Morton L. (Morton Luther) Montgomery.

Historical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. online

. (page 107 of 227)
Online LibraryMorton L. (Morton Luther) MontgomeryHistorical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. → online text (page 107 of 227)
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ful hardware merchant at Womelsdorf, Pa., was born in
that town Nov. 21, 1846, son of Elias and Elizabeth (Man-
derbach) Matthew. His paternal grandfather lived at
Newmanstown, Lebanon Co., Pa., and is buried there.

Elias Matthew was born at Newmanstown, Pa., Nov.
18, 1816, and died Sept. 12, 1893, aged seventy-six years,
nine months, twenty-four days. By trade he was a stone-
cutter, and he became quite well-to-do, owning his own
home. He married Elizabeth Manderbach, born March 18,
1824, and died Nov. 30, 18S8, aged sixty-four years, eight
months, twelve days. Her father, John Manderbach,
served as sheriff of the county. To Elias Matthew and
wife were born five children, as follows : Maria m. John
K. Beidler, of Cumberland county. Pa. ; John A. ; Sarah
m. S. L. Gabel, deceased ; Adda ni. S. E. Illig, a barber



BIOGRAPHICAL



415



at Womelsdorf; and Harry D., a successful merchant at
Berlinville, Pa., m. Mame Bennethum.

John A. Matthew attended the schools of his native
town, and also the schools in Heidelberg township. His
boyhood days were passed upon a farm in Ohio, but
when the Civil war broke out he returned to his home, and
enlisted from Womelsdorf in June, 1863, becoming a
member of Company K, 42d Pennsylvania militia, which
was enlisted for three months, but was in service only
six weeks, going as far as Hagerstown, Md., and then
returning to Womelsdorf. On Feb. 12, 1864, he enlisted
a second time, becoming a private in Company B, 55th Pa.
V. I., under Gen. Ben. Butler, in the Army of the James.
He participated in the following engagements : Drury's
Bluff, Va. (in which the regiment lost over 300 men). Cold
Harbor, Siege of Petersburg, Chapman's Farm, Fort
Gregg, Fort Baldwin, Hatchers Run, and then followed
Lee to Appomattox. He was mustered out Aug. 29,
1865. After the war he was unable to work for nearly
two years because of a sore foot. In 1868 he bought out
the omnibus route from Womelsdorf to the railroad sta-
tion, which he ran daily for twenty years. In 1888 he
opened a hardware store on High street which he still
conducts, and in which he has been very successful. He
owns his own building, and this has a frontage of sixty-
six feet. In politics he is a Jefferson Democrat, and he
has filled a number of local offices of trust and respon-
sibility, among them those of burgess of Womelsdorf,
treasurer of the borough and councilman. He was a mem-
ber of the school board for six years and treasurer for a
number of years. He and his family are Lutheran mem-
bers of Zion Union Church.

Mr. Matthew married Lizzie Geissler, of Reading, and
they have had five children : Luther H., associated with
his father in business; Paul A., a tinsmith; Grace E.,
at home; and Anna Martha and Rosa May, who both died
in infancy^

John G. Geissler, father of Mrs. Matthew, was born
in Wurtemberg, Germany, where his father, also named
John G., carried on tinsmithing. He learned his father's
trade, beginning at the age of thirteen years, and after
finishing his apprenticeship assisted his father in the
business. In the spring of 1847 he came to America, ar-
riving in Reading in April. Here two of his uncles were
engaged in the tinsmithing business, and they gave him
employment. He wrote home to his father of the great
opportunities open in Reading, and as a consequence John
G., Sr., crossed the ocean in the same year, bringing the
entire family, and soon becoming well established in the
stove and tinware business in Reading. All the sons made
their father's trade their life work with the exception of
John M., of Minnesota, who is an extensive farmer and
member of the State Legislature.

On Jan. 1, 1861, John G. Geissler, Jr., started in the stove
and tinware business for himself at Sinking Spring, and
in 1863 transferred it to Womelsdorf, where he was
afterward located, later being assisted by his son, Charles
B. Their establishment was one of the largest of the
kind in the county. It occupied all of the building on
Front street, once used by Congressman Ermentrout's
ancestors as a hat factory. As long as he lived Mr.
Geissler worked in the store from morning till night,
and accomplished a great deal in the course of the day.
For some years he did not go on roofs, but in his younger
days preferred roofing to any other branch of his trade.
He had a comfortable residence at the corner of Second
and Franklin streets, Womelsdorf. He married Margaret,
daughter of George Buck, long since deceased, of Temple,
a Revolutionary soldier. Mrs. Geissler died in 1883. Their
children were: Elizabeth (Lizzie) m. John A. Matthew;
Augustus, of Minnesota, is engaged in the stove and tin-
ware business; Charles B. is with his father; Maggie m.
N. D. Snyder, of York; James A. is in the hardware busi-
ness in Minnesota; John M., of Womelsdorf, was for
fifteen years with A. S. Valentine & Son ; Miss Rosa
kept house for her father. Mr. Geissler was one of
Womelsdorf's most useful citizens, and his friends were
numerous. He had been a member of the town council.



and member of the school board. Fraternally he was one
of the early members of Williamson Lodge, No. 307, F.
& A. M., of Womelsdorf; a charter member of Germania
Lodge, I. O. O. F., of Reading; and formerly belonged
to Goethe Lodge, Harugari. He died Jan. 20, 1899, aged
seventy-six years, ten months and five days.

IRA P. ROTHERMEL, eldest son of John K. and Su-
sanna E. (Peters) Rothermel, was born in Maiden-creek
township, Berks Co., Pa. His father was a descendant
from one of the earliest families in the county, and a
prominent farmer in Richmond township, and our subject's
youth was mostly spent in assisting in the arduous duties
of the farm. The advantages of a liberal educa-
tion, however, were not denied him. He was educated
in the public schools of his township, Brunner's Scientific
Academy at Reading, and the Keystone State Normal
School, at Kutztown. After teaching a country school
in Ruscombmanor township for one year, he entered
Lafayette College, from which institution he graduated
in the classical course in the year 1885.

The following year Mr. Rothermel came to Reading,
and began the study of law under the direction of Frank
R. Schell, Esq., and after the latter's decease, which oc-
curred a few months later, he entered the law offices of
Jacob S. Livingood, a distinguished lawyer, under whose
preceptorship he continued and concluded his law studies.
He was admitted to the Berks County Bar Jan. 21, 1888,
and later to the Supreme court and the Superior court
of this State. Since his admission to the Bar he has
assiduously carried on his profession in a successful man-
ner, mostly in the line of office practice and in the settle-
ment of estates.

Mr. Rothermel became affiliated with the Freemasons at
Reading in 1891, where he joined Chandler Lodge No. 227,
Excelsior Chapter No. 237, and Reading Commandery,
No. 42, Knights Templar. In manner, Mr. Rothermel is
modest and unassuming, by nature kind and genial, hon-
orable in all his dealings and generous to every one in
word and deed.

Mr. Rothermel was married to Elizabeth Grim, and
they have three children, John G., Daniel G. and Catha-
rine G. The family are active members of St. Paul's
Memorial Reformed Church. Mrs. Rothermel is a daugh-
ter of Daniel P. Grim, of Kutztown, and a grand-daughter
of Col. Daniel B. Grim, who conducted a large farm,
tannery, general store and hotel at Grimville, in the up-
per section of this county.

BENJAMIN E. BIEBER, chief burgess and prominent
citizen of Topton, where he is the owner and proprietor
of a general store, was born on the old Bieber homestead,
in Longswamp township, Berks Co., Pa., son of Jonas and
Annie (Eck) Bieber.

Jacob Bieber, grandfather of Benjamin E., was a farm-
er and laborer in Longswamp township, and was very
well known. He married Susan Keim, who was born in
Oley township, Berks Co., Pa., and they had six children,
namely: Jonas; Jacob; Susan (m. Samuel Warmkessel) ;
Elizabeth (m. Jacob Long) ; Hettie (m. a Mr. Weiser)
and Mrs. Reuben Walb.

Jonas Bieber followed farming and shoeraaking all his
active life. He was married in early manhood to Annie
Eck, daughter of Daniel Eck, and they had the following
children: William E. ; Benjamin E. ; George E. (m. to
Annie Geist) ; Emma (m. to. Charles A. Fegley) ; Eliza-
beth (m. to Alvin Dunkel) ; Mary (unmarried) ; Louisa,
twin sister of Benjamin (m. William Weil, who survives
her) ; Susan (m. Henry Slicher) ; and Lillie (m. Jonas O.
Weiler).

Benjamin E. Bieber was reared in the neighborhood of
his place of birth and he attended the local schools. His
first work was done around the iron ore mines, but later
he became a clerk in the general store at Topton, of which
he is now proprietor. He carries an excellent stock and
does a very satisfactory business. He has been active
in the public affairs of the community and enjoys the
confidence of his fellow citizens to a very large extent.



416



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



As chief burgess of the town, he fills the highest office in
their gift.

In 1886, Mr. Bieber married Montana Gerhart, daughter
of John and Sarah (Romig) Gerhart, the latter of whom
was a daughter of John and Sallie (Frederick) Romig.
Air. and Airs. Bieber have one son, Lloyd J., born Oct.
7, 1887. He is a graduate of the Topton high school, and
is now learning business methods as his father's assistant
in the general store. The familj' belong to the Topton
Lutheran Church, in which Mr. Bieber has served as a
deacon for about sixteen years. He is a member of the
Fraternal Order of Eagles.

LEVI B. SMITH. The Smith family from which Mr.
Levi Bull Smith was descended is of Scotch extraction,
tlie name being originally McDonald. During the reign
of James I. of England they crossed the North Chan-
nel into Ireland, taking up their residence in the north-
eastern section of that country, where they left numerous
descendants. The change of name is accounted for by
an interesting circumstance handed down in the family
tradition. Just before the battle of the Boyne, when the
King, William III, was reconnoitering that famous field,
his horse cast a shoe. There was no farrier to replace
it, but McDonald, in whose neighborhood the incident
occurred, being, like many other farmers of the region,
something of a blacksmith, volunteered his services, shod
the horse, and thus enabled the King to proceed. From
that time his neighbors, who like himself were in sym-
pathy with the cause of William, dubbed McDonald "the
Smith." and the name clung to him, and was adopted by
his family as a patron}'mic.

Being staunch Presbyterians, the Smiths, together with
a large proportion of the Irish tenantry, at a subsequent
period resisted the rigorous proceedings of the Established
Church of England to enforce the provisions of the
"Sacramental Test" law, under which they were required
not only to pay tithes to the Church, but to conform to
all its requirements respecting marriage and civil rights,-
under pain of invalidation of all religious acts performed
without its pale. To enforce obedience to this arbitrary
measure, the absentee landlords raised the rents of all
their recusant tenantry, and otherwise rendered their con-
dition intolerable. This was among: the causes which in-
duced the Scotch-Irish emigration in the first half of the
eighteenth century to the Colony of Pennsylvania, found-
ed preeminently upon the principle of absolute liberty
of conscience.

Among the earliest of the emigrants were John Smith
and his wife Susanna, of County Monaghan, Ulster, who
came over in 17'20, the year after the enforcement of
the "Test." After a long and stormy voyage they landed
at Philadelphia, and took up their new residence in
Uwchlan township, Chester Co., Pa. With her brother
John came Mary Smith, who married William Fulton,
one of their grandchildren being Robert Fulton, born in
Little Britain. Lancaster county, whose name is indissolub-
ly linked with the evolution of the invention of the steam-
boat.

John and Susanna Smith were the parents of fifteen
children. One of these, Robert, was born on the voyage
to America. The father died in 1703, and the mother in
1767. His three older brothers having gone out to seek
their fortunes elsewhere, the family homestead came into
the possession of Robert, who became a prosperous and
respected citizen and was prominently connected in his
later years with public affairs. During the French and
Indian war he was in the Provincial service with the rank
of sergeant. At the outbreak of the Revolution he en-
tered warmly into the Patriot cause, and was commis-
sioned captain of the 1st Battalion of Associators of Ches-
ter county. In 1775-76 he assisted in the construction of
a line of chevaux-de-frise across the Delaware below
Philadelphia, designed to obstruct the progress of the
enemy by the river to the city, and in the laying out of
the land fortifications adjacent, under the direction of
the Committee of Safety. Fie was a member of the Con-
vention of 1776, which devised the first Constitution of



Pennsylvania after Independence, In 1777 he was ap-
pointed lieutenant of the county of Chester, with the rank
of lieutenant-colonel, which office he held until 1786,
being charged with the arduous and responsible duty
of raising, arming and provisioning the military forces of
the district. He was sheriff of the county in 1777 and 1778;
member of Assembly in 1785-86, and during the same per-
iod a trustee of the loan office. In 1791 he was elected a
justice of the peace and continued in that office until his
death in December, 1803.

Robert Smith was a staunch Presbyterian, and an elder
of the church at Brandywine Manor, of which the Rev.
John Carmichael, like himself an ardent patriot, was pas-
tor during the Revolutionary period. He married in 1758
Miargaretta Vaughan. daughter of John Vaughan, of
Uwchlan township, who survived him until 1822, dying
at the age of eighty-six. They had eleven children. Of
their sons, Jonathan was for many years connected with
the first United States Bank and with the Bank of Penn-
sylvania, of which latter he was cashier, and was one of
the founders of the Pennsylvania Insurance Company;
John was an iron-master, and Joseph an iron and shipping
merchant of Philadelphia.

John Smith, iron-master, father of the subject of this
sketch, was born at the old homestead in Chester county
April 8, 1763. In early life he was manager of the War-
wick Furnace in Chester county, then owned by Col.
Thomas Bull, a distinguished Revolutionary patriot, long
associated with the iron industry in eastern Pennsylvania
in connection with the well known families of Rutter and
Potts. Having married in 1790 Elizabeth, daughter of
Colonel Bull and his wife Ann Hunter, John Smith re-
moved in that j'ear to Dale Furnace, in Hereford town-
ship, Berks county, of which he had become co-owner with
Thomas and Joseph Potts, Jr.. and six years later went to
Joanna Furnace, on Hay creek, Robeson township, hav-
ing become partner in that establishment with his' father-in-
law. Colonel Bidl, and Thomas May. Joanna Furnace
was built in 1792 by Samuel Potts and Thomas Rutter,
being named in honor of the wife of the former. The
substantial stone mansion house, still standing, though
modernized, was erected in 1793. Attached to the estate
were numerous tracts of woodland, aggregating several
thousand acres, from which the works were supplied with
charcoal. Having eventually acquired the entire ownership
Mr. Smith resided at Joanna until his death, which oc-
curred April 3, 1815, when he was aged fifty-three. His
wife survived him twenty years, dying in 1835. They
left ten children, three sons and seven daughters. The
former were: Thomas B., Levi B. and John Vaughan. Of
the daughters, Ann Hunter married James Richards; Sarah
Bull, Jacob Loeser; Margaretta Vaughan, William Darling;
Elizabeth Bull, Joseph O'Brien: Susan Grier, Rev. George
Burcker, and Jane Correy, Goodloe H. Bowman. i\Iary
Cobean died unmarried.

Levi Bull Smith was born at Joanna Furnace Feb. 8,
180G. He received a liberal education, graduating at
Princeton College in 1824. He subsequentlv studied law
at the law school at Litchfield, Conn., and was admitted
to the Bar of Berks county, Pa., Jan. 10, 1827. He mar-
ried April 10th, of the same vear, Emilv H. Badger, a
native of Bucksport, Maine (born Jan. i, 1807), and a
descendant upon the paternal side of the Buck family, of
Puritan stock, who einigrated to New England in 1635.
From 1829 to 1831 he was engaged in farming at the old
Reading Furnace, in Chester countv. and from 1831 to 1833
was in the mercantile business at Alount Airv, in Union
township, Berks county. In the latter vear he removed
to Joanna, and became the partner in that works of his
brother-m-law,^ William Darling, under the firm name of
Darling & Sinith. In connection with the manufacture of
iron the casting of wood-burning stoves became the prin-
cipal business. Mr. Darling, a prominent member of the
county Bar, was an associate judge, and the active man-
agement devolved on Mr. Smith, who acquired even-
tually the interest of his partner, and admitted his sons
into partnership under the firm name of Levi B. Smith
& Sons. The manufacture of pig-iron exclusively was car-




£i^ /^. y^y^



JJiUGRAPHICAL



417



ried on with profit for many years before, during and sub-
sequent to the Civil war, the estate passing into the sole
ownership of one of the sons, Col. L. Heber Smith, in
1877, and the works discontinuing operations in 1905.

Upon his retirement from the active management of
the iron business he removed in 1863 to Reading, where
the remainder of his life was passed. He was one of the
founders of the First National Bank of Reading in that
year, and was its president from its incorporation until
his death. These institutions, being government deposi-
tories, and under the management of men of patriotic
principles, not only built up an efficient financial system
but materially aided in sustaining the credit of the gov-
ernment at the most critical period of its history, and
promoting the public faith in the ultimate restoration of
its authority. In those troublous times Mr. Smith's most
ardent sympathies and active efforts, were devoted to the
triumph of his country's cause. He gave freely of his
means for the raising and equipping of troops for the
field, and his vigilant attention to the thwarting of the
opposition schemes of the enemies in the rear.

An Abolitionist in principle and an old-time Whig in
his political faith, he became from the foundation of the
Republican party one of its most zealous supporters. Whilst
never seeking public office he was named as the Republican
candidate for Congress in the Berks district in 1860, and
his popularity was shown in the result at the election, when
he ran considerably ahead otf the State ticket. In the town-
ships of the southern section of the county adjacent to
his home his vote was especially strong. Having been
placed the same year upon the Lincoln electoral ticket,
. he withdrew on the ground of the iricompatibility of that
position with his Congressional candidacy. At an earlier
period he was upon several occasions a delegate to county
and State conventions of the Whig and Republican parties.
His judgment upon questions of finance was eminently
conservative and sound, and the same shrewdness and
forecast which he evinced in the management of his own
large estate well qualified him for the successful discharge
of the various business relations which he assumed to-
ward others during his residence in Reading in the latter
part of his life. Among these were his membership of
the board of managers of the Reading Gas Company and
of the Reading Fire Insurance Company, of the latter
of which he was one of the organizers. Every associated
effort for the literary culture and social betterment of the
community received his co-operation and support.

In his denominational affihations Mr. Smith was a mem-
ber of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He was a mem-
ber of the vestry of St. Thomas Church, Morgantown, and
a delegate for more than thirtv years from that parish
to the diocesan convention. In 1858 he was a delegate
to the general convention which met in New York City.
Upon his removal to Reading he became a vestryman of
Christ Church, remaining such until his death.

Personally Mr. Smith was of a genial and companionable
disposition, possessing a marked and never- failing trait of
humor, which made his presence at all times enlivening
and agreeable. To be just to all men and faithful to his
own was the ruling principle of his character and life.
After a brief illness the end came to him at his home
Aug. 8, 1876, when a few months advanced in the seventy-
first year of his age. His estimable wife died Dec. 16,
1882. They had ten children: (1) Nancy Valeria, born
March 14, 1828, married June 12, 1855, William Hiester
Clymer, whom she survived, dying Aug. 17, 1901, leaving
six children. (2) Elizabeth Frances, born March 19, 1830,
married June 15, 1869, the Rev. Elias J. Richards, D. D.,
a talented and eminent clergyman of the Presbyterian de-
nomination, for upward of twenty-five years pastor of the
First Presbyterian Church of Reading, whom, together with
their only child, Jane Ellis (born April 8, 1870), she sur-
vives. (3) Bentley Howard. (4) William Darling. (5
and 6) Levi Heber and Emily Annetta. (7) Mary Badger,
born March 19, 1840, died May 22, 1864. (8) Horace
Vaughan, born Aug. 20, 1842, died July 23, 1878. (9)
Thomas Stanley. (10) Edward Hunter, born April 17,
1847, died Sept. 7, 1856.
27



The eldest son, Bentley H. Smith, born Dec. 6, 1832,
at Mt. Airy, Berks county, attended the academy of Wil-
liam F. Wyers, at New London, Chester county, and en-
tered Amherst College at the age of fourteen, graduating
in 1851. He was a bright scholar, especially versed in
the classics, and three years after his graduation received
from the college the degree of A. M. He was engaged
the greater part of his active life in the iron manufactur-
ing business, principally at Joanna, in partnership with
his father and brothers, and subsequently as member of a
firm owning and operating the Temple Iron Works, in
Muhlenberg township. At the outbreak of the Rebellion
he enlisted in the first three months' service, becoming a
corporal in Company A, 14th Regiment, Pennsylvania
Volunteers, mustered April 87, 1861, and before the ex-
piration of his term was promoted to the second lieu-
tenancy of Company K. In the latter part of June, 1863, at
the time of the Confederate invasion of the State, he
raised a company which was attached to the 42d Regiment,
Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, enlisted for ninety days,
and upon the regimental organization was appointed major.
Retired from business for many years, he devoted himself
to general literature, his reading embracing the works of
all the great writers of the age in science, philosophy and
theology. Of ecclesiastical lore he had an accumulation
which would have qualified him for a professorship of
Bible exegesis in the faculty of a university. In addition
to habits of close and careful reading he was a profound
thinker and clear reasoner, ever searching for truth, and
rejecting the illogical and unscientific. His was a mind alike
gifted and discriminating. His native geniality of dis-
position made him a most agreeable and entertaining com-
panion. One of his most marked traits was his benevol-
ence of heart, evidenced by his open-handed and unosten-
tatious charities toward all classes and conditions of un-
fortunates. The possession of such qualities distinguished
him as one of nature's noblernen, and won for him a wide
circle of devoted friends. He died Jan. 19, 1909, when a
little upward of seventy-six years of age.

L. Heber Smith, born Oct. 18, 1837, at Joanna Furnace,
attended WiUiston Seminary, Easthampton, Mass., and, with
his father and brothers, engaged in the iron manufactur-
ing business. He was captain of Company A, 128th
Regiment, P. V., mustered August, 1862, for nine months'
service, and was promoted Feb. 1, 1863, to lieutenant-colo-
nel ; was taken prisoner at the battle of Chancellorsville
and confined for a time in Libby prison, being subsequently
exchanged. After the death of his father he acquired
the sole ownership of the Joanna estate, and carried on
the works until, within a few years of his death, which
occurred Aug. 5, 1898. He married June 17, 1868, E. Jennie



Online LibraryMorton L. (Morton Luther) MontgomeryHistorical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. → online text (page 107 of 227)