July 15th, 2007
Philip Shay 1813-1885
Philip Shay was born on August 10, 1813 in Pittston, Kennebec County, Maine to Michael and Anna Shay. His parents both died in 1821 after which Mr. Shay resided with his sister Mary who was married to Abiathar Field and lived in Brookline near Boston, Massachusetts. Soon the family moved to Baltimore where Mr. Field established and managed one of the first oyster packing houses in Baltimore. It was through this enterprise that Mr. Shay came to Northumberland County and became associated with a packet company where he earned the nickname "Capt. Shay". In 1854 he moved to Muncy where he began a mercantile and lumber business until the great flood of 1865 caused him sufficient loss. In 1868 he moved to Watsontown where he became one of the leading merchants of the community.
Mr. Shay opened a general merchandizing store on the corner of Third and Main Street where he briefly acted as postmaster for Watsontown having been appointed to that position on November 16, 1868 and being replaced in April 1869. In 1870 Mr. Shay was elected to replace David Kline who had resigned from the school board. The following year Mr. Shay was elected Chief Burgess. During his administration as Burgess several ordinances were passed including one that made it unlawful to run railroad cars through town faster than 6 miles an hour as well as an ordinance prohibiting owners from allowing cattle to run at large. A pound was built to take care of such matters and the council also voted to buy fire ladders and purchase a hand engine. Chief Burgess Shay presided over council one extra month due to the 1872 tie between Isaac N. Messinger and E.H. Russell for Shay’s position. The matter was solved in a special election held on April 2, 1872 with the election of Samuel M. Miller who took over on April 4, 1872. Mr. Shay in turn was elected as a school director that year. Mr. Shay was appointed postmaster of Watsontown again on January 16, 1879 and continued in that capacity until his death on February 2, 1885. His daughter Mary V. Shay was appointed on February 9, 1885 to replace her late father as postmistress which she continued to do until May 10, 1893. In his younger days Mr. Shay was an old line Whig and a great admirer of both Webster and Clay. He attended the laying of the corner stone and also the dedication of teh Bunker Hill Monument and heard Webster’s orations at both occasions. In later years Mr. Shay was a Republican politically. He was one of the petitioners to charter the Watsontown (National) Bank on March 27, 1882. Soon after its establishment Mr. Shay was appointed its notary public by Governor Geary and at the expiration of his term was reappointed by Governor Hartranft. Mr. Shay was one of the incorporating members of the Presbyterian Church in Watsontown serving as a trustee for many years.
Mr. Shay was married three times. His first marriage was at Northumberland in 1851 to Mary Elizabeth Wallis who died shortly after the birth of her son William Field Shay (born January 27, 1853). Mary was the daughter of Dr. Samuel Wallis who was the son of Samuel Wallis, the West Branch pioneer and land king. Mr. Shay next married Priscilla Minerva Llewellyn on November 22, 1855 at Muncy. Priscilla was born in 1831 and they had four children together: Charles P., b. 1856; Edward E., b. January 1858; Mary Virginia, b. 1860; and Priscilla L., b. 1862. His second wife died on April 19, 1862 at Muncy. Mr. Shay married for the third time on March 9, 1865 to Emma J. Stoughton of Milton. Emma was born in 1837. Together they had two children: Frank Stoughton, b. 1865; and Emma E., b. 1874. Phillip’s third wife died in 1925.
[The Northumberland County Pennsylvania Burials, Vol. VI, Meiser, Jr., Joseph A. and Meiser, Sarah Roadarmel, 1991, pg 194; The Record and Star, Silver Anniversary Edition, 1907, pg 12; History of Northumberland County, Bell, 1069-1071.]
Last Modified: 08.08.09