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HIESTER, A. O., son of Gabriel and Mary (Otto) Hiester, was born at Reading, Pa., November 11, 1808. His father, Gen. Gabriel Hiester, was an officer in the war of 1812, and removed to Harrisburg in 1813 to become a surveyor general of Pennsylvania. At twelve years of age A. O. Hiester was sent to Downingtown Academy, then in charge of Joshua Hoopes, a Hicksite Friend ; he was afterwards placed under the care of Rev. Mr. Ernst, a Lutheran pastor at Lebanon, Pa., and prepared for college by that gentleman and Mr. A. E. Shulze, son of ex-Governor Shulze. In 1824 he entered Dickinson College, and graduated in 1828. He was afterwards for many years a trustee of the college. After his graduation Mr. Hiester spent a year studying law, in the office of Judge Krause ; at the end of that time finding the study congenial, he abandoned it and spent six months at Huntingdon Forge, which was owned by Dr. Shoenberger, and the following six months with Rueben Trexler, at Long Swamp Furnace, in Berks county.

About this time Mr. Hiester was elected a delegate, with Dr. E. W. Roberts, to an infant school convention held in Washington, D. C. He traveled there in an old-fashioned gig and dined with Henry Clay on the day before the convention met.

In 1830-31, Mr. Hiester, then residing in Harrisburg, assisted in the erection of the rolling mills at the mouth of the Conedoguinet creek, when his father, in partnership with Norman Cullender, built a large boiler plate and bar iron mill. He took an active part in the management of the business until 1836 during the most disastrous period, financially, that the ironmasters of the United States have ever known. In that year he leased the mill to Jared Pratt, removed to Harrisburg, spent a year there in settling up his iron business and then removed to Estherton Farm. In 1838 he was elected justice of the peace. His experience in that capacity furnishes an excellent illustration of the primitive, frontier-like condition of many rural neighborhoods at that date. The favorite amusements of old and young were raffling and throwing dice for turkeys, ducks, and geese, gambling and horse racing. Fights at singing schools and disturbances of religious meetings were frequent. Horse stealing was common. To remedy this Mr. Hiester and four of his neighbors organized a society, which rapidly increased in number, and was carried on under his presidency until its object was accomplished. By his strict and impartial administration of the law he succeeded in correcting the abuses that had existed, and materially improving the state of society within the limits of his jurisdiction.

Mr. Hiester was for many years a director of the Branch Bank of Pennsylvania, until it was closed. He was a director of the old Harrisburg Bank until it was changed, and continued years after on the board of directors of the Harrisburg National Bank. In 1851 he was appointed associate judge by Governor Johnston, to fill a vacancy occasioned by death, and was twice subsequently elected to the same office by the people, for terms of five years each. In 1861, under an act of the Legislature, he was appointed one of three commissioners by the Dauphin county court to hear testimony and report their opinion of the damages sustained by individuals consequent upon Stuartís raid through the counties of Fulton, Franklin and Adams. The other members of the commission were Col. James Worrall and a gentleman from Lebanon county. They elected Mr. Hiester chairman. He was also chairman of the committee of arrangements of the first State Fair, held at Harrisburg in 1851. He was one of five commissioners, the others being Judge Watts, Judge Miles, H. N. McAllis, and Mr. Walker, to select a location for the State Agricultural College. After it was finished he was annually elected a trustee for about fifteen years. His son Gabriel, a graduate of the college, has taken his place upon the board of trustees. He was also for four years secretary of the State Agricultural Society, and for six years a trustee of the State Lunatic Hospital. Mr. Hiester was among the first subscribers to the Harrisburg Cotton Factory ; the Harrisburg Car Works, of which he was a director ; of the Harrisburg Street Passenger railroad, of which he was president ; and of the Fort Hunter Road Commission, of which he was secretary and treasurer from the time of its organization. Besides superintending the affairs of his own he was executor for a number of valuable estates, and frequently acted as trustee, guardian and assignee.

In 1845 Mr. Heister joined the Methodist Episcopal church, and was one of the founders of the society as Coxestown. From that time to the time of his death he held, uninterruptedly, the positions of class leader, superintendent of the Sunday-school, and treasurer of the board of trustees. For many years he was president of the Dauphin County Bible Society, and was president of the Dauphin County Sunday-school Association from the time of its founding. He was probably more widely and better known on account of his church work than in any other capacity.

Mr. Hiesterís marriage to Miss Catherine M., daughter of John B. Cox, took place in 1835. He died May 6, 1895, at his residence, Estherton.

Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania

Transcribed by Leslie Silvernail (lsilvernail@cfl.rr.com) for The Dauphin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Transcription Project - http://maley.net/transcription

Date of Transcription: 11 August 2001

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