Milton Hershey’s rise from poverty to wealth, after he returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1886, was almost meteoric. Just five years after he had returned to Lancaster, basically penniless, to establish the Lancaster Caramel Company, he was emerging as one of the city’s most successful businessmen.
In 1891 Milton Hershey was invited to join the Hamilton Club, a private men’s club for some of Lancaster’s most prominent business and political leaders. Milton Hershey’s membership was a sure sign of his growing prominence in Lancaster’s business circles.
That same year he decided he needed to upgrade his residence. On October 22, 1891 Milton Hershey purchased a house located at 222 South Queen Street, Lancaster, PA. The purchase price was $15,000.
The deed that was recorded in Deed Book W-13-305 described the property:
All that certain lot of ground situated on the West side of South Queen St. between German (Farnum) and Conestoga St. containing in front on S. Queen St. 129 ft. 2 in. & extending in depth westward 252 ft. to a fourteen feet wide alley & containing in width along said alley 127 ft. 9 in. Bounded on the North by property of John P. Schaum and on the South by property of E.E. Snyder being two lots of ground one of which Thomas Hays and wife by deed August 28, 1865 recorded in Book L-9_199 conveyed unto Jacob Bowers and the other which Louis F. Voigt admin. of Sarah Voigt dec’d by deed—1868 recorded in Book P-9-617 conveyed to Jacob Bowers by will. – October 1, 1889
We have a wonderful collection at the Archives, created by Paul Wallace, a Lebanon Valley College history professor. Dr. Wallace was hired in 1954 by Milton Hershey School to research and write a biography of Milton Hershey. Dr. Wallace was well-organized and his research files were turned over to Hershey as part of his contract. The finding aid for the collection can be viewed here.
Dr. Wallace located and organized a variety of paper records that document Milton Hershey’s life. These records not only illuminate Milton Hershey’s business life but also highlight his personal life. In particular there are some wonderful letters written to Milton Hershey later in his life where the writer shares his/her memories of Milton Hershey during the years he lived in Lancaster. The letters where the writer shares their childhood memories of when Milton Hershey and later his wife, Catherine, lived at 222 South Queen Street are particularly charming. Here are some excerpts:
1935-August 22: Mrs. Blanche Arnold Chambers to MSH
914 North 63rd Street Philadelphia PENNA
My dear Mr. Hershey
I have put personal on the envelope in the hope that this chat on paper about old times will get by even a watchful secretary. First I think I ought to explain who I am. My grand-mother was Mrs. Gideon W. Arnold my mother was Ada Arnold. Altho I was born and always lived in Philadelphia I spent many happy hours in Lancaster at Grandma’s big house at 202 S. Queen St. When you bought the old Bowers’ mansion and remodeled it I made the acquaintance of your aunt Mattie Snavely thru Mrs. Lebkichers—Henry’s Mother. After that my greatest joy was to slip thru the side fence from Uncle Frank Arnold’s yard and skip over to your house to help Aunt Mattie play the electric piano—at least she allowed me to operate it and was greatly amused at the enjoyment it gave me—whe and I became great friends. Later I met your wife and admired her very much—she gave me a lovely photograph of herself taken at Kueblers in Philadelphia. I attended her funeral at Bairs and later at the Chapel of the Cathedral. I remember I met one of the Hager brothers there and he escorted me home. It was a lovely warm Saturday afternoon—if my memory does not fail me—the next day Palm Sunday we had a blizzard. One more Lancaster memory. I think Grandma’s brother, Uncle Jacob Gable owned the building at S. Duke and Church Sts where you first started in business successfully.
and this letter written 1940-September 29, from Mrs. Florence C. Mathes to MSH:
Dear Mr. Hershey:
The name of Hershey in the news recently has brought something to my mind of my childhood in which Mrs. Hershey played an important part, unknown to herself, when you live on S. Queen St.
When I was a little girl of about ten, I lived on German Street (now Farnum) in Lancaster and I used to walk through Beaver St. just to look at Mrs. Hershey. I used to stand there looking through the fence waiting for her to come out. If you remember the swing was toward the back of the house and the parrots on their perches and she would stroll out to the swing in the lovely gown and red slippers (which I shall never forget) and I thought she was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen and I would stand there by the hour.
My father still lived in Lancaster, is a year older than you and still in excellent health.
I have lived in Philadelphia nearly twenty-five years now and still trying to get something out of life…
Yours very truly,
(Mrs.) Florence C. Mathes
These letters and others can be read in their entirety at the Archives.