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sition of Tammany Hall, of which John Kelly was at the time the leader, and from
that time he held no further public office.

Mr. Hand came of a strongly Democratic family and was always a staunch sup-



140

porter of that party. He was an intimate friend of Governor Tilden, who wished
him to run for governor in 1876, after Horatio Seymour had declined the nomination,
when Tilden was running for president. The leaders decided to nominate Mr.
Hand, but he declined and Lucius Robison was nominated and elected. In 1875 he
served as a member of a Commissiop on Reform of Municipal Government, of which
Senator Evarts was chairman. It was as a member of this commission in advocating
the restriction of the suffrage in cities that Mr. Hand incurred the enmity of Tam-
many Hall which proved fatal to his nomination for the position of judge of the
Court of Appeals. He was also intimate with President Cleveland while he was
governor and was one of his trusted advisers at the same time.

In 1885 Mr. Hand was appointed upon a special water commission for Albany and
was president of the same. He was one of the first vice-presidents of the New York
State Bar Association and its .second president for two terms. At the time of his
death he was president of the Chi Psi Alumni Society of this section and a governor
of the Foit Orage Club. In 1884 he received the degree of LL. D. from Union Col-
lege. In April, 1863, he married Lydia Learned, daughter of Billings P. Learned,
by whom he had tv'o children, a daughter and a son. His widow and children all
survived him.

Mr. Hand was a man of good scholarly and literary attainments, in this respect a
distinct exception to many lawyers who attain high eminence at the bar. He accumu-
lated a large private library, containing some books of rarity and beauty, which
was particularly strong in history and biography. He delighted especially in fine
engravings and good editions, of which he acquired a number, and at one time he
edited De Bury's Philobiblion, a little work in which his own tastes gave him a
ready sympathy. His conversation was varied and showed humane learning, cer-
tainly without any pedantry. Particularly obnoxious to him was the loose and
careless use of language, as for example in th? form of "slang." and perhaps in his
endeavor to use lauguage with a nice taste and conscientious intelligence did he
show most that real culture which is seldom a characteristic of men of affairs. He
took great pleasure also in music and had fine discrimination for that which was
excellent. It may well be doubted whether at the time of his death there was in his
city a man who excelled Mr. Hand at once in his professional success and his
culture.



JOHN G. BURCH.

John G. Burch was born in Rensselaer county, N. Y., in 1827. He is a son of
Henry and Susan (Garvey) Burch, and is descended from a long line of English an-
cestors. The Burch family left the mother country previous to the Revolution and
came to America to seek a fortune. They possessed courage and perseverance and
after settling in New Jersey soon displayed these characteristics. Ebenezer Burch,
the grandfather of John G. Burch, won distinction as a soldier in the Revolutionary
war. Henry Burch fought in the war of 1812. Both Mr. Burch's grandfather and
grandmother received a pension and his father received a very handsome bounty,
richly deserved. Mr. Burch attended the common schools and when just of age re-




JOHN G. BURGH.



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141

moved to Albany wheie he cast his first vote for old General Taylor for president in
1848. Railroading was a new enterprise in those days, and so, anxious to associate
himself with a growing business, Mr. Burch connected himself with the Central Rail-
road as a master painter. For twenty-five years he worked for this company and
was a witness of its steady growth to become the greatest road in the world. Mr.
Burch was foreman of the first gang of men at West Albany, which has since
become noted for its large railroad yard, and consequently he was a pioneer of
West Albany. He has seen West Albany grow from nothing more than a huckle-
berry bush to its pre.sent size, as he says. Mr. Burch's keen foresight led him to
believe that in time West Albany would grow to be a prosperous suburb of Albany,
inasmuch as the railroad business was increasing so rapidly. He therefore decided
to open a general trading store and in 1873 entered the business of selling groceries
and provisions and in connection with the store, a coal and wood yard. His was the
first store of its kind opened on that hill and the first coal and wood yard west of
Lark street. He was associated with Mr. George W. Gibbons as a partner for eleven
years. The business increased so rapidly that after a time Mr. Burch gave up the store
and confined himself to selling coal and wood e.xclusively, which business he is engaged
in to-day. In 1871 Mr. Burch was elected to represent the Ninth ward in the Com-
mon Council of Albany. After the expiration of this term, he was re-elected and
chosen president of the board of aldermen. While Mr. Burch was president of the
board, occurred the mayoralty election when George H. Thacher, Democrat, ran
against Edmund L. Judson, Republican. The Democrats counted Mr. Judson out
and he took it to the courts. Mr. Thacher, then mayor, fearing an unfavorable de-
cision, resigned. As a consequence, Mr. Burch had the honor of acting as mayor
until the election of the following spring. Mr. Burch made many friends while act-
ing as mayor and displayed rare e.Kecutive ability. With the exception of his first
vote, which was cast for a Whig, Mr. Burch has voted the Republican ticket from
Fremont to McKinley. Inasmuch as Mr. Burch was one of the first settlers and the
first storekeeper in West Albany, he has acquired considerable property there. No
work of a public nature, such as paving of streets or laying of (Jrains or sewers, is
attempted without first consulting him. He holds a leading place among property
owners. In 1890 he took his son, George Seward, in partnership with him. He is
no club or society man, for he believes all his time" belongs to his business and his
family. He is very domestic in his tastes. In 1853 he married Miss Mary A. tjreen
of Clinton, Oneida county. Her family originally came from Connecticut Their
family consists of two daughters and three sons.



JAMES A. McKOWN.

Hon. James A. McKown, who has won for himself a prominent position at the Al-
bany bar, was born- in the town of Guilderland, Albany county, N. Y., March 31,
1819. His father was Absalom McKown, a prominent and highly esteemed citizen
of Albany county. His mother's maiden name was Edith Le Grange, daughter of
John Le Grange, esq., a man of high standing in his day. The advantages of



142

young McKown for obtaining an education were confined principally to the (
district school. In his youthful days our present system of general education was
unknown and institutions ranking above the common schools were few, but he
utilized to the fullest extent every advantage he had. He obtained a very good
practical education with which he attained his success in life through his own un-
aided efforts. He therefore belongs to that large and valuable class of men with
which the legal and generally all professions abound — self-made men. He early de-
cided to become a lawyer, and to bring that to pass he directed every energy. In
recognition of bis intelligence, sound judgment, practical good sense and legal in-
formation, he was quite early in life elected a justice of the peace at (iuilderland,
serving in a very acceptable manner for the almost unprecedented long period of
eighteen years. His eminent services as a justice of the peace were fully recog-
nized, not only by the people or Guilderland, but by the people of the county at
large, and this, in 1852, brought him forward as a candidate for the office of associate
judge of Albany county. He was elected by a good majority and took his seat on
the bench of the County Court and Court of Sessions. In 1853 he was again a can-
didate and was re-elected. His judicial term extended two years, and was very ac-
ceptable to the people of the county. Mr. McKown was a close, industrious and
appreciative legal student, but he did not apply for admission to the bar until 1853,
when, on motion of that distinguished jurist, Hon. John K. Porter, he was admitted
to practice in all the courts of this State, and in 1865 he was, on motion of Ira
Harris, admitted to the United States Supreme Court. In April, 1856, Mr. McKown
made the city of Albany his residence, where he has continued to reside from that
thne down to the present. His judicial mind and method prepared the way for his
election to the office of surrogate of Albany county. This event took place in the
fall of 1855. The duties of this office are important and difficult. No judicial posi-
tion is more so than that of surrogate. It requires a peculiar caste of mind and
much depth of learning to successfully discharge the duties of the office. We can
truly say that Mr. McKown displayed ability, learning and industry of a high order.
His administration was therefore very successful and he retired from the office with
the good wishes and good opinion of the bar and the public. In his practice he has
no specialty, but has conducted a general legal business with success, and has al-
ways surrounded himself with- a respectable and profitable clientage. His long
identification with the Albany bar, his high and upright character, his honorable
course as a practitioner, have given him an eminent place in his profession. Mr.
McKown belongs to the Republican party, and though he believes most thoroughly
in the principles of that party, yet he is not bigoted. He is not nor ever has been a
seeker after office or place. He favors the Baptist church and is a member of Wads-
worth Lodge, F. & A. M. In 1837 he was united in marriage to Miss Alida Van
Valkenburgh, by whom he has one daughter living, Mrs. William A. Amsdell.




AMASA J. I'ARkhk.



AMASA J. PARKER.

1807—1890.

Amas.v J. P-^RKER was born at Sharon, parish of Ellsworth, Litchfield county, Conn.,
on the 3d of June, 1807, and died at Albany, N. Y., May 13^ 1890. His father, the
Rev. Daniel Parker, was a Congregational clergyman settled for twenty years in
Watertown and Ellsworth, Conn. The subject of this memoir was descended, on
both sides, from families distinguished in the history of New England, that had been
settled there since the earliest days of pilgrim immigration, sharing in the perils of
Indian warfare and, at a later day, in our Revolutionary struggle. His maternal
grandfather, Thomas Fenn, who resided at Watertown, Conn., was for more than
thirty sessions a representative in the Legislature of his State.

The Rev. Daniel Parker removed into this State with his family when the son was
nine years of age, and the latter continued to reside in State of New York afterwards
during his whole life.

Great pains was taken by his father with his education and under the care of his
father and of other eminent teachers, and with very close study on his part, he had,
at the age of si.xteen, completed with great thoroughness a full collegiate course of
study, but outside the walls of a college.

In June, 1823, when but sixteen years of age, though having the personal appear-
ance of more advanced age, he was appointed principal of the Hudson Academy,
located at the city of Hudson, an institution chartered by the Regents of the Univer-
sity of this State, and entered immediately upon the duties of the position. He re-
mained there four years, and on the 1st of May, 1827, resigned his place to prosecute
the study of the law and tit himself for admission to the bar. During the last year
of his service in the academy, he had entered the office of Hon. John W. Edmunds,
but his duties elsewhere gave him but little time for his legal studies.

He was eminently successful in his labors as principal of the academy. Under his
charge the institution rose to distinction and was attended by students from different
and distant parts of the country, many of whom were prepared for college at an ad-
vanced standing, and for the business of life under his instruction. He resigned his
trust with the various departments of the academy full of students and in the height
of its prosperity, because he felt that the time had come for him to devote his whole
attention to the necessary preparation for his intended professon.

An incident occurred when he was in charge of the academy worthy of mention.
A rival and successful institution existed in a distant town of the same county, to
promote the interests of which its friends urged that the principal of the Hudson
Academy was not himself a graduate of any college. To put such an objection at
rest the subject of our notice in the summer of 1825 presented himself at Union Col-
lege and submitted to an examination for the whole college cour.se of study, and
graduated with the clas of 1825. The singular fact occurred, that one of his own
former students graduated with him in the same class.

On resigning his place at the academy in May, 1827, Mr. Parker proceeded at once
to Delhi, Delaware county, in this State, and entered the office of his uncle, Amasa
Parker, esq., an eminent lawyer, who had been established there many years, and
continued as a student in that office till his admission to the bar in October, 1828.



144

He then entered into copartnership with his uncle, and the firm of A. & A. J. Parker
became well known to the profession throughout the State, and was not dissolved
till Mr. Parker was appointed to the bench in March, 1844.

During all that time, Mr. Parker was engaged in a large professional business,
perhaps more e.xtensive and varied than that of any other country law office in the
State. He soon acquired a professional standing that secured him a large practice
as counsel in the highest courts of the State. He attended quite regularly the Cir-
cuits of Delaware, Greene, Ulster and Schoharie counties, and occasionally those
held in Broome, Tioga and Tompkins counties, and sometimes in other counties
more distant, as well as the stated terms of Chancery and of the Supreme Court,
as the printed reports of those courts show. It has been said, by those acquainted
with the subject, that at the time of his appointment to the bench he had tried more
cases at the Circuit than any other lawyer of his age in the State.

Mr. Parker always insisted that his success in establishing a large practice as at-
torney and counsel was owing more to his promptness, system and method than to
any other peculiar talent. It was the rule of his life never to fail to answer a busi-
ness letter on the same day on which it was received — to send to his client a check
for money collected by the first mail, and never to fail to keep an appointment at the
precise time fi.xed for it ; and this latter practice, he never omitted on the bench,
having never failed to open his court at the precise hour appointed. In this way,
he enforced the most punctual attendance of counsel, parties and witnesses, and by
it he was enabled to accomplish much more business. An incident is related as
having occurred, which illustrates how well this habit was understood and relied on
by the profession. Judge Parker was engaged in holding, as vice-chancellor, a Court
of Chancery at the Capitol, at Albany. The hour of opening was ten o'clock, and
many counsel were assembled in the court room, seated round the circle of the bar,
some minutes before the appointed time, occasionally looking at the clock, and as
the hand came near to the hour of ten, watching to see what seemed to them almost
certain, that the judge would, for once, be late. It was a matter of discussion, and
as there was but a minute left, a bet was made by two prominent members of the
b^r, of whom the late Judge Peckham, then in full practice, was one, that the judge
would be late. But the judge entered and took his seat as the clock was striking,
and Judge Peckham won the bottle of wine.

During the fifteen years that Judge Parker was engaged in practice, before he was
appointed to the bench, he mingled somewhat actively in the political contests of
the day. He could not well do otherwise, in a county so famed as Delaware in the
history of politics, and in which the people had been so long trained by Gen. Erastus
Root, who was always an active partisan and leader. In the fall of 1833 he was
elected by the Democratic party to the Assembly without any opposition, and
served in 1834. In 1835 he was elected by the Legislature of this State a Regent of
the University of the State. He was then twenty-seven years of age, and was the
youngest person ever elected to that distinguished trust. He held it for nearly ten
years, and resigned it when appointed to the bench. In November, 1836, he was
elected to the Twenty-fifth Congress to represent the district then comprising the
counties of Delaware and Broome. This time also he ran without opposition, no
candidate being nominated by the opposite party. He entered upon the duties of
the office at the extra session held in September, 1837, and served during the three



145

sessions of that Congress. These were exciting and sometimes stormy sessions.
The sub-treasury measure was proposed by Mr. Van Buren at the extra session of
1S37 and was warmly advocated by Mr. Parker and others, but it did not secure the
support of all the Democratic members. Upon it Congress was very nearly divided
and questions were frequently decided by the casting vote of the speaker, Mr. Polk.
It was not till at a later Congress, when the measure had become better understood,
that it was passed into a law, and it still remains in force, its wisdom being now ad-
mitted by all parties.

During his service in Congress Mr. Parker was actively engaged in the duties it
imposed, on committees and in the discussions in the House. His speeches on the
Mississippi election case, on the sub treasury bill, on the public lands, on the Cilley
and Graves duel and on other subjects are reported in the proceedings of that Con-
gress. Hiram Gray, Richard P. Marvin, Henry A. Foster, Arphaxad Loomis, John
T. Andrews and Amasa J. Parker were the last six survivors from this State of that
memorable Congress.

Mr. Parker was not a candidate for re-election, and at the close of his term re-
turned to the practice of his profession.

In the autumn of 1839 he was nominated as a candidate for the State Senate to
represent the Senatorial district then corresponding nearly in boundary to the Third
Judicial district of this State. There were two vacancies to be filled, in addition to
the term then expiring. There were, therefore, three senators to be chosen. The
year before, Alonzo C. Paige had been elected by less than fifty majority. But on
this occasion the three Democratic candidates were all defeated by a majority little
more than normal.

In the spring of 1834 Mr. Parker was appointed district attorney of Delaware
county, which place he held for three years and till the expiration of his term, and
was not a candidate for reappointment.

The later incidents of Judge Parker's life are more familiar to our readers. He
was appointed by Governor Bouck circuit judge and vice-chancellor of the Third
Circuit, on the 6th of March, 1844, and immediately removed to the city of Albany,
where he resided till his death. He held that office till the spring of 1847, when it
was terminated by the adoption of the constitution of 1846. He was then elected in
the Third Judicial district a justice of the Supreme Court of this State for a term of
eight years.

At no time in the history of this State have the judicial labors devolving upon a
judge been more difficult and responsible than those he was called on to discharge
during his twelve years of judicial service. It was during this time that the anti-
rent excitement, which prevailed throughout a large portion of his judicial district,
was at its height. It crowded the civil calendars with litigations and the criminal
courts with indictments for acts of violence in resisting the collection of rents.

The trial of " Big Thunder" before Judge Parker at Hudson, in the spring of 1845,
lasted two weeks, and the jury failed to agree. When the next Court of Oyer and
Terminer was held in that county. Judge Parker was engaged in holding the court
in Delaware county, and Judge Edmonds was assigned to hold the Columbia Oyer
and Terminer in his place. At that court " Big Thunder" was again tried and was
convicted and sent to the State prison.

In the summer of 1845, Osman N. Steele, under sheriff of Delaware county, while



146

engaged with a judge in his official duties in the collection of rent due from Moses
Earle at Andes, in that county, was violently resisted by about 200 men, armed and
disguised as Indians, and was shot and killed by them. Intense excitement pre-
vailed in the county. A great struggle followed between those who resisted and
those who sought to enforce the laws. On the 25th of August, 1845, Governor
Wright declared the county of Delaware in a state of insurrection, and a battalion
of light infantry was detailed to aid the civil authorities in the preservation of order
and the making of arrests. At the inquest held on the body of Sheriff Steele and at
a county General Sessions, the whole subject was fully investigated. Some indict-
ments were found for murder, but most of them were for manslaughter and lesser
offenses. Over two hundred and forty persons were indicted, most of whom were
arrested and in custody awaiting trial at the then approaching Oyer and Terminer.
The regular jail and two log jails, temporarily constructed for the purpose, were
filled with prisoners. Under these discouraging circumstances and with armed men
stationed in the court room and throughout the village to preserve order, Judge
Parker opened the Oyer anfl Terminer at Delhi on the 22d of September, 1845. We
find a brief statement of these proceedings and an extract from the charge of Judge
Parker to the grand jury in the history of Delaware county, by Jay Gould, published
in 1856, and dedicated to Judge Parker.

We have heard Judge Parker .say that, as the time for that court was approaching,
he hesitated as to whether he should hold the court himself in the county with the
citizens of which he had so long lived and been so intimately associated, or whether
he should not rather ask the governar to assign some other judge to the duty who
was an entire stranger to all concerned ; and, in his doubt, he wrote for advice to his
former student and life long friend, the Hon. Lucius Robinson. In answer, he was
urged by all means to hold the court himself, and he was told that if some other
judge held the court he might, perhaps, adjourn the court after two or three weeks
of trials, leaving most of the cases untried and the jails still filled, which he was sure
Judge Parker would not do. Judge Parker hesitated no longer, but proceeded at
once to the discharge of the duty.

After charging the grand jury, he gave notice, fhat, whatever lime it might take,
he should continue to hold the court till every case was tried and the jails were
cleared.

The indictments were prosecuted by the district attorney appointed by John Van
Buren, then attorney-general, and by Samuel Sherwood, a distinguished member of
the bar, then of New York, but who formerly resided at Delhi, and the prisoners
were defended by able counsel, among whom were Samuel Gordon, Mitchell Sanford
and Samuel S. Bowne.

John Van Steenbergh was first tried and convicted of murder. Edward O'Connor
was next tried with a hke result. Both men .sentenced to be executed on the 29th of
November then next. Four others were convicted of felony and sent to the State
prison for life, and thirteen men sent to the State prison for different terms of years.
A large number who had been engaged in resisting the sheriff, but who had not been
disguised, pleaded guilty of misdemeanors. Some of these were fined, but as to
most of them, and as to some who pleaded guilty of manslaughter, sentence was
suspended and they were told by the court they would be held responsible for the
future preservation of the peace in their neighborhoods, and were warned that if any



147

other instance should occur of resisting an officer, or of a violation of the statute
which made it a felony to appear for such purpose, armed and disguised, they would
at once be suspected and might be called up for sentence. Under this assurance,



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