21 Sep 2007
The following article originally appeared on LancasterOnline.com. The article is no longer available on their website.
by James Buescher
“We’re still here, and we’re watching.” American Indian groups couldn’t stop the auction Thursday of land that includes important archaeological sites related to the Susquehannock tribe. But the presence of about 20 Indians, some with homemade signs, sent a clear message to any potential buyers who might have plans to develop the parcel. In the end, the 26-acre Leibhart property at 534 Boat House Road in York County’s Lower Windsor Township was sold Thursday to a Dover couple, Teresa and Donald Grove, for $1.51 million.
The property, just across the Susquehanna River from Lancaster County, includes a historic three-story farmhouse and three dozen lots that are rented for riverside recreation, bringing in about $37,000 per year, according to auctioneer Bradley K. Smith. The Groves must pay 10 percent of their winning bid immediately, and the rest within 60 days, Smith said.
Interviewed right after the auction, a trembling Mrs. Grove said she was “elated, excited” about purchasing the historic property. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do. My immediate plans are to first tell my husband that I bought the property and then, second, go and try to calm down with a margarita,” said Mrs. Grove, who burst into tears right after she placed the winning bid. “It’s a beautiful property,” she said. “But the real reason I bought it is because we have family nearby and we wanted to be close to them.”
On the property are remains of an important 17th-century Susquehannock settlement, as well as at least four Native American cemeteries. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, according to the National Park Service’s online archives. Researchers say the Indian settlement existed on the property between 1650 and 1675, with a peak population of about 900.
Local activists fear the sale of the historic site could open the consecrated native land to development, damaging or destroying what Paul Nevin, president of the Lancaster-York chapter of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, called “arguably one of the most archaeologically significant sites in the commonwealth.” The Susquehannock site “encompasses 18 acres on the upper part of the property. Whether the land could be developed remains to be seen, but it does appear to be possible,” Nevin said Thursday. “The importance of this site and the importance of preserving it cannot be overstated,” he said. “Once sites like this are destroyed, the knowledge we could gain from studying them is lost forever.”