OPED: Glatfelter name has long history in York

Philip Glatfelter
Casper Glattfelder Association of America

Two years ago, the City of York had a celebration. The town, which was the birthplace of the Articles of Confederation and the Capitol of the United States for nine months in 1778, had been founded 275 years before. The city had numerous activities for its celebration throughout the year.

This year, a name well-known both in York City and throughout York County will also be the focus of a celebration, as the Casper Glattfelder Association of America marks the 275th anniversary of its immigrant ancestor coming to America.

The Glattfelders — or Glatfelters, Gladfelters, Clodfelters or Glotfeltys, among the variations across the country — will be holding a reunion at the end of July, much as it has done every year since 1906.

Casper Glattfelder arrived in America in 1743 with various members of his family from Glattfelden, Switzerland. Those who landed in Philadelphia included Casper and several children of his brother John Peter, who passed away in Switzerland before the family could embark for America. Casper's wife, Elizabeth, and son John apparently died on the voyage to America or very soon thereafter.

Within a month after arriving in America, Casper, along with brother-in-law Henry Walter, purchased a tract of 224 acres along the Conewago Creek in what today is Newberry Township. Three years later, they sold that land as they searched and found an area of York County that reminded them of home.

The two claimed land along the south branch of the Codorus Creek, Casper in what is now North Codorus Township and Henry in what is now Springfield Township. The survey made for Casper in 1770 referred to the tract as Beaver Dam; Henry's was called Crooked Meadow.

Numerous Glattfelder descendants who have visited Glattfelden, Switzerland, have remarked at the similarity of the land along the Codorus Creek and the area around Glattfelden.

Soon after arriving in America, Casper remarried. With Anna Maria, he had six sons (including one, Jacob, who died young). Most Glattfelders trace their roots through one of the sons: Solomon, who was born in 1738 in Switzerland, or Felix, John, Henry, Michael or Casper, born between 1747 and 1758 in America. (No record of daughters to his second marriage can be found, though his will indicates there were some.)

Casper died in 1775. His sons and their descendants spread across the county, the state, the country and the world.

Felix inherited the family homestead and enlarged it over the 40 years he owned it. The stone house, which he built sometime between 1800 and his death in 1815, still stands in what is known as Glatfelters Station. It replaced a log or frame house which was standing on the property at the time of the federal direct tax in 1798.

Michael bought a farm in 1781 in what is now Springfield Township and lived there for 28 years before moving to Washington County, south of Pittsburgh. His York County property is now part of Brown's Orchards.

Among Casper Glattfelder descendants of note to York countians were former Pennsylvania Governor George Leader; former U.S. Representative Bill Goodling; former Temple University president Millard Gladfelter; Arthur J. Glatfelter, who was well known in the county for his insurance agency and philanthropy; and Philip H. Glatfelter, who founded the P.H. Glatfelter paper mill in Spring Grove in 1864.

Some served on the Casper Glattfelder Association board and all attended numerous reunions. Many other descendants of Casper and his sons have been coming to York County for over 100 years, to a park within sight of the old homestead at Glatfelters Station: Heimwald Park.

As my father, Dr. Charles H. Glatfelter, a York County native, longtime historian at Gettysburg College and longtime board member, past president and historian of the Casper Glattfelder Association, often said about those attending a reunion for the first time, they're returning home, to the home (Heim) woods (wald).

In 1910, the family became one of the first incorporated in the United States. The charter was awarded by the York County Court of Common Pleas on Oct. 3 and fixed the number of directors at 17.

Reporting on the 1913 reunion, the York newspapers declared that "so far as is known, the Casper Glattfelder Association of America is the only organization of its kind in the United States today incorporated and owning its own meeting ground." It is possible the same can be said today.

This year's reunion will be the 113th. The CGAA is preparing two days of activities, including a bus trip to York County sites of family interest and picnic on Saturday, July 28, and the reunion with an anniversary program the following day.

Various pieces of Glattfelder merchandise, including special 275th anniversary items, will be for sale. Reunion-goers will have the opportunity to view the park’s brick patio, which includes over 5,000 bricks, featuring over 1,200 engraved with Glattfelder descendants’ names.

As the association has always done, we're calling all Glattfelders, whether to attend the July reunion or just learn more about their ancestry. Information on the association and the reunion can be found at the association's website, www.glattfelder.org.

— Philip Glatfelter is a Casper Glattfelder Association of America board member who lives in Hallam.