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John Wiley Birch
(1881-1935)

John Wiley Birch was born on March 8, 1881 at Burnsville, Greene County, PA, the son of Samuel and Susan (Miner) Birch.  He was an entrepreneur who owned his own grocery and wholesale candy business for many years in Washington, PA, and is featured with a biography in a History of Washington County.

On June 8, 1905, at the age of 24, John married 18-year-old Mary Olive Sprowls (1886-1969), daughter of Milton Riley and Hannah (Cook) Sprowls. The ceremony was held in Washington, Washington County, and was conducted by Rev. Joseph G. Patton.

They had one son, John Russell Birch.

As a young man, John helped his father on the family farm in Prosperity, Greene County.  At age 21, in about 1902, he moved to Washington and began working for the retail grocery firm of G.W. Warrick & Sons.  He later joined G.W. Driver & Son and then was a traveling salesman for the New York Produce Co.  After gaining substantial experience, he worked for 12 years as in a traveling sales capacity for Peerless Biscuit Company of Pittsburgh.

Postcard of Chestnut Street in downtown Washington

John's profile in the 1926 book History of Washington County, Volume II

In 1921, desiring independence, John purchased the C.A. Prigg wholesale candy company, and renamed it "J.W. Birch Co."  Later, when his son entered the business, it was renamed "J.W. Birch & Son Co."  He was considered "one of the influential members" of the old Washington Board of Commerce and to have been “possessed of more than ordinary ability [and had] won the full measure of success.”

He was sufficiently successful that in 1926, John was profiled in Volume II of the book History of Washington County, Pennsylvania, by Earle Robert Forrest (Chicago: S.J. Clark Publishing Company). It's possible that he paid for the biographical entry.

Of his company, said the History of Washington County:

He has greatly enlarged its scope and the house is represented by three traveling salesmen, also enjoying an extensive local trade.  [He] also employs a deliveryman and a stenographer and is ably assisted by his son … who has charge of the stockroom.  The firm has placed on the market a high quality of confectionary products and lists as its most valuable asset a well deserved reputation for thorough reliability and honesty.

John was a trustee of the Central Presbyterian Church in Washington and was a member of the local lodge of the Elks and the United Commercial Travelers.

Mary was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the YWCA. Said the Washington Observer-Reporter, she "served several years as secretary of the Foreign and Home Missionary of the [Central Presbyterian] Church and had been a teacher in the primary department."

Circa 1935, their home was on Wilmont Avenue in East Washington. 

John was afflicted with diabetes and suffered a heart attack ("coronary thrombosis"). He passed away the same day, on Sept. 22, 1935, at the age of 54.

Mary outlived him by more than three decades, and died in 1969. They're buried at Washington Cemetery.

~ Son John " Russell" Birch ~

Son John "Russell" Birch married Betty (?). 

He took over his father’s confectionary business, retiring in July 1966 after a 45-year career. 

In November 1988, Betty graciously hosted a visit from Russell's second cousin, Edward John Miner, and Ed's grand nephew, the founder of this website.

 Copyright © 2001-2002, 2014 Mark A. Miner