[Retrieved 1/18/2010, link sent courtesy of Carolyn Jones
PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD.
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,
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.