Pennsylvania Obituaries - 1894 - Captain Jacob Hay


The sudden death of Captain Jacob Hay Saturday afternoon, just at the close of the sale of the land of Mrs. Maria Hahn, cast a gloom over the entire community. Captain Hay was widely and popularly known, and the intelligence of his death was a great shock. His eldest son, Thomas A. H., was with him when the summons came and caught him in his arms as he sank towards the floor of the threshing floor on which they stood. Death came as Mr. Hay was in the midst of a remark. It was never finished and he did not appear to be conscious after he fell.

Jacob Hay was born April 25, 1829, along the Bushkill in Forks, in what is now known as Palmer Township. His paternal ancestors were of Scotch descent. His great-great-grandfather, Melchoir Hay, came here about 1738 and settled in what is now South Easton. Later he bought 300 acres of land at Dry Lands, about three miles west of Easton. There Jacob Hay spent his boyhood days. He came to Easton in 1845 and engaged in the service of Major Edward J. Seip, who was very prominent in politics and business. He served his employer faithfully for seven years and then started in business for himself in the building now occupied by Hartzell, the grocer. In 1857 he purchased the property now occupied by The Hay Boot and Shoe Co., at 339 Northampton street, where he continued the retail dry goods business until 1864, with temporary interruption during the war. In 1864 he changed to wholesale dry goods. In 1874 he removed his establishment to its present location in Hay's court. In 1878 he and C.M. Hapgood formed a partnership for the sale of boots and shoes at his former dry goods store. In 1889, when the firm of Hapgood, Hay & Co. Was dissolved, Mr. Hay and his two sons, Thomas A. H. Hay and William O. Hay, organized the Hay Boot and Shoe Co., of which, he has been the head continuously, as well as the head of the firm of J. Hay & Sons, wholesale dry goods. His business career extended over an uninterrupted spree of exactly 42 years, as his early records show that he started in business Nov. 17th, 1852, and he was, at both establishments, active in his advice and personal supervision of some of the details on the morning of his demise, which took place on Nov. 17th, 1894.

In his business career, he was well known in all the large cities by the largest manufacturers and commission merchants in both the dry goods and boot and shoe business, and his firms were well and favorably known by the merchants of thirty States of this Union. His genius for organizing was remarkable and the system that he devised for the conduct of his business was the pride of his friends and was copied by many now successful merchants, whom he had educated to business pursuits. His "Graduates", as he was wont to call his clerks, who afterwards started in business for themselves and achieved not only a competence, but in some cases even affluence, he always referred to with great pride. His reputation was a synonym for honor and probity, and every man knew that his word was as good as his bond and there was not the slightest suspicion of unfairness in any dealings that he ever had in his entire business career, reaching over almost half a century.

Although very often pressed to become director in financial and other institutions he invariable refused, giving as his reason for the same that he would be more successful working in the ranks than among the officers. For this reason he refused many offers also of a political nature. The only office for which he ever consented to run was for member of the Borough Council in the old Seventh Ward. It was then Democratic by over 100, and he was named by the Republicans to fill out their ticket without the slightest thought of success, but with the dash and energy for which he was noted, Mr. Hay determined to surprise his freiends and entered into the fight with vigor and won. This is the only political office he ever held, although repeatedly pressed to become the candidate on the Republican ticket for Council in the old Bushkill ward where a nomination was the equivalent of an election. At his death he was a director of the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Upper and Lower Saucon townships.

His war record, while not a very long one, is a very enviable one. He undertook to enlist in 1861, but was refused on account of imperfect eyesight. He thereupon gave himself to the active support of the government, became President of the Union League of Easton and aided the government in many ways known only to the faithful and loyal of those trying times; gave succor and relief to soldiers going to, and coming from the front, and in many other ways testified his devotion to the country in which he was born. In 1863, when the government called for more troops, and was not so particular as to physical defects, he enlisted in Co. D, 138th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, as a private. While out on picket duty he was unanimously elected captain of his company, an honor probably not c=achieved by any other captain in the service. His company was composed of the very flower of the young men of Easton, comprising merchants, bankers, lawyers, clerks, sixteen of the graduating class of Lafayette College, his brother, the late Andrew J. Hay, and others. After the repulsion of Lee, the government no longer requiring their services, his command, together with others, was honorably discharged from the service of the United States.

Captain Hay then returned to Easton and again took up his business interests, which had been utterly neglected owing to the fact that he and all his clerks were in the service of the Union at the same time and nobody left at home to take care of the business. In order that no mistake might be made as to why his place of business had been closed, when in a conversational mood with his most intimate friends, he would tell with pride about the placard which was placed upon the door by his old friend Mr. McClintock, the druggist, "Closed-not by the sheriff but gone to the war."

Captain Hay was a wonderfully social man. He believed absolutely in the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. He was a Mason, belonging to Easton Lodge No. 152F. & A. M. Easton Chapter 173R. A. M., Hugh de Payens Commandery No. 19 K. T. He was also a member of the I.O.O.F. His many friends and comrades will miss his happy face and cheery greeting at their meetings and symposiums. He took a lively interest in public affairs, had the courage of his convictions, was never afraid to take sides on a question where he thought he was right and stand by it. This was exemplified more than twenty years ago in the local options fight in Easton when he published over his own name the fact that the "J.Hay" on the call for local option was Jacob Hay, merchant and doing business at 127 Northampton street (old number) so that no mistake might be made in the boycott which was threatened at the time, as there was another man by name of Jacob Hay in Easton at the time. The very children on the streets knew him, as he was a great friend to them. Many a sick home was brightened by gifts of flowers and fruits from his bountiful hand. It seemed as if he delighted more in the giving than in the possession of them.

When the fatal summons came, it found him not unprepared. He knew perfectly well of his condition, knew that death was liable to ensue at any minute, but it never interfered with his cheerful manner and his hearty hand-shake which might be his last.

He walked the streets of this city for more than a year past, with a smile on his face and lips, yet knowing that each minute might be his last.

He was among the foremost of our citizens for the advancement of our beautiful city. In 1871 he started to purchase large tracts of land west of Twelfth street, which he added to from time to time until his lands aggregate about 100 acres, about half in and half out of the city. They were beautifully decorated and outlined with trees and shrubbery. His was the pioneer of the many beautiful houses in the vicinity of Fourteenth and Bushkill streets. He was indefatigable in work of this character. He was just laying out a large addition to Easton-Fair-View Park-and had been working there all summer with a large force of men. Many a workingman will miss Captain Hay who was one of his beneficiaries in more ways than one.

Mr. Hay's family life was an ideal one. His sons say of him that he was really like an elder brother. He was married in 1854 to Annie Wilson, daughter of the late Alexander Wilson, Sr. Their union was blessed by seven children, four of whom survive, namely" Thomas A. H. Hay, Annie Weinberg Hay, wife of Colonel Asa W. Dickinson, of Hackensack, N. J., William O. Hay and Ida Hay Atwater, wife of Wm. C. Atwater, Jr., of Fall River, Mass. His sons were his business partners in the shoe business as well as dry goods business and in his large real estate holdings, and will undoubtedly continue the work on the lines and in the manner as laid down by the father.

MONDAY, November 19, 1894


To-day loving hands and tearful hearts laid to rest the mortal remains of Captain Jacob Hay.

His sudden death on Saturday afternoon was a great shock to the whole community. By reason of his demise Easton is poorer in all of those elements of character which, constitute true manhood. His whole life from his country boyhood, which was spent without those educational facilities enjoyed by the present generation and his business career, begun without other capital than push and manly integrity, on up to those ripened and honored years which closed full of plans for the city's future growth, which was one which illustrates the possibilities that open to all young men, under our free institutions, which he so appreciated and loved.

Sensible of his limited educational advantages in early life, he sought to remedy them by subsequent study, and did so to a remarkable degree. He was always a seeker after knowledge, and by diligent reading and constant inquiry of those whom he knew to be possessed of information on any given subject, he became a man of varied attainments in many directions; and in the line of practical business was conversant with all of those details which, coupled with sound judgment and integrity of purpose, ever ensure success. Such a career, on its material side, when thoughtfully considered, should be an inspiration to young men in every position of life in this place.

But his life had other sides than those manifest in material success, and to these that success was chiefly due. As a husband he was as loving, loyal and devoted to his wife up to the last hour of life as when he pledged undying fealty to her at the marriage altar. The chivalrous devotion of his early love grew deeper and richer with each revolving year and both his life and his home ever gave emphasis to the success and happiness of wedded life, which in these days is too often questioned.

As a father, he was the companion and counselor of his children. As soon as they were old enough to understand his plans and purposes he conferred with them, and made them the partners with him in knowledge of his affairs, and so bound them all to him by his confidences, and trained his sons in business methods. Hence, all his children have met his just expectations and have been his loyal and devoted helpers. His fatherhood was real and has proved a success.

As a citizen, he was justly esteemed among the first. On questions of policy and expediency he always took broad and liberal views, and favored improvement of every kind. On moral questions he was always on the right side. He was a man of very positive convictions, when, after careful thought, he had once reached them, and never left anyone in doubt as to where he stood. He never trimmed nor truckled for the sake of popularity, but voiced his views, and so helped form public sentiment on any given question. As a friend he was loyal to the core, staunch and true alike in adversity and prosperity. And he would never stand silently by and hear the name of a friend misrepresented or traduced. To him to be silent under such circumstances was to be disloyal, which was foreign to his nature. In thought, speech and action he was singularly pure, and shrank from salacious talk with a womanly modesty. Fond of a joke or a good story, nothing of the nature of a double entendre ever escaped his lips. Hence, the young found him a good example and safe companionship; while to them he was a wise counsellor and an inspiring and sympathetic friend.

If religion consists of such a conception of God as effects the practical conduct of life, then Captain Hay was truly a religious man, though he never made any parade of it. God and His moral government of the world were always factors with him in the conduct of business. If appreciation of the life and character of Christ, as a revelation of the heart of God toward men; if loyalty to His teachings and the recognition of Him as the friend and saviour of sinners constitute a Christian reference to ecclesiastical creeds, then Captain Hay was certainly one. And if a love of righteousness and a hatred of iniquity are the best evidence of the new birth, then his daily living was proof that he had experienced it. His religion was a reality and not a mere profession. Hence his success in life, and the worth of that life to his family, and its lessons to the community in which he lived.

November 20, 1894


The funeral of the late Jacob Hay took place at 3 o'clock this afternoon from the family residence on North Fourteenth street, Rev. Dr. L. W. Eckard, pastor of the Brainerd-Union Presbyterian Church, officiating. Interment was made in the Easton Cemetery and was private. The services at the house were largely attended, especially by representative business men and by many relatives and friends of the deceased who came from a distance.

The following acted as honorary pallbearers: Edward Able, George M. Odenwender, George E. Sciple, Howard J. Reeder, A. R. Dunn, John F. Gwinner, Samuel Boileau and Herman Simon.

The carriers were Harry J. Wolslayer, Harry W. Knauss, Stephen G. Reynolds, Harry K. Johnson, Floyd Godley and Edward Voght, employees of J. Hay & Sons wholesale dry goods house, and Frank U. Siegfried, Nelson C. Arnold, Thomas R. Martin, E. J. McCarthy, O. H. Snyder and Edward Ealer, of the Hay Boot and Shoe Company.

The Orpheus was to have sung several selections, but owing to the serious illness of Mrs. Jacob Hay, this part of the exercises had to be omitted.

November 20, 1894

Submitter's Note: I am hoping that anyone researching this family, or extended families of the Hay family, will find this information helpful. I would be glad to assist anyone seeking research of this family with the data I have collected.
Linda Bourgeois


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