A dynamite mystery at Highland Cemetery

Up at the top of Highland Cemetery, there is an angel.

It’s on all of the Highland tours, and it’s one of the most marvelous pieces of work up there. It’s around eight feet high, and a beautiful sculpture. It’s on the plot of the Kintzing family, and it’s been there for as long as anyone can remember.

The interesting thing is, we have no idea where it came from.

It was Dave Wallace, cemetery manager, who mentioned this to me. In Highland’s records, there don’t seem to be any documents relating to the purchase or creation of the angel. Granted, Highland’s records get somewhat sketchier the further back you go, so that’s not exactly shocking. It’s just interesting that this thing is probably Highland Cemetery’s most noticeable monument, and nobody has any idea where it came from.

I’d been kind of at loose ends recently, with nothing fun to work on. So I decided to look into it a little, and see if I could figure it out.

The first thing I did was look at the cemetery index for Highland and figure out who exactly is in that plot. The earliest burial I can find was George Kintzing, who died at age 37 in 1926. Then came Reese Kintzing, his father, in 1940. Reese was the head of the household, the patriarch, so it’s fairly likely that he was the one who decided on the angel. (I’m making assumptions here, and this is all circumstantial, I admit. But it makes sense. Bear with me.)

While I was looking into all this, incidentally, I found a neat old Express article about Highland from March 1926. It had been a very cold winter, according to Superintendent C.J. Hager, and since the first cold snap on October 5, the soil had been consistently frozen to a depth of almost two feet. This made it hard to dig for the 11 burials that happened over the winter, which was a problem they’d solved with dynamite. I swear.

“About 50 sticks of dynamite have been used to blast up the solidly frozen ground during the winter,” the article said. “Six or seven of the graves dug within the past few months have required blasting to loosen the top layer of earth.”

This has nothing to do with the angel, by the way. I just thought it was awesome. You can bet at the next meeting of the Highland board, I am going to make a motion to buy some dynamite.

Anyway. The angel. I went to the courthouse and pulled the will of Reese Kintzing, and read through it. He does direct a suitable monument to be constructed — I have no idea whether or not he was actually referring to the angel specifically, but it’s a pretty fair bet. Something else, though, caught my attention when I got to the estate part.

Okay. Work with me here. If you’d like to have something that elaborate constructed, that big and beautiful, it’s reasonable to assume you’d hire someone you’re familiar with. Am I right? If you knew of an organization that did that kind of thing, you’d very likely entrust them with the job. Make sense?

Reese Kintzing owned shares in the Lock Haven Mausoleum Company.

In fact, when I checked into it back at the library, not only did Kintzing own shares, he was the company president. He ran the whole business, with assistance from John Dickey and Hartman Herr. The company was based at 313 N. Vesper St. for a time, according to the Lock Haven city directory from 1939.

So it’s a safe bet that Reese Kintzing hired the Lock Haven Mausoleum Company to make the angel. I don’t know exactly who the artist was, but I know the company. Maybe that’s a mystery for a future column. As I said, I can’t entirely prove it, but it’s a reasonable assumption.

Add this to the wonderful, magical history of Highland Cemetery. I’ve always had an appreciation for the place, and I wouldn’t mind being buried up there myself once I’m gone. I absolutely insist dynamite be involved.

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Lou Bernard is a Lock Haven resident with a keen interest in the history of this area. He is adult services coordinator at Ross Library and may be reached at ross13@rosslibrary.org or 570-748-3321.

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