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 99 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 99 of 227)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The daughters graduated from the Reading high school and
the National Park Seminary, at Washington, D. C. They
are socially prominent in Reading.

Mr. Stauffer was a Knight Templar Mason, belonging
to Reading Commandery, No. 42. He was a member of the
Episcopal Church, and a vestryman at Christ Church,
Reading, and he was one of the founders and treasurer of
St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Reading. In 1872 Mr. Stauf-
fer was made a director and trustee of the Reading Pub-
lic. Library, continuing to serve as such to the end of his
days, and he gave considerable time to furthering its inter-
ests. It w*as through his efforts that the property was saved
to the company when the failure of the Reading Savings
Bank threatened to sweep it away, and it was he who
fought for so many years for a city appropriation. Primar-
ily a professional man, with large interests, he thus found
time on mahy occasions to give his best efforts to the ad-
vancemient of the civic welfare and the promotion of enter-
prises in which his concern personally was simply that of
a public-spirited citizen. Though past seventy, Mr. Stauf-
fer enjoyed excellent health until a week before his death,
when he contracted a cold which ended in pneumonia, and
he died at the family residence. No. 1513 Hill Road, Nov.
4, 1906.

HIRAM J. BIGONY, a prominent and influential citizen
of Mohnton, Pa., engaged in the manufacture of hosiery,
was born June 1, 1S62, at Sanatoga, Montgomery Co., Pa.,
son of William W. and Mary L. (Weida) Bigony.

The spelling of the name Bigony was formerly Bigonet
or Pichonet, and the seat of the family was in Languedoc,
France. The first of the name here was Jean Bigonet, a
native of the city of Nimes, who came in 1752. On May
27, 1753, he .was married in Germantown, Pa., to Catherine
Elizabeth, the widow of Henry Ozias. In 1773 arrived
Francois P. Bigonet, who located in the Falkner Swamp
in Montgomery county, Pa., where he married Maria Brant
in 1779. They had children : Joseph, grandfather of Hiram
J.; Mary, m. to Isaac Yost; Susan, mt to George Rinehart;
and a third daughter, who was killed while still young
on her way home from Philadelphia.

'Joseph Bigony was born in Montgomery county, Nov.
14, 1790, and died Oct. 7, 1869. For some years he lived
in Amity township, Berks county, but later he returned
to Sanatoga, Montgomery county, where he died. He
was a prosperous farmer and also did some driving and
auctioneering, making occasional trips to Canada for
cattle. On Dec. 15, 1811, he married Rachel Worley,
born Sept. 17, 1791, who died aged seventy-five years,
seven months, twenty days, daughter of Henry Worley,
of Pottstown. Their children were : Francis, born July 25,
1814; John, Feb. 26, 1816; Joseph, March 1, 1818; Mary
Ann, March 11, 1820; Henry, Feb. 27, 1822; Leah, Sept.
17, 1824 (residing at Alden Station, Pa.) ; Hiram and
Ephraim, twins, March 9, 1828; Frank, Sept. 7, 1830; and
Reuben and William, twins, Dec. 24, 1832.

William W. Bigony, father of Hiram J., was born in
Amity township, and when a young man learned the tan-
ning trade of his brother, Joseph, of Longswamp town-



ship. This he followed for about twenty-five years, and
in 1869-71 was engaged in the hotel business at Alburtis,
Lehigh county, and Monterey, Berks county. In 1872
he rernoved to Greenwich township on a small farm near
Grimville, and he engaged in the droving business there
until his retirement in 1902, when he removed to Edison,
Cumru township, where he died Nov. 15, 1905, aged nearly
seventy-four years. He was a well known cattle dealer
of his day, and also was very successful as an auctioneer.
On Feb. 12, 1860, Mr. Bigony married Mary L. Weida, born
May 31, 1836, in Longswamp township, and still living,
daughter of Daniel and Eliza (Weiler) Weida. To this
union there were born children as follows : Annie died in
1880, aged nineteen years ; Hiram J. ; Sallie, born May 22,
1864, is single; Ella died in infancy; Lizzie, born Jan. 8,
1866, is unmarried; William F., born March 1, 1868, is an
insurance agent and resides in Reading; John died in in-
fancy; Emma, born Oct. 29, 1874; .and Mary, born Sept.
29, 1877.

^ Hiram J. Bigony was educated in the public schools, the
Keystone State Normal School and the Eastman Business
College, graduating from the latter in 1892. His boyhood
days were spent on his father's farm near Grimville, and
at an early age he began teaching school in Greenwich
township, where he continued successfully for seven con-
secutive terms. In 1889 he came to Cumru township, re-
ceiving an advanced salary, and taught in that township
for thirteen years, meeting with flattering success. Pro-
fessor Bigony was the instructor of the Mohnton grammar
school for ten terms, and holds a State teacher's permanent
certificate. While a teacher in Greenwich and Cumru
townships, Mr. Bigony was instrumental in organizing
debating societies, which were largely attended, doing much
good in their various localities. Mr. Bigony was himself
an excellent debater, being quick-witted, logical and
forceful in the presentation of his arguments.

From youth on Mr. Bigony assisted his father in the
cattle business, and in this manner came into contact with
business men throughout Eastern Pennsylvania. In the
spring of 1903 he formed a partnership with John and
Charles Richwein, of Mohnton, under the firm name of
Electric Hosiery Company, manufacturers of seamless hos-
iery. They erected a plant 24 x 68 feet, two stories high,
and here employ forty-five people, their product being 200
dozen daily, which find a ready market throughout the
country. In January, 1906, Mr. Bigony was elected a
director of the Wyomissing Hosiery Mills of Mohnton,
of which he was later made treasurer and general super-
intendent, and this well established firm has two mills.
The plant at Mohnton is 30 x 100 feet, three stories high,
and employs sixty people, while the other plant, at Rhein-
holds, Lancaster county, is 30 x 50 feet, two stories high,
and has thirty hands.

■ In 1895 Mr. Bigony built a modern, two-story brick
residence on Chestnut street, Mohnton, where he resided
until 1905, and in this year moved into his present residence
on Wyomissing avenue, which has a gray sandstone front
and bay windows. In politics Mr. Bigony is a non-par-
tisan, voting independently. He was prominently identified
with the incorporation of Mohnton into a borough and
was chairman at different meetings, doing much in behalf
of the movement: Fraternally he is connected with the
Knights of Pythias, No. 485; P. O. S. of A., No. 211,
and Sr. O. U. A. M., all of Mohnton.

On Oct. 2, 1894, Mr. Bigony married Lizzie H. Weidner,
daughter of John Y. and Catherine (Hornberger) Weid-
ner, a complete sketch of whom will be found elsewhere.
To this union there were born three children, as follows :
E. Madeline, born Feb. 1, 1896; Blanche, Dec. 12, 1901;
and Warren W., Aug. 23, 1905 (died Nov. 23, 1905). Mr.
Bigony and his family are members of Zion's United Evan-
gelical Church, of Mohnton, of which he has been a trustee
since 1906. He and his wife are also members of the
Sunday-school, and take a great interest in the work
of the organization, being cheerful and liberal givers of
both time and money. Mr. Bigony is considered one of the
borough's good substantial men, and he enjoys an enviable
reputation for honesty and integrity. On April 30, 1907, he



392 HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

was elected a member of the school board, and is now Emeline. The mother died in 1860, aged seventy-two

serving as secretary of that board. years, at Reading, to which place she had removed after

JVIr. Griscom's decease.

WILLIAM MORRIS GRISCOM,; ipresident of the William M. Griscom was three years old when his par-
Reading Hardware Company, one of the leading business ents removed to Reading, and there he pursued his pre-
enterprises of its kind in the country, of which he was paratory education until he was twelve years old, when
the principal organizer in 1851, is now residing at Bryn he entered the Clermont Academy, situated in the vi-
Mawr, near Philadelphia, in comfortable retirement from cinity of Frankford, near Philadelphia; he remained in
active' pursuits. He was born Oct. 14, 1823, at Oxford, that institution for two years Being inclined to mechan-
Chester Co., Pa., son of Samuel and Ann (Powell) Gris- ics, his father secured an apprenticeship for him in the
(-om. ' famous "Norris" Locomotive Works" at Philadelphia,

Andrew Griscom, the great-great-great-grandfather of where 135 apprentices were at that time learning the

William M., emigrated to the New World 'from England trade of machinist, but after he had been there less than

in 1680, and settled at Philadelphia, residing on Second two years the prevailing panic throughout the State caus-

street, opposite the home of William Penn. He built the ed the works to suspend operations, and he was obliged

first brick house at Philadelphia, served as one of the to return home.

city's first grand jurors, and died in 1694. He married Mr. Griscom then entered the hardware store of Keim

Sarah Dale, and by her had four children : Samuel, David, & Miller, at the southeast corner of Third and Perm

Tobias and Sarah. streets, Reading, as a clerk, and by so doing started a

Tobias Griscom, son of Andrew, was a farmer, and career in the hardware business which has been contin-

settled between Philadelphia, Pa., and Gloucester, N. ued very successfully until the present time, covering

J. He married Deborah Gabitas, and they had five chil- altogether a period of seventy years. He served in this

dren, namely: William, Tobias, Mary, Andrew and Sam- store for about three years, but wishing to fill a similar

uei. place with better prospects for advancement he went

Of this family, Andrew Griscom, born in 1711, died to Philadelphia, and there obtained employment in the

in 1773, was the great-grandfather of William M. He large and prosperous hardware store of R. & W. C.

married (first) Susanna Hancock, by whom he had three Biddle. In three years he succeeded in developing such

children: Sarah, Everett and William; and after her a large and profitable trade in the Schuylkill Valley and

death married (second) Mary Bacon, by whom he also the territory beyond the Broad Mountains, through the

had three children ; Mary, Andrew and Deborah. assistance and influence of his father, that he was in-

William Griscom, the grandfather of William M., a vited to become a member of the firm. Ajjpreciating

farmer of Mannington, Salem Co., N. J., was born in this honor, he secured an interest in the business and

1747 and died in 1813. He married Rachel Denn, born continued as a member of the firm for five years. An

in 1745, who died in 1808, and they had a family of opportunity was then presented for him to engage in

seven children : John, William, Samuel ( died in inf an- the manufacture of charcoal iron in Centre county, and

cy), :£verett, Rachel, Samuel (2) and David. withdrawing from the firm he directed all his efforts

Samuel Griscom, the father of William M., was con- to the successful operation of the furnace for the next
nected for upward of twenty-three years with the Schuyl- three years. The plant was called the Howard Iron
kill canal management. He was born at Salem, N. J., Works. While operating this plant, Mr. Griscom became
in 1787, and was reared on a farm. Upon reaching man- interested with his brothers-in-law. William and Matthan
hood he determined to become a builder, and in this be- Harbster, whose sister Ellen he had married, in estab-
half learned the trade of brickmason. Developing an lishing a foundry at Reading for the manufacture of all
aptitude for building operations, he located at Philadel- kinds of building hardware and he advancing the nec-
phia, where he was engaged in erecting dwelling-houses essary capital they together put up a small plant and
for ten years. While so engaged he came to know 'some then started an enterprise which was the foundation of
of the directors of the Schuylkill Navigation Company, the Reading Hardware Works. This was in 1851. In
and they, appreciating his abilities and success as a build- a short time the prospects for a large and profitable bus-
er, employed him to fill the position of civil engineer iness became so encouraging that he disposed of his in-
and manager of the canal, to look after the construe- terest in the iron works mentioned and devoted all of
tion department. Immediately after his appointment to his time to the development of the hardware business,
this position, in 1826, he fixed his residence at Reading, His extended acquaintance and large experience in the
which was the central point of the canal between Potts- hardware trade, which he had acquired by his connection
ville and Philadelphia. In the performance of his du- with the Biddle firm, gave him unusual advantages in
ties, he distinguished himself by the construction of building up the trade and influence of the new enter-
dams, locks and viaducts, and the maintenance of the prise, and thereby he was enabled to supply orders from
artificial channel; which is evidenced by his retention different sections of the country, which kept the plant
for twenty-three years. busy and required constant enlargements year after year.

While filling this important position he discovered a until in a quarter century the enterprise so modestly

bed of cement rock along the eastern bank of the Schuyl- begun was one of the largest and most prosperous in-

kill near the Shepp Dam, three miles above Reading, dustries in Pennsylvania.

and, building the necessary oven, manufactured large In 1878 JvIr. Griscom went to Europe in behalf of the

quantities of superior cement, which was profitably used works, and he there succeeded in gradually developing a

in construction work along the canal. He also devel- very large trade. A special exhibit of their articles was

oped a large business for the company in the transporta- made at the Paris Exposition of 1878, which proved high-

tion of lime for _ agricultural purposes, thereby becoming ly creditable and beneficial, and for which they received

the first person in this section of the country to manu- a bronze medal. In the countries of Europe as well as

facture and supply lime as a fertilizer. In 1844 it be- in the United States, thev came to supply the building

came necessary for him to locate at Pottsville in the hardware for the finest "and largest structures, thereby

management of the canal, and he continued in the em- showing that their plant at Reading was recognized as

ploy of the company until 1848, when he resigned to the equal, if not the superior, of any^similar plant While

superintend boating interests on the canal. This po- abroad, Mr. Griscom returned annually to Reading to

sition he held until his death, in 1849, when, in the re- make necessary arrangements for filling his orders and

port of the company, his efficiency was recognized. in so doing he traveled across the .Atlantic ocean about

Mr. Griscom married Ann Powell, daughter of .Tere- fifty times. Finally, in 1904, on account of his a^-'e he
miah Powell, a fanner of Salem county, N. J., and there was obliged to discontinue his residence abroad and' re-
were twelve children born to this union : Rachel D., turning to Pennsylvania he purchased a propertv at Brvn
David P. Sarah P Powell EHzabeth Samuel Everett Mawr.near Philadelphia, which he improved "according
Edwm Atlee, Chalkley, William M., Horace, Anna and to his ideas of a home for himself and family, and he is




SAMUEL GRISCOM AND WIFE ANN GRISCOM





^c^a.14^ t/U^ y^cif



L-irykt,—



BIOGRAPHICAL



393



now enjoying its well-deserved comforts. In the re-
organization of the hardware works, in the spring of
1907, he was elected president of the corporation.

On May 23, 1847, Mr. Griscorai married Ellen Harb-
ster, who was born at Hamburg, Pa., July 5, 1828, daugh-
ter of Henry Harbster, of Hamburg, and died April
22, 1864. To this union there was born one daughter,
Annie. On May 10, 1882, Mr. Griscom was married at
Zurich, Switzerland, by U. S. (vice) Consul John Syz,
to Annie Lydia Miller, who was born at Hamburg, Pa.,
Aug. 9, 1859, daughter of Girard Miller, also of Ham-
burg, and by her he had four sons and two daughters,
as follows: Andrew, William M., Jr., Frederick G., Ed-
gar DeWare, Ethel L. and Grace Millicent, all of whom
were born in Germany, while Mr. Griscom was living
at Berlin.

Rachel Denn Gmscom (sister of William M., .and
daughter of Samuel Griscom) was the founder of the
"Widows' Home" at Reading, and one of the noblest
characters in Berks county, having been known for her
humane and charitable spirit in the community for sev-
enty-five years — a period extending from the dawn of
her womanhood until she went to her eternal rest at the
age of ninety-two ; and the board of managers, with which
she had been intimately associated for twenty-five years,
truly said of her at the end of her remarkable career :
"Her life is a noble example of womanly power through
the life of the highest feminine virtues."

Miss Griscom was born at Salem, N. J., Nov. 5, 1808.
While she was an infant, not a year old, her parents re-
moved to Philadelphia, and there she was brought up
and educated under the superior influence of the Socie-
ty of Friends until she became seventeen years of age.
With a natural inclination to carry on the vocation of a
teacher, she secured a school at Hancock Bridge, N.
J., near her birthplace, for her initiatory experience, and
after teaching there for a season was employed to teach
in the "Friends' School," at Philadelphia, in 1826, but
she was there only a few months when her parents re-
moved to Reading and she went with them.

There was a large settlement of Friends in Maiden-
creek township, eight miles north of Reading, and learn-
ing of Miss Griscom's success as a teacher, they em-
ployed her to carry on their school. She continued
teaching this school until the common school system
was accepted by Reading in 1835, and then she started
as a teacher in the public school there; and from that
time for about twenty-five years, she was engaged at
teaching either in the public schools, or in private female
seminaries, or on her own account. Soon after begin-
ning at Reading, in 1837, she reported a school attend-
ance of 116 pupils, fifty-eight in the first class, twenty-six
in the second and thirty-two in the third. Her salary
was then only thirteen dollars a month. The last school
which she taught was in the Exeter meeting house in, 1860.

Miss Griscom will be principally remembered, however,
as one of the organizers of the "Home for Widows and
Single Women of Reading," indeed as the very first
person to suggest the propriety and necessity of estab-
lishing a charitable institution of this kind at Reading.
She and a number of other Christian ladies assembled
repeatedly in the law offices of the author of this history,
at No. 546 Court street, during the year 1875, and form-
ulated the plans which culminated in the incorporated
body in January, 1876. The petitioners signed the appli-
cation for a- charter in this office. As the secretary,
she was most active and zealous, always hopeful and
determined and her great perseverance was eventually
rewarded by the recognition of the community and the
establishment of the "Home." Her indomitable spirit in
the noble cause kept her at the head of all the movements
of the society until her physical strength became too weak
to permit her to continue any longer active in its man-
agement and so, in 1891, at the age of eighty-three years,
after a continuous service of fifteen years as the secre-
tary, she declined a re-election. Upon the announcement
of her purpose, the board of managers passed the follow-



ing highly appropriate and laudatory resolution, Jan. 15,
1891:

"No mere words of sorrow or resolutions of regret
can convey an idea of the loss the Board of Managers
sustained in the resignation of Miss Griscom as secre-
tary. _ From her labors of philanthropy this charity had
its origin; to her praiseworthy industry much of its sys-
tematic arrangement is due; to her influence among the
people, who accepted what she approved, much of its
success is due. Her faith in the benevolence of her
neighbors often enabled this Board to undertake work
that at first sight seemed impossible. May her example
of untiring industry and Christian philanthropy have
a lasting influence on the members of this Board."

The retiring secretary addressed this reply to the
Board, Feb. 12, 1891:

"Accept my heartfelt thanks for your kind resolution
in regard to my past services as secretary. Those ser-
vices were made and well repaid by your unvarying con-
sideration, indulgence, aid and cheerful, helpful gifts. We
have journeyed together in harmony and prospered. May
the future bring to you, to the Association -and to my
successor the same progress, prosperity and grateful
consciousness of Divine aid and appreciation."

During Miss Griscom's declining years, the author of
this history called to see her a number oif times socially
at her home. No. 227 South Fourth street, and to him
her noble spirit was always inexpressibly beautiful and
inspiring. She , died at Reading Jan. 8, 1901, at the age
of ninety-two years, two months, three days, and all who
had come to know her and to appreciate her worth to
the community mourned her departure. The managers of
the Widows' Home felt their loss particularly, and on
the 10th of January following passed an appropriate res-
olution of regret.

JOHN G. NIETHAMMER has been engaged in business
in Reading on his own account for the past twenty years,
and during his honorable career has sustained the high
reputation which the name Niethamnier has long borne
in this city.

Balthaser Niethammer, grandfather of John G., was a
native of Germany, where he followed farming and en-
gaged in the cattle business, and where he died. He and
his wife, Anna Maria Seager, were the parents of two
children : Elizabeth, who married and died in Germany ;
and John George, father of John G., of Reading.

John George Niethammer was born in Wurteniberg,
Germany, and there received his education. He came to
America July 19, 1852, landing in New York City, at nine
o'clock in the evening, and after spending two days there
came to Reading. His first occupation was as super-
intendent of a large sawmill near that city, from which
mill came the timbers used to build the bridges along the
Schuylkill and Tulpehocken rivers. Mr. Niethammer was
next employed at the Berks County House for several
years, and then moved to Muhlenberg Hall, No. 757 Penn
street, and this he conducted successfully until his death,
March 30, 1890, a period of thirty-three years. He was
one of the first importers of Rhine wine to Reading, mak-
ing a special trip to Europe for that purpose. He was
connected with the Teutonic Lodge of Masons. Mr. Nie-
thammer was married in Reading, in March, 1855, by the
Rev. Mr. Keller, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, to
A. Mary Gessler, also a native of Germany, born Sept. 17,
1833, who came to America March 18, 1853. After the
death of her husband Mrs. Niethammer continued the busi-
ness for eight years, and in 1898 removed to No. 123 North
Eleventh street, where she died June 21, 1905. Both she -
and her husband were buried at the Charles Evans ceme-
tery. Of their children : Mary Catherine m. Samuel P.
Brown, and died in 1883 ; Anna Margaret and Ella Eliza-
beth, both single, live at the Eleventh street home; John G.
is mentioned below; Annie M. died in infancy; Peter B.
married Luca Miller, and resides in East Reading; and
Jacob B., an inventor, and a vei^y popular young man of
the city, who took a prominent part in the work of the
Y. M. C. A., died Jan. 19, 1894.



394



HISTORY OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



John G. Niethammer was born in Reading in 1863, and
received his education in his native city, first attending
the public schools and subsequently E. E. Post Commercial
College, where he was given thorough training in business
methods. Then he went to Lancaster, Lancaster Co., Pa.,
where he was employed by a Mr. Casper Kohler, having
charge of the office for about a year. Returning to Read-
ing at the end of that time he assisted his father as clerk
for a few years, remaining with him until he started in
business for himself. When Mr. Niethammer was about
twenty-three he opened the establishment known as Niet-



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 99 of 227)