History of Bucks County, Pa Volume 3 by William H. Davis
Names and Page # Index


WILLAM JACOB HELLER

WILLIAM JACOB HELLER, of Easton, Pennsylvania, manufacturer, has long been numbered among the patriotic citizens of the land, and his efforts were largely instrumental in instituting the movement that resulted in placing the flag upon the school houses of the United States. He comes of a family noted for loyalty and patriotic service in the colonial struggles and in the war for independence, and traces his descent from eleven patriots who served Pennsylvania in the revolution.

He is a direct descendant of Christopher Heller, who was born in Petershiem, near Bingen, along the Rhine, in the Province of Pfaltz, Germany, in 1688, and emigrated to America in 1738, arriving in Philadelphia with his six sons on the fifth of September of that year. He established his home in what is now Milford township, in the southern part of Lehigh county. He passed the last few years of his life with his son Daniel, who lived along the creek a short mile below Hellertown, and where he died in the year 1778. Of his six sons, Joseph, in early life known as Joe Dieter, was the oldest, having been born in 1719, and died unmarried in 1800. He was buried at Plainfield church. The second son of Christopher Heller was Johan Simon Heller, born in 1721. On attaining his majority he purchased the 200 acre farm in Lower Saucon township, along the creek, where he built what is now Wagnerís mill in 1746. He was one of the founders of the Reformed church in that township, and in the year 1763 removed to what is now known as the Woodley house, in the town of Wind Gap. Here he assisted in the organization of the Reformed church in Plainfield township, and later married a second time and removed to Hamilton township, and there organized Hamilton church. His patriotic spirit was manifested by active military service in the French and Indian war. He had sixteen children, of whom Jacob, John, Abraham, and Simon served in the revolutionary army. His death occurred in 1783, and he was buried at Plainfield church. Johan Michael Heller, the third son of Christopher Heller, was born in 1724, died in 1803, and is buried at the ancient burying ground of the Reformed church, now known as the Lime Kiln schoolhouse. Daniel, the fourth son, was born in 1726, and died in 1803. Danielís children were Mathias, John, Jeremiah and Michael (the potter). He was buried in the ancient burial ground at what is now Lime Kiln schoolhouse. Ludwig, the fifth son, was born in 1728, and in early life removed to Bucks county, later to Hamilton township, Monroe county, where he died in 1807, leaving several children, of whom Andrew and John remained in Bucks county. He is buried in Hamilton township, at the church which he helped to organize. The sixth son, George Christopher, was born in 1731. He married in early life and settled on a farm adjoining that of his brother Michael. A few years later he purchased an adjoining property, on which was erected a grist mill and a hemp mill. He was the father of two boys, Joseph and Michael, who on attaining their majority were given the property, Joseph taking the grist mill, and Michael the oil mill. The father removed to Upper Mount Bethel where he died in 1805, leaving besides the two boys four children, by a second marriage, Elizabeth, Magdalena, Solomon and Daniel. He was buried at Stone church in Mount Bethel township. After a few years Joseph sold his mill to Michael, and moved to a mill site along the Monocacy, in Hanover township. Michael was now the possessor of his fatherís entire tract of land in Lower Saucon township, and which is now embodied in the entire east side of the main street in Hellertown. Michael was the father of a large family, all of whom died in infancy, with the exception of Paul and Tobias, who after their fatherís failure removed to what is now Lanark, Lehigh county, and built the hotel known as Hellerís Tavern.

Johan Michael Heller, above mentioned, was a direct ancestor of William J. Heller, the subject of this sketch, and was known as Michael, the elder (Alt vater Mike). Early in life (1751) he purchased a farm on Saucon creek, in what is now the entire west side of the main street in Hellertown. In the same year he built a stone house which is still standing. He became the founder of Hellertown, and was an extensive land owner, prospering in all his business affairs, but lost very heavily through the depreciation of currency during the revolution, which, together with his contributions to the revolutionary cause, and his gift of several hundred-acre farms to each of his children, left him comparatively a poor man at the time of his death. His team was the first to leave Saucon Valley loaded with provisions for the starving army at Valley Forge. However, he gave not only assistance of this character, but rendered active service in behalf of the cause of liberty as a lieutenant in the army. His children were: David, born in 1751, served a period in the revolutionary war, and was a farmer in Lower Saucon township; Margaret, who married Jacob Kreeling; Heob (Job), born 1765, and was a farmer in Upper Saucon; Simon, born 1758, was a farmer, and settled near Plainfield church; Michael, who was known as "Creek Mike," was born in 1757, and always remained at the homestead, where he died in the year 1828.

David Heller, son of Johan Michael Heller, was the great-great-grandfather of William J. Heller. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Ladenmacher, and their children were: Catharine, born in 1773, died in 1776; Susanna, born in 1774, died in 1776; Elizabeth, born in 1775, married Jacob Roth, who became the owner of the homestead immediately east of Hellertown; Michael, born in 1777, died in 1816, leaving several children; his oldest son Michael lived and died in Cunningham valley; David, born in 1778, learned the trade of a tanner, and afterwards removed to Lehighton, Carbon county; Job, born in 1780, died in 1822, unmarried; Catharine, born in 1780, died in 1786; Yost, born in 1783; Susanna, born in 1784; Maria, born in 1786; Joseph, born in 1788, and at the age of thirty years removed to Philadelphia, where he remained until his death; Rosanna, born in 1789, died in 1811.

Yost Heller, the great-grandfather, was reared upon the home farm, and in his early youth was full of life, fun and merriment. Many a laugh did he cause in the neighborhood by his merry pranks, but he also commanded the respect of friends and neighbors, and as the years advanced his attention was given to work that proved of benefit to the community along material and moral lines. He was the most popular man in Lower Saucon township, was the first deacon of Appelís church, and reared his family according to its teachings, while its principles formed the rule of his own conduct. He was married to Elizabeth Shaffer, of a prominent family of Lehigh county, and their children were: Jacob, Elizabeth, who became Mrs. Bachman, and later Mrs. Flexer, and Mary, who became Mrs. Weiss, and afterward Mrs. Rice.

Jacob Heller, the grandfather, was born in 1804, and died in Easton, in 1881. Brought up in the faith of the church according to its teachings, he also reared his family in the same way. He was the first elder in Appelís church. He married Sarah Bellis, of Lower Saucon, a descendant of one of the original owners of West Jersey, Lawrence Bellis, and their children were: Elizabeth, born in 1825; William, born in 1827; Josiah B., born in 1829; Jacob, Sarah, John, Susan and Emma.

Josiah B. Heller, the father of William J. Heller, was born in 1829, and pursued his education in a school at Hellertown, and under Dr. Vanderveer at Easton. Subsequently he engaged in teaching in Easton and in surrounding townships, and he also was numbered among the music instructors of the Lehigh Valley on his day. After devoting a number of years to educational work he engaged in farming for a decade, and then returned to Easton, where he conducted a transfer freight line for many years. He was one of the early members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at that place, and took a helpful interest in promoting the lodge and its growth. His political allegiance was given to the Democracy, which he continued to support until his death, December 5, 1898. He married Susan Heinlein, of Forks township, a descendant of George Heinlein, captain of the Durham township militia during the revolution, and a great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Morgan, of Morganís Hills. Their children were: George B., born in 1853; William J., in 1857; Arthur P., born in 1864, died in 1903; and Lizzie May, born in 1869, married Chester Seip.

William J. Heller is indebted to various institutions of Easton, Pennsylvania, for the educational privileges he enjoyed in his youth. After putting aside his text books he followed various pursuits and became quite widely known because of his artistic talent and ability. In 1886, however, he established his present business, the manufacturer of flags, opening the first exclusive flag factory in the United States. His business has constantly grown in volume and importance, and to-day he manufactures nearly one-half of the flags used in this county. While witnessing the decoration of a public school building for a celebration in the year, 1886, the idea occurred to him that the nationís emblem should be seen over school buildings of the country in order to foster a spirit of patriotism among the children of the land. He began discussing the idea with the prominent educators of America, and, in fact, was the founder of the movement which has embodied his ideas, and deserves great credit for instituting the patriotic movement which swept over the country in 1892. He is popular and well known among workers in patriotic circles, and was one of the first active members of the Patriotic League. He has had many honors conferred on him by the Womanís Relief Corps, the National Congress of Women, and other national patriotic organizations. He is a charter member of the George Washington Memorial Association, organized to promote the establishment of the University of the United States. He is an honorary member of the various leading womenís clubs in many parts of the country. He has lectured in many of the principal cities of America upon patriotic occasions. His lecture on "The Evolution of Our National Ensign" is universally known. History has always been a most interesting study to him, and he believes in promoting every line of thought that will foster a love of country and its people. He has made a study of local Indian history during his leisure hours, and is now engaged in compiling data for a history of the Forks of the Delaware. He is a life member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, also the Pennsylvania German Society, a member of the Bucks County Historical Societies in this and adjoining states. He takes an active part in public affairs, and is a member of the board of trade and of the Municipal League of the city of Easton.

Mr. Heller married, May 5, 1877, Miss Tillie A. Lesher, a daughter of George Lesher, and a lineal descendant of George Loesch, of Tulpehocken, Berks county, Pennsylvania, who gave so generously of his means to assist the struggling Moravians when they first landed in this country. His memory is yet perpetuated by the record of his good deeds, preserved in the Moravian archives. Mr. and Mrs. Heller became the parents of three children, two sons and one daughter. The two sons, Ray and Harry, died in early childhood. The daughter, Bessie Evelyn Heller, is a lineal descendant of sixteen patriots who gave active service in the revolutionary war, and a great-great-great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Morgan, of Morganís Hill, through her paternal grandmother, Susan (Heinlein) Heller, a daughter of George Bay Heinlein, who was the son of James Heinlein and his wife Ann Bay, a daughter of Mrs. Morgan by her first husband Hugh Bay.

Mrs. Morganís maiden name was Lizzie Bell, or "pretty Lizzie Bell," as she was known by nearly every one in Philadelphia, where she was born and raised. She was the daughter of Jacob and Ann Bell, residing on Front street, Philadelphia, prior to the revolutionary war. Her parents were orthodox Quakers, and consequently frowned upon a certain young grocer, Hugh Bay, son of Rev. Andrew Bay, a chaplain in the provincial army, who was getting very intimate with Elizabeth, and who was not of their faith. They used mild methods to discourage intimacy, and when, a few years later, Hugh made his appearance dressed in the uniform of a noted artillery company in the revolutionary service, he was refused admittance to the Bell domicile, and Elizabeth was compelled to make closer application to her studies. All went seemingly well until the British army was reported coming toward Philadelphia, when its citizens prepared to repel the enemy by gathering all ammunition, collecting old lead and converting it into bullets, etc. Elizabeth, whether through born intuitiveness or from close application to study, at that opportune time developed character that was one remarkable feature in after life. She removed the leaden weights from her fatherís clock and converted them into bullets for her soldier lover, Hugh Bay. This not only caused a flurry in Quakerdom, but so enraged her father that he forthwith transported her to Europe to finish her studies. After the lapse of four years her father, thinking that she had outlived her infatuation, brought her home. Elizabeth, however, true to her first love, was married to Hugh Bay in the Swedeís church, Philadelphia, August 16, 1781. This act so shocked the orthodox Quaker congregation that they immediately called a special meeting at which a resolution was passed expelling Elizabeth from the congregation for marrying a worldly man, and a certificate to that effect was given her. What effect all this had upon her parents is unknown. Her father died a few years later, and left the greater part of his wealth to Elizabeth and her mother. Hugh made a good husband and maintained a fine house on the fashionable street. After a marriage of three years he unfortunately died, leaving only one child, Anna. Elizabeth remained a widow six years, when, on September 2, 1790, she became the wife of Dr. Abel Morgan, a prominent physician of Philadelphia, and formerly a surgeon in the revolutionary army, and a brother of General Daniel Morgan. Two months later her mother died. With the exception of the birth of another daughter, nothing eventful transpired until 1793 when the great epidemic broke out in Philadelphia, when Dr. Morgan took precautionary measures and removed his family from Philadelphia to the Lehigh Hills, leaving his home in charge of the colored servants. Dr. Morgan selected for his retreat a hotel on the top of the hill overlooking the "Forks of the Delaware." This delightful locality was a favorite of Dr. Morganís when he was a surgeon in the revolutionary army and encamped with his regiment at Colonel Proctorís headquarters along the ravine to the south of what is now Kleinhanís green houses, which was then along the main road to Easton from the south. Dr. Morgan, after seeing his family comfortably settled, returned to Philadelphia to help stamp out the epidemic. Elizabeth, not receiving any communications from him for upwards of two months, and quarantine being removed from Philadelphia, concluded to make a trip there. On her arrival at her Philadelphia home she found that the servants had decamped, the house had been ransacked from garret to cellar, and everything of value confiscated. At a loss to know what had become of her husband, she made inquiry of the health officers and found that her husband had contracted the malady and died within a few days after his arrival, and was buried in the trench along with the rest. This double affliction required considerable fortitude to withstand. Finding herself the second time a widow, she disposed of her fine home and all her interests in Philadelphia and returned to the "Hills," with the purpose of living in quiet retirement with her two daughters. She never returned to Philadelphia, but purchased the hotel property in which she had taken up her abode, and lived there for upwards of fifty years. Mrs. Morgan made good use of her excellent education. She possessed a fine library, and her favorite pastime was reading law books, of which she had a complete set. These were kept on a bench in the public room where she would dispense law when occasion required. This room, in time, became the popular retreat for those of her neighbors who could not settle their differences themselves. They would invariably refer their case to this improvised court. A request for her decision was never refused; both old and young respected her judgment, and seldom was there an appeal to a higher tribunal. This condition of affairs brought forth a protest from the legal fraternity of Easton, who endeavored by various methods to break up the practice. Reflections as to her character and the character of the place were made, bringing her name into ridicule with the unthinking. All this unkindness toward the "Widow" Morgan only increased her popularity. Few of these gentry of the bar could boast of a better legal education than Elizabeth Morgan, and none of a better university training. Her last will and testament (written by herself) for scholarly composition and legal construction is the peer of any instrument of any member of the legal fraternity of her day. Steeled to adversity, never showing resentment toward her traducers, living a good and true life, a kind and generous neighbor, ministering to the afflicted, adjusting neighborly disputes for many years, she died October 16, 1839, aged eighty years, and was buried in the Reformed cemetery on Mount Jefferson (now the site of the new library). Her obsequies were attended by people from far and near, her funeral cortege being nearly two miles long, reaching from the cemetery gates to a point along the Philadelphia road beyond Lachenour Heights, South Side. Her second daughter, Hannah Morgan, died at the age of twenty years. Her first daughter, Ann Bay, was married to James Heinlein, a son of Captain George Heinlein, of Durham township, Bucks county, a prominent figure in the revolution. Their children were: George, born 1799; Hugh, born 1802; Abel Morgan, born 1804; Edward, born 1806; Morgan, born 1808; Jacob, born 1811; John, born 1813; Henry, born 1814; Hannah Eliza, born 1815, became the wife of William Raub. Of the many descendants of these grandsons of Elizabeth Morgan living in the Lehigh Valley and the regions round about, there are very few bearing the name of Heinlein. Mrs. Morgan took great pride in her grandsons and gave all of them an advanced education. Three of these grandsons emigrated in company with several of the families of Hays from Lehigh county to Ohio, settling in and around Fremont. Mrs. Heinlein, the mother, married for the second time a Mr. Schultz. She was buried to the right of her mother, Mrs. Morgan, and Hannah, the other daughter, was buried on the left side. Their remains were not disturbed when the site of Eastonís colonial burying ground was remodeled for the park surrounding the new library.

Text taken from page 309-311

Davis, William W. H., A. M. History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania [New York-Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905] Volume III

Transcribed January 2002 as part of the Bucks Co., Pa., Early Family Project,

Published January 2002 on the Bucks County, Pa., USGenWeb pages


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