The Heiss Family
The Family's History
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 Clinton County and finally to Union County. In 1855, they purchased an 141 acre farm in Forest Hill (West Buffalo Township, Union County). Peter and Catherine had three children, Susannah Elizabeth (Lizzie) born in 1851, Edward born in 1857, but died in 1858, and William Albert born October 23, 1860. When Peter died in 1871, Catherine sold the farm and purchased a modest home on Green Street in Mifflinburg. To make ends meet, Catherine took in borders, Lizzie lived and worked as a domestic servant on a nearby farm, and William apprenticed with John Rishel, a buggy maker.
The Start of the Business
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 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 rented buggies. After the turn of the century, when the buggies business declined, William began selling Valentine’s paints and varnishes, “Can’t Sag” fence gates, McCormick reapers, Yeager & Hunter stoves. He rented bicycles and sold motorcycles. He also made and repaired furniture, produced and sold honey, sold binding twine and oil. Anna also added to the family revenues by serving as a midwife, selling women’s hygiene products and taking in boarders.
The Family after William
Following World War I, 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. In 1931, William passed away. Anna remained in her house on Green Street, continuing to take in boarders to make ends meet. Norman continued to live with her, working in town and farming his own land. Norman’s son, Owen also lived with Anna for a brief time. Anna passed away in 1946. At that time Norman closed the western half of the house and moved to his wife’s farm. The eastern half was rented until 1955 when that half was closed. Norman Heiss passed away in 1984.