Chief Burgesses

July 15th, 2007

In 1867 when Watsontown was incorporated, the chief executive served a term of one year and had to be a resident of the borough at least six months preceding the election and paid a borough tax within that year, provided such tax had been levied.

In June 1911 a statute was passed establishing the term of office for the chief executive officer of a third-class city to be four years.  The position to be filled by election held the Tuesday following the first Monday of November in the odd year prior to the first Monday of December when the term of office expires.  The individual was to be at least 25 years of age and have lived in the state four years and an inhabitant of the city for one year next before his election and was not eligible for re-election.

Boroughs in Pennsylvania are governed by a “mayor-council” system in which the mayor has only a few powers (usually that of overseeing the municipal police department), while the borough council has very broad appointment and oversight.  The council president, who is elected by the majority party every two years, is equivalent to the leader of.  A small minority of the boroughs have dropped the mayor-council system in favor of the council-manager system, in which the council appoints a borough manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the borough.

Burgesses/Mayors and their terms of office:

Joseph Hollopeter1867D. Frank Wagner1903-1905
Jacob P. Starr1868; 1874William Field Shay1906-1909
Nicholas Gauger1869William C. Brimmer1910-1912
Cyrus O. Bachman1870George H. Shannon1913-1917
Philip Shay1871W. Curtis Wagner1918-1921
Samuel M. Miller1872W. Dean McFarland1922-1925
Wm. M. Wagner1873John I. Martin1926-1929
Phineas Leiser1875G. Elroy Beagle1930-1933
John R. Cooner1876-1880Paul L. Wertman1934-1937
William Brady Piatt1881-1882; 1892Ned F. Wagner1938-1941
Jacob H. Wagner1883-1884S. Morris Moser1942-1945
Dan C. Hogue1885-1886L. Delroy Lewis1946-1949
Lorenzo Everitt1887-1888; 1897 *Charles O. Myers1950-1954 *
E. Sherman Follmer1889-1890Ralph L. Smith1954-1961
Alfred H. Hockley1890Albert E. Patterson1962-1965 **
Dr. John F. McClure1891-1892 *Franklin F. Kear1966-1969
Alfred B. Seiler1893Oliver H. Wetten1970-1985
Fred H. Knight1894-1896Robert E. Brown1986-2009 *
William A. Nicely1898-1899David M. Hontz2009-
Dr. Edgar L. Housel1900-1902

* Died in Office. ** First citizen to be sworn in as Mayor of Watsontown on January 2, 1962.

Not included in the list were two individuals who were elected but never sworn in – one refused to serve and the other died before taking office.

Facts about the chief executive officers:

Thirty-nine men have served in the office of chief executive – 34 as chief burgess and 5 as mayor.

The youngest to be sworn in was E. Sherman Follmer at the age of 27 on March 4, 1889.

The oldest at the time of election was Robert E. Brown who was 74 at his last election on November 8, 2005.

The shortest term was Joseph Hollopeter who was elected on November 16, 1867; sworn in on November 20, 1867, and served until his successor was elected on February 21, 1868, and sworn in on March? 1868 a total of just under 4 months.

The longest serving was Robert E. Brown serving 23 years from 1986 to 2009 (elected to six terms in office).

The longest living chief executive was William M. Wagner living from March 29, 1830, to August 29, 1922, a total of 92 years and 5 months.

The first citizen to be elected to the chief executive’s position was Joseph Hollopter in 1867.

The first and only non-Pennsylvanian elected as chief executive was Philip Shay who was born in Pittston, Kennebec County, ME.

The first chief executive to be married while in office was William M. Wagner on June 12, 1873, when he married Rebecca Bryson.

The first chief executive to be elected to a non-consecutive term was Jacob P. Starr in 1874.

The first veteran of the Civil War to be elected chief executive was Phineas Leiser on March 13, 1875.

The first chief executive to be elected to consecutive terms was John R. Cooner from 1876 to 1880.

The first chief executive to die was Philip Shay on February 2, 1885.

The first chief executive to graduate from college was E. Sherman Follmer from Cornell University, Class of 1885.

The first chief executive to resign from office was E. Sherman Follmer on May 12, 1890.

The first chief executive to die in office was John F. McClure on February 27, 1892.

The first chief executive to be born in what would become Watsontown was E. Sherman Follmer on December 3, 1861.

The first chief executive to be born in Watsontown after it was incorporated was Wm. Curtis Wagner on March 31, 1887.

The first elected chief executive to have graduated from Watsontown High School was Paul L. Wertman, Class of 1922.

The first chief executive to hold the title mayor was Albert E. Patterson elected on November 7, 1961, and sworn in on January 2, 1962.

Five served in the Civil War:

  • Phineas Leiser (1875)
  • John R. Cooner (1876-1880)
  • Jacob H. Wagner (1883-1884)
  • Dan C. Hogue (1885-1886)
  • Frederick H. Knight (1894-1896)

Two served in World War I:

  • Ned F. Wagner (1938-1941) 
  • L. Delroy Lewis (1946-1949)

Two served in World War II:

  • S. Morris Moser (1942-1945)
  • Franklin F. Kear (1966-1969)

One served in the Korean War:

  • Robert E. Brown (1986-2009)

Five were never married:

  • Lorenzo Everitt (1887-88; 1897)
  • E. Sherman Follmer (1889-1890)
  • Wm. Dean McFarland (1922-1925)
  • S. Morris Moser (1942-1945)
  • L. Delroy Lewis (1946-1949)

Four died in office:

  • John F. McClure – February 27, 1892 (1891-1892)
  • Lorenzo Everitt – October 30, 1897 (1887-88; 1897)
  • Charles O. Myers – August 11, 1954 (1950-1954)
  • Robert E. Brown – May 10, 2009 (1986-2009)

Two were elected but never held office:

  • Silas Rambach was elected in 1875 but refused to serve – Phineas Leiser was elected on March 13, 1875, to take Rambach’s place.
  • M. Augustus Berger was elected in 1913, but died on December 12, 1913, before he was sworn in – George H. Shannon was elected to take Berger’s place.

Three held offices but were never elected:

  • Alfred H. Hockley appointed June 1, 1890, to complete term left vacant by E. Sherman Follmer’s resignation on May 12, 1890.
  • Alfred B. Seiler appointed to complete term left vacant by John F. McClure’s death on February 27, 1892.
  • David M. Hontz appointed to complete term left vacant by Robert E. Brown’s death on April 10, 2009.

Fifteen chief executives were the most living at one time:

In the year 1894 the following were living: Joseph Hollopeter, Jacob P. Starr, Nicholas Gauger, Samuel M. Miller, Wm. M. Wagner, Phineas Leiser, John R. Cooner, Wm. Brady Piatt, Jacob H. Wagner, Dan C. Hogue, Lorenzo Everitt, E. Sherman Follmer, Alfred H. Hockley, Albert B. Seiler, and Fred. H. Knight.

Family Connections:

  • Jacob H. Wagner served as Chief Burgess from 1883 to 1884; his brother, William served as Chief Burgess in 1873; his brother-in-law, E. Sherman Follmer (and first cousin) served as Chief Burgess from 1889 to 1890; his other brother, D. Frank Wagner served as Chief Burgess from 1903 to 1905; his son, Wm. Curtis Wagner served as Chief Burgess from 1918 to 1921; another son, Ned F. Wagner served as Chief Burgess from 1938 to 1941; and his granddaughter, Jeanne Wagner Kear was married to Franklin F. Kear, who served as Mayor of Watsontown from 1966 to 1970. Also, D. Frank Wagner’s brother-in-law, John R. Cooner served as Chief Burgess from 1876 to 1880.
  • Philip Shay served as Chief Burgess in 1871 and his son, Wm. Field Shay served as Chief Burgess from 1906 to 1909.
  • Jacob P. Starr served as Chief Burgess in 1868 and 1874 and his brother-in-law, Dan C. Hogue served as Chief Burgess from 1885 to 1886.

Of the 39 chief executives serving Watsontown …

… 22 were Republicans; 12 Democrats; 5 were unknown.

… 11 served on town council prior to serving as chief executive; 8 served on town council after serving as chief executive; 3 served on town council both before and after serving as chief executive; and 17 never served on on town council.

… 13 were born in Northumberland County; 5 in Union County; 4 in Montour County; 4 in Columbia County; 2 in Lycoming County; 2 in Centre County; and one each in Blair County, Chester County, Cumberland County, Lancaster County, Montgomery County, Perry County, Schuylkill County, and York County. 1 was born in Maine.

… 9 were manufacturers; 8 were merchants; 5 were foremen; 3 were attorneys; 2 were lumbermen; and there was 1 each – railroad agent, architect/contractor, hotel owner, carbonated beverage maker, physician, dentist, bank cashier, tailor, postal carrier, high school principal, jeweler, and a high school teacher.

… 11 were Presbyterian; 7 were Reformed (United Church of Christ); 7 were Lutheran; 7 were Methodist; and 1 was Baptist. 6 are unknown.

… 32 are buried in Watsontown Cemetery; 1 in Uniontown Cemetery, Allenwood; 1 in Muncy Cemetery; 1 in Northumberland Cemetery; 1 in Winchester, VA; 2 were unknown; and 1 still living.

… 29 were members of the Masonic Lodge.

Last Modified: 12.27.22


One Response

  1. Dave Hontz Says:

    Great job! I need more time to reed it all!
    Thank you for your devotion and interest it mean so much to me!
    Mayor Hontz !

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