The Heart of Hanover Trails, when built out, will be free multi-sensory, multi-platform walking tours of authentic place-based events, heroics, personalities, architecture and public art in historic downtown Hanover. The initial trail boasts about 30 wayside markers, including full-color outdoor story boards, as well as complementary digital shorts and stories here on Witnessing York and the Smithsonian Institution’s Museums on Main Street. For details about this initiative: Outdoor storyboards provide illustrated mini-history of Hanover area. To download a brochure about the Heart of Hanover Trails, check out Main Street Hanover and see this online trail map here. To see a Heart of Hanover Trail video, tagged “It’s a Beautiful Day in Hanover, PA.”

Jamie Noerpel and Dominish Miller recap the importance of the Battle of Hanover in their Hometown History video series.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Hanover commons industrial park

This plot of land exemplifies a trend in York County that we see today: Land set aside for agrarian use eventually is supplanted by industrial and other commercial uses. Here it happened in the heart of Hanover. Development often moves on to greener pastures unless intentionally checked. In this case, buildings and businesses helped support Hanover in the Industrial Revolution. Both agrarian and industrial uses support a statement on the marker: ‘All were testament to Hanover’s creative pride and longstanding work ethic, whose hands-on, can-do, self-reliant spirit helped build a community that thrives to this day.’ Related: Hanover ranks as York County’s oldest borough.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: The railroad comes to Hanover

The Hanover Branch added a dimension, a game-changing dynamic, to the considerable road transportation network that had supported the Hanover area from its earliest days. Indeed, settlers took the Monocacy Road, to points west and south into the Shenandoah Valley before York County was formed in 1749. But the railroad, with its connections, could – and did – take riders to Philadelphia, Baltimore and beyond. And not just riders. Goods, too. The stuff from Hanover’s growing industries would go out. And many goods to stock the shelves of the borough’s shops would come to town via rail. Related: Healing President Lincoln: The curious case of William Henry Johnson (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Farmers market amid industry

In this heavily industrialized area that covers the former Public Common, a vestige of the past serves as a reminder of an important piece of Hanover’s past. That is the covered Hanover market house, and it points to the key role Hanover played for decades as the agricultural market center for its surrounding region. It stands as a second generation in farmers market design replacing open air stands and represents a kind of indoor shopping mall. Interestingly, another generation of retail covered malls cropped up 50 years later in the outskirts of Hanover, York and elsewhere, usually built on prime farmland. In recent years, consumers have judged those covered malls to be dated, preferring power centers sprawling farther and farther from the borough. But the doors open on the Hanover market house every Saturday, offering a shopping experience that never seems to get old.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Union Cavalry flash sabers

The Battle of Hanover was a a significant Civil War battle. The Union troopers prevented Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry from taking a direct path to reconnect with commander Gen. Robert E. Lee’s forces. This left Lee without his eyes and ears – cavalry in the Civil War scouted for infantry commanders. The blue blockage forced Stuart to spend precious time taking the long way around – heading toward Jefferson and then north through Dover to Carlisle. There, he learned the whereabouts of Lee’s army – in Gettysburg. He rejoined Lee and his men, then embroiled in desperate fighting on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Battle of Hanover was – and is – the bloodiest single event to take place on York County soil. Both the blue and gray horsemen sustained 300 casualties – dead, missing and wounded. The townspeople of Hanover staffed makeshift hospitals to care for the wounded. To this day, Hanover’s role in this battle and its aftermath has been a cause for observance in the Hanover area. More: Civil War in York County: Top 10 moments (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Help before Battle

It was the morning of June 30, 1863, and Hanover was offering its best to mounted men in blue – Union cavalry. The contrast between this moment of quiet and the tumult that followed could not have been greater – literally, the peace before the storm. This was the last meal – and act of kindness – some of the men would enjoy. Many died on the streets of Hanover that day, as Confederate cavalry charged the rear of the blue column. The Battle of Hanover raged around where civility had just reigned. More: Mother loses two sons to war.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Safety in secrecy

Large numbers of enslaved people in Northern Virginia, Maryland and elsewhere in the South lived within several days walk from the Mason-Dixon Line, the boundary between North and South. The Hanover region sits on that line, and stood in the direct path of an untold number of freedom seekers on their way to cross the Susquehanna River and points north. Even on Northern soil in York County, pre-Civil War laws meant that they were not truly safe from parties from the South seeking their return. So their journeys were shrouded in secrecy, and more is unknown than known about the network that is known today as the Underground Railroad. More: New book highlights York County’s Underground Railroad conductors (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Writers in residence

Some people – including some Hanoverians – might look at a town with family taproots as deep as Hanover’s and conclude that such apparent stability is detrimental to creativity. Conflict can – and does – spawn new ideas and different ways of seeing the world. What is supposed in that argument about Hanover has long been in a type of isolation that totally excludes change. But the borough, just north of the Mason-Dixon Line and on a major North/South route since the mid-1700s, has served as a town-sized intersection that brings different people together. And still does. And those encounters produce creativity and productivity found in these writers and the scores of other accomplished people who have called Hanover home. Related: John Luther Long: Hanover’s Miss Saigon connection.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: White’s comanches come to town

The loss of communications with the exit of Daniel Trone and the telegraph from town was significant. This isolated the town, a place that was reeling from White’s raid and would host a major cavalry clash just three days later. Isolation in time of war just adds to unease and trauma. This also meant Hanover, close to Gettysburg, could not service the communication needs of the Union Army. But even if Trone had hidden in town, his telegraph key would have been useless. White’s men and other Confederate raiders tore down telegraph lines along their way to Hanover Junction and beyond. More: Photos: The Civil War comes to York County, Pa. (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Cavalry clash on Hanover’s streets

This marker’s description gives a sense of the ebb and flow, back and forth, hand to hand and fluidity of the Battle of Hanover. With this intensity, it’s easy to overlook the impact of fighting on the townspeople of Hanover. Often, people were warned to take cover before Civil War battles. Not so in Hanover, where the streets were teeming with people at the moment that gray-clad Confederate cavalrymen smashed into the Yankee column. It’s amazing that civilians nursed casualties of battle in those makeshift hospitals rather writhing themselves in the medical beds. More: Books probing York County in the Civil War come in strong, sudden onslaught (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Cannons duel across Hanover

When the guns boomed in Hanover on June 30, the very Confederate infantry column that commanding cavalry Gen. Jeb Stuart was seeking were marching in the vicinity of Davidsburg in Dover Township, less than 15 miles away. Gen. Jubal Early’s division was countermarching from York to Heidlersburg in Adams County and then to battle in Gettysburg. His men heard the booms from fighting in Hanover but did not know the source of those sounds. Had the blue column not held against Stuart’s charge in Hanover, his men would have intercepted Early’s column or other Confederate units and joined fighting in Gettysburg on the first day of the battle, July 1. Interestingly, Stuart, in being forced to take the long way around, passed through Dover, not far from Davidsburg. But a full day later.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Confederates take Long Way Around

Cavalry visits to Hanover and Carlisle provide a moment to assess how leaders responded to the Confederate presence in or near their towns. In Hanover, leaders, with no defense, met Elijah V. White’s unit passively in the town’s square and did not surrender. Confederates looted the town but did little damage. In Carlisle, the union general, William “Baldy” Smith, refused Jeb Stuart’s demand to surrender, and the Confederates shelled away. This assault caused minor damage before leaving for Gettysburg. In York, the town’s fathers rode 10 miles west to meet the Confederates and surrendered the undefended town. The Confederates, under division commander Jubal Early, occupied the town and extorted, food, supplies and money from townspeople but caused little damage. Some believe that action – its leaders actively seeking a surrender – cost York its honor. More: A decision in a crisis can make or break a community’s reputation for years (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: The Picket Honors Union cavalry

Union cavalry generals helped underscore that the Civil War was a young man’s fight – Judson Kilpatrick, age 27; Elon Farnsworth, 24; George Custer, 23. In the Civil War, young men rose in rank because they were tested early and often and attrition played a role. On the Confederate side, Jeb Stuart was only 30, famed infantry General Stonewall Jackson was less than 40, when he died only months before Gettysburg. So the Union generals and their equally young troops proved up to the challenge this day, June 30, 1863, in blunting the attack of the horsemen in gray on the streets of Hanover.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: About field hospitals and the Dead

The people of Hanover endured the double dose of death. The 300 casualties in the Battle of Hanover and the more than 50,000 dead, wounded and missing in the subsequent Battle of Gettysburg. Scores of those casualties passed through Hanover after the battle on their way to military hospitals in York and elsewhere The sounds of war on the Gettysburg Battlefield 15 miles from Hanover would have seemed just next door. The people of Hanover would not have known what was next. Did the Union Army prevail? Would Lee’s men return for yet a third time? More: Gettysburg fighting heard about 60 miles away (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Two mansions that shoes built

When you view these twin mansions built by the Hanover Shoe Company owners, it’s striking that they would choose the same design. Neither partner tried to one-up the other. Perhaps these designs are a handsome outward indicator of strong personal partnership that has left such a legacy in the Hanover area – the Hanover Shoe Farms and all. Related: Ornate mansions, bowling alleys and all.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Citizens – Children, t00 – viewed fighting

One can only imagine the trauma that must have persisted in the hearts and minds of Hanover’s residents after the Battle of Hanover. Not only was there combat on the streets – witnessed by children, their parents and grandparents – but the sight and sound of cannon shot crossing overhead later in the day would have been seared into memories. We dare not look at The Picket statue on Hanover’s square as it quietly represents routine Civil War duty and think it represents what happened on the surrounding streets in the Battle of Hanover – and the traumatic occupation days earlier by White’s raiders. More: A series of quotes that explain York, Pa. during the Civil War (


The importance of squares – where main roads meet – in our towns was underscored in the Battle of Hanover. Union forces were able to command the square, which meant the troopers in blue could fluidly move in key points of the compass. And the psychology of occupying the heart of town would have added to Union confidence and help smooth the jagged emotions of townspeople. More: Hanover women watched Civil War battle unfold – Cannonball (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: ‘Every desired comfort is furnished’

Judson Kilpatrick, commanding general of Union forces in Hanover, wrote his superior: “Owning to the nature of the attack, our loss was greater than that of the rebels.” The loss might have been greater, but the Union forces effectively stopped Confederate cavalry from rejoining the main army. More: Historiography of the Battle of Hanover; 154th anniversary today – Cannonball (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: ‘Train of wagons was a misfortune’

From James McClure’s “East of Gettysburg: “Stuart was in a quandary. Unwittingly, he was in the middle of the Army of the Potomac. An equal number of blue-clad infantrymen were to his north and west as were coming up from the south.” So Stuart headed east, through the heart of York County. More: Resident shared memories of the battle of Hanover – Cannonball (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: ‘Well, you have seen me’

Interestingly, Abraham Lincoln was not feeling well on his trip back through Hanover and Hanover Junction after delivering what became known as the Gettysburg Address. Back at the White House, he was diagnosed with a mild case of smallpox. More: Lincoln suffered from smallpox at Gettysburg.

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Battle technically a Union victory

Rebuffed in Hanover, Jeb Stuart, Robert E. Lee’s “eyes and ears,” guided this long train on its trip through Jefferson, York New Salem and Dover to Carlisle, where he eventually made contact with Lee’s Army: “Stuart, his men (4,500 troopers), 125 wagons, hundreds of captured horses, and 400 prisoners collected along the way plodded through Jefferson until late at night.” – James McClure’s “East of Gettysburg.” More: It’s just a ditch in Hanover, Pa., but Jeb Stuart made it famous (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: arts in Hanover

The Hanover community made the most of its beautiful Dempwolf-designed school, the Eichelberger building. It’s been renovated into office space. And importantly for arts in the community, its beautiful auditorium has been transformed into The Eich – Eichelberger Performing Arts Center. Another challenging opportunity to boost the local arts scene awaits. The old and very large Hanover Theater, a.k.a. State Theater, closed in 1986 in Hanover’s downtown. Business ventures after its closing never stuck, and it awaits investment, prime for adaptive reuse. More: Hanover’s old State Theater: ‘Don’t lose hope, it’s not dead’ (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: created in Hanover

An estimated 350 mills operated in York County over the centuries. Then you add in large numbers of milling operations elsewhere in this well-watered region and beyond, and you have the need for some inventor to step forward to make water wheels. That happened in Hanover, embodiment of the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Fitz made durable water wheels, too. One turns today at Wallace-Cross Mill County Park in southeastern York County and at other historic sites in the region. More: Book tells tales about York County, Pa.’s mills and millers ( and York County manufacturing, 1820 – 2010 Journal of York County Heritage (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Made in Hanover

There’s a case study to be explored demonstrating Hanover’s industrial prowess. By the World War II era, the Hanover Wire Cloth Company had experience working with pure nickel wire and nickel-plated steel wire. When those behind the super secret Manhattan Project in World War II searched for a maker of this element for the nuclear armament program, the contract went to Hanover Wire. But the work did not just stay in the Hanover Wire shops. Keystone Wire, working under Hanover Wire’s supervision, handled some of the manufacturing process. And it was handled well. Try with excellence. Hanover Wire gained the coveted “E” Award for excellence from the Army and Navy for its intensive defense work. More:  Hanover Wire Cloth plant produced ‘Manhattan Project’ materials – YorksPast (

Heart of Hanover Walking Tour: Designed in Hanover

The noted Dempwolf architectural firm’s designs, so ubiquitous in the region, are found in the Hanover area, of course. The stately Eichelberger school is one example. The firm’s work can also is seen in Conewago Chapel near McSherrystown, the Luther M. Alleman residence in Littlestown and the Harry Dusman residence in Hanover. To see drawings of Dempwolf designs in Hanover and around the region, search for “Dempwolf Hanover,” at York County History Center databases. For a full list of Dempwolf designed houses of worship in Hanover and beyond, see Rebecca Cybularz’s master’s thesis, Clemson University.

HEART OF HANOVER WALKING TOUR: Factory growth in Hanover

Hanover’s status as a market center meant more than that the borough was a place for farmers to sell goods, as important as that was in this largely agricultural region. Hanover’s location meant that it could – and did – develop its own economy. County seats in Pennsylvania were established about 30 miles apart – consider York and Lancaster or York and Gettysburg. But Hanover is about 20 miles from York and Westminster, Md. And about 17 miles from Gettysburg. So its economy did not have to compete directly against enterprises in other towns. At the same time, Hanover was a crossroads that allowed goods to flow to and from town, and it had particularly easy access to the port city of Baltimore. Also, there was the railroad that met up with the Northern Central at Hanover Junction to the east. In more recent years, Western Maryland tracks served the Hanover marketplace. Then, there was the trolley line to York that, among other things, brought workers to Hanover. Hanover had geographical and transportation assets on its side and made the most of them. More: York County factories participating in the York Plan.


York County militia, home guards or minutemen – take your pick about what to call them = were known for their marksmenship. These York County based rifle companies likely gained their marksmanship because of the large number of Pennsylvania long rifles, a.k.a. Kentucky long rifles, that were made here. Hanover and the rest of York County hosted the Monocacy Trail and key elements of the Great Wagon Road over which settlers headed to points west and south. These settlers needed rifles, wagons and other goods for their trek to their new homes in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. For example, one Hanover gunmaker,  “George Schreyer, Sr. & Jr., made more than 500 rifles. More: The Pennsylvania long rifle? Should have been.


Richard McAllister, a Scotsman, is credited with founding the town of Hanover, a name from a Germany town. So this should signal something interesting is going on in those early years of Hanover’s settlement. Jan Bankert’s “Digges’ Choice – 1724-1800″ provides insight: “We can see the variety of religious confessions of the settlers; and in this respect Digges’ Choice is important. Catholics, Reformed, Mennonites and Lutherans dwelt side by side in this area – one of the first times in Christendom when religious freedom gave rise to religious pluralism. Moreover, there is no evidence of friction.” That is a bold and sprawling statement. To broaden the assessment even more by considering race, enslaved and freed Black people worshipped in the Hanover region as well. So you could say that diversity was a part of the Hanover area’s past in a way that might not be generally considered today. More: Cultural and Ethnic Diversity in York County at the end of the American Revolution – 2019 Journal of York County Heritage (

HEART OF HANOVER WALKING TOUR: Pioneers in Hanover region

Hanover is often seen as its own thing in York County, and some in Hanover are OK with that. There are historical reasons for this independent streak among Hanoverians. The area was initially settled by large numbers of Marylanders, who thought they were settling in their home state in the Digges Choice manor. The Mason-Dixon Line in the 1760s helped sort that out. Some of those Marylanders were Roman Catholic, another separation point from the largely Protestant settlements elsewhere in York County. In fact, Conewago Chapel became a mission for priests to go ye therefore. Adams County separated from York County in 1800, with Hanover staying in York County. But that did not settle the unsettled settlers in western York County and eastern York County who saw themselves different enough that they sought to form their own county – Jackson County. More: Jackson County could have looked a lot different (

The Heart of Hanover Trail was funded by Explore York and implemented by Main Street Hanover and executive director Justine Trucksess. Working with a host of historians, native Hanoverian Matthew Jackson served as chief editor. Hanover’s L2 Brands, under the leadership of Brandon Wingert, provided support and design services.