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Township takes title to British POW camp land

| Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 9:24 p.m.

HARRISBURG — A local government in south-central Pennsylvania took ownership on Friday of a 47-acre parcel where a young American government held British prisoners during the 18th-century Revolutionary War.

Springettsbury Township, a suburb of York, received the deed from the Conservation Fund to the land that once held Camp Security. The transfer occurred as a result of a fundraising campaign that generated nearly $1 million to cover the purchase price paid last year by the Conservation Fund to a private developer.

“It's pretty much once in a lifetime that there is an opportunity to protect something that is so directly tied to the founding of our nation,” said Ann Simonelli with the Conservation Fund.

Located amid dense suburban development, the farm property is open for people to walk through, but digging and the use of metal detectors is prohibited, Springettsbury Township Manager John Holman said. The township plans to preserve the property, conduct archaeological research and use portions as open space and public parkland.

“We'll be working with all the partners involved to develop a plan about how to move forward with the property,” Holman said.

The makeshift prison began to house British POWs in 1781, during the waning years of the revolution, and shut down about two years later. Many of the more than 1,000 English, Scottish and Canadian prisoners fought in British defeats at Saratoga, N.Y., and Yorktown, Va.

A 1979 study of the property found buckles, buttons and numerous other artifacts that confirmed stories about where the camp was located, and more recent surveys have pointed to a likely location.

Experts say the soil probably contains many other items that may reveal more about what occurred there, and it is possible unmarked graves will be discovered.

“We're going to make sure we come up with the proper way to do that investigation,” Holman said. “There are certainly plenty of resources out there to make sure we can.”

The township has obtained adjacent land. The newly acquired portion brings its holdings in and around Camp Security to 162 acres.

The property will be turned into grassland next year.

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