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Another Lincoln at Hanover Junction story

Photo courtesy of the National Records and Archives Administration
Photo courtesy of the National Records and Archives Administration

Is Abraham Lincoln on any of the known photos taken at Hanover Junction? Even though I have seen some pretty convincing evidence presented by other researchers that Lincoln doesn’t appear in the photos taken at Hanover Junction by the Brady photographers, I still keep hoping that some new photos or confirmation will show up. (See the slightly different photos above and below.)

Lila Fourhman-Shaull, York County History Center Library Director, shared an undated York Daily Record clipping, perhaps from the 1980s. Lynn Eib, a correspondent for the newspaper, wrote Russell Mellinger’s story of his grandfather’s brush with Lincoln at Hanover Junction. It reads:

Tales of Lincoln’s trip over peanuts in the shell

The conversation occurred about 60 years ago, but Russell Mellinger remembers it well.

“One day while we were sort of whittling and talking, my grandfather told me how he came by horse and buggy and saw his first president of the United States—which was Abraham Lincoln at Hanover Junction Station,” recalls Mellinger, now a 68-year-old retired railroad conductor living in New Freedom.

Mellinger’s grandfather, Pheires B. Mellinger was almost 80 when he told his grandson about his cherished trip to see Lincoln. Russell was a boy of 8 or 9, who loved to spend time with his grandpa.

The story, as Mellinger remembers it was that his grandfather wanted to travel from his Lancaster County home to see Lincoln come through Hanover Junction en route to deliver his now famous Gettysburg Address.

Pheires’ parents took some persuading, but they finally agreed to let their 14-year-old son travel with a friend by horse and wagon to Hanover Junction.

“It took them all day to come over and all the afternoon to go back,” Mellinger says. But he said they saw Lincoln.

“And he didn’t know why, but Lincoln sat in his train and stood there at Hanover Junction for quite some time.”

Pheires and his friend both stayed with the horse and wagon but “they stood up in the wagon…to get a better view of what was taking place,” Mellinger says.

“Lincoln talked for a little while, but they were too far away, my grandfather said he couldn’t hear what he said, he adds.

He also recalls a second occasion when he and his grandfather discussed, over peanuts in the shell, the now controversial Lincoln visit.

“We were raised in the country…and my grandfather would walk from there into the city and he would come home with two pockets full of peanuts in the shell,” Mellinger recalls. “And then walking home he’d eat one pocket and he’d hold the other one ‘til he and I would get together and he’d share those with me.

“Now I’m not a historian, but I do remember eating peanuts in the shell with my grandfather and having him tell me he took a horse and wagon to Hanover Junction to see Abraham Lincoln.

“And he said (Lincoln) did get off the train and waited quite awhile.”

Area author and historian, the late Armand Gladfelter, wrote that Lincoln was delayed in Hanover Junction about an hour waiting for Pennsylvania Gov. Andrew Curtin and party to join the train ride to Gettysburg.

There also has been considerable debate over whether any pictures were taken of Lincoln at Hanover Junction in November 1863 on his way to Gettysburg.

But according to Mellinger’s grandfather’s story, there were.

“They must have taken pictures in those days that made a ‘boom’ or a noise when they took them,” says Mellinger, whose childhood nickname was “Boom” because that is what he’d yell whenever a hunter’s gun went off.

“Calling me Boom-Boom… (my grandfather) said ‘And if you would have been with me (to see Lincoln), you would have heard the booms when the man took a picture,” Mellinger recalls.

On Find A Grave I found Russell S. Mellinger b. 21 August 1920, d. 9 June 1991, New Freedom Cemetery, and Phares B. Mellinger b. 9 October 1849, d. 17 Jan 1928, Salem Reformed (Hellers) Cemetery, outside Lancaster. This data checks out with the ages in the story.

The question still is–did Lincoln get off the train at all that November day in 1863? Or have stories become clouded with age?

Photo courtesy of the United States Library of Congress
Photo courtesy of the United States Library of Congress