Does the name William M. Weirbach sound familiar? If you know any Downey history it should.
William Mann Weirbach was born in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania on Feb. 26, 1845. In the early 1860’s he joined the Blue Army -- union forces -- and was captured by the Confederate Army (the Grey Army). He was a member of the Pennsylvania Regiment No. 112.
William was taken prisoner in September of 1864 and lay starving in prison until he was released in March of 1865. While he was held captive for numerous months, he was released by the Confederate Army when they thought he was close to death.
He returned to his home in Pennsylvania and regained strength and later got married. To escape the memories of the Civil War, he ventured out to Downey, California in 1887 to start a new life with his family. He was a shoemaker by trade and established a shoe shop in Downey.
As a Civil War veteran, he was invited in 1938 to attend the Gettysburg reunion as a guest of the U.S. government and was honored for his service. William saw President Roosevelt dedicate a new statue on the battlefield.
Pennsylvania senator John S. Rice made all the arrangements for William’s visit to the reunion, but transportation and accommodation enroute were made by H.C. Monaham, a native son of Downey. Monaham was a general passenger agent for Southern Pacific Railroad.
While in Gettysburg, William saw many regiment parades of infrantry, and several tank demonstrations were also featured on the program. Music and band concerts were furnished by the Marine and United States bands. The program ended with a huge fireworks show on July 4.
William M. Weirbach -- Downey Cobbler -- was an active businessman and was instrumental in helping to form the Downey Chamber of Commerce.