George R. Prowell.

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and is prominently identified with the public

affairs of that enterprising city. He is a mem-
ber of the Board of Trade, Brandon Park
Commission, and director of the First National
Bank of Williamsport. Mr. Young showed
his patriotism during the Civil war by enlist-
ing three times in the Union army, in 1862,
1863 and 1864. He received an honorable
discharge each time, and is a member of Reno
Post, Grand Army of the Republic, of Will-

Mr. Young was married at Gettysburg in
1868 to Carrie Van Patten, who was born in
Washington in 1848. She is a descendant on
her father's side from Charles Frecieric Van
Patten, one of the founders of Schenectady,
N. Y., and of Charles Hansen Toll, a member
from New York to the Continental Congress,
in which he served for thirteen years. On her
mother's side she is a direct descendant of
John Harper, who in 1681 came from England
with William Penn (in the ship "Welcome"),
and settled in Frankfort, now a part of Phila-
delphia. John M. and Carrie (Van Patten)
Young have eight children : William, born in
Topeka, Kans., now practicing law in New
York City, and a member of the New York
Legislature; Edwin P., bom in Middletown,
Ohio, now a practicing lawyer in Pittsburg;
John Paul, born in Middletown, Ohio, now
general manager of the Youngstown (Ohio)
Car Works, and married to Margaret K.
Oliver, of Pittsburg; Charles Van Patten,
bom in Middletown, now professor at Cornell
University, Ithaca, N. Y., and married to
Eleanor Mahaffey, of Williamsport, Pa. ;
George H., bom in York, now superintendent
and assistant treasurer of the Williamsport
Iron & Nail Company, married to Alice D.
Holland, of New York City; Mary, born in
Middletown, and Carrie Van Patten and Ruth
Van Patten, born in York. All the sons and
the daughter Carrie graduated at Comell Uni-
versity. Mary was graduated at Wellesley,
Mass., and in Germany. Ruth graduated at
the Williamsport high school, finished at
Wellesley, and is married to Carl G. Allen, of
Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

HENRY C. SMYSER. The successful
commercial career of Henry C. Smyser illus-
trates the advantages that are afforded in the
aggressive State of Pennsylvania for men. of
integrity and courage, who have a capacity for
business and are willing to strike hard blows.



Mr. Smyser was born July 12, 1844, in York,
where he has made his home ever since.

In looking over the records of the Smyser
family we find that Mathias Smyser was born
in the village of Rugelbach, belonging to the
Parish Lustenan, about six miles west of
Dunkelsbuhl, in Germany, Feb. 17, 171 5.
Dunkelsbuhl is a considerable town within a
few miles of the boundary of the kingdom of
Bavaria. Rugelbach is situated within a few
miles of the boundary which divides that king-
dom from that of Bavaria. Dunkelsbuhl is
nearly in a straight line between Stuttgart and
Nuremberg, about seventy-five miles from the
former and about sixty miles W. S. W. from
the latter.

The parents of Mathias Smyser were Mar-
tin and Anna Barbara Smyser. Of the early
history of Mathias or his father, Martin, little
is known at this day, further than that Martin
was a respectable farmer and member of the
Lutheran Church, within the above named par-
ish, and that his son Mathias, with his brother,
George, and sister, Margaretta, emigrated to
America about 1732, or probably at an earlier
period. Mathias, it seems, first settled in the
neighborhood of Kreutz Creek, York county,
where he followed the weaving business, soon
afterward taking up a large body of land in
the neighborhood of what is now called Spring
Forge, in the same county. It is said that, an-
xious to get neighbors, Mathias made presents
of several farms from his own tract to such as
agreed to improve and live on them. Whether
his brother, George, was one of those who re-
ceived a plantation from him on the same terms
mentioned is not certainly known, but it is
known that the two brothers were neighbors at
the above named place, and it is said that Ma-
thias, after some years' residence there, find-
ing that he had parted with the best portion of
his land, sold out and purchased a tract of about
four hundred or five hundred acres from a Mr.
Henthorn, about three miles west of York, to
which he removed May 3, 1745. On this farm
he continued to reside until his death, in 1778.

George Smyser, brother of Mathias, pur-
chased a farm somewhere between York and
York Haven, where he resided several years,
and then, not being pleased with the quality of
his land, he sold it and removed to the back-
woods, as the west and southwest country was
then called, probably to some part of Virginia,

and nothing from the time of his removal is
definitely known of him. There are, however,
Smysers residing in the neighborhood of Louis-
ville, Ky., and it is thought that they are de-
scendants of George Smyser, the brother of

Mathias Smyser left to survive him three
sons and six daughters : Michael, Jacob and
Mathias; Dorothy, Sabina, Rosanna, Eliza-
beth, Anna Maria and Susanna. Michael Smy-
ger, the eldest, was born in 1740 and died in
1 810; Jacob was born in 1742 and died in
1794; Mathias, born in 1744, died in 1829;
Anna Maria, the next to the youngest daughter,
was born in 1757 and died in 1833; Susanna,
the youngest, born in 1760, died in 1840; and
the ages of the other daughters are not at pres-
ent known.

Michael Smyser, eldest son of Mathias, was
long and extensively known as a respectable
farmer and tavern-keeper, the owner of a well-
cultivated farm of about two hundred acres,
which was cut from a portion of his father's
farm, and, although not favored with a liberal
education, was known as a man of discrimi-
nating mind and sound judgment. He was
early associated with the leading Revolutionary
patriots of the country, and marched to the
battlefield as captain of a company in Col. M.
Swope's regiment, and was one of those who
were taken prisoner at Fort Washington, on
the Hudson, near New York, on Nov. 16, 1776.
He became colonel of his regiment, and the
sword carried by him in the War of Independ-
ence may now be seen in the York County His-
torical Society rooms. In 1778 he was elected
one of the members of the House of Repre-
sentatives in the State Legislature for York
County, and from that time until 1790 he was
seven times chosen to serve in that capacity. In
1 790 and 1 794 he was elected to the State Sen-
ate, serv'ing until 1798.

Jacob Smyser, the second son of Mathias,
was also a respectable farmer and for some
years a justice of the peace. In 1789 he was
elected to the House of Representatives, and
a few years afterward died at the age of fifty-
one years.

Mathias Smyser, the youngest of the three
sons, resided at the mansion home of his fath-
er, where he quietly pursued the useful occu-
pation of an agriculturist, laboring with his
own hands for many years, and maintaining-



in the course of a long life the well-earned rep-
utation of an honest man, of the strictest in-
tegrity. In the Revolutionary war he was also
in the service for some time, not as a soldier,
but as a teamster, conducting a baggage wag-
on, and was throughout a zealous advocate of
the Whig cause. He lived to be over eighty-
four years old, a greater age, by several years,
tiian any of his brothers or sisters attained.

The descendants of Mathias Smyser, the
eldest, have become very numerous. His old-
est son, Michael, left three sons and four
■daughters : Peter, Elizabeth, Sarah, Jacob,
Mar}^, Michael and Susan. Jacob, his second
son, left children : Henry, Jacob, Martin, John,
Catherine, Daniel, Peter and Adam. Mathias,
the third son, had seven children, viz. : Cath-
erine, Polly, George, Jacob, Mathias, Philip
and Henry. His eldest daughter, Dorothy,
who married Peter Hoke, left eight children:
Michael, Clorrissa, Catherine, Peter, Jacob,
Sarah, Polly and George. Sabina mar-
ried Jacob Swope and resided in Lan-
caster county, where she left five sons,
Jacob, George, Mathias, Emanuel and Frede-
rick, and two daughters. Rosanna mar-
ried George Maul and resided for some
years in the town of York, and afterward
removed to Virginia, with her husband, locat-
ing between Noland's Ferry on the Potomac
and Leesburg in Loudoun county, where she
died about 1796 or 1797, leaving four daugh-
ters and one son : Susan, Catherine, Polly, Peg-
gy and Philip, Elizabeth, George and Daniel
«acli having lived to the age of twenty years,
and Peggy and Philip having died since 1806.
Elizabetii married Leonard Eichelberger, and
at the time of her death was residing near
Dillsburg, York county. She left four sons,
Jacob, Frederick, George and John, and foLir
daughters whose names are not known. Anm
Maria, married Martin Ebers, and left:
George, Martin, Daniel, Adam, Michael, Su-
san, Helena and Anna Mary. Susan, the
youngest daughter, married Philip Ebert, and
left one son and four daughters to surv've ii -^
Henr-'-, Elizabeth, Catherine, Lydia and Sarah.
Her youngest son, Michael, who died about
a year before his mother, had resided in St.
Louis, Mo., where he had engaged as a mer-
chant. Her second daughter, the wife of lieni-y
Small, also died about two years previous to
her death. Thus we have sixty-four grandsons
and daughters of Mathias Smyser the elder,

nearly all of whom are now living and have or
have had families.

In April, 1839, Mathias Smyser, the grand-
son of Mathias, set out to make a tour through
a part of Europe. He was then fifty-six years
old and had spent his past life as a farmer in
York county. The main object of his trip to
Europe was to visit the birthplace of his grand-
father. There was nothing in this country by
which the place of his nativity could be traced
except the inscription on his tombstone in the
burying-ground of the Lutheran Church in the
borough of York. Mr. Smyser sailed from
New York for Havre, France, where he ar-
rived in safety. From Havre he traveled
through the interior of France to Geneva ; from
Geneva his main route was to Lausanne, Berne,
Basel, Freybergin, the Dukedom of Baden,
Strasburg, Baden, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Kreil-
sheim and then to Dunkelsbuhl, where he in-
quired for Rugelbach, and found that he was
within six miles of his destination. This is a
small village inhabited by farmers, and in it-
self is not interesting to a stranger, but to him
who sought it as being the birthplace of his an-
cestor it was a spot of intense interest. When
the house was pointed out to him in which his
grandfather had been born 124 years previous,
still known by the name of Schmeisser's house,
though its present occupants were of another
name, when he beheld this time-worn, humble
mansion, when he entered it and felt a con-
sciousness of being within the same walls, prob-
ably treading upon the same floor which, more
than a century before, had been trodden by his
grandfather, his gratification can hardly be im-
agined by us, who have not experienced it.
Mr. Smyser called upon the pastor of
the parish, the Reverend Sieskind, and made
known to him his desire to see his grandfath-
er's name on the baptismal register. The rev-
erend gentleman opened the ancient book, but
through age and accident it had become much
mutilated, and it took hours of patient search
before the following interesting entry was
found: "Mathias Schmeisser, born 17th day
of February, 171 5, son of Martin Schmeisser
and his wife, Anna Barbara, was baptized," &c.
This record agrees precisely with that on his
tombstone in America. The minister next led
Mr. Smyser to the church of the parish and
pointed out to him the tanfstein, assuring him
that, according to the unvarying custom, be-
fore that stone, and on that spot, his grand-



father had been baptized. In the register men-
tioned above and also in that of a village called
Dreiber, some miles distant, the name of
Schmeisser was very often found. Mathias
Smyser met with a man named Andrew
Schmeisser, at or near Mossbach, who was
sixty-seven years of age, with whom he was
greatly pleased, seeing in him a strong resemb-
lance to his own father, especially when the lat-
ter was about the same age. They may have
been second cousins, although Andrew
Schmeisser had no recollection of hearing that
a Mathias Schmeisser had emigrated to Amer-

Mathias Smyser the elder must have joined
the first Lutheran congregation organized in
York and its vicinity soon after his arrival in
America, for his name, together with that of
George Smyser, is found among the names of
the members of that congregation, which com-
menced the erection of a church, a wooden
structure, in 1752. In the graveyard connected
with this church, in 1778, his body was inter-
red, the evidence of which is found on his
tombstone. The Smyser family were all warm
and active supporters of the American cause
during the Revolutionary struggle. Col.
Michael Smyser being a useful man in the
councils of that time, as well as in the field.
When the war commenced in 1775, and the
port of Boston was closed, for the purpose of
starving the people of that important point in-
to submission, a committee of twelve persons
of York county was formed for the purpose of
affording relief to their distressed brethren of
Boston. A sum of nearly two hundred and
fifty pounds specie, a large sum at that time,
was raised and remitted to John Hancock, af-
terward president of Congress, with a spirited
letter of encouragement and promises of fur-
ther assistance. These facts are recorded for
the honor of our country in the American
Archives at Washington with the names of
the committee. Michael Smyser was an active
and leading member of that committee and re-
mitted, as a part of the above sum, from Man-
chester township, six pounds, twelve shillings,
one pence. If the American cause had failed
all the members of that committee, as well as
their illustrious correspondent, on -whose head
a price was set, would have forfeited their lives
on the scaffold.

Col. Michael Smyser' s son, Jacob Smyser,

was the grandfather of our subject, and was
born in West Manchester township, where he
was reared on a farm. He then came to York
and engaged in the tanning business, which he
carried on extensively and made his life occu-
pation. He was active in Christ Lutheran
Church of York and lived to an advanced age.
He married Margaretta Tessler, who bore him
the following children: Israel, Michael and
Henry. Henry went to Pittsburg, Pa., from
where he traveled to Ohio, some of his descend-
ants still residing there. Michael was asso-
ciated with his brother, Israel, in his business,
that of tanning, and each owned a lumber yard
in connection, operating extensively, the lum-
ber business, however, being secondary to their
tanning industry.

Israel Smyser, the father of our subject,,
was bom in 1800, in York, where he died in
1848, being buried in the Prospect Hill ceme-
tery. He married Miss Matilda Ebert, daugh-
ter of Daniel and Susan (Ernst) Ebert. Dan-
iel Ebert was one of the well-to-do farmers of
York and his death, or supposed death, has al-
ways remained a mystery, as he disappeared af-
ter going to Baltimore, where he drew a large
sum of money. Mrs. Smyser, our subject's
mother, died Dec. 18, 1873, ^^ the age of sixty-
six years. She had the following children:
Margaretta, who was the wife of David Gart-
man, and both are deceased ; Celinda, the wife
if John F. Stein, of Philadelphia; Charles E.,
a farmer of Dover township ; Rebecca E., whcv
died single; Daniel E., deceased; George M.,
deceased; and Henry C, the subject of this

Henry C. Smyser was the youngest child
of his parents. He received his education in
the public schools of his native town, and when
not at school assisted his brother at the lumber
yard. At the age of nineteen years he entered
the book store of Hiram Young, as a clerk, re-
maining with him for fifteen years, and in
1878, with John M. Brown, under the firm
name of Brown & Smyser, engaged in the lum-
ber business, which he carried on continuously
for twenty-six years. In 1904 Mr. Smyser re-
tired from active life, giving up all business
cares, and since that time has lived a quiet,
peaceful life in his fine residence at No. 214
South George street, York.

Henry C. Smyser was married Jan. i,
1865, to Miss Isabella C. Vandersloot, daughter



of Rev. F. W. and Mary (Whitman) Vander-
sloot, and they are the parents of one child,
Mary M., who is at home. The family are
members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran
Church, in which Mr. Smyser has been one of
the board of officers for fifteen years.

ADAM F. GEESEY. One hundred and
sixty-two years of intimate connection with the
afifairs of York county should entitle the
Geesey family to respectful and full considera-
tion in a work devoted to biographical records
of the most prominent families of the county.
The facts herein presented were furnished by
the gentleman whose name heads this review,
and who, himself, at the age of sixty-four years,
looks back on a most active and honorable
"business career passed within the bounds of the
county. Many of the material improvements
-completed in York owe their initiation to Adam
F. Geesey, the most marked of these being
possibly the attractive residence suburb of the
city known as "Cottage Place," of which he
was the originator.

The first authentic record of this family
places the|n in Canton Berne, Switzerland,
from which country they were driven by re-
ligious persecution over into Holland, where
they continued to reside until 1738, in which
year they landed at Philadelphia from the long
ocean voyage in the good ship "Molley," from
Rotterdam. In the records of the old St. John's
Union Reformed and Lutheran Church it ap-
pears that Martin Geesey settled in York
county, seven miles from what is now the city
of York, in the year 1742. He was a farmer
and wood worker. Martin Geesey became the
father of John Jacob Geesey, born in 1748,
and he in turn became the parent of Jacob
Geesey, born March 28, 1770. This gentleman,
who was the grandfather of Adam F. Geesey,
was a man of influence in the county, having
held commissions as captain of militia from
Governors Mifflin and McLean.

Jonathan Geesey, the father of Adam F.,
was born near the old homestead April 7, 181 1.
He followed the occupation of his father and
in turn became a man of position and influence,
acquiring a reputation throughout the county
as a counselor in matters of business. He mar-
ried into a family which was also an old and
honorable one, his wife's maiden name having
been Sarah Flinchbaugh. She was the daugh-
ter of Adam, whose father, also named
Adam, was the original emigrant of that

family, coming to York county from Germany
in 1752. Jonathan Geesey was the father of
seven sons, one of whom died in infancy, and
another at the age of sixty-three. Five still
survive, the eldest being now seventy-three
years of age. The father of this family lived
to the age of sixty-six, dying in April, 1877;
the mother, surviving him some twenty years,
died in March, 1897, at the age of eighty-eight

The birth of Adam F. Geesey occurred on
the old homestead Nov. 21, 1841. He was
reared to farm life and secured his education
in the schools of his home district, applying
himself to such purpose as to fit himself to be-
come a teacher. This occupation he followed
for several years, until the time arrived when
he felt it his duty to give his support in the
fight then waging for the maintenance of the
Union. He enlisted in Company K, 200th P.
V. I., but his service with that command was
not of long duration, owing to sickness. After
recuperating he again enlisted, in 1865, this
time as a member of Company G, 103d P. V.
I., in which organization he served until the
close of the war.

Upon returning" from the field Mr. Geesey
launched a mercantile enterprise at Dallas-
town, York county, which he continued with
success through a period of seventeen years.
He then removed to York, where he again en-
gaged in the mercantile business. This was
terminated by his election, in 1878, on the
Democratic ticket, as treasurer of York county,
his popularity in that county being evidenced
by the handsome majority of 2,900 which he
received over his opponent. He served his
own term of three years, and was then given
power of attorney to conduct the office by his
successor, John L. Landis, who was unable to
attend to the duties of the position. In the six
years which he gave to the management of
the county's finances Mr. Geesey made a record
which will continue for all time to furnish in-
centive to his successors. Upon assuming con-
trol he found a debt of $365,000 hanging over
the county. His efforts were given to the re-
duction of same, and with it came a conse-
quent reduction of the tax rate. Upon turning-
the office over to his successor, the debt had
been entirely wiped out, and he was able to
hand over a surplus of some $28,000. The tax
rate had sunk to three mills.

The success of Mr. Geesey in the treas-
urer's office soon caused his selection (in July,

,=^J^4i^— «^^



1885) by Collector of Internal Revenue John
T. MacGonigal, of Lancaster, to take charge of
the collector's office in York county. Here he
served acceptably the following five years.
This ended the public service of Mr. Geesey,
which was entirely honorable and marked with
efficiency and integrity to the close.

Mr. Geesey, now deciding to try the jour-
nalistic field, had, in 1887, purchased the York
Gazette, and until 1893 devoted the greater
part of his time to the upbuilding of that news-
paper property. This he disposed of in 1893,
and again took up the business of his younger
manhood, merchandising, in which he engaged
until 1899, when he sold out. He has not since
been identified with the commercial life of the

Mr. Geesey's later activities have been in
the development of trolley line systems, he hav-
ing since 1900 been instrumental in the build-
ing of the Manchester, York & Dallastown and
the York & Wrightsville lines. He is also a
director in the Security Title & Trust Company
of York, and has large real estate interests in
the city.

The story of the development of "Cottage
Place," York's aristocratic suburb, has been
closely connected with the life of Mr. Geesey
during the past two decades. After his elec-
tion to the office of county treasurer Mr.
Geesey, in selecting a place to build a home,
purchased two blocks of ground and put up
the handsome residence which, he has since
occupied. Being unable to secure gas except
at an exorbitant cost, he interested himself
in the organization of the Edison Electric
Light Company of York, and after establish-
ing the service began systematically to develop
his scheme for a suburb which would attract
builders of a high class, and it has resulted in
the finest residence portion of the city. The
Edison Electric Light Company was organized
in 1883, and two years later was in operation.
The lots which Mr. Geesey parted with off the
original purchase were sold with the proviso
that each building should be set back fifty
■feet ofT the street. Mr. Geesey retained his
interest in the electric light company until 1900,
when he sold to the company now in charge.
It is a matter of record — and fairly a part of
the history of the city — that the Edison Light
Company of York owed its birth and present
success to Mr. Geesey, who clung to it through
all the years of its early struggles, never for a
moment doubting the ultimate success which

came to it. It is proper also to state in this
connection that the York Steam Heating Com-
pany was founded by our subject in 1898, and
he is still a director and superintendent ; it was
an adjunct of the electric light company.

The domestic life of Mr. Geesey has been
most felicitous. It began in 1866 with his mar-
riage to Miss B. Helen Hovis, daughter of
Jacob, a farmer of York county, and of a very
old family in the county. To this marriage
came seven children, three of the sons dying
in infancy, and two daughters in early child-
hood. The two survivors are Arthur H., born
Dec. 8, 1888, and now at school; and Clarence
A., the latter being the eldest.

Clarence A. Geesey was born at Dallas-
town, Oct. I. 1870, and has for a number of

Online LibraryGeorge R. ProwellHistory of York County Pennsylvania (Volume II) → online text (page 9 of 201)