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Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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retail carpet dealer. Mr. Speir devoted a year to the preliminary study of law, and
graduated from the Albany Law School, class of 1879-80; was admitted to the bar
May 25, 1880. He served as official court stenographer to the Court of Special
Sessions in 1881 and 1882; to the law department of the city of Albany, 1883; also
reported in the various City, County, State and United States Courts. Mr. Speir was
president of the Albany Stenographers' Association in 1887. This was an organiza-



no

tion of about twenty stenographers, consisting mainly of the official court reporters
of the city, county and State, and of stenographers connected with the executive,
legislative and judicial branches of the State government, together with a few from
the ranks of those employed in business and professional offices. Mr. Speir being
musically inclined, in early life devoted considerable attention to vbcal music, occu-
pying several positions as solo tenor in Albany and Troy churches. On January ]0,
1877, he was elected president of the jMendelssohn Vocal Club, a triple quartette of
Albany's best male voices. This popular club for several years catered to the music
loving public of Albany and vicinity, winning many laurels for its muscial skill. In
Masonic circles Mr. Speir is what is known as a correct ritualist. He was raised in
Masters Lodge Xo. 5, F. & A. M., November 22, 1875; was advanced in that lodge
to the several subordinate places and stations in regular succession, covering a period
of eight years, and was senior deacon two years. He is a Royal Arch Mason in
Capital City Chapter No. 242, R. A. M., and also Royal. Select and Superexcellent
Master in De Witt Clinton Council No. 23, this city. On December 14, 1896, he was
elected Master of Masters Lodge No. 5, F. & A. M., the initial lodge in Ameiiea,
constituted in Albany on February 21, 1765, under the title. Union Lodge, F. & A. M.
Sill, John De Friest, was born in the town of Bethlehem, Albany county, Novem-
ber 10, 1853. He is a son of Francis NicoU who was born March 18. 1818, and who
removed to Albany in 1854 and established himself in the coal business on the cor-
ner of Grand ^id Hamilton streets. He represented his vyard at different times as.
alderman and supervisor and for a long time prior to his death was president of the
Albany County Bank. He died August 23, 1895. Mr. Sill's ancestors all possessed
that superior type of manhood that shows itself so plainly in the characters of their
descendants. Coming as he does from such a worthy line of ancestors we will men-
tion them in their order: John Sill left England in 1637 and located in Cambridge,
Mass , about eighteen years after the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Joseph,
son of John, was born in England in 1636, and was the father of Joseph 2d (born
January 6, 1678) who married Pbebc Lord of Lyme, Conn. Next in the order of
descent is Lieut. John Sill who was born February 14, 1710, and died October 17,
1796. He was a farmer at Lyme. Conn., and served in the Revolution. Silas 4th
son of Lieut. John, was born November 17, 1749, and died October 26, 1811. He
was a tanner and shoemaker residing at Silltown, Conn., and was the father of Maj.
Richard Sill of Albany, who was an officer of the Revolutionary army and served as
an aid to Lord Sterling. Judge William N. Sill of Bethlehem. Albany county, was a
son of Major Richard and the father of Francis NicoU Sill, and grandfather of John
D. .■ ill the subject of this sketch, who is also a direct descendant of the Van Rens-
selaers and Nicolls, two of the most prominent and influential families in the
early history of the State. His mother was Elizabeth Ann, daughter of John De
Friest of Greenbush, N. Y She was descended from an old family of Knicker-
bockers living in and near Schaghticoke, N. Y. John D. Sill was educated at
the Albany Normal School and Albany Business College and in 1872 went to the
Albany County Bank as clerk where he rapidly rose to the position of teller. In
1881 Isaiah Page and Francis N Sill bought the D. S. Woods Malleable Iron Works
and John D. Sill left the County Bank to become the manager of the foundry, which
position he now holds, but since his father's death he has acquired his interest. Mr.



Sill is a member of the Albany Club. In 1875 he was married to Charlotte A. Far-
rington of Newburgh, N. Y. They have one one daughter, Florence K.

Read, Major Harmon Pumpelly, traces his ancestry to Edward Read, armiger,
lord of the manor of Beedon in Berkshire, England, high sheriff of Berkshire, 1439,
and back to Thomas de Read of Northumberland. The cavalier Richard Read of
Oxfordshire, with his greatnephews, Sir Compton and Edward Read, defended Barton
Court against the Parliamentarians until it was burned over his head. His great-
grandson, Col. John Read (grandson of Sir Charles, who came to Dublin where he
held estates) born in Dublin, Ireland, January 15, 1688, became a large land owner
in Maryland and Delaware and a founder of the city of Charleston. Hon. George
Read, his son, born September 17, 1733, in Maryland, died September 21, 1798, in
New Castle, Delaware, was the author of the first constitution and the first edition
of the laws of Delaware and signed the original petition to the king of the Congress
of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, and the constitution of the United States.
Hon. John Read, son of George, was U. S. agent-general from 1797 to 1809. His son,
Hon. John Meredith Read, LL.D., was one of the candidates for the presidency of
the U. S. in 1860, was U. S. district attorney eight years, attornej'-general of Penn-
sylvania, solicitor-general of the Treasury Department, chief justice of Pennsylvania,
one of the most emment of the leaders of the Freesoil movement which gaye birth
to the Republican party, grand master of Masons of Pennsylvania, etc. Gen. John
Meredith Read, son of the latter, born in Philadelphia, Pa., February 21, 1837, was
graduated from Brown University and the Albany Law School, and in 1860 became
adjutant-general of New York and also organized the " wide awake" movement in this
State. He was the first U. S. consul-general to France and Algeria during the Franco-
German war, and at the request of the German government he occupied the same po-
sition for that country. November 7, 1873, he became U. S. minister to Greece. He
later resigned from that position, and for distinguished services on behalf of Greece,
was created by King George a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer, the
highest dignity bestowed by that country. April 7, 1859, he married Delphine Marie,
daughter of Harmon Pumpelly of Albany. Their son, Harmon Pumpelly Read born
July 13, 1860, was educated at St. John's Military Academy, Sing Sing, N.Y., and Trin-
itv College, Hartford, Conn., and spent some time in study abroad. As a Republican,
he has always taken special interest in the laboring classes and in 1885 was nomi-
nated for the Assembly, but was defeated in a Democratic stronghold. He was
president of the Y. M. A. in 1886 and the same year was a member of the civic
day and tableting committee during Albany's Bi-Centennial celebration. In 1893
he was the vice-chairman of the committee appointed by the mayor of Albany to
receive the Duke of Veragua. He became acting-chairman on account of the absence
of the chairman, Charles Tracey, and upon Major Read alone devolved the whole
responsibility of the public reception and grand tour through the North Woods.
With what success he carried out these various duties is shown in the Duke of
Veragua's own words: "Among my most pleasant remembrances of America will be
my reception in Albany and trip to the Adirondacks. " He has taken an active in-
terest in genealogy and history, is quoted as one of the three greatest authorities on
heraldry in this country, and in 1894 was one of the original promoters of Albany's
historical pageant of December 3, •") and 7. January 15. 1895, he was elected Regent



172

of Philip Livingston Chapter Sons of the Revohilion, succeeding Hon. Matthew Hale,
the first president. He was inspector of rifle practice in the old oth Brig., N. G. S.
N. Y. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of France, the Historical
Societies of New York and Pennsylvania and of many other learned societies of
Europe and America. In 1889 he married Marguerite, daughter of the late Jacques
Frederic de Carronot Franche Comte, France, a descendant of an ancient Huguenot
family. He has been an active Scottish Rite Mason and is looked upon as one of the
most learned of the ciaft in the history of the order. He has made a special study
of the social condit4ons of the various classes in Europe and America before the
American Revolution, and of the customs and laws relating to the nobility, gentry
and yeomanry of that period. He has been a constant contributor to the press,
writing under various names.

Rickard, Hon. Michael, was born in East Creek, Herkimer county. February 1,
1837. His father was a section boss on the old Utica and Schenectady (now the
Central) road, and lost his life by the cars. Shortly after his father's death Mr.
Rickard was employed as line boy for civil engineers who were surveying the route
for new tracks. Later he was employed as ticket agent at Amsterdam, N. Y., then
clerk in the freight house at Fort Plain, N. Y., and subsequently he went on the
road as fireman. It was not long, however, before he was promoted to the position
of engineer and he soon became one of the most expert in charge of a locomotive.
For some time he was engine dispatcher at Utica, M. Y., and then went back on the
road, being placed in charge of engines on some of the most important trains on the
Central. He was prominent in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, was one
of the charter members and held various offices. November 14, 1887, he was ap-
pointed a railroad commissioner to succeed John D. Kernan, resigned. Governor
Hill reappointed him for the term of five years oh January 29, 1888, and on January
29, 1893, Governor Flower reappointed him for another term. The first Mr. Rickard
knew of his appointment was on November 14, 1887, when he stepped off his engine
at the Union Station and was handed his commission by a friend, who had obtained
it from Governor HiU to hand to the commissioner when he arrived in Albany on his
locomotive. Commissioner Rickard left a widow and four children, who reside in
Albany at his late home, No. 233 Madison avenue. One daughter is the wife of
Fred S. Howell, the well-known broker. Edward H., the elder brother, is employed
by the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville railroad. Another son, Raymond C, is
a stenographer in the office of the car shops at West Albany. Mr. Rickard was al-
ways at his desk in the Capitol when the committee was not in session. He had
many friends among railroad men and was beloved by all.

Wallace, Major William A., son of Dr. James Jefferson and Eliza Thompson (Bond)
Wallace, was born in New York city in the early forties. His father's ancestors came
from Argyleshire, Scotland, and settled in the town of Londonderry, N. H., in 1719.
John Wallace, the great-great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was one of
the founders of Londonderry and he and Miss Annis Barnet were the first couple
married there. His son William was married to Miss Hannah Thornton, a sister of
Dr. Matthew Thornton, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His
son, also William, moved to Canada where he acquired 96,000 acres of land, but the
spirit of patriotism led him to relinquish all and at the time of the War of 1812 he



173

moved to Rochester, N. Y., and was one of the founders of that flourishing city.
He was married to Miss Ann Doudal, of Orange county, a granddaughter of Gen-
eral Wisner who was a member of Congress, a general in the Revolution and who
died in 1777. Major Wallace's maternal great-grandfather was Joseph Bond who
served three years in the Revolution as a member of a Massachusetts regiment ; and
his maternal grandfather was Abijah Thompson of Woburn, Mass., who was in the
French and Indian war and in the Lexington alarm of 1775. Benjamin Thompson,
a member of this family was knighted by the King of Belgium and took the title of
Count Rumford ; he was governor of Munich: he left $50,000 to be used to endow a
chair at Harvard University, of which he was a graduate; this chair is now called
the Rumford chair; he was appointed commanding officer of West Point but died
while crossing the ocean to fulfill his commission. Major William A. Wallace at-
tended the Brooklyn Grammar School. At the time of the completion of his educa-
tion the Rebellion broke out, and he enlisted in the 13th R^gt. of Brooklyn. After
his return from the war he was made confidential clerk for Claflin & Co., dry goods
merchants of New York. He remained there until 1873, when he removed to Albany,
N. Y., where he has since been engaged in the fire insurance business. He is now
first assistant clerk to the Board of Contract. Major Wallace joined George S. Dawson
Post No. 63, G. A. R., in 1876 and has been once its commander, and its adjutant for
eight years. He has been assistant adjutant general of the department of New \ ork,
G. A. R., under three commanders. For five )-ears he was confidential clerk to Gen.
James M. Warner, postmaster. He has been a Mason for thirty years and is now a
member of Temple Lodge No. 14, F. & A. M., and Crescent Chapter No. 320, R. A.
M., of New York city. MaJQr Wallace is also a charter member of the Philip Livings-
ton Chapter, Sons of the Revolution. September 23, 1878, he married Frances lone
Abbe, of Huguenot ancestry. Major and Mrs. Wallace are members of St. Peter's
church.

Cox, James W., jr., was born on the northeast corner of Maiden Lane and Chapel
street, Albany, N. Y., April 14 1859, and is the oldest .son of the late Dr. James W.
Cox. He received his education in the Albany Academy, graduating in 1877. He
possessed a very delicate constitution and in order to gain strength he spent four
years in the employ of the Hon. Erastus Corning on his stock farm near Kenwood,
Albany county, N. Y. In 1881 Mr. Corning appointed Mr. Cox as his private secre-
tary, which position he still occupies. In the spring of 1895, Mr. Cox organized the
.\lbany Felt Company and Mr. Cox was elected its president. He now devotes con-
siderable time to the business. Mr. Cox has been for fifteen years a trustee and
secretary of the Board of Directors of the Albany City Homoeopathic and Dispen-
sary Association and for fourteen years a trustee of the Albany City Savings In.sti-
tution, and is the chairman of the Bond and Mortgage Committee. He is a member
of the Fort Orange Club. Society of the Colonial Wars, Sons of the American
Revolution and Society of the War of 1812. In December, 1885, he married Mar-
garet, daughter of Thomas Riggs, of Baltimore, Md. They have three children:
James W., 3d., Thomas Riggs and Margaret Riggs.

Shaffer, Edwin C, was born in Gallupville, Schoharie county, N. Y., April 30,
1845. His parents were born in Schoharie county. N. Y. ; his ancestors on his
father's side (Shaffer and Weidman) were of Holland and German descent, and on



174

his mother's side (Possone and West) were of English and French descent, and some
of them served in the Revolutionary war. When the subject of this sketch was
seven years old his parents moved to Schoharie village, where he was educated in
the public school and Schoharie Academy. At twelve years of age he engaged as
clerk in a general merchandise store in Schoharie, where he remained two years.
He then went as clerk in the Schoharie county clerk's office and in 1861 removed to
Albany, N. Y., where he obtained a situation as bookkeeper in a wholesale grocery
house. In 1863 he accepted a position in the office of the paymaster-general of the
State of New York and was there until the close of Governor Seymour's administra-
tion. Mr. Shaffer was an active member of the Albany Burgesses Corps for several
years and was elected financial secretary three con.secutive years. In the spring of
1865 Mr. Shaffer was appointed assistant paymaster of the .New York Central Rail-
road, which position he retained until 1871, when he was appointed to a clerkship in
the office of Governor Hoffman, where he remained until the latter's term of office
expired in 1873. He then engaged with the D. & H. Co.'s railroad as traveling
auditor and continued in that position until March 1, 1882, when he resigned to ac-
cept the position of general agent, at Albany, of the People's Line of Steamers,
which position he now holds, having been in charge of the Albany end of the line
for fifteen years. Mr. Shaffer is also a member of the Albany Club. In 1869 he
married Fannie Augusta Jenkins, daughter of George Jenkins of Albany. Mrs.
Shaffer was born in the old State Capitol, her father having been superintendent of
the old Capitol for many years.

Walker, Peter, one of the leading and prominent men of Guilderland, was born in
that town September 36, 1844. He is the son of the late Israel Walker, who was also
a native of the same town, a man of sterling qualities and a wise coun.selor, whose
opinion was often sought in matters where questions both difficult and important
were involved. When but eleven years of age he began to learn the trade of shoe-
making which he followed for many years, but later devoted his attention to farm-
ing. His wife was Maria Van Valkenburgh, a daughter of Johakim and Rebecca
Van Valkenburgh, who were also residents of this tovv-n. Side by side and hand in
hand, they went together through life, and their industry and perseverance were
rewarded by the accumulation of a good property. He died in 1887, his wife in 1894.
The grandfather, Peter Walker, was also born in this town, and for many years
held the office of justice of the peace. He afterward removed to the town of Knox,
where his last years were spent. Mr. Walker received his early education at the
district schools and later at Knoxville Academv. He remained on the farm with his
father until the death of the latter, except four years that he was manager of a gen-
eral store at Altamont; since then he has remained on the farm. He was elected
and filled the office of justice of the peace for twenty consecutive years (serving two
years as justice of sessions), and resigning that office in 1893 to accept the office of
supervisor. He was re-elected in 1894, and is now filling that office. He is a mem-
ber of the Mascnic fraternity, St. George's Lodge of Schenectady, and a member of
the Knights of Pythias. In December, 1870, he was married to Miss Eva Anna
Keenholts, daughter of Andrew and Alida (Blooraingdale) Keenholts.

Turner, John H., was born in England, June 13, 1821. and is a son of Peter, a son
of Reginald, who lived and died in England at the age of ninety-five. The wife of



175

Peter Turner was Sarah Lawton, born in England. The parents of John H. came
to America about 1827 and settled in Berne, where he died in 1839 and his wife died
in 1857. John H. was reared on a farm and educated in the common schools. He
had two brothers and three sisters, of whom one brother and two sisters are now
living. Mr. Turner worked out by the day and month for five years, and in 1858
bought the farm of 150 acres which he now owns. In 1845 he married Eliza Norton,
by whom nine children have been born; Sarah A., Emma, Lydia, Newton, Bertha,
Charles (deceased), Wesley (deceased), Channing, and Eliza. Channing was edu-
cated for a physician and died at Oak Hill after practicing for one year.

\'eeder, Peter J., was born in the town of Guilderland, on the Veeder homestead,
in 1831. Volkert Veeder, the great grandfather, was a native of Albany county and
an agent of Stephen Van Rensselaer, and was also an active worker in the coloniz-
ing of this territory. He owned 1,180 acres of land in one body, on the Glass House
and Norman's Kill, which was on the Van Ball's patent He was active and enter-
prising and owned one mile of land on the Norman's Kill and two miles on Glass
House Creek. He reared four sons and three daughters Peter, the grandfather,
was born in Guilderland on the homestead, where he died when thirty-five years of
age. His wife was Ellen Bullock, daughter of Matthew Bullock, by whom five chil-
dren wQreborn: John B., Ellen, Annie and Peter. John B., the father, was born
on the same farm, and died on a portion of this tract, which farm his son William
D. now owns. He spent his life successfully as a farmer and left a good property
valued at §16,000. His wife was Ellen Holmes of New Scotland, daughter of Sey-
mour Holmes, a successful farmer of that town. To them were born three children:
John S. (deceased). Peter J. and William D. He died August 13, 1864, and his wife
died in 1850. Mr Veeder is trustee of the Presbyterian church and was later elected
elder, which office he held up to the time of his death. Peter J. received his educa-
tion at the Charlotteville Boarding School and Princeton Academy in Schenectady
county. In 1854 he entered the junior class at Union College. He returned to the
farm and remained with his father until the latter's death. He then purchased the
personal property and conducted the farm of 148 acres. This he conducted until
1874, when he sold his interest to his brother William, and removed to the village
of Guilderland, and eight years later purchased the property where he now resides.
In 1892 he was appointed by Governor Flower as United States loan commissioner,
which position he held for three years. In 1866 he married Emma Weaver, born in
Watervliet and daughter of Daniel Weaver. He has been trustee of the Presby-
terian church for twenty-five years and treasurer for seven years. For a number of
years Mr. Veeder has been retired from active business. The Veeder family dates
back to 1616. when the first Veeder came to America from Holland. He was granted
a large tract of land in what is now Albany county. Van Rensselaer was later
granted a tract of land by the queen, covering the Veeder tract. Van Rensselaer
endeavored to dispossess Veeder, and the litigation that followed ended in leaving
1,180 acres in the possession of Veeder. Van Rensselaer being English, and favorc



Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 104 of 138)