Biographies from Historical and Biographical Annals by Morton Montgomery


p. 864


Eli M. Withers, a farmer of Spring township, Berks county, residing along the Tulpehocken creek, is a native of Lancaster county, Pa., born Oct. 7, 1841, in East Cocalico township. He comes of a family of Scotch origin, his paternal great-grandfather having come to America from Scotland.

George Withers, the grandfather of Eli M. Withers, was born in Virginia, and when a young man came to Lancaster county, Pa., where he passed the remainder of his life. He engaged in farming and distilling, owned three large farms in East Cocalico township, and was a man of great influence in his section because of his wealth and standing. He died between 1845 and 1850, and is interred in a private burial ground on one of his farms. His wife was a Graybill, and they had three children: George, Curtis and John.

John G. Withers, father of Eli M. Withers, was born Nov. 26, 1798, in Lancaster county, where he spent the greater part of his life. He was an energetic man and enterprising in business. For many years he was engaged in boating, owning twenty-six Pennsylvania canalboats, which were operated by his sons and other help. He also followed droving, handling many cattle yearly, and was successful in both lines. Moving from Lancaster to Berks county in 1851, he bought the farm now owned and occupied by his son Eli M., living there until his death, which occurred June 13, 1867. He is buried at the Kissinger Church, of which he is a member and whose building he helped to erect.

On Feb. 18, 1823, Mr. Withers married Catharine Moyer, who was born Feb. 3, 1806, daughter of Johannes and Elizabeth Moyer, of Millbach, Lebanon Co., Pa., and died a few years before her husband, passing away Feb. 6, 1863. To Mr. and Mrs. Withers were born nine children, six sons and three daughters, namely: Dr. Franklin, born Feb. 19, 1824, died March 20, 1858; Eliza, born Dec. 2, 1826, m. Martin Heidler, Esq., and died Nov. 17, 1897; George, who lived at Hamburg, where he was constable for many years, m. Joanna Kalbach; Rebecca m. R. Lando Loewen, of Reading; John M., born in 1832, was a resident of Reading, and died Oct. 24, 1881; Martin, born Oct. 18, 1836, m. Emeline Klohs, of Muhlenberg township, lived in Reading, and died March 17, 1884; Samuel M., born July 24, 1839, never married, and was making his home with his brother Eli at the time of his death, April 23, 1904; Eli M., is mentioned below; Catharine M., born Aug. 10, 1844, m. Henry Gass, of Ontelaunee township, and died March 22, 1878.

Eli M. Withers lived with his parents until they died, moving with the family in 1851 to Spring township, where he has ever since made his home. He was his fathers mainstay for many years, learning the boating business in early youth on the Pennsylvania canal, and following it from the tender age of nine years until 1867. During this period he boated on the following canals: Union, Pennsylvania, Juniata, West Branch, North Branch, Tidewater, York Extension, Erie, Raritan, Morris & Essex, Bald Eagle, Schuylkill, Chesapeake and Delaware. He had many thrilling experiences in his career as a boatman, and barely escaped drowning on several occasions. He was obliged to be out in all kinds of weather, and had to undergo many hardships from exposure, falling overboard twice when in spite of the cold weather and water he was obliged to go on with his work, letting his clothing dry on his body. In 1867 Mr. Withers was employed in the hardware store of George Lerch, at the southeast corner of Fifth and Penn streets, Reading, and the next spring (1868) he bought the flour, feed, coal and wood yard located at the southwest corner of Washington street and Madison avenue (formerly called Ash street) form his brother Samuel, who succeeded our subject in Mr. Lerchs hardware store. After carrying on the business for eighteen months, Mr. Withers sold out to Samuel Boone.

In 1872 Mr. Withers began to follow farming on his own account, near Adamstown. With a partner he engaged in the ice business in 1880 on his farm, but after a year he bought out his partners interest, and then sold a half interest to his brother Samuel. In 1886 they erected additional buildings so that they could store four or five thousand tons of ice annually. They carried on business under the name of "Tulpehocken Ice Company, operated by Withers & Bro." In 1892 Mr. Samuel Withers sold his interest to another party, and in 1894 Mr. Eli M. Withers bought out that partners share, and ran the business along until 1899, when he leased the ice plant to the Reading Cold Storage Ice Company for a term of ten years. He then entered the racing business (in which his brother Samuel had been engaged for thirty years) as his brothers partner, and they followed the races all through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Virginia, and Mr. Withers is still interested in it, owning at the present time six good horses.

In 1882 Mr. Withers purchased his fathers farm in Spring township from his brother John, who bought his brothers and sisters interests, their father having died intestate. It comprises about fifty acres of good land, located along the railroad and Tulpehocken creek, and has been greatly improved during Mr. Withers ownership by the erection of substantial outbuildings, etc. He also owns a farm of eighty-three acres in North Heidelberg township, one-half mile south of Bernville on the road leading from the latter place to Robesonia. This farm he rents. Mr. Withers has a valuable tract of five acres, at Glenside, in Bern township, and, as may be inferred, he is in comfortable circumstances, as the result of industry and intelligent management. He has a good income from the sienna mine upon his home farm, which is one of the most valuable mines of the kind in the country, and was discovered by the family while digging for iron ore. It is operated by the Keystone Ocher Company of Philadelphia, who have five men in their employ at this point.

Mr. Withers was married March 5, 1870, to Ella S. Madeira, who was born Feb. 24, 1848, daughter of Frank and Caroline (Merkel) Madeira, of Muhlenberg township, and granddaughter of Jacob Madeira. Mrs. Withers died June 15, 1898. To this union came but one son, John M., born March 21, 1871, who lives with his father and conducts the home place. He is married to Kate Schweitzer, and they have had children as follows: Samuel E., Mame, John C., Nora, Catharine and Helen.

Mr. Withers is a Reformed member of Kissingers Church, in Spring township, with which his family have also been identified. He is treasurer of the cemetery company, in which office he has given much satisfaction.


p. 723


Martin M. Withers (deceased), who was for many years a prominent citizen of Reading, Berks county, was born in Lancaster county in 1839, son of John G. and Catherine (Moyer) Withers, and grandson of George Withers, a native of Virginia, who removed to Lancaster county when a young man, following agricultural pursuits until his death.

John G. Withers, father of Martin, was born in Lancaster county, Nov. 26, 1798, and was a life-long farmer. He married Catherine Moyer, born Feb. 3, 1806, who died Feb. 6, 1863. he died June 16, 1867. They had children as follows: Franklin; Elizabeth; George; John; Rebecca; Martin M.; Samuel; Elias, who is still living and resides in Spring township, Berks county; and Catherine.

Martin M. Withers received his education in the schools of Lancaster and Berks counties and his early life was spent in agricultural pursuits. After locating in Reading he worked on the old Union Canal until 1869, but the latter part of his life was spent in retirement. He was married April 13, 1867, to Miss Emeline Klohs, daughter of Jacob and Mary (Kerst) Klohs, and two children were born to this union: Mary Catherine, who died aged five months; and William, who is employed in the U.S. postal service as a city letter carrier in Reading, and who married Rebecca J. Schnable, and has two children- C. William S. and Stuart S. In religious belief Mr. Withers was a member of St. John's Reformed Church. His political views made him a Democrat.


p. 841


Ephraim Witman, for twenty-four years a successful grain, coal and lumber merchant at Wernersville, is a native of Berks county, born at Bernville, Jan. 11, 1840, son of Henry and Mary (Shell) Witman, and grandson of Jonathan and Mary (Yerger) Witman.

Jonathan Witman carried on the business of coppersmith and tinsmith at Reading until 1850, when he went to Bernville to make his home with his son Henry. He married Mary Yerger of Reading, who was born in 1781, and who died in 1863. They had four sons, one of whom died young, the others being Henry, Edward and John.

Henry Witman, son of Jonathan, was born in 1799, and in his youth he learned the tinsmith's trade, which he carried on until 1832, when he removed to Bernville, formed a co-partnership with his son-in-law, Joseph Conrad, for the grain, coal and lumber business, and under the firm name of Witman & Conrad this was carried on successfully, until 1831. Mr. Witman was prominent in the town's affairs, serving as chief burgess in 1834, and also as councilman for some time. He married (first) Mary Shell, daughter of Henry Shell, of Bern township, and she died in 1834, aged fifty-one years. Of the ten children of this marriage, five died young; the others were: Maria (m. Joseph Conrad); Ellen (m. Samuel K. Dundore); Rebecca (m. John M. Sherk); Ephraim, and Catharine )m. John H. Missimer).

Ephraim Witman received his education in the local school and at Myerstown Academy. Form 1855 to 1858 he devoted himself assiduously to learning the tinsmith's trade, and having then completed his apprenticeship he entered the employ of Witman & Conrad in their general store, grain, coal, and lumber business. Here he continued until his marriage in 1861, when he took his father's place in the firm, and the name was changed to Conrad & Witman. This firm prospered for twelve years, and then Mr. Witman purchased Mr. Conrad's interest and carried the business on alone until 1885. By that time trading conditions in that section had changed for the worse on account of the suspension of the Union canal, along which this stand was located-a condition brought about by the establishment of the Lebanon Valley railroad in 1857. Mr. Witman then moved to Wernersville, and established himself in the same business, continuing to conduct it successfully to the present time.

Mr. Witman is public-spirited and progressive, and while in Bernville he officiated as chief burgess in 1873, and for several terms was school director.

In 1861 Mr. Witman married Catharine Andrews, daughter of Abraham Andrews and his wife, Mary Bertram (daughter of Daniel Bertram of Penn township). Abraham Andrews was a carpenter by trade, and he and his wife had three children: Charles (m. Emma Harner); Isabella (m. John Embich); and Catharine (Mrs. Whitman). To Mr. and Mrs. Whitman ten children were born: Harry (m. Annie Auman); Annie (died unmarried aged thirty-seven); Miss Mary ; Morton (m. Susan Sweimler); Ella (m. Arthur Wilcox); Miss Catharine; Ephraim (m. Laura Bohn); Rachel; and two died young. Mrs. Whitman died in 1882, aged forty-three years. Mr. Whitman m. (second) Rebecca Dietrich, widow of Isaac Dietrich and daughter of Samuel Boyer.


p. 1115


John F. Witman, a popular and very well-known resident of Reading, who is serving in the capacity of ticket agent at the main station of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, is a native of this city, born Dec. 22, 1841, son of Edward and Elizabeth (Lutz) Witman.

Edward Witman was for many years, well known as a leading business man of Reading, having for a time a tailoring establishment on Penn street, where the Y. M. C. A. building now stands, and a hotel at Fifth and Franklin streets. Edward Witman died in 1876, age seventy-five years, after having retired from active business in 1857, the same year that his wife passed away.

John F. Witman received his education in the public schools of Reading and was a member of the third class to be graduated from the Reading high school, only two of the class of seven now living. Soon after leaving school Mr. Witman secured a position as clerk with the Reading Hardware Company, Harbster Brothers, later going to Robesonia, Berks county, as a clerk with a Mr. S. Shearer. Returning to Reading, Mr. Witman was employed as a newsboy, running on the Daily Times, his next position being in the book store of Mr. H. A. Lantz, on Penn street. In August, 1861, John F. Witman entered the employ of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, as a brakeman, then as baggageman, and later as a conductor of passenger train, continuing in the latter capacity until May, 1874, when he was made assistant ticket agent at the old frame outer depot, moving into the new depot in September of the same year. On April 1, 1887, Mr. Witman was appointed ticket agent, and has been in charge of the office since that time. His kindly, genial and courteous manner has made him very popular with the patrons of the railroad. This is also one of the best posts of the company lines, and as it is also one of the busiest it is necessary that a man of ability be in charge. Mr. Witman has always proved himself worthy of the charge and of the confidence placed in him by his employers.

Mr. Witman married Miss Helen Beaver, daughter of the late D. L. Beaver, M. D. , of Reading, Pa., and to this union have been born: Prof. Harry L., the well known music teacher of No. 719 Penn street; Mrs. C. B. Rhoads, of Reading; and J. Fred, Jr., a civil engineer of Reading.

Mr. Witman is a veteran of the Civil war, at the outbreak of which he enlisted for three months service in Company G, 1st P. V. I., Captain George W. Alexander, and after the expiration of his term of enlistment , veteranized in Co. B, 128th Pa. V. I., Captain William McNall, with the nine months men, becoming sergeant, and being promoted to sergeant major. He is a member of Camp No. 61, P. O. S. of A., and past master of Lodge No. 62 F. & A. M., of Reading. In politics he is a Republican, in religious belief a Lutheran. Mr. Witman resides with his family at No. 536 Buttonwood street.


p. 1699


William Abbott Witman, former councilman and extensive contractor of Reading, was born in this city Oct. 19, 1860, son of Hamilton Witman and grandson of Henry Witman, both natives of Reading.

Henry Witman made his home on the south side of Eighth street, between Franklin and Chestnut streets, for many years. He was a shoe merchant, but for some years prior to his death he lived retired. He m. Mary Smith, a native of Reading, who died in 1893, aged eighty-one years. He died about 1876, at the age of seventy. They were the parents of fourteen children, of whom five died young. Those reaching mature years were: Hamilton; Abraham; Samuel; Henry; Jonathan; Frederick; Louisa, who died unmarried; Mary m. to William Miller; and Anna m. (first) to a Mr. Bohler, and (second) to Monroe Heilman.

Hamilton Witman, son of Henry, was born in Reading Feb. 28, 1829, and died Oct. 6, 1898. He was a master mechanic in the employ of the Reading Railway Company many years, and was much esteemed by the men under him. He was retired for several years before his death. He married Leopoldina Abbott, daughter of William and Charlotte (Ede) Abbott, natives of London, England, who came to America about 1845, locating at Reading. Mrs. Witman died advanced in years and is buried at the side of her husband in the Charles Evans cemetery. Of their ten children four died small, the others being: William Abbott; Linda Alwera, deceased; Henry; Jonathan A. of Reading; Mary, m. to H. T. Shick, a mechanical engineer at Reading; and Charlotte E., m. to Thomas F. Crawford, of Philadelphia.

William Abbott Witman has been the promoter of many successful enterprises, and is an extensive contractor, giving employment to many men. At the present time he is engaged in the construction of the Circus Maximus, at the corner of Eleventh and Exeter streets, Reading. This pleasure ground, when completed, will be one of the finest sporting grounds in this part of the country. In 1907 and 1908 he erected the famous Japanese pagoda at the head of Penn street, on Mount Penn, at a cost of $33,000. He has executed many municipal contracts in Reading and other cities. Mr. Witman was a member of the councils from the Thirteenth ward, and there fathered the bill that gave the City of Reading the Spring street subway, thus earning his title "Father of the Subway." He served many yeas in both the common and the select councils, and was one of the members most active in the interests of the citizens. In 1908 he was a candidate for mayor but was defeated after a bitter contest, and at one time he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Witman is one of the best known sportsmen in eastern Pennsylvania, and promoted one of the baseball leagues. He resides in a pleasant home at the corner of Marion and Locust streets which he himself erected.

Mr. Witman married Catharine Koch, daughter of Henry Koch, a shoe merchant on Penn street for many years. They have one son, William Abbott, Jr., a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and now an attorney at the Reading Bar.


p. 1220


John Witmoyer, in whose death the city of Reading lost one of its valued citizens, was born Dec. 13, 1843, in Cumru township, Berks county, son of Daniel and Sarah (Kirchner) Witmoyer.

Daniel Witmoyer passed his early years in Cumru township, but later in life removed to Reading, where he died. He married Sarah Kirchner, and they had these children: John, Charles, William, Isaac, and Harrison, who lived in Indiana, all being deceased except Harrison.

John Witmoyer came to Reading with his parents as a boy, and here attended the public schools. When the Civil war broke out he enlisted, at the age of eighteen years, and served in Company H, 88th Pa. V. I., his regiment being attached to the Second Brigade, Second Division, First Corps, Army of the Potomac, under General Reynolds. Mr. Witmoyer participated in over thirty engagements, including Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, while his company was capturing two of the Confederate flags. At the end of his three -year enlistment he re-entered the army and was in Grant's last campaign, which saw the surrender of General Lee. Before this campaign, Private Witmoyer was promoted to lieutenant, for bravery in the action. On his return from the war he secured employment on the Reading Railroad, as baggage master, running between Pottsville and Philadelphia for twenty-five years, and retired in 1893. He was a member of St. James Lutheran Church, the Masons, Castle No. 51, K. G. E., and the Union Veteran Legion. In political matters he was independent. Mr. Witmoyer owned the old home in Penn township, a tract of seventy acres. He died in his pretty, green-stone-front residence at No. 336 North Ninth street, Friday, March 15, 1907, and his widow still makes her home there.

On Nov. 16, 1872, Mr. Witmoyer was married by Rev. Thomas T. Iaager, to Elizabeth Weber, daughter of George and Magdalena (Bender) Weber, of Penn township, and granddaughter of George Weber, also of Penn township. To this union there were born six children: Louisa, Elizabeth, Sophia, Maria, George and Emma.


p. 531


Arthur Wittich, a dealer in pianos and organs, and a prominent and representative man of Reading, Pa., doing business at No. 116 South Sixth street, was born in Reading, Berks county, July 2, 1860, son of John D. and Harriet (Peifer) Wittich.

John Wittich, our subjects grandfather, lived in Hesse Cassel, Germany, all of his life, was a general merchant there and quite a prominent man. He and his wife, whose name is not known, were the parents of seven children, five sons and two daughters, and of these four came to America, their names being: Henry, George, John D., and Margaret, the latter of whom married Henry Goelz and resided in Reading.

John D. Wittich came to America in 1842, and settled first in Philadelphia. He had learned the shoemaking business in his native country, and was also a musician of some note, as well as a composer of much ability. He resided in Philadelphia for about five years and there gave instructions on the violin and other instrument. He settled in Reading in 1847 and upon making this his home, took charge of the leading orchestras of the city, conducting them for the following thirty years. His wife was a daughter of Henry Peifer, also a native of Germany, where a part of his family was reared, his two youngest children, however, being born in this country. The eight children born to Mr. and Mrs. John Wittich were: Margaret (m. John W. Gerdemann, and resided in Philadelphia); George (deceased); Anna (died young); Catherine (m. Rev. N. C. Fetter, and lives in Doylestown, Pa.); Elizabeth and Stricklin (deceased); Arthur; and Valeria (living in Reading at the old Wittich homestead, No. 310 South Fifth street). The Wittich family were members of the Reformed Church, while the Peifers were Lutherans. In politics Mr. Wittich was a Democrat, but took no active interest in party work.

Arthur Wittich received his education in the schools of Reading, and after graduating from the Reading high school entered the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music form which he was graduated. He was the instructed by some of the best and most noted masters of Europe and America, and the following twenty-five years were devoted exclusively to teaching music, in which profession he was very successful. He bears the reputation of being an expert in this and other branches of his art. Since practically giving up the instruction of music he has devoted his time to selling pianos and player pianos. He is well know in Berks and adjoining counties, and goods purchased from him can be relied upon to be just as represented. He has one of the best equipped show rooms in the city, located at No. 116 South Sixth street, where first-class salesmen are constantly on hand to display goods. His store is well stocked with the leading makes of pianos, among them being the Steinway, Kranich & Bach, Hardman, Packard, Harrington, McPhail and Sterling.

Mr. Wittich married, in 1882, Miss Kate Schrader, daughter of Charles E Schrader, of the firm of Schrader & Kline, and three children have been born to this union: Otto, Carl and Leon. The family are Lutherans. In politics Mr. Wittich is a Democrat. He is a member of the Royal Arcanum.

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 20:57:39 EDT

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