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Annual Articles of Confederation celebration draws families

Around 30 residents gathered Saturday to watch the Central York Middle School Fife and Drum Corps play "Yankee Doodle" outside the York County Colonial Court House to mark York City's unique position in American history.

The courthouse has hosted speakers such as David Eisenhower — grandson of former President Dwight Eisenhower — governors and historians over the years to commemorate the Nov. 15, 1777, adoption of the Articles of Confederation in York City.

But about six years ago, the York County History Center turned the anniversary into an opportunity to educate children through a number of family-oriented activities.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, wearing full 18th-century colonial American garb, stood on the steps of the courthouse to kick off Articles of Confederation Day on Saturday, Nov. 16.

"Hear ye, hear ye!" he said. "For a brief time, relatively as time goes, in 1777 and 1778, York was the center of the world."

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The Second Continental Congress met in the original courthouse from September 1777 to June 1778 during the American Revolutionary War, in York City — then known as "Little York" or "Yorktown," Helfrich said.

The Articles of Confederation, adopted while Congress met in York, established the first form of government for America's 13 colonies.

As part of Saturday's commemoration, children could go to different stations around the Colonial Court House and get their passports stamped, participating in activities such as story time, "spy messages and decoding" with lemon juice, a unity exercise, a felt flag design and currency lesson.

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Casey Fogle, of Conewago Township, brought her sons Beckett, 3, Gannon, 10, and Keegan, 1, and said the event is really good at reaching children of different age groups.

"My 10-year old is really interested in history," she said, and he loved the unity exercise.

"This engages a much broader audience," said Joan Mummert, history center president and CEO, who added it's the third year for the stations, and the goal is to engage families.

From left, Mark Paul, 7, Nicoli Carbone, 5, Benito Carbone, 6, and Ethan Paul, 5, with Cub Pack 57, of Manchester Borough, use pieces of felt to reconstruct a flag during the York County History Center's Articles of Confederation Day at the Colonial Courthouse Complex in York City, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

They could also look at historic documents such as an early printing of the articles from 1777, continental currency printed in York and a signed oath of allegiance to the U.S. from a resident.

"It's just really cool to see the original printings," said Jessica Einstein, who came with her husband, Sam, son Julius, 1, and daughter Emi, 2.

She said they moved from Wisconsin to West Manchester Township five months ago and since then have been very interested in learning the area's history. 

Volunteer Elizabeth Stein, left, of Jackson Township, stamps cards for visitor Nicoli Carbone, 5, during the York County History Center's Articles of Confederation Day at the Colonial Courthouse Complex in York City, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Children held cards with different objects such as whip or the judge's bench to hear volunteer Elizabeth Stein explain their history. The bench is the oldest one in the U.S. used by presidents of Congress, she said.

Stein, of Spring Grove, is the daughter of Judge John F. Rauhauser Jr., the president of the bicentennial commission, which eventually merged with what's now the history center.

The current building, created by Rauhauser, is a replica of the original courthouse that sat in the center of Continental Square, and it opened in 1976 during the bicentennial celebration, Mummert said.

"(Rauhauser) had a love of history, and he kind of passed that on," Stein said.