Otho Moring Behr I was born on the 17th day of the month of February in the year 1894, in the state of Iowa. In 1910 he
married the lovely Marguerite Baxter of Pennsylvania. They made their home in Orange County, California at Laguna Niguel.
Marguerite's parents were Mr. John Baxter and Miss Emma Jane Parke. Emma was born in 1858, in Pennsylvania to John Parke,
a master marble cutter, and Agnes Levergood. Jacob Levergood and Jane Louisa Hayes were Agnes' parents. The following paragraphs
tell a bit about Jacob Levergood and his father, Peter, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
JACOB LEVERGOOD, eldest son of Peter Levergood, Sr., died in Johnstown, Cambria county, Pennsylvania, at 6:15 o'clock Sunday
morning, February 1, 1885, in his seventy-fifth year. The deceased was born in Lancaster county, on October 7, 1807, and came
to Johnstown with his parents when a mere child. For considerably over half a century he was a useful and prominent citizen.
He was county surveyor while yet a young man, served for many years as school director and member of council, was a director
of the First National Bank from its organization, and for several years served as president of that sterling financial institution.
The means which he accumulated before his father's death and the money and property which came into his hands with that event
were carefully husbanded, but he never added very greatly to them, being very conservative in business, and also exercising
the broadest liberality toward his large family, and in all public and private charities, thus giving away large sums of money
in the aggregate. He was survived by his wife, Jane Louisa Hayes, aged seventy-three years, who came to this county with her
brother, William Hayes, Johnstown's first hatter, from Franklin county, Pennsylvania, in 1830, and who was drowned in the
great flood, May 31, 1889. She bore him nine children, all of whom were living in Johnstown and all were married at his death,
except Lucy. Their names in the order of their ages are as follows:
Susan, wife of Dr. Wm. Caldwell;
Agnes, wife of John Parke;
Peter H., the borough weighmaster; Martin Luther, of the firm of Fockler & Levergood;
Mary, wife of George Fockler of the same firm;
William H.,the stove merchant;
Lucy, single, and at home;
Jacob Charles, the marble-cutter; and
Emma Cummins, wife of Verg C. Elder.
There were twenty-three grandchildren and one great-grandchild living.
In his last days it was a great comfort and pleasure to Mr. Levergood, that he could, from his own home, on the corner
of Bedford and Vine streets, see the roofs of the houses of every one of his children, six of whom lived within a stone's
throw of the homestead. To the day of this death Mr. Levergood's hair was almost as black as in his youth, being only slightly
sprinkled with gray, while his whiskers were white.
Mr. Levergood has handed down to his children and grandchildren, without a stain, a name of unusual honor, whose
word was as good as his bond. He built the old brick warehouse on Railroad street, shortly after the canal was made, which
was used for retaining and transferring goods and merchandise, a commission being charged for handling the same. Subsequently
Henry Kratzer, Dean Robert and
William Canan ran it. When the canal was abandoned the building was sold to the Odd Fellows and Sons of Temperance.
Mr. Levergood's principal business of life was tanning. Having purchased the tannery from his father he continued to operate
it for over fifty years very successfully, and only abandoned it when old age prevented his attending to the work.
Jacob Levergood was the owner of the ten acres where the Cambria Iron works are now built, and it was he who sold it
to them. It has been used by him as a farm for many years prior to that event.
When a young man, he was one of the teamsters who hauled blooms from Frankstown, below Hollidaysburg, across the mountain
to Johnstown, and also helped run the same on flat boats down to Pittsburg. This was before the canal
and the Portage railroad were made.
The obsequies took place from the Lutheran church, of which he had been a prominent member from his early manhood.
Services were conducted by Rev. Dr. R.A. Fink, pastor, aided by Rev. Dr. D. I. Beale, of the Presbyterian church. The paul-bearers
were Messrs. James McMillen, Jacob Swank, Chas. Von Luenen, Howard I. Roberts, Jacob Fend and John Dibert. The remains were
laid to rest in the family cemetery on Vine street, but subsequently removed to Grand View cemetery.
PETER LEVERGOOD, Sr, Father of Jacob.
THE LEVERGOOD FAMILY. The founder of this old and time-honored family in Cambria county was Peter Levergood.
Peter Levergood, Sr., as he is spoken of, was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in 1785, and died in Johnstown,
July 26, 1860, at the age of seventy-five years. He was born of German extraction.
His immediate ancestors are believed to have emigrated to this country from one of the Palatinates in Germany.
They settled in Lancaster county, and when Peter, Sr., entered the world they were known as Pennsylvania Dutch.
Peter Levergood, Sr., was reared upon the Lancaster county farm, where he grew to sturdy manhood. He received little
school education, but was endowed with the advantages of a large, strong frame, a commanding presence, and good common sense.
He married, very young, Miss Susan Rodfong, a native of York county, and fours years later, in 1811, the family moved to Johnstown,
then called Conemaugh Old Town.
Jacob Johns, the founder of the town, had sold his property here and removed to Somerset county; the property had
changed hands several times, and the title finally became vested in John Holliday, from whom Peter, Sr., bought it, thus becoming
the proprietor of the greater portion of the town site; and also the old forge.
The forge was built about 1809 by George Buckwalter. James M. Swank's "The manufacture of Iron in All Ages"
says the dam of his forge was washed away about 1811, which was the date of Peter, Sr.'s arrival in Johnstown, and this untoward
event may have accounted for his obtaining possession of it, for there can be no doubt that he got it at a bargain.
This forge was subsequently moved to the Conemaugh river, below Johnstown, where the school-house now stands on Cinder
street, in Millville, and was operated down to about 1822. The forge was used to hammer bar-iron out of Juniata pig-iron.
Mr. Levergood was now naturally and rightly looked up to as the first citizen of the town, though it was at that
time little more than a settlement. Much of his time was given to his farm, which embraced nearly all of the upper portion
of the town, from Franklin street to the foot of Green Hill. His farm-house stood on the site of Hager's Block, then located
on the corner of Bedford and Levergood streets, afterwards destroyed in the flood of 1889; here he lived from about the time
of his return from Lancaster county until cut down by death. His orchard was a short distance back of the house, and the family
graveyard, now the site of the power-house of the Johnstown Electric Light company, and Mr. John Thomas's property, and formerly
a part of it.
The graveyard was originally intended for a family burying-ground, but when the Lutheran church was organized, Mr.
Levergood permitted the congregation to bury its dead here, never charging anything for the permission. The first
interment was made in 1835.
The house of Mr. Thomas, on the lot adjoining the graveyard, was built by the elder Levergood for a parsonage for
the Lutheran church as long as he lived. He also built a small building on the same lot, and in it, it is said, conducted
the first Sunday-school ever held in Johnstown. When the present church building, one of the first in the city, was projected
he gave $1,500 towards its erection. A short time previous to his death he willed the parsonage to the church. According to
law, this bequest was not binding on his heirs, not having been made a long enough time prior to the old gentleman's demise
to be valid.
The heirs, however, respected the testator's wish, and deeded the property to the church. The Lutherans afterwards sold
it to Dr. Lowman, who subsequently sold it to Mr. Thomas.
Peter Levergood, Sr., had not been here a great while until he owned nearly the whole of Johnstown, all of Conemaugh
borough, and the side of Green Hill; all of what is known as Prospect Hill, up to the Goughnour farm, attending a mile or
more along the Ebensburg road; the rolling-mill site and the land beyond, as far down as Hinckston's run, and extending eastward
to what is now
His purchase from Holliday embraced two hundred and forty-nine acres, less those portions which had been previously
sold off in lots. Subsequent purchases more than doubled those figures. In the light of after developments, it seemed strange
that this property was not considered by Mr. Levergood as being very valuable. To tell the truth, he had never any very great
hopes of the future of Johnstown, even after the discovery of iron ore. Exactly when this discovery was made was not known.
In 1832, Mr. Gordon, an old-time authority, referred to the prospect of making iron from native ore in Cambria county, as
follows: "And there is iron, as it is said by some, but denied by others." Even in the years immediately preceding
his death, although the Cambria Iron works were then in successful operation, Mr. Levergood was far from placing the same
value on property here that outside capitalists did. Circumstances had placed him here against his will. Section after section
of land came into this possession almost without an effort on his part, and it is, therefore, not astonishing that he failed
to appreciate what his envious neighbors would have considered a piece of rare good fortune. It would be difficult to estimate
the value today of the property he once owned.
The project of building the Portage railroad and digging the canal started the first boom in Johnstown. Until then,
according to an old chronicler,wolves and bears relieved the monotony of the night by their howls and growls. The pack-saddle
was still an indispensable requisite with the settlers, though the Frankstown road was open and flat-bottom boats were running
down the river to Pittsburgh. With the making of public improvements, property here became relatively of great value, and
Mr. Levergood suddenly found himself wealthy. The lands which had come into his possession, through sheriff sales and otherwise,
were sold off in lots, and the town grew and spread on a substantial basis. Johnstown became a central shipping point for
sending and receiving freight. People flocked in from other parts of the State and country; the hills and valleys round about
were cleared for farms, and Johnstown became a market to which their produce was brought. Then the rolling-mill was built,
and the future of Johnstown soon became assured.
Mr. Levergood gave to the State the property known as the basin in Conemaugh borough and right of way through his
land down to Hinckston's run for the canal. When the State improvements were abandoned, and the canal, etc., were bought by
the Pennsylvania railroad, the late James Morley and Dr. Henry Yeagley approached Mr. Levergood about the purchase of the
basin and the stretch of land along the canal, including the bed thereof. Mr. Levergood said that he had given the property
to the State. The two gentlemen insisted, however, and finally Mr. Levergood accepted eight hundred dollars for his interest.
Peter Levergood, Sr., purchased from Dr. Anderson the old tannery property on Bedford street. He ran it himself for
a time, but afterward gave it to his son Jacob, who operated it for over half a century. He also built the brick business
house at the south-eastern corner of Main and Bedford streets for his son-in-law, Jacob M. Meyers, who conducted a general
The Mansion House property extended on Main street to Bausman alley, and on Franklin street to the property of the
U. P. church. It was kept as a hotel for a number of years, and was even then quite valuable; but one day Mr. Levergood in
a moment of pique offered it to John Dibert, Sr., for one thousand dollars, and it immediately passed into Mr. Dibert's hands.
This property is to-day the center of the business portion of the city, and its rentals amount to several thousand dollars
The Johnstown furnace, situated nearly opposite the present site of the Pennsylvania passenger station, was built
by Peter, Sr., in 1845 or 1846, for his sons Jacob and Peter and his sons-in-law Jacob Meyers and Robert P. Linton, who operated
it for several years with varying success; then at the instance of the old gentlemen John Galbraith was induced to come here
from Cambria furnace, take an interest in the business and become the manager of the furnace. He bought John Benshoff's one-fourth
interest, and about the same time Major John Linton bought Meyers' interest. After a short time the Messrs. Linton bought
the interest of the Levergoods and the name of the firm became Lintons & Galbraith. The firm failed to meet its payments,
however, and after a year was summarily closed out by Peter, Sr. Rhey, Matthews & Co. then bought it and it was operated
by them down to 1858, when it was abandoned. After the withdrawal of the latter from the furnace firm, Peter, Sr., built
a foundry for his son Peter near the old American House, on the corner of Coal and Railroad streets, in Conemaugh borough;
but it also proved a failure, and
was then sold to Linton & Galbraith, who operated it until they failed. It was then sold to the late Jacob Fronheiser,
who carried on the business for a while and then abandoned it.
By this time the Cambria Iron works, destined to become one of the greatest of their kind in the world, were giving
promise of marvelous success in store for them. The ground on which the works were built was bought of Mr. Jacob Levergood
for $3000. It had previously been worked as a farm. The valuable hill above the rolling-mill site, filled with minerals, had
been given to this son-in-law, John Benshoff and Mr. Levergood built for the occupancy of the Benshoff family the old brick
house which still stands just above the Pennsylvania Railroad freight station. He also built a frame house further up the
Ebensburg road. This farm, Mr. Levergood subsequently took back from his son-in-law, giving him therefor $16,000, with which
to buy a farm in Iowa for himself, his six sons and one daughter, and to improve them.
Peter Levergood, Sr., was married three times. His first wife, as stated above, was named Susan Rodfong, whom he
married in Lancaster county. She bore him all his children. Kittie was the oldest. She married John Benshoff, and died after
the removal of the family to Iowa.
Jacob, who died on February 7, 1885, in Johnstown, was the second eldest. The other children were: Mary, the wife
of Harry Sutton; Phoebe, the wife of Robert P., and mother of John P., Wm. and Peter Linton, and Mrs. John H. Clark,
who died in Johnstown in 1842; Lucinda, who married Jacob Meyers, died in Johnstown in 1844; Peter, Jr., who died in 1853
at the age of thirty-one years. Three other children died young. Peter, Jr.'s widow, sister of Mrs. Wm. Cover, married Thomas
Yeakle; her maiden name was Saylor.
The first wife of Peter, Sr., died in 1840. His second wife was an elderly widow, named Mrs. Catherine Fite, whose
husband formerly owned the site of what is now Coopersdale. Soon after her death, in 1852, he drove to Philadelphia to
fulfill a contract of marriage made with the mother-in-law of Jordan Marbourg. She was a widow of considerable means;
but when they came to talk about their respective properties, they were unable to agree, and he drove home again alone.
A short time subsequently he married the widow of the Rev. Sharrets, of Indiana. Mr. Levergood was never an active politician,
but was an earnest whig. He enjoyed the fullest confidence of that party, and was several times called upon
to be their standard-bearer. He served two terms in the legislature when Cambria and Somerset counties composed one legislative
district, and was one of the three canal commissioners during the term of Governor Ritner. These
commissioners were a powerful triumvirate. Their duties were to construct and maintain the public works, and they consequently
had a great deal of patronage.
Mr. Levergood never liked the office, however, having no taste for politics. He was also in 1848 the candidate of his
party for congress, but was defeated by Job Mann, of Bedford. A few years before his death he was elected burgess of Johnstown.
In referring to his death, the Tribune, a few days afterward, had the following: "He died calmly and peacefully,
in the full possession of all his faculties, and surrounded by as many of his relatives as could conveniently gather around
his bedside. Relatives reaching through three generations and embracing not less than fifty persons, attended the funeral."
At the time of Mr. Levergood's death only three of his children were living: Mrs. Benshoff, Mrs. Sutton, and Jacob
Levergood. There were thirty-three heirs in all, and each was separately named in the will.
A gentleman who knew Mr. Levergood well, says: "He was noted for business tact and shrewdness, strong personal
attachments, especially to members of his own family, and for his devotion to the Lutheran church, of which he was all his
life a leading member."