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Biography of William Henry Decker, Pennsylvania

Portrait and biographical record of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania (1897)

[Retrieved 1/18/2010, link sent courtesy of Carolyn Jones Linchuk]


WILLIAM HENRY DECKER, a lifelong resident of Lackawanna County, with residence and place of business at No. 311 North Hyde Park Avenue, Scranton, was born in what is now Priceburg, in the borough of Dickson City, Pa., January 14, 1836. He is of direct Holland-Dutch descent, his great-grand-father, Nicholas Decker, having immigrated to this country from Amsterdam and settled at Copake, N.Y., shortly afterward with three of his sons participating in the War of 1812. One of these sons, Gideon, was killed in the gunpowder plot; another, George, was a commissioned officer and was always called "colonel;" and the
third, Abraham, was our subject's grandfather.  The last-named married the daughter of William
Moore, of German descent, and in 1821 settled in Pittston Township, Luzerne County, Pa., where
he purchased and improved a farm. In advanced years he came to Hyde Park and here died.

The father of our subject, George, was born near Hillsdale, on the Hudson River, in New York, May 25, 1814, and in 1821 accompanied his parents to Pennsylvania. At the age of eighteen he was apprenticed to D. Brown, of Priceburg, with whom he learned the blacksmith's trade. For a time he had a shop there, then removed to what is now Jermyn and engaged in business there for four years. April 1, 1839, he settled in
Hyde Park before the Lackawanna Iron & Coal Company's furnace was started. His first shop was in what is now North Main Avenue, but later he was on South Main Avenue for a year, returning thence to his former place. In 1849 he built in Main Avenue and in 1856 put up a shop in Lafayette Street, where he continued in
business until he retired. At different times he was school and poor director in Hyde Park and was also a member of the old borough council. In June, 1857, he joined Capouse Lodge, I.O.O.F., and later became identified with the encampment. Politically he has always been a Democrat. Notwithstanding his advanced age, he is quite strong, retaining to a large degree the possession of his physical and mental activities.

Catherine Snyder, mother of our subject, was born in Columbia County, N.Y., and died in July, 1891, at the age of seventy-five. She was of German descent and a daughter of John I. Snyder, who served in the War of 1812, came to Pennsylvania about 1831 and settled at Blakely, where he engaged in farming until his
death at eighty-one years. Eleven children were born to George and Catherine Decker, of whom the following attained mature years: William Henry; Catherine, Mrs. Evan S. Jones, of Scranton ; Martin M., a blacksmith in this city; Harriet, Mrs. A. P. Vining, of Broome County, N. Y.; Mary, Mrs. Henry Earley, who died in Scranton; Mrs. Eliza Goble, who died in this city; George W., an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western road; and Ella, widow of Thomas Tague, of Scranton.

When our subject was a boy there were only a few houses in Hyde Park and very little business was done. Teaming was extensive, as everything was hauled by wagon from Kingston to Carbondale. For a time he attended school in a building occupying the present site of the Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church, and this building still stands, having been removed to another place and remodeled for a residence. From boyhood he was accustomed to assist his father in the blacksmith shop and early gained a thorough knowledge of the business. He still has, as a prized possession, the first anvil his father used on going into business for himself. In July, 1851, he became connected with the business and five years later was made his father's partner, continuing in that connection until 1868, when he gave his interest to a brother. For two years he was connected with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western road. In January, 1886, he built his present place at No. 311 North Hyde Park Avenue and is the principal horse-shoer in this locality. He assisted in starting the first building and loan association in Hyde Park and in other ways has promoted local enterprises.

In Brewerton, N. Y., February 16, 1856, Mr. Decker was united in marriage with Miss Fannie Shafer, who was born in Rome, that state. Her father, David Shafer, M. D., was born in Dutchess County, and engaged in practice in Syracuse, N. Y., but finally retired from the profession and came to Scranton, where he died.
Mr. and Mrs. Decker are the parents of four children: Frank L., who is with the New Jersey Central Railroad; Charles, who died at the age of twenty-eight; Addie, Mrs. B. E. Clark, of this city; and W. H., Jr., who assists his father in the shop. In March, 1866, Mr. Decker was made a member of the council of Hyde Park borough.
In June of the same year Scranton was incorporated as a city, but by act of legislature the borough was continued. In 1872 he was made secretary of the council, and continued to serve in that capacity until December, 1896, when it ceased to exist. Fraternally he is connected with Hiram Lodge, F. & A. M., and was a member of Capouse Lodge, I. O. O. F., until 1880, when it surrendered its charter. This lodge he represented in the grand lodge in 1864-65, and he was also a member of the encampment. Reared in the Democratic faith, he voted that ticket many years, but for some time has been independent in politics; at recent presidential elections, instead of supporting Grover Cleveland, he voted the Prohibition ticket. He assisted in the organization of the Franklin Hose Company. One of the most remarkable characteristics of Mr. Decker is his
memory, which is extraordinary, enabling him to recall events long past with an accuracy and minuteness of detail seldom found. Owing to the fact that he has lived in this locality for so many years, this trait makes him an especially interesting companion for one who is desirous of learning the early history of the city.

January 18, 2010