Photo by Joyce M. Tice 2001
IcSon Takes Over Business From Father At Vickery Funeral Home
The Daily Review, Towanda, Pa., Tuesday, February 11, 1979
By Pat Barber
One of Troy’s oldest businesses has changed hands, from father to son, as Gerald Viceroy Jr., who has worked with his father since 1962, now assumes ownership of the Vickery Funeral Home at 110 Main Street in Troy.
The business can trace its origins back to before the turn of the century, the building even earlier, although it has only served its present capacity since 1936.
|This is a horse-drawn hearse of the type used by undertakers in the last century. The picture is from an advertisement in the Canton Sentinel, Feb. 13, 1879||"Gerald Vickery Jr. and Sr. pictured at the time of the open house for the newly remodeled Vickery Funeral Home at 110 W. Main Street in Troy. The business dates back to 1877."|
Sometime in the early 1890’s, John W. Beaman and Frank Knapp located an undertaking business on Center Street where the VanDyne Oil Company headquarters is now. It was an old building, mostly used for the storage of caskets, as all the preparation for funerals was done in the home in those days, and the service was held in the home or church.
An advertisement in a 1905 edition of the Troy Gazette-Register noted
that Beaman and Knapp had branches of their business at Roseville and Burlington.
Beaman ran the business until 1916. He was the father of William Beaman,
a prominent banker and for many years president of the First National Bank
|Bert Strange on top and Rex Soper on Ground with the Soper and Mosher hearse in Sylvania.|
Meanwhile, in Sylvania in the early 1900’s, Charles Waldo had a furniture store and funeral business. An expert cabinet maker, he made many of his own caskets. Just down the street was a thriving and prosperous general store run by Rexford R. Soper and William G. Mosher. Soper, who was Waldo’s son-in-law, become interested in the funeral business and he and Mosher bought out Waldo.
After a few years of carrying on Waldo’s business in Sylvania, Soper and Mosher moved to Troy in 1916 and bought out John Beaman. This partnership continued until 1946 when Rex Soper died, and his nephew Rexford H. Soper, joined the firm with William Mosher.
Gerald Vickery Sr. purchased Mosher’s half of the business in 1947 and it became Soper and Vickery, continuing so until 1954 when Vickery bought out Soper’s interest in the business. Gerald Vickery Jr. joined his father in 1962, and this month became the new owner. "But," said his father, "I’ll still be around when he needs me."
Most of the names connected with the business appear in one or more of the Bradford County histories and are old pioneering families.
John W. Beaman’s father came from Bennington, Vt., and settled in Columbia Township in 1806, clearing and improving the farm he lived on until his death in 1872. John, one of 10 children, after engaging in the furniture and undertaking business in Williamsport, moved to Troy in 1889 to start the same business, but substituting a livery stable for furniture. In those days, of course, hearses were horse-drawn.
John Knapp, paternal grandfather of Frank Knapp, came from Orange County, N.Y., and settled near West Franklin in 1796. He was a manufacturer of one-handled wooden mould board plows and was postmaster of LeRoy for some years. After farming and running an undertaking business in Columbia Township for seven years, Frank Knapp settled in Troy in 1877 to conduct an undertaking establishment. Beaman and Knapp joined forces sometime before the end of the 19th century.
Waldo does not appear in county histories for the Sylvania area. However, a Waldo family was prominent in Wyalusing from the 1880’s.
Rexford Soper does appear. His great-grandfather, Solomon Soper, was one of the first settlers of Columbia Township, locating a farm there in 1800 and operating a gristmill. Sylvania was formerly called "Columbia Flats." It took the name of Sylvania when a post office was established there in 1818 and was incorporated as a borough in 1853.
William G. Mosher’s ancestor, William A., was a pioneer settler of Columbia Township; another, James S. Mosher, studied medicine with Dr. T. D. Gray of Sylvania and with Dr. E. G. Tracy of Troy before entering the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Baltimore. He began practice of his profession in Austinville in 1891, and was probably an uncle of Soper’s partner. William G. Mosher’s widow, Carrie, died this year on January 25 at the age of 93. She had been the oldest living member of the Sylvania Presbyterian Church.
The Vickery family settled in Columbia Cross Roads around the turn of the century. Gerald’s father was agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Troy before being transferred to Columbia Cross Roads. About 1910 he started his own feed and farm supply business there. His father settled in Roaring Branch and was a section foreman for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Gerald Sr. married Emma Janet Fanning, daughter of David Fanning, prominent Troy lawyer and district attorney.
Gerald Vickery Sr. was Bradford Count Coroner for 24 years, was county auditor in the 1930’s, and was Republican County Chairman for 10 years. He is a past president of the Troy Lions Club and a past district governor of Lions. He is also a charter member of the Troy Lions and helped to start the minstrel shows, which have been an annual Lions money raiser since 1939.
"Oscar" the dummy is almost synonymous with "Vic" Vickery. "Gerald and Oscar-Tripping about Town" was a smash hit in the first minstrel show and has been in nearly every minstrel since. "Oscar" was a Depression baby, born to help his "father" make ends meet. Vickery, the late Max Strong, and John Blackwell, present Troy School Board president, played minstrels together in the old Moose Hall in Columbia Cross Roads before the Troy Lions were organized. In fact, so popular was "Oscar" that on charter night, the dummy was duly inducted as the "Troy Lions original ‘Ornery’ charter member," probably the only such member in the history of Lionism.
The senior Vickery graduated from Albright College in 1931, and found it difficult to make a living in those days. After trying everything, including a job as railroad fireman, he went to Mortuary School in Philadelphia for 12 months. On his return, he apprenticed to Soper and Mosher at the princely sum of $15 a week. Having acquired a wife and children by this time, he augmented his income by performances with "Oscar" and also washing cars for funeral mourners.
Gerald W. Vickery Jr. graduated from Troy High School in 1956 and from Gettysburg College in 1960, apprenticing to his father in 1962. He is married to the former Sally Smith. They have two sons, Bill, 11, and Bruce, seven, and live in Troy Heights.
A past president of the Troy Alumni Association, Tri-County Funeral Directors Association and the Mountain Lake Association, Vickery Jr. is also a member of Troy Lions and Troy Booster Club. He has been parade chairman of the Troy Halloween Parade for the past 10 years.
An active fund raiser, Gerry Vickery has chaired local drives for the
American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society, the Boy Scouts
of America, and most recently was vice-chairman of the Troy Community Hospital’s
successful $500,000 building fund campaign. He has worked with Cub Scouts,
taught Sunday School, superintendent for the Troy United Methodist Church
of which he is a member.
|At left is the Vickery Funeral Home when it was a private
residence early this century. the beautiful elms which once lined West Main Street are now nearly all gone, and parking meters have replaced the carriage blocks shown."
|The Vickery Funeral Home, remodeled in 1964, was built by S. M. Leonard in the late 1860's. It was at one time a tea room and became a funeral home in 1936."|
According to the 1869 Bradford County atlas, the home at 110 W. Main Street was built in the late 1860’s by Solyman M. Leonard whose paternal grandfather came from Springfield, Mass., about 1806 and settled in Springfield Township. S. M. Leonard had a long career of merchandising in Troy starting with his brother Henry S. in Maxwell, Leonard and Brothers in 1859. He bought out his partners in 1862, continuing as Maxwell and Leonard in the produce business, then, with G. F. Redington, built a handsome new store for general merchandising. This continued for many years and was finally operated by his son, Harry S. Leonard.
Will DeWitt lived there in the early 1900’s and operated a feed store across the street where Hall Motors now stands. Walter DeWitt, for many years an officer of the First National Bank of Troy, was a relative.
Charlie Mitchell bought the house from DeWitt and lived there with his family. He was the grandfather of Budd Mitchell of Troy, who remembers playing with the two DeWitt sons, one of whom became a doctor and moved to Blossburg. [Charlie's son Harry included it in his 1925 realtor booklet]
George Case, son of F. P. Case and father of F. Marshall Case of Troy, bought the house at some time, probably from Mitchell, and rented it to the family of Dr. Lawrence W. Brown, chief of staff of the Troy Community Hospital.
After some years an outlander came to town, rented the building and established The Dutch Tea Room on the premises. A fire ended the tea raoom a few years later and the man disappeared.