William Hayes Grier, printer, editor and politician, was born in the village of McEwensville, Northumberland Co., Pa., in 1841. His grandfather, Rev. John Hayes Grier, was a native of Bucks county, and was born in 1788. He graduated at Dickinson College, Carlisle, in the same class with James Buchanan, who, in 1857, became the fifteenth president of the United States. Entering the ministry, soon after his graduation, Mr. Grier was placed in charge of the Great Island and Jersey Shore Churches, in the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna. This was in 1814, and he remained there until 1854, when he retired, after having been actively engaged in the ministry for fifty-six years. He died at his home in Jersey Shore, in February, 1880, at the mature and mellow age of ninety-two years.
Dr. John Hayes Grier, eldest son of the venerable clergyman and father of our subject, was born in Brandywine Manor, Chester Co., Pa., June 2, 1813. After receiving a preparatory education he was graduated from Jefferson Medical College, and entered upon the practice of his profession in McEwensville in 1840. There he remained for fifteen years, when, in 1855, he removed to Jersey Shore, where he practiced until 1859. He then settled in Oriole, in the beautiful valley of Nippenose, where he passed the remainder of his life, following his profession until his death, which occurred Nov. 19, 1894, in his eighty-second year. He married Amanda M. Quiggle, who died Aug, 1, 1897, in her eighty-first year.
William Hayes Grier, the subject of this notice, is the eldest son of the Doctor. He received his primary education in the public schools, after which he entered the academy at McEwensville, and spent four years in that institution. On Oct. 20, 1856, he was apprenticed to learn the trade of a compositor in the office of the Jersey Shore “Vidette,” and remained there until 1858, when he accepted a position to teach school in Clinton county, for a term of four months, at a salary of $25 per month. Having finished his school in 1859, young Grier removed to Akron, Ohio, and entered the office of the “Democrat,” remaining there until 1861, when, owing to the impending war, he returned to Jersey Shore, and resumed work in the office of the “Vidette,” where he had learned his trade. There he remained until Fort Sumter was fired upon, when he enlisted April 18, 1861, becoming a private in the Jersey Shore Rifles, known as Company A, 5th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment. They were assigned to the Army of the Potomac, and passed through all the battles of that division from Dranesville to Cold Harbor, with the exception of Chancellorsville. On June 27, 1862, our subject was wounded in the leg at the battle of Gaines Mills, and was laid up for six weeks in a hospital at Washington. He rejoined his regiment in time to participate in the second battle of Bull Run. In March, 1863, he was promoted to first sergeant, and on June 4, 1864, was commissioned second lieutenant.
On the expiration of his term of enlistment in 1864, Lieut. Grier returned home and became foreman of the printing department and associate editor of the “Columbia Spy,” remaining with that paper until October, 1866, when he was nominated by his party (Democratic) for the State Senate against his old Colonel, Joseph W. Fisher, but was defeated because his party was in the minority. Soon after his political experience he founded the “Columbia Herald,” printing the first copy on a hand press. His enterprise proved successful, and he continued the publication of his paper until 1870, when he was appointed traveling agent for the Columbia Mutual Fire Insurance Company. After six months experience in the insurance business he resigned, and until 1873 successfully conducted a job printing office in the city. That year he purchased the “Herald,” and was employed in its publication until January, 1885, when he sold out.
From early life Mr. Grier took an active part in politics, serving his party repeatedly in county conventions, and he was delegate to the national convention which nominated Samuel J. Tilden for president. He served as a member of the State committee for several years, was on the county committee, and was chairman of that body through the important campaign of 1874. Although his party was in the minority in Lancaster county, he did much to preserve its organization, and in 1878 again sacrificed himself for State Senator. Ever active and aggressive as a politician, William Hayes Grier was never discouraged over defeat. In 1883 he was a candidate for auditor general, when many distinguished men were brought forward, and on the second ballot he received the second highest vote. The first political office he held was that of assistant assessor of internal revenue, to which he was appointed in 1866 by President Johnson. Subsequently he was clerk of the Council for two years, was tax collector, and was appointed by Gen. William McCandless, who was secretary of internal affairs in 1875, chief of the bureau of statistics. He has frequently served his fellow citizens in many local and minor offices, and in 1876 was elected school director in his district for a term of three years. In 1881 he was justice of the peace, and in 1883 was appointed superintendent of public printing at Harrisburg, by Gov. Pattison, to fill a vacancy. On the expiration of the term he was reappointed for a full term, from July 1, 1885, to July 1, 1889, which he served. In 1887 he was tendered the office of chief of the Southern division of the Pension Bureau, Washington, but declined. On Gov. Pattison”s re-election in 1890, he was re-appointed superintendent of public printing, and he filled the office with credit, retiring in 1894.
Col. Grier has been twice married. His first wife, Miss Mary E. White, whom he wedded in 1865, died in 1884, leaving two daughters. In 1890 he married (second) Miss Annie, daughter of Gen. William Patton, of Columbia. He is a Freemason, and has taken both the Blue Lodge and Royal Arch degrees. For a man of such political activity as Col. Grier, it was impossible after his long career as an editor and publisher, to do without an organ after the sale of the “Herald,” in 1885. Consequently but a short time elapsed until in December, 1889, he started the “Independent,” a weekly paper, which he is still publishing.
Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.