War history organizations.
The signs are posted at the end of the 600 block of Cherry Street in the borough, at the edge of the battlefield that was part of the Wrightsville Engagement and not far from the Mifflin House in Hellam Township, a stop on the Underground Railroad that's just beyond Wrightsville's municipal boundary.
Civil War Trails, a history tourism organization with 1,650 trail stops in six states, facilitated the installation.
"These places cannot be downloaded," said Drew Gruber, executive director of Civil War Trails. "These sites and these stories, you have to travel to consume, and that is something that resonates with visitors of all ages and backgrounds."
The Liberty Rifles, a nonprofit living history reenactment organization, raised the initial funding for the signs, and the borough will maintain the site of the installation, according to Civil War Trails.
The sign detailing the Wrightsville Engagement, during which the Union Army burned the covered bridge that crossed the Susquehanna River to stop the Confederate Army from reaching Lancaster County, is an official stop on Civil War Trails.
The other sign, detailing the Mifflin House and its history as a stop on the Underground Railroad, bears the seal of the Borough of Wrightsville.
Because the Underground Railroad was secret, there isn't a paper trail or an easy way to identify the stops, so it's incredibly rare to have a preserved location that's known to have been part of the network, Gruber said.
A battle to save the historic home from demolition has been going on since 2017, when Kinsley Properties, a real estate developer, appealed Hellam Township's decision to deny a permit application to raze the building.
In February 2019, the township board of supervisors approved a deal with Kinsley Properties to put a 24-month moratorium on demolition in order to give preservationists an opportunity to raise the funds to buy the property.
Gruber said Civil War Trails brings "economic development by the carload," because travelers who visit the site of a Civil War Trail stop usually take advantage of other amenities and attractions nearby.
And when travelers reach out to his organization for tips about other things to do in York County, Gruber said he directs them to Explore York, the county's convention and visitor's bureau.
"The idea of Civil War Trails is to attract people to these Civil War landscapes but also as a gateway to have these other authentic experiences," he said.
These are the first two signs of this kind in York County.
What differentiates them from the metal commemorative signs one finds throughout York City and other areas, Gruber said, is that as new historic information is uncovered, either by photographs or other records, these signs can be updated and changed.
There are four Civil War Trails sites in Adams County, where the Battle of Gettysburg took place, and the organization is working with Hanover to potentially install four signs there later this year, Gruber said.