History – The Heiss Family

Peter Heiss and Catherine Williams were married September 2, 1848 in Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Peter, a minister moved his family from Dauphin County to Luzerne County, then to Clinton County and finally to Union County. In 1855, they purchased a 141-acre farm in Forest Hill (West Buffalo Township, Union County). Peter and Catherine had three children, Lizzie (S. Elizabeth) born in 1851, Edward, born in 1857 and died in 1858 and William, born October 23, 1860.

When Peter died in 1871, Catherine purchased a modest home on Green Street in Mifflinburg and sold the farm. To make ends meet, Catherine and Lizzie took in boarders, while William apprenticed with John Rishel, a buggy maker.

In 1883, William opened his own buggy shop, employing his sister and perhaps his mother. William married Anna Smith, daughter of the Reverend Samuel Smith and Helen Zeibach Smith on September 9, 1886. Anna joined the family buggy making business as a trimmer or seamstress. Their oldest son Norman was born in 1888, followed by Harry in 1892. Catherine Heiss passed away in 1897, after which Lizzie married Edward Morrison, a blacksmith for another buggy manufactory. They lived in the house on the factory property. Lizzie died in 1932, Edward in 1935.

In addition to making and selling new buggies, William also rented buggies. He also tried renting bicycles and motorcycles. After the turn of the century, when his buggy business declined, William began selling Valentine’s paints and varnishes, “Can’t Sag” fence gates, McCormick reapers, and Yeager & Hunter stoves. He also made and repaired furniture, produced and sold honey and sold lumber, baling twine and oil. Anna was also adding to the family’s revenues by acting as a midwife in the neighborhood, selling women’s hygiene products and taking in boarders.

Following World War I, both Norman and Harry married local girls – Norman married Verna Koch whose family owned a farm in West Buffalo Township and Harry married Vida Mook Catherman. Norman continued to live with his parents, farming his own land and working in town. In 1931, William passed away. Anna remained in her house on Green Street, taking in boarders to make ends meet. Norman, and later his son, Owen lived with her. Anna passed away in 1946. At that time, Norman moved to his wife’s family farm, closing the western portion of the house. The eastern portion was rented until 1955, and then it too was closed. Norman Heiss passed away in 1984.


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