THE FURY OF LEO HELD
It was unquestionably a tragedy.
Arguably the worst tragedy ever to happen in Lock Haven.
And it was 50 years ago. It happened on Oct. 23, 1967.
In my time writing about local history, there are a few topics I’ve deliberately avoided. I don’t write about some things because I know there are still people who remember the tragedy, and might be hurt by the memory. I don’t want to cause any bad feelings, so I make the choice not to write about certain points in the county’s history.
But it’s the 50th anniversary of this one, and it was a significant event in Lock Haven. And as a local history writer, I can’t avoid it. For me not to write about it would be irresponsible. So I’m going to try and tell you what happened, and be as sensitive as possible about it.
I suppose it would be a cliche to mention that it seemed like a normal day.
But it’s true. It was a normal morning as far as anyone knew. The newspapers at the time described it as sunny and mild. And then Leo Held changed everything forever.
Held was 39, an employee of the lab at Hammermill Paper. He arrived at 7:58 that morning, and as he approached the plant, he took one gun from a shoulder holster, and another from a pocket. And he began shooting, eventually killing several people. Their names deserve to be remembered. Richard Davenport. Elmer Weaver. Donald Walden. Allan Barrett. Carman Edwards. Floyd Quiggle.
No motive was ever satisfactorily uncovered for the crime. Though there was speculation, no one ever was able to fully explain what drove Held. Mental illness was not as well understood as it is today, and it is likely that signs were missed.
Walking to the plant, he shot Edwards first. Held then went upstairs to the second-floor lab, where he shot Weaver, Barrett, and Davenport. He wounded Richard Carter of Beech Creek and James Allen of Lock Haven, and then moved to the machine room nearby, where he wounded David Overdorf of Loganton. Then he proceeded to the main office, where he killed Walden.
According to the newspaper accounts at the time, Held moved calmly, casually. He walked out through the stock preparation room, walked along the basin, and got back into his car in the parking lot.
Held didn’t speak. Nobody spoke. What could anyone say? At one point, someone shouted that he had a gun. The rest of the incident happened in silence, punctuated by the gunshots.
From Hammermill, he drove to the Lock Haven Airport, where he wounded Mrs. Schuyler Ramm and struggled with manager Howard Graves. Afterward, he got back into his car and drove through McElhattan on his way to Loganton.
Nobody knew anything at this point, not for certain. There was speculation, there were rumors, but nobody yet had any facts, which added to the chaos.
Held arrived in Loganton, entering the home of Floyd Quiggle and his wife, across the street from Held’s own home. He wounded Mrs. Quiggle and then shot Floyd, leaving their 5-year-old daughter unharmed.
By this point, the police had been notified, and had arrived to search Held’s home. They were accompanied by Leo Stahl, paper mill manager and someone close to Held. The police were there, directly across the street, when Held emerged from the Quiggle house.
The newspaper at the time described it as a “brief exchange of shots.”
Police later reported that they had been attempting to arrest Held unharmed, but he refused to give up. Held was wounded in both hands, his right leg, and left shoulder. He fell to the ground, was placed under arrest, and rushed to the Lock Haven Hospital. The hospital immediately restricted visitors, not that this prevented any curiosity-seekers from attempting to get inside.
“I think he’ll make it,” a doctor said to the press at the time.
This turned out to be inaccurate.
Leo Held passed away at 6 a.m. on Oct. 25, 1967, without having made any statements. He was buried in Fairview Evangelical Cemetery in Loganton….not far from Floyd Quiggle.
The Express reported later that the six victims of the tragedy left behind 54 survivors….Which didn’t even include Held’s own family, tragic victims in their own right.
Full disclosure, I suppose: I’m crying right now, sitting here crying at my desk as I try to write this. I’m upset and crying, looking at newspapers from half a century ago, thinking about how everyone must have felt on that terrible day.
Something like that leaves a scar on a community. Given enough time, scars can heal, though they never fully go away. There are traces, remnants. Lock Haven has had this scar for longer than I’ve been alive.
But time begins to heal. And sometimes, when the worst happens, the best comes out in people. When I spoke to one of the surviving family members about writing this article, she expressed concern….Not just for herself, but for the other survivors. Including Held’s family.
Unselfish, kind, and very caring. That’s the Lock Haven I know. That’s the community I love.
Healing can happen, and does. Scars remain, but communities, like people, heal. Sometimes stronger in the broken places.
As the local history writer, I was expected to tell this story. I couldn’t avoid it. But now, having told it, I’m willing to let go….Let the story fade into the past, and let healing happen as the community moves forward into the future.