Friday, March 2, 2007


Elias J Unger
1830 – September 29, 1896

Elias J. Unger was born in Dauphin County, PA, in 1830 or 1831, the son of David B. Unger and Catherina Eisenhower...

As many have said, the title “Colonel” was not one that Unger had earned, but rather one that he had appropriated somewhere along the way.

For a while, Unger was an employee of different jobs for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and was later the manager of the Seventh Avenue Hotel in Pittsburgh.

The Morning Tribune, Altoona, Saturday, December 6, 1879:

“Mr. Tyler to Take Charge of the Mountain House: Colonel E. J. Unger, proprietor of the Pittsburgh Seventh Avenue Hotel and Superintendent of the Mansion House, the popular summer resort of the Keystone Hotel Company at Cresson, has resigned the latter office after a service covering several seasons. Mr. W. D. Tyler, Superintendent of the Logan House in this city, will have charge of the Mansion House hereafter. Colonel Unger will retain his position as Superintendent of the Union depot restaurant in Pittsburgh. His resignation has been in the hands of the company for a long while back, and was caused by his desire to devote his entire attention to his own hotel. Colonel Unger was in the city at the Logan House last evening, accompanied by Mrs. Unger, and the arrangements have been completed for the transfer of the hotel to Mr. Tyler, under whose management it cannot fail to retain its well known reputation.”

In 1887, Unger was listed on the board of directors of the Woodruff Sleeping and Parlor Coach Co. board of directors. In 1888 he had become involved in the Keokuk Scientific Society in Iowa (geological exploration). Unger was a director of the Pittsburgh Exposition Society along with other SFF&HC members SS Marvin and Robert Pitcairn:

Most chroniclers of the flood say that Unger was a retired hotel proprietor. However in so far as he was the president of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club he was not truly retired, but rather had broad ranging responsibility for being the on site manager of the Club both in and out of season.

As stated on the National Flood Memorial site:

Colonel Elias Unger probably never had a military record. He was, however, the manager of hotels along the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Seventh Avenue Hotel in Pittsburgh. These accomplishments did not get him much notoriety after his death in 1896, but what did was one of the worst disasters in United States history.”

Here is David McCullough on E J Unger:

“When the rains began on the afternoon of Thursday, May 30, 1889, there was only one club member at the lake. He was Colonel E. J. Unger, a retired Pittsburgh hotel proprietor, who was president of the club and lived on a farm along the lakeshore. With him was twenty-three-year-old John Parke, who had been recently hired as a resident engineer. There was also a superintendent of the grounds, and a gang of Italian workmen who had been hired to dig trenches for a new indoor plumbing system. It was a busy time for Colonel Unger. The season was soon to begin, and some two hundred visitors were expected.” (Run for your Lives! American Heritage magazine, June 1966)

The statement of Elias J Unger is available on line at:

Unger’ farm is now the main building for the National Flood Memorial and well worth a visit.

Elias J. Unger married Annie C. Steel (born July 26, 1834), in Harrisburg. Annie was the daughter of Israel Steel and Mary R. Geiger (b. October 21, 1814, at Harrisburg; d. January 17, 1848).

Elias J. and Annie C. Steel Unger had one daughter:

- Mary C. Unger (); married George C Wilson the son of William White and Mary Murphy Wilson

“Mr. Wilson married Mary G. Unger, a daughter of Elias J. and Annie C. (Steele) Unger. He has two sons and one daughter: Unger, George and Annye. In politics Mr. Wilson is a Republican. He resides at the corner of Rebecca and Friendship Avenue, East End (302 Friendship Avenue).”
(Source: Biographical review; v. 24, containing life sketches of leading citizens of Pittsburg and the vicinity, Pennsylvania, 1897)

The 1880 census lists them thus:

Geo C. WILSON - 28, Lawyer
Mary WILSON - 28, Keeping H

- William WILSON - 2

- Unger WILSON - 1

- George WILSON - 1

(George and Unger must have been twins. What happened to William?)

Their summer home was called “Marlan Farms” in Mifflin, Juniata County, PA.

Elias J Unger is listed as on the church site selection committee for Christ Episcopal Church in 1891…along with C B Shea & Durbin Horne.

Unger died in Harrisburg, PA on September 29, 1896. Some alternative sources say the location was Pittsburgh.

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