Biographies from Historical and Biographical Annals by Morton Montgomery


p. 1020


Conspicuous among the well known business men of Reading is Hamilton Godfrey, owner of the "Farmers' Hotel and Rathskeller" and successful real estate dealer. He was born in Cape May county, New Jersey, where the Godfrey family has been known for several generations.

Nicholas Godfrey, grandfather of Hamilton, lived and died on the family homestead in New Jersey.

Samuel Godfrey, son of Nicholas, became the owner of the old farm in Cape May county, located two miles from property owned by his son Hamilton, situated in Great Egg Harbor at Beesley Point. He married Martha Carson, and their children were: Bradford, dealer in real estate in New York; Carlton, president of the Guarantee Trust Company, and of the West Jersey Title Company, Atlantic City, N. J.; Hamilton; and Lottie, wife of Somers Ross, of Ocean City, N.J. Samuel Godfrey, the father, died in June, 1907.

Hamilton Godfrey was reared on a farm, receiving the advantages usual with farmers' sons. The schools of the neighborhood afforded him his only educational opportunities. At the age of twenty he engaged in the real estate business at Ocean City, at that time in its incipiency. This was the beginning of a successful career, and two years later he went to Atlantic City, where for eleven years he was engaged in the same line of business, meeting with unvarying success. He still holds valuable interests there. In 1891 he came to Reading, and opened an office and prosperity has attended his efforts. In 1905 he purchased the "Farmers' Hotel" property at the corner of Fifth and Washington streets, the title from the Penns being but four transfers removed. The building was erected in 1760, but additions have been made since them. Mr. Godfrey has also acquired other holdings in Reading. He belongs to Lodge No. 115, B. P. O. Elks.

Mr. Godfrey married Anna E. Donohower, daughter of William Donohower, of Reading.


p. 540


Among the leading business enterprises of Reading, Pa., is that of Ferdinand Goetz Sons Company, with main offices at No. 26 Spruce street, New York City.

The business now conducted by this firm was first established in Reading in 1869, by Winters & Blotz. Mr. Ferdinand Goetz, who was admitted to the firm upon Mr. Blotz's retirement, was born in Germany in 1850, and emigrated to America in 1868, first setting in Maryland and finding employment as a farm laborer. In 1870 he came to Reading, here finding employment as a laborer in the building trade. He then secured a position as reporter on the German Daily Post, owned and published by Mr. William Rosenthal, but finally he became acquainted with the firm of Winters & Blotz. Upon Mr. Blotz's retirement, Mr. Winters offered Mr. Goetz an equal interest in the business, which the later subsequently accepted. From the start the business prospered, and from a poor farm laborer Ferdinand Goetz became one of Reading's best-known business men. At the time he joined the firm they were operating their tannery at the foot of Jefferson street, but in 1882 it was removed to its present quarters, formerly occupied by the Fink Planing Mill Company. Her the business was conducted under the style of Winters & Goetz until 1904, when Mr. Goetz died, the business being reorganized into a stock company under the style of The Ferdinand Goetz Sons Company, with the following officers; Fred W. Goetz, president; W. C. Billman, secretary and treasurer; and Karl Goetz, George Rumer, and Charles E. Miller, as members of the corporation. This company manufactures the white and fancy colored alum tanned lamb, sheep, calf skins and hides for suspender, shoe and belt work, and white and fancy colored slipper calf as specialties, their straight line bearing a world-wide reputation. Each member of the firm is an expert in the business and takes an active part in conducting one of the several departments.

Fred W. Goetz, president of the firm, was born in the city of Reading, in 1877, received his education in the common schools and also took a course in a business college in Brooklyn, N. Y. While still a boy he worked in the tannery of his father, learning all the details of the business. He married in 1899 Miss Elizabeth B. Potteiger, of Stouchsburg, Pa., and to this union have been born two daughters, Ruth and Grace. The family are Lutherans in their religious belief.


p. 1068


Edmund Goldman, a well-known business man of Reading, whose "Bon Ton" millinery establishment has been located in the city since 1886, was born in Austria in 1858. His education was secured in Philadelphia, Pa., where he was first employed in a wholesale millinery establishment. In 1886, in company with Mr. A. S. Cohn, Mr. Goldman established his present business, the partnership being dissolved in 1903 on Mr. Cohn's withdrawal.

Mr. Goldman has been very successful in his business enterprise, his employes numbering about one hundred people, fifty to sixty of whom are milliners and trimmers. He is a very heavy importer, doing an extensive wholesale business throughout eastern Pennsylvania, besides commanding the leading retail trade in the city. Some idea of his business may be estimated from the fact that his semi-annual openings are attended by from 6,000 to 7,000 ladies of Reading and the surrounding country. His store building, which is 25 x 150 feet, three stories and basement, brick, is fully equipped with the modern fixtures and appurtenances.

Mr. Goldman is a very popular, both in business and social circles. He is a member of Reading Lodge, F & A. M., No. 549; Harrisburg Consistory, thirty-second degree, and Rajah Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S. He is also a member of Lodge No. 115, B. P. O. E.


p. 946


William I. Goldman, whose elegant studio is situated at No. 516 Penn street, Reading, comes, on the paternal side, from ancestors who have lived in Berks county for generations.

John Goldman, his grandfather, was a farmer.

Isaac Goldman, son of John, was a merchant-tailor of Wernersville, Berks county, but died in Reading, in 1870, aged forty-seven years. He married Wilhelmina Ibach, daughter of Gustave Ibach, who came from Germany when six years old, settling in Newsmantown, Pa., where he died. Eleven children were born to Isaac and Wilhelmina (Ibach) Goldman, four of whom are now living: William I.; Charles I. of Chicago; Elmer E., of Philadelphia; and Henry H., an undertaker of Chicago.

William I. Goldman was born in Wernersville, Berks county, March 27, 1856, and was educated in Reading, in which city he worked in stores until 1876. He then became an apprentice at photography, and worked at it for others fifteen years. In 1891 Mr. Goldman engaged in business on his own account, at the corner of Penn and Sixth streets, the site of the present colossal department store of Dives, Pomeroy & Stewart. There he remained until 1900, when he removed to his present location, where he produces photographs the equal of any in the State.

Mr. Goldman belongs to the Masonic fraternity, and is a member of the Rajah Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, as well as a member of the Harrisburg Consistory. Mr. Goldman also belongs to the B. P. O. E., the Odd Fellows, the State Photographers' Association, of which he has been treasurer from the date of its organization in 1896, and of the Photographers' Association of America, a national organization which numbers among its members first-class photographers from all over the country.


p. 1718


John R. Gonser, one of the leading and most influential citizens and business men of Berks county, was born and reared on a farm near Gechter's Inn, in Exeter township, this county.

As a boy Mr. Gonser attended the schools of his home district, but being ambitious to secure a good educational start in life, he also attended advanced schools at Amityville, and in Reading, and later also at McAllisterville, Juniata county. Like many of the successful men of the nation, Mr. Gonser started life as a country school teacher, and in this profession, as well as in later enterprises, made a distinct success. He taught school for four terms in Alsace, Upper Tulpehocken and Longswamp townships, and spent his vacations on his father's farm, where he received a thorough training in agriculture.

In 1866 he entered the employ of Yocum, Kline & Co., a firm of enterprising Berks county lumbermen, becoming manager of their extensive operations at Moscow, Luzerne county. The firm cut a large quantity of timber which was manufactured and marketed under his direction in a very profitable manner. Mr. Gonser proved his mettle as a business man in this first enterprise, soon becoming a partner in the concern, and spent four years in this business. The practical business experience received at this time proved of the greatest value to Mr. Gonser in his later enterprises. Upon returning to Berks county he became associated with William Ziegler in the grain, coal and lumber business at Farmington, in Longswamp township, along the Catasauqua & Fogelsville Railroad, but retired from this firm six months later to locate at Kutztown, where he engaged more extensively in the same lines of business, forming a partnership with James S. Heffner. The firm was known as Gonser & Heffner. In 1876 Mr. Gonser sold his interest in this business to Mr. Heffner to engage in the wholesale lumber and roofing slate business, which he still continues with great success. His operations have been very extensive and profitable.

Mr. Gonser is very widely known as a producer of natural ice, in which his interests are very large. He first became interested in the ice trade while located at Moscow as a lumberman, when he began to cut and store large quantities of natural ice at Salford station, along the Perkiomen railroad, individually operating this business until 1894, when his brother-in-law, Phaon S. Heffner, became associated with him as a partner. The new firm continued this station until 1904, when it was disposed of to the Pelham Ice Company, of Philadelphia. In 1881 he formed a partnership with Henry Ahrens, now residing in Reading, for the storage of ice along the Irish creek (at Dauberville) near its outlet into the Schuylkill river a mile north of Leesport, and also along the Angelica creek, this stream entering the river a few miles below Reading. Large storehouses with an aggregate capacity for the annual storage of 50,000 tons of ice were erected. In 1906 a similar plant was built at Rausch's station, along the Little Schuylkill river, nine miles above Port Clinton. The three operations have been handled successfully and are extremely valuable to the firm, who have refused many handsome offers for their properties.

Mr. Gonser has always retained his early interest in farm life and is a consistent advocate of the improvement of agricultural conditions generally. Besides owning the old Gonser homestead farm in Exeter, he owns six large model farms located in three counties, Berks, Lehigh and Montgomery, in which he takes the greatest pride. Nothing is spared to make them among the finest farms in eastern Pennsylvania. They are equipped with the best buildings, are well stocked, and have reached a high state of cultivation.

As a financier Mr. Gonser has few equals in the county and his advice is eagerly sought by men of affairs. He has served continuously as a director of the Farmers National Bank, of Reading, one of the influential financial institutions of the Berks capital, since 1894, and has contributed his share toward making it one of the financial bulwarks of the commonwealth. When the now successful Kutztown National Bank was organized, in 1897, Mr. Gonser proved to be an ideal man to head the institutions as president, owing to his high integrity, conservative judgment and wide knowledge of men and affairs. Believing it to be his duty to help build up a strong home institution, then greatly needed owing to the growth of this prosperous borough, Mr. Gonser accepted, and is still serving in this post of honor and trust with a record of unbroken successes. Mr. Gonser's work for this institution was one of the chief factors in its unusual degree of success.

Mr. Gonser is also interested in the cause of education and is a staunch and true friend of the Keystone State Normal School, located at Kutztown, of which he became a trustee way back in 1892. He is still serving in this capacity and is also filling the position of secretary of the stockholders of the corporation. He has given much time and thought to the advancement of the interests of this splendid school--now one of the first of its splendid achievements. He has been a strong advocate of the many improvements made during the last decade, the erection of new buildings, etc., which make it the model school it now is.

Mr. Gonser is a member of one of the best Pennsylvania German families in the Commonwealth and is proud of his honest, sturdy ancestry, who have contributed much toward making Berks one of the first counties in the nation. Starting life as an honest, hardworking youth, without a dollar of aid in the world, he won his way to the front rank by his honesty, courage and sticktoitiveness, and proved his ability as a business man of unusual executive ability, and is one of the wealthiest self-made men of Berks county. His career is often quoted as a model for young men starting out in life and should be an inspiration for those ambitious to win life's prizes.

He is a modest and unassuming gentleman of genial personality, courteous and obliging to all, and is a man of the highest ideals of public and private life. He is a public-spirited citizen, always ready and willing to support generously every movement for the public good, is charitable, a true friend, and faithful co-worker; indeed, the highest type of an honorable business man and a true Christian gentleman in the best meaning of the term. His family life has been very happy and he enjoys the esteem of an unusually wide circle of friends and acquaintances. No worthy cause has ever been presented to Mr. Gonser's attention without receiving the generous aid of his purse. He is a staunch supporter of the institutions of the Christian religion as well as of education, but owing to his innate modesty prefers to do so in the most unostentatious manner possible.

In 1869 Mr. Gonser married Miss Louisa Walbert, daughter of the late Nathan Walbert, of Maxatawny. He is the son of the late William Gonser, who was an influential farmer of Exeter for many years. His mother was Miss Mary Regar, a daughter of Jacob Regar, a farmer of Adamstown, Lancaster county. Mr. Gonser is one of a family of seven children, viz.: Hannah, who died in infancy; Louisa, married to Amos Ritter; Eliza, married to Harrison Eddinger; Mary, married to William M. Keim; Jackson, who died unmarried at the age of twenty-four years; John R.; and Jane, who married Benjamin Krick Huntzinger, whose sketch appears in this publication. His grandfather, John Gonser, a farmer in Exeter, married Miss Koppelberger, and had five children: John, who died single; Isaac, who married Elizabeth Questro; Daniel, who married Miss Narragang; William; and Susanna, who died single.

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 20:54:14 EDT

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