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

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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 22 of 227)
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the latter year. Mr. Getz subsequently served three
terms in Congress from this district, 1867 to 1873.

Hiester Clymer occupied great political promi-
nence in the county for twenty years, from 1861 to
1881. He was in the State Senate from 1861 to



1866. In 1866, he received the nomination for they have continued to be till now ._ A smgular
Governor on the Democratic ticket, but he was not change— if not a transformation— m respect to-
elected. Reading was then Republican in political party names, arose afterward. As early as 1793,
sentiment by a small majority and the nominee on the Anti-Federal party was called the Democratic-
the Republican ticket received the full party vote, Republican party ; but the word 'llepublican" was

notwithstanding Reading was the home of Mr.
Clymer. He was the representative in Congress
from 1-873 to 1881.

Daniel Ermentrout succeeded Clymer in political
prominence, having been State senator from 1874
to 1880, and the representative in Congress from
1881 to 1889, and from 1897 to 1899, dying before
the end of his last term.


dropped in 180.5, and the name Democratic alone
used. Thence the Federals, or Whigs, or Republi-
cans, have been on the one side and the Democrats-
on the other, the latter party keeping its identity
here for over a century. For twenty-five years,
from 1830 to 185-5, the Anti-Mason party for ten
years, and the Whig for fifteen, were substituted
in the place of the Republican party.

The Declaration of Independence was published'
on the -Ith day of July, 1776. Smce the Revolution,.

Political Parties.— From the beginning of the that day has been regarded as the nation's birthday,
county, there have been two parties in political af- and it has been made a holiday by the several State-
fairs. Before the Revolution, agitation of political governments. Annually for about eighty years, the-
questions was not general or continuous. The elec- parties of each community celebrated this great
tive franchise was a recognized privilege, but it was holiday by assembling at popular places and drink-
not particularly encouraged by the creation of con- ing toasts, making addresses and enjoying them

venient or numerous polls to enable electors to ex-
press political preferences. Local offices for the
townships and the town were filled by election, but
county officials were appointed, and this feature
continued in respect to the major part of them until
1841, when r;n Act of Assembly was passed which
pro-vided for a general change to election. For over
thirty-five years Berks county comprised one gen-
eral election district, with the court-house at Read-
ing as the polls. In 1789, the districts began to
increase; and they have increased gradually, to sat-
isfy the demands and encourage the facilities for
election, till they now number seventy-eight.

During the Revolution, the people formed them-
selves into two parties, especially those who mani-
fested any concern in the government ; the one class,
favoring a continuance of the royal government,
called "Tories" ; and the other, favoring a free, rep-
resentative government, called "Federals," or their respect for Joseph Hiester, though on the op-

selves generally. At Reading, the parties celebrated
the day regularly in this manner. The Federalists
and the Whigs assembled on the island in the-
Schuylkill river, several hundred feet above the-
ferry, at the foot of Bingaman street ; and the Dem-
ocrats at ^Mineral Spring, east of the limits of Read-
ing. ^^''hen the Civil war broke out, this custom
was discontinued, and it has not been revived.

Vote for Governor. — Since 1788, the people of
the county manifested a most remarkable adherence
to the Democratic party and the principles which it
advocated, chief among them the principle of local
self-government. In 1802, the Democratic vote was
eight times that of the Federal. Afterward this-
proportion was at no time surpassed, not even
equaled. The vote was regularly for the Demo-
cratic candidate, excepting two occasions, in 1817
and 1820, when the people of the county manifested

"Whigs." The distinction was marked, and fortu-
nately for the people of the county, as of the State
and the great confederation of States, the latter
party won a decisive victory. Upon the establish-
ment of freedom, new parties arose. These pro-
ceeded from Whigs, and were recognized either- as
the Government Whigs, or Federals, who desired

posing ticket. These occasions were when Hiester
was a candidate on the Federal ticket for Governor.
He had distinguished himself in political affairs
through a period of forty years.

Berks county was not alone in honoring him, for
of the eleven counties in the southeastern section
of the State, he had eight in 1817. This important


a Republican form of government, with checks section of the'' State gave him a majority of

upon the impulses or passions of the people, and though the State was against him by a majority of

with liberty regulated, strengthened and confirmed 7,005. And in 1820 he had nine" of the eleven

by central authority; or as the Particularist Whigs, counties, with a majority of 8,194, and in the State

or Anti-Federals, who desired the same form of a majority of 1,605. In this connection, the vote

government, but Democratic in spirit, with, the of Fliester for Congress, as against Daniel Clymer,

rights of local self-government, and of States ever in 1798, can be mentioned in order to show Hiester's

uppermost. popularity. The vote was more than four to one

In 1784, there were two parties in the province, in his favor. All the districts in the county except

called Republicans and Constitutionalists. Most of one gave him large majorities, and this exception

the electors of this county were of the latter party, was the "Forest" district, influenced by the Clvmer

In a certain sense, the latter took the place of family, resident in Caernarvon to\Ynship.

the "Tories," and were called "Republicans." They Even through the excitement incident to the Civil

were the dominant party in the county then and war, 1861-65, the county continued Democratic bv



Jarge majorities. The city of Reading was other-
wise, though theretofore also generally Democratic ;
■for, at the election previous to 1860, it was almost
Ihree to one Democratic, but in 1860, 1863, and
1866 it was Republican. Since then, it has been
Democratic, excepting at the election of 1894, when
the Republicans received a plurality of 1,123.

Vote for President. — In 1828, the vote for
Jackson in Berks was five to one against Adams.
Then it was that the county distinguished itself in
voting for Jackson. It would seem that the people
here, as the people elsewhere, had felt keenly the
outrage perpetrated upon them by the House of
Representatives, in not respecting the will of the
majority by the selection of a candidate for Pres-
ident whose electors had received the greatest num-
"ber of votes. The idea of self-government was
again uppermost in their minds, and this idea they
felt it their duty to express by ballot in a most un-
equivocal manner. The vote of Reading was in
•the same proportion. And at Jackson's re-election
in 1832, the result of the vote, both in the county
and city, was for him in the proportion of about
four to one. The vote in the county for President
from 1828 to 1904 was always Democratic by a
large majority.

The city of Reading was also Democratic by a
considerable majority till 1860 ; then a decided
change took place through the great upheaval in
political affairs. Lincoln was given a majority of
more than 500 over Breckenridge, and of more
-than 300 over all, Douglas and Bell included.
This Republican feeling in the city prevailed till
-the re-election of Grant, when, remarkable to say,
a majority of 1,207 was given for him. In the elec-
tion of McKinley, there was a plurality of 1,717
for him in 1896, and of 1,111 in 1900 ; in the elec-
tion of Roosevelt, there was a plurality of 3,369 for
him in 1904; and in the election of Taft, of 866
for him in 1908.

Vote for Constitutional Amendments. — On
the question of amending the State Constitution, the
election returns are interesting. In 1825, the coun-
ty was against the Convention by a vote of five to
one; and in 1835, also against it, of over two to
one. But in 1838, on the question of ratifying the
work of the Convention, the county voted for the
Amendments. The chief provision gave electors the
right to elect county officials, excepting the judges,
and this the county electors appreciated very much.
The State adopted them, but by a very small major-
ity compared with the total vote.

In 1850, on the question of making the judges of
the Supreme and Cotmty co"rts elective, the county
Avas for it by a large majority; and the State was
for it by a vote of two to one.

In 1871, the question of a Convention was again
srbmitted to the voters. The county was against
it by a remarkable vote of two to one, but the State
was for it by a vote of almost five to one. How-
ever, on the ratification of the report of the Con-
-vention at a special election in 1873, the county

was decidedly for the New Constitution by a vote
of five to one.

Vote for PROHiiiiTiON and License. — The liquor
question was submitted twice to a vote of the elec-
tors ; first in 1854, and again in 1873. On both
occasions, the county was decidedly in favor of li-
cense; first, by a vote of four to one; and next,
three to one.

Election of 1876; — The Democrats in Berks
county were certain of victory in 1876. They were
taught to expect it, and when the night of the elec-
tion arrived they looked for it. But the news was
doubtful. They had counted upon a "Solid South,"
and also certain Northern States. Their leader had
calculated with great shrewdness, but neither he
nor any of his followers had thought the loss of
three Southern States within the range of possi-
bility. And this result actually occurred. Late on
election day, the chairman of the Republican
National Committee announced that Hayes had
185 electoral votes, and would be the next Presi-
dent. This came to be exactly so. But during
the four intervening months, great excitement
prevailed and fears of a political revolution
were entertained. At Reading, excited crowds
of people assembled for many nights in suc-
cession to hear the returns which were reflected
upon screens — the Times screen having been set up
against the Jameson building on the Sixth street
side, above the portico, so as to show the figures
down Penn Square, and the Eagle screen in front
of the Eagle building. Some of the cartoons were
striking and afforded much merriment in reliev-
ing the monotony of election returns. The ele-
phant figured conspicuously in them. At one time
he came out with a rooster in his trunk lashing
it around wildly in the air; then with a rooster
tied to his tail, running away with it; now jump-
ing for joy at a favorable report, then lying on
his back as if dead from a Democratic victory, with
a rooster crowing lustily over his fallen body; Jeff
Davis was represented as sitting up in a sour apple
treej and different prominent Democrats were
drawn in various laughable positions; and numer-
ous short witticisms appeared frequently. Alto-
gether, the exhibition awakened a thrilling interest
in the people.

State Conventions at Reading. — Three Demo-
cratic State Conventions were held at Reading at
which candidates for Governor were nominated:
the first on June 4, 1851, when William Bigler was
nominated by acclamation; the second on Feb. 29,
1860, when Henry D. Foster was nominated; and
the third on May 30, 1873, when Charles R. Bucka-
lew was nominated.

A Democratic State Convention assembled at
Reading in the Academy of Music on Aug. 31, 1897,
which was reported to have been the most turbu-
lent in the history of conventions in the State of
Pennsylvania. The purpose was to nominate candi-
dates for auditor-general and State treasurer. Hon.
Daniel Ermentrout of Reading was elected tern-



porary chairman and he filled the position under
adverse and exciting circumstances.

Mass-Meetings. — Numerous mass-meetings have
been held at Reading by the respective political
parties. The earliest meeting of w'hich any extend-
ed notice was given, was held by the Democratic
party Sept. 4, 1852, for the purpose of ratifying
the nomination of Franklin Pierce as the Demo-
cratic candidate for President. Philadelphia sent
a delegation of fifteen hundred men, accompanied
by three fine bands of music ; and large delegations
were in attendance from Dauphin, Lebanon, Lan-
caster, Chester, Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh,
Schuylkill and other counties, whilst from the hills
and valleys of Berks county hundreds of the in-
domitable Democracy came to swell the assembled
multitude. Conspicuous among those from the
county were the North Heidelberg delegation in
large hay-wagons and vehicles of every description ;
the Boyertown Pierce Club in carriages with flags,
banners and wreaths of flowers ; and the Kutz-
town Pierce Club in carriages, with flags and music.
It was the largest meeting ever held at Reading till
that time, and it included the largest number of
great political leaders which the citizens had ever
seen together here. A platform was erected at the
upper end of the Western Market-House and
around it the crowd assembled and heard the speech-
es of such distinguished men as Hon. James Bu-
chanan, Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, Gov. Enoch
Lowe (Maryland), Gov. William Bigler (Pennsyl-
vania), Hon. Barnabas Bates (New York), Hon.
Charles J. Faulkner (Virginia), Hon. B. F. Ballett
(Massachusetts), Chief Justice LeGrand (Mary-
land), Hon. John A. Wilcox (Mississippi), and
Hon. John H. Savage (Tennessee). Addresses
were made from noon till midnight. Mr. Buchanan
was chairman of the meeting during the afternoon,
and, in the course of his opening remarks, he com-
plimented Berks county for "her undeviating patri-
otism and entire devotion to Democratic princi-

RiTNER Young Men's Convention. — The young
men of Pennsylvania, who were favorable to the
election of Joseph Ritner for Governor held a con-
vention at Reading on June 4-5, 1838. Seventeen
hundred delegates assembled from all parts of the
State. Their meeting was held in the Trinity Luth-
eran Church, and it was distinguished for earnest
enthusiasm. Appropriate addresses were made and
resolutions passed. The meeting was the largest
of a representative character ever held at Reading
until that time. It was conducted with ability and
occasioned much excitement. But it did not in-
crease the strength of the Anti-Mason party in
this section of the State. It was the first and only
political convention ever assembled in a church
building at Reading. Permission was granted by
the church vestry because there was no large hall
in the borough then, and the Trinity Church was
the only place in which so large a body of men
could assemble with convenience.

Whig Mass-Meeting of 1844. — The Presidential
campaign of 1844 was particularly exciting. Henry
Clay was the Whig candidate for President, and
James K. Polk the Democratic candidate. The
former enjoyed a very high degree of popularity
throughout the county, and his friends conducted
a very active campaign in his behalf. The Whigs of
Pennsylvania exhibited much enthusiasm for him
during the canvass, for he was a great favorite in
every section of the State, especially where man-
ufactures were carried on. Reading was then a
growing centre for industries of various kinds, and
the W^higs here idolized him for his earnest labors
in the cause of protection to home industries. They
held a mass-meeting at Reading, on Sept. 27, 1844.
Over five thousand persons were in attendance,
delegations having come from different sections
of the surrounding country. The day was especially
noted for a large procession in which the various
trades and employments were represented. Minia-
ture shops and factories were hauled about the
town and successfully operated.

The living raccoon again figured conspicuously
in the procession, as it had in the previous cam-
paign. The singing of campaign songs added in-
terest to this occasion, just as it had been practised
four years before, when there was one universal
shout for "Old Tippecanoe and Tyler too." Not-
withstanding this great effort of the Whigs, they
could not weaken the devotion of the Democrats
in the county or lessen their majority. The poke-
berry was brought into great prominence by the

During this campaign, the Democrats also held
a large mass-meeting. One of its prominent fea-
tures was a large boat, rigged as a "Ship of State,"
manned by a number of boys dressed as sailors,
and drawn on wheels in the procession by many
young men. The majority for Polk in the borough
was 369, and in the county 4,674. This result in-
dicated the thorough organization of the Democrats.
Dallas, their candidate for Vice-President, visited
Reading during the campaign and delivered an
address at the "Mineral Spring," dwelling particu-
larly upon and favoring the tariff. Gen. Sam
Houston from Texas was also present.

Clymer M.vss-Meetings in 1866. — Hon. Heister
Clymer, a citizen of Reading, received the nomina-
tion for Governor on the Democratic ticket in 1866.
He had been State senator from 1861 to 1866, dur-
ing which time he had acquired considerable popu-
larity throughout the State. Gen. John W. Geary
was the Republican candidate. Both parties were
under thorough organization and they labored ear-
nestly for success. Many mass-meetings were held
in different parts of the State, and at all of them
much enthusiasm was manifested.

In Berks county the leaders of the party were
particularly active. Numerous public meetings were
held and many speeches delivered. General politi-
cal excitement prevailed from the beginning until
the close of the campaign; which increased'as the



day of election approached. Two Democratic mass-
meetings were held at Reading, one on July 18th,
and the other on Oct. 3d; and upon each occasion
a multitude of people assembled. At the former
there were delegations from four-fifths of the coun-
ties in the State. Hon. Richard Vaux acted as
chairman of the meeting, and addresses were made
by Mr. Clymer, Hon. Montgomery Blair, Hon.
George H. Pendleton, and other distinguished poli-
tical leaders. High party feeling was produced
under the great excitement, so high, indeed, that
it almost resulted in riots with certain Republicans
who were equally earnest and demonstrative for
their leader. General Geary. There was a grand
procession, with Gen. Tobias Barto as chief mar-
shal, estimated to contain five thousand persons in
a line two miles long. Many wagons, teams, bands,
and banners of all kinds accompanied the numerous
delegations, and the enthusiasm was unbounded.

Notwithstanding all this exertion and expense
by the Democrats, the city of Reading was not car-
ried for Clymer. It had been Republican through
the war, and this political sentiment still prevailed
by a small majority which Clymer could not over-
come, even with the aid of local prejudice and en-
thusiastic demonstrations. The vote in Reading for
him was 2,689 and for Geary 2,704 — a majority of
15 against him; and in the county for him 13,288
and for Geary 7,121 — a majority of 6,167 for him.


HiESTER Festival of 1820. — In 1817, the Hon.
Joseph Hiester, of Reading, was nominated as the
Federal candidate for Governor against the Hon.
William Findlay as the Democratic candidate; but
he was defeated by a majority of 7,005. In 1820,
the same candidates were again on the respective
tickets-, and Hiester was elected by a small majority,
1,605. The success of this election contest, by
which the most distinguished citizen of Berks county
was chosen to be the chief executive officer of Penn-
sylvania, was an event which could not be permitted
to pass away in the annals of local affairs without
signalizing it by an impressive public demonstration.
He was then concluding his ninth term in Congress,
and resigned his seat soon after the election. His
fellow-citizens had therefore come to regard him
with more than ordinary feelings of respect and
honor. And what means could they have selected
more adapted to display their satisfaction and joy
than a feast at which they could eat, drink and be
merry? Accordingly, in honor of this event, pursu-
ant to public invitation, a grand festival took place
on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 1820, on the "Common"
near the "arched spring," east of the borough. Peo-
ple assembled from every part of the county and
many distinguished politicians came from Philadel-
phia and counties adjoining Berks to participate in
the feast. Over four thousand persons united in
the demonstration. A procession was first formed
by the Committee of Arrangements on Penn Square,

about 11 o'clock in the morning, which marched
up Penn street to the "Common," arriving there
about noon. An area comprising several acres was
surrounded by a barrier, with a large platform on
the eastern side, upon which the articles for the
feast were placed. Two fat bullocks on spits, and
a bear and a hog on gridirons, were roasted en-
tire. The four skins bad been stuffed and mounted
on cars. The area was occupied by the Committee
of Arrangements, High's Dragoons, Getz's Guards,
and a band of music from Philadelphia; and it in-
cluded thousands of spectators, whose orderly de-
portment was highly commendable.

The butchers commenced to carve the roasted
animals about 2 o'clock. The first slice of each
animal was taken to the residence of Hiester on
Penn Square (adjoining the Farmers' Bank on
the west) by two butchers, who were escorted by
a detachment of the Guards ; and the carving then
continued until all were satisfied. After the feasting
was concluded, a meeting was organized and twenty
toasts, expressive of patriotic and complimentary
sentiments, were read, all of which were received
with, loud applause. Then a unanimous desire was
expressed "to see the Revolutionary Veteran," and
he was accordingly escorted to the meetings from his
residence by a special committee, his presence
awakening "indescribable effusions of joy." At 4
o'clock, the procession was reformed and, with the
"Governor-elect" supported by two stalwart citi -
zens, it paraded through the principal streets of
the borough, halting opposite his residence, where
they were dismissed in perfect harmony.

In the evening, the celebration was continued by
a "torch-light procession." A transparent temple
was carried by four men through the principal
streets, preceded and followed by a train of citi-
zens who held lighted candles in their hands. The
sides of this temple were illustrated ; the front pre-
sented a likeness of Washington, the rear the arms
of the United States, and the right and left sides
well-executed likenesses of Hiester.

A similar festival, to celebrate the same event,
was held at Orwigsburg, in Schuylkill county, on
Nov. 10, 1820. The morning of that day was ush-
ered in by the firing of cannon and the ringing of
bells. A meeting was first organized in the Court-
House; then the people formed into line and pro-
ceeded under the leadership of three marshals, as-
sisted by a band of music, to "Mount Monroe." As
they marched, bells rang and cannon boomed. A
fine ox and deer were roasted, and a large num-
ber of persons, seated at tables especially arranged,
participated in a great feast. At a meeting, after-
ward formed, thirteen toasts were offered and

On the same day, a festival was also held at
Kutztown. Twenty-five toasts were offered and
drunk at a large meeting.

Harrison Festival of 1840. — The Presidential
campaign of 1840 was conducted with great enthu-
siasm, and it developed much political excitement



throughout the country. Grand processions were
witnessed in every community. The voters of Read-
ing and the surrounding districts in the county
caught the feeling, especially on the side of the
Whigs. One of the processions was distinguished
for its log cabin and living raccoons. The election
resulted in a victory for the Whigs, an event which
elicited from them particular demonstrations of joy.

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 22 of 227)