Thomas W. Gocke

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Tina Hursh
January 30, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume II
pg. 80

Thomas W. Gocke, one of the substantial business men of Piedmont, has been
identified with the history of Mineral County for a quarter of a century, and
is the representative in this region of the J.C. Orrick & Son Company. He was
born at Howesville, Preston County, West Virginia, May 13, 1864, a son of John
J. and Catherine (Wesling) Gocke, natives of the province of Brandenburg,
Germany, who were married in the United States, to which the father had come in
1840. He first lived at Cumberland, Maryland, and later at Tunnelton, West
Virginia, being there until after the completion of the first tunnel. Soon
afterward he bought a farm at Howesville, and continued to conduct it until
his death in 1892, when he was sixty-eight years old. He was married after
coming to Preston County, and the mother survived him until 1910, when she
passed away at Clarksburg, West Virginia, aged eighty-seven year. They had
thirteen children, eight of whom grew up, were married and reared families, but
only four are now living, the being: Thomas W., whose name heads this review;
James B., who is a resident of Los Angelos, California; Vincent E., who is a
resident of Clarksburg, West Virginia; and Emma S., who is the wife of John
E. Mattingly, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Growing up on his father’s farm, Thomas Gocke attended the local schools and
learned habits of industy and thrift from his watchful parents. Taking upon
himself the responsibilities of manhood, he went to Cumberland, Maryland, and
became a salesman for the J.C. Orrick & son company, and has remained with this
corporation ever since. While at Cumberland Mr. Gocke covered a territory
including Preston and Mineral counties, West Virginia, and Garrett County,
Maryland, but in 1900 was transferred to Piedmont, Keyser and Georges Creed
districts. Investing in the stock of his company, he now is one of the large
stockholders and a member of its board of directors.

The J.C. Orrick & Son Company, one of the most reliable concerns in the East,
was established in 1863, at Cumberland, Maryland, by J.C. Orrick, who remained
at its head during the remainder of his active life, and saw it develop from a
small wholesale house to a corporation with many branches, doing a
business of $1,000,000 annually. For a time a branch house was maintained at
Grafton, West Virginia, but the business is now done by the Piedmont and
Cumberland houses. The president and general manager of the company is William
Gulland, the Orricks having all passed away.

Mr. Gocke has taken an active part in civic affairs at Piedmont, as he did at
Cumberland, and is very active in politics. Casting his first presidential
vote for Grover Cleveland, he has followed the fortunes of the democratic party
ever since, and has been his party’s delegate upon numerous occasions to the
congressional and state conventions, and was particularly zealous in the
campaigns of his old boyhood friend, Junior Brown, for Congress, and was his
close advisor during his entire career. On February 22, 1914, Mr. Gocke
recieved a reward to which he was entitled in his appointment as postmaster
of Piedmont, to succeed George T. Goshorn, and was re-appointed after a service
of four years, filling the office until he resigned, August 29, 1921. While
he was postmaster he continued his connection with the Orrick Company, and felt
that the burden was too great for him to continue the responsibilities of both
positions. He has also served as a member of the Piedmont City Council, and was
responsible for the inauguration of the system of sewers. An enthusiastic
advocate of the good roads movement, he was instrumental in securing the issue
of the $100,000 bond fund for the building of permanent roads, and it is a
reconized fact that had he not exerted himself in behalf of this movement it
would not have been successful. Public improvements and the public welfare of
his home city and county have always been of vital moment to him, and he has
always been willing to devote much time and attention to whatever he has
believed would work out for the best of the majority. During the late war his
position as postmaster of Piedmont placed him in the front ranks of the drives
for all purposes, and he exerted himself to the utmost to aid the
admisistration in carrying out its policies. Mr. Gocke is a member of the
Knights of Columbus, of which he has been grand knight, and he has represented
the local concil in the state council, and has held the office of advocate in
the latter body.

On November 20, 1889, Mr. Gocke married at Baltimore, Maryland, Mary F. Kessler,
who was born at Butler, Maryland, a daughter of Peter and Kate (Merryman)
Kessler, natives of Switzerland, and Baltimore, Maryland, respectively. Mrs.
Kessler was a distant relative of Johns Hopkins, founder of the famous
University of Baltimore, Maryland, which bears his name. Mr. and Mrs. Gocke
became the parents of the following children: Dr. William T., who is a
graduate of the Baltimore College of Physicians and Surgeons, is engaged in a
practice of his profession at Clarksburg, West Virginia; Joseph J., who is
connected with the Kenny House at Piedmont; Paul F., who is manager of the above
mentioned hotel; Thomas V., who is a student of Jefferson Medical College,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Mary Catherine, who is attending the Piedmont
High School. The Gockes are all Roman Catholics. Paul and Joseph Gocke
volunteered for service during the World war at the entry of this country into
the conflict, and served in the One Hundred and Seventy-third Engineers. They
were sent overseas, were for five months in France, and for two months with
the Army of Occupation on the Rhine River in Germany. During their period of
service they were hospital attaches, and returned home uninjured. Both are
members of the American Legion. The youngest son, Thomas V., was a S.A.T.C.
student, and was in a training camp in Kentucky, perparing for army life,
when the signing of the armistice put an end to the necessity for further
troops. Like their father, the Gocke sons are admirable men and good citizens,
and valuable additions to any community with which they see fit to connect