Biographies from Historical and Biographical Annals by Morton Montgomery


p. 1494


James Bowman Mercer, a member of the Berks County Bar, was born in Reading, Dec. 19, 1881. His early education was obtained in private schools of the city, and he graduated from the Reading high school in 1900. He chose law for a profession, and entered Yale Law School, from which he graduated in 1903, being at that time admitted to the Bar of the State of Connecticut. After returning to his home city he was admitted to Berks County Bar on Aug. 14, 1905, and later was admitted to practise before the Supreme Court of the State. In politics, Mr. Mercer is a Republican. His father is James R. Mercer, who is a prominent citizen of Reading, where he is a wholesale notion merchant. Mr. Mercer is one of the substantial merchants and business men of Reading. He has been a director of Keystone National Bank of Reading for many years. He is also a director of the Prince Furniture Company, operating a string of stores in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey; Penn Hardware Company; and a director and secretary of Penn Shoe Company. He is married to Ellen Louisa Bowman, daughter of the late Colonel John G. Bowman, a native of Lancaster county. George Parker Mercer, the grandfather of our subject, was a native of Philadelphia, and a descendant of an old English family. He operated a line of boats between Philadelphia and tropical ports.


p. 1541


Augustus P. Merkel, of Fleetwood, Pa., was born in Richmond township, Berks county, Feb. 4, 1869. Isaac Merkel, grandfather of Augustus P., was a farmer of Richmond township, and owned a good tract of land between Fleetwood and Walnuttown. He married Anna Schaeffer, and to them were born these children: William S. father of Augustus P.; Lucy, who m. Peter Kieffer; and Nathaniel, who married Catherine Keim. William S. Merkel was a machinist and draughtsman and resided at Fleetwood, being engaged in the foundry and machinist business at that place for thirty-four years. He was a member of the firm of Schaeffer, Merkel & Co., from its inception in 1868 until his death in 1899, at the age of fifty-four years. He was a prominent and influential citizen and during his life served the town as chief burgess and school director. He was a member of the Evangelical Church. Mr. Merkel was married to Catherine Potteiger, daughter of Daniel and Polly (Babb) Potteiger, and to them were born these children: Annie, married County Superintendent Eli M. Rapp; Augustus P.; Maurice, who died aged about eight years; William P., who married Ida Maurer; Mary and Elmer, died when about six years of age; Elda, who married James Missimer; and Isaac and Reuel, single. Augustus P. Merkel obtained his education in the public schools of his native town, at the Keystone State Normal school and at Albright College. After leaving the latter institution he worked at the Carpenter Steel Works, Reading, for two years as a machinist, but at the end of that time returned to Fleetwood, becoming employed by Schaeffer, Merkel & Co. He continued with this firm until its dissolution in 1899, when he commenced business on his own account in Fleetwood and after six months' successful operations formed a partnership with A. K. Seaman of Fleetwood under the firm name of Seaman & Merkel. The firm built a large machine shop and warehouse along the railroad at Fleetwood, doing a thriving business, and employing about a dozen skilled workmen. They had the largest trade in farming implements in this section of the county, also carrying a large line of gasoline engines, pumps and plumbing and heating appliances, and did business all over the county. Since the dissolution of the firm Mr. Merkel has been engaged in the same business in his own name. Mr. Merkel is a consistent member of Emanuel United Evangelical Church and served as assistant superintendent of the Sunday-school for several years, being also one of the stewards of the church for a number of terms. Politically he is a Republican, and for some terms served the borough faithfully as auditor, and as a school director served for two terms, three successive years of which he was president of the board. On Dec. 3, 1903, Mr. Merkel was united in marriage with Deborah Rothermel, daughter of Daniel and Deborah (De Turk) Rothermel, of Fleetwood.


p. 588


David Merkel. One of the well-known names in Berks county is that of Merkel. The family has been connected with the history of this section of the State for many years, a worthy representative being the subject of this review. David Merkel was born n Longswamp township, Berks county, May 3, 1837. He was the son of Peter Merkel, and the grandson of Peter Merkel. Peter Merkel, the grandfather, is supposed to have been a native of Germany, leaving that country with his parents when quite young. He married Christiana Weiss, and together they made their home in the vicinity of Fogelsville, in Macungie township, where they lived for many years. They both lie in the old cemetery at Zeigler's church in Lehigh county. Their family numbered five children: Peter (2); John, who lived in Weisenburg township, and whose only son was named Charles; Jacob, who also had a son Charles, and whose home was near Kline's corner, in Maxatawny township; Jonas, Willoughby and Mary; Daniel, also of Longswamp township, who had three children-Nathan, Eliza and Hannah. Peter Merkel (2), son of Peter, and father of David, was born in Macungie, Lehigh county, Sept. 23, 1796. His occupation was that of farming, which he followed all his life. A fine tract of seventy acres of land lying on the line between Maxatawny and Longswamp townships was kept under cultivation. Besides his farm work he took great interest in the affairs of the community, and was also active in the work of Zeigler's Church, being deacon and elder of that organization. Peter Merkel's wife was Catharine Walbert, daughter of John Walbert. She was born Sept. 14, 1801, and died March 27, 1865, aged sixty-three years, eight months, seven days. Both are buried at Zeigler's Church n Lehigh county. To Mr. And Mrs. Merkel seven children were born, four daughters and three sons: Hettie died unmarried; Caroline m. David Zeigler; Eliza m. Isaac Mayer; John, a resident of Maxatawny township, had children-Albert, William, Harvey, Cassie, Peter, and four who died in childhood; Mary, born Dec. 24, 1834, m. Thomas Warmkessel; David is referred to later; Henry, living n near Cedarville, has six children living-Frank, Harry, Peter, Edwin, Eliza and Hettie.

David Merkel spent the first eighteen years of his life on the farm, where he became proficient in all work pertaining to an agricultural life. Here was acquired the strength of mind and muscle that was to become such a factor in his future life work of railroading. He also learned the trade of saddler which he followed for four years, when he resided near Farmington, Lehigh county. At the age of twenty-two he became an employee of the East Catasauqua & Fogelsville Railroad, and four years later he was given the place of section foreman, retaining this position for more than forty years, or until two years before his death. The long service to the railroad entitled him to the well-earned pension which he was receiving at the time of his death, Aug. 31, 1906, at his home one mile south of Rothrocksville, in Maxatawny township, where he had made his residence since 1868. Hereon a fine tract of nine acres with a substantial brick residence he lived all of the time that could be spared from the exacting duties required by such an important public utility as a railroad. He was a Reformed member of the Maxatawny Zion Church, in t he adjoining graveyard of which he is buried. On Oct. 5, 1861, Mr. Merkel married Sarah Matilda, daughter of Peter Schwoyer, of Fritztown, Spring township. They became the parents of eight children: Catharine, born Oct. 2, 1862, m. Frank Moyer, of Hoffmansville, Pa.; George M., born Feb. 3, 1864, is a farmer in Richmond township; Louisa R., born Oct. 20 1865, m. Charles Levan, of Maxatawny; Anna Esther, born Nov. 2, 1867, m. Martin Good, of New York City; Laura E., born Aug. 31, 1870, m. James Guldin, a farmer of Maxatawny township; Robert W., born 1874, died 1889; Lillie A., born June 28, 1877, m. John Kemp; Caroline, born 1883, died 1886.


p. 792


Elwood Solon Merkel, of Windsor township, Berks county, was born Feb. 3, 1870, in the township which is at present his place of residence, but his early years were all spent in Greenwich township, where his father's farm lay. His parents were Thomas D. and Louisa (Sunday) Merkel. Mr. Merkel attended the schools in Greenwich township till he had completed the course of study offered there, and then entered the Keystone State Normal. He remained there three terms and prepared himself to take a teacher's position. In the fall of 1889 he secured Sunday's school, in Windsor township, and conducted it successfully two full terms. But in 1891 he gave up his work and turned his attention toward farming, making that his occupation ever since. He began on Dr. P. K. Dreibelbis' farm at Dreibelbis Station, but after two years there he moved to his grandfather's place, the Sunday farm, and worked there one year. The following nine years were spent on a farm belonging to his father in Perry township, and then Mr. Merkel moved to the farm which he now occupies. The property purchased by Mr. Merkel includes seventy acres, on which there is an excellent water supply. Since buying it, he has greatly improved the place and has transformed it into one of the best farms in that district. It is largely a dairy farm and Mr. Merkel operates a milk route to Hamburg, supplying the best citizens of that place with his products. He owns twenty-four cows and his sales average 54,600 quarts of milk annually. In 1904 he added a poultry business, going into it on quite an extensive scale. He sell his eggs in the retail market, largely among his milk customers. He has built a large hen house, most admirably arranged, and now has about 400 hens, most of them Buff Leghorns.

Mr. Merkel's success, based on good judgment and intelligent effort, combined with economy and thrifty methods, has been well-deserved and his example is an encouraging one to all young farmers. He has been active politically also, supporting the Democratic party, has served his district as assessor since 1905, and as roadmaster since the spring of 1906. The position of school director was likewise offered him but it was declined. On Dec. 7, 1890, Mr. Merkel married Miss Isadora Seidel, daughter of Henry G. and Emma (Balthaser) Seidel. To this union have been born a son and a daughter: Floyd Milton, who is attending the Pennsylvania State College, taking the Agricultural course; and Edna Elmira.


p. 789


The Merkels, like so many of the substantial and prosperous families of Berks county, Pa., trace their ancestry to the days when religious persecution was rife in France. The name Merkel has been greatly Anglicized. Originally it was variously spelled, the most common forms being Mercklen, Mercklin and Merklen. During the Revocation period in France (I) John Christian Merklen (Markley), born 1678, accompanied his parents to Amsterdam, Holland, whence he emigrated in about 1732 to America, becoming one of the earliest of the Alsatian emigrant to Pennsylvania. He came down into the Maxatawny Valley, and located at Moselem Springs, then Mosillia Creek, in Richmond township, Berks county. He died in 1766, the father of a numerous family, as follows: Peter, whose children were - Christian, Bernhard, Gideon, Catharine, Elizabeth, Sophia, Maria and Esther; George; Christian, who was county commissioner of Berks county from 1767 to 1770; Casper (Gaspard), who in 1771 became a trans-Allegheny pioneer and settled in West Newton, Westmoreland county, where he erected the first mill west of the mountains, and also a stockade fort for the protection of the frontier settlers

(Some of his descendants became prominent men, notably his son, Gen. Joseph Markley, 1777-1868, who was for many years prominent in business and political affairs in Western Pennsylvania, being in 1844, the Whig candidate for Governor, and defeated by his opponent, Francis R. Shunk by a small majority); Catherine Stover; Franklina Rough; Mary Hill; Anna Maria Kramer; and Anna Lena. John Christian Merklen had considerable means when he emigrated. As early as May 7, 1734, he took up 150 acres of land, and six years later, April 23, 1740, he took up another patent of 150 acres, and again July 9, 1741, a patent of fifty acres, all in that section of Richmond township, known as the "Flat." On Nov. 16, 1751, he conveyed 175 acres of land in the "Flat" to his son George, "for the natural love and affection and for other considerations, and five pounds of current money of Pennsylvania to him in hand given." There were three other pioneer settlers of the name who came over somewhat later than John Christian, and settled in the same township on adjoining lands. They were his kinsmen, possibly brothers, and their names were: Johan Nicholaus, Heinrich and Johan Georg. Deeds on record show that Nicholaus in 1759 sold land to Georg, who later sold it to his son Daniel, and he in turn in 1843 to his son John. In 1757 Johan Georg Mercklen was a witness to a land transaction between Nicholaus Merklen, et al. From tradition it appears that John Christian, Johan Nicholaus, Johan Georg and Heinrich were brothers, but those who would know definitely have passed away. It is family tradition that about 1742 when the Mercklens came on horseback from "The Flat" in Richmond township to explore the land along the waters of the Moselem, there were many wild geese along the waters, it being their hatching time, and that these geese attacked the pioneers, who had pitched their tents in the locality, and made an evening meal on goose eggs.

(II) George Mercklen (Merkel), son of John Christian, became one of the earliest settlers in Upper Berks county. His will bears the date Oct. 3, 1778, and it was probated Feb. 24, 1779, his death occurring some time between those two dates. In the will he stated he was "old in years." It was written by him, with a goose quill, in good English and in clear legible handwriting. Items in this document were: "Ample provision for my beloved wife," "Equitable distribution of my estate, personal and real, among my children," "The proper education of my children," "The two sarvers (slaves) Michael and Elizabeth Grof, to be disposed of as follows: Elizabeth shall remain on the old homestead with my beloved wife and son Casper until son Daniel shall arrive at twenty-one years of age, when he shall possess that property and Casper shall have Michael and the mill property, and the 200 acres of land belonging thereto" (located at Moselem in Richmond township). The slaves went with the property, greatly enhancing its value. Casper and Christian were executors of their father's vast estate. With others of his kin George Mercklen owned fully 1,300 acres of land around Moselem. On June 19, 1753, he took up sixty-three acres of land by patent, from Thomas and Richard Penn. In 1767 George Mercklen and his wife Catherine built at Moselem a large two and one-half story stone mansion, which is still standing in a good state of preservation. In the cornice in the front of the house is a big sandstone which bears the names of the builders and the date of erection. To George and his wife were born children: Casper, Christian, Catharine, Magdalena, Christina, Anna Elizabeth, Rebecca and Daniel.

(III) Casper Merkel, son of George, lived at Moselem, in Richmond township, owning and operating Merkel's mill, the first one being built by his father in 1749, the second by himself in 1796, and the present one in 1854 by Samuel Merkel, a grandson of Casper. Casper Merkel was prominent in public life and rendered great service to his county, State and country, being county commissioner from 1801 to 1804, a soldier of the Revolution and being officially connected with the Berks county militia. His brother Christian froze to death in Heinrich Heffner's arms while both were confined in a church used as a prison in New Jersey, during the Revolution. Casper Merkel was buried at Moselem Church, and a high sandstone marks his last resting place, the inscription thereon being now effaced by the elements. The grave is located about fifteen feet from the northeast corner of the old eight-cornered church, the foundation of which is still intact. Casper Merkel married Blandina Hottenstein, of Maxatawny township, and to them were born six children, three sons and three daughters, namely: Jacob; Benjamin m. Catharine Sheradin, and had two sons, George (who conducted the Lenhartsville furnace and whose children were: Benjamin, Wilson, James, Emma, wife of the late Rev. B. Weiss, and Florenda, wife of George Huey) and William (who had sons Rash and Daniel, of Reading); Hannah m. Stanley Kirby; Maria m. John Schwoyer; Elizabeth m. George Dreibelbis; and Solomon died in 1829, the father of Jacob, William (who had a son Solomon), Maria, Sarah, Hannah, Catharine and George (father of Gideon and Sarah).

(IV) Jacob Merkel, son of Casper, was a life long farmer at Moselem, where he had a tract of 200 acres. He was a large and powerful man, being six feet and three inches tall, and possessed of great strength. Like all members of the family he was a Democrat, and took great interest in the success of the party. With his family he attended Dunkel's church. He married Catharine Kershner, daughter of Conrad and Kate (Reeser) Kershner, farming people of Perry township, and to this union were born: Jacob, who settled at Boyertown and reared a large family; John; Samuel, who was county treasurer from 1867 to 1869; Mary, m. to John Kauffman; Elizabeth, m. to Elijah Moyer; Hannah, m. to Jacob Leibensperger; Hettie, m. to Joel Hoch; Sarah, m. to Joseph Miller; and Susanna, m. to William Rahn.

(V)John Merkel, son of Jacob, was born in Richmond township, in 1805, and for some years was a farmer in Windsor township, but later he purchased a farm of 180 acres of good land in Greenwich township, near Dunkel's Church, where he lived until his death. He was a well known man in his day, and like his father was of large physical proportions. At the time of his death he was an official of New Jerusalem (Dunkel's) Church. He married Esther Dunkel, daughter of Jacob and Hannah (Dreibelbis) Dunkel, and they became the parents of the following children: William D.; Caroline, m. to Charles Cline; Maria, who died young; Hettie, m: to Jacob Christ; John, who died aged thirty-seven years; Jacob, born 1836, m. to Lucy Ann Fisher; Samuel, m. to Amelia Dietrich; Hannah, m. to William Raubenhold; Susanna, who died aged thirty-seven years; Thomas D., m. to Louisa Sunday; and James L., m. to Sally Stein.

(VI) William D. Merkel, son of John and Esther (Dunkel), was born on his father's farm in Greenwich township, Sept. 26, 1829, and his education was obtained in the pay schools of the day. He has been a lifelong farmer, with the exception of from 1856 to 1864, when he was engaged in a mercantile business at Virginville. In 1864 he purchased a farm near Hamburg, on which he resided until 1874, and in this year bought the well known property near St. Paul's (Smoke) Church. This is exceedingly valuable, being one of the best locations in the township, and it contained 161 acres, adorned with large, substantial buildings, and supplied with fine Blue Mountain water. In 1899 Mr. Merkel retired from active life, and since that time has lived quietly on the homestead. After his retirement his son Melville conducted the farm for a time, but it is now carried on by Albert, Melville living with his father-in-law in the same township. Mr. Merkel is a Democrat, and from 1880 to 1886 served Windsor township as school director, later being auditor for some years. He and his family are consistent members of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, of which he has been trustee for many years. On Nov. 10, 1855, Mr. Merkel married Mary Magdalena Dreibelbis, daughter of William Dreibelbis, of Richmond township. To this union were born the following children: Louisa, m. to Alfred K. Dietrich; Oscar, m. to Mary Dietrich; Annabella, m. to Joel Dietrich; John, m. to Ellen Schlenker; Sarah, deceased wife of Samuel Rentschler; Wilson W., m. to Lizzie T. Heffner; Mary, m. to David Wartzenluff; Hettie, m. to George Hollenbach; George, a bank clerk in New York, m. to Minnie Albright; Albert, m. to Amy Faust; and Melville, m. to Lizzie Hepner. (VII) Wilson W. Merkel, son of William D. and Mary Magdalena (Dreibelbis), was born in Windsor township, Oct. 10, 1868, and is now engaged in farming at Krumsville, this county, where he owns a fine farm of sixty acres. In 1902 he erected a substantial bank barn. The house is comparatively new, and stands in the midst of a well kept lawn. Mr. Merkel is a stanch Democrat, and is active in public affairs, at the present time being a member of the Greenwich school board. With his family he attends Bethel's Zion Lutheran Church at Grimville. In 1892 Mr. Merkel married Lizzie T. Heffner, who was born in 1872, daughter of Jacob S. and Amaia (Schlenker) Heffner. To this union have been born three children: Florence B., born March 28, 1894; Harvey A., Dec. 22, 1896; and Elsie E., Aug 19, 1900. In paternal lines Mrs. Merkel is a direct descendant of Andreas Haeffner, of Eberstadt, Germany, whose son Heinrich, born about 1725, emigrated to America Sept. 17, 1749. On Nov. 28, 1752, Heinrich Haeffner m. Maria Eva Kelchner, daughter of Matthaus Kelchner. Their son, Hans Georg Haeffner, born June 10, 1757, m. Maria Hummel (born Oct. 16, 1759, died Jan. 24, 1848), and died April 4, 1818. Jacob Heffner, son of Hans Georg and Maria (Hummel), born June 29, 1781, m. Anna Margaret ("Beckie") Dietrich (born Jan. 1, 1787, died July 14, 1838), and died Sept. 13, 1867. Their son, Jacob Heffner, born Sept. 20, 1814, died Oct. 13, 1880; he m. Anna Spohn (born July 20, 1819, died April 24, 1889), and among their children was Jacob S. Heffner, father of Mrs. Merkel. Jacob S. Heffner m. Amaia Schlenker, daughter of Reuben and Anna (Fisher) Schlenker, who are buried at Grimville, Pa. To bless this union came children as follows: Sarah A., born 1868, m. Daniel Moyer, and is deceased; Katie C. born 1870, m. George W. Weida; and Lizzie T., born 1872, m. Wilson W. Merkel.

(VI) Jacob D. Merkel, son of John and Esther (Dunkel), was born in 1836, near Dunkel's Church, and was reared to farming, a vocation he followed all his life. He began for himself in Maxatawny township, where he owned 137 acres, and there he died in 1896. He was a man of fine physique and remarkable energy, and he was very successful in all his undertakings. In politics he was a stanch Democrat, and for many years served as school director. He was an official member of Maxatawny Zion's Union Church, and gave liberally toward the erection of the new church in 1890, besides hauling without charge for services 10,100 bricks from Kutztown to be used in its construction. He married Lucy Ann Fisher, daughter of Daniel K. Fisher, and sister of county commissioner Samuel Fisher. They became the parents of the following children: Louisa, who died aged twenty-one years; Irwin H., of Bath, Pa.; John E.; Nicholas, of Allentown: Mary, m. to Daniel Weaver; Thomas F., of Allentown; and Esther, m. to Lewis Rothermel, of Mohnton, Pennsylvania. (VII) John E. Merkel, son of Jacob D., now the proprietor of "Merkel's Inn," at Reading, was born in Maxatawny township, Berks county, Aug. 11, 1865. He was brought up on the home farm, where he remained until he was seventeen, and then he went to Virginville, Pa. to clerk in the coal and lumber office of F. F. Dreibelbis, remaining there for four years. The next seventeen years were passed in Royersford, Pa., clerking in different stores there. On Oct. 14, 1907, he came to Reading and purchased the fixtures and good will of Thomas Godfrey, at Tenth and Muhlenberg streets, and he has since been conducting that hotel with great success. Socially he belongs to the Jr. O. U. A. M.; and Castle No. 99, K. G. E., both of Royersford. In politics he is a Democrat, and in religion, with his family, he attends the Lutheran Church. He married Emma George, daughter of Jacob and Julia (Billig) George, of Greenwich township. They have one son, J. Samuel, a meter maker at Royersford.

(VI) Thomas D. Merkel, son of John and Esther (Dunkel), was born June 13, 1849, and was a lifelong farmer in Greenwich township, where he died March 9, 1899. His farm which consisted of 170 acres of very fertile land, lay a quarter of a mile south of Dunkel's Church, and a mile north of Virginville. He built the present house in 1870, and an addition ten years later. In 1869 he married Louisa Sunday, born in 1851, died in 1900, daughter of George and Catharine (Siegfried) Sunday. Both Thomas D. Merkel and his wife Louisa are buried at New Jerusalem (Dunkel's) Church. Their children were: Elwood S., born Feb. 3, 1870; George E., born Feb. 20, 1871, m. Katie Seidel, and died leaving one daughter; Richard, born 1872, died aged six; Titus S., born 1873; Mahlon T., born 1875; James W., born 1877, m. Laura A. Adams; Jacob A., born 1879, died aged thirteen; Chester S., born 1881, m. Katie Adam; Mary H., born 1882; Katie C., born 1883, died in infancy; Lizzie S., born 1884, a graduate of the Keystone State Normal School, is now engaged in teaching; and Harvey E., born 1885. George and Catharine (Siegfried) Sunday had five children, namely: Louisa, m. to Thomas D. Merkel; Christian; George; John; and Mary, m. to J. Hoffenden. George Sunday, the father, is buried at Zion's Church.

(VII) Titus S. Merkel, son of Thomas D. and Louisa, was born in 1873 in Greenwich township, on the farm adjoining his present home. He is a good practical agriculturist, and is winning success in his chosen calling. He married Clara D. Kerchner, born in 1879, daughter of Landis and Brehitta (Balthauser) Kerchner, the latter a daughter of John Balthauser. They have one child, Verna C., born Oct. 24, 1904. Mr. Merkel is a Democrat, and while taking a keen interest in his party's success has no desire to hold office. He and his wife belong to New Jerusalem (Dunkel's) Church.

(III) Daniel Merkel, son of George and grandson of John Christian, was born in Richmond township. He became a large land owner, and is said to have had two of the finest farms in the entire township, located in the "Flat", about two miles east of Moselem Spring, one of which is now owned by Franklin D. Heffner, a prominent citizen, and the other by John Merkel, a grandson. Daniel Merkel m. a Miss Christ, and their children were: John Jacob; Benjamin; John; Isaac; Daniel (2); Solomon, who settled in Brecknock township, Berks county; William; Catharine, m. to John Schollenberger; and Mrs. George Schaeffer. (IV) Daniel Merkel (2), son of Daniel, was born in Richmond township, Dec. 22, 1798, and died Nov. 29, 1868, and was buried at Zion's Union Church in Maxatawny. He was always a farmer. Soon after his marriage he located in Maxatawny township, where he owned the farm now owned by his son Elias. He was a member of Zion Church, which he served as deacon and elder. The family lot in the cemetery there has a massive monument. Daniel Merkel (2) married Maria Sell, born 1802, died 1877, and their children were: Catharine, who died unmarried; Matilda, m. to Jonathan Clauser; Ann, m. to John Stern; and Elias. (V) Elias Merkel, son of Daniel (2), was born Nov. 22, 1833, and is now living retired near Topton. He was familiar with farming from childhood, and on reaching mature years made it his occupation. He retired in 1891, but still lives on his farm, in a part of the large house. There are 124 acres in the farm. Mr. Merkel built the barn 40 x 100 feet, in 1873. He greatly altered the house, adding many modern conveniences. In politics Mr. Merkel is a Democrat, and has been school director. He and his family are Lutheran members of Maxatawny Zion Church, in which for some years he was a deacon and for twenty-five has been elder. On Nov. 20, 1855, Mr. Merkel married Alinda De Long, born April 5, 1834, daughter of David and Anna (Bieber) De Long, of near Bowers. She died Dec. 27, 1901. Their five children were: Andora, who married Henry H. Yoder, of Oley, and died Jan. 15, 1903; Louisa, who married Oscar O. Sell, of Kutztown, and died Jan. 26, 1903; Edwin D., who married Annie G. Trexler, has a son Charles E., and is now living retired at Lyons; Ida, wife of Alvin J. Miller, of Topton, and mother of Harvey J.; and Annie, who married William L. Schaeffer, and they live with Mr. Merkel.

(IV) John Jacob Merkel, son of Daniel, was born in 1798, and he became a farmer and extensive land owner in Richmond township, where he died in 1862. He is buried at Fleetwood. He married Elizabeth Sharadin, daughter of Peter Sharadin. She died in 1875, in her seventy-eighth year. Their children were: Esther, m. to Philip Schaeffer, of Fleetwood; Elizabeth, m. to Peter Kieffer, of Lyons; William S.; Jacob, born 1822, a prosperous farmer of Richmond; Maria, who married Joel Hoch, of Fleetwood; Joshua, a retired farmer at Kutztown; and James, who married Mary Kelchner, of Fleetwood. All are now deceased except Joshua. (V) William S. Merkel, son of John Jacob, was born Oct. 20, 1820, and he became the owner of a fine farm of 133 acres one-half mile east of Moselem. He followed farming during a long and successful life, and he died March 29, 1880. He married Esther H. Dunkel, daughter of John and Eliza (Hill) Dunkel, of Maiden-creek township, and they had children as follows: Emma L., born in 1848, married John K. Biehl, a carpenter in Richmond township, and is now deceased; Mary, born in 1852, married Gustavus Dreibelbis, of Virginville; John D., born in 1855, was killed by falling from a straw stack Oct. 14, 1907; Howard D., born in 1858, resides in the borough of Kutztown; and Sarah, born in 1860, married Adam Freehaver, of Reading. Mrs. Esther H. (Dunkel) Merkel survived her husband many years, and passed to her reward Feb. 24, 1908, at the age of eighty-two. She was well known and greatly beloved throughout the township. She was a member (Reformed) and active worker in St. Peter's (Becker's Church in Richmond, and there her burial took place.

(V) Jacob Merkel, son of John Jacob, born Oct 25, 1822, was a prosperous farmer in Richmond township, where he owned a farm of 132 acres, now the property of Edwin S. Kutz. Within a year of his death Mr. Merkel erected the present substantial barn. He died Jan. 1, 1869, and was buried in Fairview cemetery, Kutztown. He married Amelia Schwartz, of Trexlertown, born Oct. 19, 1831, and she died Oct. 9, 1901. Their children were: Frank lives at Fleetwood; Elmira (born June 23, 1855, died July 28, 1875) m. Frank Adam, of Fleetwood, and had two children, Edward and Henry (deceased); Jacob, a school teacher, later engaged in a mercantile business at Yellow House, Pa.; Wilson C. and Milton R. (of Maiden-creek township) are twins; Alfred S. is a policeman in Allentown, Pa.; Sarah m. Solomon Rothermel, of Half Way House; Miss Hannah is at Allentown; and Miss Annie is in Maiden-creek township.

(VI) Wilson C. Merkel, son of Jacob, was born March 23, 1858. He was educated in the public schools and at the Keystone State Normal School, Kutztown, and his training at home was along agricultural lines. He learned the miller's trade, and was in the milling business at Circleville, Ohio, where he lived nine years from 1887, and was most successful. He returned to Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1896, and located at Kutztown, where he has since made his home. In 1905 he erected a cosy cottage on Park avenue for his home. Since their return East Mr. Merkel and his wife have spent a great deal of time in travel, having passed a year in the West, visiting California, New Mexico and other interesting points. Mr. Merkel was obliged to give up the mill business as the dust was affecting his health. On Sept. 26, 1886, Mr. Merkel married Fannie E. Heffner, daughter of the late George and Mary (Spohn) Heffner, of Mill creek, in Maxatawny township. They are members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Kutztown, in which Mr. Merkel has been a deacon since 1899. Both he and his wife are active in church and philanthropic work, and are highly esteemed by all who know them.

(V) Joshua Merkel, son of John Jacob, was born in Richmond township July 7, 1828. For a few months each winter he attended the pay school in the neighborhood, and the remainder of the time he devoted to farm work, continuing at home until he was twenty-eight years of age. He then became a tenant farmer in Richmond township, and after some years purchased a valuable farm of eighty-eight acres, located one-half mile from Moselem church. This he cultivated until his removal to Kutztown, where he has lived retired ever since, making his home with his son, Zacharias K. In 1855 Jacob Merkel married Matilda Kemp, daughter of George Kemp, and she died in 1896. Two children were born of this union: Amanda, m. to John De Turk, of Kutztown; and Zacharias.

(VI) Zacharias K. Merkel, son of Joshua and Matilda, and present proprietor of the "Maxatawny Hotel," in Maxatawny township, was born April 1, 1861, in Richmond township. He attended the public schools near his home, and in 1872 went to the Keystone State Normal School at Kutztown, where he studied in all three terms. He gave his services to his parents until he attained his majority. At the age of twenty-three he went to Reading, and there attended the Reading Academy and Business College under Prof. D. B. Brunner, preparing himself for the business world. He graduated in 1885, and became a clerk in August Frame's cigar store, at the corner of Sixth and Penn streets, and there he remained several years. For one year he clerked in a shoe factory in Reading. About 1889 he came to Kutztown, and engaged in the manufacture of cigars, also conducting a cigar store on Main street, continuing in this line for about ten years. For five years he clerked in the general store of Oscar D. Merkel, and for three years tended bar at the "Pennsylvania Hotel," at Kutztown. In the spring of 1907 he became proprietor of the "Maxatawny Hotel," and this he has conducted with constantly increasing success. In politics Mr. Merkel is a Democrat, and has been a delegate to different county conventions. With his family he attends Trinity Lutheran Church. In October, 1892, Mr. Merkel married Kate Michael, daughter of Paul Michael, of Kutztown, and they have three children: Luther P., Viola C. and Flora L.


p. 1071


James J. Merkel, the popular and widely known county detective residing in Reading stands very high in the esteem of the public. Mr. Merkel comes from an old and honorable family in Berks county. His great-grandfather, Benjamin, and his grandfather of the same name, were leading farmers of Richmond township. Levi Merkel, father of James J., followed them in that most honorable of occupations, in Oley township, dying Feb. 13, 1905, at the age of seventy-seven years. His wife was Keziah De Turk, daughter of Elijah, of Kutztown, also a farmer. Their children were five in number, as follows: Irvin I. died March 15, 1904, aged forty-six; Elijah U. Is a merchant on Penn street, Reading; Sallie m. Charles Harbein; Alice m. Ezra De Turk, farmer of Oley township; and James J.

James J. Merkel was born Dec. 18, 1867 in Oley township, where he was reared and educated. He remained at home on the farm until he was twenty-four years old, and then took a position in his brother's store in Reading, where he continued for some seven years. Tiring of the confinement of a mercantile life, he secured a position as salesman for the National Biscuit Company, and this he was filling when on Jan. 1, 1905, he received the appointment of county detective, the Philadelphia Record being authority for the statement that he was appointed "because he knew more people in Berks county than any other man there." He is a popular officer of the county and is doing effective work. He apprehended a murder in Billings, Okla., and brought him back for trial March 17, 1908, traveling a distance of 1,772 miles, the greatest distance ever traveled by a Berks county detective.

On June 7, 1891, Mr. Merkel married Hannah, daughter of the late Solomon Peter, a farmer of Oley township, and their children are: Marie and Paul P., both in school. Mr. Merkel is a deacon in Hope Lutheran Church, and is a member of the Knights of the Golden Eagle, of the P. O. S. of A., and of the Royal Arcanium. He votes the Democratic ticket.


p. 618


James K. Merkel has been a resident of Reading since 1903, and with but little exception has passed all his life in Berks county. His ancestors have long been settled here.

Abraham Merckel (or Merkel) was born in Macungie township, Northampton (now Lehigh) Co., Pa., about 1767, and is a descendant of an old family of French origin. He was a farmer, and in 1785 and 1786 was assessed for 100 acres of land, two horses and three cattle. In 1785 he paid a federal tax of 1 8s 6d, and in 1786 the amount was 1,1s 6d. The tax lists of his native county bear his name as a taxable until 1805. In 1806 he is assessed as a resident of Albany township, Berks county, where he owned a tract on which he lived. The farm is now owned by Jacob Schroeder; a big hill on this farm for many years was known as "Merkel's Hill," now "Donat's Hill." It was at this place that his father-in-law, Jacob Donat, had previously settled. Abraham Merckel was an industrious and honest citizen. He was a tall and well-built man, standing over six feet, and was possessed of great strength and endurance. He was a wheelwright by trade. He met a tragic end. During the summer of 1825 there was a drought in the upper end of Berks county.

Water had become scarce on the southern side of the Blue mountains, while on the opposite side there was an abundance of rain and water. Therefore Abraham Merckel took his grain to a mill on the opposite side of the mountain, and on the return trip fell into the hands of a band of roughs, one of whom cruelly murdered him. On the slope of the mountain in West Penn township, Schuylkill county (on the road from Jacksonville to Tamaqua), which he had to pass, there was an old hostelry around which many stories of robbery, and even the murder of peddlers and cattle dealers centered. That the place was notorious was evidenced by the frequent reference to it in the recollections of the older residents of the section. It was abandoned over thirty years ago, and only crumbling walls and an old well half filled with stones and rubbish mark the site of the once busy and widely known stopping place. While passing the hotel Mr. Merckel was requested to stop off, which he did. He found a number of men playing cards and also, undoubtedly, drinking. One of the card players, a man named Jacob Hawkenstein, commenced quarreling with Mr. Merckel, who told Hawkenstein it would be to his benefit to keep his peace. Hawkenstein, in confab with other men during that day, had made a threat that he would kill someone before the day was over. When Mr. Merckel was loosening his horse, which was tied at a tree near a fence, he was stabbed with a knife by Hawkenstein, who had secreted himself behind the fence, and died of his wounds. Hawkenstein thereafter led a secluded and miserable existence among the rocks, dens and hollow trees of the Blue mountains, where he died alone and despised of all men. His skeleton was found more than a year after his death by a band of hunters. Mr. Merckel is buried in an unmarked grave at the New Bethel Church in Albany township. He died in the late summer of 1826.

Abraham Merckel married Susanna Donat, who was born Nov. 6, 1779, and died Jan. 25, 1864, aged eighty-four years, two months, nineteen days. Her father, Jacob Donat, was a native of Germany. Four children were born to Abraham and Susanna (Donat) Merckel, namely: Abraham was the father of James K. Merkel and is mentioned farther on; Elizabeth, born March 24, 1813, died unmarried March 15, 1894, aged eighty years, eleven months, twenty-one days, and is buried at New Jerusalem Church; Catharine, born Jan. 3, 1816, died unmarried Nov. 20, 1879, aged sixty-three years, ten months, seventeen days, and is buried at Jerusalem Church; Joseph, who spelled his name Markley, married Esther Fisher, and lived in Reading until 1876, when he moved to St. Cloud, Minn. At a meeting of the Orphans' Court, April 6, 1827, according to the records in Vol. IX, page 206, Elizabeth Merkel, daughter of the late Abraham Merckel, of Albany township, Berks county, petitioned the court as a minor above fourteen years of age, asking that John Shollenberger be appointed her guardian. Henry Ruppert appeared as a friend of Catharine Merkel and Joseph Merkel, minor children of Abraham Merckel, deceased, and William Sweyer was appointed guardian for Catharine, and John Shollenberger for Joseph.

Abraham Merkel, eldest child of Abraham, was born about 1805-1806, and died in June, 1849, aged about forty-three years. His death occurred in the hay field, from the effects of drinking much cold spring water when overheated, and he is buried at New Bethel Church, in Albany township. He was a tall man over six feet, and was strong and an excellent worker. Abraham Merkel married Maria (Polly) Kroninger, who was born Sept. 8, 1808 and died Dec. 23, 1878, aged seventy years, three months, fifteen days. Children as follows were born to their union: Anna m. John Cameron, of Sagon, Northumberland Co., Pa.; Catharine m. Jonathon Machmer, who was noted as a singer, and they conducted the Upper Bern Hotel a number of years; Abraham, born Jan. 13, 1832, died Feb. 14, 1908, m. in 1859 Leah Follweiler (1835-1901), and they had a family of seven children; Sarah Jane (m. Adam Berk, and died leaving a son, Wm. H., who has his home with his aunts, Louisa and Clara Merkel), Astor (m. Ida Kline), Rosa Alice (m. Francis Allsbach, deceased), Cordelia (m. Alfred Allsbach, and died leaving a daughter, Leah M. ), Louisa P. (a popular school teacher of Albany township), Clara (is unmarried and lives on the homestead with her sister Louisa), and John A. (m. Emma E. Nester, and has two children, Elsie M. and Leah L.); Susanna m. Ferdinand Machmer and later a Mr. Baum, of Hamburg; Aaron m. Valeria Miller and they live at Conshohocken, Pa.; Caroline m. William Machmer, who met a tragic death in Michigan; Rebecca m. Michael Schaeffer, of Tower City, Pa; Sarah m. James De Long, of Reading; James K. is mentioned farther on. Caroline and Susanna both lived and died in Michigan.

James K. Merkel was born in Albany township Oct. 7, 1847. He has followed the blacksmith's trade almost from the time he began work, having commenced to learn it when he was only eighteen years old, under his brother Abraham, who at that time had a smithy in the village of Jacksonville, Lehigh Co., Pa. In 1867 Mr. Merkel came to Berne, in Upper Bern township, now Tilden township, Berks county, where he was engaged at his trade in the employ of another brother, Aaron, who had a blacksmith shop in the village of Berne. In 1870, after several years' work in Mahanoy City and other places, he erected a shop of his own in the "Bockmohl" (a valley in the southern end of what is now Tilden township, to which he had come about 1867) and there continued to work at his trade until the year 1900. At that time he moved with his family to Conshohocken, at which place he remained for three years in the responsible position of boss blacksmith in the Alan Wood Iron Works, an indisputable evidence of his skill as a mechanic. In the spring of 1903 Mr. Merkel removed with his family to the city of Reading, settling in his own home at No. 757 North Eighth street. Mr. Merkel also owns a small tract of good land, comprising twenty-four acres, near Berne station upon which he lived for twenty-five years. He is a man of industrious habits and is a good citizen. His character is above reproach.

Mr. Merkel has been twice married. In 1869 he was united to Sarah Schuman, who was born Oct. 6, 1847, daughter of Solomon and Sarah (Zweitzig) Schuman, and died Nov. 14, 1877, in her thirty-first year, the mother of four children, namely: (1) J. Franklin taught school for fifteen years, but has been engaged as a railway mail clerk since 1904 and is stationed at Pittsburg. (2) Anthony O. m. Ada Chamberlain, of Norristown. (3) Ella V. m. Reuben Blatt, and has had three children, Reuben, Rachel and Ruth (who died in childhood). (4) Sallie M. m. William J. Dietrich, of Reading, and they have three children, Naomi, Ruth, and William J., Jr.

Mr. Merkel's second marriage, in 1879, was to Emma L. Keim, who was born June 28, 1858, daughter of Percival and Susanna (Strasser) Keim, and by whom he has had ten children, namely: John, who died in infancy; Cora L.; Clara A., who is the wife of Samuel Mengel and has two children, Mabel and James; James D.; Lizzie A.; Mame F.; Howard J., born Dec. 16, 1888, who died Feb. 19, 1890; Abbie A.; Lillie L.; and George R., born Jan. 25, 1897, who died Aug. 23, 1897.

Mr. Merkel is a consistent member of the St. Paul United Evangelical Church of Reading, in the work of which congregation he has been quite active, having held various offices.


p. 987


Joseph Merkey, grandfather of Joseph M. Merkey, on the maternal side, was born Nov. 27, 1782. He was a minister of the Church of the Brethren. By his marriage to Christian Kline, he had six children: David, Nathaniel, Saloma, Catharine, Elisabeth and Christian.

David Merkey, grandfather of Joseph M. Merkey, on the paternal side, was a son of John and Hannah (Heckman) Merkey, and was born May 11, 1795, in Bethel township, Berks Co., Pa. He, too, was a minister of the Church of the Brethren. He married Anna Mary Enterline, and this union was blessed with nine children, namely: (1) John E. married (first) Catharine Merkey, daughter of Joseph and Christian Merkey, and (second) Saloma Merkey, his first wife's sister. The first union was blessed with four children, namely: Joseph M., Rebecca, Elizabeth and Mary, all but the first named dying single. (2) Joseph E. m. a Miss Myer, and had eight children, four sons and four daughters. (3) David E. married Sarah Merkey, and had three sons and one daughter. (4) Peter E. m. Maria Merkey, and had one son and one daughter. (5) Amos E. married Eliza Ziegler, and they became the parents of five sons and five daughters. (6) George E. m. Catharine Kline, and had two sons. (7) Solomon E. is unmarried. (8) Catharine died young. (9) Polly (Mary) m. Benjamin Balsbach, and had two sons and one daughter.

Joseph M. Merkey, son of John E. and Catharine Merkey, was born March 19, 1844, in Bethel township, Berks county. He is a member of the Church of the Brethren. He married Sarah Wolf, and this union was blessed with ten children, namely: (1) Rebecca m. Samuel R. Ebling, and they have had five children, Joseph, Ellen, Lilly, Samuel (deceased) and one died in infancy. (2) Miss Kate is at home. (3) Elisabeth married Samuel N. Sherman, and has had six children: Sallie, Stella, Samuel (deceased), John, Hannah and Edna. (4) Mary died young. (5) Emanuel and (6) Amelia were twins. Amelia died young. Emanuel m. Lizzie J. Frantz, and has three children, Mabel (m. David M. Frantz, and she has one son, Martin), Howard and Galen. (7) John m. Elizabeth Kline, and has three children, Rebecca, John and Joseph. (8) Christian m. John K. Moyer, and had five children, namely: Paul, Isaac, Stella (died young), Gertrude and David. (9) Maggie died young. (1) Ellen m. Tildon Edris, and had seven children, Emma, Mary, Carrie (died young), Joseph, Elmer, Mabel and Augustus.

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 20:55:23 EDT

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