William H. Bender-Amateur Photographer

The earliest history of photography dates from about 1839 in the United States.  However, the initial process was invented in France by 1826 being somewhat primitive.  By 1838 small improvements were made in the lighting, and exposure times by Louis Daguerre.  His photograph “Boulevard Du Temple” taken in 1838 is generally accepted as the earliest photograph to include persons.  The image was of a street in Paris, but because of the long exposure time, no trace of the moving traffic was found on the photograph.  Their were two men who were pictured in the image, but they had to remain in place long enough to allow them to be visible.  In studios that started to appear in the United States after 1839 lighting was especially important to the success of the photographer.

The village of Fredericksburg over the years had several men who worked in this trade. Not all were professionals.  As early as 1880 John C. Bohn worked as a photographer in town.  Some the other early photographers besides Bohn who either had studios in town or who from here included Lee H. Wolfe, his younger Brother U. Grant Wolfe, Levi S. Peiffer, William S. Anspach, Herbert A. Kemp, and William H. Bender.  The last named was a amateur by trade, and made his living with other work.  William H. Bender was born on May 19, 1877 in Porter Township, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.  His father was a coal miner named John H.C. Bender who when he died in 1893 left a family of 6 children-the oldest of which was our subject.  Bender worked as a slate picker for the Brookside Colliery in Tower City  from 1890 until about 1896.  Afterwards he worked as a laborer in Schuylkill County until 1900 when he moved to Lebanon, PA.

When William Bender moved to Lebanon he boarded at 494 New Street and worked as a furnace filler for one of the local iron companies.  A couple of years in 1903 later he entered into the photography business.  Working initially for his Uncle Lee H. Wolfe and his Uncle U. Grant Wolfe who had offices on Cumberland Street.  When he started in this line of work of photography he lived at 501 Canal Street boarding for a couple of years. Bender the previous year on June 19, 1904 in Johnstown, PA married a local girl Anna M. Bowman who was the daughter of Samuel B. Bowman who worked as a railroad watchman at 12th & Cumberland Street for more than 20 years.  By 1910 Bender moved to Bethel Township and lived in the vicinity of Fredericksburg where he dabbled again in the occupation always working as a amateur.  While living near town, was when he worked as an amateur photographer seeking work wherever suitable employment could be located.

William H Bender

William H. Bender-Circa 1905

Bender took a number of photographs of the surrounding area and images of the citizens of the region.  He worked indiscriminately at this work for several year before deciding to move to neighboring Berks County where he worked as a coal miner.  Later in life as he got older he retired from active manual labor and worked as a janitor until his death on February 11, 1950 in Lebanon, PA.  His body was removed for burial and interred in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg next to his wife Anna M. Bowman who preceded him in death in 1934.


Photographer Benchmark-Circa 1910

Photographer Benchmark-Circa 1910


Looking at the photographer stamp on the rear of this postcard taken from his photo studio you will notice that William Bender misspelled his occupation on the rubber stamp promoting his business.  As an amateur-his photographs were mainly done on old card stock of various sizes or postcards, while professionally done pictures were printed on better quality material with the photographer identifying markings engraved or printed on the image sometimes with ornate designs.

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William H. Behney-Old Time Blacksmith

One of the early occupations that flourished in Fredericksburg was that of the village blacksmith. Over the years many individuals plied this trade serving the people of the community for many decades by shoeing horses, sharpening tools, and tightening rims on wagons and carriages. One blacksmith in Fredericksburg was William H. Behney who was born August 26, 1887 in Fredericksburg and was the son of Elias & Lavina Behney. Being raised in town, he worked in the blacksmith trade as early as 1910 living with his parents on Walnut Street[located at 110 E. Walnut Street]in town. Four years later in March of 1914, William Behney bought the home and blacksmith shop next door-then being conducted by William H. Ulrich. By 1920, Ulrich left the area and settled in Findlay, Ohio.

The following year in September of 1915, Behney put up some new doors to this thriving business. In the spring of 1919, Behney leased his blacksmith shop to Alfred C. Shirk-who operated a passenger truck between Fredericksburg and Lebanon for several years. With Shirk running the business-he no longer and need of his truck and offered it for sale. Shirk ran the blacksmith shop for several years, and retained Behney to help with the work. He expanded his business to include the welding of cast iron.

by 1920 Behney was living and renting his property in Fredericksburg and working consistently for Shirk at his former shop. By 1930 Behney relocated to Frystown, Berks County and opened another blacksmith shop on the west end of town that was located directly behind the Pierce Dieffenbach Ford Garage. He later maintained another shop at his home a couple of miles north of Frystown, and still later operated a small shop near Merkey’s school north of Bethel. William H. Behney died in Bethel Township, Berks County on May 5, 1962 and his body was interred at the Merkey’s Church of the Brethren Cemetery near Bethel.

William H. Behney-Blacksmith Shop-circa 1914

William H. Behney-Blacksmith Shop-circa 1914

Pictured is the Behney Blacksmith Shop on East Walnut Street-next door to the home [at 110 E. Walnut]. The camera angle is facing east and pictures a rail fence [next to the new Fredericksburg High School] and the home in the distance is located on Pinegrove Street heading out of town. The roof in the photograph at the back of the picture on the right is the parsonage of Rev. Charles M. Rissinger who served as pastor of St. John’s UCC Church that was located at 123 N. Pinegrove Street.

From (L to R) Unknown Customer [Could be Lloyd P. Werner], William H. Ulrich, William H. Behney

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James Lick: California Benefactor and Fredericksburg Native

Born in Stumpstown, Pennsylvania [now Fredericksburg] on August 25, 1796-he was the son of John Lick. He was the elder of seven children to his parents. His father was a skilled joiner and at the age of 13 James was apprenticed to learn carpentry and cabinetmaking, which he followed in his teenage years.  At age 21 in 1817 he had a romance with Barbara Snavely, the daughter of a local Miller, Henry Snavely.

James Lick

James Lick

In a short time  Barbara informed him she was pregnant, and Lick who was concerned wanted to marry her immediately. After speaking with the her father, he became enraged at reply from Snavely who asked: “Have you a penny in your purse” without waiting for an answer he added; “when you own a mill as large and costly as mine, you can have my daughter’s hand, but not before”. Following this incident with Henry Snavely he remarked; “Someday I will own a mill that will make yours look like a pigsty”.

Lick left Fredericksburg determined to make his fortune, and moved to Baltimore, MD where he found work and learned the art of piano making. Later he moved to New York setting up his own shop. By 1821  Lick took notice that pianos were being exported to South America and that good business could be had in that location. With only his tools, workbench, and a few personal belonging, he sailed for Argentina, and reasoned that he could make his fortune there and return to Pennsylvania for Barbara Snavely’s hand.

John Desh & Barbara Snavely-circa 1847

John Desh & Barbara Snavely-circa 1847

His years in South America were very prosperous, despite the fact that he couldn’t speak Spanish. In 1832 he returned to Pennsylvania in the hopes of seeing Barbara and the son, and during his short visit  he wasn’t able to see them. Barbara a couple of years after his initial departure in 1821 married John Desh a local cooper in Fredericksburg.The family moved near State College in Center County where John H. Lick’s spent his youth.

Disheartened, Lick returned to South America, and then moved to Valparaiso, Chili, and still later to Lima, Peru. While in Peru, the storm clouds of War loomed in the distance, with the United States’ involvement in the Mexican War of 1846. Seeing a business opportunity with the loss of the war for Mexico and the United States annexing the territory of California as a prize of war, he decided it was the right time to move his business to the United States. In January of 1848 he sailed to the fledgling town of San Francisco, CA on the brig Lady Adams.

Arriving in California with his workbench, tools, and an iron chest with $30,000 in Peruvian Gold he observed the scenery before him as he looked over the hills and shanties of San Francisco. Seventeen days after his arrival, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Like many others, he tried his hand at mining but lasted only a few days, and decided that his gold lied in the rich land surrounding him. Very quickly San Francisco grew and within two years had a population of more than twenty thousand inhabitants.

Lick immediately sought to buy of land and property in San Francisco. In his mid fifties, he was an imposing figure of a man, with a strong  stern face, full beard, and a thick head of dark hair. As his wealth increased, he left the management of his properties to an agent, and focused instead on larger tracts of land in the San Jose and Santa Clara. Lick loved horticulture and transformed the newly squired land into orchards, selling much of the produce to the residents of San Francisco.

In Santa Clara he built one of the largest mills in California. When the mill was completed in 1855, he sent for his son John H. Lick in Pennsylvania to join him in California. He informed his son to leave everything behind, and had more than enough to take care of the both of them. His son John brought distressing news that Barbara Snavely Desh had died four years earlier in 1851. John H. Lick was appointed manager of the mill, but he found him to be irresponsible and without any business ambition. Lick was the complete opposite of his father. The father lived in a mansion, while his son preferred simpler surroundings. After several years of a tumultuous relationship, John Lick returned to Pennsylvania in 1863, and only returned on the deathbed of his father thirteen years later.

Despite his attempt to have a relationship with his only son, he was eccentric and was difficult to get along with. Lick was remembered by many of his contemporaries, as being very strong willed, ambitious, yet honest beyond measure. As he grew older, he became generous with the gifts that he had been blessed with during his lifetime. At the age of 77, while alone in his kitchen, Lick suffered a stroke, and never fully recovered from the effects of this incident. He lived an additional three years and died on October 1, 1876 in San Francisco. At the time of his death in 1876, Lick owned numerous holding in San Francisco, and the Santa Clara valley. Just before his death, understanding  his condition, he sought to dispose of his mass fortune.

Lick wanted to build a monument to both himself and his parents in their memory. This idea was later abandoned when a close friend, and Astronomer George Davidson visited Lick regularly and spoke to him about the heavens.  Davidson presented to him a different idea to build a monument worthy for generations to remember. With the generosity of the his money after his death, a sum of $700,000.00 was formulated for the building of the Lick Observatory in nearby Mt. Hamilton, and named after the benefactor who made it all possible.

The observatory was completed and dedicated in 1888. The observatory was then gifted to the University of California for the studies of the stars. At the time of Lick’s death in 1876 he was buried in a local cemetery in San Francisco., but with the completion of the observatory, he was disinterred and buried underneath the future site of the telescope.  At present Lick has found his place among the stars he loved so much.

Lick Observatory-circa 1903

Lick Observatory-circa 1903

So ended the life of James Lick. A poor woodworker turned piano maker-to millionaire. His life served as an example to entrepreneurs who might otherwise might not ever try to succeed in life. A worthy and well-qualified friend, and pioneer in California-he will be remembered for generations to come.

Photograph of James Lick-courtesy of University of California-yearbook-1883

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Welcome to Fredericksburg’s History

Welcome to my site. This website is intended to invite anyone interested in the history of Fredericksburg, formally known as Stumpstown to reminisce and share materials with each other.  Any reader is cordially invited to make comments and offer suggestions that will improve or otherwise add to this website. If you would care to add a posting to this blog, please contact me directly. I welcome any stories, photographs, and material relating to the history of Fredericksburg.

Let me hear from you.

Michael L. Strauss

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