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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.

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REV. LEWIS J. BICKEL, pastor of St. James’ and St. Peter’s Lutheran churches of Pottstown, was born in Lower Pottsgrove township, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, July 17, 1857.

The founder of the Bickel family came from Mosbach on the Rhine, near Mayence, Germany, and emigrated to this country in 1732, being a passenger on the good ship “Mary.” His son Ludwig, who was seven years old when his father emigrated, settled in Falkner’s Swamp, New Hanover township, Montgomery county, and he and his wife, Eva Barbara Bickel, were the parents of the following named children: Anna Maria, born July 2, 1752; Jacob, born December 15, 1754, baptized December 29, 1754, married by Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg to Elizabeth Schitler, and he was the great-grandfather of the Rev. Lewis J. Bikel; Johanna, who was the great-grandfather of John W. Bickel, Esq., of Norristown; Ludwig, who died when seventeen years of age; Magdalene, and Daniel. Ludwig Bickel, father of these children, died November 4, 1801, aged seventy-six years, seven months and one day. He was one of the victims of a very severe plague of dysentery. He left an estate valued at eight thousand pounds.

Lewis Bickel (grandfather), son of Jacob and Elizabeth Bickel, followed farming in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, during all the years of his active career. He married Susanna Reigner, and their children were: Elizabeth, who became the wife of Joseph Reifsnyder, and after his death became the wife of Samuel Levengood; John; Susan, who became the wife of George Yohn; George; Maria, who became the wife of Henry Yohn; Sarah, who became the wife of James Gilbert; Lewis, mentioned hereinafter; Lydia, who became the wife of Solomon Fegely; Esther who became the wife of William Gilbert. All of these children are now deceased. Both Mr. Bickel and his wife lived to an advanced age. Their remains are interred in the old church-yard at Hanover and Walnut streets, Pottstown.

Jacob Erb (maternal grandfather) was a son of Caspar Erb (maternal great-grandfather), who started a mill on the Erb farm in Lower Pottsgrove township, which he sold for $40,000 just before his death; the mill was afterward destroyed by fire. His father, George Erb, came to America from Germany, but died soon after his arrival. The estate in Germany has never been settled, but is being attended to at the present time (1904). Jacob Erb (grandfather) was born and lived all his life on the farm in Lower Pottsgrove township, where his son Israel M. Erb now lives. He married Elizabeth Miller, whose father, Peter Miller, was a soldier in the war of 1812, a member of the Pennsylvania legislature in 1836, and who belonged to a prominent Montgomery county family. He and his wife were members of the Lutheran church, and are buried in the Lutheran church-yard in New Hanover township. He was a Democrat. Mr. Erb was the owner of one of the earliest and finest apple distilleries in the country. He died in 1864 at the age of seventy-three years, and his wife died in 1877 at the age of eighty-six years. Their children were: Marla, who became the wife of James Missimer, of Pottstown; both deceased. Leah, who became the wife of Isaac Shalkop, of Linfield; both deceased. Rebecca, mother of the Rev. Lewis J. Bickel; Hannah, who became the wife of Peter Henricks, and after his death the wife of Isaac Hatfield, of Limerick township; both deceased. Elizabeth, who became the wife of Conrad Snell, of Lower Pottsgrove. Sarah, who became the wife of Isaac Geist, of Pottstown; both deceased. Solomon, deceased, was a resident of Philadelphia. Israel M., of Lower Pottsgrove township. Jacob F., deceased, was a resident of Pottstown.

Lewis Bickel (father) was born in Montgomery county and lived there all his life. He was a farmer in Lower Pottsgrove township until within sixteen years of the time of his death, when he removed to Pottstown and lived retired. He died September 17, 1902, at the age of eighty-three years, five months and twenty-one days. His wife, Rebecca (Erb) Bickel, also a native of Montgomery county, died January 16, 1898, aged seventy-five years and six days. They were Lutherans in religious faith. Mr. Bickel was a school director for a number of years, always took an interest in educational matters, and was an active man both in politics and the church. Lewis and Rebecca Bickel had seven children, three of whom are now living: Sarah A., wife of Henry G. Rahn; Rev. Lewis J.; Mary C., wife of Irvin A. Kepler.

Rev. Lewis J. Bickel was reared in Pottsgrove township. He received his elementary education in the district schools, and afterward attended the Hill school of Pottstown and the Pottstown high school. He entered the academic department of Muhlenberg College in the spring of 1878, and in the fall of 1878 he became a member of the freshman class, and was graduated from the same in the classical course in 1882, receiving the third honor in his class, and he also delivered the historical oration. He also won the prize for oratory in the junior prize oratorical contest. While at college he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. In 1885 he received the degree of Master of Arts from his Alma Mater. For four terms prior to entering college, he taught school in Pottsgrove township. After studying at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for three years, he graduated in 1885, and was ordained June 2, 1885, in St. John’s Lutheran church, Allentown, Pennsylvania. His first charge was that of assistant to Dr. J. Fry, of Trinity church at Reading, where he remained five years, and during this time he organized three congregations-Hope, Faith and Peace. He was then called to the pastorate of St. Stephen’s Lutheran church at Wilmington, Delaware, where he preached for the next five years. On removing to Pottstown, in 1895, he became the assistant of Rev. D. K. Kepner, of Emmanuel congregation, and was largely instrumental in the organization in 1896 of the two churches of which he now has charge-St. James’, with a membership of one hundred and seventy-five, and St. Peter’s, with a membership of two hundred and twenty-five. For a time he was secretary of the Third District Conference, and later of the Norristown Conference of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and adjacent states. Politically he has been a Democrat.

On June 27, 1889, Rev. Lewis J. Bickel married bliss Gertrude Frick Beideman, of Reading, who was a graduate of the Reading high school, and taught for five terms in the Young Ladies’ Seminary at Reading, and an adopted daughter of Daniel H. and Louisa (Willauer) Beideman. They have had four children as follows: Louis, died at the age of five years; Edgar Clifton, Marion Louise, and Gertrude Mary.

Mrs. Bickel is the daughter of Elhannan W. and Angeline (Willauer) Frick; their other children were: Mary H., who became the wife of William S. Monyer, of Reading; Samuel Edgar, station agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Spring City; and Louie, deceased. The mother died while Mrs. Bickel was an infant, and the child was adopted by her uncle and aunt, Daniel H. and Louisa (Willauer) Beideman. The father of Mrs. Bickel, Elhannan W. Frick, was a descendant of Christopher Sower, who came from Germany in 1724, locating in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he became a noted publisher and printer and published the first German Bible printed in America. He was the maternal great-grandfather of Elhannan W. Frick. The latter named was a resident of Frick’s Lock, Chester county, where he conducted a mercantile business, and later retired. On the maternal side the grandparents of Mrs. Bickel, Samuel and Hannah (Grubb) Willauer, were residents near Kenilworth, Chester county, where Samuel was a justice of the peace for many years. He was a public-spirited man. In religion he was reared in the Quaker faith. He and his wife had a family of nine children: 1. Elizabeth, died in infancy; 2. Mary, married George W. West, of Texas; 3. Anna Louisa, married D. H. Beideman; 4. Angeline married Elhannan W. Frick; 5. Seneca G., a prominent citizen of West Chester, Pennsylvania, ex-prothonotary, and present inspector of soldiers’ orphans’ homes; he recruited a company for service in the Civil war, in which he served for six years; he went to the field as first lieutenant, and was promoted to major; he was severely wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862; 6. Jonathan W. was a soldier in the Confederate army and was killed in the battle at Blutesville, Louisiana; 7. Samuel served in the Union army and received at the battle of Fredericksburg wounds from which he died; 8. Catharine, married Jerome Titlow; 9. Samuel Paul died in infancy.

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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

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