Preserving York and its Revival – A Story of Determination

Have you ever had a time in your life when you tried to accomplish something but your heart, mind, and soul were all focused on other things? That’s where I’ve been for the past several months.

The hiatus of Preserving York…

In the final quarter of 2013 my life was facing major changes as I entered the early stages of divorce. Fear of the unknown, uncertainty, and doubt were only a few emotions that I faced on a daily basis. On top of that, my household was going from a two-income existence to only one income which caused additional stress. As time went on, I needed to make a decision that I regularly regret – I needed to step away from Preserving York and get my life back on track.

I was always lurking in the background to make sure things were running smoothly. Our Facebook discussion group continued to grow and although it typically ran smoothly, there were times when some moderation was needed. As personal finances became increasingly limited I chose to let Preserving York’s web space renewal lapse, thus losing all of its previous postings. I also chose to sell my Nikon DSLR camera equipment which was difficult to do, but it got me through some tough financial times. I didn’t tell anyone because in a sense, I was embarrassed and ashamed. My camera was an important part of my work with Preserving York, and now I use the camera on my phone which has many limitations.

Reincarnating a Dream…

My life has finally started to settle and I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to raise Preserving York from the ashes and place it back into the community where it belongs. The group – and I mean each and every one of you – has accomplished so much, but we still have so much more to do. Together as a team, there are no limits of what we can achieve.

There are costs involved in sustaining the group such as fees to renew web space and domain names, as well as history-related projects that could use our attention. It’s my goal to develop a plan to raise funds through a number of different means:

  • Individual donations
  • Business sponsorship
  • Fundraisers
  • Crowdfunding
  • The sale of York County historical memorabilia

To those who donated in the past, your generosity has not been forgotten and kept the group operational when I was unable to personally fund it.

In the future, I would also like to acquire a replacement DSLR camera to pick up the work where my other one left off. I would also like to add a quality digital audio recorder to the Preserving York arsenal, because recording oral histories given by residents of York County has been a dream of mine for a long time.

I’d like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to each and every person who supports Preserving York and its mission, which is to build community through York County’s rich and interesting history. We’ve succeeded in doing that in the past, and will continue well into the future.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your continued support.

Blake Stough
Founder, Preserving York

And now, back to the history…

We’ll begin our journey with two pins that despite being small, have a story waiting to be discovered. Shown below, they measure 3/4 inches by 2 1/4 inches and are composed of an unknown metal. Slid inside of of each is a small piece of paper containing both typed and printed information. The typed text shows G.W. Graff and York while the handwriting shows Atlantic City, 1939 and 1941 respectively. On the lower left of the top pin is a faint, handwritten AGT.

Preserving York

G.W. Graff pins – Atlantic City – 1939 and 1941

The identity of G.W. Graff is a mystery, but we find a George W. Graff in 1940 United States Census records living at 318 Reineke Place in the city of York, Pennsylvania. He is listed as 44 years old and living with wife Ethel H. (age 41), daughter Vivian W. (age 21), son George H. (age 19). Also living in the household are in-laws William V. and Nellie K. Harner (ages 69 and 64).

In these records, George is shown as an agent for an insurance company.

There is also a G.W. Graff mentioned in the March 18, 1943 edition of The Gazette and Daily newspaper. The article references gas mask training for the “Defense Against The Use of Chemical Agents” given to Company I, First Regiment, Pennsylvania State Guard at the state armory. Captain Joseph Kling was in charge while Captain G.W. Graff, Executive Officer of the Gas Defense and Decontamination Unit was listed as assisting in the instruction.

Are both of these referencing the same man? Were the name tags for  Atlantic City conventions with insurance or military topics? The jury is still out, but I’ll keep hoping the answers will present themselves one day.


  1. Preserving York would like to organize history-themed tours and events as we did in the past. If you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
  2. To help get the word out that Preserving York is back, we’d love for you to spread the word and share this story with others.
  3. Tweaks are still being made on the Preserving York website so please excuse any changes you see over the next few days and weeks.