Ghosts, history and Highland

I’m giving a tour tonight. I’d like to invite you all to join me.

I think it’s safe to say I give the best tours of downtown Lock Haven. Actually, to the best of my knowledge, I give the only tours of downtown Lock Haven. I’ve become somewhat recognized for it, which is a relief, as it removes the stigma of being the guy who’s always randomly pointing at public buildings. So anyway, I have one tonight – it begins at 8 p.m., in Triangle Park.

I’ll be showing some neat history of the buildings, and some cool ghost stories. It’ll be $4 per person, because it’s a fundraiser for Highland Cemetery.

Now, pay close attention, because this next part is very important – It’s FOR Highland, not IN Highland. I’m raising money for the care and maintenance of Highland Cemetery, but the actual tour takes place downtown. And each stop will involve someone buried in Highland, or have some connection with the cemetery.

And I promise to make it fascinating. I’ll be telling some good stories, and I guarantee there’s going to be some stuff you haven’t heard before. I’m always discovering new things, and I work all this into my tour as often as possible.

I’m not dumb enough to put it all here, in print. But maybe just a sample, to entice you to come along. Something interesting, a little strange, definitely identified with Highland Cemetery and downtown Lock Haven.

I think Peter Meitzler fits that nicely.

Up in Highland, Peter Meitzler is buried on top of the hill. If you’ve been anywhere near the grave, you’ve seen it – There’s a statue of him, standing and overlooking the city. You’ll notice that some fingers are missing; it’s said that Meitzler, a bar owner, originally had a glass of alcohol in that hand, and some anti-alcohol people went up and smashed it off. So now he’s up there for the last century without his drink. This may or may not be just a legend, but I do have to admit, it’s in character for Meitzler.

Meitzler was a German immigrant born in 1832. He came to America and first settled in the south, which was unfortunate because he was drafted into the Confederate army during the Civil War. He wasn’t exactly thrilled with this, and during a battle, he managed to disappear and enlist for the North, which was more to his liking.

After the war, he settled in Lock Haven and purchased the hotel on the corner of Water and Jay Streets- You’d know the spot as Lindsey Place today. He established it as the Montour Hotel, a fairly classy place to stay and have a meal. (Though I won’t be in the cemetery during the tour, and the hotel has been destroyed, I’ll be pointing at the location.) It became a pretty popular place.

Not all of his business attempts were as successful. In one incident, mentioned in his obit, Meitzler invested in a trolley service. At a nickel a ride, he was losing considerable money, so he decided to end the business. Meitzler being Meitzler, he accomplished this by parking his trolleys on Main Street and smashing them with an axe. This of course is a highly recommended business technique; I’m pretty sure I saw someone do it on Shark Tank.

Meitzler was also, weirdly, a suicide attempt with a happy ending. Around 1899, he tried to shoot himself in the chest because the pain from his rheumatism was unbearable. One of his servants heard the shot and sent for help, and not only did Meitzler live, he claimed the shot cured his rheumatism. He lived the rest of his life pain free. (Note: I DO NOT ADVOCATE THIS AS A CURE FOR ANYTHING. DO NOT EVER TRY THIS.)

Meitzler is only one of the neat, fascinating stories of Lock Haven’s history. Want to support a good cause, and learn a little from the downtown tour guide? Bring $4 tonight, and I’ll see you there. Maybe bring a couple of extra bucks and have a drink afterward. Because Peter Meitzler sure can’t.

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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 loulhpa@gmail.com or 570-660-4463.

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