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Notable woman settled in Muncy after donating much land to railroad

By Staff | May 16, 2018

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary This portrait photo of Margaret Montgomery was provided by Richard Claghorn of California, a 3rd great-grandson of Margaret. He sent the copy to the Montgomery Historical Society after he read Mary Sieminski’s article of Margaret online in the Sun-Gazette’s website.

MONTGOMERY – The town of Montgomery has a namesake. Her name is Margaret Montgomery. She is a big part of Montgomery’s history and her story was revealed on April 19, 2018 in the historical Adam Room on West Houston Avenue by presenter, librarian and historian, Mary Sieminski.

According to Sieminski there are hundreds of Montgomerys who have lived here since the late 18th century.

At the time, slavery was an issue. It was outlawed in Pennsylvania in 1780, and was the first such law in the United States. By 1843 there were no slaves in Pennsylvania.

Margaret Montgomery was born in 1806. Her records show that her father, David Montgomery, owned slaves, but her two sons, did not. They fought in the Civil War. Her grandparents were John Montgomery and Christiana Foster Montgomery. They owned 636 acres in Turbot Township, commonly known as “Paradise.” Recorded history made reference to “Black Bob” who was owned by Margaret’s father. “This was in Turbot and Bob would have been an indentured slave then (1840).”

“Margaret’s history took a lot of research,” said Sieminski whose quest came from local resident and historian, Marion McCormick of Montgomery. The Montgomery Historical Society sponsored the program and assisted Sieminski with “lots of piles of material on Montgomery history.” There were a lot of names with ‘Montgomery’.

The earliest Montgomery she found in the county was a Robert Montgomery who had lots of children. “The names were often the same,” said Sieminski. There was a John of Paxton, a John of Paradise, a John of Clinton, until her notes revealed a John of Muncy. “David was a popular name also,” she added, “And the name of Margaret was popular too.”

With hours of further research, Sieminski found names of other family members.

John of Clinton was Margaret’s father who lived to 92 and was born in 1777. Sieminski discovered that Margaret married her first cousin, Robert Montgomery, on Dec.15, 1831 at the age of 25. He was 33 and a prosperous farmer with considerable land holdings from the Paradise area up through Rt. 15 & 54 and including the borough of Montgomery. “There was much land owned by the Montgomery family.” Later in life, the couple donated land to the Philadelphia and Erie railroad to build a station. It was called the Montgomery Station.

It was noted that Margaret Montgomery once judged a horse racing competition as recorded in a Sunbury paper at a ladies riding match in 1871. Margaret resided in Northumberland for awhile and fox hunting was a popular sport back then, predominantly brought here by the British.

Together the couple had seven children: John, David, Henrietta, Robert, Anna, Caroline, and Edward. Both John and Edward died at a young age. They raised their family in Black Hole Family between the railroad bridge to Muncy and the dam.

David went on to fight in the Civil War in Gettysburg. He was practicing law in Williamsport before he enlisted in the Woodward Guards. During his travels he met a woman in Illinois, Emily Cordell whom he wanted to marry. Margaret was not well enough to travel to the wedding and her son David did not have enough leave time to take Emily to see his ailing mother. So according to a story in the Montgomery Mirror on May 18, 1939, David’s father, Robert Montgomery, went all the way to Washington DC to take his son’s plea to President Abraham Lincoln for leave of absence. It turned out that President Lincoln knew the Cordell family, having once bounced baby Emily on his knee, and granted the leave.

After Margaret’s husband, Robert passed away in 1871, she built a stately and decorative home in Muncy on 118 South Main Street. After Margaret died in 1888, the property was divided among her remaining children and her granddaughter. The house is still there today.

Both Margaret and Robert are buried in the Muncy Cemetery with their children. Their son David L. Montgomery who was a Colonel and well educated with a degree from Princeton, passed away in 1868 at an Army base in Texas from a gun shot wound. David was the first man from Lycoming County to serve actively in the Civil War. His portrait which was painted in 1850 is on display at the Adam Room in Montgomery.

Margaret Montgomery’s profile and story are part of an online archive and collection of women’s history in Lycoming County at www.lycoming.edu where documents and related photographs highlight more of the history collection. The digital files are read on an average of 500 times a month.