Biography of Peter Graff
Armstrong County, PA Biographies

PETER GRAFF, without whose biography the history of Armstrong county would be incomplete, was one of the leading and most prominent business men of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley for over half a century. He was highly esteemed for his sound business principles and inflexible integrity, was a son of John and Barbara Graff (nee Baum), and was born near Pleasant Unity, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, May 27, 1808. The ancestral history of the Graff family is to be traced back in the history of the great German empire for three hundred years. In the sixteenth century the Graff family had become resident at Grafenauer near Manheirm. Grafenauer was a word of which the first part, Graf signified a title of nobility, while the latter denoted a castle, hence Grafenaner meant Graff's castle. John Graff (father) was born at Neuwied, Germany, April 15, 1763. He came to the United States in 1783 and settling in Westmoreland county, where he purchased a farm and lived until his death which occurred December 31, 1818. He married Barbara Baum, who was born in Path Valley, Huntingdon county, in 1775 and died at her Westmoreland county home in 1841. The word Baum means tree, and her family was rightly named as every member of it possessed great strength. She was captured by the Indians during her father's residence in the Valley, and was released by an old Indian who had received kindness from the family when in a starving condition. To John and Barbara Graff were born eight sons and four daughters: Henry, Mary, wife of Jacob Lose; Sarah, who married Daniel Barnes; Margaret, wife of John Colleasure; William, John, Joseph, Elizabeth, wife of John Armstrong; Peter, Jacob, Matthew and Paul.

Peter Graff grew to manhood near Pleasant Unity, in Westmoreland county. His education was limited. One of his teachers was the father of the late Gov. Geary. His first employment was as a clerk for his brother Henry, at Pleasant Unity, and afterwards at New Perry, Pa. In 1830, he removed to Blairsville, Indiana county, where he with his brother Henry formed a partnership in the general mercantile business under the firm name of H. & P. Graff, doing a large and successful business. Later they formed a connection with the firm of E. G. Dutilh & Co., commission merchants of Philadelphia, for the purpose of transporting merchandise from Philadelphia west, by the Pennsylvania canal and State railroad. It was called the Union Transportation Line. in 1836 he moved to Pittsburgh and took charge of receiving and forwarding the merchandise. Several years later he formed a partnership with Jacob Painter and Reuben Bughman, and engaged in the wholesale grocery business. This firm soon enlarged its field of operations so as to include the manufacture of iron. They obtained control of Buffalo furnace near Worthington, and Mr. Graff moved there in 1844, to assume the management of their extensive iron business. They increased their iron interests until they operated furnaces in Clarion and Venango counties, besides manufacturing axes, etc.; in Pittsburgh. This firm continued until 1864, although Mr. Graff had become sole owner of Buffalo furnace, and operated it until 1865. During that year the Buffalo Woolen mills were erected for the manufacturing of woolen fabrics. Isaac Firth and Mr. Grail formed a partnership that lasted for twenty years. In 1885, Mr. Firth retired, and the firm of Peter Graff & Co. was organized which continued until his death, since which time the mills have been operated by E. D. Graff, J. Frank Graff and James E. Claypoole, under the old firm name of Peter Graff & Co.

January 25, 1830, Peter Graff married Susan Lobingier, a daughter of Christopher Lobingicr, living near Mt. Pleasant, Pa., and a member of the widely extended Lobingier family, that has furnished honorable legislators and able jurists, reflecting credit to western Pennsylvania. Her great grandfather, Christopher Lobingier, came from Wittenberg, Germany, prior to 1735, and his son, Hon. Christopher, was the father of Christopher, who was the father of Mrs. Graff. Peter and Susan Graff had eleven children, seven sons and four daughters. Of these, one son and two daughters died in early childhood. One son, Dr. Charles H., died in September, 1887, in the prime of life, and in the midst of his usefulness. Seven children, five sons and two daughters with his wife survive him. Joseph, his eldest son, lives at Manorville; Mrs. W. H. Kirkpatrick, in Allegheny city; Mrs. C. B. Linton, Clifton Springs, N. Y.; Edmund P. and J. Frank, at Buffalo Woolen mills; Philip M., at Duluth, Minnesota; and Peter, at Utica, N. Y.

Peter Graff was a leading democrat, and an influential member of the Lutheran church. He was a man of strong constitution, and had great powths of endurance. At eighty years of age he was as active in business as many men twenty five years younger. December 1, 1889, he had a stroke of apoplexy, from which he rallied. Another followed the 27th of March, terminating his life April 9, 1890. His funeral was the largest ever witnessed in the community, and his remains were entombed with appropriate ceremonies in the Lutheran cemetery. From the funeral sermon, preached by his pastor, Rev. J. W. Schwartz, II Samuel, 3: 38, and the king said unto his servants, know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel, we extract the following: "His moral character has always been above reproach. In his dealings with men, be was at all times reliable. In financial affairs, there never was a time that his word was not as good as his bond. For over fifty years he had been actively engaged in Christian work. Ever since I have known him, he has been one of the elders of our church, and nearly all of that time be was superintendent of our Sabbath school." The Kittanning Standard gave a full account of his life, in which it said: "His Christian character was a prominent trait. He was devoted to the Lutheran church, of which he was. a member, the building recently erected in Worthington, is a monument of his zeal and liberality." The Kittanning Globe speaking of his death said: "He was 'prominent' among the generation of men now rapidly passing away, and in the course of more than half a century of active business life, was so largely identified with the history and business prosperity of the region in which he lived, that his death will be the subject of deep and sincere regret. He was a pioneer among the material beginnings of our prosperity, while he so largely helped in building the foundations of the industrial enterprises, with which his foresight and business skill were identified, he has built as well a record of an upright, generous and consistent Christian life, that will ever stand as the most enduring monument to his memory."


From:
Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia
of Indiana and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania
Samuel T. Wiley, Historian & Editor
John M. Greshan & Co.
Philadelphia, 1891


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