Member Biography

William Muhlenberg Hiester 


Portrait: The Hiester Family, The Pennsylvania German Society


Sessions Office Position District Party
1853       5 Democrat
1854       5 Democrat
1855     Speaker 5 Democrat



05/15/1818 - 08/16/1878

Major William Muhlenberg Hiester (D5) Berks County 1853-1855

Early Life: 

Major William Muhlenberg Hiester born May 15, 1818, Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania; son of Doctor Isaac and Esther Muhlenberg Hiester; Bristol College, Bristol, Pennsylvania; Harvard College (now Harvard University) 1839; read law, admitted to the bar, attorney, 1840; married, Julia F Rowland Hiester, 1849, son, Isaac Hiester; elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1853-1855; elected, Speaker, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1855; appointed, Secretary of the Commonwealth, 1858, commissioned, major, Pennsylvania Militia, Civil War, 1863; unsuccessful campaign, Republican, United States House of Representatives, 1864; first president, Historical Society of Berks County, 1869; director, Reading Library, director, Charles Evans Cemetery Company, director, Reading Gas Company; died, August 16, 1878, Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania; interment Charles Evans Cemetery, Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Early Career:

Early in life, attorney, law practice, Erie, Pennsylvania; law practice, law partner Henry A. Muhlenberg, Reading, Pennsylvania. Commissioned, major, Pennsylvania Militia, Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin; Civil War, raised 8,000 troops for the defense of Pennsylvania, 1863. Later after politics, director, Reading Library, director, Charles Evans Cemetery Company, director, Reading Gas Company.

Pennsylvania Politics:  

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 5th district, Berks County, 1853-1855; chairman, Judiciary Committee elected, Speaker, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1855.

Appointed, Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Governor William Fisher Packer, 1858.

Unsuccessful campaign, Republican, United States House of Representatives, 1864.


In July 1869, interested citizens to gathered, "for the purpose of collecting and perpetuating the historical reminisces of Berks County, Pennsylvania." Following the first meeting in August, the Historical Society of Berks County, incorporated, December 13, 1869, the first president, elected, Honorable William M. Hiester.

Grandson of General Peter Muhlenberg, American clergyman, Continental Army soldier during the American Revolutionary War, and political figure in the newly independent United States. A Lutheran minister, he served in the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate from Pennsylvania.

Great grandson of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. German Lutheran pastor sent to North America as a missionary, requested by Pennsylvania colonists.

Father of Isaac Hiester, uncle of Hiester Clymer, and nephew of John Hiester and Daniel Hiester.


Biographical Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania, ed. Charles Robson (Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Co., 1894), 333. Snyder, 77;Valeria E. Clymer Hill, A Genealogy of the Hiester Family (Reading: Reading Eagle Press, 1941), 33.

Morton L. Montgomery, Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J.H. Beers, 1909), 331, 756, 1692;  Hill, 33