John S. Trower: Best Known and Probably the Wealthiest Negro in the Country


John S. Trower: Best Known and Probably the Wealthiest Negro in the Country


John S. Trower; Philadelphia businessman; Black businesses; Germantown neighborhood; Booker T. Washington; African-American caterer


Obituary of John S. Trower, successful African-American caterer in the Germantown and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods in Philadelphia.


Washington Bee, from the Philadelphia Record


Washington Bee


WCU, HIS 601/HON 451 Great Migration and Digital Storytelling, Spring 2016


April 29, 1911


Janneken Smucker


Public Domain, via America's Historical Newspapers






John S. Trower, aged 61 years, the well-known caterer, said to be the wealthiest Negro in Pennsylvania and perhaps inthe country, who was preuted to be worth one illion dollars and more, died yesterday morning at his home, No. 5706 Germantown avenue, of pneumonia. He is survived by his widow and six children, one of whom is the wife of Dr. R.K. Cherry.

Trower for a great number of years was interested in every movement in the uplifting of the people of his race, and gave liberally of his means, in the building of churches, Sunday schools, industrial homes and beneficial organizations. He was born in Eastville, Northampton county, Va., October 3, 1849. As a young man he learned the catering business in Maryland and 40 years ago he embarked in the same enterprise for himself. He was phenomenally successful, and had done the catering not only for the fashionable society of Germantown and Chestnut Hill, but also in this and adjoining States.

He was, according to Rev. W.A. Creditt, pastor of the Cherry Street Baptist Church, the most prominent colored layman in America. He attended all the national church conventions and became a powerful public speaker. He was chairman of the trustees of the Cherry Street Church; 16 years superintendent of its Sunday school and at the last meeting was elected superintendent for life.

He personally guaranteed all the mortgages and loans of the church, amounting to $75,000, until a few years ago, when the church became financially strong, and he was relieved of this responsibility. He also financed the building of tZion AfricanBaptist Church, on West Rittenhouse street, Germantown, and the colored Baptist church at Ocean City.

He was president of the State Baptist Sunday School Association for 15 years, and was such respected by the white Baptist ministers. He was a self-made man, receiving but little education in his youth, and in order to help the young founded the Downington Industrial School, of which Dr. Creditt is president.

Trower organized a building and loan association for the colored people of the city and erected 20 houses for their use in the vicinity of the Cherry Street Church.

Booker Washington considered him the greatest man of hsi race in this country, and in this published book devotes an entire chapter to his life and work.. The funeral will take place Saturday at noon. Booker Washington has been invited to be present.

Original Format

Newspaper article




Washington Bee,from thePhiladelphia Record, “John S. Trower: Best Known and Probably the Wealthiest Negro in the Country,” Goin' North, accessed March 4, 2024,