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Veronica “Fanny” Snavely Hershey, 1835-1920

Fanny Hershey joined her daughter-in-law, Kitty, hosting some Milton Hershey School boys during their visit to High Point, 1912
Fanny Hershey joined her daughter-in-law, Kitty, hosting some Milton Hershey School boys during their visit to High Point, 1912

Veronica “Fanny” Snavely Hershey – 9/4/1835 – 3/11/1920

“Fanny,” whose formal name was Veronica after her great-grandmother, was born September 4, 1835, the daughter of Abraham Snavely (1787-1866) and Elizabeth (Buckwalter) Snavely. Fanny’s father, a Reformed Mennonite clergyman, had been confirmed bishop in 1830. Bishop Abraham was a wealthy man for his day. Milton Hershey used to say that it had been more of an achievement for his grandfather to make his thousands than it was for the grandson to make his millions.

Fanny Snavely was the youngest daughter of a large family, which included four girls; Elizabeth, Anna, Martha and Veronica “Fanny,” and two boys: Benjamin and Abraham.

Neither Henry Hershey nor Fanny Snavely, at the time of their marriage, January 15, 1856, was a member of the Reformed Mennonite Church. That may perhaps explain why they were not married by Fanny’s father, Bishop Abraham Snavely of the Reformed Mennonites, but by the Reverend Gottlieb Frederick Krotel, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in Lancaster.

Her marriage to Henry Hershey, the oldest son of a another prosperous Mennonite family seemed promising at first. Henry was handsome, tall, well-dressed, courteous in manner, an engaging talker. She was proud of him and he of her. She was a pleasant little woman, neat and quick about the house, a good housekeeper, careful of the pennies, not without ambition.  he had a little money of her own, and when her husband’s business ventures went astray she was able at first to help him. Their first child, a boy, named Milton Snavely, was born September 13, 1857. A daughter, Sarena, followed several years later, born on April 12, 1862.

Sadly, Henry’s continued lack of financial success and his perennial chasing of dreams quickly soured the marriage. His financial failures forced the family to move several times during the first ten years of their marriage as Henry pursued one failed business venture after another. When Sarena died of scarlet fever on March 31, 1867, Fanny Hershey turned her back on the marriage and the couple separated.

The separation left Fanny as an impoverished single mother with the primary responsibility for raising her son. Fanny devoted herself to raising her son, impressing him with values that would shape Milton Hershey’s adult life. She taught him to work hard, to keep trying no matter what, to be frugal and be honorable in his dealings with others.

Fanny Hershey ardently believed in her son. It was she who arranged for Milton Hershey’s apprenticeship with the Lancaster Confectioner, Joseph Royer. It was she who accompanied him to Philadelphia when he started his first business and worked tireless on his behalf. When he moved to New York City to start his second business, Fanny joined him to support this business venture. She finally had the satisfaction of seeing him succeed in his third business, the Lancaster Caramel Company. She never stopped helping him however she could. When the Hershey Chocolate Company moved to the new factory in the new town of Hershey, Fanny continued to work for her son’s business. Daily baskets of unwrapped kisses were delivered to Fanny Hershey’s house located across the street from the factory so that she could help by wrapping product for her son. Milton Hershey remained devoted to his mother throughout her life, providing housing and as much comfort as she would accept.

Milton Hershey was traveling in Europe when he received word that his mother’s health was failing. He immediately cancelled his plans and arranged to return home. Arriving in January, 1920, he was able to spend several weeks with his mother and was with her when she died at home on March 11, 1920. She was buried at the Hershey Cemetery in the family plot.

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