Amasa J. (Amasa Junius) Parker.

Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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These last named duties were conferred by the act of Febauary 12,
1796. The seals of the county clerks were the seals of the Court of
Common Pleas in their respective counties. County clerks are now
clerks of the Supreme Court, Court of Oyer and Terminer, County
Court and Court of Sessions. Since the adoption of the constitution of
18'21 the term of office has been three years. Following are the names
of those who have held this office in Albany county:

Ludovicus Cobes, 1669; Robert Livingston. 1675; Johannes Cuyler, March 2, 1690;
Robert Livingston, 1691; William Shaw, 1696; Robert Livingston, 1705; Philip Liv-
ingston. 1731; John Golden, February 23, 1749; Harme Gansevort, September 25,
1750; Witham Marsh, 1760; Stephen De Lancy, January 25, 1765; Leonard Ganse-
voort. May 8, 1777; Matthew Vischer, 1778; Richard Lush, September 29, 1790;
Charles D. Cooper, March 3, 1808; William P. Beers, February 28. 1810; Charles D.
Cooper, February 5, 1811; John Lovett, March 3, 1813; George Merchant, March 31,
1815; Henry Truax, June 6, 1820; George Merchant, February 19, 1821; L. L. Van
Kleeck, November, 1832; Conrad A. Ten Eyck, November, 1828; Henry B. Haswell,
November, 1837; William Mix, November, 1843; Lawrence Van Dusen, November,
1846; Robert S. Lay, November, 1849; Robert Harper, November, 18.52; Robert Bab-
cock, November, 1855; Smith A. Waterman, November, 1861; Giles K. Winne, Feb-


J 4.5

ruary 9, 1865; Isaac N. Keeler, June 30, 1868; John McEwen, November, 1868;
Albert C. Judson, November, 1871; William E. Haswell, November, 1874; John
Larkin, November, 1877; William D. Strevell, November, 1883; Robert H. Moore,
November, 1886; Ansel C. Requa, 1889; James D. Walsh, 1893; James M. Borst-
wick, 1895.

Slicriffs. — During the colonial period sheriffs were appointed annually
in the month of October, unless otherwise noticed. Under the first
constitution they were appointed annually by the Council of Appoint-
ment, and no person could hold the office more than four successive
years. Neither could a sheriff hold any other office, and must be a
freeholder in the county where appointed. Since the adoption of the
constitution of 1831, sheriffs have been elected for a term of three
years, and are ineligible to election for the next succeeding term. The
following persons have held this office in Albany county:

John Mannmg, April 6, 1665; Gerrit Swart, August 17 1668; Andrew Draeyer,
October, 1673; Michael Siston, November 4, 1674; Johannes Provoost, October,
1677; Richard Pretty, October, 1678/>-todovicus Cobes. October, 1679; Richard
Pretty, October, 1680; Caspar Teller, March 1, 1691 ; John Apple, December 1, 1693;
Simon Young, June 19, 1696; Johannes Groenendyke, October, 1698: John Williams,
October, 1699; Jonathan Broadhurst, October, 1700; Jacobus Turk, October, 1703;
David Schuyler, October, 1705; Henry Holland, October, 1706; Thomas Williams,
October, 1713; Samuel Babington, October, 1716; Gerrit Van Shaick, October, 1719;
Henry Holland, October, 1730; Philip Verplanck, October, 1733; Thomas Williams,
October, 1733; Goose Van Schaick. October, 1738; James Stephenson, October, 1731 ;
James Lindsay, October, 1733; Henry Holland, October, 1739; John Rutger Bleecker,
October, 1746; Jacob Ten Eyck, October, 1747; Thomas Williams, October, 1748;
Richard Miller, October, 1749; Abraham Yates, October, 1754; Abraham Yates, jr.,
October, 1755; Jacob Van Schaick, October, 1759; Hermanns Schuyler, June 18, 1761 ;
Henry Ten Eyck. October, 1770; Hendrick J. Wendell, September 37, 1777; John
Ten Broeck, March 33, 1781; Hendrick J. Wendell, November 39, 1783; John Ten
Broeck, September 39, 1786; Peter Gansevoort, jr.. September 39, 1790; John
Ostrander, jr., September, 39, 1793; John Given, September 39, 1796; Hermanns P.
Schuyler, February 35, 1800; John J. Cuyler, January 38, 1801; Hermanns H. Wen-
dell, January 12, 1803; Lawrence L. Van Kleeck, February 38, 1807; Solomon South-
wick, February 10, 1808-; Jacob Mancius, February 13, 1810; Peter P. Dox, February
13. ISll; Jacob Mancius, February 33, 1813; Isaac Hempstead, March 17, 1815;
Leonard H. Gansevoort, March 6, 1819; Cornelius Van Antwerp, February 12, 1831;
Cornelius Van Antwerp, November, 1833; C. H. Ten Eyck, November, 1827; John
Beckey (removed October 5. 1839), 1828; Asa Colvard, November, 1829; Albert Gal-
lup, November, 1831; Angus McDuffie, November, 1834; Michael Artcher, Novem-
ber, 1837; Amos Adams, November, 1840; Christopher Batterman, November, 1843;
Oscar Tyler, November, 1846; William Beardsley, November, 1849; John McEwen,
November, 1852; William P. Brayton, November, 1855; Thomas W. Van Alstyne,
November, 1858; Henry Crandall, November, 1861; Henry Fitch, November, 1864;


Harris Parr, November, 1867; George A. Birch, November, 1870; Albert Gallup,
November, 1873; John Wemple, November 6, 1876; James A. Houck, November,
1879; WilHam H, Keeler, November, 1882; John W. Hart, 1885; James Rooney,
1888; Isaac B. Cross, 1891; Lewis V. Thayer, 1894.

No county in this State has had a more distinguighed bar than Al-
bany. The fact that here is located the capital may have been to some
extent influential in bringing to Albany men of eminence in the legal
profession; but whether this is or is not true, the bar and judiciary of
Albany includes the names of man)' men which have been familiar
throughout the State and nation, both professionally and in connection
with public affairs. It is proper that a few of these shall receive spe-
cial mention in this chapter.


One of the very early prominent attorneys whose career deserves
brief mention here was Robert Yates. He was born in 1738 and early in
life settled in Albany where he became conspicuous in public affairs. He
was associated with the other eminent members of the committee ap-
pointed August 1, 1776, to prepare a form of government for the State of
New York, which led directly to the adoption of the first constitution.
He was a member of the first Provincial Congress of 1775, and also of the
second, which convened in February, 1776. On May 8, 1777, he was
appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of the State, serving thus to
October, 1790, when he was appointed chief justice of the State. In
1787 Judge Yates was appointed by the Legislature, with Alexander
Hamilton and John Lansing, jr., a delegate to the convention which
formed the constitution of the United States. He, with Mr. Lansing,
withdrew from that convention because it did not more effectually se-
cure the rights of the separate States. Judge Yates was also a com-
missioner for the settlement of the rival claims between New York
and Vermont, and Massachusetts and Connecticut. His death took
place in 1801.

John Lansing, jr., was born in Albany, January 30, 1755, and studied
law with Robert Yates and later with James Duane, of New York. In
1776-7 he was secretary to Major-General .Schuyler, commanding the
Northern Department. After his admission to the bar Mr. Lansing


began practicing in Albany and met with great success. He became
very prominent in public affairs and ably filled many honorable stations,
as follows: Member of assembly in sessions 4 to 7 inclusive from
Albany; appointed member of congress February, 1784, and re-
appointed; elected speaker of the Assembly January, 1786; appointed
mayor of Albany September 39, 1786; in 1786 again elected to the
Assembly, and in January, 1787, made member of congress under the
confederation; March 6, 1787, appointed delegate to the Philadelphia
convention that framed the United States constitution; elected speaker
of the Assembly, December, 1788; appointed, March, 1790, a commis-
sioner in settling the New York and Vermont controversy, and on
September 28 following, he was appointed one of the justices of the
Supreme Court of the State; February 15, 1798, appointed chief justice
of the Supreme Court of the State, succeeding Mr. Yates; October 21,
1801, appointed chancellor of the State; in 1804, declined nomination
for the office of governor. This distinguished career was brought to a
sudden close December 12, 1829, when Judge Lansing was in New
York; leaving his hotel to mail an important letter on the Albany
steamboat, he was never seen or heard of afterwards.

It has been written of Abi-aham, Van Vechten, that " no name is
more honored in the State than his — honored not only as a learned,
eloquent, and eminently successful lawyer, but as a legislator whose
wisdom and profundity are seen in the enactment of many of the laws
that have given protection and greatness to the vState of New York."
He was born in Catskill, December 5, 1762, graduated at what is now
Columbia College, and studied law with John Lansing. After a short
period of practice in Johnstown he settled in Albany, where he soon
ranked high among older and more experienced lawyers. His large
practice soon carried him before the higher courts, where he greatly
distinguished himself and opened the way for his preferment in public
office. He was repeatedly elected to the Legislature, and in 1813 was
appointed attorney-general of the State, and during the administration
of John Jay he was tendered the office of judge of the Supreme Court
of the State; but he preferred to remain directly in the practice of his
profession and declined the high honor. He was recorder of Albany,
1797-1808; regent, 1797-1823; State senator, 1798-1805; member of
assembly, 1805-15; attorney-general, 1810 and 1813, and a member of
the Constitutional Convention of 1821. For "over half a centurv his


brilliant mind was constantly shedding its light over the jurisprudence
of the State and nation. The bar long delighted to accord to him its
highest honors."

John V. Henry was an early and prominent member of the Albany
bar. He was admitted to practice in January, 1782, at the same term
with Aaron Burr. Possessing the advantages of a classical education
and brilliant native qualifications, he soon rose to the position of peer
beside such men as Hamilton, Burr, Hoffman, Lansing and others.
He was an eloquent orator and able logician, and was early accorded
leadership in the political arena. He was chosen member of assembly
from Albany county in 1800, was re-elected and in that body was the
foremost Federalist. In January, 1800, he was appointed comptroller
of the State, but in the following year, for reasons that are not clearly
understood, was removed from the office by Governor Clinton, who
succeeded Gov. John Jay. The turn of the political wheel that brought
this change to Mr. Henry, while unpleasant to him and his friends, was
in reality a blessing, for it caused him to form an irrevocable resolu-
tion to never again accept political office. As a consequence he was
able thenceforward to devote his whole powerful energies to his pro-
fession. In that field he advanced to the front rank. He died sud-
denly October 2, 1839. A paragraph from an obituary notice reads

"The death of Mr. Henry is a public calamity. The tears that his
family shed over his lifeless form fall not alone. Those who respect
the probity, the independence, the gallant bearing, and the high talents
which sometimes redeem human nature from suspicion, must also
lament the fall of such a man as this, in whom these traits were so
happily combined."

John V. N. Yates was a son of Robert Yates, before noticed, and
was born in Albany in 1779. He received a liberal education, studied
law in the office of John V. Henry and began practice in his native
city. In 1808 he received appointment as master in chancery, and in
June of the same year was appointed recorder of Albany. He was
removed through political changes, but again assumed the office in
1811, serving to 1816. In April, 1818, he was appointed secretary of
state and .served until 182G with distinguished ability. In 1808 he be-
came embroiled in the famous case with Chancellor Lansing, growing


out of an attempt on the part of the latter, in his official capacity, to
punish Mr. Yates for malpractice and contempt. The case may be
found in G Johnson's reports, 335, and it must suffice for this place to
state that at the close of the long litigation Mr. Yates was successful.
He was an able writer and was the recipient of many prominent offi-
cial positions. He died in Albany. January in, 1839.

From the year 1816, when he was thirty- four years of age, Martin
Van Buren was a resident of Albany and a distinguished member of
its bar. He was born in Kinderhook, was an ardent student, and be-
gan the study of law early in life. He was admitted to the bar in 1803,
and during the next twelve years practiced in his native place, where
his rivals and business opponents numbered some of the most eminent
lawyers of that time. But by the force of his ability and almost super-
human labor the young man often triumphed over his more experienced
adversaries. After holding several public positions in what is now
Columbia county, he was elected to the State Senate for 1812 when
only thirty years old, and was re-elected in 181G, at which time he be-
came a resident of Albany. His after career, during which he reached
the highest office in the land, is too well known to need repetition here,
while it is manifestly impossible to spare space for it. He took as his
law partner, 'in 1817, Benjamin F. Butler, another lawyer who was
destined to win national fame, and the firm became one of the strong-
est in the State. Mr. Van Buren was chosen United States senator in
1821, and was a foremost member of the Constitutional Convention of
that year; he became governor of the State upon the death of Mr.
Clinton in 1828, but resigned the office on receiving appointment as
secretary of state in President Jackson's cabinet in the following- year.
He was inaugurated president of the United States iii March, 1837,
and was defeated for re-election by General Harrison.

The same apology offered for the brevity of a few lines regarding
Mr. Van Buren in these pages will also apply to Benjamin F. Butler.
Born at Kinderhook in December, 1795, he finished his school studies
and then entered the law office of Mr. Van Buren. The high position
of the senior of the firm, and his practice in the United vStates Supreme
Court, as well as the natural and acquired qualifications of Mr. Butler,
gave the latter superior business advantages, and the firm became
recognized as the leading one of the State. He was appointed district


attorney of Albany county in 1831, and retired in 1825 with the com-
mendations of the community. In 1825 he became a member of the
commission to revise the laws of the State, with John Duer and Henry
Wheaton. This was an enormous task, and required almost the entire
time of the commissioners for years, and it is known that much of the
good results were due to the patient and efficient labor of Mr. Butler.
He was elected to the Legislature in 1828; in 1833 was appointed
attorney-general of the United States, and in October, 1836, while
still in that office, was appointed secretary of war in President Jack-
son's cabinet. He resigned as attorney general in January, 1838, and
returned to the practice of his profession; but within a few months
the office of United States district attorney for the Southern District
of New York became vacant, and he was appointed thereto. When
President Polk was inaugurated he tendered Mr. Butler the office of
secretary of war, which was declined, but soon afterward he accepted
the office of United States attorney for the Southern District of the
State. About this time he became a resident of New York, where he
occupied a leading position. He visited Europe in October, 18G8, in-
tending to remain two years to regain his ijroken health, and died in
Paris, November 8, of that year.

Greene C. Bronson was for more than twent}* years a prominent
member of the Albany bar. He was a native of Utica, born in 1T8'.»,
and began practice in that village about 1815. He was appointed sur-
rogate of Oneida county in 1819 and in 1822 was elected to the Assem-
bly, declining a renomination the following year. In February, 1829,
he was appointed attorney-general of the State, the duties of which
office he discharged with signal ability until 1836, when he was ap-
pointed one of the justices of the Supreme Court. He took up his res-
idence in Albany coincident with his appointment as attorney-general,
and was a resident here until 1853, when he received the appointment
of collector of the port of New York and removed to that city. Mean-
while, in March, 1845, he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme
Court of the State, and occupied the bench two years, when he re-
signed. In politics Judge Bronson was a Democrat and occupied a
leading position in the party. He died in New York, September 3, 1S63.

A reference to the reports of cases argued in the appellate courts of
the State from 1817 to 1853, will show that Marcus T. Revnokls was

161 I

counsel in more cases adjudicated in the Supreme Court and the Court
for the Correction of Errors than almost any other lawyer of this
State. He was born in Montgomery county, December 22, 1788, and
graduated from Union college in 1808. He then began studying law
in the office of the eminent Matthias B. Hildreth, of Johnstown, Fulton
county. Mr. Reynolds was admitted to the bar in 1811, and early
evinced those talents which enabled him to rapidly advance in his pro-
fession. He began and continued in practice at Johnstown until 1828,
when he removed to Albany and there passed the remainder of his life,
adding greatly to the high reputation he had previously gained. He
was particularly powerful before a jury and the number of prominent
cases in which he was engaged was large. By a fall from his horse,
many years previous to his death, one of his legs was so badly frac-
tured that amputation was necessary. Ill health compelled his retire-
ment from practice about ten years before his death, which took place
July 13, 1864.

For many years after 1837 Gen. Samuel Stevens was one of the lead-
ing lawyers of Albany and an advocate of great power. He attained
a large measure of professional success and was very popular with the
people of the community. He first came prominently into the political
field as one of De Witt Clinton's ablest supporters. In 1825 he repre-
sented Washington county, where he was born, in the Legislature,
where he was leader of the Clintonian forces. He was re-elected in
1827. Later on he identified himself with the Whigs and in 1839 was
a prominent candidate for attorney-general. He did not again come
before the people in connection with public office, except through his
nomination for lieutenant-governor. The names of General Stevens,
Marcus T. Reynolds and Nicholas Hill are intimately associated in the
history of the Albany bar, where they were often brought together in
the same cases. At different times General Stevens was a partner
with James Edwards and with Peter Cagger.

The name of John C. Spencer is not only identified with the bar of
Albany county, but is well known in the political history of the State.
His career was intimately blended with that of De Witt Clinton, as far
as politics were concerned. He was born at Hudson, August 12, 178ti,
and a son of Ambrose Spencer Graduating from Union College in
1803 with high honor, he at once began the study of law with his father.

1 53

In July, 180'.», he was admitted to practice and very soon afterwards
joined the great tide of emigration westward and settled in Canandai-
gua. With almost no pecuniary means and a few law books, he and
his wife began life in that village in a very modest way, while he
sought such business as the vicinity afforded. He stood for some years
at the head of the bar of that great county. In 1818 he was appointed
by the governor prosecuting attorney for the five western counties of
the vState. In the spring of 1817 he was elected to Congress, and while
in that body was nominated for the Senate by the State Legislature,
but was not chosen. In 1819 he was elected to the Assembly, and
again in 1821, 1831 and 1833; at the first term he was chosen speaker.
From 1825 to 1828 he was in the State Senate, where he attained a high
position. In 1826 he was chosen to prosecute the abductors of Morgan
during the anti-Masonic crusade, out of which grew the anti-Masonic
party, of which he was a prominent member. When that party was
absorbed by the Whigs Mr. Spencer became a leader in the political
field, and in 1836 removed to Albany. Upon the election of John Tyler
to the presidency he chose Mr. vSpencer for his secretary of war. After
the presidential election of 1852 he retired from politics. It will be
remembered that he was one of the three commissioners appointed by
Governor Clinton to revise the statutes of the State, a great task which
was successfully accomplished. In 1849 he was appointed one of the
codifying commissioners, but declined and soon retired to private life.
Mr. Spencer endeared himself to citizens of Albany by his generous
interest in local affairs, and particularly in his aid in founding a num-
ber of the benevolent institutions of the city. He died while in New
York on May 20, 1854.

James Edwards was born in Greenfield, Saratoga county, December
9, 1799, and settled in Albany in 1816, where he attained a prominent
position at the bar. He studied law in the office of his uncle, Albert
I^oote, at that time one of the leading attorneys of the city. He was
admitted to the bar in 1822 and soon afterwards became a partner
with Gen. Samuel Stevens. It was written of Mr. Edwards that " he
was distinguished for his sound practical judgment, his solid legal at-
tainments, his promptness and accuracy in business, energy, firmness
and integrity of character, and conscientious fidelity to the interests of
his clients." Mr. Edwards died May 21, 18G8.

Azor Tabor was born at Knox, Albany county, May 1, 1798. After


receiving a classical education he entered the office of John Lansing,
then chancellor of the State, studied law and when admitted to the bar
began practice in Alban}-. He ranked among the ablest attorneys of
the city and gained a large and profitable business. Loving his pro-
fession and its pursuit, he never sought public office, the only position
he ever held being that of State senator, to which he was elected in
I Sol. Although his senatorial career was eminently worthy, he had
little taste for public life and returned permanently to practice. In
1833 he formed a partnership with Amos Dean, which continued suc-
cessfully some years. In 1854, owing to ill health, Mr. Tabor retired
from practice, removed to Knox and there died June 10, 1855.

Amos Dean was born at Barnard, Vt., January 16, 1803. After
teaching several seasons to enable him to obtain his education, he en-
tered Union College in 1823 and was graduated in 1826. He began
studying law in the offie of Jabez D. Hammond and Alfred Conkling,
and was admitted to practice in 1829. He was for several years a
partner with Azor Tabor and the firm was recognized as a strong one.
He was a firm believer in the great benefits of popular education and
was thereby led in 1833 to gather about him a few young men of sim-
ilar tastes, from which grew the later Albany Young Men's Association.
From that beginning hundreds of similar organizations came into
being in other cities. Mr. Dean was chosen the first president of the
association. In 1833 he was associated with Drs. March and Armsby
in establishing the Albany Medical College, and from that time to
1859 he held in that institution the position of professor of medical
jurisprudence. When the law department of the university was estab-
lished Mr. Dean was chosen one of its professors, where his talents
gave him wide recognition as an educator. He was also well known
in literary fields; was the author of a Manual of Law, and delivered
many addresses before different bodies. The publication of his great-
est work, the History of Civilization, was stopped by his death, but
was issued afterwards in seven volumes.

A lawyer who ranked with Reynolds, Stevens, Tabor and others of
the Albany bar, was Henry G. Wheaton, who was graduated from
Union College in 1828 and immediately began law study in Albany.
After his admission to practice he rapidly rose to an enviable position
in the profession. Becoming interested in politics, for which he pos-


sessed natural talents, he was chosen for the Assembly from Albany
county in the years 1835, 1840 and 1841, though his seat in the first

Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 14 of 138)