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 199 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 199 of 227)
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went into a general mercantile business. During the
war he became the government collector of internal
revenue and retained the position for a long period,
winning 'universal respect by his ability and character.
He and his wife became the parents of five chil-
dren, Thomas, Elizabeth, Carrie, Isaac and Cath-
arine, the last named living only a few years. The
family were Methodists in religious belief although
the Wells family, to which the mother belonged were
Quakers. James Sweney was a strong Republican.

Thomas W. Sweney was educated in the public
schools of West Chester, where his parents resided.
In 1853 he moved to Reading, and began to learn
the jeweler's trade with Solomon Weida. remaining
with him until he had mastered the business in all
its details. He early displayed his marked aptitude
for the work and had no difficulty in finding employ-
ment when he left Mr. Weida. Some years later
he went to Philadelphia, and followed his =trade
there until 1858, when he was offered a very promis-
ing opportunity for advancing in the world by going
into the coal business with his uncle. He' tried this
for some time, but did not find it a congenial occu-
pation and so he returned to Reading and took up
the jewelry business again.

Mr. Sweney established a store of his own at No.
424 Penn street, but after several years there he
moved to another location on Penn street, the pres-
ent site of the C. K. Whitner concern. He remained
there quite a while, but moving again, went to North
Fifth street, in the vicinity of the Gas Company.
This did not prove to be a satisfactory location and
before long Mr. Sweney went back to his first lo-
cation, where he carried 'on his business for many
years. During his later years, however, he gave up
his retail trade and moving to the rear of his prop-
erty confined himself to a manufacturing establish-
ment. He was thus engaged up to one week prior
to his death, when he was suddenly stricken about
four o'clock one morning with a stroke of apoplexy,
from which he never recovered.

Thomas W. Sweney married, April 9, 1859, Miss
Pamelia Catherine Coller, daughter of John and Har-
riet (Wanner) Coller, both natives of Pennsylvania,
of Dutch stock. Four children were born to this
union, but only two lived to maturity: William P.,
a machinist, m. Miss Annie Boyer, and they have
one child, Ruth. Katie B. m. Charles D. Tuke, of
Rochester, N. Y.. and has two children, Charles H.
and Catherine E. Mr. Sweney was a member of the
Methodist Church and for some time sang in the
Fifth Street Methodist Episcopal Church choir.

In his younger days Mr. Sweney was much inter-
ested in secret orders, and was one of the founders
of the Knights of the Mystic Chain. The honor of
organizing the order was accorded to John O. Mat-
thews, but it was Mr. Sweney who formulated the
degrees. Of a very genial kindly nature, he had
many warm friends, and his death has been very
deeply felt and regretted.

JOHN D. MISHLER, manager of the Reading Acad-
emy of Music, Sixth street, between Washington and
Walnut streets, from 1886 to May 12, 1907, with the ex-
ception of two years, 1889-1890, is one of the best known
amusement managers in the State of Pennsylvania and
throughout the country, and surely few managers among
them are as popular as he. In presenting his career to
the readers of the Historical and Biographical Annals
of Berks County we take pleasure in quoting briefly froi,n
various newspapers of Reading, showing the esteem in
which he is held in the community, as voiced by these
newspapers.

"John D. Mishler was born in Newmanstown, Lebanon
county, April 28, 1847, and he moved with his parents,
Joseph and Rebecca (Zimmerman) Mishler, to Reading
in 1848. After receiving an ordinary education in the
pay schools of the city, at seventeen years of age, in



1864, he entered the service of the then leading dry-goods
house (now the Common Sense Shoe Store), Johti ,S.
Pearson & Co., as a package delivery boy, at the salary
of $75 a year. He kept the store clean and carried or
delivered on a wheelbarrow to residences and hotels
goods sold by the firm and between times sold' over $15,000
worth of' dry goods in the first year, for which the firm
made him a present of $25.

"May 2, 1867, he went to Europe and the Paris Exposi-
tion, making a four months' tour. He was on the sea
twenty-one days, owing to fogs and damage to the ma-
chinery of the steamer. His 'death on the sea' was
announced in the Berks County Democrat, A then prom-
inent weekly newspaper, as no news could be had of the
steamer. He was accorded the privilege of perusing his
own obituary. On his return he visited relatives in
Berks, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, giving an account
of his travels, people gathering from great distances to hear
him, as going across the ocean was then considered re-
markable. He was met at the depot on his return by a
brass band and many citizens, escorted to the Keystone
House (now Hotel Penn) and given a supper. He was
the fifth person from Reading who had gone to Europe.
His letters to the Berks and Schuylkill Journal were read
with much interest and copied by Pennsylvania newspapers.

"May 4, 1868, at Reading, he commenced the retail
dry-goods business at No. 533 Penn street (the Globe
Store, later purchased by Dives, Pomeroy & Stewart),
which he continued until the latter part of 1874, intro-
ducing many new ideas in the store and in newspaper
advertisements to attract customers. He was always an
original, liberal advertiser, and was the first business man
in Reading to insert a column advertisement, in 1868 —
later one of four columns, and he at one time had an
entire page of the Times, with an extra edition of two
thousand copies of the paper. An an early age he was
a contributor to newspapers, with a weekly article in the
Times, called The Man About Town' ; he has always been
a warm and much respected friend of the press and was
the first associate member of the Reading Press Club
(organized Feb. 18, 1888).

"It was the custom of the only morning newspaper, the
Times, published in the then old State House, northeast
corner Penn and Fifth streets, to ,go to press at 9 P. M.,
the telegraphic -news being clipped at 6 p. m. from the
Philadelphia Telegraph and The Bulletin; local events
following after that were noticed in the second day issue.
He secured the consent of the owners of the Times once
to go to press specially in the morning, and 'bribed' the
printers (with a sextel of beer, four dozen pretzels and
some cigars) to work all night. By doing this had
published Dec. 4, 1868, an account written by himself, of
over two columns, of a Maennerchor masquerade ball, at
Odd Fellows Hall, now the Library building, the first
time that such a thing had been done in the city, and that
an occurrence after 9 p. m. appeared in the paper the
next morning, and it created much surprised comment.
He conducted for some years the 'Globe Condenser' in
the Berks and Schuylkill Journal, making it a feature of
the paper while also advertising his Globe Dry Goods
Store.

"He was one of the active men and one of the first
directors of the first Penn Stre?t Passenger Railway
Company m 1874, running from the foot of Penn street
to Nmeteenth street. He was a member of the board
of health m 1873. In April, 1875, he had a drawing made
for a park of the then Fair Grounds, now Penn Common
illustrated m the Nezv York Graphic, the first illustrated
daily newspaper in America, and advocated their abandon-
ment for a public park, by a liberal distribution of the

??''^''?n"ii^\"*^ ^"'^/•° l'^^'"^ P^°P'e in the county.
M^^io p^^' 'i«/'-«=ted in front of his place of business,
No. 533 Penn street, a marble public drinking fountain,
for which he paid to the city $10 a year for the use of
the water. The fountain is now at. Penn Common, Elev-
enth street above Washington. Prof. Washing Donald-
son, the well-known aeronaut, made the only store packing
paper balloon ascension ever attempted in this country



BIOGRAPHICAL



697



from Penn Square, May 17, 1873, in the 'John D. Mish-
ler,' Mr. Mishler having furnished everything for the
experiment."

"In politics Mr. Mishler is a Republican, but is liberal
and broad-minded in his politics as he is in all things.
He was confirmed a member of Trinity Lutheran Church
by Rev. Jacob Fry, but is not an active church member
or bigoted in his faith, being a very liberal friend to
Catholics and Hebrews. He is a member of Philadelphia
Sovereign Consistory, thirty-second 'degree Masons, a
Knight Templar of Reading Commandery, No. 43, and
all the lodges of ..the various orders to that elevation,
being a member of the new Isaac Hiester Lodge, No. 660,
having withdrawn from lodge No. 367. He is a member
of Rajah Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the
Mystic Shrine. He is also a member of the Benevolent
and Protective Order of Elks.

"For over twenty-five years he has been liberal and
foremost in charities of all kinds, from the time when the
people contributed hundreds of dollars up to now, when
they annually give thousands of dollars. His efforts in
behalf of the Home for Widows and Single Women were
of much assistance to the Board of Managers, and he
has given toward and solicited from citizens for that in-
stitution money many times.

"On July 11, 1873, he took at his own expense and en-
tertained for the day 1,300 poor children, to Heilman's
Dale, above Lebanon; Christmas, 1872, he gave a dinner
to 260 poor children at the City Hotel. Dec. 25, 1892,
he gave a special free Christmas morning dramatic per-
formance, 'Lost in New York,' to the delight of over
three thousand poor children, and the Reading newsboys
have often in a body attended entertainments at the
Academy without' charge. In 1887 he inaugurated the
idea of an annual Christmas offering to all the Reading
charitable institutions by placing contribution boxes in
hotels, saloons, stores and factories. Over $500 was rea-
lized. He was general secretary for seven years of the
Associated Charities, organized in 1902.

"He organized the Berks County Society for the Pre-
vention of Cruelty to Animals, April 2, 1891, and was
the president for five years, giving much time and effec-
tive advice in the prevention of cruelty. He was one
of the Citizens' Committee in the introduction in Reading
of the 'Pingree Potato plan,' to aid the poor to help
themselves. He had a drawing made by William H. De-
chant Feb. 2, 1893, for a public drive along the slope of
Mt. Penn from the Common to McKnight's Gap and re-
turn. He organized in Reading Dec. 18, 1894, the Penn-
sylvania Bill Posters' Association and was the president
to June 6, 1909. In 1875 he managed the Active Base
Ball Club, and placed it at the head of all amateur organ-
izations in the State. In 1896 and 1897 he was chairman
of the executive committee for Reading's Floral and
Chrysanthemum Show, both exhibitions being very suc-
cessful, and the profits of which were divided among the
Hospitals. In May, 1895, he was chairman of the Finance
committee for the Forty-Second Annual Conclave, Knights
Templars, held at Reading, May 27-29 ; all bills were paid
a week after the Conclave and a pro rata of the surplus
was returned to the subscribers to the fund. He was
again chairman of the Finance committee for the Con-
clave May 27-29, 1901, with the same financial business
result. He was the treasurer of the Finance Committee
for the thirty-ninth Annual Encampment, Pennsylvania
Grand Army of the Republic, held at Reading, June 6-7-8,
1905. After all bills were paid the balance in the treasury,
virith additional subscriptions by individuals, was given
to the Charles Evans Cemetery Company, to keep in good
condition for all time 'the Soldiers' Monument, the graves
and the ground surrounding.'

"His father had erected the first modern theatre in
the State, outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburg, which
was opened Oct. 1, 1873, at 533-535 Penn street, Reading,
and this he managed until 1886, when he had it removed
and the -present Academy of Music was erected by a
stock company and himself. The Academy has very often
been given without charge for charitable and religious



purposes. Gus Williams, June 19, 1883, named his most
successful play 'John Mishler.' In 1877-78 Mr. Mishler
toured the country as manager of the Swedish Ladies
Vocal Qtiartette. From 1883 to 1886 he managed and
was with Bartholomew's famous Equine Paradox, and
again from 1889 to 1891 (the Academy was then leased
by H. R. Jacobs). In 1873 he established the Mishler
Theatrical Circuit of Eastern Pennsylvania, comprising
nine of the principal cities, which he controlled for years.
As an amusement manager he is in many respects a re-
markable exception, in that he will not exaggerate and
always tells the truth only, in newspaper advertisements,
and if an entertainment deteriorates from the time he
booked it, until the date of its appearance, he so an-
nounces in the newspapers that day, and his patrons are
always sure of what they will see.

"Mr. Mishler has always taken a lively, progressive,
useful, liberal and unselfish, much appreciated interest
in the development of the city and the welfare of the
people. His greatest achievement was the Sesqui-Centen-
nial. He selected the week of the celebration, June 5-13,
1898, and, as he prophesied it would be, the weather from
Sunday morning to Saturday night, was perfect, clear,
cool and delightful. He arranged most of the program
for the seven days' fe^ivities, and did very much in
every way to make the celebration the complete success
■ it was. As chairman of the Finance committee, he so-
licited subscriptions for $10,416.66. Within two weeks
after the celebration all bills had been paid and there was
remaining $1,418.84, which the Executive committee decided
to give toward the payment of the electrical display,
$1,903.50, ithat had been ordered by the City Council com-
mittee. The $483.66 was paid by the city in 1902.

"Mr. Mishler is an enthusiast in everything that enlists
his attention. No matter what the result may be, he
works untiringly to the best of his judgment and ability
for success. Always doing, but one who still feels that
he has not enough to do. It not for money's sake or
popularity — simply that he feels best satisfied when em-
ployed — if not for himself, then for others."

Mr. Mishler was on the committee of the Board of
Trade, to solicit subscriptions for the erection of an
armory for the several companies of the National Guard
of the City of Reading, October, 1907; he was active
in securing a loan of $500,000 for Reading to have a
plant for -the filtration of water, October, 1907;' he has
repeatedly made liberal efforts to build a modern hotel,
.3. much needed want in the city; he has done much effect-
ive work in the Board of Trade to enlarge its public use-
fulness; he was a member of the committee who collected
$5,000 for the relief of the sufferers of the Boyertown
theatre fire, January, 1908; he revised the constitution
and by-laws of the Board of Trade and published an
illustrated sixty-page manual; as chairman of the com-
mittee on "Streets, Sidewalks, Light" of the Board of
Trade he has very much improved these city conditions.
On Jan. 9, 1908, he responded to the toast "Our City's
Special Needs," at a Board of Trade dinner. In May, 1908,
he was given a dinner at the Mineral Spring Hotel b^-
the Board of Trade as "A Reading Booster" ; he delivered
an address at the Eighteenth Annual Commencement -ex-
ercises of the Reading Hospital, May 37, 1908, full of plain
truths, forcibly given, and advocated State legislation
for the protection of graduated nurses; he was on the
Reception committee when Governor Stuart addressed the
Christian Endeavor State Convention in Penn Common
at Reading, July 9, 1908; in 1908 he visited Ireland with
Mrs. Mishler, and wrote to the Eagle many very interesting
letters of the condition of that country, its changes and
possibilities, given in his candid and original style; on his
return Mr. and Mrs. Mishler were given a "home coming
dinner" at the Mineral Spring Hotel, Sept. 10, 1908, by
more than one hundred men and women ; Sept. 24th of the
same year the Reading Press Club gave him "a welcome
home reception"; he presided at a Christian Science
public assemblage Oct. 13, 1908; he presided at the Re-
publican mass meeting in the A<:ademy of Music Oct. 30
1908, in the Taft campaign; he was foremost in making



698



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



country roads better and in advocating a State road from
Philadelphia to Pittsburg passing through Reading; he was
chairman of the "General Relief Committee," for the
relief of the needy families afflicted with typhoid fever
during the local epidemic in 1908; he is a trustee of the
Young Women's Christian Association and assisted in
soliciting more than five thousand dollars to build a gym-
nasium and to modernize their home, which he assisted
in providing five years ago. Evidently Mr. Mishler is one
of those very busy men who can find time and who take
delight in helping to advance public affairs in the different
sides of life. He was the toastmaster at a banquet of
Reading's best citizens given by Henry W. Shoemaker
and G. Scott Smith, owners of The Reading Times, Feb.
10, 1909, when an oil painting of Kuechler (deceased)
was placed in a building made famous by, Kuechler, who
had a national reputation.

"Mr. Mishler said : 'All the world loves a generous
person. It is not the material result of the generosity,
but the kindly spirit that prompts it that attracts and en-
dears. It is not necessary to have much in order to be
generous — but the disposition to share liberally what one
has. Even at the cost of a little self-sacrifice, the reward
is always worth the price paid. There are things of
which we may all be more generous. The comfort of
sympathy, the stimulus of praise and encouragement, are
often more welcome, more appreciated, than that which
mere money can buy.' Mr. Mishler's philosophy of life
is affecting in its simplicity. 'Just to be kindly and good-
natured,' he says ; 'just to do the little good one can, to
sympathize with one's friends and to give them a lift when
they're down — to leave the world a little bit better than
one found it, that's all I think a man need aim at, if^you
ask me.' He also said : 'If only half the nice things
said after people are dead were only told while
they are alive, how much more happiness there would
be in the world.' "

Such has been the life of Mr. Mishler as portrayed by
his home newspapers; and the writer (Walter Kieffer, of
Lancaster), who knew him for over thirty years, de-
sired to bear testimony to the truthfulness of all that
has been said of one of Reading's foremost citizens — John
D. Mishler. Beginning a good deal more than a quarter
of a century ago, Mr. Mishler gave to Lancaster and
other leading neighboring cities the best amusements they
had, and he is just as popular in other Pennsylvania
cities as he is in Reading.

Mr. Mishler married Sept. 7, 1871, Louisa C. Halbach,
daughter of the late August Halbach, of Philadelphia,
and their home at No. 417 Green Terrace is known
at all times as one of the most hospitable in Reading.
Three children were born to this union : Rebecca Marie
m. H. Hurd Hillegass, paper bag manufacturer at Read-
ing; Maud Viola m. Henry E. Bell, proprietor of the
Reading Bill Posting Company; J. Boyd assists his father
in the clerical work of his business. No family is more
respected, nor none is more beloved in Reading, for
their unselfishness and sociability. Mr. Mishler retired
from the theatrical business at Reading May 11, 1907.
He then agreeably surprised some friends — -"each one
of whom he remembers for their participation in a spe-
cific incident in his life," by presenting them a copy of
"Mishler's Memoirs," a neatly printed and handsomely il-
lustrated volume of some two hundred pages, octavo size,
telling the story of John D. Mishler's life from 1847 to
1907. The edition was limited to one hundred copies.
The table of contents embraces much that is of interest
in the career of the enterprising townsman who has
rounded out a period of more than sixty years of a varied
and busy life. In this volume may be found much con-
cerning him as a man of business ; as a liberal newspaper
advertiser; his connection with the drama in Reading;
his public benefactions; his connection with and fostering
care of various charitable institutions; his active partici-
pation in the Sesqui-Centennial celebration of Reading,
etc. Indeed, the history of nearly all public enterprises
in Reading for well nigh half a century contains pages
upon pages of the work done by Mr. Mishler. He has



always been intensely loyal to Reading and its municipal
advancement.

"In his retirement from his long and honorable connec-
tion with the dramatic life of Reading, it is sincerely
hoped by many citizens that he may continue to reside
here. He is a useful citizen, a wide-awake business
man, public-spirited, never weary of well-doing, clean-
handed and active in the discharge of whatever he is
called upon to do that may inure to the welfare of his
city, his friends and his neighbors."

JONATHAN H. MILLER, a retired citizen of
Mohnton, Berks Co., Pa., was born in Cumru township,
on the present site of Edison, Jan. 24, 1839, son of
Jonathan and Catharine (Hornberger) Miller.

Mr. Miller attended the pay schools of Cumru
township until he had attained the age of eighteen
years, working on a farm during the summer sea-
sons. He lived at home until his m.arriage, in 1859.
to Mary Gaul, daughter of Joseph and Mary (Fox)
Gaul, when he came to Mohnton, and for about
twenty years was engaged in operating a grist-mill
along the Wyomissing. He then learned the hatting
business, engaging at that trade in Mohnton, being
later in partnership with J. G. Mohn & Bros. He
then entered a partnership with his son, Albert, under
the firm name of J. H. Miller, Son & Co., and they con-
tinued together for fifteen years. Mr. Miller then
worked at his trade with the well known firm of
Whorley Bros., of Mohnton. until 1904, since which
year he has lived retired. His first wife died July 2,
1876, and was buried in the Mohnton cemetery. She
was the mother of one son. Albert G. Miller, who
married Mary Dietrich, and resides at Mohnton, the
father of two Children, Elmer and Arthur. Mr. Mil-
ler m. (second) Mary Fleisher, daughter of Peter
Fleisher, and to this union there were born: Edwin
is unmarried and at home; Robert m. Lillie Rich-
wine, and lives at home where he is engaged in the
hat business; and Matthew also lives at home, and
is unmarried. Mrs. Miller is a daughter of Peter
Fleisher, who was born near the Swamp Church, in
Lancaster county, Nov. 14, 1819. and died Dec. 26,
1888. He m. Catharine Brensing, daughter of Peter
and Elizabeth (Reedy) Brensing, and they had these
children: Samuel m. Mary ijtettler; Mary m. Mr.
Miller; and James m. Mary Howe.

Mr. Miller and his family reside on the corner of
Wyomissing avenue and Wood street, in the home
which was built by him in the summer of 1866. It
is three stories high and of sandstone, and is con-
sidered one of the finest in the town. Mr. Jililler
is one of the oldest residents in the town of Mohn-
ton, which at the time he arrived contained but five
dwellings. In politics he is a Republican. He is a mem-
ber of Zion's United Evangelical Church of Mohnton.
which he joined in 1870, when it was known as the
Evangelical Church. He has served on the building
committees of two churches, has been class leader
of Class No. 2, trustee and steward for many years,
and a teacher in the Sunday school for many years,
now teaching class No. 23. Mr. Miller is one of the
honorable and upright men of his townshio, and as
an acquaintance and friend he is honored and esteemed
by all with whom he comes in contact.

HENRY PRICE, a well-known contractor and build-
er of Reading. Pa., residing at No. SIO Franklin
street, has been engaged in these lines in thi^ city
since 1888. Mr. Price was born Oct. 13, 18-lfi, in
Myerstown, Lebanon Co., Pa., son of William Price,
also a native of that county.

William Price was a carpenter by trade, an occu-
pation which he followed throughout a useful life
In 1863 he went to Shelby county. HI., taking his
family with hnn, and there he continued to ply his
trade up to the time of his death, when forty-eight
years of age. While there he built one of the finest



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 199 of 227)