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Commemorative biographical record of Dutchess County, New York online

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lieved they built a dwelling house and a grist-
mill the following year. The house, built in
1709, is still standing in Matteawan, in good
preservation, and is known as the "Teller
Mansion." The gristmill was located at the
mouth of the Fishkill, on its north bank. It
was the first of its kind in the town or county,
and e.xerted an immense and beneficial in-
fluence on the settlements in the locality.
Madame Brett died in 1764. She had three
sons — Francis, Robert and Rivery — and one
daughter, married to Jacobus Depuyster. Of
the sons, Francis married Margaret \'an-
Wyck, and had two daughters — Hannah (mar-
ried to Henry Schenck), and Margaret (the
youngest; married to Peter A. Schenck) — and
two sons — Theodorus and George. Rivery
(the youngest son of Mrs. Brett) died at the
age of seventeen.

George Brett, our subject's grandfather,
was born in the town of Fishkill, and passed
his life there engaged in agriculture. He and
his wife, whose maiden name was Marie
Cooper, were devout members of the Re-
formed Dutch Church, although George had
in his youth been identified with the English
Church. Their children were: Deborah and
Margaret (deceased), who never married;
Francis G., the father of our subject, and Sal-
ly, who married a Mr. Willett, a cabinet-
maker.

Francis G. Brett was tjorn in the town of
Fishkill, in 1775, and for many years operated
the mill at Matteawan, belonging to the Brett
estate. He was a Whig in politics, and was
influential in local affairs. His wife, Margaret
Campbell, who was born in 1777, probably in



Dutchess county, died April 9, 1835, ^"d Mr.
Brett's death occurred August 14, 1835. They
were highly esteemed among their associates,
and while not members they inclined toward
the Reformed Church. They reared a family
of eight children: William, a machinist of Mat-
teawan, died in Brooklyn, N. Y. ; James, also
a machinist (now deceased), was a resident of
Matteawan; Alfred, a silk dyer, of Matteawan,
passed away in early manhood; Harriet and
Jane Ann (deceased) did not marry; Harvey,
our subject, is mentioned more fully below;
Edgar, who died in Albany, was prominent in
religious work as a member of the M. E.
Church, and in later life was a local preacher;
Charles is a pattern maker in Newark, New
Jersey.

Harvey Brett was born January 15, 1813,
and throughout his eighty-four years he has
had his home in the beautiful little city of
Matteawan. At an early age he displayed
mechanical ability of a high order, and in 1830
he began to learn the blacksmith's trade, which
he followed until June 28, 1873. He then re-
tired from business, but his active mind and
still vigorous physique have occasionally found
congenial e.xercise in the creation of some
article of use or ornament. He works in all
kinds of metals, also in wood, some beautiful
pieces of furniture in his home giving evidence
of his skill in that line. Among the choice
specimens of his works in metals is an elegant
jewel case of copper. Mr. Brett has always
taken an intelligent interest in public ques-
tions, and in politics is a Republican. For
many years he has been a member of the M.
E. Church. On October 10, 1837, he mar-
ried Miss Susan Colman, a native of Orange
county, N. Y. , a daughter of Abram Colman,
a well-known resident of Orange county. She
passed away in 1880, the mother of four chil-
dren: Charles is a merchant at Matteawan;
Abram died in 1893; Wesley is employed with
his brother Charles; Emily died at the age of
six years.

IBefore closing this sketch we give the
copies of two original letters from Lord Corn-
bury, governor of New York, in possession
of Miss Hannah Teller, and dated "New
York, lOver 4, 1709," the other in the pos-
session of Mrs. Hannah Wiltse, Fishkill Land-
ing, and dated December 15, 1709.

Sir: — The nurse telling me a boat was going up to
you, I was not willing to omit the opportunity of writing
to you, though we have no news here, only of a great bat-
tle in Flanders, where my Lord Marlborough has obtained



330



COMMEMORATIVE BlOGliAl'UlCAL RECORD.



a great victory. I expfct to hear every day of the arrival
of the X'irginia Fleet, by which 1 hope to have news from
England. In the meantime, I wish you and Mrs. Brett all
the health, happiness and satisfaction of a merry Christ-
mas and happy New Year and am, sir,

^'our most humble servant.

CORNBURY.
My service to Mrs. Brett.



Sir: — Yours of the 9th of the last came safely to my
hands, for which 1 return you thanks. I would have sent
an answer sooner, but I can't find one master of a sloop
that will undertake to deliver a letter. There is no news
of the fleet, and by what I hear from other parts, I believe
we shall see no fleet this year; nor do I yet know what our
peo|)le here will resolve upon. I have not yet heard one
tine from England, since my Lord Lovelace arrived. I
hope my daughter is arrived there safe before this time.
I am glad she did not go with the last fleet, for Capt. Rid-
dle, who commanded the Falmouth, in which she must
have gone, was attacked by a French man-of-war of twenty
guns, who boarded him, but Riddle got clear of him and
got safe into Plimouth with all his fleet. We have no
news to entertain you with; as soon as I have any you
shall have it. I am sorry to hear Mrs. Brett has not
been well. I hoi>e before this time you are all well.

I was in hope before this time I should have seen
you or Mrs. Brett here, where, with my short commons,
you will always find a most hearty welcome. I entreat
you to give my humble service to Mrs. Brett, and do me
the justice to believe that I am, sir,

• Your humble servant,

CORNBURV.



EDWARD W. SIM.MONS, of Millerton,
one of the most prominent citizens of
Dutchess county, is distinguished for his ability
in educational work, and in public affairs, and
as a lawyer, his labors in these widely different
lines being equally able and effective.

His ancestors for three generations have
been farmers of that locality, his great-grand-
father, Peter Simmons, having come from
Holland in the eighteenth century, and settled
in the northern part of Dutchess county, or
possibly in the adjoining portion of Columbia
county. Nicholas Simmons, our subject's
grandfather, was born in Dutchess county, and
although he learned the shoemaker's trade his
attention was mainly devoted to agriculture.
He married Christina Snyder, and they had
eight children. He and his wife both died in
1840, and their remains were buried in Broome
county. New York.

William Simmons was born in Pine Plains,
in 1787, and grew to manhood there. He en-
gaged in farming in the town of Northeast for
a time, until, in 1818, he moved to Ancram,
Columbia county, and purchased a farm where
he lived for five years. He then returned to
Northeast, and in 1824 settled on the old Roe
homestead, remaining there until 1831, when
he rented a farm of the Winchell heirs, where



Millerton now stands, subsequently purchasing
the Thomas Paine farm, which he sold in 1837.
In thafyear he moved to Broome count}', and
there lived until 1S64, when he returned to
Millerton to end his days. He was a success-
ful farmer, and ranked among the leaders in
local affairs, holding various official positions.
He entered the war of 18 12 as a private, and
became a non-commissioned officer. His wife,
Clarissa Roe, a lady of Scotch and Irish
blood, whose parents, Silas and Mercy {Har-
vey ) Roe, reared a family of ten children : Uziel,
Amos, Alva, Harvey, Jeduthan, Lyman, Anna,
Laura, Clarissa and Amanda. Mrs. Simmons
was killed September 13, 1827, by a fall from
a wagon; her husband died February 14, 1868.
They had five children, whose names with
dates of birth are as follows: Harvey Roe,
September 29, 1814; Edward W., April 14,
1816; Julia (Mrs. Lewis Barnes, of Broome
county), February 5, 1819; Amanda (Mrs.
Henry Wheeler, formerly of Amenia, now of
Morris, 111.), October 19, 1822; and James,
April 17, 1827, who is now a leading minister
of the I3aptist Church. Owingto his mother's
premature death he was placed in the care of
his brother Edward at an early age, and was
prepared for college by him. He was grad-
uated from Brown University, also from the
Newton Theological Seminary, at Rochester,
and has since been given the honorary degree
of D. D., by Brown University. His first pas-
torate was in Providence, R. I., and later he
was in charge of Churches in Indianapolis,
Philadelphia and New York. In 1866, he
went to New York City as secretary of the
American Baptist Home Mission Society, and
a few years afterward was called to Trinity
Baptist Church, on Fifty-fifth street. He has
since entered the service of the Baptist Publi-
cation Society of Philadelphia, and has charge
of their interests in New York and other
States. He has been a devoted worker in the
cause of Home Missions, and in the building of
schools in the Southern States, the institution
at Abilene, Texas, known as Simmons Col-
lege, having been established through his ef-
forts.

Edward W. Simmons was born on the old
farm, about one mile from the village of Miller-
ton, and with the exception of a few months
at the academy at Hudson, his schooling was
limited to the district schools of the neighbor-
hood. He made the best of his opportunities,
! however, and also studied diligently in private.





/-/M^-^/K^tC^



COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD.



mi



and in the winter of 1S32-33 began teaching
at Lime Rock, Conn. From that time until
1S4S he followed this occupation with marked
success, his thorough mastery of the studies
through which he had plodded without assist-
ance enabling him to understand and relieve
the difficulties of his pupils. In 1838-39 he
taught a school of high grade at Greene,
Chenango Co., N. Y., and from there went to
Great Barrington, Mass., and conducted a
large and prosperous school for two years.
He then spent two years at Sheffield, Mass.,
teaching Latin and Greek in addition to the
higher English branches. His health failing,
he returned to Millerton in 1843, and opened
a private school with an able assistant, the
late Alexander Winchell, who afterward be-
came eminent as a geologist, and was lor
many years a professor in the University of
Michigan. Mr. Simmons spent the most of
his time for the next two years in Broome
county, and in 1S51, his health being restored,
he built the store now occupied by James
Finch, which was the first building erected in
Millerton. He opened a general store there,
which he conducted for twenty-five years,
when he transferred the business to Mr. Finch,
who had been his clerk for fifteen years.

Mr. Simmons gained a practical knowledge
of surveying in his youth, and did a great deal
of work in that line at different times, and as
his wide range of studies had already included
some reading on legal subjects, he was often
employed in conveyancing. The confidence
which his clear judgment and accurate infor-
mation inspired caused him to be consulted more
and more frequently upon general legal points,
and upon the suggestion of Judge Hogeboom,
he engaged in the practice of law, being ad-
mitted to the bar in 1867, while still in mer-
cantile business. He has been very successful,
has a large number of substantial clients, and
has taken a notable share in public affairs. He
was financial secretary of the New York State
Constitutional Convention, in 1867, of which
William A. Wheeler was president, and Samuel
J. Tilden, Horace Greeley and other well-
known men were members. In local affairs it
would be difficult to enumerate his varied serv-
ices. He was supervisor for five terms, being
chairman of the board during the first year,
and he was one of the committee to go before
the State board of assessors to secure a reduc-
tion in the assessment of Dutchess county,
their action resulting in a saving to the county
22



of $200,000 in three years. He has been an
unwearied advocate of good schools, and every
measure for local improvement has found in
him a champion. He was a Free-soil Demo-
crat in early years, but voted for Fremont in
1856, and since that time has been a Repub-
lican.

On April 23, 1839, Mr. Simmons was mar-
ried to Harriet N. Winchell, daughter of John
Winchell, and had two sons: Alfred, who was
born November 8, 1842, and died August 6,
1864; and James, born in 185 1, and died in
1853. Mrs. Simmons died December 29, 1S68,
and June 16, 1869, Mr. Simmons married
Mrs. Sarah E. Trowbridge, nci- Mead, a
daughter of Deacon John K. Mead, of Amenia.
He has been a member of the Baptist Church
for sixty-three years; belongs to Webatuck
Lodge No. 480, F. & A. M., in which he has
held the office of senior deacon, and is a mem-
ber of the New York State Bar Association.
Although now eighty-one years old, Mr. Sim-
mons enjoys comparatively good health, and
attends daily to his profession.



AMES B. SIMMONS, D. D. The subject
of this article is a native of Dutchess coun-
ty, and the youngest brother of Edward
W. Simmons. Exiled from home in his early
boyhood, Edward took him into his own fam-
ily to live, and into his academy to fit him for
college. Not only so, but he admonished him
as a father, helped him when in trouble, guided
him in counsel, and, above all else, led him
savingly to Christ. The two have been greatly
attached all their lives, and for the best of
reasons.

The only account we have been able to se-
cure of James is the following by a Confeder-
ate soldier now residing in one of the Gulf
States. The author of this sketch is an emi-
nent Doctor of Divinity, widely known not
only throughout the United States, but in other
lands also. Speaking of Dr. Simmons as "A
Foundation Builder," he says:

"When a small edifice or a temporary
structure is to be erected, one man frequently
plans, erects, completes, and uses the building.
But when the great cathedral at Cologne was
finished, the man who had conceived the plan,
and laid the foundation, had lain in his grave
over five centuries. The glory of the cathcr
dral, however, is a sufficient monument to his
memory. For a large structure, there must



338



COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD.



be breadth of thought and work in the founda-
tion. Dr. Simmons is peculiarly gifted in the
ability to plan wisely, and lay such broad
foundations that future generations may suc-
cessfully build thereon.

"This is illustrated in his work in behalf
of Christian education. He does not believe
in working for one race, or one caste, or one
section, but has distributed his labors to differ-
ent races and different sections, and made
them so broad that the capstone must of ne-
cessity be laid long after the founder has ceased
to live on the earth.

" Under his wise administration, as Corres-
ponding Secretary of the American Baptist
Home Mission Society, locations were secured
for seven Christian schools for the negroes of
the South; one each in Washington, Rich-
mond, Columbia, Raleigh, Augusta, Nashville
and New Orleans. These are well chosen,
strategic points, every one of them. Six of
these institutions, on the very localities pur-
chased by Dr. Simmons, have had marvelous
growth. The properties, to-day, are vastly
more valuable than when he acquired them.
For the thirty acres of the Roger William Uni-
versit}- at Nashville which he purchased for
$30,000, the Home Mission Society, as I am
told, could since have taken $200,000, had
they been willing to sell.

" It was deemed advisable to remove the
school located at Augusta to Atlanta, and it is
doing a magnificent work there. Dr. A. E.
Dickinson, editor of the ' Religious Herald of
Virginia, ' has well said: ' Those seven institu-
tions of learning for the colored people of the
South, which Dr. J. 13. Simmons was instru-
mental in establishing, will be a better monu-
ment to his memory, than seven towering shafts
of granite.'

" Seven streams of light and knowledge for
over a quarter of a century have been flooding
the South with blessings from these young Col-
leges. And these streams have been broaden-
ing and deepening as the years roll on, and will
doubtless continue to bless generations yet un-
born. These schools were not founded for a
day, a year, or a generation, but for all time.

' ' Here we have the example of a man, who
was the grandson of a New York slaveholder,*
devoting seven years of the most intense toil,

*Silas Roe is here referred to. lie was the maternal grandfather
of James B. Siniiuons, and owned five hundred acres about one mile
southwest of where Millcrton now stands. When the Act of Emanci-
pation for the State of New York went into effect, on July 4. 1827,
Silas Roe was the owner of two negro slaves, whose names were
Simon West and Samuel Bowen.



anxiet}', and labor to the Christian education
of those who had been slaves, and succeeding
in establishing seven institutions of learning,
and raising money to secure properties ample
for their use in the long )-ears to come. The
foundations were well laid, not on the sands of
popular enthusiasm or partisan prejudice, but
on the firm rock of Christian duty, in loyalty
to Jesus Christ.

"Rev. H. M. Tupper, D.D. , president of
Shaw University at Raleigh, N. C, used to
say that Dr. Simmons had the best concep-
tion of any man he knew, as to the sort of
schools needed for the education of the Freed-
men. And it is not too much to add that the
seven original Freedmen Colleges, which were
fashioned under his molding hand, became in
no small degree the models for those that have
been added since. At the same time he praises
in most emphatic terms the good men who
have preceded him, as well as the good men
who have followed him in the work.

"When Dr. Simmons retired from his
office as Corresponding Secretary of the
American Baptist Home Mission Societj', that
organization, in annual meeting assembled,
adopted the following minute:

' The present condition of our educational work in
the Southern States bears a most impressive testimony to
the wisdom, the energy and the consecration exhibited by
Rev. James B. .Simmons, ]J.D., in the location and con-
duct of the Freedmen's Schools, and in the develo])ment
of Christian enterprise and liberality in their behalf. He
has written his name upon the religious history of an
emancijiated race. The future will be his monument.'

"But Dr. Simmons was too broad a man
to confine his work to one race. He saw the
need of the colored people, and gave his heart-
throbs, tears and prayers, accompanied in
every instance by his monied contributions, to
help them. Many years before this, however,
he had laid his vigorous hand to the work of
helping the cause of education among the
white race. As early as 1859, nearly a decade
before he was called to be Secretary of Home
Missions, and when he was not worth as much
as fifteen hundred dollars all told — he pledged
one thousand dollars of that amount to assist
in founding an institution for the higher educa-
tion of young ladies in Indianapolis, Ind.,
where he was then settled as pastor. And he
paid every cent of that money. The coming
on of the war, and other causes, led to the
discontinuance of the school, and this thousand
dollars, with other property of the Institute,
was afterward turned over to the Divinity



COMMEMORATIVE BIOOEAPHICAL RECORD.



339



School at Morgan Park, which is now a part of
the great Chicago University, and is still doing
good in the cause of Christian education there.

"In 1874, when there was a crisis in the
financial affairs of Columbian University, lo-
cated at the national capital, he threw himself
in the breach, at the call of his brethren, and
raised, in six months, sixty-four thousand dol-
lars, to complete the required conditions for
an endowment of three hundred thousand dol-
lars ($300,000), thus establishing the perma-
nency of that institution for Christian educa-
tion in the heart of the nation.

"In 1 89 1 the writer of this, from his official
position, chanced to know that Dr. Simmons
was not content with what he had done for the
cause of Christian education, but was looking
around for further opportunity to do good.
About this time I received a letter from Rev.
G. W. Smith, of Abilene, Texas, asking if I
knew of any source from which help could be
obtained in founding a much-needed institu-
tion of learning in that rapidly-growing section
of central Texas. I gave him the address of
Dr. Simmons, and correspondence was begun
between them. Dr. Simmons and his son vis-
ited the field, and the result was that, through
the benefactions of himself and family, Sim-
mons College, at Abilene, Texas, has begun
its career of blessing in the great Southwest.
Located in a fertile country, with a field to
draw from as large as the entire State of New
York, and which is rapidly filling up with a
superior population, it is difficult to estimate
the future possibilities of Simmons College.
As to a name forthis new school. Dr. Simmons
chose ' Christlieb College,' which means ' Col-
lege of Christ's Love.' But his family, and
the vote of the College Trustees, overruled
him.

•■A Northern man, a strong opponent of
slavery, and one who had given so much of
his time to aid the negroes in education. Dr.
Simmons now gave his means to found a col-
lege for white people in one of the old Slave
States. He has helped fen colleges all told.
With him the question was not whether a man
is a white man, a negro, an Indian, an Arme-
nian, or a Chinaman; not whether he is a
Northern man, a Southern man or a Western
man, but was he a man, and was help needed,
and could it be given.' The foundations he
has endeavored to la}' are as broad as the needs
of humanity, without reference to race or con-
ditions. Strong in his convictions and out-



spoken in the e.xpression of them when neces-
sity requires he is the soul of courtesy to all,
and charitable toward the opinion of others.
He always leans toward mercy's side.

" The following incident beautifully illus-
trates this characteristic. Rev. John S. Ezell,
a Baptist minister of South Carolina, was con-
fined in the militar}- prison at Albany, New
York, having been convicted of complicity
with Ku-Kluxism in his native State. South-
ern papers were denouncing his incarceration.
But Dr. Simmons, instead of stopping to talk,
went straight to Albany, visited the imprisoned
minister, encouraged him to tell his story,
went to Washington and personall}' laid the
matter before Gen. Grant, then President of
the United States, and obtained his release.
He then took Bro. Ezell to his home, which
at that time was in Brooklyn, and treated him
with Christian hospitality, and sent him on
his way rejoicing. Dr. Simmons did not
sympathize in the least with the spirit of Ku-
Kluxism, or any other lawlessness, but he de-
lighted to assist a Christian gentleman in dis-
tress. No wonder that Bro. Ezell has often
written him with gratitude, saying: ' I was
in prison and you visited me. '

"Rev. J. "^L. Reynolds, D. D., of South
Carolina, referring to Dr. Simmons having
secured from President Grant a pardon for
Ezell, says: 'This was well and nobly done.
Such a deed appeals to the South, and will
do more toward bringing about the era of good
feeling, than all the resolutions that could be
written, or harangues that could be spoken.
We thank Bro. Simmons.'

" I have spent months in Dr. Simmons'
company. We differed widely upon many
questions, and discussed them freel}' without
the slightest acrimony or ill feeling. Tena-
cious of his own opinions, and firm in his con-
victions, he is yet so broad and full of Chris-
tian love and courtesy, that he is the finest
example I ever knew of the " fortitcr in ri\ ct
sitavitcr in viocio ' — (Vigor in execution, ac-
companied by gentleness of manner).

" We may learn three lessons from his
life:

"I. A poor boy, thrown upon his own re-
sources at fifteen years of age, he has attained
great distinction as a man of learning, and
wide influence. Let no boy despair of mak-
ing a full-grown man because he is poor.

"2. He has often told me that he never could
have accomplished a tithe of what he has but



340



COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD.



for the educational training which he received.
He spent three years in the preparatory
school, four years in college, graduating at
Brown University, and three years in his theo-
logical course, graduating at Newton — ten
years in all. Let no man rush into his life-
work without thorough preparation. Rather



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