Customers chat while in Carmen’s Ice Cream in Loganville, a third-generation business. Nearby Seven Valleys was recently approved for a historical
Customers chat while in Carmen's Ice Cream in Loganville, a third-generation business. Nearby Seven Valleys was recently approved for a historical marker to commemorate the first commercial production of ice cream. (YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS--JASON PLOTKIN)
The story of Jacob Fussell's ice cream production in Seven Valleys is "one of the best-kept secrets in York County," said Ray Kinard, who has studied the borough's history.

In fact, when Red Lion Grange President Bob Bair read in an Old Farmer's Almanac that the first commercial ice cream factory was in Seven Valleys, he was stunned.

"I was shocked," he said. "So from that, I started to gather some articles."

According to his research, in the 1850s, Jacob Fussell, a Baltimore dairy distributor, built the nation's first ice cream production plant on Main Street near the Codorus Creek, using local dairy products and shipping the ice cream via train to the city.

This hand-drawn map depicts the location of Jacob Fussell's original ice cream production facility, which was located on the property of local flour miller David Henry, according to the late historian Armand Gladfelter. Gladfelter included this map in his book, "Das Siebenthal: A History of Seven Valleys." The ice cream factory is labeled with a number 10. (Submitted)
Though the plant was only open two years, it started the local tradition of ice cream production.

"He was innovative enough to know that he could take surplus product and make another product that could be sold," Bair said.

Bair and his group applied to place a historical marker in the town. Last week, the sign was approved.

The Seven Valleys sign was one of 15 new markers chosen from 59 applications to take part in the Historical Marker program, which is a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The Seven Valleys marker was chosen because it represents a milestone in the widely popular ice cream industry, said Karen Galle, coordinator of the Historical Marker program.

"It also emphasizes importance of dairy industry in Pennsylvania," she said.

The marker program's goal is to highlight important events in the state and nation's history, Galle said. Marker nominations are reviewed by a panel of historians from across the state to see if they meet certain criteria.

The marker committee's job is to separate fact from local legend using reliable sources, said Charles Glatfelter, a York County native, is a retired professor of history at Gettysburg Col´ lege and once served on the committee.

Carmen’s Ice Cream in Loganville offers a variety of flavors. The Seven Valleys area nearby was producing ice cream to ship to Baltimore up until the
Carmen's Ice Cream in Loganville offers a variety of flavors. The Seven Valleys area nearby was producing ice cream to ship to Baltimore up until the 1930s, according to local historians. (YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS--JASON PLOTKIN)

Glatfelter said he was "skeptical" of the claim that Seven Valleys had the first ice cream production plant, "but that does not mean that it's not correct."

One of the sources of information the committee looked for was contemporary newspaper articles, Glatfelter said. In his records, he found an article from 1900 in the Glen Rock Item, called "A History of Seven Valleys," which makes no mention of Fussell's ice cream factory.

However, a 1928 article from the same publication quotes a source crediting the town with the first commercial ice cream factory.

As for the timing of the marker, the Commission is "very liberal" with its installation schedule, with the local nominators deciding when and where the marker will be placed, Galle said.

"It should be a local celebration," she said.

Bair said the Grange hopes to coordinate the installation of the marker with National Ice Cream Month, held every July. The group is considering a couple spots for the marker, including along the Heritage Rail Trail County Park.

Story behind the sign

In the 1850s, dairy distributor Jacob Fussell bought milk from York County dairy farmers and sold it to customers in his native Baltimore, according to the book "Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla: A history of American Ice Cream," by Anne Funderburg.

But Fussell found he often had a surplus of cream left over, so he decided to try using it to make ice cream, already a popular treat at the time.

In 1851, Fussell decided to set up a plant in Seven Valleys, where he produced the ice cream using local dairy products to make the product, as well as ice collected from nearby streams in the winter to pack and ship the finished product via train to Baltimore to sell, according to Funderburg.

However, communication between the plant and Fussell in Baltimore was difficult, so after only two years, Fussell moved production to Baltimore, Funderburg said. But farmers realized that they could continue to make ice cream and sell it locally, leading to continued ice cream production in Seven Valleys.

Local entrepreneurs Daniel Henry; his son, David; and Winfield Bott took over production from Fussell, according to research by the late Seven Valleys historian Armand Gladfelter. Seven Valleys produced ice cream for commercial sale through the 1930s.

Other markers and locations

Here are the other markers recently approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission:

--- Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia

--- Frank Furness, Philadelphia

--- James A. "Billboard" Jackson, Bellefonte, Centre County

--- John C. Asbury, Philadelphia

--- John T. Comes, Pittsburgh

--- The Kelly Family, Philadelphia

--- McAllister's Mill Underground Railroad Station, Gettysburg

--- Pennsylvania Bible Society, Philadelphia

--- Pennypack Creek Bridge, Philadelphia

--- Rebecca Harding Davis, Washington, Washington County

--- Revolutionary War Gun Factory, Hummelstown, Dauphin County

--- South Philadelphia Hebrew Association Basketball Team, Philadelphia

--- Valley Forge General Hospital, Phoenixville, Chester County

--- Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, Media, Delaware County

Also of interest

· Baltimore screamed for York County ice cream