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 219 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 219 of 227)
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Having proved his ability and public spirit, he was again
and again called to services of responsibility for his corn-
munity, being almost continuously in office until his death.
In 1867 he was chosen city solicitor and was twice re-
elected, serving until 1870. In 1873 he was elected to the
State Senate, for a term of three years. Meantime, in
1874, the terra was lengthened by a year, and when he
was re-elected, in 1876, it Was a four-year term. At the
close of that period, in 1880, he was chosen to represent
this district in the National Congress, and, by re-election,
was a member of that body for four successive terms,
1881 to 1889. In 1896 he was again elected, and at the
end of his term was chosen to succeed himself in 1898,
so that he was a member of the LVIth Congress, at the
time of his sudden death.

In October, 1877, while a member of the State Senate, the
Governor appointed him a member of the Pennsylvania
Statuary Commission, authorized by the State Legislature
to select the two Pennsylvanians t9 be represented in Stat-
uary Hall, at the National Capitol. A contemporary
says of this : "Governor Hartranft was a Republican but
he saw Daniel Ermentrout was the man for the place."
Mr. Ermentrout used his influence to the utmost in securing
the choice of General Muhlenberg and was particularly
gratified in the selection, inasmuch as the General was an
ancestor of the family of the same name in Berks county,
as well as one of the most notable representatives of the
early German stock. Afterward, when he. became a mem-
ber of the National House of Representatives, he proved
his lasting interest in the matter by deliv.ering a brilliant
address on the Muhlenberg and Fulton statues ; by offer-
ing resolutions presenting the thanks of Congress for the



statues, and by introducing a bill to authorize the printing
of the proceedings of Congress in accepting them.

During his first terra in Congress Mr. Ermentrout, be-
sides looking after various minor affairs of local inter-
est, accomplished an object which has given him a per-
manent place among the public benefactors of Reading.
Although for twenty years the Congressional representa-
tive of this district had tried in vain to get an appropria-
tion for a public building in Reading, Mr. Ermentrout, a
Democrat in a Republican House, tactfully overcame every
obstacle and succeeded in obtaining the amount necessary
to put up the handsome post-office which Reading has since
enjoyed. It was typical of him that the victory was not
won by aggressive methods, but by the exercise of his
comprehensive understanding of parlimentary rules, to-
gether with a fine discrimination and bonhomie, that won
friends for himself as well as for his pet project. His
success had wider results than were originally anticipated,
for, with the Reading building as a precedent, many other
Pennsylvania towns Jiave since been likewise favored. Mr.
Ermentrout's efforts in behalf of his home city, directly
and indirectly, gained many benefits for Reading, but none,
perhaps, gave him more pleasure in the doing than this,
and the Reading post-office stands as his best monument —
the work by which he is best remembered.

In 1882-83 he also presented bills to change the name
and location of the Kutztown National Bank; to furnish
condemned cannon to McLean Post, No. 16, G. A. R. ;
petitions and papers from the citizens of Pennsylvania
for the passage of a bill to establish a Superior court;
for an appropriation to American steamships for ocean
mail service, and .for medals for the Ringgold Battery,
First Defenders, in recognition of their services during the
Civil war. He took a strong position in favor of tjie
restriction of Chinese immigration, making several speech-
es on that subject; also in favor of the extension of the
National bank charters, and against the appointment of
a tariff commission. His succeeding terms were marked
by similar activity. He introduced a number of private
pension claims which were afterward successfully es-
tablished, offered petitions and papers to increase the pay
of the Capitol police; petitions and papers from the citi-
zens of his State for the enforcement of the eight-hour
labor law, and for the establishment of penny postage;
from the Berks County Medical Society for a building
for a medical museum; from the Reading Druggists'
Association for free alcohol, and from the Reading Typo-
graphical Union, No. 86, for the Chance-Breckinridge
currency bill. While in the Lth Congress he was honored
with a place on the committee which had charge of the
inaugural ceremonies of President Harrison, and was a
teller in the count of the electoral vote. It was he who-
offered the motions and resolutions to admit ladies to the
floor of the House; to reserve portions of the House gal-
lery; and to appoint a committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

It was his boast on one notable occasion that he "stood
shoulder to shoulder with 'Sam' Randall in defense and
support of the tariff interests of Pennsylvania, until his-
party in National and State conventions decided upon a
new policy, and then," said Mr. Ermentrout, with solemn
uplifted hand, "I go with my party, and if necessary will
go out of Congress for so acting and voting." His vote
for the "Mills bill," which was made a party question,
in the Lth Congress, lost him the Democratic nomination
for the next (List) Congress, but he was amply vindicated
by his nomination and election to the LVth and LVIth
Congresses. He insisted that a loyal Democrat he must
follow his party flag, and that its National platform,
under the leadership of a Democratic President, was bind-
ing on him until a- new policy was decided upon. "He
was the only man in Berks county that ever survived a de-
feat and again by native force forged to the front and
gained a personal victory."

When he resumed his work in the LVth Congress, it
was evident that his public spirit had suffered no abate-
ment. He presented a bill and joint resolutions donating
cannon to the G. A. R., at Allentown; for the relief
of Herman Van Marsdorf ; also papers and petitions from



BIOGRAPHICAL



769



the Reading Cigarmakers' Union against increase in the
tariff on tobacco ; from Freedom Circle, Reading, relative
to alien ownership of land; from the Penn Hardware
Company of Reading, against duty on emery ore ; from
the Reading Tinplate Company, relative to placing tariff
on tinplate; from St. Lawrence congregation, against plac-
ing church goods on the free list. He used his good
offices to obtain all the Government appointments possible
for his constituents, secured pensions for numerous families
and was instrumental in obtaining flowers and plants for the
improvement of the public park at the head of Penn
street. It was also through his influence, during this
term, that Henry May Keim was appointed consul to
Prince Edward Island.

In Reading Mr. Ermentrout was particularly active Qn
the question of public education and was a member, from
the Seventh ward, on the board of school controllers
for a number of years.

In politics Mr. Ermentrout was a local leader in the
Democratic party from the time he made his first cam-
paign, as candidate for the office of district attorney. He
had decided taste and acknowledged talent for the con-
tests of the political arena, served several years as chair-
man of the Berks county committee, and never missed a
State convention of his party. In 1880 he was a delegate
to the National convention that was held at Cincinnati,
where he supported Samuel J. Tilden as long as that gen-
tleman was a candidate. When the hope of nominating
him was abandoned Mr. Ermentrout had the honor of
presenting General Hancock's name to the convention for
nomination.

Though his official duties were multitudinous Mr. Ermen-
trout continued the practice of law throughout his life,
and made a reputation in the profession which would have
been notable had it not been overshadowed by the more
conspicuous results of his public service. He was engaged
as counsel in important trials from an early stage in his
career, both in the local and in the State Supreme Courts,
and his term as district attorney, covering three years of
the Civil war period, was filled with interesting and
important work. In addition to the usual criminal cases
he conducted a number of trials which were the center of
wide interest at the time, with the ability which won him
much valuable patronage upon his return to private prac-
tice.

These are the plain facts regarding Mr. Ermentrout's
life and work. They give some indication of his devoted
services and of the achievement of his dearest ambitions.
But, unqualified by any reference to the other side of his
nature, they give a totally inadequate idea of the man. His
gifts as an orator, his literary attainments, his social quali-
ties, were appreciable factors in the success of many of his
undertakings. During the Centennial Exhibition at Phila-,
delphia in 1876, while a member of the State Senate, he
made a memorable address on "The Pennsylvania Germans
in History." Though he made no pretense of oratorical
skill he had a reputation throughout his Congressional life
as a clever and able speaker with that personal magnetism
which has power over an audience, when combined with
the faculty of saying things well, and he was often called
upon for speeches and addresses, in the most distinguished
gatherings.

At one of the many Washington dinners, where he was
usually the life and soul of the party, the brilliant Black-
burn of Kentucky, then just elected to the Senate, in speak-
ing of the contest on the Mills' bill and of the division of
the House thereon, said: "Mr. Chairman, it was once said
that the Pennsylvania Democracy was divided into three
factions, the Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson Demo-
crats and the Pennsylvania Dutch — thousands of votes be-
ing cast in that State every four years directly for Andrew
Jackson, who was still thought to be very much alive. But,
Mr. Chairman, I want to add to that list. I would class
them as the Pennyslvania Democrats, the Pennsylvania
Dutch, the Randall Democrats and Daniel Ermentrout."
This -sally created great laughter, and quick as a flash Mr.
Ermentrout was on his feet. "Mr. Chairman, I thank the
distinguished gentleman from Kentucky, for the compli-



ment he has sought to pay me, by making me 'flock by
myself.' But, Mr. Chairman, I want him and everybody
present to know that on that occasion I 'flocked' with the
Democratic President of the United States, the Democratic
Speaker of the House of ' Representatives, and, with five
exceptions, the entire Democratic membership of the House
of Representatives ; and I want to say that, when the time
comes, I shall always be found 'flocking' with my party
and standing on its last National platform, if I have to
'flock by myself in the Pennsylvania Democratic delegation.
I prefer to be an humble private citizen of Pennsylvania
and retain my self-respect, through fealty to my. party,
than cast a vote to curry local and temporary favor. Legis-
lation, whether State or National, is, after all, but a com-
promise; but I shall always be found following the party
leader and the party flag." Three rousing cheers and a
tiger were given for Mr. Ermentrout. .

It was said of him, by his contemporaries in Congress,
that "he had all the nerve, courage and stubborness of his
race, and an iron will, which fought to the bitter end. He
hated intrigue and despised all shams. He was open, frank,
honest and manly to his opponents. He wore no mask.
He had as positive convictions as any man who ever held
a seat upon this floor, and he was always loyal to his con-
victions. On non-essential questions, where men might
honestly differ, he was as generous and kindly-tempered
as a woman."

During the visit to Nashville, Tenn., of a large Con-
gressional party at the invitation of the Managers of their
Centennial Exposition, in 1896, Mr. Ermentrout so won the
hearts of the people that they sent him word they would
give him the greatest office in their gift, governor or United
States senator, if he would make his home among them.
It was then said of him: "He was the center of attraction
wherever he went, whether in a circle of distinguished
ladies and gentlemen, or with the very humblest of the im-
mense throngs that visited our Centennial. He was liked
by all. He loved to make everybody happy. He was a
champion of the cause of pleasure-making, adding always
refinement and zest to each and every occasion. He was
the joy of the party."

Throughout his busy life he continued to be a close stu-
dent, finding his most delightful recreatioii in his books,
into which he delved with characteristic eai-nestness. His
taste was discriminating and he acquired an astonishing
intimacy with the best in the classics and general literature.
His linguistic attainments were also unusual, including pro-
ficiency in French and German, which he spoke and wrote
with ease, and a familiar knowledge of Italian and Span-
ish, sufficient for ordinary conversation. He was a pro-
found Latin scholar. Undoubtedly Mr. Ermentrout re-
ceived his first impulse in this direction while a pupil jn
the classical school under Mr. Kelly, who was born in
France, of Irish parentage, and whose influence had a
lasting effect upon his researches and studies. He wrote
fluently and convincingly, his wide experience giving him
an outlook both broad and generous. His practical, intel-
ligent views of life, gained in so many different ways, tem-
pered by the kindliness of disposition admired by all, and
augmented by study and travel, both in his own country
and Europe, gave his spoken and written thoughts a per-
manent value. This fact is apparent today whenever his
opinions or advice are recalled.

Mr. Ermentrout's last appearance at any public affair
was at a dinner given by the Reading Press Club, a few
days before his death upon which occasion he was an hon-
ored guest and made his last speech. He was an associate
member of this club, a member and one of the found-
ers of the Historical Society of Berks County, a member
of the Pennsylvania German Society, of the Pennsyl-
vania Historical Society and of the Americus
Club. In 1862 he was a member of Company G, Second
Regiment, Pennsylvania Militia.

As may be judged from his connection with the local
historical societies he was deeply interested in the settle-
ment of Pennsylvania and the history of his own county,
and his researches along this line made him one of the most
thoroughly informed men in the State. But in this, as



760



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



in everything else, he made no pretense of being an author-
ity. His natural modesty and refinement made him chary
of exploiting his attainments and he never won ill-will
by undue display of his gifts or knowledge.

Mr. Ermentrout passed away at six o'clock, on the morn-
ing of Sunday, Sept. 17, 1899, at his beautiful home, Graus-
tein, on the slope of Mt. Penn, -after a day's illness. In
death, as in life, he was honored as few citizens of Read-
ing have ever been. His remains were interred in the
Charles Evans cemetery, at Reading, on Sept. 21st, with
Congressional honors. The funeral committee selected by
the clerk of the House was representative, its members be-
ing: Congressman A. C. Harmer, H. H. Bingham, Wil-
liam McAleer, Philadelphia, Pa.; J. W. Ryan, Pottsville,
Pa. ; Galusha A. Grow, Glenwood, Pa. ; William Alden
Smith, Michigan; C. F. Joy, Missouri; W. P. Hepburn,
Iowa; J. S. Salmon, Boonton, N. J.; W. D. Daly, Ho-
boken, N. J.; J. J. Gardner, Atlantic City, N. J.; James
A. Norton, Ohio ; Amos Cummings, New York City ; James
L. Sherrnan, Utica, N. Y. ; M. Brossius, Lancaster, Pa. ;
Senators Boies Penrose, Pennsylvania; Kean, New Jersey;
Kenny, Connecticut; Wellington, Maryland; Vest, Miss-
ouri; and Morgan, Alabama; J. H. Hollingsworth, clerk.

The honorary pall-bearers were members of the Read-
ing Bar Association, namely: Hon. H. W. Bland, Charles
H. Schaeffer, Esq., Richmond L. Jones, Esq., and C. H.
Ruhl, Esq. Numerous letters of condolence were received
by the family, from the Governor and other distinguished
citizens of the State, members of Congress from all over
the country, and social acquaintances and friends. The
local and State papers paid glowing tributes to his life
and work; and resolutions of sympathy were passed by the
Bar Association of Berks County, by McLean Post, G-
A. R,. and by various Democratic organizations.

The following interesting paragraph appears at the close
of a memorial pamphlet issued shortly after Mr. Ermen-
trout's death :

"As a matter of historical interest in Mr. Ermentrout's
career, it may be mentioned that up to the time of his death
he was the last one remaining of a party of six who were
gathered in his committee room at Washington, discussing
civil service reform. They were John F. Andrews, of
Massachusetts; ex-Governor Curtin, of Pennsylvania; Sec-
retary Gresham, of Illinois ; Arnott, of New York ; Mutch-
ler, of Pennsylvania; and himself. At the death of Con-
gressman Andrews, which took place in June, 1895, Mr.
Ermentrout wrote in his diary the followincr quotation from
Whittier on the death of Longfellow; 'Who next shall
fall and disappear? I await the answer with awe and sol-
emnity, and yet with unshaken trust in the mercy of the
All-Merciful.' Alas ! the dread summons came to our
friend and fellow-member all too soon !"

Mr. Ermentrout was united in marriage with Adelaide
Louise Metzger, daughter of John Metzger, Jr., of Lan-
caster, Pa., and to them were born two children, Fitz-Dan-
iel and Adelaide Louise Washington, the former now a
practising attorney in Reading. Mrs. Ermentrout's cul-
ture and superior accomplishments enabled her to ful-
fill fittingly the social obligations imposed by her hus-
band's conspicuous position. In Washington they enjoyed
the best that that delightfully cosmopolitan society could
give them, meeting representative people from all quarters
of the globe. One of the most noteworthy functions in
which they participated was the grand historic ball given
at Reading, in 1879, which surpassed anything of the kind
ever attempted in this section and which drew guests of
prominence from all over Pennsylvania, the Governor, with
his family and entire staff, making a special trip to Read-
ing to honor the assemblage with their presence. The ball
was planned and arranged by Mrs. Ermentrout, as Vice
Regent of the Valley Forge Association, in aid of the Val-
ley Forge Fund, and was a memorable success socially and
financially. Mrs. Ermentrout founded the first Chapter
in the United States of the Children of fhe American Rev-
olution, although the idea originated with Mrs. Lath-
rop, of Concord, Mass., — the writer of children's stor-
ies. The Conrad Weiser Chapter of Reading, Pa., is the
name of this historic society. •



She was also appointed to take charge of Woman's
Day, during Reading's Sesqui-Centennial, in 1907, and had
a notable gathering on the morning of that day, at the
Academy of Music, addressed by the President of the Col-
oniel Dames, the President of the Daughters of the Amer-
ican Revolution and the President of the Women's Clubs
of Pennsylvania. This was followed in the afternoon by
a reception to the women of Reading, by these distinguished
visitors, who assisted Mrs. Ermentrout in receiving them,
at her home, Graustein, on the Hill Road.

After the death of her husband Mrs. Ermentrout spent
four years in Europe, with her daughter, the latter com-
pleting her education in England and France. During the
school vacations and for one entire year they traveled,
and upon their return to this country toured the United
States for a year and a half, visiting numerous places of
interest. They still maintain their pleasant home at Wy-
omissing, a suburb of Reading, passing the summer and
autumn there and wintering in one of the large cities.

Miss Ermentrout has had unusual social and educational
opportunities. While still pursuing her studies in Paris
she was presented, with her mother, at the first Court of
King Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra, held at Buck-
ingham Palace, London, Friday evening, March 14, 1902.
They were also presented to President and Madame Lou-
bet, at a ball given at the Elysee Palace, the official Paris
residence of the Presidents of France. In 1900 Mrs.
Ermentrout was granted an interesting interview with Car-
dinal SatoUi, at his residence in one of the old Roman paK
aces. During an earlier visit to Rome, in 1888, she was
the fortunate recipient of three distinct attentions from
the Vatican, during the Jubilee year, when the Holy City,
was thronged with visitors, thousands of whom were un-
able to obtain even a glimpse of the Holy Father. Her
extensive travels, in the United States, Cuba and Europe,,
have been diversified with various other unique and inter-
esting experiences and privileges.

The _ Metzger family, to which Mrs. Ermentrout be-
longs, is German and of noble extraction, residing at Dor-
nik for several hundred years, until the death of Sigis-
mund von Metzger, in 1590. He was appointed military
architect and later colonel of artillery, by Charles V. of
Spain and Austria, and accompanied that monarch in all
of his war-like expeditions, in Europe and Africa, dying at
a very advanced age. He left two sons, Cornelius and Gus-
tave, brave and expert warriors, whose descendants are still
to be found in the Netherlands, Westphalia and North Ger-
many. Mrs. Ermentrout is a descendant of the Netherlands
branch. On her mother's side she is descended from the
first white settlers of Lancaster county. Pa., in 1709, who,
being relentlessly persecuted for their religious belief, fled
from Switzerland — some of them French refugees — and
found safety and peace in the New World. She numbers
among these two of the first clergymen and the first physi-
cian ever known in Lancaster county.

PHILIP BISSINGER, president and manager of the
Reading Brewing Company and founder of the Bissinger
Cafe, was born Jan. 24, 1842, in Duerkheim, Germany,
and received his preliminary education at that place, where
he lived until he was thirteen years of age. He then
accompanied his parents in their emigration to America,
landing at the port of New York. He attended private
schools at Lancaster, Pa., for several years, and then
secured a position as clerk which he filled until he enlisted
for service in the Civil war, on Sept. 19, 1861, for the
term of three years. He became sergeant-major of the
79th Regiment, P. V. I.; was. promoted to first lieutenant
of Company F in January, 1863, and to captain in Decem-
ber, 1863, having command of the company until Sept.
12, 1864, when he resigned.

Shortly after returning home Captain Bissinger removed
to Reading, and on Jan. 1, 1866, established a saloon and
restaurant at No. 611 Penn street, which he soon devel-
oped into the most popular resort at Reading. His success
was extraordinary from the start, and in 1882 he pur-
chased the property, making extensive improvements to
accommodate the increasing demands of his patronage;



BIOGRAPHICAL



761



and in 1890 he erected a large four-story brick building
for offices and halls and storage purposes on the .rear of
the lot at Court street. By this time the "Bissinger Cafp"
had a reputation for superiority and first-class catering
which extended throughout the State and nation. Nvlfa- .
erous baiiquets came to be held there in celebration of /
events in the history of societies of all kinds, more par-/
ticularly of a fraternal, political and musical naturej
and in honor of popular and prominent individuals; anfl
visiting strangers" and travelers from all parts of th^
world found satisfactory entertainment. After having
operated the cafe for thirty years, until 1895, he sc/ld
the business to a faithful employe and manager for many
years, Wellington B. Krick, arid then retired to enable
him and his wife to take a long-anticipated trip to Europe,
and for nearly a year they visited the, prominent centers
there.

In 1886 Captain Bissinger encouraged the establish-
ment of another brewery at Reading, and with the aid
of local capitalists succeeded in organizing the Reading
Brewing Company. He became the first manager of the
plant and filled the position for three years, having in
this time secured a large patronage from the community
and made the new enterprise a success. In 1897, upon his



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 219 of 227)