Taking a "Big History" Perspective
Are you interested in the natural forces and human activities that have shaped our unique region? Would you like to know more about how Indigenous people lived on this land for thousands of years before European settlers arrived? Do you wonder how a landscape of towering forests and teeming wildlife was transformed into a domesticated countryside of farms, towns, and suburbs? Are you concerned about what's in store for our land as we look to the future? If so, this course is for you.
In four two-hour sessions, the course will take you on a fast-paced tour through the geological, archaeological, and historical past to reach a deeper appreciation of the land we live on and the people who have left their marks on it. The sessions will be run in seminar style, and participants will be invited to share their own stories, insights, and local knowledge. Each session will be led by HFC board member Dr. Ed Wilson, who will be accompanied by regional experts with specialized knowledge about topics of interest.
Participants can register for individual sessions or sign up for the full course at a discounted cost.
Please note the locations for each session:
Sessions 1, 3, and 4: York County Conservation District Office (2401 Pleasant Valley Rd., York, PA 17402)
Session 2: Zimmerman Center for Heritage (1706 Long Level Rd., Wrightsville, PA 17368)
Session 1: Origins of the Landscape
Thursday, March 9th, 6-8pm @ York County Conservation District OfficeBeginning with a presentation to help participants think in "deep time" like geologists, this session will focus on the landforms of the Lower Susquehanna Valley and the influence of plate tectonics and other geological processes that created them. We'll devote special attention to the ancient river at its heart and the influence of the massive ice sheets which, just moments ago in geological time, approached the region but never quite reached it. We’ll be joined by Dr. Jay Parrish, former State Geologist of Pennsylvania.
Session 2: The Indigenous Peoples and Their Land
Thursday, March 23rd, 6-8pm @ Zimmerman Center for Heritage At some point during the last glaciation, humans arrived in North America, including the Lower Susquehanna Valley. Until recently, archaeologists told a compelling story about how and when this happened. It turns out they were wrong. After discussing current controversies about the peopling of the Americas, the session will turn to the local archaeological record and how prehistoric people adapted to changing environmental conditions. We'll review what is known about the Susquehannocks and other tribes who lived in the region during historic times and the traumatic consequences of their contact with Europeans. Finally, we'll consider surviving traces of the Indigenous past. Charlie Douts, director of the Blue Rock Heritage Center in Washington Boro, will contribute to the discussion.
Session 3: European Settlement and the Collision of Worlds
Thursday, April 6th, 6-8pm @ York County Conservation District Office When Europeans "discovered" America it was as if continents collided, and the impacts of this collision were profound, not only for Indigenous people, but for the land and its ecosystems. This session will focus on the rapid influx of German-speaking and Scots-Irish immigrants during the 18th Century and the environmental changes they wrought as they sought to replicate their agrarian and industry lifeways in the New World. After imagining the local landscape as it must have appeared on the eve of contact, we'll discuss how land clearance, deforestation, stream alteration, industrial activities, and the decimation of wildlife radically transformed the region and helped make it what it is today. Joining the session will be David Dietz—historian, farmer, and Board Chair of the Horn Farm Center—and Wilson Alvarez, the Horn Farm's Land Steward.
Session 4: The Contemporary Landscape and Its Challenges
Thursday, April 20th, 6-8pm @ York County Conservation District OfficePreserved with the intention of protecting local farmland, the Horn Farm Center grew out of a response to another transformation that has shaped our region since the mid-20th Century: rapid, sprawling development. In our final session, we'll examine the economic and political processes that underlie the twin problems of suburban growth and urban decline and discuss strategies for protecting land while creating more livable and equitable towns and neighborhoods. Contributing to the session will be retired architect, Dick Bono.
About the Instructor
Dr. Edward Wilson is a native of Wrightsville and Hellam with advanced degrees in anthropology and social systems and a lifelong fascination with interactions between people and their natural environments. He was a leader in efforts to protect the Horn Farm from industrial development in the early 2000s, helping animate a larger movement to conserve farmland and promote sound land use in Hellam Township. He was a member of the Horn Farm’s founding Board of directors and rejoined the board in 2022.
Panel image credits (left to right)
- Wrights Ferry on the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania by George Beck, 1809 (courtesy of NYPL Digital Collections).
- Native Lands (oil on canvas) by local artist Carol Oldenburg, commissioned by the Susquehanna National Heritage Area/National Parks Visitor Center for the John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
- Engraving of the Columbia Bridge over the Susquehanna River by William Henry Bartlett, circa. 1850 (courtesy of Ed Wilson).
- Pennsylvania Avenue and Loucks Road (before it becamen US-30), 1961 (courtesy of the York County History Center).