Charles E. (Charles Elliott) Fitch.

Memorial encyclopedia of the state of New York : a life record of men and women of the past whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preeminent in their own and many other state (Volume 3) online

. (page 56 of 61)
Online LibraryCharles E. (Charles Elliott) FitchMemorial encyclopedia of the state of New York : a life record of men and women of the past whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preeminent in their own and many other state (Volume 3) → online text (page 56 of 61)
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Cavalier refinement of the founder and his
associates, which has adorned its scenic
beauty and evoked its social charm. The
hundred-acre tract, thus founded and
fostered, was the urban nucleus. It was
located on the western bank of the Gene-
see, the eastern, now famous for its broad
avenues and stately mansions, long re-
maining farming lands. In 1812, Colonel
Rochester secured a postofifice for his
embryo village. It was incorporated as
Rochesterville in 1817, the final syllable
being soon eliminated. In that year, he
was secretary of the canal convention at
Canandaigua which urged the construc-
tion of the Erie, and was throughout its
zealous champion, appreciative of the ad-
vantages that would accrue to his com-
munity and the State upon its completion.
In 1821, notably by his eflforts, Monroe
county was erected from Genesee and
Ontario, and named for the then presi-
dent of the United States. He was the
first clerk of the new county and its first
representative in the State legislature. In
1824, he was one of the commission for
soliciting subscriptions to the stock of
the Bank of Rochester, and its first presi-
dent. Devoutly attached to the Protes-
tant Episcopal communion from his
youth, he was a founder of St. Luke's
Church, the first of that denomination to
be established in the village. He was the
master-spirit in all corporate enterprises
and the helping hand in all charities —
"first citizen" as well as founder.

The last years of his life were those of
sickness and pain, which compelled him
to forego his many activities and, at
times, forbidding him even an hour's
troubled repose. He died on the morning
of May 17, 1831, in his palatial home,
universally beloved and mourned, not be-

ing permitted to witness the chartering
of the city which occurred three years
subsequently. He left surviving him, his
wife and a large family of children. His
eldest son, William Beatty, obtained high
political distinction, being a member of
assembly in 1817 and 1818, a presidential
elector (for Monroe) in 1820, a repre-
sentative in the Eighteenth Congress, a
circuit judge from 1823 until 1826,
the Democratic candidate for governor
against DeWitt Clinton in 1826, and Min-
ister to Central America in 1827. The
third son, Thomas Hart, was mayor of
Rochester in 1839; and two other sons,
Nathaniel Thrift and Henry Elie, were
long highly respected citizens, holding
important trusts in the city. The family
is also well and honorably known in the
third generation in various localities, but
the name is. for the moment, extinct itJ

MOORE, Clement C,

Educator. Anthor.

Of Clement C. Moore. LL.D., it is to
be said that ripe scholar and distinguish-
ed educator and author as he was, to the
great mass of readers he is only known
for his time-honored verse, "The Night
before Christmas," beginning:

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all

through the house
Ncit a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

He was born July 15. 1779. at "Chelsea,"
the parental estate, which then embraced
nearly all the territory between Nine-
teenth and Twenty-fourth streets, west of
Eighth avenue, New York City. His par-
ents were Right Reverend Benjamin and
Charity (Clarke) Moore. The father was
born in Newtown, Long Island, son of
Lieutenant Samuel Moore, descended from
John Moore, an Independent minister, the
first allowed to minister in New England,



and who died in 1657. Benjamin Moore
was graduated from King's (Columbia)
College, served as a private instructor in
Latin and Greek in New York City, was
prepared for the ministry by Rev. Dr.
Auchmuty, rector of Trinity Church, and
received ordination in the Church of
England, in London. He was assistant
minister and then rector of Trinity
Church, New York City, and in 181 5 be-
came the second Bishop of New York,
succeeding Bishop Provoost. He was
president pro tcm. of King's College, 1775-
76; and a regent of the University of the
State of New York, 1787-1802 ; he died in
New York City, February 2j, 1816. He
married Charity, daughter of Major
Thomas Clarke, of the British army, who,
retiring from service, established his
home in New York ("Chelsea," referred to
above), naming it after the famous mili-
tary hospital in England. The residence
was destroyed by fire during his last ill-
ness, he being rescued with difficulty, and
after his death it was rebuilt in greater
style by his widow.

Benjamin Moore was carefully trained
by his scholarly father, and entered
King's (Columbia) College, from which
he graduated at the age of nineteen. His
father had intended him for the ministry,
but he declined to take orders, and gave
himself to teaching and authorship. He
was an accomplished scholar, and his
"Hebrew and Greek Lexicon," published
in two volumes in i8og, was the pioneer
work on that subject in this country. In
1813 he became a trustee of Columbia
College, and held the position until 1857,
and was clerk of the board the greater
part of this time. In 1818 he presented
an entire block of the "Chelsea" estate to
the newly organized General Theological
Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal
Church, conditioning his gift upon the
provision that the seminary edifice should
be erected thereon, which was done, the

corner-stone being laid July 28, 1825.
The best years of his life and his most
efficient labors were devoted to the ad-
vancement of this institution. In 1821 he
became Professor of Oriental and Greek
Literature, and he held that chair until
1850, when he was made Professor Emer-
itus, in which capacity he served the
remainder of his life, also editing "Bishop
Benjamin Moore's Sermons," two volumes
(1824) ; and producing "Poems," (1844) ;
and "George Castriot, surnamed Scander-
berg. King of Albania" (1850).

His "Poems" were mainly written dur-
ing his leisure hours, and chiefly for the
diversion of his own children. The
history of his "Visit of St. Nicholas,"
which brought to its author a broader
celebrity than did his more studied works,
has been well told by a biographer, Mr.
William A. Pelletreau, the well-known
Long Island antiquarian. The poem was
written for his children's Christmas in
1822, and in its manuscript form came
under the eye of a friend who was visit-
ing the Moore family — a daughter of Rev.
Dr. David Butler, rector of St. Paul's
Church, Troy. Miss Butler made a copy
of the verses, and on her return home
procured their publication in the "Troy
Sentinel" of December 23, 1823. At first,
Dr. Moore was somewhat annoyed, hav-
ing a slight opinion of his effusion. How-
ever, they met with general favor, and for
many years they were widely published
in the newspapers of the country at each
recurring Christmas time, and eventually
were reproduced in "School Readers," be-
sides being translated into various foreign
languages. In 1859 an edition was publish-
ed, with illustrations by the favorite
artist, Felix O. C. Darley. In 1862 Dr.
George H. Moore, of the New York His-
torical Society, obtained from the author
an autograph copy of the verses, which
is now in the library of the society, and
which in 1897 was reproduced in a hand-



some little brochure from the press of the
G. W. Dillingham Company — "The Visit
of St. Nicholas," with a life of the author,
by William A. Pelletreau, and illustrated
by Frederick Thornburgh.

Dr. Moore passed his later years at
Newport, Rhode Island, where he died,
July lo, 1863. His remains were laid to
rest in a vault in St. Luke's Church, Hud-
son street, New York.

KING, Preston,

Politician, Statesman,

Preston King, aggressive as a politi-
cian and brave as a statesman, was born
of good family at Ogdensburg, St. Law-
rence county, always his home, October
14, 1806. He was graduated from Union
College and studied law with Judge John
Fine, with whom he imbibed politics as
well as law. He never engaged actively
in practice, such work as he did and such
honors as he achieved, being principally
in the field of politics, in which he engaged
early as an ardent Democrat.

His first preferments were of a local
character. He was a trustee of the vil-
lage from 1830 to 1834 inclusive and
supervisor of the town of Oswegatchie for
three sessions (1832-34). He was ap-
pointed postmaster of Ogdensburg in
1832, serving through the Jackson admin-
istration. In the fall of 1834, he was
elected a member of assembly from the
then 'Strong Democratic county of .St.
Lawrence and continued therein for the
four ensuing terms, continually empha-
sizing his adherence to the principles of
his party and his aggressive quality in
their enunciation. During his tenure — a
period of earnest and even acrimonious
encounter between parties. Democracy
losing its hold upon public sentiment,
under the adversities of Van Buren, and
Whiggery jubilant, although meeting,
with occasional reverses, increasing its

ascendancy at the polls. King, a ready de-
bater of the sledge-hammer order, never
ornate, but always forceful, gave and re-
ceived hard blows and became recognized
as a leader of his party ; and especially
as the champion of its radical element,
contending for the "pay as you go" policy
in economic concerns and resolutely op-
posing either direct appropriation of
funds for the canals or the incurring of
future obligations for their improvement.
In this, perhaps, he betrayed something
of selfishness, for it was difficult to see
how his section of the state could be par-
ticularly benefited by their operation,
while it was constrained to pay an undue
share of taxes for their maintenance ; but
in the main, it is but just to infer that his
action was due to his fealty to genuine
principles of Democracy. It could not be
otherwise, with one so frank and courage-
ous. He also opposed a profuse issue of
bank charters ; and, thus early, gave evi-
dence of the anti-slavery views which,
later fully possessed him.

His course in the assembly commended
itself to his constituency; and, in 1842,
he was elected by the larger constituency
of the eighteenth district — St. Lawrence
and Lewis — a representative in Congress,
continuing therein by successive returns
for the ensuing ten years, generally act-
ing with the body of his Democratic
colleagues, but becoming more and more
pronounced in his resistance to the de-
mands of the slave power. He was a
zealous propagandist of the Wilmot
Proviso, constantly urging its adoption,
as the safeguard of the territories from
the intrusion of slavery and as resolutely
opposing the compromise measures of
1850. He stood unflinchingly for the free
soil of their domain. Allied with the
"Barnburner" forces in the State, he
urged and materially directed their seces-
sion from the regular Democracy in 1848
and identified himself with their revolt



and cooperation with Free Soilers proper.
He notably declared himself in the "■Barn-
burner" convention at Utica in June in
a speech of the most vigorous type and,
after the union had been effected at
Buffalo, canvassed assidulously for Van
Buren against General Cass. Moved by
considerations, which do not appear clear-
ly, he, then being out of office, supported
the election of Pierce, as also that of
Seymour for Governor in 1852 ; but when
the "Soft" convention at Utica, in June,
1854, approving the Pierce administra-
tion, refused to condemn the repeal of
the Missouri compromise, he made a ring-
ing speech denouncing what seemed to
him its craven attitude and witlidrew
with dignity from its deliberations, fol-
lowed by more than a hundred delegates,
thus suggesting the conduct of Francis
Granger at the Whig convention, four
years previously, but with motives that
contrasted vividly with those that actu-
ated the "Silver Gray" marshal of 1850.
Preston King then definitely proclaimed
his renunciation of the Democratic party
that he had long and loyally served and
ranged himself with the Republicans,
bringing with him the great county of
St. Lawrence, which has since cast its
votes prevailingly and unvaryingly with
the Republicans as it had previously with
the Democracy.

The Republican organization, at its in-
ception, enlisted no advocate more enthu-
siastic nor more powerful than the St.
Lawrence statesman and none upon
whom it stood more ready to bestow its
preferments. At its convention in Syra-
cuse, September 26, 1855, after welcom-
ing to its embrace the Whigs who had
assembled in that city also, it was deter-
mined to compose a state ticket allotted
equally to the two elements and it unani-
mously placed Preston King at its head
as candidate for secretary of state. The
canvass was a quadrangular one, "Hards,

"Softs," "Republicans" and "Know Noth-
ings" all making nominations, and it re-
sulted in the sole State victory of the
last named, Joel T. Headley succeed-
ing over King. In 1857, the "finger of
fate" pointed to King for United States
Senator. His primal anti-slavery record,
supplemented by his fearless fidelity to
the cardinal principle of the Republicans
— no further extension of human slavery
— and the consensus of Republican legis-
lators that the choice should be made
from men of Democratic antecedents
conspired in his selection, although the
names of such distinguished former
Democrats as Ward Hunt, James S.
Wadsworth, David Dudley P'icld were
mentioned. The final vote in the caucus
was sixty-five for King and seventeen for
Hunt; and in joint ballot of the Legisla-
ture King was elected by a large ma-
jority. Thurlow Weed is generally credit-
ed with compassing the result. His sena-
torial service covered the four tumultuous
years prior to the Civil War and the first
two of its battle fields. He retired March
4, 1863. He participated freely in the de-
bates of the senate in intimate association
with Seward, Chase, Sumner, Wade and
other senators of like ilk and was regard-
ed as one of the strong members of that
eminent body, earnestly favoring all
measures for the guarantees of freedom,
the vigorous prosecution of the war and
the emancipation of slaves. He disap-
proved all attempts at compromise during
the winter of 1861. On December 7,
i860, he wrote to Weed: "You must
abandon your position. It will prove dis-
tasteful to the majority of those you have
hitherto led. You and Seward should be
among the foremost to brandish the lance
and shout for joy." He was appointed to
the responsible and lucrative office of Col-
lector of Customs at the port of New
York, August 12, 1865 : and three months
later to a day, his mind unhinged by busi-



ness cares and political perplexities, in
a moment of extreme depression, he took
his own life, by jumping into the North
river from a ferry boat plying between
New York and Hoboken. Sad ending to
a fine and patriotic career !

REYNOLDS, Abelard,

Pioneer, Nonagenarian,

The name of Abelard Reynolds is memo-
rable and honored in the "Flour," later,
more widely known as the "Flower City."
If Nathaniel Rochester is recognized just-
ly as its founder, Reynolds is esteemed
and revered as one of its chief promoters
and builders, unique as its longest resi-
dent. In rehearsing his life, we pause a
moment to reflect upon his sensations,
as he reviewed the marvelous urban de-
velopment — "all of which he saw and a
great part of which he was." What pano-
rama of dissolving woods, of opening
thoroughfares, of artificial water-ways, of
iron fingers with friendly clasp of distant
communities, of ascending walks enshrin-
ing peaceful homes, or uplifting dome
and tower and steeple, of hammers swing-
ing and wheels revolving, of varied in-
dustries unfolding and expanding, of
hospitals and asylums evoked by the
gentle genius of charity, of the confident
tread of the sons pressing upon the totter-
ing steps of the fathers, must have passed
before him in his declining days.

Abelard Reynolds, of Puritan lineage,
was born October 2, 1785, at Quaker Hill,
near Red Hook, Dutchess county. His
father was a saddler by trade and the son
was apprenticed to the same vocation.
The family lived successively at Stringer's
Patent, in New York, and at Groton,
Montville and Windsor, Connecticut.
When Abelard reached his twentieth
year he was given the succeeding year
of his apprenticeship by his father and
went to Manchester, Vermont. There he

worked at his trade until he had accumu-
lated his first hundred dollars. Return-
ing home he found his father in pecuniarj
difficulty which he at once assumed, and
also purchased a farm and began the
saddler's business on his own account at
Washington, Berkshire county, Massa-
chusetts. He removed thence to Pitts-
field, where, October i, 1809, he married
Lydia Strong, with whom he was to
enjoy a wedded life of seventy years.

In the fall of 181 1, the "wander lust,"
with view of western settlement, possess-
ed him and he started on a tour of obser-
vation, in which he visited several towns
in northern New York, but returned to
Pittsfield without having reached a de-
cision. Starting again, his journeying
embraced a goodly portion of western
New York, northern Pennsylvania and
the "Western Reserve" of Ohio, being
strongly attracted toward Warren in the
last named section ; and on April 6, 1812,
with the thought of making a home there,
once more set his face westward, but with
lingerings at Rome, Manlius, Skaneateles,
Geneva, Canandaigua and Bloomfield,
where, learning of the bright prospects of
Charlotte, he went thither. At Charlotte,
however, he heard even brighter prophe-
cies of the outlook of the "100 acre tract,"
which Colonel Rochester had recently
plotted, and was then known as Falls
Farm, where, after thorough investiga-
tion, foregoing plans either at Warren or
Charlotte, he determined to abide.

He immediately bought lots twenty-
three and twenty-four on the north side
of Main (then BufTalo) street, at the heart
of the future city, but a span's breadth
from the famous "Four Corners." There,
by the middle of January, 1813, he had
reared the first frame dwelling in the ham-
let. A month later, he brought his family,
then consisting of his wife and his elder
son, William A., a mere infant, from Pitts-
field, and opened his habitation as a public




house, occupying it also for business
(saddlery, etc.) purposes, reserving space
for the post-office, to which, during his
absence, he had been appointed master,
by the influence of Colonel Rochester,
exerted through Henry Clay, his intimate
friend, and Colonel Hart, his former part-
ner (q. V. Rochester sketch). The post-
office was a pine desk, three and a half
feet long, two wide and four feet high,
now preserved as a relic in the Reynolds
library, still firm and substantial. The
postal receipts were, for the first quarter
of the year, three dollars and forty-two
cents, with expense and profit to the
government nothing. Mr. Reynolds con-
tinued postmaster, under various admin-
istrations, for seventeen years. In 1817,
he domiciled on the corner of Buffalo
and Sophia streets, having leased the
"tavern" for a term of two years, return-
ing to the Buffalo street house until, in
1836, he removed to a farm in the western
section, abiding there until 1838, when he
purchased a house on North Fitzhugh
street, where he stayed until 1847 ^""^
then acquired the residence on South
Fitzhugh street for the remaining thirty
years of his life. These details, probably
inconsequential to outsiders, are interest-
ing to citizens of Rochester who note
each incident in the builder's career. The
original site is monumental; for upon it,
in 1828, Abelard Reynolds erected the
"Arcade," long the largest, most costly
and imposing of any commercial struc-
ture in the State west of Albany. It still
stands, substantially as constructed, and
enlarged and improved by William A.
some twenty years later, with its com-
modious stores, rotunda and galleries,
near the solid masonry and tesselated
halls of the modern "sky-scrapers," testi-
fying to the prevision of the father, the
enterprize of the son and the public spirit
of both. The South Fitzhugh street man-
sion is also monumental, as it recalls

the social charm of the "old third ward,"
with its well worn pavements, its curving
streets, its Corinthian pillars, its wide
jjiazzas and forest foliage — rus in urbc —
of the period preceding the architectural
grandeur, the verdurous lawns and bril-
liant parterres of the avenues.

For sixty-six years, Abelard Reynolds
lived and labored in the place to which
he came as pioneer and ended as patri-
arch. He was tall of stature, erect of
bearing and beneficent of feature, as
modest and unassuming as he was brave
and efficient. In politics he was, in regu-
lar succession, a Federalist, Whig and
Republican, not prominently engaged in
their activities but loyal to their princi-
ples. He never sought preferment and
but twice accepted it. He was a mem-
ber of Assem.bly in 1827 and represented
the third ward in the Common Council
in 1838 and 1839. He was one of the
founders of the Atheneum — Rochester's
first public library — and furnished a room
specially for it in the Arcade. He was
for nearly sixty years a member of the
Masonic order, in which he uniformly
exhibited a deep interest. He passed
through its various grades and in 1854
was exalted to the office of Prelate in
RTonroe Commandery, which he faithfully
administered for more than twenty years.
It was said of him at his death, that he
had probably received more templars at
the altar than any other prelate in the
United States.

For several years before his passing,
he had relinquished all business con-
cerns and lived quietly and serenely
with her who for seven decades had been
his counselor and helpmate, and died De-
cember 19, 1878, aged ninety-three. Of
their marriage six children were born,
four reaching maturity. They were Wil-
liam A., born in Pittsfield, exceedingly
valuable in the affairs and philanthropies
of the city; Mortimer F., the first white



child born in Rochesterville, president of
the Rochester Savings Bank, and the
benefactor of the Reynolds Library ; Clara
E., the wife of Dr. Henry Strong, of Col-
linsville, Illinois ; and JMary E., who was
married to B. D. McAlpine, of Rochester.
Abelard's wife, Lydia, survived him over
twenty years and died a centennarian —
"a mother in Israel," with the benisons
of the community upon her memory.

BROOKS, James,


Not a native of New York, it was in this
State that James Brooks performed his
best work, and made his reputation. He
was born in Portland, Maine, November
10, 1810, son of Captain James and Eliza-
beth (Folsom) Brooks. His father was
an Englishman by birth, but an American
in thought and sympathy, and during the
war against Great Britain, in 1812, com-
manded the privateer brig "Yankee," in
which he perished, with all on board. His
mother's family (Folsom) were among
the earliest in New England, having set-
tled in the Massachusetts Bay colony in


The death of Captain Brooks, in 1812,
left the widow with three children, and
her only means was the government pen-
sion allowed her for the services of her
husband. James Brooks attended a neigh-
borhood school, but was obliged to leave
it when eleven years old, being bound out
to a storekeeper in Lewiston, Maine. His
servitude was to continue until he came
of age, but he attracted the kindly in-
terest of his master, who soon released
him from his obligation and aided him to
enter Waterville College (now Colby Uni-
versity), from which he graduated at the
head of his class the year in which he at-
tained his majority. While a student, he
had supported himself by teaching, and
after his graduation became a teacher in

a Latin school in Portland, at the same
time studying law in the office of a dis-
tingushed lawyer, John Neal, and in due
time he was admitted to the bar. How-
ever, while a law student, he had written
anonymous letters to the "Portland Ad-
vertiser," these attracting such attention
that the proprietor of that paper engaged
him as a writer for a year at a salary of
$500, and this changed the direction of his
life. He soon became recognized as a
speaker as well as a writer, and he was
almost immediately elected to the Maine
Legislature. He next went to Washnig-

Online LibraryCharles E. (Charles Elliott) FitchMemorial encyclopedia of the state of New York : a life record of men and women of the past whose sterling character and energy and industry have made them preeminent in their own and many other state (Volume 3) → online text (page 56 of 61)