Title: State representative, city controller, real estate assessor, building contractor
Birthdate: October 20, 1818
Death Date: December 13, 1893
Plot Location: Section 30, Lot 34
A fitting three-word eulogy for this person would have been “loyal family man.” It would have applied not only to his large biological family but to his strong ties with his “political family,” because that’s how dedicated he was to Democratic Party politics throughout his life.
Jesse came from a family of seven children. His father was one of 13. His grandfather, Jacob, was one of nine, the only boy, and the first to be born in America. Jacob’s father, Reinard, came to the Pennsylvania colony from Germany in 1743, settled where people understood him, a place called Germantown, and fought in the American Revolution.
Jesse took a bride and had a family of his own that included 11 children. Ten lived into adulthood, most living well into their 70s. But even before he met and married Emma Helmbold in 1846 he was actively involved in the Democratic Party. He was a delegate in 1841, ran for town council and town assessor in West Philadelphia township in 1843, and his name was placed in nomination for county commissioner. No documents indicate he won any of those offices.
During this period before the city and county merged in 1854, collecting property taxes was done by neighborhood representatives, not a central government office. There were 19 townships and other municipal districts in the county, plus 15 wards in the city, and each had someone who collected taxes in their neighborhood once a year, for a small stipend. Jesse did that in 1851 and 1853. He continued to attend Democratic Party conventions, and after the governments merged he served two terms on the Common Council. He and other Democrats formed a social organization in 1856 called the Keystone Club.
He was a carpenter by trade, using his skills at one point at the Navy Yard. New homes were being built at a rapid pace as wave after wave of immigrants settled in Philadelphia in the mid to late 1800s. He expanded into building construction and became a prominent contractor. He also became one of the organizing investors in the Hestonville, Mantua, and Fairmount Passenger Railway Company in 1859.
Jesse was active in the Democratic County Convention during the Civil War, and won an election to an important position in 1865, that of City Controller. He had hoped to secure his party’s nomination for the Receiver of Taxes in 1868 but lost. The incumbent was popular because he was a reformer. It had once been a lucrative job because the Receiver was allowed to pocket a five percent commission on any taxes he could collect that were unpaid after the due date.
A few years later Jesse found another lucrative role, partly because it was an appointed position, not an elected one, as this clipping explains. His experience in building construction made him a good fit for Real Estate Assessor, and he was reappointed three more times.
Jesse’s sons took an interest in various aspects of his professional life. Three of them became engineers, one was a builder, and another a surveyor. The youngest daughter, Margaret, was the first to be buried at Mount Moriah. She died in 1885 at age 16 from a hip disease. Jesse caught tuberculosis and joined her eight years later. Daughter Mary, a nurse, was the only other child to be buried with Jesse and Emma. Her grave is shown here on the left. The parents had cradle graves, designed to allow for planted flowers in the middle, which, thanks to volunteers, are often seen in bloom.
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