By LOU BERNARD
For The Express
In City Council chambers at City Hall, there are portraits of every mayor Lock Haven has had. Levi Mackey, William Elliott, Charles Herr, James Jefferis. All of them, lined up in order. If you look, the fourth one from the left looks a little more like Robin Williams than I am comfortable with. This is Seymour Durell Ball.
Ball served as the fourth mayor of Lock Haven from 1881 to 1883. He was a prominent local attorney, and is believed to still be one of the ghosts haunting the Heisey Museum. He owned the museum for nearly 50 years and is responsible for the Victorian architecture.
Seymour D. Ball was born in Northumberland County on Jan. 30, 1826 to Francis and Charlotte Ball. His father died when he was 14 years old, forcing young Seymour to grow up quickly. He applied for a teaching job in Milton in 1843, and was granted the job after a debate about his young age. Ball was a good teacher, and saved up enough money to attend law school in Easton. He served as an attorney under Alexander Jordan of Lycoming County, who may have been the anonymous donor who helped found Lock Haven. Ball was admitted to the bar in May 1849.
In 1855, Ball met and married Mary J. Pollock, and a few years later, they moved to Lock Haven. They purchased a home on Fern Street and lived there for a few years.
If you've just gone rushing to Google Maps to find out where Fern Street is, don't bother. It no longer exists. It's basically a baseball field now, on the south end of town.
In 1865, the Balls moved from Fern Street to 362 E. Water St., now the Heisey Museum.
Seymour and Mary had three sons and three daughters. In the attic of the museum is a signature of his second son, Charles Edgar Ball. As a teen, he scribbled his signature in pencil on the wall of his father's attic. It remains there to this day, an act of vandalism that is over a hundred years old.
Another small act of rebellion from his other son, Francis P. Ball, is the initials "F.P.B." carved in the back of the interior door to the museum's Ice House. In spite of the fact that both sons, apparently, couldn't keep from defacing the doors and walls, they both grew up to be productive members of society. Both of them, it would seem, took time out of their vandalism to get an education, and Charles grew up to be a prominent civil engineer, while Francis became an important local doctor who helped create the Lock Haven Hospital.
Seymour Ball, among his other activities, fought in the Civil War. He joined Company A's 38th Regiment, under the command of Samuel H. Brown. He was honorably discharged and returned home on August 1, 1863.
He lived to age 84, finally passing away in 1910. He died in the front room of his house, currently known as the East Parlor of the Heisey Museum. His funeral was held there, as well. He was buried in the family plot at the top of Highland Cemetery. His obituary read, "It can honestly be said of him that he was a true man, upright in all his dealings and faithful to the end of his life. When such men pass away they are a loss to any community."
Ball's story may not have ended there, however. He is thought to be one of the ghosts still haunting the Heisey Museum. Though he died more than a hundred years ago, there's just no stopping a man like that.
Lou Bernard is curator at the Heisey Museum. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org