Friday, November 11, 2011

Great-Great Grandfather Elisha Pearl Wheeler Led Fascinating Life in Middletown, New York

Obituary for Elisha Pearl Wheeler (February 5, 1807-March 31, 1876)

Transcription of Obituary for Elisha Pearl Wheeler by Linda Sue Hollingsworth Littlejohn Robbins, wife of Kenneth Charles Robbins, great-great-grandson of Elisha Pearl Wheeler, through Kenneth’s father William Augustus Robbins, his mother Pauline Wheeler Robbins, her father James Wheeler, and his father Elisha Pearl Wheeler.
Note: An explanation of a word or term inserted by Linda S. Robbins will be enclosed in brackets.

Received from Peter Laskaris, Middletown, New York Town Historian on three 8 ½” x 11” sheets of paper copied from the Middletown Daily Press, Saturday, April 1, 1876 [page numbers not given]

Middletown Daily Press, Saturday, April 1, 1876


Our village [Village of Middletown, Orange County, New York from 1848-1888] was startled last evening [Friday, March 31, 1876] by the announcement of the death of Mr. Elisha P. Wheeler, well and widely known as one of the most prominent citizens and business men of Middletown. He died at a quarter before nine o’clock [8:45 P.M.] at his residence on South Street, in this village, from a stroke of apoplexy 1.. He had entered upon his seventieth year [February 5, 1807]. Although his health had not been the best for a year or more, his death was very sudden and entirely unexpected. The intelligence of his disease spread rapidly over the village and was received everywhere, as it will be wherever he is known, with expressions of surprise and regret. The words “MR. WHEELER IS DEAD,” passed from mouth to mouth and were pronounced with the inflections which men us when they speak of death in their own families. No death has ever occurred in Middletown which was calculated to make a more profound impression:

It will still be a satisfaction to know that

were peaceful. He died without a struggle or a moan. His beloved and faithful wife [Phebe Sears Wheeler] and eldest daughter, Mrs. Mosher [Emeline Wheeler Mosher], were with him in the room at the last moment. His demise was so unlooked for that there was no time from the first warning to call any one [anyone] else to the scene.   Mr. Wheeler had only been confined to the house thirty hours previous to his death. He had been suffering for some weeks with a severe cold, but was about every day, and attended to his duties in connection with the Orange County Foundry as usual, until Thursday [March 30, 1876] afternoon. He complained that morning of feeling unwell, but spent the forenoon at the foundry office.  Although persuaded by his family to remain at home, he went to the office again after dinner to attend to some business, and returned to the house after an hour, leaving word on his way home for a physician to call. He was quite lame and walked with considerable difficulty. He remarked on coming in that he did not feel as well as he had been, and went to bed. He complained of soreness and pains for which his family applied the usual external remedies until the physician, Dr. Darwin Everett arrived, late in the afternoon. He prescribed for him but the medicines were of little avail as the patient could not retain them, which condition continued until he died. The first part of Thursday night he spent very comfortably, but at about two o’clock [A.M.] he became restless and complained of pains in his left side. Hyperdermic [Hypodermic] injections of morphine were made to lessen the pain.  Friday he was confined to his bed, and was not able to leave or return to it except with increased pain and without help. Late in the afternoon he appeared to be better, and apprehensions of immediate danger were entertained. In the evening he gave his daughter instructions in regard to the marketing, and talked in his usual cheerful manner. He evidently had no premonition of his approaching dissolution; at least if he did he said nothing of it. At about eight o’clock [P.M.] he was assisted out of bed by his wife, but returned without help, saying he felt better. Those were his last words. Turning over upon his side in the bed, he apparently went to sleep, and from that sleep he never awakened. His wife was called from the next room a few moments after by a noise of hard breathing, and going to his side she found him with his head thrown back and evidently dying. She called her daughter, Mrs. Mosher, who reached the room just in time to see him breath [breathe] his last breath, which was a slight gasp, and he was dead.

was the only son of Lemuel and Hannah Pearl Wheeler, and was born February 5, 1807, at Hampton, Windham Co., Conn., where he lived until he was twelve years of age. His family then removed to Red Hook, Dutchess Co., N.Y. where they remained until Elisha was about twenty years of age, when they again removed to Saugerties, Ulster Co. [, N.Y.] He went to the district school at Hampton, Conn., and finished

At Red Hook Academy, which was thorough as far as it went. He had a good command of language, wrote well and to the point, and was a very accurate accountant.

At Saugerties he was engaged for a few years in a rolling mill and furnace located there.

At the age of twenty-three he went into the employ of Charles Sanford, who married his sister, and was in the stove and tin business at Rhinebeck. He remained in the employ of his brother-in-law in the same business at Rhinebeck and Catskill until 1830, when they came to Orange County as partners in the same business at Montgomery. The firm was Sanford & Wheeler. For awhile, Mr. W. [Wheeler] managed a branch store at Walden, which was afterwards removed to Newburgh. They remained in business together—Mr. Wheeler at Montgomery and Mr. Sanford at Newburgh—until the latter [Mr. Sanford] died in 1832 2..

He then went into partnership with Jonah F. France, and built a furnace. The firm of Wheeler & France was engaged in the business of making castings, stoves, &c.3., and in the tin trade, until 1842, when they sold out. Mr. Wheeler

In the spring of 1843. He commenced in business here with Jonah F. France, Edward M. Madden, and Joseph Lemon. Mr. Madden had been an apprentice with Wheeler & France in Montgomery, and had been in the tin business in Middletown from 1840.  Mr. Lemon had been their foreman at Montgomery, and came to Middletown in the fall of 1843, and erected for the buildings for the Osage County Furnace. The new firm started in the spring of 1843, under the firm name of Wheeler, France & Co., in the tin business, with a store on North Street. The foundry business gave Mr. Wheeler his first favored start in Middletown. He was connected with it as a part owner until 1854, when he sold out and it was in other hands until 1863, when he became and has since been its sole owner.
Since 1853 he has been connected with many of the principal manufacturing enterprises which have given Middletown its chief growth and prominence. In the year mentioned [1853] the “Monhagen Saw Works” were started, of which he was one of the original owners. The firm was first Wheeler, Madden & Bakewell, and afterwards, in 1860, Wheeler, Madden & Clemson. The factory was one of the first in the country, and it is now one of the largest [1876]. Its business increased so that in 1862 the firm started the Monhagen Steel Works and Rolling Mills, under the firm name of E. M. Madden & Co., for the manufacture of their own steel. In 1863 the firm became largely interested in the Eagle File Works. The firm name was Wheeler, Clemson & Co. In 1866-7 Wheeler, Madden, & Clemson, with others, started the Middletown Forged Horse Nail Works. A few years ago, the firm became a stock company, under the incorporated title of The Wheeler, Madden & Clemson Manufacturing Company, and Mr. Wheeler was its President.

In 1866, Mr. Wheeler began to make connections with new
RAILROAD ENTERPRISES                                                                                                        

which promised to be beneficial to Middletown, and not unprofitable to those who should engage.

He has been a director of the Middletown & Unionville Railroad since its organization, and its President till 1875, He broke ground for that enterprise, throwing the first shovelful of dirt in 1866. He was among the earliest of those who were enlisted in the Midland Railroad enterprise, and drove the last spike at its completion. Unfortunately he was among the most severely punished of its victims. He was an original director and the First Vice-President of the New York & Oswego Midland from 1868 until 1872. He was a director of the N. [New] J. [Jersey]  Midland [Railroad] from its organization in 1870 till 1874. He was also an original Director of the Middletown & Crawford Railroad in 1870.
He has been from the first a Director of the M. U. & W. G. Telegraph Co, also of the Middletown and Wurtsboro Turnpike Co. He was also Director of its of predecessor, the Middletown & Bloomingburgh Plank Road Co., and of the Middletown & Unionville Plank Road Co.

He was a Trustee of the Middletown Gas Light Co., and of the Orange Co. Milk Association. He was one of the originators and first life members of the Middletown Lyceum. He was a Director the Middletown Bank from 1850 to 1857. He was one of the originators of the Wallkill Bank, and its first President for a few years, and a director until it closed. He was a member of the Board of Trustees in the year 1868, and has been a member of the Board of Education every year except one since 1867. He was its first President.
He was largely influential in getting the N. Y. State Homeopathic Insane Asylum located here. He gave $2,000 towards it, and was one of the Trustees from the first until by act of the legislature last winter [December-February 1875-1876] reducing the membership of the Board, he was legislated out of office.

He was one of the originators of Grace Episcopal church [Church], and has been one of its chief supporters. He built the south transept 4. entirely at his own expense. He was a Warden 5. from the first to his death. Mr. Wheeler, E. M. Madden and William M. Graham erected in 1852, Gothic Hall, which the PRESS [Middletown Whig Press newspaper] now occupies [1876].  It was then the first hall for public assemblages except the churches in all Middletown. Mr. Wheeler was one of ten citizens who assisted Mr. John W. Hasbrouck to establish the WHIG PRESS [newspaper], which was the predecessor of the ORANGE COUNTRY PRESS [newspaper] and MIDDLETOWN DAILY PRESS [newspaper].
He became an Odd Fellow at Newburgh while living at Montgomery, and a Mason shortly after the re-organization of Hoffman Lodge, No. 412 F. A. M. [Free & Accepted Masons] of this village. He was a member of Midland Chapter, No. 240 R. A. M. [Royal Arch Masons] of this place. He will probably be buried with Masonic honors.

As trustee, guardian and executor of the estates of deceased persons, probably more trusts were confided to him than to any other man in Middleton, and every trust was discharged with the utmost fidelity.
The last few years of his life were clouded by anxieties and troubles, brought upon him by the acts of those in whom he trusted.

He was also subjected to several trials in the loss of his property, which was the result of his connection with the Midland railroad and the Nes Silicon Steel Co. These he bore manfully, and the transfer of his property was made with an honesty that in these times is as uncommon as it is remarkable.

Mr. Wheeler was a man of simple, correct habits, frugal ways of living, unostentatious manners, and lived a pure life. In him the poor of Middletown had a friend, generous and liberal to a fault.
There are all sorts of rumors as regards the amount of insurance on his life, but as this is a matter which concerns his own family alone, we deem it best to ignore these rumors, simply adding that Mrs. W. [Wheeler] will have sufficient to make her comfortable.

In this hurried sketch we can hardily [hardly] hope to do his memory justice, but it certainly speaks well for him that they who knew him best loved and trusted most. He had his peculiarities, (and who of us have not?) but dishonesty was not one of them, as the last two years of his life abundantly testify. We have it from the lips of one who has been with him from boyhood and who has enjoyed his confidence fully, that when he saw the accumulations of a life time melting away—mainly through the machinations 6. of others—he had no words of reproach for any save himself, and freely surrendered all his property, even including his furniture, for the benefit of his creditors, and in these days when almost every hour is bringing to light some new corruption, it is gratifying to be able to write of one whom we have so long known he was an honest man.


Members of Hoffman Lodge are requested to meet at their rooms on Monday at 1 P.M. to attend the funeral of their late brother E. [Elisha] P. [Pearl] Wheeler.
By Order of the W. M. [Worthy Master]



Adjourned Meeting.
FRIDAY EVENING, March 31. [1876]—Board met at 7:30 pursuant 7. to adjournment. All present. President Pronk in the chair. The minutes of last meeting were read and approved….

…The Board were engaged on the list of appropriations to be asked for this year, when word was received of the demise of Mr. Elisha P. Wheeler, formerly a member and ex-President of the Board, and President Pronk communicated the sad intelligence in a few appropriate and feeling remarks. It was then moved by Mr. Clark that a committee of three be appointed to report such action as they shall deem fitting for this Board to adopt. The President and Messers [Misters] Clark and Royce were named as the Committee.
Out of respect to the memory of the deceased, the Board then adjourned to this evening at 7:30 o’clock.

Mr. Wheeler’s Death—Reopening of Schools Deferred.
As a mark of respect the memory of Hon. E. P. Wheeler, a member of the Board of Education, its first President, and always an earnest friend of our schools, the re-opening of the public schools of Middletown will be deferred until Tuesday next, April 4th [1876].

The teachers are requested to attend the funeral in a body.
H. R. SANFORD, Supt., Middletown,
April 1, 1876



1. Historical meaning of apoplexy. From the late 14th to the late 19th century, the word "apoplexy" was also used to describe any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one in which the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. The word "apoplexy" may have been used to describe the symptom of sudden loss of consciousness immediately preceding death and not a verified disease process.
2. 1832 is not the correct date of Charles Sanford according to “The Old Town Burying Ground in Newburgh, Orange County, New York” 1898 website: “Old Town Cemetery List” “Old Town Cemetery Home”.  Note: It is easiest to read the Online Version.

 3. &c. is a dated meaning of etc. and et cetera  or etcetera means “and other things” according to Wickipedia

 4. A transept (with 2 semitransepts) is a transverse section, of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In Christian churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform ("cross-shaped") building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture.

5. Warden: A lay officer in the Anglican Church chosen annually by the vicar or the congregation to handle the secular and legal affairs of the parish.

mach·i·na·tion noun \ˌma-kə-ˈnā-shən, ˌma-shə-\
Definition of machination 2: a scheming or crafty action or artful design intended to accomplish some usually evil end.

Meaning of pursuant: after or following.



Elisha Pearl Wheeler was buried at Hillside Cemetery, Middletown, New York.

Survivors of Elisha Pearl Wheeler included:

Phebe Sears Wheeler (1813-1878), his wife of the home

Emeline Wheeler Mosher (1835-1900), daughter, born in Walden, Orange County, NY who married Henry Smith Mosher (1825-1902) They had six children, five sons and one daughter. Five of the children survived their grandfather. The first son named Elisha Pearl Wheeler Mosher (1855-1860) died at the age of 4 ½.

James Wheeler (1836-1893), son, born in Montgomery, Orange County, NY who married Sarah LaRose (1839-1885), born in Riverhead, Suffolk County, NY. James graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and became an attorney in New York City. His family lived in Newtown, Astoria, Queens, New York by 1870 and moved to San Francisco, California by the 1880s. Wife Sarah died in 1885 in San Francisco and husband James died in 1893 in San Francisco. Both bodies were transported by rail to Middletown, New York where they were buried at Hillside Cemetery.

James and Sarah Wheeler had two children, one son and one daughter who survived their grandfather.

Son Bradford (1863-1930) was born in New York, New York and died in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona. Bradford married Ruth E. Byrkett (1894-1980), born in Boone, Indiana and died in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona. Bradford was a civil engineer and worked for railroad companies. Ruth was a teacher in Arizona.
Daughter Pauline (1864-1940) was born in New York, New York and died in Napa, Napa County, California where she was buried. She married William Walter Robbins (1859-1918), born in Huntington, Suffolk County, New York, and died in Babylon, Suffolk County, New York. He is buried at the Babylon Rural Cemetery. In 1887 they married in San Francisco, California and had one son, William Augustus Robbins (1888-1948), my husband’s father. Pauline also had a daughter Ida Pauline Lockwood (1898-1981), born in San Francisco, California and died in San Mateo, California.

Hannah Wheeler (1839-), daughter, born in Orange County and married Charles H. Horton (1832-). They had one son Gabriel W. Horton (1859-), born in Wallkill, Orange County, New York.

Lemuel Wheeler (1841-1873), son passed away before his father passed away in 1876. He married Louise O. Rush (1840-) and they had two sons, Elisha Pearl Wheeler (1862-1865), born in Middletown, New York and William B. Wheeler (1866-), born in Middletown, New York.

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