John Phillips Downs.

History of Chautauqua County, New York, and its people (Volume 3) online

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Thoug-h dark the nigrht is near.

And soon that toil shall end

Soon Shalt thou find a summer home and rest.

Obed Edson, fourth in direct line to bear the name
Obed, was of the eighth generation of the family founded
in New England by Deacon Samuel Edson, of Warwick-
shire, England, who was a descendant of Thomas Edson,
the earliest identified male ancestor of the Edsons of
England and America. Thomas Edson was born about
1480, married Juliana Bustard, lived in Oxfordshire, and
died during the reign of Henry VHI.

Deacon Samuel Edson was born in 1612 or 1613, mar-
ried, at the age of twenty-five, Susanna Orcutt, who was
four years his junior, and immediately after his mar-
riage sailed with his bride for New England, arriving at
Salem, in July, 1639. I^i 165 1 he moved to Bridgewater,
where he was one of the fifty-six original proprietors,
and may have been its first settler, at least was one of
the first. He was a man of intelligence, industry and
thrift, acquiring in course of time large property inter-
ests in land and mills. From 1676 until his death, July
ID, 1692, he was in public office, and from 1667 until the
end of King Philip's War he was a member of the Coun-
cil of War, and from 1664, when he was elected one of
the first deacons of the Bridgewater church, until his
death, he filled that office. Of strong character, upright,
honorable life, he possessed great influence and was one
of the leading men of his town. His wife, Susanna, had
a happy disposition, modest deportment, dignified pres-

Chau— 26



ence and graceful manner. The characteristics of the
founder and his wife have been transmitted to their de-
scendants, and in Obed Edson the old Pilgrim had
almost a reincarnation. Susanna Edson died Feb. 20,
1699, and in the old burying ground at Bridgewater the
oldest monument of its kind is that standing over the
graves of Deacon Samuel and Susanna Edson.

Deacon Samuel Edson was succeeded in Bridgewater
by his son, Samuel (2) Edson, a prominent and highly
respected citizen and office holder, and a man of prop-
erty. He married Susanna Byram, and was succeeded
in time by his son, Samuel (3) Edson, the first of the
family to join the Established Church of England. He
married Mary Dean, and their fourth son was Obed (i)
Edson, who was a sergeant in the French and Indian
War, taking part in several expeditions against the
French. He died in Richfield, N. Y., having gone there
in his old age it is believed to be with his son, Obed (2)
Edson. Sergeant Obed Edson married (first) Katurah
Willis, of Bridgewater, and they were the first of the
branch to settle in New York State.

Obed (2) Edson, like his father, was a soldier of the
French and Indian War, and for several years lived in
Lanesboro, Mass. Between 1790 and 1793 be moved to
what is now Richfield, Otsego county, N. Y., but then
a part of the town of German Flats, Montgomery covmty.
There he engaged in farming, and kept an inn in the local-
ity now known as Monticello. He was a man of much
natural ability, and a good musician. Prior to his death
in Richfield, May 9, 1840, at the age of ninety-three years
and seven days, he freed his only slave, "Ike," whom he
had long owned. Obed (2) Edson married Prudence
How, of Welsh descent, and they were the parents of a
son, Obed (3) Edson.

Obed (3) Edson was born during the residence of his
parents in Lanesboro, Mass. He then lived in Otsego
county, N. Y., at Cooperstown and Richfield, later mov-
ing to Eaton, Madison county, where he died Aug. 6,
1804, aged thirty-two years. He was a clothier by trade;
a member of the Masonic order; an Episcopalian, and
like his father a follower of the political teachings of
Thomas Jefferson. He was a man of education, a reader
of good literature, and always a student. He married
(second) Fanny Bigelow, born in Colchester, Conn.,
daughter of Captain Elisha Bigelow, an officer of the
Revolution, as were two of his sons, a third serving as
a private. Her mother. Thankful (Beebe) Bigelow,
whose ancestor served under Cromwell, died in Sinclair-
ville, Chautauqua county, N. Y., at the great age of
ninety-seven years. After the death of her husband, at
the age of thirty-two years, Fanny (Bigelow) Edson,
then a woman of less than thirty years, married (second)
Maj. Samuel Sinclair, with whom she and her children
came to Sinclairville, in 1810, the site then a wilderness,
but a village growing thereon later was named in his
honor. Mrs. (Edson) Sinclair was a woman of intelli-
gence and education, one of the Chautauqua mothers
who filled an important place in early county life, dying
in. Sinclairville. Jan. 12, 1852, widely known and honored
for her many virtues and useful life. Maj. Samuel Sin-
clair, her second husband, was a soldier of the First New
Hampshire Regiment, serving from the age of fifteen
until eighteen under his uncle. Col. Joseph Cilley. He



40_'



CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY



was at \'alley Forge, Saratoga, Moniuouth, and with
General Sulli\-an in his campaign against the Indians.
Maj. Sinclair was one of the founders of the Masonic
lodge at Sinclairville, and of Forest Lodge, Free and
Accepted Masons, of Fredonia, the first in Chautauqua
county.

John Milton Edson, son of Obed (3) and Fanny (Bige-
low) Edson, was born at Eaton, Madison county, N. Y.,
July 30, iSoi, and died in Sinclairville, Aug. 21, 1S85.
He was but three years of age when his father died, and
nine when with his stepfather, Maj. Samuel Sinclair, his
mother, his brother and sister, he came to Chautauqua
countN', in 1810. the family settling at what later becaiue
Sinclair\-ille. He obtained a fine education principally
through home teaching and reading, as there were no
schools then in his section. But in after life those who
met him never failed to be impressed with his large and
original views, and to feel a regret that a thorough edu-
cation had been denied him. But he was a thorough
woodsman, skilled in all the arts of the frontiersman, an
excellent rifle shot, a leader among the pioneers. He-
was a noted athlete in his younger years, and greatly
interested in military life, holding tlie rank of lieutenant-
colonel of the Western New York Regiment, appointed
May 22. 1S30. He was justice of the peace for the town
of Charlotte for fourteen years : was supervisor three
terms; deputy United States marshal one term; judge
of the Court of Common Pleas, April 17, 1S43, until July
I, 1847, when the court was abolished. He was the first
master of Sylvan Lodge, No. 303, Free and Accepted
Masons, of Sinclairville, his stepfather, Maj. Samuel Sin-
clair, the first master of the "Masonic Society" organized
there in i8ig. He married, in 1831, Hannah Alvcrson,
bom in Halifax, Windham county, \'t., June 3, 1804, died
Nov. 22, 1878, in Sinclairville, N. Y. She was a daugh-
ter of Jonathan and Ursula (Church) Alverson, and in
1S21 came with her mother to reside in the town of
Cerr>', Chautauqua count>'. They were the parents of
two children : Obed (4) Edson, Chautauqua's "grand
old man," whose life is herein commemorated; and a
daughter, Fanny Ursula, born June 4, 1834. married
Henry Sylvester.

Such were the antecedents of Obed (4) Edson, and
thrriugh the men and women named he received a rich
Ictrncy, good health, strong physique, worth, ambition,
quick intelligence, upright character, and love of the
right. His ancestors were unusually long lived, and he
fulfilled the promise of his youth in every particular, h'S
career transcending in usefulness and brilliancy that of
any of his race, and clo.5eIy resembling that nf his first
.Vmcrican ancestor, Deacon S;unuel Edson, of three cen-
turies ago. Eighty-seven were the years of his life, and
until their very close he was "in the harness," death com-
ing to him quietly and gently at the midnight hour, while
h" ".I'-tit. hi- passing in keeping with the ide.il life he had
long If'l.

Ob"'! O) F/Ison, only son of John ^^i!ton and Hannah
f .\\\<:r-,',n) Eflson, was born at Sinclairville, Chautauf|ua
county, X. Y.. F'fb. 18, 1832, and died at the home of his
son, Walter H, Ed'-on, in Falconer, N. Y., Nov. 22, 1919.
He attended the public schools of Sinclairville, and was a
student at Fredonia Academy, there completing his school
years. He ih'-n pursued the study of law imd'-r the
direfti'n of E. If. Sears, of Sinclairville, '-nt'-rin;; Albany



Law School in 1853, and gaining admission to the New
York bar, Aug. 8, 1S53, he then being in his twenty-
second year. At the age of eighteen years he had been
engaged in land and railroad surveying and later he ran
surveys for railroads and county roads. But from 1853,
when admitted to the New York bar, he continuously
practiced his profession in Chautauqua county, and, well
trained in the law, an able advocate, an honest man, he
stood high among his brethren of the profession, and he
possessed the entire confidence of his clients, even his
adversaries feeling that they had no injustice to fear at
his hands. And at all times he was a polished gentle-
man of the old school, who would rather be of service
than cause ofifense to any man. At Sinclairville he was a
law partner with Judge E. F. Warren, later co-partner
with C. Frank Chapman, and subsequently was with his
nephew, Fred H. Sylvester.

Although not actively engaged in practice in the last
few years, he continued to give some time to his pro-
fession, and recently the local newspapers noted his re-
port as referee in County Court proceedings which was
entered just a few days before his eighty-seventh birth-
day. His historical researches, his early recollections,
and his wonderful memory for events, dates and details
made him a veritable encyclopedia of local information,
which was always open to his friends or the public. It is
not too tuuch to say that the information he collected and
stored away in his records and his retentive memory was
often of much greater value to others than it was to
himself. He never attempted to commercialize his talent
for historical research ; to him it was a labor of love.
He took greater interest in it and gave it more atten-
tion than he did his profession. He was one of the
founders of the Chautauqua County Society of History
and Natural Science, and was its backbone through all
the years since its formation. He retained his interest
in the county historical society up to the time of his
death, and attended the annual meetings of that organi-
zation as long as he was able to do so.

Mr. Edson was a contributor to "The Continent," "The
Chautauquan," and other leading magazines, generally
upon historical subjects. He first gathered and collected
the facts respecting the expedition of Col. Daniel Broad-
head, which was sent against the Indians of the upper Alle-
gheny river by Gen. Washington during the War of the
Revolution to operate in conjunction with General Sulli-
van. Mr. Edson prepared a full history of this expedi-
tion, which was published as a leading article in the No-
vember number of the "Magazine of American History"
for the year 1879. He was the author of several local
histories, among which is a portion of "Young's History
of Chautauqua County," and all of that part of it which
relates to its Indian, French and early history. He lec-
tured before the Chautauqua Institute, and delivered the
historical address at Westfiidd in 1902, on tlie occasion
of the Centennial celebration of the settlement of Chau-
tauf|ua county. He made a similar address at the cele-
bration of the Centennial of the settlement of the city of
Falconer, and he dcli\ered many addresses and lectures.
He was president of the Chautauqua County Historical
Society, member of the County and State Bar Associa-
tions, member of the BufTalo Historical Society, and
president of Evergreen Cemetery Association of Sin-
rbiirvilUv



BIOGRAPHICAL



403



Mr. Edson was a lifelong Democrat and prominent in
the councils of his party for many years. In 1874 he was
elected member of Assembly from the old Second Assem-
bly District, defeating Harvey S. Elkins, Republican, by
two hundred and twenty-five majority, although the Re-
publican State ticket had one thousand majority in the
district. The preceding year he was defeated by only
seventy-two majority, his successful Republican oppo-
nent being John D. Hiller. Mr. Edson was the only
Democrat ever elected to the Assembly from the old
Second Assembly District, which then included both
Jamestown and Dunkirk. Beside his term in the Assem-
bly, he served several years on the Board of Supervisors
as the representative of his native town. He was for
nearly si.\ty years a member of the Masonic fraternity,
and served Sylvan Lodge, of Sinclairville, as master in
1862 and again in 1912 — just half a century later, as well
as several terms between those years. He was also a
member of Western Sun Chapter, Royal Arch Masons,
of Jamestown. During the ministry of the Rev. Dr.
James G. Townsend at the Independent Congregational
Church in Jamestown, Mr. Edson took an active interest
in the work of that church.

Mr. Edson married, at Sinclairville, May 11, 1859.
Emily Amelia Allen, born at New London, Conn., Nov.
27, 1835, died in March, 1899, daughter of Caleb T. and
Emily E. (Haley) Allen. Her father, Caleb J. Allen, in
his youth, was a sailor on a Pacific ocean whaling ship,
but later located in New London, Conn., where he be-
came a hatter ; was mayor of New London, and also
represented that city in the Connecticut Legislature as
State Senator. Later he was a merchant of Sinclairville.
Obed (4) and Emily A. (Allen) Edson were the par-
ents of eight children : i. Fanny A., born April 28, i860;
married John A. Love, now residing at Bellingham,
Wash. 2. John M., born Sept. 29, 1861, now living at
Bellingham, Wash. 3. Samuel A., born Sept. 15, 1863,
died Nov. 16, 1872. 4. Mary U., born Sept. 11, 1865, died
Nov. 27, 1872. 5. Hannah, born Feb. 15, 1869, died Dec.
10, 1881. 6. Walter H., a sketch of whom follows. 7.
Ellen E., born April 21, 1875, died March 31, 1887. 8.
Allen O.. born Sept. 3, 1880, died Jan. 16, 1882. John
Milton, the eldest son, is a well known ornithologist of
Bellingham, Wash., and has made many valuable contri-
butions to the literature of that science. He married
Alma B. Green, a former teacher in Chautauqua county
schools.

Such was the life and deeds of Obed (4) Edson, whose
years, eighty-seven, were spent entirely in Chautauqua
county. While he held various positions of public trust
and confidence, was a lawyer of high repute and identified
with many good movements ; he was best known and will
be long remembered as a local historian. A monument
to his historical labors has been erected in every history
of Chautauqua county that has been written for the past
half century. Mr. Edson knew more about the early
history of Chautauqua count}', and of conditions and
peoples connected with the Chautauqua lake region long
before the advent of the white man, than any other man
who has ever made a study of these things. Living a life
of activity and good works, modestly and quietly pursu-
ing the open road that lay before him, never making an
effort to avoid the responsibilities that came to him, nor
seeking honors that did not belong to him, he lived and



labored long beyond the allotted years of man, and goes
to his rest and reward with the respect and the love of
the people of Chautauqua county, the old and the young,
the rich and the poor, to a very marked degree.



WALTER HENRY EDSON— Since his admission
in February, 1898, Walter H. Edson has practiced at the
Chautauqua county bar continuously, and as a lawyer of
learning, sound judgment and integrity he occupies high
and honorable position. As a citizen, Mr. Edson is most
earnest, well-informed and public-spirited, always at the
service of individual or organization in aid of the cause
of education, religion or good government. His spirit of
helpfulness is well known and he is freely called upon
for platform service to enlighten and instruct audiences
seeking light upon perplexing questions of City, State
and National policy. His interest never lags and he gives
freely of himself to every worthy cause which needs an
advocate. He is a native son of Chautauqua, and
through his father, Obed Edson, of blessed memory, is
heir to a rich inheritance of county ancestry dating to
John Milton Edson, who came to the county in 1810.
He is a descendant of Deacon Samuel Edson, of War-
wickshire, England. ( See ancestry in memorial review
of the life of Obed Edson). John M. Edson was a step-
son of Maj. Samuel Sinclair, founder of Sinclairville.
Through his mother, Emily A. (Allen) Edson, another
line of Chautauqua county lineage is established, her
father coming from New England to become a merchant
of Sinclairville. Walter Henry Edson is the sixth child
of Obed and Emily A. (Allen) Edson, and has always
been true to the county of his birth and is well known in
the county. His home was the abode of his honored
father during the latter's last years, and the association
between the two men was closer even than the natural
bond.

Walter H. Edson was born in Sinclairville, Chau-
tauqua county, N. Y.. Jan. 8, 1874. He completed public
school courses of study with graduation from Sinclair-
ville High School in 1891, then pursued a genera! classi-
cal course at Cornell University, whence he was gradu-
ated with the usual bachelor's degree, class of 1896. He
read law under his father and attended the College of
Law, Cornell University, receiving his LL. B., class of
1897. From 1896 to 1898, he was a clerk in the law office
of Obed Edson, and upon his admission to the Chau-
tauqua county bar in 1898, formed a partnership with
Harley N. Crosby, now surrogate of Chautauqua county.
The firm Edson & Crosby opened a law office in Falconer,
March i, 1898, and there continued a successful general
practice until Jan. i, 1914, when the firm dissolved, Mr.
Crosby retiring, Mr. Edson continuing practice in Fal-
coner alone until Jan. 6, 1915, when he was appointed
assistant United States attorney for the western district
of New York, with headquarters at Buffalo. He gave
up practice at Falconer upon accepting the government
appointment, and gave his time exclusively to the duties
of his office until Nov. 13, 191S, when he resigned and
resumed private practice as a member of the law firm of
Dean, Edson & Jackson, Fenton building, Jamestown,
N. Y. On March 20, 1920, he was appointed special
assistant to the United States attorney and is still serv-
ing (Dec. 20, 1920) in that capacity. The law and his
public service has filled Mr. Edson's life to the exclu-



404



CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY



siop. of business activities to a large extent, his only
important connection being with the National Chau-
tauqua County Bank, which he served as director, trust
officer and counsel. On Jan. i, 1921, he began service as
vice-president and trust officer 01 the National Chau-
tauqua County Bank of Jamestown, devoting his entire
time to that work. He is retained by otlier of the cor-
p^'raticns of Jamestown in a legal capacity and he ad-
mi::isters many trusts.

The politics of the Edsons has for generations been
Democratic, and Obcd Edson was long prominent in
party councils. His mantle fell upon his son, and since
early life Walter H. Edson has been rated a party leader
and one of the strong men of the party. Chautauqua is
strongly, almost hopelessly, Republican, and official life
is but a dream to those loyal to the Democracy. But Mr.
Edson has always been a strong and loyal supporter of
the partj- and its great leaders. In 1912 he was one of
the eight Wilson supporters on the New York delega-
tion to the National Democratic Convention at Baltimore.
In Falconer, he was president of the Board of Educa-
tion in 1905, and as above noted held the office of assistant
United States district attorney for Western New York,
Jan. II, ir)i4-Nov. 13, 1918, that appointment coming
from the fact that the Nation and State were Demo-
cratic in their executive departments.

During the Great War period, Mr. Edson was assist-
ant United States district attorney; he joined the army
and trained at Fort Niagara, N. Y., receiving a second
lieutcr.ant"s commission, Nov. 2~, 1917. He was assigned
to duty with the 90th Division at American Lake, Wash.,
and served until Dec. 11, 1917, when he resigned and re-
turned to his post. He is a member of Cornell Chapter,
Delta Chi. and Sylvan Lodge, No. 303, Free and .Accepted
Masons, of Sinclairville, a lodge of which his father,
Obcd Edson, was a member for sixty years and of which
he was twice master, just a half century elapsing be-
tween his first term, 1862, and his second, 1912. John
Milton Edson, grandfather of Walter H. Edson, was the
first master of Sylvan Lodge, and his stepfather, Maj.
Samuel Sinclair, the first master of a "Masonic Society"
organized in Sinclairville in 1819. In religious faith Mr.
Edson is a Unitarian, affiliated with the First Church of
Jamestown.

Mr. Edson married, at Shumla, Chautaunua county, N.
Y., June 27, 1899, Florilla Belle Clark, daughter of Fran-
cis Drake and Isabel M. (Grover) Clark. Mrs. Edson it a
preat-grcat-Kranddaughter of Maj. Samuel Sinclair and
hJA first v.ifc. Sarah ("Perkins) Sinclair. Mr. Edson is a
Kreat-grandchild of Maj. Sinclair's second wife, Fanny
^Bip'-low) Edson, widow of Obcd (3) Edson, inotlicr of
John Milton Edson, and grandmother of Obcd C4) Ed-
son, father of Walter Henry Edson. Mr. and Mrs. Ed-
son arc the parents of two children : Francis Drake and
Isabel E. Edson. The family home is in Falconer. Mrs.
E'hon i' a m'-mber of the Daughters of the American
V..■■.■^^■^^v.v..

WARREN BREWSTER HOOKER— With the

passim: of th'- eminent Judge Warren B. Hooker, one
of the strong men of Chaiitau'iua county retires from
earthly vc-n's, and v.ilh him ftasse", some phases of
county [ifjlitiral life with whirh fKiliticians of th'- old
school alone arc familiar. Judge Hooker began his pub-



lic career where other famous Chautauquans began, on
the Board of Supervisors, and was a recognized party
leader before Governor Black appointed him to the Su-
preme Bench in 1898. A member of Congress at the
age of thirty-four, he became an influential factor in
the National House of Representatives, and under
Speaker Reed was awarded a most important committee
chairmanship — Rivers and Harbors. He was four times
elected to Congress, and in his district during his long
period of public service he gathered around him a group
of men loyal in their Republicanism, but to their leader
as loyal and as true. It has been said of Judge Hooker
that he served his friends too well, but it is the testimony
of all the attorneys who practiced before him that he
was one of the most impartial judges who ever sat in
New York courts. Loyalty to his friends was a striking
characteristic of his whole life, but a friend was never
recognized as such in his judicial hearing, or the testi-
mony just quoted would not have been given. While he
was a politician of the most astute type, he was also the
gracious gentleman and the just judge. Those who knew
him best loved him most, and as friend and neighbor he
will long live in the hearts of his townsmen. They will
not recall the fact that he entered Congress unknown, but
by sheer force of personality became one of a small
group wliich dominated that body: nor that for fifteen
years he served with ability and integrity as a justice of
the Supreme Court of his native New York, but they
will remember that his great dominant trait was kindli-
ness, that his timely aid started man.v a Chautauqua boy
on a useful career, and that his long public career was
marked by countless favors to those who were less for-
tunately situated. "Were everyone for whom he has
done some loving kindness to bring a blossom to his
grave, he would sleep to-night beneath a wilderness of
flowers." So it is not as the forceful politician of a
period when men gave and received hard blows in their
political controversies, nor as the just and upright judge
who almost held life, death and the future at his behest,
nor as the successful business man that Chautauquans
remember Judge Hooker, but as a friend whom they
mourn with a deep and a genuine sorrow, pride in his
achievement being lost in sorrow at his passing.

Judge Hooker was a native son of New York, his
parents, John and Philcna (Waterman) Hooker, com-
ing from near Brandon, Vermont, to Perrysburg, in
Cattaraugus county, N. Y., and there their son,



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