By Lou Bernard
Adult Services Coordinator
February 7, 2013
If you’ve ever been to Highland Cemetery and seen the large statue of a man, you’ve seen Peter Meitzler.
Peter Meitzler was born in Germany in the early 1830s. He was seventeen when his parents died, and he came to America with basically nothing. He started in New York City, and moved down south.
He got into the hotel business for a couple of years until the Civil War broke out, and Meitzler was drafted into the Confederates. He didn’t want to fight for the south, however, and he escaped and ran north, settling in Williamsport. He reported to Washington, now fighting for the north.
After the war, Meitzler moved to Lock Haven and started his businesses here. He had several hotels, one of which was used to house the Normal School students after the school burned down in 1888. But the one he was best known for was the Riverside Hotel at the corner of Water and Jay Streets.
In the late 1870s, he purchased two Herdic trolleys, and began delivering passengers for a five-cent fare.When it didn’t make a profit, an angry Meitzler smashed the trolleys with an axe on the street at high noon.
“This ended that street car line,” his obituary read.
Later, Meitzler suffered from rheumatism, and was in pain. This led to a suicide attempt in January 1900. Meitzler shot himself in the chest. Local doctors said the bullet missed his heart. Meitzler told them that he was trying to put himself out of his misery.He lived another nine years and later claimed the wound cured his rheumatism, telling everyone how he’d managed that. It was like an infomercial, with Meitzler advocating shooting yourself as a cure. (Don’t try this at home.)
Later, when informed he had Bright’s disease, he purchased a site at the top of Highland Cemetery and erected the statue of himself, holding a beer mug.
In the summer of 1908, he had a disagreement with the Highland Cemetery Company, threatening to move the statue to Williamsport. Probably he would have, too, if it hadn’t included digging up his wife and daughter and moving them, as well.
Meitzler died not long after, and was buried with them under his statue. Not long after, an anti-alcohol group came and smashed his glass off, leaving him up there forever with nothing to drink.
Lou Bernard is the Adult Services Coordinator for Ross Library and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org