Railroad Station Museum
from a presentation by Dr. Charles Glatfelter,
Professor Emeritus of History, Gettysburg College,
November 18, 2001
Who among us has not
heard of Francis P. Church's 1897 editorial in the New York Sun,
in which he answered the young girl with the pressing question?
"Yes, Virginia", he said, "there is a Santa Claus,
and he lives forever."
But who among us has
ever thought of an answer to a second question she might have asked?
It would have to be: no, Virginia there has not always been a Hanover
Yes. there was a time
when Germans only recently arrived in Pennsylvania, took up land
here along the south Codorus valley, built homesteads, created religious
and educational institutions, and reared families. We know their
names, and some of them are not unfamiliar to us today: Bowman,
Diehl, Henry, and Walter.
Although rather self
sufficient, these people wanted things they could not make for themselves.
They needed a place to sell their surplus, whatever it might be.
As a market for these
first settlers, York was too small and Philadelphia, too distant.
The town and excellent port of Baltimore proved to be the market
they desired. By 1760 there were two public roads in existence leading
from York to Baltimore. One of them passed through what is now Loganville,
and the other through what is now York New Salem. Farm families
living in and near this valley had to travel some distance with
horse and wagon to reach one of these roads to Baltimore.
There was a time when
a new form of transportation made an appearance in the United States.
The construction, development, and maintenance of the railroads
made them the nation's first big business.
Sensing the tremendous
potential of the iron horse, promoters in York, Baltimore, and points
in between succeeded in building a railroad which passed directly
through this valley. The first train of the Baltimore and Susquehanna
Railroad reached York in 1838. Its first published schedule stated
that "passengers will be taken up and set down at the following
places." There was a stop at what is now Glen Rock. The next
one going north was at what is now Seven Valleys. At the end of
the year 1838 there were still fewer than 2,000 miles of railroad
in the entire country.
There was a time, and
it came quickly, when people living both east and west of the Baltimore
and Susquehanna tried to gain rail access to it. Promoters in Hanover
and elsewhere secured an act in 1847 authorizing the governor to
incorporate the Hanover Branch Railroad Company. In the words of
the act, they were authorized to "locate and to construct a
railroad of one or more tracks from … within the …borough
of Hanover, to intersect the railroad leading from the Maryland
line to the borough of York, at the nearest and most practicable
It was one thing for
the promoters to get an act from the legislature. It was quite another
to select a course, have it surveyed,, buy land, and raise the considerable
sums needed to put a rail line into actual operation. It took five
years. The first train to travel from "the most practicable
point" to Hanover did so in the fall of 1852.
What better name for
that most practicable point than Hanover Junction? York County published
* * *
We have an excellent
opportunity to view the history of Hanover Junction through the
mind, memory, and understanding of Harry I. Gladfelter. In an autobiography
which he wrote in 1938, when he was 88 years old, he reminded us
that he was born on a nearby farm, was only two years old when the
Hanover Branch began operations, and had been living at the Junction
for 67 years. He was involved in almost everything that happened
there for most of those years and still had a good mind in 1938.
Many of us who knew
this man called him H. I. Let us call him that today.
H.I. remembered wel1
being told that after the Confederates, or Rebe1s as he called them,
had burned the bridge and turntable, and cut the telegraph line
at the Junction, they crowded into the barroom of John Scott's tavern
and began taking whatever they wanted. Scott, summoned from another
part of the building, came into the room, stood there for a while,
and then said: "I thought you were a set of gentlemen, but
I see you are nothing but a set of damn thieves." Whereupon
their commanding officer ordered his men out of the tavern and placed
a guard at the entrances.
There were some things
from the summer of 1863 H. I. remembered from his own experience.
While a Union force paused near the Junction after the Confederates
had left, an officer wearing a large sword placed his hand on H.
I.'s shoulder and said: "Come with me sonny I want you to do
something for me." Seeing no escape, he complied. Using a neighbor's
grindstone, he turned the wheel while the officer sharpened the
sword. In his autobiography, H. I. wrote that he had "often
made claim that in this way I helped to fight the battle of Gettysburg."
As for the battle itself,
for three days he and his family heard the terrific, ferocious noise
from thirty miles away. Then, for several weeks he watched what
he called the "many heartrending scenes" as "all
manner of men bearing all manner of wounds" were transported
away from the battlefield. His role then was to carry oranges from
a Christian Commission car to the wounded, while the trains bearing
them were halted briefly at the Junction.
H.I. was not there when
Abraham Lincoln passed through in November 1863 to and from Gettysburg,
nor did he make any reference in his autobiography to the funeral
train on April 21, 1865.
We must turn to a Hanover
newspaper, the Spectator, for an account of what happened on that
day. The train reached the Junction about 6 P. M. An estimated 300
persons, many from Gettysburg, New Oxford, and Hanover, were there
to pay their respects, According to the Spectator, many were disappointed
that the train did not stop long enough to permit them to board
it and "see the corpse." Instead, as the paper put it,
the train "glided along at the rate of twenty miles an hour,"
on its way to York. All anyone could see was that the locomotive
and cars were all draped in mourning. The railroad sold a round
trip ticket from Hanover for sixty cents. Perhaps a few wanted their
* * *
If there ever was a
golden age for the Hanover Branch and its junction, it began early.
On the more then sixteen acres of land it acquired in 1851, the
railroad constructed what it needed to support a thriving business.
Within a few years there were two large buildings: a hotel on land
the railroad sold in 1852 and a station house. Edmund Snodgrass
had a tavern license as early as 1853 and was appointed the first
postmaster in 1854. In addition to the station house, the railroad
created the facilities necessary to supply both coal and water to
the locomotives. By the fall of 1859 there was a telegraph; it reached
Hanover by the next spring. There was soon an Adams Express agency.
After the Civil War,
John Scott and Cornelius Gladfelter began to manufacture ice cream
in quantity, much of which was shipped by rail to Baltimore and
other places along the line. About 1880 H. I. started making cigars.
At one time he had 52 persons working in the factory; other employees
did their work stripping tobacco at home. For 7 years he had a contract
requiring him to ship 115,000 cigars to Baltimore each month.
But the central enterprise
at Hanover Junction was always the railroad. For many years traffic
through the village was heavy. In 1881 the Glen Rock Item reported
that in a recent 24 hour period, 79 trains had passed through that
town. Surely an equal number passed through Hanover Junction.
Although persons now
used the line to ship many commodities other than ice cream and
cigars, including flour, milk, and fresh vegetables, and although
passenger service was brisk., for about a quarter century the most
important product was iron ore, taken from nearby open pit and shaft
mines, most in North Codorus Township. The ore was brought to the
Junction by wagons, weighed, and then shipped out.
Golden ages have a way
of losing their luster. Nowhere is this more likely to happen than
in a free enterprise, competitive system.
It was inevitable that,
sooner or later, businessmen in York and Baltimore would demand
ways of reaching Hanover by rail more easily then having to go the
long way around through Hanover Junction. Already in the 1870s they
had succeeded. For example, there was now a direct road, known widely
as the Short Line, linking York and Hanover.
While this was happening,
and while the national demand for iron and steel was increasing
at a phenomenal rate, the quality of York County iron ore was decreasing
and vast deposits of high grade ore were becoming easily available
elsewhere in the country. North Codorus could never hope to compete
with the ore found in the Mesabi Range in Minnesota.
Even before 1900, one
could easily see the handwriting on the wall for Hanover Junction.
* * *
In 1938, H. I. wrote
that "Hanover Junction as a Rail Road Junction [had] died a
The hotel, ice cream
plant, and cigar factory were long since gone. Both freight and
passenger service on the old Hanover Branch line had been discontinued
a decade before and eventually the tracks would be removed.
In 1929 the Western
Maryland Railroad, which then owned what remained of the original
16 acres, including the station house, sold the property for what
the deed described as "certain valuable considerations and
After 87 years in operation,
the post office closed on December 31, 1941 and its business was
transferred to Seven Valleys. When Tropical Storm Agnes hit in 1972,
what still remained of the old rail service north and south came
to an abrupt end.
Yet Hanover Junction
had not become a ghost town. In 1938, H. I. counted 27 families
and 85 persons in the village, as well as one general store. People
continued to dwell there and live, if they wished, useful lives.
* * *
In 1978, after having
passed through four hands since 1929, the station house came into
possession of the County of York.
And now, the chief symbol
of its reason for being, and what gave Hanover Junction its name,
has been fitted out to serve as a strong reminder of an important
part of our past, set in the context of the larger history of this
part of the south Codorus valley, indeed in the context of the larger
history of York County.
Without a doubt, we
have here what someone has called a "wonderful York County
We have it. We should
be grateful to every individual and every agency whose efforts over
many years have made it possible. We should urge all to use it,
for entertainment, for instruction, and for inspiration.
Presented with permission
of the author.