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Haven History: A walk with the past

By Lou Bernard in Arts & Entertainment
September 15, 2011

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It’s the beginning of another school year here in Lock Haven. If you’ve picked up the Eagle Eye to read this article, you’re in a city full of history; welcome. Like you, this city has a past. Unlike you, it’s not posted on Facebook.

The city’s past is preserved and remembered, however. Near the university, on the hill by Jack Stadium, lies Saint Mary’s Cemetery. It’s one of the more historic cemeteries in the community, and worth walking through.

Lou Bernard/Eagle Eye

Saint Mary’s was established on August 19, 1857, on the same day Saint Mary’s Catholic Church was built. The church later changed its name to Immaculate Conception, but the cemetery stayed the same. The congregation began as a mix of German and Irish, but many of the Germans later split off to form Saint Agnes Church. This left mainly Irish, a fact reinforced by the names on many of the tombstones.

One of the first stones you see is the headstone of Doctor Theodore Teah, a prominent local physician. After serving in the military and as president of the Kiwanis, Teah established a hospital on the corner ofMainand First Sts., lived there, and treated people for years. Behind the hospital, facingWater St.is an elaborate home with white pillars.

This is the home of lumberman Peter Griffin. I know you’re thinking – Family Guy. But, this guy was before that. This Peter Griffin was a local lumberman, and is buried at the top of the cemetery.

Not far fromGriffin’s grave is Walter Jamouneau. Jamouneau came to Lock Haven in 1937, when Piper Aircraft moved in. He was the first designer they ever had, also serving as pilot and salesman. Jamouneau would design and build planes, fly them to distant airports to sell them, and then catch a bus or train back home.

One time, stranded in a distant town, he had to rent a room for thirty-five cents a night. The parents of James Bacon are buried at the bottom of the hill. James Bacon was a famousHollywoodwriter who grew up in a home near the university. He was friends with several big stars, and had small parts in allof the old Planet of the Apes movies. His parents, Thomas and Margaret, were also in the writing business, and ran the Lock Haven Express for years. Though Bacon himself died inHollywood, his parents stayed close to home.

One of the most interesting stones lies not far from the Bacon stone, along the edge of the forest. It’s a small, broken stone, with the date of April 4, 1888, and an age of 22. The name is Francis J. Shaffer.

It’s a bit of a murder mystery, in a way.Luther J. Shaffer was convicted of murdering the Colby family ofSugarValleyin 1887. Shaffer had shot Isaiah and Nora Colby, leaving their baby in the cabin for dead. The baby was later rescued. Shaffer was convicted, and hung behind the old jail onChurch Street—The only man ever hung for his crime inClintonCounty.

The name is different, but this is most likely the killer’s grave. The name change was probably due to burying him in sacred ground. Luther J. Shaffer was hung, and Saint Mary’s has a Francis J. Shaffer of the same age who died on the same day….you do the math.Saint Mary’s Cemetery has been a wonderful, scenic cemetery for over a century and a half. Some of the people there have been highly important to local history. I wouldn’t mind ending up there myself one day.

Of course, I’d prefer to be dead first.

As you learn about your major this semester, take a moment to learn about the community, as well. It’s a good place, and I’ll be pleased to show you around.

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