Thomas Livezey, Pennsylvania Miller, Part 3

Article excerpt

The first two parts of this series introduced Thomas Livezey (1723-1790), described how his Quaker faith influenced his life and shaped his accomplishments, outlined his early life, and detailed his mill purchase and operation in the early years of his ownership. His original papers, published reports, and studies completed about his home and mill over the past one hundred and twenty years provided the basis for analyzing and studying the Livezey Mill complex, a sophisticated, mid-eighteenth-century enterprise. Many millers were successful business entrepreneurs who lived lives as ordinary men - one could say typical lives as millers. If Livezey had been typical, his story would end with the description of his mill; however, this humble Roxborough miller who lived near Germantown in present-day Philadelphia was anything but typical. While working his entire life being a miller, he also led an impressive public life, working among several of the nation s founding fathers and contributing to the formation of our new nation.

Livezey 's Civic and Political Life-the Local Level

Livezey retired from political life in 1772 as an important member of the dominant Quaker Party in the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly or House of Representatives. Being elected to Pennsylvania's Assembly was not unlike being elected to Virginia's House of Burgess but slightly more significant as Philadelphia, which controlled the Pennsylvania Assembly, was the economic and commercial center of the North American colonies during this period.1 Livezey's milling business had grown from the very beginning, but as Livezey was not university trained or a member of one of Philadelphia's premier families, his political career did not begin at an exalted level in Pennsylvania's political structure. However, from the very beginning of Livezey's adult life, his community recognized his special acumen, skills, and interests, which drew him into the local public arena. Livezey was likely influenced by his father's example. Livezey Qs-2] had served as member of the 1754 Philadelphia County grand jury quarter sessions in March of that year and had been selected to survey the town of Smithfield (now Somerton) in 1 759.2 The elder Livezey served in a number of capacities and levels initially on various road committees. In March 1 762, he was appointed overseer of highways for Roxborough Township. During his early period of civic activity, he participated as a member of the grand jury (1760 through 1764) and was selected foreman for 1761-1763.

Livezey's civic and political career has some parallels to that of Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). Franklin was born seventeen years before Livezey, and like Livezey, he started life as a tradesman. Throughout Franklin's life would refer to himself as "B. Franklin, printer." For Livezey, it was "Thos Livezey, miller." Over the elder statesman's eighty-four-year long life, he became known as "America's best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was one of its most practical, though not most profound, political thinkers."3

The first indication of Livezey participating in his community's civic life happened when he contributed to the founding of the Pennsylvania Hospital; this action also possibly coincided with his first encounter with Franklin. Franklin in his 1754 publication, Some Account of the Pennsylvania Hospital, documented the hospital's founding. In the publication, Livezey was listed as one of the original contributors, donating ¿£l0.4 Livezey's pledge was made during the very early part of his career. It was only four years after he had bought his mill, and he was at the time the father of two or three small children. The donation represented ten percent of the cost of building the original section of his home in 1750-1 75 1.5 Other founding contributors included Dr. Thomas Bond, the hospital's actual founder, and Franklin. Both men were in much better financial situations than Livezey but only donated £25 each. …