Back Up Next

William Wesley Jennings

JENNINGS, William Wesley, late president of the First National Bank of Harrisburg, was born July 22, 1838, at Harrisburg, Pa. He was a son of William and Elmina Elizabeth (Boas) Jennings. His grandfather, Capt. William Jennings, commanded a company raised by himself for the war of 1812, in the Juniata Valley; but his sudden death prevented any extended service with the company. His father came to Harrisburg about 1824, established a foundry, and was successful in business. Previous to his marriage to Miss Elmina E. Boas he had learned the carriage-makerís trade.

William Wesley was educated in the public schools of Harrisburg. At the age of fifteen years he went to work in his fatherís foundry and learned the trade of moulder, and was engaged in this occupation for a number of years. In 1860 he engaged in the iron business, and conducted it successfully for fifteen years. During the war of the Rebellion he responded to the call of the country for defenders. He raised and commanded the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh regiment, and was in several important battles, among which were Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. In the Gettysburg campaign Colonel Jennings commanded the Twenty-sixth regiment, Pennsylvania militia. After he was mustered out of service he was made lieutenant of the Locheil Grays. He served two terms as sheriff of Dauphin county, from 1864 to 1866 and from 1876 to 1879. He was active in the organization of the first Board of Trade, and was its first president. He was the president of the Commonwealth Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company. In 1880 he was elected president of the First National Bank of Harrisburg, and filled the position with credit until his death, which occurred suddenly February 28, 1894. He was also president of the Harrisburg Steam Heating Company, a director of the Cumberland Valley railroad and several other corporations. He was a member of Robert Burns Lodge of Masons, of Pilgrim Commandery, Knights Templars, and of the Citizen Fire Company.

A man like William W. Jennings, from his strong capabilities and force of character naturally occupies a foremost place among men. Scarcely of age when he wore the colonelís eagles as commander of the famous One Hundred and Twenty-seventh regiment, Pennsylvania volunteers, and withstood the shock of the rebel forces at the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg, an occasion on which his bravery was marked and his valor the subject of special commendation on the part of the general in command, he early showed the characteristics of a leader, and such he was to the day of his death. He was a man among men - and men loved him because he was broad-minded, liberal in his views, a careful methodical man, a deep thinker, and a friend at all times when a friend was needed. Summed up in the words of those who knew him, ďWe found him a large-hearted, generous man, and a staunch friend of his friends.Ē He had no petty traits of character that come from a narrow mind - he was open-hearted and open-handed, and many mourn the sudden taking off of one whose entire life had been parallel with that of the cityís progress and the prosperity of her citizens. In all that went to make up the useful citizen he was largely endowed. He assisted in the cityís development and worked to foster new enterprises and to push to completion his ideal of the prosperous community. He never lagged behind in the furtherance of that which would benefit his fellow-man and his city. His hand was ever open, and the genial, cheery, loving and lovable man is sadly missed in the various interests beneficial to all in which he was concerned. A hater of wrong and oppression, he was quick to voice his sentiments, and he was brave to back them up. On the memorable night of July 23, 1877, when an armed mob had taken possession of Harrisburg and the city was demoralized, Colonel Jennings summoned a posse and by his own personal daring and fearlessness set an example that simply inspired men and led to a repression of the riotous element and the restoration of order. So was he brave in all things. He was quick to resent a wrong on the weak, and courageous in battling for the oppressed. Colonel Jennings was foremost in giving when a cry went up from the needy,, and while his public acts of charity were equal to those of any of his fellow-citizens, no man know, nor will ever know, how frequently his broad private charity was exercised, no how often he aided the distressed - not only those who were poor, but those who were threatened with ruin at critical periods of business depression. As a financier he stood without a superior in the State; as a soldier, he was brave and gallant; as a public official, he did his duty with credit and honor; as a citizen, he was for his city in all that was good; as a man, he was one to love and one whose acquaintance was a pleasure and a joy; as a husband and father, he was kind, loving and gentle; as a Christian and a believer in the faith, he went to that reward oft promised to him who doeth his Masterís work.

His kindly, generous nature had a great attraction for young men, and scarcely a youth of the city but enjoyed his acquaintance. He took an interest in them, furthered their plans, gave them wise advice, and assisted them when business opportunity presented. Naturally the young men of the city were his friends, and they looked upon him as a benefactor. many a man now prosperous owes his start in life and his success to Colonel Jennings. In his youth he was a member of the Grace Methodist choir and took a great interest in musical affairs, assisting in organizing the Harmonic Society, of which he was a member until its dissolution. A widow (who was Miss Emma VanHorn) and four children, Mary, William, Fanny, and Harry, mourn the death of one who was a fond husband and a loving, indulgent father.

Pages 418 - 419


Transcribed by Marjorie Tittle for the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Transcription Project - 30 Oct 2000 Copyright 2000 - All Rights Reserved; Use, duplication or reproduction for profit or presentation by any person or organization is strictly prohibited.