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Anna Lydia Miller

Recently, I found the 1900 will of Brigitta Miller, widow of Jared Miller. Among other things in the will, I discovered that she disowned her daughter Anna Lydia (Annie, in my on-line file at present) and wondered why. What I discovered is a wild tale. Anna Lydia was actually born August 9, 1859, a year before my great grandmother, Seline, her sister. Somehow Anna Lydia managed to hook up with William Morris Griscom, born October 14, 1823 in Oxford, Chester County, Pa. His father, Samuel Griscom was a very successful civil engineer with the Schuylkill Canal system. William went into the hardware business with his 2 brother-in-laws from his first marriage to Ellen Harbster in May of 1847. They had one child, Anna Ellen, born the same year, in December. The mother, Ellen, died in 1864. William must have had money already, because he provided the financial backing for the company, which became the very successful Reading Hardware Company.

In 1882 he married Anna Lydia Miller in Zurich, Switzerland. She was 23, he was 59! I have no idea how they met, unless through his daughter, Anna Ellen. They spent the next 25 years living in Berlin, Germany, while he represented the company overseas as Vice-President. He traveled back and forth some 10 times, but I am not sure if Anna Lydia ever accompanied him. They had 6 children together. The business covered some 5 acres in Reading, and employed over 1,000-1,500 people. Volume for some years was over $1,000,00, at in those days. The family returned in 1907, where they bought a "lovely home" in Bryn Mawr, which he "gifted" to Anna Lydia. The home needed a few "renovations," to the tune of over $22,800! This was at a time when everyone else was making 22 cents an hour, or about $200-$400 per year! Griscom died about 1915 and Anna Lydia after March of 1937 (still researching the dates). She sold an apartment building ("The Griscom Building") in Reading at that time for $150,000.

Meanwhile, Brigitta died in 1900, and the house had to be sold at auction, to pay off debts and taxes. By the way, one of the executors, Henry L. Wickel, an Alderman in Reading, made some $200 in claims on the estate, but these were overturned, as there had not been any written contract for services, which included retrieving (which he actually did not) an old 1894 will. (He even claimed $4 to make two cemetery trips by horse to check on the vaulting, but the grave was filled in by that time, with nothing to be seen!) The file has some 83 pages, much of it court related, and rather ugly by the standards of that day, I would think. I believe the house fetched somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000, but I have not been able to locate the final sale in the "Reading Eagle." It was pulled back from sale once, because it did not fetch enough money. The estate was finally settled in 1903. Seline's (my great grandmother) share of the estate was $253.02!

I never knew about Anna Lydia, even though my mother's uncle must have known this story. I suppose the whole family was bitter that she had married someone so much older and not "shared" any of the wealth, but, then, it was not hers to share. Also, I believe that Griscom was a Quaker, and Anna Lydia was raised Lutheran. Another divide there. You never know wwhat you will find "in the closet!"

By the way, William Morris Griscom is most likely a distant cousin of Elizabeth Griscom Ross, aka "Betsy" Ross, of flag making fame. And his ancestors had a home in Philadelphia, across from William Penn. The home was the first brick house in Philadelphia. Samuel Everett Griscom, his brother was extremely successful, too, in the mining business in Schuylkill County and beyond. Both appear in the vanity biographies of the day.

Also, I will be changing "Brigitta" to Bregetta" at some point, probably this summer, as that is the way she signed her will, and have seen it spelled that way more often that any other way.

My comment in my file: "Money, lack of it, or too much of it, can divide families..."

Owner of originalLynn K Blenderman
Linked toAnnie Lydia Miller

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