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William Joseph Dietrich, Sr
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Birth: May 12, 1875
Hamburg
Berks County
Pennsylvania, USA
Death: Nov. 25, 1950
Allentown
Lehigh County
Pennsylvania, USA

William J. Dietrich was my great-grandfather; though he is not part of my family's biological line, he married my great-grandmother Susan after they both had had children in their first marriages. Susan thus brought her daughter, my grandma Fay into their blended family, while he brought four children himself.

I had no idea how tragic his family was until I found more obituaries for them in 2010. They speak of joyous incidents juxtaposed with terrible ones. Mr. Dietrich was just over a year old when his father died. He lost his mother about 2 weeks after he got married when she died on her way to a tea party. His first wife died a week after giving birth to their last child. He himself died at Thanksgiving in a horrific accident during a storm.

Bio written by William J. Dietrich himself, appearing in "History of Lehigh County" of which he was one of the authors:

"William Joseph Dietrich, the third son of William J. and Susanna F. (Seaman) Dietrich, was born May 12, 1875; was educated in the public schools, graduated from Keystone State Normal School, Kutztown, Pa. in 1898; taught school in Tilden and Cumru townships, Berks County, and in the city of Reading; and since April, 1906, is engaged in historical and genealogical research, having assisted in compiling the histories of Berks, Northumberland and Lehigh Counties. He has contributed papers to a number of historical societies, magazines and newspapers. In 1914, he edited and compiled the Dietrich Families in America, which includes the records of years of research, both in this country and abroad. Mr. Dietrich has membership in a number of county historical societies, the Pennsylvania German Society, and the National Geographic Society. He is a member of the Masonic Fraternity and the Odd Fellows. He and family are members of the United Evangelical church and Sunday school. William J. Dietrich was married on May 20, 1899, to Sarah M. Merkel, daughter of James K. and Sarah (Schuman) Merkel, of Reading, Pa. Unto them are born four children, as follows: Naomi Evangeline, Ruth Emily, William Joseph, and Esther Agnes. They reside at No. 242 North Sixth Street, Allentown."

This book was published in 1914. On March 16, 1915, William lost his first wife, Sarah. The story was poignant enough that though he lived in Allentown, the Philadelphia Inquirer carried this sad account:

Mother Loses in Race With Death
Special to the Inquirer

ALLENTOWN Pa., March 16 - Death won the race today when William J. Dietrich, author and publisher of a history of Lehigh County, arrived home a few minutes after his wife died. Mrs. Dietrich, who was 37 year sold, was the mother of four children, one a baby of seven days. Her husband was in Harrisburg when she became ill. He started home on the first train. It is a coincidence that Mrs. Dietrich, also a fourth child, was seven days old when her mother died, also at the age of 37.

What did not make sense to me is how a book published in 1914 could mention the last child, when that child, Esther, was born 1915. It turns out the above account is incorrect, in that Sarah Dietrich died after the birth of her fifth child, who also died. This information was clarified by one of William and Sarah's descendants in January of 2011, who added that mother and child were buried together.

It was not known to me where William's first wife, Sarah Merkel Dietrich was buried, but the same descendant was able to name the cemetery.

William's second marriage was to Susan Mabel (nee Schell) Meckley (who'd been abandoned by her first husband, Edward Aaron Meckley). Susan brought her daughter (my paternal grandma) Fay Schell Meckley into this marriage, and finished raising William's children.

He later had a daughter with Susan, who was named June Dietrich. Susan, June and her husband Walter Decker, William J Dietrich Jr and his wife Margaret are all in the same section of the cemetery.

Dietrich was a teacher, a lover of history, and contributing writer to books, doing bios and genealogies of various families. He also reportedly worked for Sherwin Williams paints, traveling around the PA countryside and offering farmers compensation if the farmer permitted his barn to be painted with a "Covers the Earth" Sherwin Williams advertisement. Later in life he also tried his hand at entrepreneurship, for a few years running his own construction company out of an office in his home. It is believed that during this period, he was called on by a fine young man, Gilbert Allen Romberger, of Romberger Cast Stone Company, who helped sell the products of his family's business. During one of these visits or as a result of them, young Gilbert met Dietrich's pretty young step-daughter, Fay, and thus probably began the relationship of Gilbert and Fay, who went on to marry and have three children, one of whom was my father.

Dietrich died from chest compression injuries when he was blown off a tin roof at home while trying to make repairs during a severe, history-making storm. My father was there and vividly recalled that terrible accident. The sad tale is recounted on my great-grandma Susan's page.

A more extensive bio of him is to be found in "Biographies from Historical and Biographical Annals" by Morton Montgomery. In it, I found the only clue of what he may have had in common with my great grandma, his second wife- a dislike of idleness:

William J. Dietrich, of Reading, is a representative and native citizen of Berks county, Pa. He was born at West Hamburg, Tilden township, May 12, 1875, son of William J. and Susanna F. (Seaman) Dietrich, both deceased. When he was five years old his mother moved to Hamburg, and in 1884 they moved to the home of his grandfather, Harry B. Dietrich, in Maxatawny township. From 1885 to 1894 he was hired to farmers in Maxatawny and Greenwich townships, and for one year (1891) he lived in Lynn township, Lehigh county. The young man even in those boyhood days showed the same conscientiousness in the performance of duty that has characterized all his latter years. In 1894 he worked in the lumber-mill at Ricketts, in Wyoming and Sullivan counties, Pa., and in seven months saved $112. Mr. Dietrich is a self-made man. The public schools afforded him his mental training, and he early showed a fondness for books, coupled with an investigating mind-a desire for thorough understanding of every subject that came within his sphere of observation. In the winter of 1894-1895 he last attended public school as a pupil, and in the spring of 1895 he entered the Keystone State Normal School, at Kutztown, with four teachers from Tilden township. In the examination that was required for their admission Mr. Dietrich made a high average. In the same spring he was also examined by the county superintendent, receiving a credible certificate, entitling him to teach in the public schools. In September, 1895, he went to Philadelphia, and remained until March, 1896, working during the holiday season for John Wanamaker, and afterwards in a wholesale dry goods house. On his return from Philadelphia he again entered the Normal School, at Kutztown, and continued there until June, 1898, when he graduated. The school board of Tilden township then tendered him the West Hamburg school at a salary of thirty dollars a month, for seven months, which he accepted. In the fall of 1899 he began teaching the Five Mile House school in Cumru township, at forty dollars a month, teaching this school one term, when the board offered him his preference of six schools in Mohnton, where he resided. He accepted the grammar school, and taught there three terms; and later, during 1905-06, he taught Yocom's school one term in the same township. He was original in many of his methods to interest the pupils, which won their attention, respect and good will. He considered order and discipline necessary for effective work, and few teachers in the county stood equally high with patrons and pupils. Mr. Dietrich also taught night school in Reading for a number of terms, winning commendation for the success of his efforts.

In October, 1904, Mr. Dietrich was appointed a clerk in the Philadelphia post-office, but this position he resigned in March of the following year because of family ties, his wife and children having continued at their home in Reading. Postmaster Clayton McMichael endeavored to dissuade Mr. Dietrich from resigning, saying that he "had a future in the government postal service," but he persisted, and during 1904-05 worked at life insurance in Reading and Berks county -- a business that he had followed to some extent in 1902. Mr. Dietrich is of a temperament that does not permit of idleness, and when he was engaged in teaching, as soon as the vacation season approached, he found something to engage his time and attention profitably. During the summer of 1900 he was engaged as a conductor on the trolley. During 1901 he represented a New York publishing house before school boards and succeeded in securing the adoption of their text-books in a number of school districts. Since the early spring of 1906 Mr. Dietrich has been in the employ of J. H. Beers & Co., publishers of Chicago, collecting much of the genealogical material used in their Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County, Pa. Mr. Dietrich has a valuable collection of coins, stamps and chinaware. He has a large acquaintance among professional men and those in public life, and has traveled the entire county by political districts a number of times. He is well read, and posted on public questions. His library of standard works has been carefully selected, and contains all the works on local history (Berks county) ever published. He is especially fond of history, and has collected much information pertaining to the county. He is a member of the Pennsylvania German Society; and of the Berks County Historical Society, and has contributed articles to both. In the latter his "Caves of Richmond and Perry Townships, Berks County," was published in permanent form and is preserved in the archives of the Society. In 1903 he organized along original lines the Dietrich Family Association, which held successful reunions in 1903, 1904 and 1906. He is also a member of the P. O. S. of A.; K. of P.; I. O. O. F.; and Chandler Lodge, No. 227, F. & A.M.; Excelsior Chapter, No. 236, R. A. M.; Reading Lodge of Perfection, fourteenth degree; and Reading Commandery, No. 42, K. T.

On May 20,1899, Mr. Dietrich married Miss Sallie M. Merkel, daughter of James K. Merkel, of Berne Station, Tilden township. To this union have been born three children: Naomi Evangeline, Ruth Emily, and William Joseph, Jr. The two daughters became members of the National Society of the Children of the American Revolution in 1909. Mr. Dietrich is much devoted to his family, all of whom are members of the United Evangelical Church, in which Mr. Dietrich has served as an official, and for some years has been tacher of the Men's Bible Class.
_____________________________

Cemetery records state Wm J Dietrich died of a crushed chest injury at the age of 75 yrs, 6 mos, 13 days. The Rev. Minster Rev Z L Cappel officiated, and Burkholder Funeral Home handled arrangements. Records state he was born in Hamburg near Kutztown on May 12 1875 and died Nov 25 1950, wife was Susan M Schell, father was Joseph Dietrich (sic, should be William Joseph Dietrich) and mother was Susan Seaman (sic, should be Susanna Seaman).

I have very bad copies of the front page of the newspaper where his death was reported, and must recopy them. His Allentown obituary is obtainable only at the library since it was published before their current online archives. It appeared on November 27 on page 9.
 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  William J Dietrich (1843 - 1876)
  Susanna Fox Seaman Dietrich (1844 - 1899)
 
 Spouses:
  Sarah Matilda Merkel Dietrich (1877 - 1915)
  Susan Mabel Schell Dietrich (1883 - 1974)*
 
 Children:
  Ruth E Dietrich Christman (1903 - 1992)*
  William J Dietrich (1905 - 1962)*
  Esther Agnes Dietrich Bachman (1910 - 1995)*
  June Dietrich Decker (1917 - 2007)*
 
 Siblings:
  Lizzie Catharine Dietrich (1868 - 1881)**
  Agnes V Dietrich Heintzleman (1870 - 1954)*
  Oscar Henry Dietrich (1872 - 1956)**
  William Joseph Dietrich (1875 - 1950)
 
*Calculated relationship
**Half-sibling
 
Burial:
Grandview Cemetery
Allentown
Lehigh County
Pennsylvania, USA
 
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Jun 21, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 14666326
William Joseph Dietrich, Sr
Added by: sr/ks
 
William Joseph Dietrich, Sr
Added by: sr/ks
 
William Joseph Dietrich, Sr
Added by: sr/ks
 
 
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- GeekyGraveGirl
 Added: Sep. 15, 2015
♫ Happy Birthday ♫
- Arleta💕
 Added: May. 12, 2015
A man I never knew...my Great Great Grandfather. My Grandfather, William Dietrich, married to my Grandmother, Margaret Harriet Peters Dietrich.
- Patti
 Added: Nov. 11, 2014
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