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



   WILLIAM EDGAR GEIL, the distinguished author, traveller and orator, was born near Doylestown, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, and is the son of Samuel GEIL, still residing in Doylestown, by his late wife Elizabeth SEESE, deceased.  On the paternal side Mr. GEIL is of French and German descent.  His great-grandfather, Jacob GEIL, was born in the province of Alsace, in the year, 1742, and accompanied his parents to America in the ship "Duke of Bedford," arriving in Philadelphia, September 14, 1751.  The family lived for a time in Philadelphia and then located on the Skippack, in what is now Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, where Jacob GEIL married Anna, daughter of John CLYMER (or KLEMMER) and granddaughter of Bishop Valentine KLEMMER, who came from Switzerland in 1717.  By deed dated April 18, 1763, William CROOK conveyed to him by name of "Jacob CHOEL, of Philadelphia county," 194 acres in Springfield township, Bucks county.  He was a weaver by trade.  On April 1, 1768, Jacob GEIL and Anna his wife conveyed the Springfield farm to Conrad JACOBY, and on April 18, 1768, Samuel BARNHILL and wife conveyed to him 153 acres near New Galena in New Britain township, Bucks county.  Here his wife Anna died, and he married a second time and in 1786 sold his farm and removed with the younger members of his family to Chester county, and from thence to Rockingham county, Virginia, where he died about 1802.  The children of Jacob GEIL were: Mary, who married Samuel GODSHALK, of New Britain; Abraham, John, Philip, and Margaret.  The first two were by the first wife, and the last three by the second.  Philip and Margaret were minors on their return to Bucks county in 1802, and guardians were appointed for them by the Bucks county court.

   John GEIL, son of Jacob, was born in New Britain, Bucks county, April 1, 1778, and removed with his father to Virginia, where he was apprenticed to the tanning trade, but, liking neither the trade or his master, he returned to Bucks county about 1796, and probably resided for a time with his elder brother, Abraham GEIL.  Abraham was a farmer, and later located near Doylestown, where Samuel HART now lives, and reared a family of eight children, of whom but two married, and none so far as known left male descendants.  John GEIL married April 22, 1802, Elizabeth FRETZ, daughter of Mark FRETZ, who owned and operated the grist and saw mills later known as Curley's Mills, in New Britain.  John GEIL settled in New Britain, where he owned a farm, and resided there until near the close of his life.  He was ordained as minister of the Mennonite congregation at Line Lexington in 1809, and preached there for forty-two years.  Late in life he removed to Plumstead, where he died January 16, 1866, at the age of eighty-eight years.   His wife was born January 27, 1781, and died November 6, 1849.  She was the daughter of Mark and Elizabeth (ROSENBERGER) FRETZ, the former a son of John and Maria FRETZ of Bedminster, and the latter the daughter of Rev. Henry ROSENBERGER, for many years pastor of the Mennonite congregation in Franconia, Montgomery county.  Rev. John and Elizabeth (FRETZ) GEIL were the parents of nine children: Jacob, the eldest son, married Anna FUNK, and had three sons: John F., Enos F. and Samuel; the first and last removed west; Samuel became a distinguished lawyer in Ohio, and removed later to California, where he recently died.  The remaining children of Rev. John GEIL were: Barbara, who married Abraham LANDIS; Elizabeth, who married Martin D. ROSENBERGER, of Hilltown, (see ROSENBERGER family); Mark, who died young; Catharine, who married John KRABEHL; Mary, who married Joseph LANDIS; John, born August 20, 1819, killed by a fall in his barn in New Britain, August 26, 1890; Anna, who married Mathew HARE and removed to Illinois; and Samuel.

   Samuel GEIL, of Doylestown, youngest son of Rev. John and Elizabeth (FRETZ) GEIL, was born in New Britain, Bucks county, March 11, 1825.  He was a youth of more than ordinary intellectual ability and of a studious temperament.  Early in life he studied civil engineering and surveying.  After teaching school for some years he followed topographical engineering and surveying, and for many years made and published township, county and state maps.  He made a survey of Morris county, New Jersey, in 1850, and his last map published, which was a triumph in map-making, was that of the state of Michigan, made in 1863-65.  He then settled on his large farm in New Britain, where he resided until 1878, when he removed to Doylestown, and for several years was engaged in the hard wood lumber business.  In 1856 he injured his spine by a fall from which he never fully recovered.  Samuel GEIL married Elizabeth SEESE, of Plumstead, whose ancestors came over in the Mayflower and they were the parents of two children: Ella, residing with her father in Doylestown; and William Edgar, the subject of this sketch.

   William Edgar GEIL, the great traveler, author and orator, was born in New Britain township, Bucks county, near Doylestown, October 1, 1865.  He acquired his education at the public schools, the Doylestown English and Classical Seminary, and Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, graduating from the latter institution in the class of 1890.  At an early age he manifested a deep interest in religious matters and became an earnest and active member of the church.  An indefatigable student, he early became thoroughly versed in the Scriptures as well as in most of the important sacred literature, ancient and modern.

   On leaving college where he was famous as an orator he engaged in evangelistic work, with credentials from the Doylestown church, and soon after made several trips to Europe.  Later he visited Asia, Egypt, the Holy Land, and many of the ancient cities of the Mediterranean.  Returning to America he again engaged in evangelistic work.  He then began his life work in earnest, and his success was phenomenal.  He held revival meetings in various parts of New Jersey, New York and New England, and later made a tour of the south and west, addressing meetings of thousands of hearers and making thousands of converts.  The "Cincinnati Inquirer" says of him: "His success has been more pronounced than that of any evangelist since Moody;" and the "Lowell (Mass.) Citizen" says that the meetings conducted by him were "the most remarkable series of meetings ever held in this city."  In 1896 he made another extended trip abroad, revisiting the Holy Land and its ancient environs, and many of the ancient towns of Asia Minor, and the Mediterranean.  Among other points he visited the Isle of Patmos, and on his return wrote and published his book, "The Isle that is called Patmos," which reached a sale of many thousands, and was rewritten, enlarged and republished in 1904, after his second visit to the island, in that year.  The alarming illness of his mother, to whose early training he says he owes most of his success, called him home in the early part of 1897, and soon after closing the eyes of his beloved parent in her last sleep, on May 2, 1897, he returned to Europe for a brief sojourn and then again took up his work in his native country with increased success.

   The crowning feat, however, of his younger days, was his remarkable trip around the world, visiting missions in obscure and distant parts of heathendom, and occupying a period of nearly four years.  The purposes of this trip are best described by his Doylestown pastor, who says: "The purpose of the tour is that of independent observation of the whole missionary field, in its actual condition, operations, modes of organization, instruction and efforts, its different peculiarities, its needs, its difficulties, its relation to existing heathen religion, to international and denominational policies of political events; and what encouragement or discouragement may exist in the great work of extending the gospel to the world, and especially to the neglected parts of heathendom.  A special object is to visit schools, colleges and institutions of sacred learning in connection with missionary operations and report the results to the whole Christian church."  This purpose Mr. GEIL fulfilled to the letter.  Leaving Philadelphia on April 29, 1901, he crossed the continent to California, and, sailing from the Golden Gate for the Sandwich and South Sea Islands, visiting the Hawaiian, Samoan, Fiji, and many other archipelagoes, inspecting the missions, and intelligently noting their condition and work, as well as the condition and characteristics of the inhabitants, and the relation of governmental and commercial matters to the propagation of the Gospel of Christ.  He proceeded thence to New Zealand, and Australia, reaching Sydney in November, 1901, where, and in Melbourne the following April and May, he organized and participated in the greatest religious revivals the continent has even known, speaking daily to audiences of 3,000 at noon and 10,000 at night.  From Australia he proceeded to New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan.  The results of this part of the trip are beautifully told in his book, "Ocean and Isle," published in 1904.  He also made an extensive trip through China, going up the Yangtse river in a native gunboat, and was carried over the mountains of western China in a bamboo mountain chair.   His popular work, "A Yankee on the Yangtse" tells the story in brilliant language..  He visited Manchuria, Korea and Siberia, and later traveled extensively in Burmah and journeyed across Africa from Mombassa on the eastern coast to the Pigmy Forest, and thence down the Congo to the western coast.  William Edgar GEIL is the greatest living traveler.  He is the only living white man who has crossed both China and tropical Africa.  His great book "A Yankee in Pigmy Land," is just published.  After spending sometime lecturing to vast audiences in England and Scotland, where he was welcomed by immense crowds, he returned to Bucks county and in June, 1905, delivered an address before the alumni of his alma mater, Lafayette College, and received from that institution the degree of A. M.  One feature of his return to his native town was the large and enthusiastic reception tendered him by his fellow townsmen in the courthouse at Doylestown, when addresses were delivered by many prominent Bucks countians, and at least one thousand people packed the "Temple of Justice" while others climbed up to the windows on ladders to welcome the distinguished traveler on his return to his native heath.  In August, 1905, he again sailed for foreign lands, and, after spending some months in England, Scotland and Wales, intends making an extended trip to Persia and other Asiatic points to finish up the work of his renowned trip around the world.

   Mr. GEIL, in addition to numerous and noted magazine articles, is the author of a number of books that have had enormous sales.  One of his earliest publications was "The Pocket Sword," a vest-pocket book of scriptural phrases and texts and the lessons drawn from them, that has been immensely popular and has reached a sale of over 100,000 copies.  Among his other books are, "Judas Iscariot and other Lectures;" "The Isle That is Called Patmos;" "A Boy in the Sun;" "Laodicea, Or the Marble Heart;" "Smyrna, or the Flight of the Angel;" "Trip Stories;" "Ocean and Isle;" "A Yankee on the Yangtse;" "The Man of Galilee;" "A Yankee in Pigmy Land."  Mr. GEIL'S new books "The Men on the Mount;" "The Automatic Calf," and "The Worker's Testament," have just passed throught the press.  He has delivered six thousand lectures to large audiences in many states and countries.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London, and a member of a number of other noted societies.  In all his wanderings the heart of the great traveler still clings to Doylestown as his "home," in all the truest sense of that much abused term.

Text taken from pages 152-154 of:

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

Transcribed JANUARY 2001 by GRACE T. BURTON of PA as part of the Bucks Co., Early Family Project, www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/bucksindex.html

Published January 2001 on the Bucks county, Pa., USGenWeb pages at www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/

If you have a homepage, know of a link or have information you wish to share. or would like to volunteer to transcribe information for the Bucks Co. PA please email:    
 PA State Coordinator:
Joe Patterson
Bucks County Coordinator: and
Web Page Developer
Nancy C. Janyszeski


All copyright laws are observed to the best of our ability. However if you feel something is on the site and infringes on copyright laws please contact me and let me know.

Use of information is for Personal Genealogical purposes only.  Commercial publication of any such information is prohibited. All text and images are copyright by said contributors.

Return to the Bucks County PaGenWeb Main Page or use your Back Button

If you have a homepage, know of a link or have information you wish to share. or would like to volunteer to transcribe information for the Bucks Co. PA please email:      Page was last edited: 11/15/2008

Copyright by Nancy C. Janyszeski 2003/2004/2005/2006/2007/2008