History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, 1887


A great deal of genealogical information with reference to the Deemer family was gathered some years ago by William A. Lambert, now a resident of Neligh, Nebraska. A native of Bucks county, Pennsylvania, he was living there when the war broke out, and shortly afterward removed to his present home. He left behind him in the custody of his family his historical manuscript, which was put away in a chest. This was invaded by mice, and his material was rendered absolutely undecipherable. In a later year Mr. Lambert wrote the narrative from memory as well as he could, and placed it in charge of General William W. H. Davis, of Doylestown, and from it is taken what follows, which is authentic as nearly as may be.

The immigrant ancestors of the American branch of the Diemer (as was the original form of the name) family came from Rhenish Bavaria. They were Protestants in religion, being adherents of the doctrines of Zwingli, the great Swiss reformer. They came to America very early in the eighteenth century, presumably with that great influx of their countrymen, who came about 1707. As the family tradition has it, they came to Pennsylvania "more than one hundred years previous to the second war with Great Britain." This would fix the date of their coming at not later than 1711, but the earlier date of 1707 is generally accepted as the true one. They first settled near Germantown, and engaged in clearing off land for other families, getting out timber for building purposes, burning charcoal, and cutting up wood for fuel, which they marketed in Philadelphia. From the vicinity of Germantown they removed to Providence township, Philadelphia (now Montgomery) county.

John Deemer was a landowner in Lower Providence township, in 1734, but the family was settled there before that time. In 1727 a. German Reformed church (said by some to be the first regularly organized church of that denomination in the United States, but which Mr. Lambert doubts) was organized at Skippack by the Rev. George Diemer, and it is believed that he or his ancestors were among the first German Reformers in America.

About 1740 a part of the Deemer family (as the name now appears) removed from their Montgomery county home and settled in Durham, Bucks county. Here they followed farming, charcoal burning, and working in the iron furnaces. Some years after settling in Durham, a part of the family located in Nockamixon, and the greater number of their descendants of the present day live in these two townships, with a number in Williams township, Northampton county. Joseph Deemer, a native of Durham, when a young man located in Hunterdon county, New Jersey, and worked at "the Forge," presumably Exeter Forge. When the Revolutionary war broke out he enlisted in the First New Jersey Regiment, and served throughout the entire struggle, belonging during that time to four or five different organizations. All trace of him is lost soon after the restoration of peace. Pertinent to this narrative is the fact that after a lapse of eighty. years another Deemer, Edward, also a native of Durham, enlisted in a New Jersey regiment (the Thirty-first) and served in the Civil war.

Dr. Henry M. Muhlenberg, the father of the Lutheran church in America, in his diary makes frequent mention of a Rev. Diemer who preached at various places during the Revolutionary war, and with whom he seems to have been on intimate terms. It is to be inferred from the diary that Mr. Diemer was a Lutheran. The Deemers (Diemers) were all originally, and nearly all continued so, members of the Reformed church, and if this Diemer was a member of this branch (and of this there is no assurance) he departed from the faith of his kinsmen. This, however, would not be a radical charge, for the gulf between the two denominations is not broad. There were other changes, too, for at a later day there were some members of the family living in Williams township who became Methodists under the preaching of Bishop Asbury and other pioneer ministers of that denomination. After some of the family had embraced Methodism, those of the family who adhered to the ancestral faith cut off all further intercourse with them, and for more than a generation the two branches acted the part of utter strangers to each other.

Some time after the removal of a portion of the Deemer family from Montgomery county to Durham, some of those who remained in Providence removed to the Susquehanna river, and at a later time to the Juniata, where further knowledge of them ceases. As has been stated, the Deemer family furnished at least one soldier to the Revolutionary war, one to the Mexican war, and quite a number to the Union during the Civil war. Originally Federalists in politics, they, in common with the great mass of the settlers of German extraction in the upper end of the county, rebelled against the Federalist system of taxation, and became "Jeffersonian Republicans" and afterward Democrats, which, with few exceptions, they are to the present day. The Deemers were always noted for industry and integrity. From the middle of the eighteenth century to the present time there has scarcely been a period of ten years when one or more Deemers were not employed in the iron furnaces at Durham. In early years they did considerable freighting over the mountains and down the river, but to a large extent abandoned this occupation when the Delaware canal had been completed. While that waterway was in course of construction they aided in the work, several of them serving under the afterward celebrated George Law, who built the Durham lock and aqueduct, and also the lock and aqueduct at the Narrows.

Elias Deemer, of the city of Williamsport, was born in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, and is the son of John Deemer, who resided in Durham township, Bucks county, and was a farmer, and John Deemer was the son of Michael Deemer, who resided in Kintnerville, Nockamixon township, Bucks county. Michael Deemer's ancestry we are unable to trace, but he was born in this country, in Nockamixon or Durham county, about 1773. He was a large landowner and prominent man in that locality. John Deemer had five children, two sons and three daughters. Edward Deemer, the oldest of the children, a native of Durham township, Bucks county, and who enlisted in the Thirty-first New Jersey Regiment and served during the Civil war, was a brother of Elias Deemer, of this city.

Elias Deemer received his early education in public schools and by private tutors, and at the age of fifteen started to work in a store to learn the mercantile business. At the age of twenty he had entire charge of a mercantile business. In the spring of 1859 he became a bookkeeper, collector and salesman for W. N. Treichler, of Kintnerville, who was an extensive manufacturer of and dealer in lumber. In the fall of 1860 he went to Philadelphia, entering a wholesale notion house, and in 1861, when the war broke out, enlisted in the month of August in Company E, One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Captain George T. Harvey, under Colonel W. W. H. Davis, of Doylestown. In the month of May, 1862, he was discharged on the Peninsula for physical disability. The following spring he removed to Milford, New Jersey, and was engaged in business there until the spring of 1868, when he located in this city and has resided here ever since. He immediately engaged in the lumber business, continuing in that pursuit to the present time. He was elected to the city council in the spring of 1888, and re-elected in 1889,, and was elected to the 57th congress in the fall of 1900, re-elected in 1902 to the 58th congress, and again re-elected in the fall of 1904, receiving nearly eight thousand majority, the largest ever given to any congressional candidate. He was elected president of the Williamsport National Bank in 1893, and has been its president ever since. He has been interested in a number of different firms, in the lumber business chiefly, being one of the firm of Elias Deemer & Company, composed of himself and John H. Hunt; was treasurer and manager of the firm of Strong, Deemer & Company, Limited; president of the Williamsport Land and Lumber Company, and president of the Williamsport & Chesapeake Company, the three latter firms having closed out their business. He is a director and stockholder in the J. K. Rishel Furniture Company, and the Lycoming Calcining Company. 'He has ever taken an interest in public affairs.

Mr. Deemer married Henrietta Hunt in November, 1865, and has four children, one son, William Russell, who is practicing law in this city, and three daughters, Mary Lillian, Laura Hunt and Lulu May. William Russell Deemer was married to Sarah January Grundy, of Kentucky, and has one son, William Russell, and a daughter, Mary Elizabeth.

Source: Genealogical and Personal History of Lycoming County, John W. Jordan, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1906.

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