My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company; Elwood Roberts, Editor.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

* * * *

HENRY C. CRESSMAN, one of the self- made business men of Norristown, is a native of Montgomery county. He was born near Barren Hill, called at that time Smoketown, May 2, 1832, remaining in that neighborhood until he was twelve years of age. Feeling that there was something desirable for him beyond his father’s house, he started out with all his worldly possessions in a small bundle, to seek his fortune in the world. His first employment was on the farm of Peter Streeper, about a mile from Barren Hill. His compensation was his clothing and board with an opportunity to attend school when not otherwise engaged. Mr. Streeper treated him kindly, finding an abundance of work for him and giving him a good home until he was sixteen years of age. The lad then went to visit a cousin in Philadelphia who was a marble cutter. Watching him while at his work, young Cressman became imbued with the idea of becoming a marble cutter and, without consulting any one, he entered into employment with Gordon & Fletcher as an apprentice in their marble yard. He remained, however, but a few months with this firm, owing to an accident in which a marble mantle was broken. He returned to his home, and the next spring, April 1, 1849, he went to Norristown, where he indentured himself to Franklin Derr, the well-known dealer in marble, who had a vacancy caused by an apprentice quitting his employ. Mr. Derr was loth to take another apprentice on account of the trouble he had had with the one whose place was vacant, but he finally concluded to do so and the papers of indenture were made out July 4, 1849. They were to hold him until he became of age. He was to receive as compensation for his services thirty dollars a year and board, but no schooling. The only holidays were to be Fourth of July and Christmas. At the end of his term of service as apprentice, he had thoroughly learned his trade and had also gained the confidence of Mr. Derr to such a degree that he retained him in his employment until his death. Mr. Cressman became in time Mr. Derr’s right-hand man, and was the one looked to for advice and counsel. He was expected to oversee all kinds of work in that line of business.

Mr. Cressman helped to build many of the finest edifices in Norristown, including Odd Fellows hall, the Montgomery county prison, the court house, the First Presbyterian church, the Lutheran Church of the Trinity, the Central Presbyterian church, the Albertson Trust Building, the First National bank and Montgomery National bank, the Music Hall, Mr. Hooven’s large mansion, adjoining the Montgomery bank, now the Masonic Temple, and many other of the finest residences in Norristown. After Mr. Derr’s death, Mr. Cressman was employed by his son, Henry A. Derr, remaining with him until just before his death. About 1880 he built, on West Airy street, the house in which he now resides and the store property now owned by George W. Pifer, and conducted a grocery business therein, his wife and a hired boy managing it. This he kept up until about 1890, when he sold it to Mr. Pifer. On leaving Mr. Derr, he established a marble yard in the rear of his home and makes the business the means of keeping himself contented, working only when it suits him to do so, and doing only ordered work. He sends it wherever it is ordered, some going as far west as Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Mr. Cressman’s wages after completing his apprenticeship were one dollar and fifty cents per day, and that was the rate until the beginning of the Rebellion, after which wages advanced until Mr. Cressinan earned three dollars per day.

Mr. Cressman has seen Norristown grow from a small village to a place of twenty-seven thousand inhabitants and has aided in building it up as well as adding to its prosperity. He has been a member of the Masonic order since 1863, and is now a member of Hutchinson Commandery, No. 32, Knights Templar. He is treasurer of Charity Lodge, No. 190, and a member of the Temple committee. He is also a member of Montgomery Lodge, No. 57, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He has never sought or held office in either lodge. He is a member of the First Methodist Episcopal church at Norristown.

Politically Mr. Cressman was reared an old-line Whig, and is now a Democrat. He was elected on the Democratic ticket a member of the town council of Norristown, serving three years, but would never again accept the office.

November 16, 1853, Mr. Cressman married Miss Susan S., daughter of George and Christiana (Lowther) Gibbs. Mrs. Cressman was born March 17, 1831, in Norristown, within two blocks of where she now resides and she has never lived at a greater distance than that from her birthplace.

George Gibbs, her father, was born in New York city and went from there to Jersey City as a boy of sixteen years of age. On the breaking out of the war of 1812 he enlisted in the United States army and served under General Zebulon M. Pike. At the close of the war it is supposed he went to Delaware as he married there, his wife being of an old Delaware family, descending from early Swedish settlers. From Christiana Hundred, in the state of Delaware, he went to Norristown with his famiIy. He had learned the trade of a mule spinner and went to Norristown to find work at his trade. He secured employment in McCredy’s Mill and worked there until his death, which occurred March 17, 1835. The couple had seven children: Lewis married Ophelia Fields; Mary married John Fry and had four children, Maria, Sarah, Margaret and John; Margaret married Ahlum Cope and had five children, George, Howard, Warren, Levi and Ellen (both parents and daughter Ellen were drowned in the Johnstown flood and Mr. Cope’s body was never found); George married Emma Winters, their children being George and Clara; Christiana married George Master and had one child, Charles; Susan S. is the wife of Henry C. Cressman; Maria died unmarried. Mrs. Fields, the eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs, had the following children: John, William Elihu, Catharine and Mary.

Mrs. Gibbs died in Norristown in 1843 and with her husband lies buried in the Episcopal cemetery connected with St. John’s church. Mr. and Mrs. Cressman have had but two children: Franklin D., who was born September 4, 1854, and died in childhood; and Annie L., who was born June 3, 1862, and now resides with her parents. She has musical talent of a high order and has taught music since she was eleven years of age. She gives instruction in piano and organ music and has the remarkable record of having given musical instruction in her own home for thirty years without a break. She was organist thirteen years in the First Presbyterian church and three years at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Trinity. Her first teacher was Professor Blaufuff from Saxony in Germany, and under the tuition of Constantine Von Sternberg of Philadelphia she completed her musical education, except that she afterwards attended the Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia for a single term.

* * * *

This family biography is one of more than 1,000 biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

View additional Montgomery County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Biographies

Use the links at the top right of this page to search or browse thousands of other family biographies.