Benjamin Whitman.

Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r online

. (page 104 of 192)
Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 104 of 192)
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ify for county treasurer of Erie county, to which office
he was elected at the preceding fall election on the
Republican ticket. Mr. Brown was married Novem-
ber 18, 1869, to Miss Lydia, daughter of Marshall
Wright, of Kingsville, O., and to them have been born
four children: Marshall W., Kate D., Jessie and Con-
rad. The family are members of the United Presby-
terian Church and he is a member of the A. O. U. W.,
E. A. U., Fraternal Mystic Circle and National Union.

Dr. John S. Carter (deceased), was born in Get-
tysburg, Adams county, Pa., June 13, 1808, son of Sam-
uel and Nancy (Paxton) Carter, natives of Pennsyl-
vania, of Irish lineage; the former was a mechanic.
Dr. Carter received a common school training, and
commenced the study of medicine under Dr. Jackson,
of Northumberland county, Pennsylvania, and here
he was engaged in the drug business for a time. In
1836 he removed to Erie city and clerked in the drug
store of C. F, Perkins one year, when he bought the



latter out, and in 1840 moved into the Reed block,
where he remained nineteen years. His brother, who
died in 1861, was a partner with him till that date,
after which Dr. Carter conducted the business in his
own name, and was many years continuously engaged
in trade in Erie city. In 1859 he and his brother built
a handsome store room, four stories in height, on North
Park Row, filled with a stock of pure drugs. The
doctor was married in 1836 to Julia E., daughter of
'Squire John D. Haverstick. Of the children born to
this union, but one survives — Mary, widow, of the late
Hon. E. C. IngersoU, of Illinois, who survives her
brother Samuel, a former resident of New York city,
and president of the Carter Medicine Company. Mrs.
Carter, dying in 1845, Dr. Carter married, in 1852, Ruth,
a daughter of Tlev. John IngersoU, and sister of Hon.
E. C. and Col. Robert G. IngersoU. This lady died in
1881. The doctor consciously took no part in politics.
He professed to be a Christian of the primitive order,
but was connected with no society or organization.

George Ambrose Allen, attorney, Erie Pa., was
born near Pulaski, Mercer (now Lawrence) county.
Pa., December 31, 1839. He is the only surviving child
of Major William and Mary (Steel) Allen, both natives
of Pennsylvania, and of Scotch-Irish descent. Major
Allen's father came from Ireland in 1795 and located
with his family near Carlisle, Pa., whence they re-
moved to Mahoning, Ohio, where Major Allen was
born, August 21, 1803. After the latter's marriage, in
1828, he removed to Pulaski, Lawrence county. Pa.,
where he lived until 1843, when he purchased what
was then known as the McGarvey Mills, in the village
of Waterloo (now Polk), Venango county. Pa., where
he spent the remainder of his life, with the exception
of a period of six years, during which he lived near
Meadville, Pa. His wife died May 28, 1856; he sur-
vived until June 6, 1881. His life was spent as a mil-
ler and farmer. His title was obtained as an officer of
the State troops in Mercer county from 1830 to 1840,
in the division commanded by General Dick. George
A. Allen was educated in the common schools at Polk,
theClintonville Academy and the State Normal School
at Edinboro. He then took a classical course under
the private tutorship of Prof. William Burgwin. He
was admitted to the bar at Meadville, Pa., in June,
1868, and in December of the same year located in
Erie Pa., where he entered upon the practice of his
profession. He was city solicitor of Erie for one term
(1872) and was for one year a partner of Theodore A.
Lamb. In 1876 he formed his present partnership
association with Louis Rosenzweig, under the firm
name of Allen & Rosenzweig. Mr. Allen's law
practice has been attended with remarkable suc-
cess. Mr. Allen was United States district attor-
ney for the Western District of Pennsylvania by
appointment of President Cleveland, from Decem-
ber 4, 1886, to June, 1889, when he resigned. He
is an uncompromising Democrat and has rendered
his party most efficient service. He was a dele-
gate to the State convention in 1872, and again in
1877, upon the latter occasion presenting the name of
Judge John Turnkey for nomination to the Supreme
Bench. (Judge Turnkey received the nomination and
was elected.) Mr. Allen was a delegate in 1880 to the
National Democratic Convention at Cincinnati, which
nominated General Winfield Scott Hancock for the
Presidency, and during that year was chairman of

the Erie county executive committee. In 1892, he
was the Democratic nominee for Congressman-at-large.
Mr. Allen was married July 18, 1865, to Phoebe A.,
daughter of the late Prentice Burlingham, a manufac-
turer of Edinboro, Pa. She died April 1, 1881, leaving
four children, of whom three survive. They are:
J. Maud, wife of William Warner, son of E. L. War-
ner, of the dry goods firm of Warner Bros., Erie; Mary
Edna and George Allen, jr., the latter a student at the
Erie high school. The family attend St. Paul's Epis-
copal Church.

The Davison Faitiily.— The members of this
well-known family took an important part in the set-
tlement of Erie county. Indeed the leading incidents
of their career, their origin, lineage and faith, their
energy, perseverance and integrity coincide almost
exactly with that of many who came from the same
region to Pennsylvania, during the eighteenth century.
Then they came in such numbers as to give their
character to some parts of the State. In mentioning
these facts now, with a little more than usual detail,
some idea will be formed of the remarkable move-
ments under which so many were transplanted from
the North of Ireland to Pennsylvania. In 1795 the
family of Thomas and Jane (Godfrey) Davison came
from the North of Ireland to Philadelphia. There
were five sons: Francis, Robert, George, Thomas
and Arthur, and one daughter, Elizabeth Jane, who
died upon the voyage at sea. Their first settlement
was in the interior within the bounds of old Northum-
berland as formerly constituted. Attracted by the
fame of the Lake country, but lately added to Pennsyl- .
vania, and before the creation of Erie county, the fam-
ily came in 1795 to the wilderness region, now em-
braced in Venango township. It was a wild home,
but they were equal to the emergency. The father of
the family died a while after reaching Erie county.
The traditions of the remarkable characteristics of
their mother still survive, while doubtless very much
of the energy and perseverance of the four sons, as
displayed in their wild home, and their religious zeal
as indicated in their conspicuous activity in erecting
quite near to their settlement the Middleboro Church
(now enshrined in memory as the first church in
Erie county) were inherited from their remarkable
mother, who closed her long life in 1845, in her 94th
year. It was in 1801 that a number of the Davison
brothers and others of kindred faith and like purposes
assembled in what is now Venango township, and
there erected Middleboro Church. There for years in
the log church and within its primitive portals as aft-
erward reconstructed the gospel was preached and its
ordinances administered according to the tenets of the
Presbyterian Church. For years a bright light went
from that spot far out in the wilderness. It was a re-
ligious center from which powerful influence was long
exerted. The old log church is historic, for it is first
in the long list of places of worship erected in the
county of Erie. The Davison brothers remained for
about twenty years in Venango, though one of them
(Thomas) died there and was buried in the Middle-
boro Church yard. The four surviving brothers each
purchased a farm and made a home in East Mill Creek,
near Belle Valley, where the advantages seemed so
much greater than at their first location. Their homes
in Mill Creek were long a distinctive feature of that
neighborhood. Their influence and support were



transferred to the First Presbyterian Church of Erie,
of which many of their families were members and
George and Robert elders. The formation of Belle
Valley Church in 1842, in which some of the families
were included induced many of them to change to
that. None of the pioneers of this family are now liv-
ing. But few families exerted a wider or better influ-
ence in the first half century of Erie county's settle-
ment. The names of some of these have been ob-
tained and are here given: Francis Davison married
Sarah Smith, died February 1, 1860. Their children
are: Francis; Arthur, died in August, 1864; Irene,
married R. B. Barnes, of Chicago (deceased); Nancy
C, died in 1883; Julia married Silas C. Teel, of Erie;
Elizabeth, married Cyrus Robinson, in California;
Mary, married Mr. Middleton, of Waterford (de-
ceased); her daughter, Mary, survives; Robert, mar-
ried Sarah Smith, died March 2, 1871, widow died
September 15, 1875. Their children are: Elizabeth,
wife of John McFarland, of Lawrence county, Penn-
sylvania; Rosana, wife of Q. McFarland, of Centralia,
111., died in August, 1891; Robert S., who married
Martha Love, died November 11, 1890; Sarah, widow
of William Scouller, of Erie; Emily, widow of N. W.
Russell, of Belle Valley; Margaret, died unmarried.
May 25, 1891. Arthur Davison (deceased), married
Elizabeth Wilson, who died in February, 1865. Their
children are: William W. (deceased), born August
10, 1815, married Nancy Shadduck; Thomas (de-
ceased), Jane (deceased), Nancy (deceased), married
Samuel Caughey; George (deceased), James (de-
ceased), Elizataeth (deceased), John (deceased). George
Davison died February 3, 1874. His children are:
Robert (deceased), George (deceased), Adaline (de-
ceased), Ann (deceased), married William Foot.

Betijamiti Whitniaii, Erie, Pa., eldest son of
George F. and Mary (Hemperley) Whitman, born in
Middletown, Dauphin county. Pa., January 28, 1840;
attended the public schools of his native town until
11 years of age, when he left home to live with an uncle
in Bradford county, Pennsylvania; commenced the
printing trade in the office of the Harrisburg Telegraph
when about 15; became part owner and editor of the
Middletown Journal soon after he was 18; sold out the
Journal at the end of six months, and did editorial
work in Harrisburg and Lancaster for a time; taught
school in Middletown in the winter of 1859-60, and
part of that of 1860-61, for the purjiose of improving
his education; came to Erie county in January, 1861,
as assistant editor of the Ohstrrer, then owned by
Andrew Hopkins; became (lart owner and editor of
the paper in January, 1862, and sole owner in April,
1864; continued to own and edit the Observer until
December 1, 1878, since which time he has mainly
given his time and attention to business and literary
work; was chairman of the Democratic county com-
mittee for ten years; has often been a delegate to
Democratic State conventions, and a member of the
Democratic State committee, and was a delegate to
the Democratic National Convention of 1884; ap-
pointed a Commissioner of the Erie Water Works in
1881, without solicitation on his part, and held the
position until 1887, during which time the system of
the department was largely reorganized and the prop-
erty much improved; wrote the history of Erie county
and of its several boroughs and townships for Warner,
Beers & Co.'s work, published in 1884; named in 1892,

without his previous knowledge, by Governor Pattison,
one of the Board of World's Fair Commissioners for
Pennsylvania; unanimously chosen Executive Com-
missioner by the Board, in September of the same
year, at a salary of $5,000 per annum; obliged to resign
the latter place in the spring of 1893 on account of ill
health; but replaced on the Board by the common wish
of its members; served on the Executive and Building
Committees of the Board; blocked out the plan of
State exhibits; helped to plan and fit up the State
building, and prepared everv important report sub-
mitted to the Board; author of the Free Public Library
bill, of Pennsylvania, and of the state, county and
local historical matter contained in the present book;
has delivered numerous political speeches and general
addresses, and is a frequent contributor to the press of
this county and State. Though often solicited to be a
candidate for political office, Mr. Whitman has in-
variably declined, having no taste nor desire in that
direction. He was married, on May 30, 1870, to Mary
Emma, eldest child of Silas E. and Julia A. Teel, of
Erie. Mr. Whitman has erected a large number of
houses in the city, some of which are unusually hand-
some. He purchased the Wayne block, on State
street, near Eighth, May 1, 1894.

Hoa. Thomas H. Sill (deceased), lawyer and
legislator, son of Capt. Richard L. Sill, of the Revolu-
tionary war, was born at Windsor, Conn., October 11,
1783. He graduated from Brown University, Rhode
Island, in 1804. After studying law with Hon. Jacob
Burnet, of Cincinnati, Ohio, he iDegan practice in 1809
at Lebanon, Ohio. Failing health soon induced him
to relinquish business. After traveling for a year he
resumed law practice, opening an office at Erie, Penn.,
in 1813, being the only resident attorney at that place,
where he remained for life. Erie was but a hamlet,
the war being in progress, and the brigs of Perry's
fleet under construction in the harbor, so that upon his
arrival he joined the "Minute Men," who guarded the
place in momentary expectation of an attack from the
British, an apprehension happily dispelled by Perry's
victory on the following 10th of September. This,
with a subsequent term on the staff of Gen. Wallace,
completed his military service. From 1816 to 1818
he was Deputy United States Marshal, and in 1819
Deputy Attorney-General, as such assisting in the first
court in Warren county. In 1823 he was elected to
the Legislature and in 1826 to Congress. In 1828 he
was again elected, being the only anti-Jackson mem-
ber from Pennsylvania, which indicated his personal
influence with his constituency. He declined nomina-
tion for the following term, and in 1837 was made
President of the United States branch Bank at Erie,
holding the position during the existence of the institu-
tion. He served repeatedly as burgess of Erie. He
was a member of the Constitutioual Convention to
revise the Constitution in 1837 and 1838, where among
the able men who composed that body he maintained
a marked influence. In 1848, as Presidential elector,
he voted for Taylor and Filmore. From 1849 to 1853
he was postmaster at Erie. He was an able and
eloquent advocate, a careful and trusted counselor.
Among contemporaries of the most respectable posi-
tions, he was a man of note and influence. While the
qualities of his mind commanded the respect of all,
the amiability of his disposition won their affection.
He took a lively interest in public matters, especially



projects for public improvements, and the cause of
education, serving as school director, and for more
than thirty years as trustee of Erie Academy. To no
one during his career was the public eye oftener
turned at public meetings and associations for the
promotion of reform; while as the representative of his
fellow citizens, old residents yet remember as models
of composition and good taste his addresses at the
reception of ex-Presidents Adams and Van Buren,
and his eulogy upon President Taylor. While his
style was chaste, his bearing combined dignity with
modesty. As a forensic advocate, he excelled,
especially in his calm and logical addresses to juries,
and in this respect he had few if any superiors in the
circuit of his practice. An early Republican and
Whig, he had much to do in shaping the politics
of this district. He lived to witness the dawn of
Republican supremacy, for which he had labored,
and the prosperity of a city in whose early struggles
he had been so active. He died on the 7th of Febru-
ary, 1856, " full of honors and of years. " Court was
then sitting, his contemporary and old friend Judge
John Galbfaith upon the bench. The announcement
of his death by George A. Elliott, Esq., and the
addresses of Messrs. Walker, Marshall and Kelso,
with the resolutions adopted, and the feeling response
of Judge Galbraith, made an impressive scene long to
be remembered. Mr. Sill was married in 1816 to
Joanna Boyleston, daughter of Rev. Amos and Joanna
(Lanman) Chase. She was a native of Litchfield
county, Connecticut, and survived until June 21, 1889,
and resided in Erie. He had six children— Richard
(deceased), who resided at Erie; Joanna Lanman, who
married Joseph Selden (both are deceased; of their
children, Elizabeth G. died in 1864; George D., of the
Erie City Iron Works; Joanna S. and Emma J. survive);
Sarah Hale married Matthew Taylor, who died in 1854;
(their son. Rev. Frank M. S. Taylor, rector of Church
of the Ascension, Mt. Vernon, N. Y.). Thomas Sill
died unmarried; Joseph Sill, and James Sill, attorney-
at-law and ex-Senator, a notice of whom appears

James Sill, lawyer and legislator, Erie, is a son
of Thomas H. and Joanna B. Sill, and a native of
Erie. After a course of study at the Erie Academy
and in his father's law office, he graduated at the New
York State and National Law Sclmol, and was admitted
to the Erie bar, where he has since jiracticed. He
was in 1857 elected district attorney of Erie county,
serving three years; was Presidential elector in 1868,
voting for Grant and Colfax, and city solicitor of Erie
in 1871 and 1872. In 1870, with Judge Greer and
others, he oru:ani7ed the People's Savings Institution
at North I'n^t ; li,i\ing secured thecharter of the Union
& Tituvxill. K. K.. in conjunction with Titusville and
Unicpu paiiics. (iiu.inized the same as it was afterward
constructed. He was elected to the State Senate in
1880 for four years. At the session of 1881, under
instructions from the Republican primaries, he sup-
ported G. A. Grow for U. S. Senator, and in doing so
co-operated with the fifty-six independent Republicans.
He served in that session on the apportionment and
general judiciary committees, and as chairman of the
library committee. He introduced and advocated a
bill which became a law abolishing all distinction in
color in schools; also an amendment to the Constitu-
tion relative to representatives in the House, and a bill

tendering the marine hospital to the general govern-
ment for a soldiers' and sailors' home, which ulti-
mately passed the Legislature in 1883. At the latter
session he served on the judiciary and appropriation
committees, and among the most important bills in-
troduced by him at thelatter session, there was enacted
one to perfect the title to real estate of descendants, a
bill to which he devoted much care, one of importance
to titles. In the extra session of 1883, he was active
in his efforts to obtain apportionment bills, his last
speech on this subject having been extensively circu-
lated through the State; his resolutions for the restora-
tion of the "land light-house, adopted by the Legisla-
ture, were generally approved by his constituents.
His bill providing for the probate of wills during the
life of the testator passed the Senate, but was lost in
the House. He collated the first published history of
Erie city, and delivered numerous historical and
political addresses, and has for many years contributed
freely to public journals. Senator Sill has been an
active party worker, having voted with the Whig
party while it existed; he represented Erie county in
the last Whig State convention in 1855. Joining the
Republican party in 1856, he was elected delegate to
the Republican State conventions of 1859, '63, '66,
1868 and '78, several times a member of the State
committee, and chairman of the Republican county
committees of '68 and '67, and of the city com-
mittees of '66 and '76, all attended with much labor
and success. He declined the tendered appointment
under President Lincoln of provost marshal for the
Nineteenth district in '63. As member of the bar,
much of the time with a large practice, he was in 1875
president of the Erie Law Association, and as a mem-
ber of the library committee in 1878, initiated and
carried out the placing of portraits of ex-Judges and
deceased attorneys in the court-room. As a member
of the city council in 1857-68, upon a special com-
mittee, he proposed a number of reforms which were
enacted in the charter for the classification and
elongation of terms of councilmen, regulation of an
increase of the power of the mayor, etc., until the
adoption of the Wallace Act. Upon his return from
Harrisburg, Mr. Sill resumed practice at the bar.

Jerome W. Wetmore, attorney, Erie, Pa., was
born in Warren county, Pennsylvania, May 1, 1820.
He is a son of Lansing and Caroline (Ditmars) Wet-
more, the former a grandson of Amos Wetmore and
Hugh White, of Whitestown, N. Y., and the latter
coming with her parents from Long Island. Lansing
Wetmore was prothonotary, clerk of the courts, and
register and recorder at the organization of Warren
county; afterward practicing law and was associate
judge, retiring in the last years of his life to a farm
near Warren. He prepared for college at the War-
ren Academy, and graduated from Union College, N.
Y., in 1841. He afterwards engaged in teaching. He
was principal of the Warren Academy for one and a
half years, and in 1846 removed to Erie, where he
taught in the academy for two years. He commenced
the practice of law in Erie in 1849, and has been con-
tinuously engaged therein for many years. Recogniz-
ing the correctness of the adage that the law is a
jealous profession, and should not have rivals to dis-
tract the attention from its exactions, Mr. Wetmore
has yet not strictly followed its requirements, but has
yielded to the fascinations of scientific and practical



investigations. While engaged as instructor in the
Erie Academy he commenced the examination of the
relation between electricity and the attraction of grav-
itation. The statement of the law of universal grav-
itation seemed not to recognize the effect of motion on
gravitation. In the year 1858 he invented the gravi-
motometer to test this effect. By this apparatus it was
shown that the attraction from center to center is mod-
ified by motion, so that the revolution on the axis is a
consequence of the revolution in the orbit. In 1857 he
invented, and in 1861-'62 put m operation on the Alle-
gheny river, a shoal water steamboat, which was pro-
pelled by projections from the feloe of a large wheel
running on the bottom of the river. This was a suc-
cess over the means then used of towing by horses,
etc. But it was sunk on an obstruction in going down
from Irvin to Oil City. The projection of railroads
along the river valleys made it evident that they would
supercede other methods of transportation on shoal
water rivers, and the experiment was abandoned. In
1883 Mr. Wetmore patented the original pneumatic
door check. In 1885 he patented the joint chimney
cap, and in 1893 the surface burning fuel feeder for
furnaces and stoves. He has obtained various other
patents, some of which were of value, some only a
step toward the requirements of success, and some
shown by subsequent trial to be impractical, or not
reaching the economy necessary for their adoption. In
1889 he built the block at the northwest corner of Sev-
enth and Peach streets for an office and boarding
house — since materially enlarged and improved, and
now used for hotel purposes and known as the " Kim-
berly Hotel." In 1888-'89 he built the factory at the
corner of State and Sixteenth streets, for Mr. N. A.
Watson's boiler injector manufacturing establishment
and Lloyd & Sterrett's machine shop, since including
the button factory and brass and filter works added by
Mr. Watson. Lots, lands and buildings in Erie,
Corry, and the townships of Mill Creek, Harbor Creek,
Concord, Summit and Fairview have called for more
or less attention in their improvement or purchase and
sale. Engaged early as a teacher, Mr. Wetmore has
continued to feel an earnest interest in educational
progress. He brought the attention of the Erie school
directors to the improvement in schoolhouse architec-
ture, as shown in Barnard's work on that subject, which
resulted in the building of the First Ward schoolhouse,
the first advance from the plain, cheap structures
theretofore used. He has maintained that variety is

Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 104 of 192)