Albert M Gosser


ALBERT M. GOSSER, late of Leechburg, was one of the progressive citizens who contributed much to the upbuilding of that borough, where he passed practically all his life. The Gosser family has been settled there since 1840. Albert M. Gosser was born Jan. 14, 1834, at Adamsburg, Westmoreland Co, Pa., son of William Gosser, and died March 29, 1913.

Adam Gosser, his grandfather, was born in Northampton county, Pa., whence he emigrated with his family to Westmoreland county at an early date. Later he removed to Erie, Pa., where he remained for a short time, removing from there to Pittsburgh and eventually returning to Adamsburg, where he had a contract for construction work on the Greensburg and Stoystown turnpike. He also followed farming, and he lived to good old age, dying at Adamsburg. Adam Gosser was twice married, and he was the father of the following children: Jacob, a soldier of the war of 1812, who died in Missouri; William; Daniel, who located at Baltimore; Henry, who went to Nebraska; Adam; Frederick, who died after reaching maturity; Ann Mary; Susanna, and Catherine.

John Gosser, brother of Adam, was a resident of Westmoreland county, Pa., dying near Adamsburg. He left a large family.

William Gosser, one of the sons of Adam Gosser, was born Nov. 11, 1803, in Northampton county, PA., and was a boy when his father settled at Adamsburg. He learned the trade of blacksmith, which he first followed at Adamsburg, in 1840 removing thence to Leechburg, Armstrong Co., Pa., where he continued in the same line of work. He retired from active labor about eight years before his death, which occurred in 1888, when he was in his eighty-fifth year. Mr. Gosser became a well-known and much respected citizen of Leechburg, where he served as burgess and councilman, giving great satisfaction to his townsmen. He was a lifelong Democrat, and in religion a member of the Lutheran Church.

On Nov. 27, 1827, Mr. Gosser was married to Susanna Kistler, who was born July 4, 1808, and died Nov. 29, 1838, at Adamsburg. She was a member of the Lutheran Church. Five children were born to this union: Louisa, June 28, 1830; Daniel, Feb. 18, 1832; Albert M., Jan. 14, 1834; Adam, May 18, 1836; William, Oct. 10, 1838 (died Dec. 8, 1838). By his second marriage, to Lucy Punt, Mr. Gosser had the following children: Jacob, born Nov. 22, 1842; Commodore Perry, Feb. 2, 1845; David, Sept. 4, 1847; Darius, Dec. 29, 1849 (died Dec. 12, 1852); Franklin P., July 7, 1852 (died Oct 9, 1860); Anna M. , April 18, 1855; Sarah E., April 5, 1858; Harry, May 1, 1861; Amanda, Nov. 16, 1864;

Albert M. Gosser was only a child when the family came to Leechburg, and there he was reared, receiving his education in the common schools. When a young man he learned the trade of marble cutter at Greensburg with his cousin, Capt. Daniel Kistler, and he continued to follow that line of work for about ten years, establishing an extensive business, in Westmoreland, Armstrong and Indiana counties. As it did not agree with his health he gave it up and purchased a boat, the "Spartan," which he operated on the Allegheny river, he himself acting as captain. This was during the period of the early oil excitement in Venango county, and supplies sold at high prices, but the construction of the Allegheny Valley railroad destroyed the profitable river trade. Selling his boat in 1867, Mr. Gosser returned to Leechburg, and in company with his brother Daniel engaged in the general store business at Freeport. He soon bought his brother's interest and in 1868 established the business at Leechburg. In 1871 he sold his store and removed to Allegheny township, Westmoreland county, where in 1872 he erected a fine residence on a high plateau overlooking the Kiskiminetas valley and Pennsylvania railroad. In 1883 he again entered mercantile business at Leechburg, that year erecting his large three-story brick building on Market street, at Bridge alley. He carried a large and comprehensive stock, having a fine line of dress goods, clothing, shoes and carpets, and was considered the leading merchant of the borough until his retirement, in 1901. He was one of the best known business men in this district during his active career. Besides the store building mentioned Mr. Gosser erected what is known as the "Gosser Block House," a three-story and basement building constructed of cement blocks which is considered one of the most substantial structures in Leechburg. The blocks, which he made, were the first cement blocks manufactured in this vicinity, and he also designed the building, which was the first of this kind of construction in the locality. The store of J. J. Long and the Nickelodeon theater are located in the building, and the rest of the space is used for residential purposes, it having been erected originally as an apartment house. It contains twenty-five rooms. Mr. Gosser erected twenty-five houses in all, at Leechburg and Gosser Hill. He long continued to make his home on the fine place on Gosser Hill previously mentioned, in 1904 building his late residence in Leechburg, on Main street.

Mr. Gosser was always public-spirited and active in movements affecting the general welfare, and though he did not seek office he was a candidate for the State Legislature in 1884, while a resident of Westmoreland county. It was mainly through his efforts that the bridge across the Kiskiminetas river, at Leechburg, connecting Armstrong and Westmoreland counties, was made free. Mr. Gosser did not think it was fair that the residents of Allegheny township, Westmoreland county, and Leechburg, Armstrong county, should pay toll on their own bridge when they were also paying taxes to maintain the bridges elsewhere in their counties, and after a long and persistent campaign succeeded in having the toll removed, in June, 1890.

In 1858 Mr. Gosser married Susan Hill, daughter of Israel Hill, of Armstrong county, who was a well-known salt manufacturer in this section. Four sons and four daughters were born to this union: Newton H., is engaged in business as a furniture dealer at Apollo, Armstrong county; Emma D. married Henry Kepple; D. Homer attended commercial college at Buffalo, N. Y., was engaged for a time as clerk in his father's store, and died in 1909 at Pittsburgh, Pa., aged forty-five years (he married Alberta Lindsay and they had four children, one son living, Harold); Franklin I. graduated from the law department of the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, and is now engaged in practice as an attorney at Pittsburgh; Lidie K. married Albert Manning; Lottie E. married Lee Randel; Grace L. married Bert Stivenson; William A., who is living at Gosser Hill, having charge of his father's estate, married Bertha Vogel.

Mr. and Mrs. Gosser early joined the Lutheran Church, in the work of which he was very active, and served as superintendent of the Sunday school. In political sentiment he was a Democrat.

Mrs. Albert M. Gosser was born Sept. 30, 1839, at Hills Mill, in Allegheny township, Westmoreland county, Pa., of which township her parents, Israel and Catherine (Shaffer) Hill, were lifelong residents. Her grandfather, Squire John Hill, was a typical pioneer of the kind whose strength, energy and resources made possible the settling of his region. He was a descendant of Jacob Hill, the immigrant ancestor of the family in America, who came to this country at the time of the Palestine emigration in the early years of the eighteenth century. The history of the Hill family goes back to the time when they were Protestant refugees in Switzerland, probably French Huguenots. Later they had gone down the Rhine, making common cause with the French Huguenots, and after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 they were in the Palatinate in the Hunricher mountain district and near Coblentz, where they were called Switzers. Tiring of the unsettled condition of the country resulting from religious wars and persecutions, they came as stated to America, where they are called Pennsylvania Dutch.

Jacob Hill, ancestor of Mr. Gosser, settled in Maxatawny township, Berks county, and was one of the founders of the Moselem Stone Lutheran Church in that county. He had three sons, Daniel, Frederick and John Jacob.

John Jacob Hill, the eldest son of Jacob, the emigrant ancestor, was born about 1716, and on July 3, 1739, married Maria Appolonia Merking (or Merkle, as the name is now spelled). They settled in Windsor township, Berks county, and had a family of ten children, Anna Maria, Anna Catarine, John Christian, John Jacob, Magdalena, John, John Peter, John Jacob, John Frederick and John Casper. A remarkable thing is that the sons all have John prefixed to a second name except the one born June 20, 1751, who was simply named John. A number of these sons came West and probably some of them settled in Westmoreland county. One of them, it is not known which, as among so many Johns one may lose his identity in a century or more, was married to Magdalena Hower, and had three children, John, Jacob and Hannah. The father of this family was captured by a party of marauding Indians while returning home from a distance with a load of fruit trees he had procured for planting, and was taken with other captives to a point up the Allegheny river locally known as Hickory Flats. All that is known of his fate is from the traditional account of a Mrs. McVeigh, one of his neighbors, who was taken at the same time, and who by some means was enabled to return to the settlements. He was made to run the gauntlet, which he did successfully, and while he was standing by watching the fate of the others Mrs. McVeigh fell, and was being clubbed, when he ran through a second time, picked her up and carried her through, doubtless saving her life. She said that by such deeds of strength and daring he had gained some favor in the eyes of the Indians, had been allowed some freedom, and had been able to perfect a means of escape, having secured and concealed a canoe on the river bank. He intended to leave a certain night, and that day confided his plans to a fellow prisoner, a German, offering him the chance of escape, too. The German, to gain favor, revealed the plans to the Indians, who tied Hill securely to a tree, and left him to whatever form of death the wilderness might bring. He was tortured from time to time until he died, but at the risk of her life Mrs. McVeigh would take him water.

Squire John Hill, grandfather of Mrs. Gosser, was born Feb. 25, 1772, and was ten years old when his father was captured by the Indians. He died Jan. 8, 1848. Active and energetic throughout his long life, intelligent and farseeing, and with the disposition to advance the affairs of the community as well as the ability to make his own undertakings prosper, he was a man of notable worth in his day. He had various interests which brought him a good income for the time and were of value to the neighborhood, and there were few citizens of his time and place who did as much for the general welfare. His activities and generosity in behalf of school facilities, his services as justice of the peace, which office he continued to hold for a number of years, and his various business enterprises, especially "Hills Mill", brought him into contact with the majority of the residents of his section, and he was as well respected as known. However, he was the victim of a foreigner who thought he had a grievance against the Squire. This man, a Hungarian doctor named Shultz, had been called to treat the Squire's daughter Leah, who was an invalid. He fell in love with the girl and wanted to marry her, but she was indignant and alarmed at his proposal and complained to her father and brother. The Squire ordered the Doctor to cease his visits and attentions. This infuriated him so that he threatened to burn the barn and kill all the family then at home. In March, 1847, he made the attempt, but only succeeded in burning the barn and in blowing up the Squire's office, a small building in which two of the boys, Salem and Shiloh, slept. That night a neighbor boy was with them. The boys were awakened by the light of the burning barn, so they were up at the time of the explosion of the powder Shultz had placed in the building, through a broken window, for the purpose of killing them. The force of the explosion was such that the boys were thrown in different directions. The one end of the building and the door were blown out, but the boys were not seriously injured. Shultz, however, did not fare so well. He had been about to break into the house where the other members of the family were sleeping, but heard the boys getting up and fearing the powder would not do its work until the boys had left the building, he had gone back to the door, with a rifle, and a butcher knife, to meet the boys when they would open the door; he just got there in time to receive the full force of the door as it was blown outward by the explosion, and was so badly injured that he was disabled for a time, being thrown back against the garden wall, where some of the people discovered him. His face, too, was very much lacerated by the butcher knife, which he was holding between his teeth. By this time the inmates of the house were aroused, and it was necessary for all to give their attention to saving the house, as the roof was already ignited by specks from the barn. The house was saved without being very much damaged. Salem was prevented forcibly from attacking Shultz, though when the latter cried for water no one would give him a drink until Mrs. Hill, the Squire's wife, said he should have it and went to the spring herself. The next day Shultz was taken to Kittanning, and lodged in jail. He had his trial at the June term of court, and was found guilty of arson, and sent for life to the penitentiary, where he died. The barn he attempted to destroy was the largest in Allegheny township, which then comprised what is now three townships, Gilpin, Parks and Bethel. At the time it was burned it contained one thousand bushels of wheat, besides other grain, farm implements and horses. Such a calamity was a heavy burden for a man already worn by many years of toil in a frontier life, and may have hastened his death.

Squire John Hill was twice married, first to Elizabeth Walt, a native of Westmoreland county, of German descent, who died Oct. 13, 1817, aged thirty-eight years. She was the mother of ten children: Mary (or Polly), who married Isaac Townsend; Elizabeth, who married Thomas Trees; John, who died unmarried; Jacob, who married Hannah Ulan, and died in Parks township, this county; Levi, who married Sophia Minion; Eli, born in 1807, who died in October, 1843, in Leechburg (he married Susan Ashbuagh, who died in March, 1878, aged abut sixty-two years, and they had four children, John, Eveline, Mrs. Margaret Barr and Mrs. Priscilla Lytle); Daniel, who married Eliza Kuhns, and died in Leechburg; Hiram, born Dec. 17, 1812, who died in Gilpin township Jan. 16, 1891 (he married Margaret Shaffer and had, Elizabeth, Jefferson, Elisha, Francis and D. Marion); Israel, who died in Gilpin township; and Deborah, who died young. For his second wife the father married Susan Ammon, who lived to be over ninety-eight years old. The following children were born to this union; Esther, who married Rev. George Ehrenfeld, a Lutheran minister; Leah, who died unmarried; Noe, widow of James Weaver, residing in Gilpin township; John; Ammon, who married Catherine Shuster, and died in Freeport, Pa.; Shiloh, who was married twice, first to Helen Coulter and second to Emily Weaver, and is the father of John A., James R., Charles S., Fred E., Hattie and Laura; Philip, who died when fifteen years old; Seni, who died young; and Salem, who married Hetti Kuhns. (It would appear there was also a daughter Sarah, Mrs. Jonathan Waltz.) The brothers Eli, Levi and Jacob engaged in the manufacture of salt, drilling the third well in this section for the purpose. They drilled altogether about eight wells, becoming extensive manufacturers in their line. Eli, Levi, Daniel and Hiram also engaged in the mercantile business at Leechburg, being extensively interested in that line for about four years.

Israel Hill, son of Squire John Hill, was the father of Mrs. Gosser. He was born June 16, 1820, on the old Hill homestead in Gilpin township, and died there Jan. 28, 1878. He was a salt manufacturer and later a farmer. He married Catherine Shaffer, who was born Jan. 22, 1821, and died March 26, 1879, on the old home farm. Mr. and Mrs. Hill were members of the Hebron Lutheran Church. They had a family of seven children, two sons and five daughters, viz.: Elizabeth married John A. Patterson and both are deceased. Fannie married Andrew Sobers and both are deceased. Susan is the widow of Albert M. Gosser. Mahala married Henry Isensee and is living at Vandergrift. Emily married Milton Anderson and is deceased. B. Franklin died at Vandergrift, Pa., March 15, 1913. Israel died in infancy.

Source: Pages 5669-572, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed December 1998 by Connie Mateer for the Armstrong County Beers Project
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