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Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
February 19, 2020

            Our region has been fortunate to have the services of some extraordinary clergymen over the years.  One of them, Rev. William U. Kistler, served his congregation from 1904 to 1950.  The long-time pastor of St. Marks Church in

Among the small crowd in Miami,

Florida's Bayfront Park listening to

president-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt

on February 15, 1933 was St. Marks

Church Pastor William U. Kistler. 

He and several other local residents

witnessed the assassination attempt.

Pennsburg was also a well traveled.

            He enjoyed sharing the stories of his travels with the people of the community.  Most of them were told with tongue-in-cheek humor, like the time two local friends joined him on a botanical trip to Virginia during World War I.  When the Pennsylvanians were overhead speaking the Pennsylvania-Dutch dialect, the locals assumed they were German spies who were intent on blowing up the local reservoir.  But one of his trips also made him a witness to other, near tragic events. 

            There was one incident Rev. Kistler witnessed that seems to be missing from many history books - the attempted assassination of President –elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt, just weeks before his inauguration.

            In the 1932 election, Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover for

Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, left, and President elect

Franklin Deleno Roosevelt.  Due to the crippling effects

of polio, Roosevelt often gave short speeches from inside

his car. 

the Presidency by more than 7 million popular votes, with a 472-59 count in the Electoral College.  He was to be sworn in at inaugural ceremonies in March of 1933.

            In February, just one month before taking office, Roosevelt was traveling through Florida, and scheduled a brief visit at Miami's Bayfront Park.

            In addition to being the senior pastor at Saint Mark's Church at the time, Rev. Kistler also served the congregations at Saint John's Church in Spinnerstown, and Zion Hill Church in Lehigh County.

            It just so happens that Rev. Kistler and his wife Emily, along with local residents Ella and Ethel Hillegass were on a bus trip to Miami at the time.  The Pastor heard about the scheduled Roosevelt visit and he and his wife made their way to the park to get a glimpse of the soon-to-be president.

            While Kistler and his wife were filled with excitement at the chance to see and hear Roosevelt someone else was plotting his murder.

            It was reported that on February 13, 1933 Italian immigrant Guiseppe Zangara purchased a .32 caliber pistol at a local drugstore.  He planned to take a bus to Washington D.C. the next day.  On his way to the bus station he ...

January 08, 2020
December 18, 2019


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