|Grave of John Barner, Woodward Cemetery,|
The first time I set foot on the sacred grounds of Woodward Cemetery, it was the late 1990s and it was in search of a phantom black cat that had been seen darting among the stones. John, a co-worker at the time, and I had been told about a "mysterious" black cat was seen roaming the grounds. Being outside, of course, meant that it was probably a real cat that had been spotted, even though neither of us saw a cat that day - real or otherwise.
After spending too much time looking for the cat, we gave up and started searching the stones for anything of interest. A few minutes into our search, John excitedly called me over to look at his find. The stone was for John M. Barner, but it was the inscription at the bottom that had caught John's attention and my interest. "Was shot while in the performance of his official duty."
I circled the stone, hoping for more information, but it yielded no clues as to what had happened to Mr. Barner. I took a few pictures of his stone and also of another nearby stone that had caught my interest before we headed out to explore other parts of Penns Valley.
During that phase of my life and explorations, I was more interested in collecting the lore and legends of the region, so John Barner's story got put in the filing cabinet to collect dust.
A couple years later I was doing some research at the Centre County Historical Library when I came across some clippings about the shoot-out that claimed the life of Constable Barner. As I read the article, I realized that, among the random pictures I snapped while at Woodward Cemetery, I had taken photos of the graves of the murderer and the victim of the Great Woodward Shoot-out.
|Close-up of John Barner's death on his tombstone|
(Red spot is a reflection of flowers on neighboring grave)
William Ettlinger was known throughout the town for his quick temper and in the summer of 1895, it exploded. During a festival at Woodward he supposedly beat his father-in-law, Benjamin Benner, with a whip handle. The argument started when Benner began to question Ettlinger about his wife's (Benner's daughter) supposed adulterous activities.
Benner swore out a complaint and Ettlinger was arrested for assault and battery and was promptly released until his case came before the judge. However, when his case came up, Ettlinger fled into the mountains above Woodward. For the next six months William Ettlinger lived off the land and terrorized the locals. Known to be well armed (he was known to carry with him two pistols, a shotgun, some knives and a couple sticks of dynamite), he threatened to kill anybody who tried to arrest him.
Enter John Barner into the picture.
|William Ettlinger's Grave|
In February of 1896, John Barner was elected constable of Haines Township under the promise of bringing William Ettlinger to justice.
On March 5, 1896, just a few days after taking office, Constable Barner received word that Ettlinger was at his home in Woodward. Barner and his deputies arrived at the house to serve the warrant. When Barner approached the door he was greeted with two blasts from a shotgun to the head. Then, to make sure the deed was done, William cut Barner's throat before taking refuge in the house, shooting at anybody who dared approach the house.
Within hours, a mob of over fifteen hundred people descended on Woodward. Ettlinger continued to shoot at people and would occasionally toss a stick of dynamite towards the growing crowd.
When Sheriff Condo and his posse arrived in Woodward, it was discovered that Ettlinger was barricaded within the house and was holding his wife and two children hostage. Shots were exchanged over and though some of those gathered outside were injured, none of those in the house were harmed throughout the stand-off.
The next afternoon, Sheriff Condo decided that he had had enough and the house was set on fire. Mary Jane Ettlinger was forced out of the house by William and his children soon followed. When William emerged, someone in the mob shot at him, but missed. "I'll do this myself!" he yelled out and shot himself in the head, dying instantly.
The townspeople quickly approached the house and dragged the bodies of Barner and Ettlinger away from the house minutes before the house exploded.
Barner would get a hero's burial - Ettlinger was dumped in a shallow grave in Lewis Orndorf's peach orchard.
Years later, Jay would recover his father's remains and they would be buried in Woodward Cemetery, less than fifty yards away from John Barner's resting place.
|Ettlinger Grave Marker|
Note: William's name is misspelled
Years after the first visit, I returned to Woodward Cemetery to take some pictures. While walking around the cemetery, I ran into two gentlemen who were placing flags for Memorial Day. After talking for a couple minutes, they started talking about those buried in the cemetery and after a couple of minutes they started sharing the story of the Woodward shoot-out, pointing out the graves of John Barner and William Ettlinger.
After they finished telling the story, one of them added, "They say that on the anniversary of the shoot-out you can hear strange noises in the area where it all happened."
"But that's not the best part of it," the other spoke. "There's a strange glow that appears where the house once stood."
"Do you remember...," the first spoke in a very serious tone. They told me how one night, when they were kids, they were walking home at night when a strange glow appeared near the place where the Ettlinger house once stood. The air was suddenly filled with the sounds of gunfire.
"You never saw two boys running so fast for their homes as we did that night." They both laughed as they finished their story.
We talked for a little while longer before they said they had to finish up - they had another cemetery that needed flags placed. As we got ready to go our separate ways, one of them called out, "You ever hear about the phantom cat that roams the cemetery?"
I never have found the phantom cat, nor have I witnessed the phantom shoot-out that reoccurs from time to time. As far as I can tell, John and William rest peacefully on the hillside of Woodward Cemetery, victims of the Great Woodward Shoot-out.