03 June 2006
Man of Parts
CLARENCE JACOB REDDIG, A.M., M.A., was one of the leading merchants and
substantial men of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. He was born on November 4, 1855, in
that city, and he made it his home until his death. He was the son of Jeremiah
Burr Reddig, and came from what the book describes as an old and honorable
My guys were beating me up on the trip to Philly to watch the NCAA Men's
lacrosse finals. It was appropriate that the venue was the City of Brotherly Love,
since they were not only brothers, but the city played a key role in how this
family came to America.
It goes back a way, but Philly was the gateway to Bucks County, and the
fertile land to the west.
The Boys are both Reddigs, and will be to their death, though we are all an
amalgam of everything that has gone before. They are tall and fair, and
incorporate the German lineage of their Mother with my own, which is Irish and
German, English and Scot. They cited the origin of the Reddig name, which they
interpret as the occupation of radish-farmer.
They laughed at themselves, imaging themselves to be the descendents of
humble farmers. They liked some of the other family names better, ones that implied
marshal lines, or persecution. This is what I know from other sources, and
from the document my mother sent me:
Henry Reddig, of German descent is cited as the touchstone of the family in
America. He was born May 1, 1779, in Meyerstown. Berks County, Pa., and married
a woman named Julia Reindehl, of Lebanon, Pa., on June 7, 1804. Later in
life, Henry Reddig moved to the vicinity of Middle Spring, Cumberland County, Pa.,
and passed away there on January 22, 1855.
Jeremiah Burr Reddig was the son of Henry, was born at his father's
homestead, near Middle Spring, Oct. 28. 1825. When but a boy of fourteen, on March 1,
1840, he made his way to Shippensburg with his brother Jacob, and by
persistence, obtained a position in a dry goods store. For some years the lad worked
along this 1ine and then in January, 1851, he with his brother Jacob, was offered
a partnership in dry goods establishment at the north-east corner of Mail and
Railroad streets, owned by Major David Nevin.
This offer was accepted, and the firm of Nevin & Reddig was organized, in
1857 the brothers bought the interest of Mr. Joseph Nevin as well as the real
estate upon which the store was located.
The style of the firm was changed to J. & J. B. Reddig, and the Reddig name
continued in the dry goods business at the same location for more than half a
century. In 1888, the brothers transferred their interests to the four sons
of J. Burr Reddig, whose hand had safely guided the house through many a
financial storm, and the firm adopted the name of The Reddig Company.
On Jan. 30, 1849. Mr. Reddig married Barbara Ann Heck, daughter of John and
Lydia (Cressler) Heck, who died Jan. 29, 1890. Four sons were born of this
marriage: William E.; Clarence J.; Albert B.; and Charles H. Reddig.
The referee of this account is from the line of his brother, William E., and
that is how this account came to be. It was a Saturday, busy with other
things. There was the race/walk against breast cancer in the morning, and the
dry-cleaning, and the gas station and the Class Six Store, and the commissary and a
hair cut, all the stubborn issues postponed from travel.
Late in the afternoon, after a nap, I was walking down to get the mail, and
there was a manila envelope from my mother. In it was a photocopy of a
document, cobbled together from the obituaries of the local press, and published in a
vanity book from the turn of the century.
I walked down to the unit at poolside, and scanned it in OCR format, and then
edited out the errata that comes with transitioning from paper to digital
format, checking spellings and deleting phantom formatting.
When I finally began to read it, I realized it didn't make any sense. It was
muddled, a compilation of obituaries and biographies that showed Clarence
still alive, and his children still in school. The obituary was wrong, as well,
some other family member, perhaps. The article put him in the ground in 1899; a
check of the family books revealed his death as being 30 July, 1913, when
things were in the process of going south in the family fortunes.
I had to reorganize it so that it followed the life story. The business had
to go with the business, and the political needed to be shredded out. This was
the collision of an old German family with the offspring of a rock-ribbed
English family that may have opposed the Revolution, and some hardy Scotsmen that
You can sense the airbrushing. There is no word about what the Reddig boys
did in the aftermath of the Great Chicago fire, which I heard at the town museum
years ago, nor why my Great Uncle Walter owned pocket pistols, Colt .32
caliber, hammerless, so they would not snag on the clothing. Nor the pool hall
enterprise that he started on the premises of what had been the resolutely refined
Reddig Busy Corner.
Ye Smoke Shop is what Walter called the place at the corner of Railroad and
Main, or Earl and King as the streets were renamed. Walter had a pool table in
the back and showed the new-fangled Nickelodeon at a modest profit.
Or loss, as it turned out. Walter never was cut out to be the lead man on
commerce, and one of his biggest breaks came when Uncle Jim Clendenin passed away
in Philadelphia. He had made it big in the insurance business, associated
with The Travelers, and his estate was probated at $40,000 cash, of which Walter
got a cut.
He also had the flexibility, based on his own affairs, to assume management
of the Clendenin estate, and the servants, pending liquidation.
I heard about at one of the funerals, for that matter. But the interesting
things are not what survive, I suppose, and that is all to the good.
In this batch of material, there is no mention of the War Between the States,
nor the Confederate raid on the town. Great Grandfather was sent up to the
attic of the family house and he looked down to see the Rebels stealing all the
Reddig horses from the stable on the alley.
The Rebels looted the store, too, and what they could not take away they
spoiled “water and other liquids.” That resulted in a long-running claim between
the family and the United States, for replacement of stores “spoiled by liquid” from the Confederates. Jeremiah would have been too old, and the boys too
young. Serving in the War was what distinguished an era of politics in America,
just as World War Two did another, later.
In reading the biographies, I began to see that Clarence had a lot in common
with his brother, William, and that I needed to understand it if I was going
to understand the Grand Tour of 1903.
There were some critical parts that push back my understanding of where the
family came from, and our connection to the Revolution, and why Great
grandfather made the tour to begin with.
Clarence the Man
It is interesting to meet your ancestors. Great Great Uncle Clarence was
reportedly a man of genial disposition, courteous and pleasing in manner. He was
industrious, persevering, ambitious, and capable of carrying out his designs.
His executive ability and keen business judgment were phenomenal, and yet in
all his transactions he was conservative and strictly honorable. The house he
built was of such lavish proportion as to be “scarcely second to any in the
When last I saw it, it had been divided into three apartments, with an added
staircase on the rear. It was still an impressive building, and I recall some
of our generation considered buying it, and restoring it to its former glory.
Clarence was educated in the public schools of Shippensburg, graduating as
valedictorian of the high school class of 1871, and at the age of eighteen years
entered the freshman class of Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg, Pa., in
September, 1873, with a view to preparing for a professional career.
That institution is now known as Gettysburg College, and is a prestigious
small liberal arts college. When Clarence arrived on campus, it had been ten
years since the occupation by General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Federal
troops had occupied the cupola of the Hall as an observation post when the Rebels
arrived, pushing the Union forces out of town to the south.
College dorm rooms were used to billet the wounded. The Hall itself had been
used as a field hospital, and hundreds of wounded were left behind when Lee
withdrew after the three day struggle was completed.
After three years of faithful study, with extra work in fraternity and
literary societies, his health failed, and he was compelled to relinquish the
completing of his college course, and his cherished plans for a credentialed
After a year's recuperation, he decided to enter the mercantile business and
enrolled for a full course at Eastman's Business College at Poughkeepsie, New
York. He received the degree of Master of Accounts in 1877.
Properly equipped for business, he returned to Shippensburg and established
The People's Cash Store in 1878. He operated the concern at a profit for eight
years, until 1886. After a series of negotiations, the family enterprises
merged, and the business houses of J. and J. B. Reddig and the Peoples Cash Store
were united to become the firm of J. and J.B. Reddig & Sons.
Clarence remained identified with the company for the rest of his life, and
in 1894, he became owner of the original Nevin-Reddig real estate, which
included the store property, the Reddig corner property where the post office is now
located, and the Reddig mansion at 17 North Earle Street.
It is said that the Government inadvertently built the Post Office a few
inches across the property line, and Clarence and William watched the construction
with satisfaction. When complete, they informed the Postmaster that
henceforth, the Government would owe him $4 a month as rent for the left wall of the
He was a man of commerce.
In his later years, Clarence was secretary of the Shippensburg Manufacturing
Company, of which he was a charter member, from1889 to 1891. In 1890, he
organized the Shippensburg Electric Light Company, and was treasurer of the same
from its organization until 1896.
Clarence was a regent of the Shippensburg Council, No. 995, Royal Arcanum,
and did much to make his council one of strength and influence.
Moving with the Spirit
Not only was he a shrewd businessman, but Clarence was infused with the
evangelical spirit of that was sweeping the world. He joined the Evangelical
Lutheran Church, Jan. 22, 1871, and for over thirty years was a very liberal
contributor, and for twenty-five years was an earnest Sunday School worker. For ten
years, from 1878 to 1887, he took an active part in County and State Sunday
He contributed generously toward the erection of the handsome Memorial
Lutheran Church, and his contributions were made in both time and money, the former
being as valuable as the latter.
As an organizer of superior ability, and served in a variety of posts in the
Church. He was recording secretary for five years; statistical secretary four
years; president for one year of the Cumberland County Sunday School
Association; for three years a member of the Pennsylvania State Executive Committee and
president of the Fourth District of the State.
He was one of the first advocates of the Chautauqua idea in connection with
the County Sunday School Convention, which developed into the Cumberland Valley
Sunday School Assembly.
He was an early advocate of the Chautauqua movement, which was born in 1874,
at a rural setting of that name in upstate New York. It was a phenomenon of
the growing American middle class, and served to set apart a golden mean between
the poor and lavish wealth of the Gilded Age.
The Idea featured lectures and discussion as a means to take spiritual,
educational and cultural lessons from their encampments back to their everyday
While it began as a Methodist program centered on the pedagogical concerns of
Sunday school teachers, the program expanded to include secular education and
entertainment as well.
Clarence adopted the Idea with vigor, and the family joined in his
enthusiasm. He was Chairman of the Building Committee of the church, while his brother
Jacob was treasurer of the Committee.
The four-dial tower dock was the gift of Jacob and J. B. Reddig, while Mr.
Jacob Reddig bestowed upon the church the magnificent pipe organ of twenty-seven
pipes, built by the Odell firm of New York. For thirty years, Clarence was a
teacher in the Sunday School, and for many years was secretary of the church
Marrying the Mansfields
On Oct. 17, 1882, Mr. Reddig was married to Eva Dolores Mansfield, only child
of Albert and Harriet (Munson) Mansfield, both of English origin, the father
being superintendent of the Mt. Holly Paper Mills at Mt. Holly Springs,
Pennsylvania for forty years. On the mother's side, Mrs. Reddig was descended from
Revolutionary stock, her great-grandfather having served in the Revolutionary
Eva's ancestry can be traced back to Thomas Munson, and Englishman who in
1638 was one of the first settlers of New Haven, Connecticut
Eva was described as a lady of great refinement and in her time took an
active part in social affairs.
She was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the world's Fair Committee from
Clarence and Eva had two children, Eva Pearl, born June 7, 1885, who attended
Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., and Clarence Mansfield, born June 3, 1892,
who attended the Cumberland Valley State Normal School. To avoid confusion, he
went by his middle name, and became a Colonel in the Army Medical Corps.
The Body Politic
In politics, Clarence was a Republican, and took an active part in the
campaigns, supporting Garfield and Blaine, and was a friend of Harrison, all three
of whom signed autograph letters to him.
He joined the independent Republican movement in 1884, engaged in the local
option contest of the same year, and in 1886 supported Hon. Charles S. Wolf,
the Prohibition candidate for Governor, and was secretary of the State
Prohibition Committee for four years, 1886 to 1889.
By reason of his wide knowledge of public men and his practical business and
political ideas, he was selected as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Non-Partisan
amendment committee in 1889, with headquarters in Philadelphia, which
position he fitted with great efficiency, and he was regarded as a "most systematic
secretary combining discretion and judgment with zeal for the cause of
It is common these days to view the prohibitionists as wild-eyed devotees of
Carrie Nation, swinging hatchets at whiskey barrels. Certainly there was that
theatrical approach to the problem of the Saloon as the center of public life
for the lower classes. But the movement drew strength from the Chautauqua
movement, which likewise enforced temperance at its encampments.
Public-spirited, aggressive and progressive, Clarence was described as “a
practical citizen and businessman.”
Amid a busy mercantile life. he found time to keep in touch with the leading
events of the day, and daily took time for reading and study. He was a
careful, judicious reader, a clear thinker, a man of logic and a good public speaker.
Although he never held a public office, he was trustee of the State Normal
School of Shippensburg.
A Man of Parts
Someone left this life on March 31, 1899, according to the book. But it was
not Clarence. He lived on until the year before the Great War began, and was
interred in the family plot at the Spring Hill Cemetery on North Morris Street.
It was 30 July, 1913.
The obituaries were fulsome in their praise for his life, and his
contributions to the city. The family was praised for its mercantile affairs, which had
made an indelible mark upon Shippensburg for a half century.
With a business experience built upon the principles of integrity and
honesty, inculcated by an honored father and uncle, Clarence held “a high place in
the favor and confidence of the public, and with his progressive, energetic and
systematic dealings,” he well merited his success.
That is what they said at the time. An old clipping says that the Reddigs
left Shippensburg for good in 1920, and my Great Grandfather took his last “good
night's rest” in Middletown, Pa., on march 10, 1926
Of course, they all came home in time. The family plot is there, on North
Morris, surrounding the monument to the New Testament virtue of hope. She leans
against an anchor in this land-locked city. The plot is now almost full; I
have checked the deed for plots 421-432, amounting to 1400 square feet in all.
The family store is there, still, though where the Busy Corner stood became a
bank, for a time. There is still commerce old Reddig store appears to be a
thrift store featuring consignments.
The railroad tracks still run down King Street, though no trains pass there,
and the mansion is divided into apartments, though it still presents a proud
façade to the street.
Copyright 2006 Vic Socotra