Muscatine County, Iowa


Submitted by Lynn McCleary, March 4, 2011

Was Donor of Many Gifts in This Vicinity.
Death Comes to Philanthropist After Long Illness.

Muscatine Journal & News Tribune, Muscatine, Iowa, Friday March 7, 1930

Miss Mira Hershey, 86 wealthy philanthropist, and former extensive property owner in Muscatine, the last surviving member of the Benjamin Hershey family, died Thursday at the Hollywood hotel, Hollywood, Calif., which she owned. With the death of Miss Hershey, one of Muscatine’s most outstanding pioneer families passes into history. Miss Hershey had been in failing health for several years. --- The Benjamin Hershey Memorial Hospital, the 220-acre farm and the first three-story brick building of the Lutheran Orphans and Old People’s home on the Burlington road, funds for a part of the new Hershey Hospital nurses home, a gift of $5,000 for the new Y.W.C.A. building, numerous gifts to other organizations and to individuals, were a part of the philanthropies of Miss Mira Hershey in which Muscatine shared.

The Hospital

The Hershey Hospital which was opened June 26, 1902, was a gift of Miss Hershey as a memorial to her father, Benjamin Hershey, one of the pioneer business men of this area, who spent many years of activity in the community and died leaving a vast estate. Miss Hershey herself planned and supervised the construction of the Hershey Hospital. --- The board of trustees of Muscatine businessmen were selected by Miss Hershey. The building, complete, was given by her to the city. Then when the hospital was remodeled and enlarged a heating plant added and a nurses’ home constructed a few years ago, Miss Hershey gave $7,500 toward the improvements while Muscatine business interests subscribed an additional $40,000.

The Lutheran Homes.

Miss Hershey’s gift made possible the starting of the Lutheran Home for the aged and for orphaned children on the Burlington road. The farm, which is an important part of the home, was given to the organization by Miss Hershey. Then she gave sufficient funds to erect a three story brick building, the first of the three structures, which served both the orphans and the aged for many years. This gift was made in 1895. About a year ago, when needs of the home became greater, this building was transformed into a boys’ dormitory and it still serves the purpose for which Miss Hershey originally intended it.

Built the Hershey Building.

The Hershey building at the corner of Third and Sycamore streets, is another memorial to the Hershey family. Miss Hershey erected this in 1907 and 1908 as an expression of her faith in the advancement of Muscatine. The building, at the time of its construction cost $180,000, but appraisers recently placed its valuation at $350,000. It was sold earlier this year.

Left 35 Years Ago.

About 35 years ago Miss Hershey left Muscatine for California settling in the southern part of the state. She acquired extensive property and land holding there, construction the Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood where she made her home in recent years. --- No estimate of Miss Hershey’s buildings could be learned here today. Reports form Hollywood announce they were extensive. A part of the estate will go to maintain philanthropies which she instituted. --- Representatives of Miss Hershey began closing out her holdings in Muscatine County late in 1929. On Jan. 1, 1930, a deal was consummated whereby the Hershey Building was transferred to Higgins and Gray of Long Beach, Calif., in exchange for property in the west. Several lots which Miss Hershey owned on East Ninth street were recently sold to Charles Rosenberger and a deal was pending for sale of cemetery lots of the Hershey estate. F.M. Ziegler, who managed the property, reported today.

Came in 1853.

The Hershey family first became identified with the history of Muscatine in 1853. In that year Benjamin Hershey, father of Mira Hershey, came to Muscatine from his native home in Pennsylvania as a farmer and as a tobacco merchant at Columbia, Lancaster County, where he carried on an extensive business. In the spring of 1852 he made his first trip to Muscatine and finding the location a promising business point, returned to Pennsylvania. In the following spring he brought his family here. --- Renting a sawmill he at once engaged in the manufacture of lumber, and two years later bought the mill. The opening of the west to civilization created a good market for the products of his mill and the venture proved a profitable one. From the sawmill of 1853, with its primitive machinery and limited production sprung the large lumber corporation which was incorporated in 1875 as the Muscatine Lumber Manufacturing company. Shortly after the incorporation the same was changed to the Hershey Lumber company and it continued under that name since. --- The company is still in existence, although the business has been gradually closing out for the past 10 years. For the past several years the company has been active only in timber holding business, the logs coming down to the mill here in 1902. --- The Muscatine mills were engaged in the lumber manufacturing business, the logs coming down to Muscatine from Wisconsin and Minnesota and being sent to southern Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. Hundreds of homes and buildings in those state are built of lumber manufactured at Muscatine. --- The company operated two mills here and one at Stillwater, Minn., all at the same time. Several hundred men were employed here by the company.

Formed New Company.

Following the close of the mills here, the retail department was taken over by a new company. That company was incorporated as the Mira Hershey Lumber Company. Miss Hershey was not active in the business, but served as president and gave her financial assistance to the business. Prior to the organization of the new company she had moved to southern California. --- At the present time Fred Beach of the Beach Lumber company here was secretary of the Hershey Lumber Company of which Miss Hershey was a stockholder. Mr. Beach and John Storiz bought the Mira Hershey Lumber company and a few years ago Mr. Beach purchased the interest of Mr. Stortz. --- In addition to his extensive lumber business Mr. Hershey took up agriculture and livestock raising. He was also active in civic affairs, serving as a member of the city council and twice as mayor, starting his term in 1865.

Was youngest of Four Children

Miss Hershey was the youngest of four children born to Benjamin F. Hershey and his wife, who was Miss Elizabeth Whitmore. Sarah, the oldest, was wife of Clarence Eddy of Chicago, Ill. Amanda Hershey died in Europe in 1876: Elizabeth Hershey died in Muscatine, Oct. 7, 1856. --- The nearest survivor is a niece, Mrs. Bessie Brannon Geiger of Hollywood Calif., who was a daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Eddy. Mrs. Geiger and her husband have been managing the Hershey estate in the west for a number of years.


Hollywood, Calif., March 7. – Funeral services for Miss Mira Parker Hershey, regarded as Hollywood’s outstanding philanthropist and business woman, will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Hollywood Cemetery Chapel under auspices of the Humanist Society of which Miss Hershey was a member.

Had Stroke Previously.

A pioneer in the development of Hollywood realty, Miss Hershey died of apoplexy yesterday at 2 o’clock at the age of 86 in her apartments in the Hollywood Hotel, which she had owned for more than a quarter of a century. She had suffered a previous stroke last Saturday, which had left her in a weakened condition and she had been under the constant care of a nurse since. The first stroke had not totally incapacitated her however, and she had been sitting up eating lunch a half hour before she died.

Left Much to Charity.

Her estate, valued in the millions and including numerous parcels of Hollywood property, will continue the many philanthropies she instituted during her lifetime and large amounts have been set aside for new charitable bequest. --- Miss Hershey came to Los Angeles from Muscatine, Ia., in 1894 on a short visit and became so enamored of the city she decided to remain, and built her own home in what is now downtown Los Angeles, then a residential district. --- In 1900 she moved to Hollywood, bought the Hollywood Hotel, enlarged it, and has lived there since. --- She invested largely in land, which added greatly to her wealth. She devoted a large part of this wealth to charitable enterprises, although this fact was not known until her death.

Built Hospital There.

One of the foremost of her philanthropies was the establishment of the Good Hope Hospital in connection with the Good Samaritan Hospital. At the Good Hope institution persons of moderate means are treated for whatever charges they can afford to pay with the fund given by her making up the difference between their payments and the normal Hospital charges. A found of $1,800,000 had been given for this purpose.

To Cremate Body.

Among other charitable institutions in which she was interested was the McKinley Home for boys. --- She is survived by a niece, Mrs. Hector Geiger of Hollywood, and Mrs. Geiger’s three sons. They are Malcolm Bissell and Kenneth Bissell, professors at the University of Southern California, and Clifford Bissell, professor at the University of California. Miss Hershey’s body will be cremated, in accordance with her wish.

Hershey Ashes Brought Here
Muscatine Journal & News Tribune, Muscatine, Iowa Tuesday May 27, 1930

Ashes of Miss Mira Parker Hershey, Hollywood philanthropist and former resident of this city, who died at Hollywood March 6, 1930, were brought to Muscatine for burial at the family lot today. Services at the grave this afternoon were in charge of the Rev. William Hainsworth, pastor of the First Congregational church.

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Page created March 4, 2011 by Lynn McCleary