Fredericksburg from the middle of the nineteenth to the quarter of the twentieth century was to become a center for the manufacturing and shipment of cigars throughout the region. Many families owed their existence to this line of work. A number of enterprising men in town made their living manufacturing and selling multiple brands of cigars. Some of the early ventures in cigars manufacturing included; F.M. Bachman, John H.W. Oberholtzer, Miles C. Bressler, William R. Behney, John O. Hoffa, Percival L. Strauss, his son Jacob F. Strauss, Aaron Lentz, William M. Shirk, John K. Gebhart, Morris M. Heberling, Alfred F. Eshleman, Edward Stroh, his son Calvin R. Stroh, Morris L. Wagner, Jacob W. Fulmer, Martin Wise, Aaron F. Klett, William H. Boeshore, his brother Robert U. Boeshore, George S. Petry, Israel Hay, Jonathan P. Bordner, Daniel C. Mohn, Daniel H. Zerbe, his son Wallace C. Zerbe, John G. Spatz, Cyrus Uhrich, and Levi S. Gerhart. Cigar factories were located in various parts of town throughout the years-representative of the men listed here.
Miles C. Bressler’s Cigar Factory was one of the largest and steady employers providing work for a number of men, woman, and children. The owner of the company Miles C. Bressler was born on June 13, 1875 in Berks County, Pennsylvania the son of Samuel Bressler.
Bressler’s factory was located on the western edge of town at the site of the old Schuylkill Seminary building. With the college closing its doors in 1902 and moving back to Reading, PA the building was vacant for a couple of years. In 1905 Bressler bought the property from the Schuylkill Seminary Evangelical Association who still had the lease on the original property. He wasn’t new to the cigar industry having also opened up a factory in Freeland, PA in February of 1901.
By the time the building was purchased it had fallen into bad condition. Bressler immediately sought to repair the issues facing him at his new business location. In December of 1905 he had an elevator installed, that he purchased from Philadelphia. Martin Wise, another cigar maker was hired as the foreman of his factory. In the spring of 1906 the factory experienced a downturn in business. Many of the workers were on half-time hours because of numerous coal strikes in Schuylkill and Luzerne Counties. Bressler reported his business was nearly at a standstill throughout the entire anthracite region where most of his cigars were shipped.
After this economic depression was over, business resumed to the former levels. In July of 1906 Bressler shipped more than 18,000 cigars to Lebanon to his suppliers. The following month Bressler shipped another 30,000 cigars to his customers and employed several additional new hands at the factory.
By 1914 M.C. Bressler had 37 persons employed at his factory including family members. His sister Mabel Bressler worked for him as a bookkeeper. Bressler ran his factory up to the time of his death on February 21, 1925. He died while on business calls to his customers in Coaldale, PA near his factory in Freeland.
Pictured above is a group photograph taken of the employees about 1912 just outside the factory; Front Row: (L to R)-Margaret Gassert, Eva Peffley, Lucy Kirst, Mabel Bressler, Arbie Bressler, Verna Kern, Mabel Klinger, Romaine Bressler. Middle Row: (L to R)-Roy S. Batz, William H. Boeshore, Frank Reedy, William F. Sharp, Levi B. Moyer, Frank Ulrich, Cobel E. Grimes, Katherine Gassert. Back Row: (L to R)-William R. Strauss, Claude M. Gassert, Harry E. Boeshore, Cyrus Smith, Riley J. Morgan, William W. Morgan, and Martin Wise.
After the death of Miles C. Bressler in 1925 his business operation in Fredericksburg shut down and the property came into possession of James E. Griffith of Freeland, PA on August 17, 1926 which he purchased from Florence Bressler for $8,000.00. Griffith owned the property for the next 11 years when he sold it to Coble E. Grimes in December of 1937. Grimes who had worked for Bressler as a young man, opened a poultry processing plant and named his business College Hill Poultry. Grimes operated his business there until a short time before his death in 1950.
From an institution of higher learning to a successful cigar factory to a poultry possessing plant, this dilapidated old building standing outside of town on College Hill has been a reminder of businesses in bygone days. Older residents of Fredericksburg will no doubt remember some of the stories behind the history of College Hill.
Photograph of Miles C. Bressler courtesy of Francis M. Ditzler; Photograph of M.C. Bressler Cigar Factory employees-courtesy of Mathews Library, Fredericksburg.