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Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 96 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Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the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 96 of 192)
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1813, the evening of whose life was speiit in Erie.
Prescott Metcalf was one of a family of thirteen chil-
dren, and at the age of 8 years he commenced to pro-
vide for himself, being employed by an uncle, with
whom he remained for a number of years. During
this period he attended for three months in the year,
through three years, the common schools of the neigh-
borhood. At the age of 22 he came to Erie and engaged
with his brother-in-law, Ira W. Hart, as manager of a
livery stable on Fifth street, where he remained five
years. While thus employed he attracted the favora-
ble notice of Rufus S. Reed, the leading businessman
and capitalist of Erie — whose intuitive judgment of
the character and capacity of men was seldom at
fauh. Mr. Reed engaged him to take charge of a
branch of his immense business. Soon afterward the
position of steamboat agent at Erie became vacant,
which, by the request of his employer, was added to
Mr. Metcalf's other duties. Having for some years
performed these double duties, he was then entrusted
with the general management of their entire shipping
and vessel interests at Erie. These trusts were dis-
charged with fidelity, and to the satisfaction of his em-
ployer. This was so manifest, and his services so in-
dispensible to his employer, that when another situa-
tion, with an increase of salary, was offered to Mr.
Metcalf, Gen. Reed candidly admitted that it was out
of the question to dispense with his services; that he
might make his salary whatever he chose. He re-
mained in Gen. Reed's employ from 1840 to 1862,
which embraced the closing years of Rufus S. Reed's
career and the most important part of the business life
of Gen. C. M. Reed. In these years their steamers
and sailing vessels coursed all the lakes from Buffalo



to Chicago, and all the vessels were built, equipped,
provisioned, cargoed, furnished, kept afloat and made
to pay under the personal supervision of Mr. Metcalf.
Steamers of national repute, as the Pennsylvania,
Jefferson, Madison, Erie, Buffalo, Missouri, Niagara,
Ohio, Louisiana, Keystone State and Queen City, with
the brigs Clarion, America, Susquehanna, St. Paul, St.
Anthony, etc., were mostly built in those years. There
were no railroads to Erie until January, 1852, and the
canal from Erie to Beaver (left unlini,shed by the
State) was taken up by a company of which Mr. Reed
was president and Gen. Reed contractor. When com-
pleted the building, equipment and running of boats
was added to their already gigantic shipping interests.
In 1843 Gen. Reed was elected to Congress, and while
in Washington, his father being in poor heakh, Mr.
Metcalf was required to take entire charge of the
business. Although Mr. Metcalf left Gen. Reed's em-
ploy in 1862 and went into the coal business for him-
self, for years he was frequently consulted on matters
of importance. During and after his connection with
the Reeds, he was idemified with many leading enter-
prises, both in and out of the city. Of these we may
name the running of a line of stages between Erie
and Pittsburg from 1840 to 1843, the construction of
the Northern Canada R. R., in which he was asso-
ciated with Gen. Reed and Milton Courtright, the Erie
Extension Canal, the Erie and North East R. R., of
which he was director for many years. He was one
of the originators and incorporators of the Erie Cem-
etery, in the purchase of the grounds for which, with
others, he gave his personal guarantee. To him, as
one of the principal projectors of the Erie Gas Works,
in which he was a large stockholder (carrying the
stock when it paid but one per cent on the investment)
was the success of that very essential public improve-
ment largely due. During the early years of the oil
trade he was manager of its shipment for various rail-
roads. He was one of the organizers of the Dime
Savings Bank, trustee of the Erie Academy, director
of the public schools, mayor of the city from 1862 to
1865, and an organizer, trustee and liberal contributor
to the Park Presbyterian Church. Among other of his
enterprises was the erection of the Burdett Organ fac-
tory, begun January 2, 1872, and completed and occu-
pied in ninety days. It was operated successfully for
a number of years, but was discontinued in 1890. In
1880, associated with Capt. Douglass Ottinger, Joseph
P. Metcalf and John Clemens, he built the Malleable
Iron Works. In company with Col. Benjamin Grant,
he built the Wayne block', on French street, in 1860,
and rebuilt it after its destruction by fire in 1868. In
1872 he built the block on the west side of State street,
between Seventh and Eighth, and in 1866 his elegant
residence, corner Sassafras and Ninth streets— his
home until his death, which occurred October 16, 1891
(having survived his wife, who died August 30th of
that year). It has since been rebuilt, and is now occu-
pied bv Mr. J. P. Metcalf. Mr. Metcalf was married
June 9,'l846, to Miss Abigail R. Wilder, a schoolmate,
from Putney, Vt. They had five children: Joseph P.,
William Wilder (who died in infancy), Frederick W.
(who died September 2, 1890, at the age of 39 years),
Nellie (who died in infancy), and George R. Mr. Jo-
.seph Metcalf made his home with his son, Prescott,
for the last twenty years of his life, where he died in
1868, at the age of 94 years, being then reputed to be
the oldest Mason in the United States. Tl

ble man, a type, in habit and deportment, of the old
school, was a link connecting us with the past, for he
remembered distinrtiv some of the events of Shay's
insurrection in IT'.il. In politics Mr. Prescott Metcalf
acted with tin- \\ hlL;^ during that party's existence,
and then with the Ke|iublican party. In his political
associations he manifested all his characteristic force
and energy. While never a candidate for other than
municipal office, he exerted a marked influence, bring-
ing to the support of his favorite candidate all his in-
tensity of purpose and energy of action. The war,
with its large levies of men for the army and navy,
furnished full scope for the exercise of his versatile
abilities. The large reinforcements sent forward from
Erie during his occupancy of the mayor's office were
largely due to his ceaseless efforts. He had three
brothers who were in business in Erie — Samuel H.
(who died about 1880), Charles (long in the mercantile
and banking business in Erie, later in Toledo, O., and
now residing in North East, Pa.), and James (who has
been dead several years). He had also three sisters:
Eliza (Mrs. Ira W. Hart, who died in 1839), Lucy (Mrs.
Ira W. Hart, who died in 1842), and Mary (Mrs. Jo-
seph D. Clark, who died in 1892). To all these Mr.
Metcalf was the counselor and firm friend, and man-
aged with success numerous trusts confided to his
charge. Such was his career, such the record of his
active and successful life. He always lent a helping
hand to all those enterprises which in church or state
merit assistance.

Joseph P. Metcalf, chairman of the Erie Mallea-
ble Iron Company, Limited, Erie, Pa., was born in
Erie April 15, 1847, and is a son of Prescott Metcalf.
He was educated in the public schools and academy
of Erie, the Cleveland Institute of Cleveland, O., and
the Eastman Commercial College. He followed rail-
roading in various capacities in and about Erie until
1870, when he went to Nebraska City, Neb. There he
formed a partnership in the banking business, which
was soon reorganized into the Nebraska City National
Bank, of which he was cashier. He remained there
about two and a half years, when he returned to Erie
and engaged in business with his father. When the
Erie M'alleable Iron Works was organized he became
a member of the firm, and upon the death of Mr. John
Clemens, became chairman of the company. The
plant covers three and one-half acres, the main build-
ing being 585x80 feet, and has a capacity which gives
employment to 350 men. The products of the con-
cern include all kinds of cast malleable iron, the work
being done to order. This is one of the largest, if not
the largest, institutions of its kind in the world. Mr.
Metcalf was married October 11, 1877, to Miss Celia
W. Fletcher, of Lockport, N. Y. The issue of this
marriage was five children, four of whom are living:
Francis F., Mary, Ruth and Celia Margaret. The
family attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church, of which
Mr. Metcalf is a member. He is a Knight Templar
Mason, and a member of the Erie, Kahkwa and Cas-
cade Clubs. Politically Mr. Metcalf affiliates with the
Republican party and has served several terms as a
member of the City Council.

George Ralph Metcalf, treasurer of the Erie
Malleable Iron Company (Limited) and of the Erie
Gas Works, was born in Erie, September 26, 1858, and
is a son of Prescott Metcalf, whose sketch and portrait



appears in this work. His early education was
obtained in the Erie academy and high-school, after
which he attended a boarding school in Clinton, N. Y.,
for two years. About a year after completing his
education he went to Columbus, O., where he became
interested in the coal mining business, which he con-
ducted one year. He then returned to Erie, where he
became a partner, and accepted a position as secretary
of the Malleable Iron Works, where he remained
eight years. At the end of that time, his father's
health having failed, he severed his active identifica-
tion with the Malleable Iron Works in order to take
charge of his father's business, which he continued
until after his father's death. He then resumed active
association with the Malleable Iron Works in his
present capacity. He succeeded his father as a
director of the Erie Gas Company, of which he became
treasurer in 1892. Mr. Metcalf was married Septem-
ber 3, 1885, to Miss Mary, daughter of Capt. J. S.
Richards of Erie. This happy union has been blessed
with two children, John Richards and George Ralph,
jr. Mr. Metcalf is an active member of the various
social clubs and societies of Erie, and is president of
the Kahkwa Club. In politics he has always been a
steadfast supporter of the principles of the Republican

Martilt Strong, born in East Windsor, Conn., in
the year 1770, having for that day received a good
common school education, and full of energy, left his
native place early in tlie s[)rinK of 17!I5 to seek and
make a home for himself for life. His outfit was a
compass and chain, being determined to be ready for
a new country in any capacity. On foot he first
directed his course to the Wyoming Valley, on the
North Branch of the territory; but not being satisfied
with the prospects of surveying or procuring land
there, he resolved to foot it to Presque Isle, and got to
the Indian village at the mouth of Buffalo creek
(where the city of Buffalo now stands) in July, 1795.
But one white man was then living there, and nothing
inviting him to remain, he pushed on, and arrived at
Presque Isle the last day of July, 1795. On his arrival
there he found Thomas Rees, Esq., land agent, and
Col. Seth Reed and family living in self-made habita-
tions. Those two tents were the only evidences of
settlement. A company of United States troops were
cutting down the forest on Garrison Hill to build a
stockade fort, under Capt. Russell Bissell. Gens.
Ellicott and Irvine, with a corps of surveyors and
engineers, were about to lay out the town of Erie,
escorted and protected by a company of State militia
commanded by Capt. John Grubb. The Rutledges
having been shot but a few days before, by the
Indians, as was alleged, it was deemed unsafe to be
out much except when prepared for defense. Mr.
Strong hired out at once to one of the residents at 50
cents a day, and was set at work in the woods to cut
and hew planks (puncheons they were then called) to
make a floor for a house, which he continued at
several days until finished, and then found he must
pay for his board, which was 75 cents a day, leaving
him in debt 25 cents per day! He refused to pay the
difference, and his compass and chain were taken and
secreted until he would pay his bill, which soon
brought him to terms, and he redeemed them. He
then changed to the Holland Land Company's sur-
veys, south of the old State Jine, since known as the

"triangle line," where he soon got into employment
as a surveyor. A misunderstanding existed between
the " Population " and the " Holland " company as
to their rights adjoining the said line. He was assured
by Maj. Alden that to locate a tract of land in that
district would be safe (which proved correct). He
located there for life, made a rude habitation, and
became a resident on the Summit, 840 feet above the
level of Lake Erie, ten miles south of Presque Isle.
There were not half a dozen families then living in
what is now Erie county, and none near his location.
He determined not to winter there alone. In the month
of November, he left his rude home and started in a log
canoe made by himself at LeBoeuf creek (now Water-
ford), and went down with the current to French
creek, and down that to the Allegheny to Pittsburg,
and, nothing offering to suit him, he offered himself at
auction to the highest bidderto work faithfully, and he
assured them he knew how to work, and asked who
would give him the highest wages and board him!
A good, honest yeoman was declared the highest bidder,
der, at three dollars a month and board, for three months,
which he cheerfully accepted, and served so well that his
employer kindly offered him fifty cents a month more
to remain six months longer. But he declined the
advance in wages, and returned by the way he had
gone to his rude hut where, in the spring of 1796, he
commenced his pioneer life again, and in surveying
and clearing land was unceasing in his efforts to pro-
cure a home for himself. In 1810 he purchased the
tract north of him adjoining, and, by simply building
an addition to his original cabin, removed on to that,
where he spent the remainder of his life. Mr. Huide-
koper, the agent of the Holland Land Company,
always employed Capt. Strong to survey, sub-divide
and set off, or designate old lines among their lands
in this county as long as he was able to attend to it,
and ever to his death had entire confidence in his
ability and judgment and knowledge of the original
lines and surveys. The early opening of the salt
trade, and vast amount of hauling incident thereto,
made his location on the Summit a sort of depot and a
public house desirable and necessary. The location
and construction of the Erie and Waterford turnpike
past his door greatly added to the business, and during
the war of 1812 he enjoyed a fair trade there. His
never-tiring industry and unceasing energy extended
his domains, and he cleared land far ahead of others.
His intelligence and social qualities made him friends,
and his industry and good management as early as
1830 placed him in possession of some 800 acres of
land, on which were substantial improvements and
good buildings, while he had more money at interest
than any other farmer in Erie county. When the
First Presbyterian Church was built, Capt. Strong was
the only man in the county that could lend the neces-
sary money, $800. Capt. Strong was married to a
Miss Trask in 1805, who died a few years after, leav-
ing one daughter, who lived until May, 1828. He again
married, and at his death left three sons and two
daughters, all married and settled in life— Mrs. B. B.
Vincent, Mrs. T. B. Vincent, Martin Strong, F. D.
Strong and Landaff Strong. He was always a great
reader, and always ready to impart from his well-
stored mind in conversation. He had a regular
system of industry, economy and leisure in their
proper places, and though his body long suffered and
became impaired, the mind continued clear, bright and



undisturbed to the end. After a residence of sixty-
three years on the same farm where he located when
there were not ten famihes hving in the county, he
died March 24, 1858, in his 88th year. He had lived
to see the population increase to over 50,000 inhabit-
ants, and all prosperous, and died respected and
esteemed by a very large circle of friends and
acquaintances. Capt. Strong, in conversation in a
circle of friends ten years before his death, remarked
"that any person would think him a fool to make the
selection he did, when the whole county was open
to him. " He said : " That was a mistake; he was not
a fool, but he misjudged in his selection, like many
others, and spent the prime of his life in making him
a home, and he thought it folly at that time of life to
pull up and begin anew somewhere else. "

Charles Hatnot Strowg was born in Erie, March
14, 1853. He is a son of the late Landaff and Catherine
Cecialia(Hamot) Strong, the personal histories of whose
paternal ancestors, the late Martin Strong and P. S. V.
Hamot, are contained in this volume. Charles H.
Strong attended the Erie Academy, and was graduated
from Yale College in the class of '77. His business
identification is in representing the estate of the late
W. L. Scott in various interests. He was married
September 8, 1881, to Anna Wainwright Scott, second
daughter of the late William L. Scott, whose personal
memoirs are contained herein. Mr. and Mrs. Strong
have one child, Matilda Thora Wainwright Strong.
The family residence is at Sixth and Peach streets.

P. S. V. Hamot (deceased), was born in Paris,
France, November 28, 1784. His father was a captain
in the French army and a Royalist, and left France
for Russia, where he resided during the "reign of
terror." Returning to France, after the establishment
of the " Republic," he offered to procure for his son a
lieutenancy in the army, but such a position not being
in accordance with his tastes, his attention having been
turned to the New Republic of the West, he preferred
to come to America and try his fortune in a new and
strange land. His father consenting, he came to Phil-
adelphia in 1802, with the French consul, as "L Homme
de confiance," as expressed in his passport. The con-
sul died soon after his arrival, leaving Mr. Hamot a
friendless youth, and among a people in whose language
he was little versed. His self-reliance, peculiarly a
trait of his character, did not allow him to despond. A
mercantile situation offering, he started for the West,
as the clerk of a French house, in charge of a stock
of merchandise. The vessel on which the stock was
shipped was wrecked on Lake Ontario; but part of
the goods were recovered, with which he opened a
store at Niagara, Canada; from there he removed to
Lewiston, and in 1805, came to Erie. In 1810 he
formed a partnership with Messrs. E. & D. Alvord, of
Saline, who dealt largely in salt. This business con-
nection continued many years. He was also engaged
in general mercantile business on his own account,
and was one of the first and most successful merchants
in Erie. Mr. Hamot held responsible and honorable
offices under the government, being at one time canal
commissioner of the state, and at another superintend-
ent of the United States Public Works in Erie. He
was the first cashier of the Erie Bank, and one of the
principal stockholders. As a business man he was

fortunate and noted for his activity and energy in the
prosecution of his plans, which evinced sound judg-
ment. He engaged warmly in politics, his sympathies
and feelings bemg with the Democratic party. He
was one of the founders and principal stockholders in
the Erie Observer. His politeness and hearty hos-
pitality won for him many attached friends. Mr.
Hamot was twice married; to Adeline Woodruff, of
Lewiston, N. Y., in 1818, who died in 1821; and to
Elizabeth Coltrin, widow of Dr. Asa Coltrin, and
daughter of George Keefer, of Thorold, Canada, in
1825. Mr. Hamot died in Erie, October 17, 1846. Mrs.
Hamot died in December, 1866. Mr. Hamot left four
daughters; Mrs. Catherine, wife of Landaff Strong,
M. D., Mrs. Mary, wife of Hon. G. W. Starr, and Hor-
tense L. Hamot. These survived their brother Eugene
who died young.

George WiHiam Starr, Erie, Pa., was born at
Burlington, Vt., April 14, 1822. His parents were
Jesse J. and Harriet (Hall) Starr, both of whom were
descendants of pioneer settlers of New England.
The founder of the Starr family in the L'nited States
settled in Connecticut, from Wales, in 1633. Elias
Hall, the maternal grandfather of Mr. Starr, was an
officer in the Colonial army, and was wounded at
Castleton, Vt., in the skirmish with Burgoyne's in-
vading troops, prior to the latter's defeat at Saratoga.
Jesse J. Starr was a hardware merchant at Burlington,
Vt., where he resided for more than fifty years. He
died in 1860, surviving his wife several years. George
W. Starr attended the schools of Burlington; prepared
for college at the academy of the same city, and was
graduated from Union College, Schenectady, N. Y., in
1842. He began the reading of law under the pre-
ceptorship of Stephen G. Austin, of Buffalo, N. Y.,
and continued with the law firm of Talcott & Hough-
ton (John L. Talcott subsequently became Judge of
the Supreme Court of New York, and George Hough-
ton, Judge of the Recorder's Court of Buffalo), and
was admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of
New York in 1845. He entered upon the practice of
his profession at Buffalo, N. Y., and pursued it in that
city for several years, when he accepted a position as
clerk with his friend, Captain Stephen Champlin, of
the United States steamer Michigan. After sailing
for nearly two years, he resumed the practice of law
at Buffalo. In 1852 he came to Erie. He was en-
gaged in the coal business for some years. In 1877 he
was one of the founders of the Erie Forge Company,
has been one of its board of directors since its estab-
lishment, and the president of that board since 1887.
Since the organization of the Erie Dime Bank under
its present management, Mr. Starr has been a member
of its directory. He is also president of the Erie
Cemetery Association; was most active in the founding
of the Hamot Hospital, and was one of the incorpo-
rators of that institution. He was a member of the
first board of trustees of the State Hospital for the
Insane, located at Warren, by the appointment of
Governor Hoyt, February, 1880, and served on the
board of that institution, and the Hamot Hospital,
until his acceptance, February, 1887, of Governor
Beaver's appointment to the Board of Commissioners
of Public Charities of Pennsylvania. Mr. Starr was,
for six consecutive terms, a member of the Select
Council of Erie, and was presiding officer of that body
during the last year of that period, and subsequently



served two additional years in the same capacity,
being again president during the latter year. He was
married October 7, 1851, to Mary A., daughter of the
late P. S. V. Hamot, memoirs of whose antecedents
and personal history are contained in this volume.
Mr. and Mrs. Starr reside at 140 East Sixth street, and
attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church, of which Mrs.
Starr has been a communicant since her girlhood.

The Sturgeoti Family.— Of the pioneers of Erie
county who became identified with its early settlement,
there are family names that continue, through their
descendants, to have honorable mention by reason of
their participation in local and county government, the
affairs of church and state, and who in war and in
peace, at home and abroad, worthily maintain the
family name, honored and conspicuous. Of these the
Sturgeon family deserves notice. This family, accord-
ing to the early traditions, show that their origin was
an English Presbyterian family of that name in the
north of England, near the border of Scotland; that
they had intermarried considerably with the Scotch;
that during the religious persecutions of the seven-
teenth century the ancestors of the Sturgeon family in
America emigrated to the north of Ireland. Some
time between 1720 and 1730 several brothers of one
family emigrated to America and settled in what is
now Dauphin county, Pennsylvania. One of these
brothers was a soldier in Capt. Smith's company of the
Pennsylvania contingent of the army during the French
and Indian war, and was killed at the battle of Que-
bec. A son of one of the Sturgeon brothers who orig-
inally emigrated to America was named Samuel Stur-
geon, first married to Margaret , who died

March 2, 1780, and by whom he had four sons. He
died October 2, 1801. William Sturgeon, born July

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 96 of 192)