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 93 of 227)
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ing. His son, Raymond, gave evidence of a mechanical
turn, and the father taught him the trade, making him
as capable as himself in the ability to specify requirements
of materials for a building. The son became noted as an
excellent workman, rapid, and decidedly industrious. By his
own efforts he became a fine draughtsman, and in nearly
every case designed and made the general and detail draw-
ings for the buildings he erected.

After receiving some education in the township school,
Raymond Mohr came to Birdsboro in 1857. In 1858 he
married Mary, eldest daughter of the late Daniel Focht,
of Robeson. Upon deciding to make Birdsboro the scene
of his life's work Mr. Mohr purchased the lot where his
late residence now stands, on Furnace street, at a time
when only two houses were on said street. He erected his
own house, putting on all the weather-boarding and the
finish with his own hands. He then began the contracting
and building business, in which he soon developed a large
trade. In one year he erected for E. & G. Brooke, of the
town, forty-eight dwelling houses. He erected No. 1 and
No. 2 blast furnaces for the Brookes, the nail factory
building, the mansion now occupied by George Brooke, and
a large addition to the present- Birdsboro residence of
Robert E. Brooke. The two mansions erected by the late
Mrs. M. T. Clingan, at Clingan Station, were built by
Mr. Mohr, as were also many of the large store buildings
and good class of residences in the town. In his early
days he erected the pipe mill and other manufacturing
buildings for Seyfert & McManus, at Reading. He was
especially capable in the erection of heavy work, under-
stood rigging and the use of hoisting apparatus, and was
an excellent handler of large forces of men.

Mr. Mohr's father was an undertaker, and taught his
son the trade, and in 1860 Raymond Mohr engaged in the
business at Birdsboro. When he learned the trade only
coffins were used as the casements for corpses, and they
were made by hand. The present handsom'e finishings
were unknown, and they were devoid of linings, a bundle
of shavings serving for a pillow. The lids were made of
wood and put on with ordinary wood screws. The best
ones were rubbed with wax to secure a polish, and a hot
flat iron was used to rub the melted wax to a gloss. There
were no hearses, the coffin being placed on a spring wagon,
and around it sat as many of the friends as could get into
the vehicle..

When Mr. Mohr took hold of the business he at once
introduced improved methods, purchased the best up-to-
date outfits, and at the time of his death was equipped for
the business in a manner fully equal to the best city di-
rectors. In addition to undertaking he engaged in the
furniture business, conducting the only store of the kind
that the town ever boasted. This store he designed and
erected himself, adjoining his dwelling, and he always made
it a point to keep a stock and assortment equal to city
standards. He had a most active career, meeting with un-
comsmon success. Besides many other financial interests,
he possessed at the time of his death forty houses in Birds-
boro, and owned property in other places. His building
business was the most extensive of any in the county out-
side of Reading; his furniture store controlled a trade
almost as great as some of the big Reading houses, and
in his work as a funeral director he personally supervised
over five thousand funerals. He was one of the oldest
undertakers in continuous business in the county and his
reputation extended throughout Berks county and beyond.

Mr. Mohr was one of the leading citizens of Birdsboro,
identified with many of the public aifairs of the place.
He served a term in the town council and could have
held official position many times had he permitted the
use of his name. He was a member of Neversink Lodge,
No. 514, I. O. 0. F., a director in the Mutual Fire Insur-
ance Company of Berks County, a member of the State
Funeral Directors' Association, and of Friendship Fire



374



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



Company, No. 1, of Birdsboro. When St. Mark's Lutheran
Church was instituted in Birdsboro he was one of the first
members, and he continued an attendant and a supporter
of the cause until his death. He was ever alert to progress
in business, took an eager interest in current events, and
in the management of his varied interests displayed an
industry and activity comparatively phenomenal.

Mr. Mohr departed this life Feb. 14, 1907, leaving a wife
and two children : Mary Louisa, nOw the wife of Reese E.
Beard, of Reading; and Edwin P., residing in Birdsboro,
Pa. A son, Louis Raymond, died Dec. 17, 1893, aged twen-
ty-one years.

Edwin F. Mohr, son of Raymond Mohr, of Birdsboro,
was born April 39, 1875, in Birdsboro, and received his
education in the public schools. He has given all his work-
ing years to the business in which he is still engaged, and
which he learned thoroughly under paternal instruction,
supplemented by his own well-directed efforts. He took a
course in the Massachusetts School of Embalming, from
which he graduated Nov. 18, 1898, and has spared no pains
to make the service from his establishment up to the best
standards anywhere. His inethods and equipment are first-
class in every respect, and he has kept his business up in
every line. For some years he was engaged in the furniture
business, his stock of furniture and carpets equaling those
found at the large business centers. Very recently he relin-
quished this department of trade, to give his entire atten-
tion to funeral directing. He is progressive andf
enterprising, being one of "the most active young business
men of the borough, and is broad and generous in his deal-
ings, whether in business or private life. He is well known
in his line, being a prominent member of the Funeral Direc-
tors' Association of Pennsylvania.

On June 23, 1897, Mr. Mohr married Miss Sadie Geyer,
daughter of Henry A. Geyer, of Birdsboro, and they have
had one son, Raymond. Mr. and Mrs. Mohr are members
of St. Mark's Lutheran Church, and in fraternal connec-
tions he is an Odd Fellow, belonging to Neversink Lodge,
No. 514, of Birdsboro. and Lodge 115, B. P. O. Elks, of
Reading. He is also a member of Friendship Fire Com-
pany No. 1, of his native town. He is a Republican in
political faith, and active in the work of the party, repre-
senting it in county and State conventions from time to
time.

Since Mr. Mohr has given his sole attention to the under-
taking business, he has kept pace with the leaders in that
line and is excelled only by directors of the large cities
in ability to conduct funerals. His knowledge is ever added
to by the investigation and adoption of the latest processes
and he is painstaking and assiduous in his efforts to en-
hance his skill and be a credit to his associates in the
profession, and give satisfaction to his patrons. He con-
stantly improves his needed paraphernalia, and never al-
lows his equipment to deteriorate or become incongruous
with the times. As a consequence he has gained for him-
self the respect of his competitors, and drawn to himself
a large clientele, in his local town and from a large
radius in the surrounding districts.

IRWIN T. EHST, director of the National Bank of
Boyertown, director and secretary of the Franklin Improve-
ment Company, director and secretary of the Union
Manufacturing Company, director of the Manatawny Mu-
tual Fire and Storm Insurance Company, secretary, treas-
urer and general manager of the Boyertown Gas Company,
and interested in many other of the largest and most im-
portant industries of Berks county, was born in Oley town-
ship, this county, Nov. 19, 1860.

(I) Nicholas Ehst (also spelled Ihst and East, and in
the Pennsylvania archives among the list of emigrants
Ish) was the ancestor of the American branch of the
family. He was born in Switzerland in 1711, and he came
to the New World on the ship "Pink Plaisance," which
qualified at Philadelphia Sept. 21, 1732. He located in
Colebrookdale township, Berks county, and became the
owner of about 400 acres of land, near Gablesville, on the
Popodickon creek. This tract has been divided into four
farms, namely: the one on which the original buildings



are located, now owned by Jacob B. Bechtel, and con-
taining 103 acres ; the second owned by the widow of John
Butz; the third owned by William C. Eddinger; and the
fourth by John B. Bahr. On the part owned by
Jacob B. Bechtel is a private burying ground
where Nicholas Ehst and his wife, as well as
later generations, are buried. The inscription on the tomb-
stone of Nicholas Ehst, who died in 1804, reads: "Hier
ruhen die Gebeine von Nicholas Ihst, war alt 93 Jahre" ;
and on that of his wife : "Hier ruhen die Gebeine von Ver-
onica Ihst, war alt 90 Jahre." The Ehst family are mem-
bers of the Mennonite Church, and many of them are
buried at Boyertown and Bally meeting houses. The
children of Nicholas Ehst and his wife were: Daniel
(whose children were— John, Daniel, Abraham, Anna and
another daughter), Abraham, Molly and Elizabeth.

(II) Abraham Ehst, son of the ancestor, became the
father of four children: Samuel; Nicholas; John; and
Anna (m. Henry Freed, and lived for some years near
Norristown and then moved to Michigan, where both died,
the parents of Catharine, Dinah, Anna, Mary, a daughter
not nanied, Abraham, Henry and John).

(III) Samuel Ehst, son of Abraham, met an accidental
death in December, 1812, while in Philadelphia with a
team. His three sons and six daughters were : Elizabeth,
Poll}', Dinah (born 1800;, Abraham, Anna, Catharine, John
L., a son (no name), and Helena, the last named being a
posthumous child.

(Ill) Nicholas Ehst, son of Abraham, married Elizabeth
Latshaw, and settled in Chester county. Pa. They had
three sons and five daughters, namely: Catharine, Dinah,
Elizabeth, Mary, Abraham, Jacob, John and Magdalena.

(Ill) John (Johannes) Ehst, son of Abraham, was born
April 12, 1782, and owned the farm now the property of
Jacob B. Bechtel. In 1806 he married Anna Margaret
Weise (born July 28, 1786, died Dec. 10, 1810), and they
had two children. He married (second) in 1812, Eliza-
beth Schwertlej'. To this second union were born three
sons and five daughters : John, Pollj-, Abraham, Samuel,
Elizabeth, Magdalena, Catharine and Anna. Of these Abra-
ham and Samuel are both living (1908). Abraham was born
March 28, 1817, on the original Ehst homestead, and he
now lives at Barto, spending a part of his time with his
son. Rev. John, who lives betvi'een Bally and Clayton. He
is a most remarkable man, well preserved, bright, humorous,
and possessed of a wonderful memory. He has never
been obliged to wear glasses. At the age of twenty-one,
he weighed 210 pounds, and now in his ninety-second
year weighs 240. He married Susanna Meyer, born 1821,
daughter of Michael Moyer. She died in 1869, the mother
of Elizabeth, Rev. John, Henry, Abraham, Susanna, David
and Jacob.

( IV) John L. Ehst, son O'f Samuel, was born Nov. 5,
1805, and at his death, Dec. 9, 1886, he was buried in
Bally Mennonite Cemetery. Fie was a farmer in Colebrook-
dale township, but later he and his son Levi conducted a
tannery near the Pike line in Oley township. He mar-
ried Magdalena Gabel, born Feb. 22, 1806, died Jan. 1,
1899. They had four sons and one daughter: Leah, who
married John H. Funk; Jacob, who conducted a hotel in
Readmg; William, living in Washington township; Henry
G. ; and Levi, of New Berlinville.

(V) Henry G. Ehst, son of John L., was born in Cole-
brookdale township, July 7, 1S35, and he died on his farm
in Washington township in 1890, and is buried at the
Mennonite Aleeting House at Bally, formerly called
ChurchviUe. He was a good quiet citizen, true to the
teachings of his faith. Fie married Rachel Tea, daughter
of James and Elizabeth (Maul) Tea, both natives of Eng-
land. Their children were: Irwin T. ; Madora; Allen, a
butcher at Bechtelsville; Warren, living near Bechtels-
ville; William, a school teacher in Washington township;
Amnion, of Reading; Annie, m. to Allen Erb, of Ecchtels-
VI e; and Cora, m. to Elmer Oberholtzer, of Bechtels-
ville.

(VI) Irwin T. Ehst, son of Henry G., was born in Oley
township Nov. 19, 1860, and was reared upon his father's
farm, attending the public schools in the vicinity of his



BIOGRAPHICAL



375



home, and later Prof. D. B. Brunner's Scientific Academy,
Reading. In 1879 he was licensed to teach school, and he
taught one term in Washington township. He then came
to Boyertown and learned the printer's trade in the office
of the Boyertown Messenger. For about four years the
firm was Ehst & Ernes, the partner being Calvin F. Emes,
and they carried on a stationery and printing establish-
ment, but Mr. Ehst, since April, 1889, has been alone. Mr.
Ehst is a progressive and public-spirited man, and he has
taken an active interest in many of the leading enterprises
of his town and county. He is a director and stockholder
in the National Bank of Boyertown, Burial Casket Com-
pany (employing 350 people), the Union Manufacturing Com-
pany (employing sixty people, and making all kinds of
castings), and a director of the Franklin Improvement Co.,
builders. He is the principal owner of the Boyertown
Gas Company, of which he is secretary, treasurer and
general manager, and he is the business manager of Ehst
& Co., largest real estate dealers in and about Boyertown.
He is a director of the Manatawny Mutual Fire and Storm
Insurance Company.

Mr. Ehst has been prominent in the public life of Boyer-
town. In politics he is a Republican, and for five years
he was justice of the peace, and since 1896 he has been a
notary public. He has been the adjudicator of a number of
estates. At the time of the Opera House fire, Jan. 13,
1908, he was appointed bv the Burgess as chairman of the
Relief committee, with the privilege of choosing his own
committee. This committee had charge of the identifica-
tion and burial of the 171 dead, caring for orphans and
relief, and the distributing of the $23,000 popular sub-
scription.

Fraternally Mr. Ehst is a Mason, belonging to Stichter
Lodge, No. 254, F. & A. M., Pottstown ; Bloomsburg Lodge
of Perfection, 14th degree; Bloomsburg Consistory, 32d
degree; Rajah Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., Reading. He
also belongs to Washington Camp, No. 104, P. O. S. of
A., of Boyertown. He is unmarried.

LEVI H. FOCHT, head of the firm of L. H. Focht &
Son, general contractors and builders, is one of the leading
men in his line in Berks county. He maintains his busi-
ness headquarters in Reading and his home in the borough
of Bii'dsboro, and is actively identified with the most
progressive interests of both places. The business in
which he finds his chief interest was established in 1870,
and evidences of his work abound in and around Reading,
though his operations are by no means confined to this
locality.

Mr. Focht was born Aug. 3, 1850, in Robeson township,
Berks county, where his family has long been located. He
is of German descent. His grandfather, George Focht,
was born Feb. 1, 1773, and followed farming in Robeson
township. But he was also an undertaker and _ cabinet-
maker, and in the pursuit of those callings settled in Birds-
boro, where he carried on business for a number of years.
A clock which he made in 1832 is now one of the cherished
possessions of his grandson, Levi H. Focht. George Focht
died March 1, 1839. He married Catherine Huyett, and
they had the following named children: John, born June
14, 1804; Samuel, born Aug. 8, 1805, who was engaged in
business as a carpenter in Reading, as such building the
Mcllvaine rolling-mill and also the first house erected by E.
& G. Brooke -in Birdsboro; Daniel, born April 20, 1807,
who was the father of Levi H. Focht; Mary, born Jan.
18, 1809, who married a Hiester; Charles, born Jan. 5,
1812, who also followed carpentering; George, born Jan.
1, 1814; and Jacob, born July 18, 1815, a carpenter of Read-
ing, who was the last survivor of the family, dying Dec.
26, 1886. This family were all Lutherans in religious
belief.

Daniel Focht was born April 20, 1807, on the homestead
in Robeson township. Practically all of his active years
were spent in the service of the Schuylkill Navigation
Company, whose employ he entered in early manhood, and
he was so reliable a workman that at one time he had
charge of construction and repairs on the Schuylkill canal.
He also cultivated the homestead farm after his father's



death. He met his death by drowning in the canal, about
two miles above Birdsboro, Oct. 14, 1871. Daniel Focht
married Catherine Hemmig, daughter of David Hemmig,
and she died June 6, 1863, at the age of fifty- four. To
their union were born nine children, eight of whom lived
to maturity, viz.: Mary Ann, born May 21, 1834, m. Ray-
mond Mohr (deceased) ; Sarah, born Nov. '21, 1835, ra.
Lewis Fritz; one died in infancy in 1837; Catherine, born
Sept. 19, 1839, m. David Mock; David, born Oct. 30, 1841,
died Nov. 7, 1874, leaving a widow, Mrs. Martha (Lincoln)
Focht, who still resides in Reading; Leah, born Oct. 34,
1843, m. Jeremiah Deeter; Elizabeth, born March 21, 1845,
m. Jeremiah Weidner; Hannah, born April 17, 1846, m.
John Lacey; Levi H. was born Aug. 3, 1850. The father
of this family was a Lutheran in religious connection, the
mother a member of the Reformed Church. He was a
Democrat in political sentiment.

Levi H. Focht was educated in the public schools of
Birdsboro, and bcMn work at the early age of thirteen,
in the employ of the Schuylkill Navigation Company. He
was engaged in repair work on the canal for two years,
after which he commenced to serve his apprenticeship at
the carpenter's trade, under his brother-in-law, Raymond
Mohr, of Birdsboro. He also learned undertaking. For a
time he found employment on the Perkiomen railroad,
later working .for Berton & McDonald, bridge builders, of
Philadelphia, on a number of bridges in New York, New
Jersey and Pennsylvania. When only eighteen years old
he was given charge of the construction of the large
wooden bridge across the Pompton river on the line of
the Midland railroad of New Jersey— conclusive evidence
of his remarkable ability in the building line. In 1870 he
began to take contracts on his own account, and he was
successful from the beginning, for his youth seemed to
make no difference in the confidence which his patrons had
in his integrity and capability. In 1873 he established him-
self in Birdsboro, and many of the most important build-
' ings in that borough, including structures in both the busi-
ness and residence parts, are of his construction. He de-
serves the greatest share of the credit for the beautiful
section of Birdsboro now included in the east ward, for-
merly known as Lincoln-town, most of the attractive and
substantial residences which have made that locality fam-
ous having been erected according to his plans and under
his supervision. Since 1874 Mr. Focht has had his business
headquarters in the city of Reading, as more accessible
to the extensive territory from which he draws his patron-
age. In the spring of 1906 he admitted his son, George
Walter Focht, to a partnership, under the firm name of L.
H. Focht & Son, and their offices are located in the Baer
Building, in Reading, where they enjoy all the modern
facilities for the conduct of their widespread interests.

Mr. Focht has had numerous contracts from the Phila-
delphia & Reading Railway Company, having erected most
of the stations along their line, besides many elegant and
commodious residences along the line of the Pennsylvania
road. He also put up the stock farm buildings on the
estate of Mr. A. J. Cassatt; an addition to the Haver-
ford (Pa.) College buildings; the Wood Memorial Chapel,
adjoining Christ Cathedral, in Reading; and various other
structures which display his artistic and architectural
ability, as well as his thorough workmanship in the merely
mechanical part of the work. He has always depended
upon the excellence of his work to gain him new customers
and retain the old, and he has had no reason to regret the
course he has pursued throughout a career filled with
unusual activity. The firm has a reputation second to none
for work of high quality, reliability and irreproachable stan-
dards, and few business houses in any line enjoy such un-
limited confidence either among patrons or business as-
sociates.

Mr. Focht has always been vitally interested in the wel-
fare of his home boro.ugh, Birdsboro, and he has found
time to advance its interests in numerous ways. He has
served twenty-four consecutive years as member of the
council of that borough, and has been a member of the
Birdsboro Fire Company since its organization, acting as
treasurer of the company for twenty-one years. He has



37G



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



been a stockholder in and director of the First National
Bank of Birdsboro since its organization, and in this con-
nection it may also be stated that he has been a director
of the Reading National Bank since its organization. He
is a stanch Republican in political faith.

In the fraternal circles of Reading and Berks county
generally Mr. Focht is a familiar and popular figure. He
is a high Mason, holding membership in Chandler Lodge,
No. 227, Excelsior Chapter, No. 237, Commandery No. 42,
K. T., and Rajah Temple, A. A. 0. N. M. S., all of Read-
ing; and Philadelphia Consistory, thirty-second degree. He
is also a member of the I. 0. O. F., belonging to Never-
sink Lodge, No. 514, of Birdsboro; to the L O. R. M., at
Birdsboro ; the Fraternal Order of Eagles ; Reading Lodge,
No. 115, B. P. O. Elks, and Mount Pleasant Council, No. 37,
O. U. A. M.

On May 23, 1874, Mr. Focht married Alice Beard, daugh-
ter of Jeremiah Beard, of Birdsboro, and to them were
born two sons, George Walter and Levi Roy, the last
named dying March 12, 1880. As previously stated, George
Walter Focht is now in partnership with his father in the
contracting and building business. He married Miss Alice
Huyett, daughter of Isaac Huyett.

WILLIAM ENGLE, a prominent and well-to-do business
man of Reading, who is the owner and operator of a paper
box manufactory, was born in this city Dec. 5, 1843, son of
Daniel and Mary (Crisher) Engle, grandson of John En-
gle, and great-grandson of Jacob Engle, who was an officer
in the Continental army, and fought under General Warren
at the battle of Bunker Hill. Jacob Engle was one of those
who came from Germany to drill troops prior to the great
struggle for freedom, and on peace being declared he re-
ceived ra large tract o'f land from the Government for ser-
vices rendered. He settled upon a portion of this tract,
which was located in Montgomery county. Pa., and there
resided the balance of his life.

John Engle, grandfather of William, was born in Mont-
gomery county, and operated a portion of the land deeded
by the Government to his father, also carrying on a butch-
ering business in connection therewith all of his life. He
married and became the father of the following children :
Jacob, John, Daniel, Samuel and one daughter. As far
back as is known the .family were Xutherans in religious
belief, and in politics were Whigs. Daniel Engle was born
in 1809, in Montgomery county, and when seventeen years
of age came to Reading, where he learned the coopering
business, and for many years manufactured cedar hollow
ware, becoming very successful. He retired several years
prior to his death, which occurred July 2, 1894, and his
wife passed away in 1887, aged seventy-six years. Eleven
children were born to this couple, seven of whom reached
maturity : Anetta m. Daniel Fisher, of Philadelphia ;
Daniel is deceased; William H, ; George is assistant sup-
erintendent of the Merrick Iron Company, of Philadelphia ;
Rosie m. Milton Palmer, of Reading, Pa.; Mary is de-
ceased; and Richard is employed by his brother, William.
In religious belief Mr. and Mrs. Engle were Lutherans.
In political belief he was first a Whig, and later became a
Republican.

William Engle received his preliminary education in the
schools of Reading, and later attended the Reading high
school. When a young man he learned the trade of a
cooper, which he followed for some years, and in 1886
engaged in the manufacture of paper boxes. Starting in a
very small and primitive way Mr. Engle worked his way
steadily upward, now owning one of the most complete
plants in the State, and controlling some of Reading's best



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 93 of 227)