January 17, 1901: Major James Wren Remembered for Military, Business, and Community Leadership


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

January 17, 1901: One of Abraham Lincoln’s First Defenders, Major James Wren has died in the Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia following a surgical procedure for cancer. He had commanded a company of 100 men, the Washington Artillery, that was one of five Army outfits from Pennsylvania to respond to the President’s call for 75,000 troops to put down the Southern rebellion, and they were mustered into the United States military on April 18, 1861. Wren took an active part in six important battles and because of his services at the Battle of Antietam, he was promoted to the rank of Major.

He moved to Boyertown in 1875 to prospect for iron ore. It was not a successful endeavor, but when he bought a woolen mill, and then branched out into operating a paper mill and the Garnett Mine in Delaware County, he prospered.

He and his wife organized the Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church, and he built the Willow Grove mansion, that still stands on a hill in Morysville, as his home.

He was buried with full military and masonic honors according to the Grand Army of the Republic ritual, in his military uniform.

Wren was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1825 and moved to Pennsylvania with his family at an early age.

Although he gave his unwavering support to the Republican Party, the Boyertown Democrat had nothing but praise for Wren’s contributions to the growth and development of Boyertown.

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