1955 Lancaster Sunday News

In 1952, as Dawn’s father told it, an escaped felon was hiding in the barn. When Dawn’s father went to shovel hay, the convict hit him over the head, set fire to the barn, and ran away. Dawn’s father was lucky to escape with his life.

Bill was a wonderful story teller, and we suspected this was just that — a story. But after the Lancaster newspaper article came out in April, someone sent Dawn a long letter saying, among other things, that she knew Dawn’s father, and her barn had also been burned down! We had no idea who this person was, and the newspaper article didn’t even mention the barn, so it was kind of weird.

In any case, after the original barn (a beautiful 1840 stone-end bank barn) burned, they needed to build a new one. In 1955, they completed a new 210-foot monstrosity. All of the wood was cut on-site, so pictures from that time are surprisingly void of trees. (Fortunately they left the two sycamores.) The local paper ran an article on March 13, 1955

Addendum 8/25/05: Oops, turns out it was a story. It wasn’t an escaped convict hiding out in the barn, it was a bored teenager! Apparently he torched half a dozen barns in the area in 1952. He liked to watch them burn, and police noticed he was at every single fire, which is how they caught him. I don’t know what happened to him, but apparently he still lives nearby. He’s got to be about 70 now.

How do I know all this? Dawn talked to an excavator today about trenching for the electric, and he knew her father, her grandfather, and went to school with the arsonist! Small world…