Meet the Colorful River Hills Character and Railroad Worker, Frank Shultz

Historical Society Highlights

Historical Society Highlights is an opportunity for local historical societies to feature a fascinating story from their area as well as any upcoming events. In this edition, Southern Lancaster County Historical Society president Stanley T. White shares several vignettes about the colorful River Hills character, Frank Shultz.

Frank Shultz

Whether he was killing a copperhead or hunting Paw Paws in the “river hills” along the Susquehanna River, in his day, Frank Shultz could be counted on for a story. He’d report to the Oxford Press on how the fishing season was going or how many hunters arrived at Peach Bottom when duck season started.

Frank Shultz, Hostler at Dorsey Engine House and “Little, Old & Slow” character, posed on the narrow-gauge track immediately east of Dorsey Station, circa 1905. Photo courtesy of Wayne Messick.

As to his profession, he was a “hostler” at Dorsey Engine House. That entailed caring for the narrow-gauge steam engine and making it ready for the crew in time for the morning run from Peach Bottom to Oxford in Chester County. He also cared for the engine when the crew came back in the evening.

The engine house was located along today’s Peach Bottom Road, just west of Dorsey Station, and is now wooded over. The site can still be found if you know where to look when the leaves are off the trees.

Dorsey Station on the 1899 Road Map of Lancaster County, PA.

The earliest record of his employment with the Little Old & Slow, yet discovered, follows:

Oxford Press, November 18, 1891
Circulating Counterfeit Coins.

Frank Shultz, watchman at the L. O. & S. roundhouse, Peach Bottom, had a call from a strange man the other night. The visitor informed Mr. Shultz that he was a stencil cutter wandering around the country. He asked the watchman if all his time was occupied each day, inquiring if he would like to engage in light and profitable employment. The fellow showed Mr. Shultz a number of $5 rolls of 25 and 50 cent counterfeit coins, offering to sell the “queer” at a discount for honest cash. The watchman promptly told the man that he did not desire to engage in such unlawful business. Prior to leaving the fellow said he had passed a number of coins at Conowingo, Md.

Oxford Press, May 4, 1905

While Frank Shultz was patching the floor of the L. O. & S. engine house he came upon a quantity of chestnuts that a ground hackey had stored under the floor.  Frank didn’t stop to wonder when the hackey would return for refreshments, but he sailed in and reports the chestnuts sweet.

I wonder what a ground hackey was? My best guess is that it was a ground hog, but this may be a word used by those of German descent. It was missing from my dictionary, and Google was no help.

UPDATE: One reader commented, explaining that a “ground hackey” is a chipmunk.

Here is the 1876 Dorsey Station on Google Street View.

Oxford Press, June 1, 1905
Shultz Likes Snakes.

Miller Tichnor is of scary stuff, the sight of a snake making him wish he was a long ways off from the reptile.  He and Frank Shultz were together in the L. O. & S. round-house one day lately and Tichnor had started for home.  His steps took him only a little ways when he spied two blacksnakes in the bushes.  He yelled loudly for help—”Here’s a snake with two heads, 50 feet long!”  Shultz ran to the terrified miller and saw a pair of loving snakes with their heads together, most of their bodies hidden in the grass.  Each snake was a beauty and about eight feet long.

Oxford Press, November 4, 1909

Engineer Spear says he never noticed so many gunners along the L. O. & S. Railroad between Oxford and Peach Bottom as he saw Monday. Despite the force of hunters the slaughter of “bunnies” was comparatively small. Around Peach Bottom game was not as plentiful as in former seasons. Frank Shultz says numerous sportsmen arrived at Peach Bottom hotel Sunday. The hostelry filled up and newcomers crossed the river to Peach Bottom, York county, for accommodations.

Frank was said to be “short, heavy, very jolly and well-liked.” (quote from Benjamin J. Kline Jr., describing Frank in his later years.) He was married to Leah E. Fowler Shultz and they had four children, Mabel, Wilmer, who died young, and Bertha May, who died six years before her father. Another son, Harry, also worked for the same railroad for a while, leaving in 1910 to drive trolley cars in Lancaster. (See dates at the end)

Frank Shultz liked being in the news and appreciated the newspapers. He never seemed to mind the little jokes or jabs, at his expense, he just enjoyed being part of the story of Peach Bottom. He brought a fresh shad to the Oxford Press every year. He also shared his pawpaws with the newsmen. An example of his appreciation of the Press is demonstrated below:

Oxford Press, October 6, 1910
Luscious Pawpaws

Frank Shultz of Peach Bottom did a clever act Monday by leaving a basket of fine pawpaws at our office. This season is full of pawpaws, there are wagonloads of them on the river hills and lowlands. They are sometimes called Indian or Susquehanna bananas. Call them whatever you will, they are prime for eating and contain a per cent. of fruit sugar that is wholesome. Pawpaws are part of nature’s pure offering to man and to indulge in them at this time of year is an act of kindness to the stomach of the eater. Generally we consume too much cane sugar which causes unnatural assimilations and catarral conditions. Pawpaws are saleable in towns and cities, the majority of whose dwellers see them rarely. John Grossman of Cherry Hill used to sell them in Lancaster at 2 for 5 cents. Already frost has colored brown the skin jacket of the pawpaw in the riverland, and it will become black, but the meat is there untainted.

Frank’s German heritage was sometimes the butt of jokes, as he had a thick accent. His friends at the Oxford Press always enjoyed poking a little fun at their good friend and would add Mr. Shultz’s pronunciations into their articles. This was not uncommon in that time and others with thick accents were treated in the same manner. He was also the subject of the occasional practical joke from his fellow railroad workers, but he surely gave as good as he got.

The Little, Old & Slow on the 1875 map of Fulton Township.

Oxford Press, Thursday, May 22, 1913
Pawpaws are Blooming.

Frank Shultz, one of our references on copperheads, shad and “winegar” jugs, informs us the crop of pawpaws promises to be up in quantity. Some people may be shy as to this delectable offering of the river hills. Just now the plants are decorated with dark purple blooms as large as a penny. Following is a tiny bit of green which eventually becomes somewhat bananalike in form. Pawpaws are at their best in frost-time, and are sweet and prolific in seeds. Twenty-five years since, perhaps, this wild fruit was hardly looked at, but in season it is hunted closely.

Frank was also said to be a betting man. He even bet on how large a shad he could eat, once consuming a five pounder. He also had a vegetable patch, which he used to supplement his income.

Oxford Press, Thursday, July 11, 1912

Frank Shultz has the crack patch of truck in the south end of the county. He is not doing anything outside of his regular L. O. & S. work, except till that patch and pull the “wegetables” when they are ready for the boiler.

Oxford Press, Thursday, July 8, 1915

Frank Shultz, Peach Bottom, our local Goliath on snakes, opened the season last week by ending a copperhead. He does not predict a big harvest of snakes this summer. He will, however, keep his eyes open.

Oxford Press, Thursday, December 9, 1915
Wintry Bath
Frank Shultz of Peach Bottom Butchered His Pork and Tumbled Into the Puddle Duck Creek.

Frank Shultz had just got over butchering when something happened. His hogs, they were 14 months old, dressed 412 and 418 pounds, and were as nice a lot pork as anybody could hope to start in on.

Early, very early, on the morning of the 2d Inst., Shultz had finished work on one of the L. O. & S. engines at Peach Bottom. He started to walk the plank across the creek and noted it was covered with a rabbit tracin’ snow, like Tommie Hambleton spoke about in his Drumore notes last week. There was a hoar frost in the air, beneath the narrow path Shultz had taken flowed the poetic stream, locally named Puddle Duck, but he was thinking of his good streak of luck in the pig line and he—then his feet left the plank and in less than a wink, Shultz was in six feet of ice water. His cries indicated that he does not attend any church regularly, but when a man has fallen into six feet of icy water early in December his inclination is to get up circulation instantly. He scrambled out of the creek and shaking himself made straight for home. Mother Shultz took the best care of her man and an important part of her ministering was a cup of “tea” which he gulped down without ceremony. After much toweling and manipulation, something similar to the second degree in Turkey, the old hero of many a “winegar” poke with Ed. Housekeeper, timidly asked for another cup of “tea” to head off a Puddle Duck chill that might occur at any moment. Mother Shultz is wisdom and her reply was dry, so no chill broke out. Shultz was in Oxford next day and as he is not just as young as a whole lot of us once were, he said that he felt some stiff at the joints. However, his big heart beat true as a clock and it was with pleasure that we heard how he had made glad his son and daughter by leaving them with a lot of the butchering.

When Shultz sank into Puddle Duck he lost his pocketbook, contents $1.15, and his cap, but held on to his lantern. Wonderful what can happen on a snow-covered plank early in December.

Now it is a good bet this tale was relayed from Frank himself. So the fact that there are very few places where the Puddle Duck Creek is now both six feet deep and narrow enough to cross with a plank might be put down to exaggeration, but ‘now’ is not ‘then’ and in his time there were mill ponds, dams, and mill races along the Puddle Duck. It is likely he wouldn’t recognize the little stream we see today, running along Arcadia Trace Road.

Oxford Press, Thursday, June 8, 1916
Hatched Out Ducks.

“Sporty,” our trusty friend, Frank Shultz, whose residence is near Peach Bottom, Lancaster county, has just recovered from his latest surprise. Desiring to add to his flock of chickens he invested in a setting of eggs which were represented to produce high-class fowls. He exercised care in taking them home and placed them under the anxious hen as cautiously as a bomb expert would handle explosives.

Mrs. Hen kept them warm and unmindful of signs via weather and almanac she had the satisfaction of knowing the hatch had attained completion. Then it was that she led her brood with pride and interest—but when “Sporty” saw the procession his hair rose—a flock of ducks! Somewhere back from the river hills there lives a man named Hess who supplied the eggs. The ducklings may escape the snakes.

Delta Herald & Times, from Mike Roth
January 19, 1917

On Friday morning as Frank Shultz of Peach Bottom was coupling a car on the Lancaster, Oxford & Southern railroad in Oxford, his thumb caught between the couples, severely smashing it. Dr. Barry, of Oxford, dressed the wound. Wayne Miller is substituting for Mr. Shultz at the engine house at Dorsey.

Accidents involving couplers on the narrow gauge railroad were not uncommon, as many of the couplers were of the old link and pin type, and someone had to hold the link up while the train backed against the other car. You only had a split second to get your hand away from being squashed.

Oxford Press, Thursday, August 5, 1920

The Gorsuch slate mill is humming (on the hill above Peach Bottom village). Several cars went out last week. J. C. Gorsuch is on a business trip in New York. Frank Shultz, engineer at the slate mill, is so busy he fears his record as copperhead dispatcher will suffer.

As Mr. Shultz found employment after the Narrow Gauge shut down as an engineer at the Gorsuch Brother’s Slate Quarry. However, there were already rumblings of big changes. The Conowingo Dam project was buying the land along the Susquehanna and soon, places like Peach Bottom village and Conowingo Maryland would be bulldozed to make room for the new lake. Even the Columbia & Port Deposit railroad would have to be moved up the bank to accommodate the rising water level. Eventually, the slate quarry was sold to the same company and shut down.

Lancaster New Era, Saturday, December 2, 1933
Shultz, Frank A. died.

Frank A. Shultz, seventy-eight, retired railroad worker, died at 1 a. m. today at his home at Peach Bottom, Fulton township, of complications.

He was a son of the late Valentine and Mary Shultz, of Hanover, Pa., and is survived by his wife, the former Miss Leah Fowler; a son, Harry Shultz, of Oxford, and a daughter, Mrs. Charles Shoff, of Fishing Creek, Fulton township.

The funeral will be held tomorrow with services at 2 p. m. in the Mt. Zion M. E. church, Fairfield. Burial will be made in the adjoining cemetery.

Grave of Frank Shultz. Image courtesy of Tom Donahue.

From Find a Grave:
Shultz, Frank
Born: 1855
Died: December 1, 1933 (aged 77-78)
Buried: Mount Zion United Methodist Cemetery, Drumore township, Lancaster Co., Pa.
Father: Valentine Shultz, 1810-1882
Mother, Mary Smith Shultz, 1823-1871
Spouse: Leah E. Fowler Shultz, 1864-1950
Children: Mabel E. Shultz, unknown-1887; Wilmer F. Shultz, unknown-1890; Bertha May Shultz Feiler, 1885-1927; (Missing is Harry Shultz. He lived in Oxford when with the L. O. & S.,, then got a job with the Conestoga Traction Company, then seems to go missing. Maybe he moved out of the area.)

Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

The Solanco Historical Society was begun in 1970 by a small group of individuals interested in preserving the history of the area south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They are bounded by Drumore in the west and Christiana in the east, Nickel Mines in the north, and Peach Bottom near the border with Maryland. They invite current and former residents, relatives, and interested parties to peruse their website and visit their headquarters to delve into their ancestors’ histories, including their business interests and transportation.

The Society also manages the birthplace of our most famous former resident – Robert Fulton, developer of the first steamboat able to navigate rivers, a brilliant inventor, and a fine artist of outstanding talent. In 1765 when Robert Fulton was born, the Fulton family lived in a simple but charming stone house in the midst of the rolling farmland of the “southern end” of Lancaster County.

Tours of the Robert Fulton Birthplace, Garden, and Trail

Tours of the Robert Fulton Birthplace are available every summer from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Sunday afternoons from 1:00 to 5:00 P.M. They are provided on a first-come, first-served basis to couples, families, and small groups. An introductory video program is provided to visitors, and follow-up information is provided by the Solanco Historical Society’s docent volunteers. Visitors can then browse the furnishings and exhibits inside the Birthplace and walk through the adjacent kitchen garden. Behind the Birthplace, there is a 1.5-mile nature trail for a hike through several habitats—woodland, meadow, and wetlands—to view wildflowers, butterflies, birds, deer, and any other wildlife that are present.    

Robert Fulton Birthplace, Quarryville, Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of John Hirth.

Free Monthy Programs

On the 3rd Saturday of each month (except December) at 1:30 P.M., Solanco Historical Society offers a free program by a historian, author, or collector at its headquarters meeting room. The Society’s headquarters is located at 1932 Robert Fulton Highway (Rt. 222) near Swift Road, across from the Robert Fulton Birthplace, which is six miles south of Quarryville in Fulton Township.

The programs are open to the public, and the facility is handicapped-accessible. See the current listing for a list of the planned programs. The Society’s business meeting follows each program, and attendance by visitors is optional.

2023 Living History Encampment and Tactical Demonstrations

Save the date for Solanco Historical Society’s 2023 Living History Encampment and Tactical Demonstrations on Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21. Admission is free. Parking is only $1. The Robert Fulton Birthplace tours have a small fee unless you come in Civil War period clothing. More specifics on our website:

Also, on Saturday, May 20, at 1:30 pm, author Nancy Groff will give a 60-minute presentation about the Watt & Shand store in Lancaster.

Support the Solanco Historical Society by becoming a member. Click here to join.

Historical Society Highlights

Historical Society Highlights is an opportunity for local historical societies to feature a fascinating story from their area as well as any upcoming events. If you would like to highlight your local historical society with a fascinating story from your area, email me.

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2 thoughts on “Meet the Colorful River Hills Character and Railroad Worker, Frank Shultz

  1. Laughed out loud with this comment: “His cries indicated that he does not attend any church regularly.”

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