Side Quest: Searching for Pequea’s Fountain of Youth—York Furnace Spring

Some people search for the Fountain of Youth; I’ve been searching for the York Furnace Spring. I’ve read about the spring several times before, typically in conjunction with the River View Hotel.

In 1886, Professor Thomas R. Baker of the Millersville State Normal School (now Millersville University) conducted a water analysis of the spring. He wrote that it was the “purest water I have ever examined.” Later in the report, Baker added that “the water is moreover thoroughly pure, not a trace of lime or magnesia has been discovered. The great purity of this water, together with its softness and its coldness, render it very desirable for drinking and culinary purposes.”

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Analysis of the York Furnace Spring Water.

Locals insisted that the liquid was “peculiarly beneficial to persons afflicted with liver or kidney troubles.” As such, the nearby River View Hotel had it piped “at a very great expense” to their facility.

Postcard view of the River View Hotel in Pequea (1910-1915).

So, where is the York Furnace Spring?

Various historical documents describe it as being down the road from the River View Hotel, accessible via a miniature railroad that ran between Pequea and York Furnace. An 1899 map of Martic Township shows the location of the York Furnace train station and the pavilion.

A River View Hotel visitor’s guide describes it like this: “Passing down the road, shaded by the chestnut and the beech, we soon come to the famous York Furnace Glen, once the proud home of the Piqua Tribe of Indians, and now the pleasure ground of all who care to enjoy its sylvan beauties or restful solitude.”

The guide continues with an over-the-top description of the spring that implies it is in this general location.

“The pure, sparkling, limpid spring filled with its beneficent, health giving-water-water such as angels might bathe in, or where fairies lave their milk-white temples and ruby lips. Day after day, year after year, this spring sends forth its copious stream, never reaching a higher temperature than 54 degrees Fahrenheit.”

It then says, “After a short, easy climb, we reach that mysterious phenomenon of nature known as the ‘Cold Cave.'”

The Wonderful Cold Cave. Today, it is known as Wind Cave.

Today, this geologic formation is known as Wind Cave. The trailhead to the cave still exists here, which further makes me believe the spring is in the immediate vicinity.

Some sleuthing on LancasterHistory’s website uncovered several images of these fabled restorative waters.

On more than one trip to Wind Cave, I’ve noticed some stone ruins where an access road off of Bridge Valley Road crosses the Conestoga Trail. Could this be the York Furnace Spring?

Comparing the then and now photos definitely showed some similarities, especially the masonry pieces I found further into the woods.

Could this, in fact, be the lost York Furnace Spring? I sipped the water, and I’m pleased to report that my liver or kidneys feel great! 😉

What do you think?

The York Furnace Spring?

This LiDAR image highlights the depression of where the spring and possibly the pavilion was once located. I have highlighted the area in question inside of the red square.

If you want to visit them for yourself, here are the GPS coordinates of the York Furnace Spring: 39.878328, -76.369164. The ruins are located on publicly accessible land inside Lancaster Conservancy’s Clark Nature Preserve a few feet off the Conestoga Trail. Depending on the season, the stonework can be difficult to see.

Let me know if you think the York Furnace Spring was located somewhere else.

Learn More

Click any of the following links to read more about some of the places mentioned or related to the topic of this article.

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