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Salona creates a governor

We frequently have our dog at the vet. He’s okay, and he does not currently have a concussion. This is good news. He walks into walls when he gets excited. He’ll be all wound up and making a left turn, and he’ll bonk right into the wall. Duke is not a laser surgeon.

No, I didn’t just write a whole column so you’d feel sympathy for my dog – though he does accept get-well cards and treats. But I always take a look at the blue sign on the way home from the vet, one of those blue and yellow Pennsylvania state markers along Route 64. And every time I ride by there with a dog in my lap, I see the sign:

DANIEL H. HASTINGS

You know those markers; they’re all over the state. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably driven past this particular one thousands of times. Maybe you’ve even taken a moment to read about Daniel Hastings.

Hastings was the governor of Pennsylvania from 1895 to 1899. He was from Clinton County – This county created a governor. Hastings was born in Salona on February 26, 1849. He lived in a log cabin, one of nine children, according to the Commemorative Biographical Record.

When the Civil War began, Hastings was about 12. He wanted more than anything to serve his country and made a couple of attempts to run off and enlist. The first time, he got to Lock Haven, and the second time, he made it as far as Williamsport. On his third attempt, he actually got to Carlisle and managed to get a uniform on before his father found him and took him back to the family farm.

Hastings was 14 in 1863 when he heard of a teaching position open in Wayne Township. He borrowed a dollar and made the hike through the snow to the school, which was an 18-mile trip. (By contrast, I was barely willing to walk as far as the front yard to rake leaves when I was 14.) Hastings interviewed for the job, and was told that he could have it if he passed the legal examination. He hiked to Lock Haven, passed the exam, and then walked back to the school the next day to begin teaching. He’d spent the dollar on the exam, however, and couldn’t afford lunch that first day.

He spent the next four years teaching during the day and studying at night, so that in 1867, he was chosen as principal of the Bellefonte Academy and superintendent of all public schools in Bellefonte, a position he held until 1875. One job wasn’t enough for him, however, and he also began writing and editing the Bellefonte Republican. Somehow, even with all this, he managed to study law, and passed the bar on April 29, 1875, becoming a lawyer.

When riots broke out in July 1877 over the railroad industry, Hastings joined the National Guard, finally getting his chance to put on a uniform and go serve his country. He abandoned being a lawyer, which had apparently gotten old by now, and rapidly rose to the rank of colonel by 1884.

Oh, and he got involved in politics, too. Did I forget to mention? In between 1878 and 1887, he was a campaign manager for a congressional candidate, campaigned for a governor, and served as chairman of the State Convention.

He took a short break from everything else on May 31, 1889, to drive down to Johnstown to help after the Johnstown Flood, arriving at 4:00 in the morning to help the survivors. And after the crisis was over, he got back to whatever eight or nine jobs he was doing at the time.

In 1894, Hastings ran for governor of Pennsylvania, winning in a landslide. The Commemorative Biographical Record says, “Since January 15, 1895, Gov. Hastings has filled his high office in a manner to disarm criticism, and his steadily increasing fame points to yet more advanced posts of duty.”

Daniel Hastings died on January 9, 1903. He is buried in Bellefonte. And, even though he’s been dead for over a century now, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this guy from Salona is still busier than I am. But at least my dog is okay. Until he hits the next wall.

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 ross13@rosslibrary.org or 570-748-3321.