The adventure below is the latest in a series sharing my quest to explore Pennsylvania by visiting each of the sixty-seven county seats and eating a hot dog while in town.
Returning to our journey through the Pennsylvania Wilds we continue driving along beautiful Route 120 into Lock Haven the county seat of Clinton County.
The county was created on June 21, 1839, from parts of Centre and Lycoming Counties. There is some discussion about the naming of the county. Most folks claim the county was named after the 7th governor of New York, Dewitt Clinton. I’m not sure why a county in Pennsylvania would be named after a governor from New York! However, the second claim makes even less sense. The other thinking is that the county was named after a British General (Henry Clinton) who fought in the Revolutionary War, on the British side, of course. There must be some other explanation that has been lost in courthouse records, maybe during one of the floods that visited Lock Haven regularly.
The courthouse is a pretty neat looking building sitting on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River over looking the banks of the flood control levee. The river tended to over flow its banks on average once every 25 years between 1784 and 1972. The third biggest of those floods, cresting at nearly 30 feet on June 1, 1889, in conjunction with the great Johnstown Flood, ended what was left of the canal boat business in Lock Haven. The town had previously seen a busy canal boat business on the West Branch Canal which opened in 1834. The town also prospered in the timber era.
The most damaging Lock Haven flood was caused by the remnants of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Various government agencies began a flood control project twenty years later in 1992 which was completed in 1995 just in time to protect the town during the high waters resulting from the blizzard of 1996.
Lock Haven is home to a university of the same name. The university began as Central State Normal School in 1877 and was acquired by the state of Pennsylvania in 1915. It was renamed Lock Haven State Teachers College in 1927. The school’s name was changed to Lock Haven State College in 1960, and its emphasis shifted to include the humanities, fine arts, mathematics, and social sciences, in addition to teacher education. The school became Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania in 1983. At one time the community also was home to Piper Aircraft Company and Hammermill Paper Company. The paper company survived a sad moment in its history in October 1967 when an employee, Leo Held, opened fire with two pistols killing six and wounding six others. Only the university remains of those three major employers.
I’m sure you are as curious as I am as to how the town got its name. The founder of the place was Jeremiah Church who chose to name all the places of worship in town after himself. Go ahead, look it up. All the houses of worship have Jeremiah’s last name attached to them. The town on the other hand was named for what it was. Church saw there was a canal lock in the town and the place had become a haven for loggers, boatman and other travelers. So, Jeremiah named the place Lock Haven. (I did not make that up!)
I found my hot dog at Texas Lunch a block away from the courthouse. Texas Lunch is home of the “Growler” which was served up by Emi. I enjoyed the meal even with the ghosts of some great Yankee baseball players (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Micky Mantle) looking down on me. I’m thinking if those four were playing for the Pirates this year Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals) wouldn’t have pitched a no-hitter against my guys last weekend!
See you next time