Historical Figure: Jacob Weller BS

There were two Weller tribes in the early settlement era, the first led by Jacob “the Moravian” and the second by John. John’s son, Jacob, was father to Jacob BS. Jacob BS married Anna Weller, granddaughter of Jacob the Moravian and daughter of another Jacob, which integrated the two families to a degree. To distinguish himself from the other Jacob Wellers, Jacob BS took to adding the initials for blacksmith after his name.

In 1805 Jacob BS bought land along what now is West Main Street, which was adjacent to the farmstead established by his grandfather, John, in the 1740s. On the north side of the street he built what is believed to be the first tavern and inn in the emerging town. On the south side, he built a house and workshop. Both properties still stand today. In 1811 Jacob BS started a tool factory that appears to have been some distance apart from the typical artisan shop. In 1883 Jacob’s son-in-law offered a recollection of his life in town, which included this description of the shop in the 1830s: “There were two blacksmith shops, one of them very extensive, deserving rather the name of a factory as there were edge and a variety of other tools manufactured, there was a tilt hammer, grindstone, polishing wheel and turning lathe, all propelled by water power.”

In 1825 Weller invented the first friction matches sold in the United States. He’d seen samples of a European variety and through experiment developed a copied product, which he sold locally and through sales agents over a larger territory. He never pursued a patent for the invention, however, which subsequently went to another inventor from Massachusetts. Weller’s home on West Main has been called ‘The Match House’ for generations as a result.

Jacob BS’s first wife died from childbirth in 1816. Three children survived her. Jacob married again to a woman named Mary Love and fathered ten more children from that union, the last when he was 62 years old. He died at age 71 in 1846 and was buried next to his father in the cemetery at Weller church, which sits on property donated by the Wellers from the original land tract obtained by John Weller.

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