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WILLIAM C. DE FOREEST, of the pioneer music house of Sharon, Pennsylvania, which house was established in 1868, was born in Brookfield township, Trumbull county, Ohio, December 17, 1838, a son of Gurshum Vandenburg and Elanor (Dunham) De Foreest, both natives of Somerset county, New Jersey. The father was born December 20, 1787, and died April 4, 1882, and the mother born June n, 1793, and died December 19, 1872. The date of their marriage was January 26, 1815. Their children were all born in New Jersey, except two, Martha, deceased, and William C. Those living are: William C. and Catherine, wife of Seth Christy, living in Ohio.
The great-grandfather, Isaac De Foreest, was born December 25, 1700, on a farm where New York City in part stands today, it then being called New Amsterdam. There he died in 1796. He was of French and Holland parentage. The grandfather, Abraham De Foreest, was born March 4, 1749, and died December 11, 1847. He was under Washington in the Revolutionary war.
Gurshum V. De Foreest was a New Jersey farmer, and July 2, 1832, he arrived in Mercer county, Pennsylvania, having made the trip from New Jersey by team and wagon, with his wife and eight children. He was anything but a well-to-do man and purchased in New Jersey a team of horses, wagon and harness for $36.36, borrowing four hundred dollars, which amount he was to pay within four years with interest. The family was six weeks en route and located in Mercer county, Pennsylvania, near the Ohio state line, where he rented a piece of land with a log house upon it. It was in the year 1836 that he purchased one hundred and fifty-seven acres of land, over the county line, in Trumbull county, Ohio, paying one hundred dollars down and getting time on the balance. He paid six dollars and a quarter an acre. In the autumn of 1836 he returned to New Jersey with his wife, as he promised her he would return in four years. She had been very industrious in the Buckeye state and had made a large amount of excellent cheese, which they loaded into their wagon, drawn by a fine team. They sold this cheese product all along the road back to ''Jersey," thus obtaining money with which to pay their hotel bills. He had by that time got well stocked up with cattle on his farm and saved up his money from all sources of revenue, so that he was able to pay off the four hundred dollar loan, with accruing interest. Indeed, a proud day in their lives was this pay-day on their farm in the west. They returned to Ohio and continued farming in a highly profitable manner, so that at the date of his death he left an estate valued at twenty-eight thousand dollars. Today this farm—the old homestead above described—is well known as the "De Foreest Farm." It is owned by the Carnegie Steel Company and Miss Alice Luce.
In 1855 he built a frame house, moving from the old log cabin. He was considered one of the most enterprising farmers of his day and locality, raising wheat, sweet potatoes and watermelons. In his day they had but six months of schooling in each year and that was summer and winter. He was school director for many years and as in his district they had ten months of school each year, he assisted in raising the extra money. He was a devout member of the Methodist Episcopal church throughout his entire life and was active in Democratic politics up to 1853-4, but in 1856 he voted for the first Republican standard-bearer— General John C. Fremont, who was candidate for president. He also cast his vote freely for Abraham Lincoln in the fall of 1860. This truly hardy pioneer and excellent gentleman, who blazed his way from the far away coast to the wilderness of Ohio, lies buried in Oakwood cemetery, Sharon. Mercer county, Pennsylvania.
The tenth child in the family, William C. De Foreest was educated at the common schools and spent his youthful days on the farm. In 1868 he engaged in the music business at Sharon and also conducted the old family farm. In 1874 he moved to Sharon and established himself in the business which he has ever since pursued—music. In 1898 his son, M. V. De Foreest, became a partner with his father and today they have the largest stock of musical instruments of any house in western Pennsylvania. They occupy five large rooms in the rear of the main store fronts, which are used for showing goods; also have large storage rooms, and their business is conducted on highly creditable and profitable plans. They have fifty thousand square feet of floor space in their retail stores at 106 West State street. The rear portion of their building is three stories high, while the front is but two. They have, on the ground floor, five large show rooms for pianos, carrying from one hundred to one hundred and thirty instruments constantly, and they also have testing and finishing rooms. Large amounts of phonograph records—the Edison, the Columbia and the Disc records are handled. Their wholesale department and warerooms, located on South Main street, has seven thousand five hundred square feet of floor space, and is two stories high and thirty by sixty feet in size. In the matter of records they are among the largest dealers in America, having on hand one hundred thousand Edison records, and they frequently receive thirty-three thousand records at one shipment. Their trade extends over western Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. Prodigious is the only befitting word when describing this immense establishment.
In his religious life Mr. De Foreest has not been unmindful of his duties. He is a consistent member of the First Methodist Episcopal church in Sharon and has been a faithful class leader, steward and other official of his church for many years. He united with this denomination in 1854. In September, 1907, he was elected as a lay-delegate at the Erie conference to the General Conference of the church held at Baltimore, Maryland, in June, 1908. He was elected by a vote of 107 out of 152. Of his political position it may be recorded that he cast his first and second vote for President Abraham Lincoln, his next for General Grant. Since then he has cast his vote with the Prohibition party.
He was married to Miss Mary E. Locke, February 16, 1865. She was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, August 11, 1847, a daughter of John and Caroline (Bennett) Locke. Her father was born in Lawrenceburg, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania, and died at Sharon. Mr. and Mrs. Locke were the parents of ten children, six of whom now survive, as follows. Bennett, of New Castle; Minnie, widow of Eugene Maxfield; Mrs. De Foreest; Ella, wife of George McClellan, of Wilmington, Ohio; Emma B.; Nannie, widow of William Luther, of Erie, Pennsylvania. The father of this family was a farmer a number of years, but later went to Sharon, where he was a "shearer" in the steel mill. He was a member of the Methodist church during his entire career. Politically he voted the Republican ticket.
Mr. and Mrs. De Foreest are the parents of three children: William Meacle, died in infancy; Myrten V., married Anna McCormick and they have three children—Elizabeth M., William McCormick, and Ruth Rebecca; Eva, wife of Glenn R. Clark, living in Los Angeles, California, their children are Gladys and Glenn Arthur.