Charles E. (Charles Elliott) Fitch.

Encyclopedia of biography of New York, a life record of men and women whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preëminent in their own and many other states (Volume 5) online

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officer, a member of the Constitutional
Convention of 1777 and a judge in 1778.
He married Ruth Tompkins and among
their children was Dr. Nathaniel Drake,
father of Elizabeth Drake, wife of John
Fowler, the latter the parents of Hiram
Fowler and grandparents of Purdy A.
Fowler, of Rochester, now vice-president
of the Langslow-Fowler Company, manu-
facturers of furniture. Hiram Fowler
was a farmer of Westchester county. New
York, his estate situated at Yorktown.
He married Mary Goetschius, born in
Rockland county. New York.

Their son, Purdy A. Fowler, was born
at the home farm at Yorktown, West-
chester county, New York, December 27,
1851, but at the age of four years his
parents moved to Peekskill, New York.
He attended Peekskill public schools
until 1866, then for two years was clerk
in the village store. That life did not
appeal to him, and from the age of seven-
teen to twenty-two he worked at the car-
penter's trade as apprentice and journey-
man. Flis ambition was not yet satisfied
and in 1873 he made a radical change,
going to Boston and then, after becoming
familiar with furniture manufacture, lay-
ing aside his tools and becoming a travel-
ing salesman. During the next decade he
sold furniture all over the United States,
becoming thoroughly familiar with the
business and well acquainted with the re-
tail dealers of the many cities he visited

in his semi-annual trips from Boston to
San Francisco. In 1885 he united with
H. A. and S. C. Langslow in forming the
Langslow-Fowler Company and on De-
cember I of that year they began busi-
ness in Rochester as furniture manufac-
turers. The Langslows, father and son,
were experienced in both the manufac-
ture and sale of furniture, both having
been members of the I. H. Dewey Furni-
ture Company, Henry A. Langslow, the
father, as vice-president, the son, Strat-
ton C. Langslow, as traveling salesman.
Neither of the partners had anything to
learn about the furniture business as then
conducted and as the years have pro-
gressed they have kept in closest touch
with modern styles and methods, but as
leaders not followers. In course of time
the honored head, Henry A. Langslow,
was gathered to his fathers, the younger
jjartners reorganizing as a corporation
with Stratton C. Langslow as president,
Purdy A. Fowler as vice-president. The
Langslow-Fowler Company conduct a
very large business, the product of their
Rochester plant going to all parts of the

Mr. Fowler is a member of the Masonic
order, belonging to Genesee Falls Lodge,
Free and Accepted Masons ; Hamilton
Chapter, Royal Arch Masons ; and Mon-
roe Commandery, Knights Templar. He
is also affiliated with that social adjunct
of Masonry, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine,
and with the Veiled Prophets. He is
fond of the social pleasures of life and is
associated with his fellows in the Roches-
ter Algonquin and Commercial clubs,
having served the last named as presi-
dent. In political faith he is a Repub-
lican, interested in public affairs, but
never has sought or desired public office.
He ranks high as a business man and
holds the esteem of all who know him as
either a business man or citizen.

Mr. Fowler married, March 7, 1875, at



Cold Spring, Putnam county, New York.
Sarah Schults. They are the parents of
two daughters, Mayme, now Mrs. Arthur
J. Fisher, of Rochester, and Carrie
Fowler ; a son, Purdy H. Fowler, married
Grace Goodrich and resides in Rochester ;
Edna, died aged seven years ; Lily, died
aged three years. The family home is at
No. 843 Harvard street.

WESTERVELT, Zenas Freeman,

Fonnder and Head of the ■Western New
Tork School for Deaf Mutes.

Although born in the State of Ohio,
Mr. Westervelt is of ancient New York
family, the Westervelts early settling in
the valley of the Hudson. His father,
William B. Westervelt, was also born in
Ohio, but his grandfather, William Wes-
tervelt, was of Poughkeepsie, New York,
as was his wife, Sarah (Bishop) Wester-
velt. They later moved to Westerville,
Ohio, where their son, William Bishop
W^estervelt, was born June 10, 1821, and
died February 3, 1850. He married,
March 14, 1844, Martha Freeman, born in
Rushford, Allegany county. New York,
October 4, 1819, died at Rochester, New
York, February 27, 1896, daughter of Eli-
jah Woodruff Freeman, of New Jersey
family. Elijah W. Freeman was born in
Newark, New Jersey, November 9, 1791,
but spent his life from the age of six
years until he was forty in New York,
devoting his time to preaching the Gospel
as an ordained minister from his thirtieth
year. The latter years of his life were
spent as a minister in Granville, Ohio,
where with his brother-in-law, Jonathan
Going, he was prominent in establishing
the Baptist College located there. There
he is buried. He married at Canan-
daigua, New York, November 7, 1816,
Sarah Going.

After the death of her husband, Mrs.
Martha (Freeman) Westervelt supported

herself and her only living son, Zenas F.
Westervelt, by teaching in the Columbus
schools. Later she was appointed matron
of the Ohio State School for the Deaf,
located at Columbus, and there continued
for seventeen years. She was a woman
of high courage, ability and wisdom,
guiding her son's early life with loving
patience, tenderness and firmness. She
was the guiding force of his life for
twenty years ere she joined her husband
and two infant sons in the spirit land,
but her influence has never died, and the
life of the son is to-day being devoted to
the same class of God's unfortunates to
which she devoted seventeen years of her
life, the care of an institution for the deaf
and the dumb.

Zenas Freeman Westervelt was born
in Columbus, Ohio, March 15, 1849, son
of William Bishop and Martha (Free-
man) Westervelt. His father died eleven
months later, and until 1868 mother and
son lived together at the State School of
the Deaf in Columbus. Zenas F. Wester-
velt began his education in the primary
department of the public schools, and
continued until all grades had been passed
and a diploma received with the graduat-
ing high school, class of 1868. His first
business experience was as clerk for one
of the contractors engaged in construct-
ing the Hocking Valley railroad, a posi-
tion he held until the completion of the
road. After a term as agent for the
White Line Fast Freight, and as clerk
in the office of the American Express
Company, at Columbus, he taught school
for a year at Galena, Ohio, then spent a
year as clerk in a Topeka, Kansas, bank,
there remaining until August 29, 1871.

All this had been preparation for the
real business of life, and in no way rep-
resented his true aim and ambition. For
seventeen years of his early life he had
been familiar with the methods of in-
structing the deaf in fact and lived in the



institution in Columbus, of which Mrs.
Westervelt was matron, and had, as he
grew older, made a close study of the
methods employed. The education of the
deaf was destined to be his life work, and
in the fall of 1871 he made his first en-
trance into the profession he adorns. His
first position was as a teacher in the
Maryland State School for Deaf Mutes
at Frederick, an institution then under
the management of Charles W. Ely, prin-
cipal. After two years as teacher under
Principal Ely he taught for three years
in the Fanwood Institute for the Deaf,
Washington Heights, New York City,
there remaining until 1876, when he came
to Rochester as superintendent of the
Western New York Institute for Deaf
Mutes, a newly formed institution, made
possible by the action of Rochester citi-
zens, cooperating with Mr. Westervelt
and his wife, who had formerly taught
the daughter of one of Rochester's promi-
nent families.

The institution is incorporated and was
organized at a public meeting called by
the mayor of Rochester, February 3,
1876, and while it is under the control of
the State board of education and the su-
pervision of the State board of charities,
the school is a private one and owes its
life and importance to its first and only
superintendent and founder, Zenas F.
Westervelt, and his wife. The school
was started after its need had been dem-
onstrated by means of a list of the deaf
mutes in Western New York not in any
school prepared by Mr. Westervelt, and
its support was guaranteed by wealthy
Rochester philanthropists. It was a suc-
cess from the beginning, and in its sec-
ond year moved to a larger building, the
former Children's Home. Twenty-three
pupils answered roll call on the first day
the school was opened, the youngest five,
the eldest twenty-three years of age. On

the last day of the first school year
eighty-seven answered. During the
forty years the institution has been in
existence each year has shown progress,
not only in the number of students in at-
tendance but in efficiency and in results
attained. The school is now housed in
its own commodious buildings, each thor-
oughly equipped for its special needs, the
number of students enrolled being all that
can be accommodated. The system of in-
struction employed is the manual oral
method, Mr. Westervelt's contention be-
ing that no such thing as a deaf mute
mind exists from natural causes, and that
there is no real need for a deaf mute lan-
guage. There is no language of gesture
used in the school, instruction being
through speech and manual spelling. The
school is a splendid example of the value
of this modern method of teaching deaf
mutes, and demonstrates the wisdom and
the practicability of Mr. Westervelt's
theories. Students are given the benefit
of carefully prepared courses, finishing
with graduation and a diploma. Since
1878 manual training has been an impor-
tant feature, and in 1886 a cooking class
was added.

Mr. Westervelt married, October 14,
1875, Mary Nodine, born in New York
City in 1847, died in Rochester, January
6, 1893, daughter of Robert Crawford and
Clarissa (Hart) Nodine, of New York
City, who were married in 1839. Robert
Crawford Nodine, a prosperous commis-
sion merchant of New York City, was the
father of two sons, the eldest, Crawford
Nodine, a Union soldier, giving his life
to his country at the battle of Cedar Moun-
tain. Mrs. Westervelt's father died the
year of her birth, her mother later mov-
ing to Kingston, New York, where she
conducted a young ladies' seminary. In
i860 the family moved to Charleston,
West Virginia, but was obliged to return



to the North, one of the sons, however,
entering the Union army. Mrs. Nodine in
1861 became matron of Packer's Institute
in Brooklyn, New York, her daughter,
Mary Hart Nodine, graduating from the
institute, class of 1865. Later she taught
music in Middletown, Ohio, later accom-
plishing a four years' course at Western
Reserve College, although on account of
her sex she could not regularly matricu-
late. In 1872 she became a teacher in the
School for the Deaf at Frederick, Mary-
land, and there met her future husband.
She became deeply interested in the in-
struction of the deaf, and developed rare
skill in awakening the intelligent coopera-
tion of her pupils. The new ideas then
taking form seemed to her full of promise,
and she became very successful in teach-
ing the deaf lip reading. In 1874 she left
the school to become private teacher to
Miss Perkins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs.
Oilman H. Perkins, of Rochester, and to
her success with their daughter the inter-
est of Mr. and Mrs. Perkins in the estab-
lishment of the Western New York Insti-
tution for the Deaf was due. In 1875 she
was married, and in 1876 the institution
was opened for students. From that time
until her death in 1893 she fully shared
with her husband the cares of the large
and growing school, meeting the exacting
demands of her position as instructor and
her social and domestic duties with a rare
charm and skill that endeared her to offi-
cers, teachers and pupils. "Hers was a
most symmetrical character in which
strength and sweetness were blended. Her
intellectual gifts were united with deep
religious experience and skill in practical
affairs. Self-forgetful and of heroic cour-
age, her heart was open to the sorrow and
suffering of others, and her sympathy was
tender and true."

Mr. Westervelt married, June i, 1898,
Adelia Clara Fay, born in Columbus,

Ohio, daughter of Gilbert Otis and Adelia
(Allen) Fay, who in 1880 moved to Hart-
ford, Connecticut. Mrs. Westervelt is
deeply interested in her husband's work,
her culture, refinement and interest are a
great aid in maintaining the school upon
the high plane it has attained.

This brief record of the life of one of
the great benefactors of his race but little
more than outlines the wonderful work
Mr. Westervelt has done and is doing. His
broad humanitarian principles are mani-
fest in his work, but type nor words can
express the depth of his spirit of helpful-
ness, benevolence and sympathy. That
he is continually studying newer and bet-
ter methods and forming new plans to
bring to the deaf mute m,ore of the joy of
life and greater opportunity for higher
intellectual development need not be said.
His life for the past forty-five years has
been with that single aim in view, and he
would not be in harmony with the spirit
of these years did he not continue to strive
to be more helpful and more useful. He
would not falter if he could, and he could
not if he would. The New York Institu-
tion for the Deaf is the embodiment of the
spirit of the two noble women — mother
and wife — now in the land that knows no
sorrow, who fostered, encouraged and
aided the founder in his glorious work for
many years, and who now in the evening
of life is as loyally and effectively aided
by her who for nearly twenty years has
taken their place. The worth of such
lives cannot be estimated, only the rec-
ords kept by Divine hands will ever reveal
their true value to humanity's cause.

DICKINSON, Pomeroy P.,


Over a century ago Pomeroy M. Dick-
inson left his home in Amherst, Massa-
chusetts, and drove westward, finally



settling on a tract of wild land in' what
is now known as the town of Irondequoit,
Monroe county, New York. There his
grandson, Pomeroy P. Dickinson, of
Rochester, was born and there members
of the Dickinson family yet own the land
settled upon by the founder of the family
in 1805. Pomeroy P. Dickinson, son of
Pomeroy M. Dickinson, fell a victim to
the malarial conditions which then ex-
isted in the district and was succeeded
by his son, Alfred L. Dickinson, and
his brothers, Levi A. and Charles, the
former named having been a farmer of
Irondequoit until his death in 1894. He
was one of the substantial men of his
neighborhood, pursuing the even tenor of
his way throughout a useful life, aiding
in all the movements of church and town
which marked his period of life. Of
strong Christian character, he was highly
esteemed by his community and left to
his children the record of a life well
spent. He married Martha Anderson,
who died in 1904, aged eighty-three years,
daughter of Hixon Anderson, a soldier of
the Revolution.

Pomeroy P. Dickinson, j-on of Alfred
L. and Martha (Anderson) Dickinson,
was born at the homestead farm, town of
Irondequoit. Monroe county. New York,
September 20, 1852, and is now and since
1875, has been a resident of the city of
Rochester. His early life was spent at the
home farm, his preliminary educational
training being obtained in the district
public school. He was later a student at
De Graff Military School, and made thor-
ough preparation for admission to Yale.
His plans were altered and he entered Co-
lumbia College, completing a course in the
law department, whence he was gradu-
ated, class of 1875. After obtaining his
degree from Columbia, Mr. Dickinson
located in Rochester, was admitted to the
Monroe county bar, and at once began his
professional career. Forty-one years have

since elapsed, years which have brought
him honorable success as a lawyer and
prominence as a citizen. For several of
his earlier years at the bar he was in
partnership with George A. Benton, later
a justice of the New York Supreme
Court, but since the dissolution of that
association he has practiced alone. He
was in course of time admitted to prac-
tice in all State and Federal courts of the
district and in all is of record in connec-
tion with most important causes He is
regarded as one of the strong men of the
Rochester bar, and holds the unqualified
respect of the judges before whom he ap-
pears and of the members of the bar to
which he belongs. He is the trusted ad-
viser and legal representative of a great
number of individuals and business con-
cerns, and has fairly won the confidence
they repose in his ability to conserve their
interests. He is a member of the Roches-
ter and other bar associations, and to
their proceedings contributes b}- voice
and pen.

In politics he is a Republican, and he
has well served his city in various ways.
During the ten years prior to the passage
of the Raines Law regulating the sale of
liquor in the State of New York, Mr.
Dickinson was a member of the board of
excise commissioners of the city of
Rochester, and as president of that board
exercised a healthy influence over that
department of the city government. He
brought to his position both zeal and
knowledge of the subjects upon which he
was to legislate, and while himself con-
forming to the laws governing the e.xcise
department also enforced the observance
of those laws upon the applicants for and
holders of licenses.

To classical education and professional
learning, he has added the broadening
culture of travel and association with
prominent men both at home and
abroad. He has toured Europe exten-



sively and has contributed many articles
to the press, descriptive of his travels and
impressions of foreign lands. A grace-
ful, entertaining writer, he is no less flu-
ent a speaker and charms with eloquent
speech. He is a strong advocate for the
cause in which he enlists, but the duties
of a learned profession have not quenched
the social instinct and he is one of the
prominent, popular members of fraternal
and social bodies. He is strongly at-
tached to the Masonic order, belonging
to the various Rochester bodies of that
order, and among his brethren his intel-
lectual gifts and finely balanced mind are
as highly appreciated as by his brethren
of the bench and bar. He was the or-
ganizer of the Lincoln Club of Rochester,
a club which attained a large member-
ship and wrought great good.

Mr. Dickinson married, in 1882, Emma
Marsh, who bore him two daughters :
Pomona and Esther, deceased.

KNAPP, Homer,

Contractor and Bnilder.

For over a quarter of a century Homer
Knapp has been a resident, a valued citi-
zen, a leading contractor and builder and
business man of Rochester, New York.
He came to the city well equipped to
enter the building field, possessing expert
mechanical ability, experience as a con-
tractor, and a mind well stored with
technical information. He began in a
quiet way but his good work and fair
dealing soon brought him into promi-
nence. With reputation established, op-
portunities for bigger things were offered
and to-day many are the important build-
ings of a public nature and costly private
residences that stand as monuments to
his constructive genius. His life has been
a strict interpretation of the Golden Rule,
and no man has more fully won the
esteem and confidence of his fellow men
than has Homer Knapp.

He is a native son of New York State,
although his parents were born in widely
separated states, his father, George W.
Knapp, in Delaware, his mother, Caroline
(Haskell) Knapp, in New Hampshire,
daughter of one of the oldest New Eng-
land families. They married and settled
in Steuben county, New York, where
Homer Knapp was born, March 29, 1858.
He attended public schools until complet-
ing their full course, then entered the
Free Academy at Corning, New York,
whence he was graduated in 1876 He
served an apprenticeship at the carpen-
ter's trade and then added to his builder's
knowledge mastery of the mason's trade,
serving a full apprenticeship in both call-
ings. During these years spent in acquir- '
ing practical knowledge and experience,
he added to his mental equippment by
courses of study pursued at schools and
in private. With muscle and brain thus
developed, he sought to put them to the
best use and after a term as journeyman
began business for himself as contractor
and builder. He located at Corning, New
York, and met with the success his abili-
ity demanded. In 1888 he sought a wider
field of action and located in Rochester,
which city has since been the scene of
his highly successful operations. Among
the public buildings he has contracted for
and erected in Rochester the more impor-
tant are the Masonic Temple, the Seneca
Hotel, the Strong Building, the Brick
Presbyterian Church, the Brick Church
Institute, German United Trinity Church,
East Side Presbyterian Church, Public
Schools Nos. 18, 28, and 36, Irondequoit
School, Oak Hill Country Club House,
and the American Fruit Product Com-
pany's plant. In the residence section he
has erected many of the handsome houses
that are the pride of Rochester, including
the Curtis, Cory, Eastwood, Bissell, Ad-
kin, and Collins mansions, and many
others equally noteworthy. He was one



of the organizers of the Composite Brick life, yet gives personal supervision to his
Company, of Brighton, manufacturers of invested interests, which are extensive
brick, cement and concrete blocks, was and valuable, has aided largely in mold-
elected its first president, and still is the ing public thought and opinion in busi-
executive head of the company. He aided ness, political and social circles. En-
in organizing the Elmendorf Realty Com- dowed by nature with strong mentality,
pany. of which he is vice-president, and is he has carefully prepared for every duty
vice-president of the Genesee Valley devolving upon him, and with a sense of
Realty Company. While his business in- conscientious obligation he has met every
terests have brought him a degree of requirement and responsibility,
prominence, his disposition prefers the R. Andrew Hamilton was born in
quiet walks of life, home and friends con- Rochester. New York. February ii. 1873,
stituting his greatest enjoyments. son of the Rev. Gavin L. Hamilton, a

A Republican in politics, Mr. Knapp native of Scotland, born in 1831, came to
has ever taken active interest in public the United States in 1840, died in 191 1.
aflfairs, but has never sought nor accepted In early manhood Rev. Gavin L. Hamil-
public office. He lends the weight of his ton married Catherine Semple, a native
influence to any movement that promises of Scotland, came to the United States in
the advancement of the public good and 1840, a sister of A. M. Semple, who for
in all things meets the requirements of many years was a leading grocer of
good citizenship. He is a Mason of high Rochester, so continuing in business up
degree, belonging to Genesee Falls Lodge, to the time of his death, which occurred
Free and Accepted Masons; Ionic Chap- in 1886. Mrs. Hamilton died in 1891. In
ter, Royal Arch Masons : Cyrene Com- addition to R. Andrew Hamilton there is
mandery. Knights Templar ; and Damas- a daughter of the family living at the
cus Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, present time, Mrs. R. C. Watson, who re-
in Scottish Rite Masonry he has attained sides at No. 252 Alexander street, Roches-
the thirty-second degree, Rochester Con- ter.

sistory. He is also a member of Key- In early boyhood R. Andrew Hamilton

stone Lodge, Independent Order of Odd became a student in the public schools of

Fellows, and of Flower City Lodge, his native city, passed through consecu-

Knights of Pythias. For two years he tive grades, and his more advanced edu-

was president of the Rochester Carpen- cation was acquired in the University of

ters' Association. Rochester, from which he was graduated

Mr. Knapp married, in 1894. Mary E., in the class of 1895. The following year
daughter of Joseph Graham, of Corning, he began his business career as the pro-
New York. Their children are: Emma J. prietor of the Semple Retail Grocery
and Mildred H. Store, located on Main street. East, which