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John H. Scott: Wartime hotelkeeper at Hanover Junction

John Scott hotel old

This detail from a November 1863 photograph by a member of the Matthew Brady firm from Washington shows the Junction Hotel at Hanover Junction in southern York County, Pennsylvania. During the mid-19th century, this was a popular hotel, general store, and tavern for travelers awaiting their trains. It was built in the early 1850s.

Hanover Junction was the intersection of the east-west-running Gettysburg Railroad-Hanover Branch Railroad and the north-south-running Northern Central Railway which stretched from Baltimore through York and Harrisburg to Elmira, New York.

During the Civil War, John H. Scott managed and later owned the Junction Hotel. He employed local people from the Hanover Junction-Seven Valleys areas as help, including teen-aged bar maid Amanda Glatfelter.

Scott had a long history with the railroad, including being one of the first conductors on the Baltimore-to-York trains. In fact, he started his career before steam locomotives were even in use. Horses provided the motive power.

John Scott hotelView of the old Junction Hotel, now a private residence, about 2010.

John Scott began his long association with the railroad in the early 1830s with the Baltimore & Susquehanna Railroad (a precursor to the Northern Central). He was a driver on the horse-drawn railcars that ran from Baltimore north to Cockeysville, Maryland. The B&S purchased its first locomotive, the Herald,  from an English manufacturer in 1832 and soon John Scott was promoted to be a conductor on longer trains that ran farther north, with the tracks eventually reaching York in 1838. His younger brother William D. Scott also signed on as a conductor.

In late December 1853, John Scott suffered a minor hand injury in a collision two miles north of Baltimore involving the Herald.

A much more serious, life-changing tragedy for the Scott brothers loomed less than a year later.

On July 4, 1854, the Know-Nothing political party held a large holiday feast at Rider’s Grove north of Baltimore (near today’s Riderwood neighborhood). In the late afternoon, after the party broke up after a day of eating, drinking, socializing and listening to political speeches, three excursion trains carried thousands of satisfied picnickers back to Baltimore

They never made it.

After the first section passed Relay House (near today’s Lake Roland), a northbound York accommodation train inexplicably pulled onto the main line and quickly picked up speed. On board, conductor William Scott apparently did not realize there were two more sections and the route was not clear. His train rounded a bend near Rider’s Switch and plowed head-on into the 14-car second section, ironically under conductor John Scott, his older brother.

The horrific wreck killed 34 people and injured more than 100. The coroner’s inquest accused William of gross negligence. John Scott’s left ankle was crushed and he suffered other massive leg injuries; William escaped with only minor injuries but was fired the next day for being “careless.” The B&S had to pay a total of $53,882 in settlement costs and $28,359 in property damages.

On September 30, 1854, the Baltimore Sun reported that “Mr. John Scott, the railroad conductor who was dreadfully injured on the 4th of July on the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad, still lies in a critical condition, although one of his legs which was broken in two places is nearly well. The other, which was horribly mashed, is feared, must be amputated. However, Dr. Baxley is in daily attendance, and there are hopes of saving the limb.”

Scott’s serious injury precluded him from continuing to work as a conductor for the Baltimore & Susquehanna, which merged later in 1854 with three other financially-struggling railroads to form the new Northern Central Railway. However, he recovered and continued with the railroad in other capacities.

On April 14, 1862, the Gettysburg Compiler noted, “The Hotel at the Hanover Junction is now in charge of our valued friend John Scott, Esq., formerly a popular conductor on the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad. In his hands the Junction House cannot fail of becoming one of the most pleasant stopping places on the line of the Northern Central.” Scott enjoyed excellent relationships with railroad executives and long-time, frequent travelers. He proved to be a capable and gracious host. Concurrently, his son Howard Scott was a telegrapher at the nearby depot.

John Scott was not such as a gracious host on June 27, 1863, when Confederate Lt. Col. Elijah V. White led his howling riders of the 35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, into Hanover Junction in the early afternoon to raid the railroad. According to the late Dr. Charles Glatfelter, some of the Rebels “crowded onto 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 d–d thieves.'” White, chagrined at the stinging rebuke, ordered his men out of the tavern. He placed a guard at the entrances to prevent any further incidents.

JunctionHotel blowup

A group of John Scott’s customers pose on the balcony of the Junction Hotel in November 1863. Some accounts suggest the photo was taken as President Lincoln’s train paused at Hanover Junction en route to Gettysburg for the dedication of the National Cemetery. The president there delivered a few remarks that went down in history as the Gettysburg Address.

According to Dr. Glatfelter, after the Civil War, John Scott and Cornelius Gladfelter began manufacturing large quantities of ice cream in a factory at Hanover Junction. They packed it in ice and shipped it by rail to Baltimore and other places along the line of the Northern Central Railway. It proved to be a profitable enterprise.

John H Scott obit

Harrisburg Telegraph, June 7, 1871

On Friday, June 2, 1871, John Scott suffered a severe attack of apoplexy at his home in Hanover and died shortly thereafter. He had served the B&S/Northern Central for 42 years.

His hotel remained in business for six more years under Hamilton Glessner and Jesse Engles before closing. It is now a private residence overlooking the restored Hanover Junction depot/museum.

HJ16Another wartime view of John Scott’s popular Junction Hotel (left) and the Hanover Branch Railroad’s passenger depot and ticket office at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania. Library of Congress image.


Some observers believe the above photo shows President Abraham Lincoln at Hanover Junction on his way to Gettysburg. On Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. blogger and author Scott Mingus will present a PowerPoint talk on this controversial series of photographs discussing what is known (and not known) about Lincoln’s visit to Hanover Junction, who was on his train and should appear in the photos, and some of his traveling party that may appear in the images. To reserve your ticket for this limited attendance, special on-site talk, please call Program Coordinator, Jeri Jones, York County Parks at (717) 840-7226 or email him at

HJ Shearer map