The search for the mayors
By Lou Bernard
Lock Haven is my city, and I love it here. I love the geography, I love the history. I can’t picture myself living anywhere else. Lock Haven is where I belong. And, obviously, the heart of the city is on Church Street — City Hall.
I love city hall. I’ve been known to take my son in there, just for fun. We’ll walk into city council chambers, and I’ll point out all the pictures of the mayors on the wall.
“Look at them all, Paul. There are Lock Haven’s mayors. Levi Mackey there was the first one. Harry Swope only served three months. Edgar Heffner was the oldest. They’re all here… Well, except for a couple.”
That’s kind of the sticking point, right there. We’ve very recently solved most of an issue that I discovered several years ago.
All of the mayors had portraits on the wall, except for a couple of them. For a couple of years now, I’ve been looking for pictures of Samuel Crist, John Wynn, and William Mayer.
Back around 2012, I was writing a series of columns on the local mayors. That was when I first noticed there were a few missing.
I began to ask about it, and I gained the interest of the late Jon Bravard, former mayor himself and city council member. Since then, city councilman Doug Byerly and LHU library director Joby Topper have taken an interest, and we’ve worked some of this out.
I’ve written about this before, and as you can probably imagine, I’ve been told some things that aren’t all that helpful. I’ve received e-mails that say, “You should talk to that guy at the library! He’ll know where to find photos!” Trust me, he doesn’t. He’s really good-looking, though.
I discovered one picture of William Mayer, from his obituary. And there are a couple more we’ve found… And two are still a mystery.
John P. Wynn served a partial term as mayor in 1892, then resigned to move to Beech Creek, because it’s reasonable that a mayor has to live within the city limits. He died in 1918, and recently, Joby found an old portrait of him. The position of mayor was taken by William H. Mayer, who, you may recall, we found his picture.
Samuel Crist was mayor of Lock Haven from 1880 to 1881. He was a neat guy who went looking for gold in California in 1851 before moving to Lock Haven and getting into lumber, which was easier to find. He was Lock Haven’s first Republican mayor, and he died in June of 1904. With research, Joby discovered that we had him all along — His portrait was mislabeled as Mayor Robert Bridgens. So it’s a good new-bad news thing — We have Crist, but are missing Bridgens.
We’re also missing Winfield Clawater, who served just over a year as Lock Haven’s mayor before resigning due to the death of his child.
It was more than Clawater’s picture that was missing; most of the local records don’t show that he was mayor at all. Joby found a mention of Clawater in an obscure book — He doesn’t even have an obituary on file, and I’ve checked.
These absent portraits have caused something of a strange gap in Lock Haven’s documented history. It took me a while to figure it out — Every list of mayors I could find showed a couple of odd gaps, with no mayors listed between 1880 and 1881, and 1892 and 1899. We can pin this one on Lock Haven’s 150th anniversary book in 1983.
It contains a list of mayors, but they just copied them down from the pictures on the wall. And everyone since, myself included, has just copied them from this same book. So these three mayors haven’t been widely recognized as having served, until now.
Recently, city council has added two of our four missing mayors — Wynn and Mayer — And corrected the mistake with Crist, labeling him correctly.
And they added two empty frames — One for Bridgens, and one for Clawater.
I’m not sure we’ll ever find the pictures, but if you happen to stumble on one in the attic, let me know. After all, these are great men, and they deserve to be recognized.