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York’s last 19th century mayor was Civil War veteran

North George Street and the Centre Square of York, Pennsylvania, during the Civil War years. Author’s collection.
Frank Geise was the last mayor of York, Pa. during the 19th century. Borough wide voting on February 21, 1899, gave him the nod over his Republican opponent. Geise, a popular attorney with a wide constituency, had fought in the Civil War with the 87th Pennsylvania, an infantry regiment primarily raised in York and adjacent Adams counties.
Geise, a Republican during the war years, proved to be controversial as an officer. According to Dennis Brandt’s fine work on the 87th (From Home Guards to Heroes, pages 83-84), Geise was appointed to lead Company H from his previous role as the regimental sergeant major, a primarily staff function. His new command regarded the appointment of Geise as “distasteful to us in every respect and we believe utterly incompetent.” The men much preferred the promotion of one of their own ranks instead of an outsider. Geise later receive a commission as a lieutenant in a black regiment.
After the war, Geise proved to be a capable and talented lawyer whose death barely a year after taking the mayoral office was widely lamented. He was one of a handful of York’s mayors / chief burgesses to die while in office.
Here are portions of his obituary from Volume 13 of the York Legal Record, from the summer of 1900.

Frank Geise, Esq., a member of the Bar of York county and Mayor of the City of York, Pa., died on Tuesday. May 1, 1900, at 11:45 P.M. at his residence, No. 516 West Market street. The immediate cause of his death was stricture of the bowels, superinduced by a long standing case of catarrhal trouble.
The York Daily of May 2, 1900, published the following sketch of his life:
“Mayor Geise was born in Paradise township, May 22, 1837. He was a son of the late George and Elizabeth Reiley Geise. His early life was spent at his rural home where he received such an education as the pay schools of that period afforded.
He spent several years working as a carrier on a brick yard and later worked as a hired man on a farm. After leaving the farm he entered the hardware store of P.A. & S. Small, in this city, where he remained for two years. Here he acquired the rudiments of a business education that served him so well in his more mature years.
After severing his connection with the Messrs. Small he entered the York County Academy and later the Cumberland Valley Institute. At intervals during this time he taught school, worked on farms, &c., until the Civil War broke out, when on the 23rd of September, 1861, he enlisted in Company D. 87th Regiment, P. V. I. He retired from the army in 1866, after a military service of five years, two and a half of which was in the 87th Regiment.
On his retirement from the army he obtained a clerical appointment in the department of the interior in Washington, and during his service there he entered the Columbia Law College, devoting his spare time to the study of the law, from which he graduated with honor on the 4th day of June, 1869. In August of the same year, he resigned his position in the department of the interior and entered upon the practice of law in York. In 1871 he was elected Prothonotary of the courts, which office he held for three years. His career from thence was devoted to the practice of his profession, and the development of the material interests of the community.
He was elected Mayor of York, February 21, 1899, on the Democratic ticket, and immediately after his induction into the office began the work of reorganizing every department of the city government. Though at the helm but a little more than one year, he succeeded in establishing a sound financial policy which if carried out as intended will prove a rich and rare legacy to the tax payers of the city. Mayor Geise was a staunch advocate of the municipal ownership of all public utilities, having studied the subject with great care and had he lived to carry out his ideas along this line York in time would in all probality have owned the majority of the franchises in the hands of private corporations.
Public spirited and progressive, Mayor Geise was identified with many of the great improvements made in this city within the past thirty years. Among these are the York City Market Company, of which he was one of the original organizers, and the fine market house is a monument to his zeal and energy as one of its officials. He was also prominently identified with the West End Improvement Company and was one of the most active spirits in giving to York a street railway second to none in the State. The old York Match Company and the original electric light company, known as the Arnoux, too, had his support financially and otherwise. The York Hospital was one of his pet institutions and received not only the benefit of his time and talent whenever demanded but his financial support as well. Among his recent bequests was the fine organ that graces Faith Presbyterian church.
He was a member of Trinity Reformed church and took a lively interest in every department of church activity, especially in the Sunday school work, to which he was a liberal contributor.
Though suffering greatly lor more than a week past he retained conscioness almost to the time of his death, and his last official act was that of Monday evening last when he signed the call for the Thirteenth Ward election.
Fifteen years ago he associated himself with Messrs. E. D. Ziegler and Jos. R. Strawbridge, under the firm name of Geise, Ziegler & Strawbridge, in the practice of law. Five years ago Mr. Ziegler withdrew from the firm, since which time the firm name has been Geise & Strawbridge.
Mayor Geise is survived by two sisters. Mrs. Jere Brown, of near Glen Rock, and Mrs. Wehler, of Paradise township, both widows.”
From York Daily May 4, 1900.
The bench and bar of York county met yesterday morning in court room No. 2 for the purpose of eulogizing their late fellow-practitioner, Frank Geise. The meeting was presided over by Hon, John W. Bittenger, while John A. Hoober, Esq., acted as secretary.
Captain Geise’s career as a lawyer, citizen and public official was eloquently commended in addresses by Judges Bittenger and Stewart and Messers. H. C. Niles, R. E. Cochran, George S. Schmidt, R. F. J. McElroy, J. R. Strawbridge and H. H. McClune. Congressman Ziegler sent from Washington a letter stating his inability to be present and adding a tribute to the worth of his former partner.
Richard E. Cochrane, Esq , offered the following minute, which was adopted and ordered to be entered on the records of the court:
“The judges of the court and the members of the bar of York county have learned with sincere sorrow of the death of Frank Geise, Esq. Since 1869 he has been a member of this bar and practiced law in this county and his relations with the judges and his brother practitioners have always been most pleasant and cordial.
“He had a large practice, to which he devoted himself most faithfully, and he was always earnest and zealous in his work for his clients. He enjoyed the confidence and respect of the court and the warm personal friendship of his brethren of the bar
“As a citizen he was energetic and public spirited. Many of York’s most flourishing industries, most useful public enterprises and most worthy charities exist to-day because of his disinterested efforts and labors in their behalf.
“As an official, whether as prothonotary of the court or membir of councils, he performed his duties faithfully and conscientiously, with a broad and liberal mind and an intelligent conception of the duties of his office and the wants of the citizens and the community and as Mayor of the city he has laid down his life in his efforts to serve the people. In the one year which has passed since he became chief magistrate of the city he has wrought such necessary changes and accomplished such reforms in the management of our municipal affairs that his term as Mayor will be ever memorable in the history of York.”