Title: Butcher, Banker
Birthdate: July 9, 1860
Death Date: March 18, 1934
Plot Location: Section 42, Lot 21

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John’s parents crossed the ocean from England to Philadelphia in 1851, and had two children. Catharine was born in 1856 and John in 1860, so it was a small family by 19th century standards. John learned how to be a butcher from his father as well as other early influencers. There were two other butchers living on his street the year he was born, and the 1870 census lists a boarder in John’s house who was also a butcher.

It’s not known whether John and his father had their own business or were employed by others, but they did well for themselves. John married Sarah in 1885 and had six children. His father died on Christmas Day of 1895 and his mother on April 4, 1897. His sixth child, Anna, brought joy when she was born five days later, on April 9. Then Sarah died of tuberculosis of the spine in June, and baby Anna died in December. 

Three women in John’s life died that year, leaving him with his two young daughters and three sons. Fortunately, he was a wealthy man, able to employ both a housekeeper and a servant, according to the 1900 census. The following year he married Mamie Dornan and they had a child in 1903. 

Although he continued to be listed as a butcher in the next census, there were numerous real estate transactions recorded in the early 20th century, both buying and selling properties. He would eventually focus on banking, becoming president of a “building and loan association.” Beyond his financial acumen, he was known for his good judgment, character and convictions. The family was involved at Bethany Presbyterian Church, which John Wanamaker, the department store founder, had helped start several decades earlier.

To teach the value of thrift, Mr. Wanamaker started First Penny Savings Bank in 1888 in a room at the church. It grew to two separate locations and he made John Greenwell a vice president and board member. John also became Sunday School Superintendent at a “daughter church,” Bethany Temple Presbyterian. It was started in 1906 at 53rd and Spruce Streets in West Philly. The pews included 1600 members by 1920.

The family lived a few blocks east at 45th and Spruce until the 1920s. Then they moved to a country estate in Lower Merion Township in Montgomery County. John died of heart failure when he and Mamie were in Texas, as detailed here. 

The family plot is neatly bordered around an elaborate monument. Inscribed at the top is “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” On the left are individual stones for his parents, Mamie, and himself, and on the right are stones for Sarah and the baby Anna. Son Thomas and wife are also there, while John’s sister Catharine and family are in Section 58.

He would be pleased to know his grandson, John Greenwell III, was a Navy pilot in World War II who received the Purple Heart, Navy Cross, and other citations.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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