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 77 of 227)
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HON. THOMAS WHARTON, Jr., the first Governor
of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, under the consti-
tution of 1776, was born in 1735, in Chester county. Pa.,
a son of John and Mary (Dobbins) Wharton, grandson
of Thomas and great-grandson of Richard Wharton.

Richard Wharton, who emigrated to Pennsylvania from
KelliVorth, in the parish of Overton, Westmorelandshire,
England, at an early date, was the emigrant ancestor of
the Wharton family in America.

Thomas Wharton, who later achieved so great a distinc-
tion in his native State, spent his boyhood attending
school in the primitive institutions in the vicinity of his
his home, and assisting on the paternal farm, and he be-
came a young man of sterling character. In 1755 he
moved to Philadelphia, where he apprenticed himself to an
employer by the name of Reese Meridith and later was
associated with Anthony Stocker. With the latter he
formed a partnership, under the firm name of Stocker &
Wharton, in the mercantile line. This firm became very
strong, and according to the custom-house bonds of 1762,
was one of the heaviest importers in the city.

Governor Wharton, then but a prosperous merchant,
was married Nov. 4, 1762, at Christ Church, Philadelphia,
to Susannah Lloyd, daughter of Thomas and Susannah
(Kearney) Lloyd, and they had the following children :
Lloyd, Kearney, William M., Sarah N. and Susannah.
The mother of these children died Oct. 24, 1772. On Dec.
7, 1774, Thomas Wharton married (second) Elizabeth
Fishbourne, daughter of William and Mary (Tallman)
Fishbourne, and they had three children, viz. : Mary,
Thomas F. and William Fishbourne. Governor Wharton
was an Orthodox Friend.

It is passing strange that the history of Thomas Wharton,
Jr., a man whose life was so closely linked with that of
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, whose affairs he ad-
ministered during the darkest struggle in which she and
her sister colonies ever engaged, is not more widely and
more intimately known. One most obvious reason for
this is to be found in the circumstance of his early death,
which abruptly terminated a useful and honorable career;
for, considerable as were the services which he had already
rendered his country, the potentialities of the future were
even greater, and without doubt he, who had acquitted
himself so creditably, would, had he lived to see the new
government permanently established, have continued to
hold positions of honor and trust in his native State. To
quote: "Full justice has never been done to the magna-
nimity and ability of Pennsylvania's statesmen and war-
riors during the Revolutionary contest. The quiet and
unassuming character of her population has caused the
historians, in a measure, to overlook their merit in the
council and in the field."

By reading the history of Pennsylvania during those
momentous years from 1774-1775 and up to 1778, we recog-
nize the worth of Governor Wharton, from the pages of
her records and archives, full of important orders emanat-
ing from him at trying crises; or, in glancing over the
journals of the day, which abound in proclamations that

even now stir us by their tone of deep and earnest pa-
triotism. Through ringing calls to arms and eloquent
appeals to the nobler impulses of mankind, we gain some
insight into the character of the man of whom few
written expressions are left us. He was a man, however,
who had impressed his personality in such a way that
we know he was universally beloved.

Thomas Wharton had been called to numerous posi-
tions of trust, had served with honor and capacity on the
committee of Safety, and in 1776, when the Commonwealth
of Pennyslvania called together a convention to frame a
new Constitution, for the Province of Pennsylvania, in
accordance with the Resolve of Congr.ess (on May 10th of
that year), on July 24th a Council ojf Safety was estab-
lished, in which the convention vested the executive author-
ity of the government until the new Constitution should
be put in operation. Thomas Wharton, Jr., who had given
abundant proof of his zeal and ability when a member of
the late committee of Safety, was now chosen president
of the newly formed council and again distinguished him-
self in a most creditable manner. In February, 1777, an
election was held for the choice of assemblyman, in place
of several who had declined to act. Thomas Wharton,
Jr., was elected councilman from Philadelphia and later,
as such, assisted to organize the Supreme Executive
Council and thus complete the new government. This
was done and the General Assembly and Council united
and elected Mr. Wharton president of the latter body. As
president of the Council of Safety, Mr. Wharton had
filled with honor a position of trust, hence, it is not
strange that he should have been offered one of greater
responsibility under the new government. It seemed,
indeed, as if by mutual attraction, the best minds of
the country were drawn together, and that, with an insight
born of the necessities of the hour, men recognized each
other's worth and discerned in what field their talents
would be best developed for the good of the common

Thus Thomas Wharton, Jr.'s talents were pre-eminently
administrative, and from one important position in his
State he was raised to another until finally called upon,
amid the bitter political dispute of 1777, to fill the most
elevated position his proud State could offer him, that
of president of the the newly formed Supreme Executive
Council. On March 5, 1777, the new president was
duly inaugurated as president of the Supreme Executive
Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, captain-
general and commander-in-chief, and served as such until
May 23, 1778, when his death occurred in the city of
Lancaster. His funeral was solemnized with civil and
military honors and his remains were interred at the
Evangelical Trinity Lutheran Church at Lancaster. His
fame rests with posterity.

William Fishbourne Wharton, the third child of Thomas
and Elizabeth (Fishbourne) Wharton, was born Aug. 10,
1778, and was married (first) May 10, 1804, to Susan
Shoemaker, who died Nov. 3, 1821. She was the mother
of nine children as follows : Thomas, George M., Fish-
bourne, Henry, Joseph, Deborah, William, Edward and
Elizabeth. He married (second) Mary Ann Shoemaker,
a s4ster of his first wife, by whom he had two children,
namely: Susan F. and Philip Fishbourne. Two of these
children, George M. and Philip F., attained distinction
in legal and artistic circles.

Besides Miss Susan F. Wharton, who is the only living
grandchild of Governor Wharton, several of his great-
grandchildren have resided in Berks county, namely:
Wharton Morris, grandson of Kearney, who was a
son of the Governor by his first marriage ; Maria Wharton
Brooke, widow of Dr. Brooke and a granddaughter of
Kearney Wharton; and Robert Wharton Bickley, also a
grandson of Kearney Wharton. Mrs. Brooke and Mrs.
Bickley are living in Reading at the present time, both
widows. Miss Susan F. Wharton, who until lately re-
sided at No. 138 North Fourth street, Reading, is now
living at "The Poplars," Wyomissing, esteemed for her
ancestry and also for her personal characteristics.



EDWARD BIDDLE, representative from Berks county
in the First Congress, was born in 1732. He was the
fourth son of William Biddle, a native of New Jersey,
whose grandfather was one of the origmal proprietors
of that State, having left England with his father m
1681. His mother was Mary Scull, the daughter of Nich-
olas Scull, Surveyor-General of Pennsylvania from 1748
to 1761. James, Nicholas, and Charles Biddle were three
of his brothers. . . ,

In 1758, Edward Biddle was commissioned an ensign
in the Provincial Army of Pennsylvania, and was present
at the taking of Fort Niagara in the French and Indian
War In 1759 he was promoted to lieutenant, and in
1760 'commissioned as a captain, after which he resigned
from the army and received 5,000 acres of land for .lis
services. He then selected the law as his profession, and
after the usual course of study at Philadelphia in the
office of his eldest brother, he located at Reading, where
he soon established himself as a lawyer. In 1767, he
represented Berks county in the Provincial Assembly, and
he was annually re-elected until 1775, and again elected
in 1778. In 1774 and 1775, he officiated as speaker, having
previously been placed upon the most important com-
mittees, and having taken an active part in all the current

When the citizens of Reading held a pubhc meeting
Oil July 2, 1774, to take initiatory steps in behalf of the
Revolution, they selected him to preside over their delib-
erations, and the resolutions adopted by them were doubt-
less drafted by him. His patriotic utterances won their
admiration, and they unanimously gave him a vote of
thanks and appreciation of his efforts in the cause of
the rights and liberties of America. On the same day,
while presiding at this meeting, the Assembly of Penn-
sylvania was in session and elected eight delegates as
representatives to the First Continental Congress, and
among them was Edward Biddle of Reading. He was
again elected as one of the delegates tp the new Congress,
which was held in May, 1775; and he was elected the
third time. The first two terms extended from Sept. 5,
1774, to Dec. 12, 1776, and the last from 1778 to 1779.
The public records in the county offices, especially in
the prothonotary's office, disclose a large and lucrative
practice by him as an attorney-at-law, and this extended
from 1760 to the time of his decease in 1779. It seems
to have been as much as, if not more than, that of all the
other attorneys taken together.

He died Sept. 5, 1779, at Baltimore, Md., whither he
had gone for medical treatment. He married Elizabeth
Ross, daughter of Rev. George Ross, of New Castle, Del.,
by whom he had two daughters, Catharine (m. George
Lux, Esq., of Baltimore) ; and Abigail (m. Capt. Peter
Scull of Reading). We conclude this article with Mr.

Biddle's autograph.

In the popular demonstrations at Reading for the
Revolution, he took an active part. At the meeting Dec. 5,
1774, he was selected as one of the committee on Obser-
vation, recommended by Congress, and Jan. 3, 1775, he was
chosen one of the delegates to the Provincial Conference,
and placed on the committee of Correspondnce. He
was also prominently identified with the military move-
ments, having in 1775 and 1776 served as lieutenant-
colonel of the 2d Battalion of the county militia, which
was formed out of companies in the vicinity of Birds-
boro In August, 1776, as a colonel, he fitted out 300
men of his battalion with uniform, tents, and provisions
at his own expense. They were in service at, or near.
South Amboy in the fall of 1776, and may have constituted
a part of the "Flying Camp." In 1775 and 1776 he offici-
ated as one of the judges of the County courts In 178d
his landed possessions in Berks county included eight
thousand acres, upon which were the extensive iron works
at Birdsboro, and also the Hopewell Furnace on Six-
penny creek, which he had erected about 1765. And
it is said that he owned large property interests "i New
Jersey and Maryland. About 1788, he removed to North
Carolina, where he died some years afterward. He mar-
ried Mary Ross, daughter of Rev. George Ross. He
was a brother-in-law of Edward Biddle; and also of
George Ross, of Lancaster, a signer of the Declaration of
Independence. His own signature is herewith reproduced.

MARK BIRD, distinguished ironmaster and patriot of
Berks county, was a son of William Bird, one of the most
prominent iron men of Berks county from 1740 to 1762,
whose works were situated near the mouth of Hay creek,
in Union township. He was born at that place in Jan-
uary, 1739, and learned to carry on the iron business.
After his father's death in 1762, he took charge of the
estate, and by partition proceedings in the Orphans' court
came to own the properties, which consisted of 3,000 acres
of land, three forges, a grist mill, and a saw mill. About
that time he laid out a town there and named it Birds-
boro. By the time the Revolution broke out, he had
enlarged his possessions very much, and come to
be one of the richest and most enterprising men in this
section of the State. The recorder's office shows that
he also owned at different times various properties at

GABRIEL HIESTER (son of Hon. Gabriel Hiester, a
prominent representative man of Berks county) was born
in Bern township Jan, 5, 1779. He was given a good
English and German education, and his youth was spent
on his father's farm. His father having taken an active
and successful part in local politics, he naturally exhib-
ited the same spirit at an early age. By appointment
from, the Governor, he was prothonotary of the county
from 1809 to 1817 ; clerk of the Quarter Sessions from
1809 to 1812, and 1814 to 1817; and associate .judge from
1819 to 1823. During the War of 1813-15 he served as
brigade-major in the campaign at Washington and Balti-
more. He served as a Presidential elector in 1817 and
in 1821, casting his ballot upon both occasions for James
Monroe. Governor Shulze appointed him surveyor-gen-
eral of the State in 1824, when he removed to Harris-
burg, and he officiated in that position for six years.
While at Harrisburg he became interested in the iron bus-
iness, and he erected the first rolling-mill in that vicinity,
continuing actively engaged in it till his decease there in
1834. He married Mary Otto (daughter of Dr. John Otto,
of Reading), and she died in 1853. They had the following
children: Louisa, Harriet (m. C. B. Bioren), Augustus
O., Gabriel and Catharine.

JOSEPH HIESTER, Governor of Pennsylvania, was
born in Bern township, Berks county, Nov. 18, 1752.
His father, John Hiester, emigrated to this country in
1732, from the village of Elsoff, in the province of West-
phalia, Germany. Some years afterward, he settled in
Bern township, where he was married to Mary Barbara
Epler, a daughter of one of the first settlers in that
section of the county. He and his two brothers, Joseph
and Daniel (who had emigrated in 1738), took up large
tracts of land comprising several thousand acres, which ex-
tended from the Bern church to the Tulpehocken creek.
He died in 1757, aged fifty years. His wife was born in
1733; and she died in 1809.

Joseph Hiester grew to manhood on a farm. In the
intervals of farm labor, he attended the school which was
conducted at the Bern church, and there he acquired the
rudiments of an English and German education. The
homestead was situated about a mile north from the



church. He removed to Reading before he was of age,
and entered the general store of Adam Witman. While
there he became acquainted with Witman's daughter, Eliz-
abeth, and he was married to her in 1771. He continued
with his father-in-law till the breaking out of the Rev-
olution ; then he raised a company of- eighty men in July,
1776, which became a part of the "Flying Camp," and par-
ticipated in the battle of Long Island. He was taken
prisoner in the engagement, and he and the other prisoners
endured many hardships for several months before they
were exchanged. He then remained at home only a short
time, suificient to regain his health and strength, when
he again joined the army, near Philadelphia, returning
in time to participate in the battle of Germantown. He
continued in active service till the close of the war. Upon
his return from the Revolution, he entered into part-
nership with his father-in-law, and some years afterward
became sole proprietor of the store. He conducted his
business operations very successfully for a number of
years. Public affairs also received much of his attention,
not only relating to political government, but also to the
development of Reading and the county by internal im-
provements. He served in the General Assembly from
1787 to 1790, being there when that body ratified the
Constitution of the United States. He was one of the
delegates to the Constitutional Convention of Pennsylvcmia
in 1789, and assisted in framing the Constitution of 1790.
He was the first State Senator from Berks county from
1790 to 1794. In 1797 he was elected to represent the
county in Congress, and he was continued as- the repre-
sentative from 1797 to 1807. After an intermission of
eight years, which he devoted entirely to business at
Reading, he was again sent to Congress in 1815, and re-
elected twice. While holding this office he was prom-
inently identified with the political affairs of Pennsylvania,
so much so that in 1817 he became the nominee of the
Federal party fo^' Governor, though not elected then.
The party selected him in 1820 as the most available can-
didate, and he was elected. This was a great victory for
him, but especially for his party, inasmuch as he was the
the first succe'isful candidate which the Federalists had
placed in the field against the Democrats.

The administration of Governor Hiester was charac-
terized by great activity in promoting the growth of the
Comimonwealth, especially through internal improvements.
He suggested that the sessions of the Legislature might be
shortened without detriment to the public good, that pub-
lic improvements could be made advantageously and do-
mestic manufactures encouraged with success, and that
there existed an imperative duty to introduce and support
a liberal system of education connected with general relig-
ious instruction. While he occupied the gubernatorial chair,
the State capital was removed from Lancaster to Harris-
burg. The building was begun in. 1819 and finished in 1821,
and the General Assembly convened in it for the first time
on Jan. 3, 1822. The capital had been at Lancaster since
1799, and previously at Philadelphia. Upon the expiration
of his term as governor he lived in retirement at Reading.
His residence was situated on the northern side of Penn
street (No. 437) midway between Fourth and Fifth streets.
He owned a number of farms in Alsace (now Muhlenberg),
Cumru and Bern townships, tracts of woodland on Mount
Penn (altogether numbering nearly two thousand acres),
seven prominent business stands and dwellings in Reading,
and also out-lots. He occupied and farmed the out-lots
for his own use — a custom then carried on by the
more prominent inhabitants, in order to supply their fami-
lies with vegetables — and kept horses and cows.

Governor Hiester was a man of commanding presence
and pleasing address. He was about six feet tall and
weighed about 200 pounds. He was a member of the
Reformed Church. His wife died in 1825, aged seventy-
five years. He died in 1832, aged seventy-nine years. His
surviving children and grandchildren were : a son, John S.
Hiester; two daughters, Catharine (widow of Hon. John
Spayd), and Rebecca (married to Rev. Henry A. Muhlen-
berg) ; a granddaughter, Mary E. Muhlenberg (daughter of

Mary Hiester, who had married Rev. Henry A. Muhlen-
berg), and the children of Elizabeth Hiester (who married
Levi Pauling), Joseph, Henry, Elizabeth (married Thomas
Ross), James, Rebecca, Ellen and Mary. Governor Hies-
ter's autograph is shown herewith.

JOHN PRINGLE JONES, first President Judge of
Berks county under the amended Constitution of Pennsyl-
vania, from 1851 to 1861, was born near Nevrtown, Bucks
county, in 1812. His father died when he was young. His
mother was of an English family in Philadelphia. His ed-
ucation was acquired at the Partridge Military Academy in
Middletown, Conn., at the University of Pennsylvania, and
the College of New Jersey at Princeton, from which last he
was graduated in 1831. He studied law in the office of
Charles Chauncey, Esq., and was admitted to the Philadel-
phia Bar in 1834. While in Berks county, in 1835, he de-
termined to locate at Reading. In 1839 he was appointed
deputy attorney general of Berks county ■ and served in
that office until 1847. During this time he was associated
in the practice of law with Robert M. Barr, Esq., who in
1845, was appointed reporter of the decisions of the
Supreme Court. At the expiration of the official term of
the Hon. John Banks in 1847, he was appointed to fill
this position. By an Act of the Legislature, passed in
1849, Berks county was erected into a separate judicial
district, of which David F. Gordon, Esq., was appointed
president judge, and Judge Jones continued to preside in
Lehigh and Northampton counties until 1851.

In 1849, Mr. Barr, the State reporter, died and Judge
Jones completed two of the State Reports, known as the
"Jones reports." In 1851 he was elected president judge
of Berks county for ten years. After the expiration of
his term he devoted himself to literary pursuits and to
the management of the Charles Evans Cemetery Company,
of which he was elected president.

In 1867, Judge Maynard (of the 3rd Judicial District,
then composed of Lehigh and Northampton counties), died,
and Judge Jones was appointed his successor for the un-
expired term. This was the last official position he occu-
pied. In 1872, he sailed for Europe, accompanied by his
wife, and traveled through Franoe, Italy, Germany ^nd a
part of Russia. He was taken sick and died in London
on March 16, 1874. His remains were brodght to Reading
and buried in the Charles Evans Cemetery. He married
(first) in 1840, Annie Hiester, daughter of Dr. Isaac
Hiester, of Reading. After her death, he married, in 1851,
Catharine E. Hiester, daughter of John S. Hiester.

GEN. WILLIAM H. KEIM was born at Reading June
13, 1813, eldest son of Benneville Keim (president of the
Farmers Bank ifor a number of years, Mayor of Reading
for three terms, and enterprising business man of the
county), and his wife, Mary High (daughter of Gen. Wil-
liam High, wealthy farmer at "Poplar Neck," of Cumru
township, and prominent in the military affairs of the

At the age of twelve years William H. Keim entered
the Military Academy at Mount Airy, near Philadelphia,
then one of the foremost educational institutions in the
United States, and was graduated with honor in 1829.
Upon returning home, he entered the store of his father,
one of the largest general hardware stores in Reading, and
continued actively engaged in this pursuit for nearly thirty
years. The greater part of the time he was a proprietor
of a large store, in co-partnership with his brother, John
H. Keim. Besides the store business, he encouraged en-
terprises generally for. the development of Reading. His
early military training gave him a natural taste for mili-
tary affairs and he found much gratification in the volun-
teer service of the State militia. Before the age of seven-
teen years he was an orderly sergeant of the "Washington
Grays," and in 1837 he became captain (succeeding his



cousin, Capt. Daniel M. Keim). He was promoted rapidly
till 1842 when he was elected major-general of the 5th Di-
vision of Pennsylvania Volunteers, composed of Berks,
Lebanon, Dauphin and Schuylkill counties. In that year
he took a prominent part in the military encampment held
at Reading, which was an eventful occasion in the history
of military affairs in Berks county. In 1844, during the
religious riot at Philadelphia, he was ordered to assist in
quelling the disturbances. His services in organizing the local
militia and in bringing them under proper discipline were
both untiring and successful, and they were placed in the
front rank of the volunteer soldiers of the State. In 1848
he was elected to the office of Mayor of Reading
for one term, becoming the second Mayor of the city.
Several years afterward, he took great, if not the principal,
interest in establishing at Reading the Pennsylvania Mili-
tary Institute, for the purpose of enabling young men
to obtain education in military matters. In November,
1858, he was elected to Congress to fill the vacancy till
March following, caused by the resignation of Hon. J.
Glancy Jones — being the first and only Republican elected
to represent Berks county in Congress. In 1859, he was
elected Surveyor-General of the State for the term of
three years, at that time holding the office of Major-Gen-
eral of militia, and while at Harrisburg, in 1860, he sug-
gested to Governor Curtin that the Comimonwealth should
be put in a condition of defense, inasmuch as the signs of
political discontent over the election of Lincoln indicated
civil strife; and he recommended in that behalf a general

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 77 of 227)