It's an election year. I can tell it's an election year because of all the media coverage. Seems you can't pick up a magazine or newspaper without some mention of the campaign, and I can't get through so much as a single episode of "The Office" without seeing Obama and Romney bashing each other. And if you think I'm going to take sides there, think again - a cattle prod could not force me to discuss politics in print.
Nope, I'm going to go with my usual - history. Historically, Clinton County has seen a lot of presidents. And I don't just mean by turning on our TV sets - there have been a lot of visits. The presidents have actually come here.
Yes, I know Bill Clinton arrived a few years ago. Of course you remember Clinton's visit - everybody remembers Clinton's visit. I'm talking about historic presidents. I only deal with dead people.
Lock Haven Mayor William Mayer was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, and the paymaster of the Navy during the Civil War. And though I've always wondered if maybe Lincoln visited here in secret, there's nothing to prove that - I'm just imagining. Lincoln probably really didn't visit.
Grant did, however. Ulysses S. Grant (whose name was really Hiram Ulysses Grant, but he didn't like that and changed it) would make visits to Noyes Township to fish for trout. Grant was fishing buddies with Col. Amos Noyes, and would drop by and stay with the Noyes family on fishing trips in the 1870s.
Teddy Roosevelt also came through Clinton County, on Sept. 16, 1901. When William McKinley was assassinated, his funeral train came through the county, and people in Renovo and Lock Haven gathered along the tracks to see it. Roosevelt was on the train, accompanying it to Washington. In a way, it was two presidents at once - Roosevelt was in Clinton County, and so was McKinley, for that matter. But being dead, he didn't do much.
On June 5, 1910, William H. Taft dropped by Renovo. More than 200 people gathered at the railroad station to see him, which was probably unnecessary, as he most likely could have been seen from miles away.
He stepped off the train to the cheering crowd and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate the Renovo spirit in coming out on such a rainy day. My journey has been tiresome. I am on my way to Washington to meet with Congress tomorrow. Of course you don't expect me to make a speech on Sunday. Good-bye and thank you very much."
That was not paraphrased. That was the entire speech.
Taft came back to Clinton County a couple of years later, however, in October of 1912. He passed through Lock Haven on his way from Cambridge Springs to Washington, not even pausing to say a few words this time.
Harry Truman came close. In October of 1952, Truman had a planned stop in Lock Haven. Everyone gathered to see him, including Mayor Charles Herr, who was waiting to greet Truman. The president didn't show up, and it was later explained that he was resting, exhausted from his campaign tour.
Another president to show up in Lock Haven was Jimmy Carter. It was May 1968. It was the year before he saw a UFO and several years before he was attacked by a rabbit. (Really. Go look it up.) Carter came here as a missionary for his church, a Southern Baptist congregation. They were hoping to start a church in the area, and he stayed for a little over a month.
Carter loved Lock Haven. He enjoyed his time in town, and years later, when Lock Haven-born writer James Bacon went to a reception at the White House, Carter pulled him aside and declared that Lock Haven was one of his favorite places in the world.
It's one of mine, too. I have to agree with Jimmy Carter on that one. And my point here is basically the same point I try to make every time I write an article - Clinton County is a great place, with a very rich history to it.
I'm Lou Bernard, and I approved this message.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 748-3321.