John Phillips Downs.

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

. (page 57 of 101)
Online LibraryJohn Phillips DownsHistory of Chautauqua County, New York, and its people (Volume 3) → online text (page 57 of 101)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



to Lillian Platte, of Warren, Pa. Mrs. Mason is
prominent in all home activities, and is a member of the
Literary Club of Ripley, of which she is president. In
her religious views she is an Episcopalian, but attends
the Presbyterian church of Ripley. Mr. and Mrs. Ma-
son have two cliildren: Harriett Clair, who now attends
the Ripley High School: and Eli.^abeth Rose, who is
in the lower grades.


is a name of antiquity in England, from whence came
the ancestors of Dr. Francis B. Brewer, of Westfield,
N. Y., a son of Ebenezer Brewer, grandson of Colonel
Ebenezer Brewer, an officer of the Revolution, serving
on the staff of General Jonathan Chase, whose daugh-
ter Mary he married: great-grandson of Thomas
Brewer, a shipbuilder of Boston. Mass.. in 171x1.

Ebenezer Brewer, father of Dr. Francis B. Brewer,
was a soldier of the War of 1S12. He married, in 1817,
Julia Emerson, of Windsor, Vt., and settled in Keene,
N. H.. where his son, Francis B., was born, but later
moved to Western Pennsylvania. There he became a
member of the firm of Brewer, Watson & Company,
and engaged extensively in lumbering on Oil creek, a
name which later became so familiar in connection with
the discovery- and production of petroleum.

Dr. Francis Beattie Brewer, son of Ebenezer and
Julia (Emerson) Brewer, was born in Keene, N. H.,
Oct. 8. 1820, and died at his home in Westfield, N. Y.,
July 29, 1892. He studied in good preparatory schools,
entered Dartmouth College, where he was graduated in
1843. going thence to Dartmouth Medical College,
whence he was graduated M. D. in 1845. He began
practice in Barnet, Vt., but in 1850 moved to Plymouth,
Mass.. and the same year he visited his father in West-
em Pennsylvania. He was greatly impressed with the
country and its opportunities, so much so that in 1851
he moved to Titusville. Pa., and there practiced his
profession for ten years. He also became a member
of the firm of Brewer, Watson & Company, and during
his entire ten years was engaged with that firm in their
lumbering and mercantile operations. The firm owned
several thousand acres of timber land on Oil creek and
its tributaries. On this land was an oil spring which
attracted his interest to such an extent that in the sum-
mer of 1834 Clong before the discovery of oil) he wrote
to business friends in New York describing it as "a
peculiar oil, surpassing in value any other oil now in use
for burning, fur lubricating m;ichincry, and as a me-
dicinal agent. The yii,-ld is abundant and the supply

This letter to Eveleth & Bissell also contained a
proposition from Brewer, Watson & Company, looking
toward the formation of a company in New York for
producing and marketing the oil. Dr. Brewer soon
afterward went to New York, taking a quantity of oil
which he had pumped from the spring, which was sub-
mitted to experts for chemical analysis. There was no
diffcrenrc of opinion as to the fjuality of the oil, but no
one could believe that it could Ix; taken from the ground
in fiuantity. Dr. Brewer, however, did so believe, and
his arguments, Ijacked by a large consignment fjf the oil,
at last convinced the New York men. and on Nov. 6,

1854, Eveleth & Bissell wrote Dr, Brewer that the
organization of a joint stock company was nearly com-
plete. Dr. Brewer in the meantime was pumping oil
from the spring, which was used in the company's
lumber mills as an illuminant and a lubricant, and was
the founder of the oil business. The first recorded oil
lease was made July 4, 1853, between Brewer, Watson
& Company and J. D. Augier. Eveleth & Bissell in
New York accomplished the formation of the first oil
company, the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, certi-
ficate of incorporation being filed with the recorder of
the City of New York in 1854. Dr. Brewer was one
of the incorporators and directors of that company,
which operated on the lands of Brewer, Watson & Com-
pany. Colonel E. L. Drake was sent out from New
Haven as a representative of the eastern stockholders
of the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company to sink a well,
which he accomplished, but not until Aug. 26, 1859; Dr.
Francis B. Brewer was really the pioneer in the oil
business, and Brewer, Watson & Company the first to
introduce petroleum in large quantities, and to them
the birth of a new business must be credited.

On May I, 1861, Dr. Brewer moved from Titusville
to Westfield, N. Y., and did not again resume medical
practice. In 1864 he aided in organizing the First Na-
tional Bank of Westfield, becoming its first president,
an office he held for ten years. He continued a direc-
tor of the bank as long as he lived. The same year,

1864, he joined others in organizing the Townsend Man-
ufacturing Company, of which he became president in

1865, and sole owner in 1870, the name then being
changed to the Westfield Lock Works. In 1864 he
offered his services to the government as field surgeon,
and in April, 1865, was sent to the Army of the Potomac
as medical inspector for the State of New York, Gov-
ernor Fenton making the appointment, which carried
with it the rank of major. He continued in the service
until honorably discharged at the close of the war.

Dr. Brewer took a very active part in the public
life of the village and State, serving for ten years as
supervisor, 1868-78, and for three years was chairman
of the board. He was also president of the village: dele-
gate to the Republican National Convention at Phila-
delphia in 1872; representative from the first Chautau-
qua district to the Legislature in 187.5-74, serving on
the committee. Ways and Means, both terms: appointed
a director of the Union Pacific Railroad on behalf of
the government by President Grant in 1874: appointed
a manager of the Buffalo State Insane Asylum by Gov-
ernor Cornell, 1881-82, and by Governor Hill, 1886-87:
elected representative to the Forty-eighth Congress of
the United States from the Thirty-third New York
Congressional District in 18S2, serving on the Pen-
sions Committee. In all of these offices he served with
honor, and until his health failed never declined any
duty or trust imposed upon him, although he never
sought i)olitical preferment.

Dr. Brewer was a member of Summit Lodge, Free
and Accepted Masons, of Westfield. He was a man
of kindly heart and ready sympathy, quickly responding
to any demand upon his time or purse. He was public-
spirited .-mfl so uniformly courteous and considerate lie w;is generally beloved. Upon the day of his

(S:/^. ^h-^^




funeral all business houses of the village closed, and
throngs attended the last services.

Dr. Brewer married Susan Hooper Rood, at Haver-
hill, N. H., July 20, 1848, daughter of Rev. Heman and
Frances S. (Moody) Rood. To Dr. and Mrs. Brewer
were born the following children: I. Eben, born May
14, 1849, at Barnet, Vt. ; he was a journalist in Erie,
Pa.; he was the first United States postal agent in
Cuba, where he died in 1898; he married Mrs. Eliza-
beth Courtwright Lowry, of Erie, Pa. 2. Frances M.,
born Oct. 16, 1852, in Titusville, Pa.; she married
William C. Fitch, a lawyer, of Buffalo, N. Y.; chil-
dren: Francis B., Roger S., and Frances E. 3. Francis
B., born Oct. 16, 1852, in Titusville, Pa.; he was a
merchant early in life and later an agriculturist; now
retired and living at the homestead of the family in
Westfield; married Caroline E. Selden, of Erie, Pa.;
children : George S., Francis, and Selden. 4. George
E., born July 28, 1861, in Westfield, N. Y.; he is a sur-
geon in New York City; during the World War he
served in the medical corps of the United States army
with the rank of colonel; married Effie L. Brown, of
Chester, Pa.; children: Leighton, and George E., Jr.

nobility which rested its honors and distinction in the
person of the late George Francis Opdyke came from
high authority, since it was based on fine character and
large and worthy achievement. His measure of tem-
poral success in important fields of enterprise was large,
but greater than this was the intrinsic loyalty of prin-
cipal, the deep human sympathy and tolerance, and the
broad intellectuality that designated the man as he was.
His career in the world of business was such as to
advance the welfare of others as well as himself, and
he had a high sense of personal stewardship, though at
all times he was significantly free from ostentation. His
was the gracious reserve which indicates fine mental
and moral fiber, and in usefulness to the community
he surpassed many another man who has attained to
more of publicity. To those who came within the sphere
of his influence, his life was a veritable benefaction, and
its angle of usefulness was comprehensive to a degree
not superficially apparent. He broadened his intellectual
horizon to become a man of culture and mature judg-
ment, and in him was that sincere simplicity that be-
tokens true greatness of character and of ideals.

Mr. Opdyke was a resident of the city of James-
town, Chautauqua county, N. Y., at the time of his
death, which occurred Oct. i, 1913, and he was a scion
of a family whose name became identified with the his-
tory of the Empire State in the earliest part of the
Colonial era, so that, prefatory to the more specific
record of his career and tribute to his memory, it is
but consistent that there be entered concise but notably
interesting data concerning the history of the Opdyke
family in .\merica.

There are two distinct families of Opdyke in the
United States, tracing from the earliest period in New
Amsterdam, the sturdy little Dutch city that formed
the nucleus of our present great national metropolis.
One branch of the family is of pure German origin,
and its first representative in America was Op der Dych

(as he personally signed his name), who occupied high
position in the Dutch West Indies Company and in the
early government of New Amsterdam under Dutch oc-
cupation. He was of the eighth generation in line of
direct descent from Op der Dych, who was born in 1297,
and who was magistrate of Wesel, a town on the banks
of the Rhine, in the Province of Rhennish Prussia,
Germany. Representatives of this family settled in
Holland, and there is no doubt of its relationship to
the family of- which the subject of this memoir was a
scion. The latter branch traces descent from Lewis
Jansen Opdych, who was a Hollander, and concerning
whom little information is now available prior to his
appearance in New Netherland in 1653.

Lewis Jansen Opdych was born in Holland within the
first two decades of the seventeenth century, and about
the middle of that century he purchased land at Graves-
end, in what is now Kings county, N. Y. He became
the owner of this property in 1655; he resided in Fort
Orange, the nucleus of the city of Albany, in 1653-54,
and he died on his estate at Gravesend in 1659. He
was a man of some financial resources, and early in
his residence in America he made his way up the Hud-
son river to Fort Orange, where he engaged in the fur
trade, his residence in what is now the city of Albany
being opposite the present postoffice building and on the
corner of Broadway and State street. This vigorous
pioneer left three sons: Peter, Otto and Johannes, and
the last mentioned was next in order of descent to the
subject of this review.

Johannes Opdych was born in 1651, and died at Hope-
well, N. J., in 1729, he having been a prosperous farmer.
After his marriage he removed with his large family,
in 1697, to New Jersey, and settled in what is now Law-
renceville, Mercer county. He purchased a tract of
thirteen hundred acres of land, including the present
site of the village of Pennington, where is established
Pennington Seminary, maintained under the auspices of
the Methodist Episcopal church. He acquired much
real estate, and within his residence of thirty-two years
in New Jersey he became one of its most wealthy and
influential citizens. His will, bearing date of Feb. 12,
1729, is still preserved in the archives of the New Jersey
capitol, at Trenton. His six children were: Foyntje,
Engettje, Annetje, Lawrence, Albert and Bartholomew.

Albert Opdych, the second son, was born at Dutch
Kills, Queens county, N. Y., about 1685, and died at
Maidenhead, N. J., in 1752. He resided at Hopewell,
N. J., during the major part of his life, and was the
only one of the family to retain the original orthography
of the patronymic, all other representatives having
adopted in his generation the form of Updike. His sons
are the ancestors of all the Opdyckes, Opdykes, Op-
dyches and Obdykes in the United States. He became
a member of the Baptist church. His eight children
were: John, Joshua, William, Benjamin, Sarah, Cath-
erine, Frank and Hannah.

Joshua Opdych was born in Hopewell township. Hun-
terdon county, N. J., in 1713, and died in 1749. Though
he was the second son he inherited a double portion
of his father's estate, and settled in Amwell, Hunter-
don county, in the watershed district of the Delaware
and Raritan rivers. He retained the ancient Aryan
love of the soil, and purchased warrants for fractional



parts of allotments held by Quaker "proprietors,"
through which means he became the owner of lands in
Hunierdon, Morris and Sussex counties, N. J. He
never sold any of his land, and from his land and from
his great estate he gave valuable tracts to each of his
children who attained maturity. His old homestead at
Amwell comprised 500 acres and eventually became
known as Kingwood. His first house was a log building,
but the substantial stone dwelling which he finally
erected as the family domicile is still standing. He was
a zealous Baptist and was the leading spirit in founding
the church of this denomination at Baptistown, near his
home. In 1739 he was a delegate from Kingwood to
the Baptist General Convention in the city of Philadel-
phia. Joshua Opdyke was tall, well proportioned, cheer-
ful and even 01 temperament, but firm in his convictions
and resolute in all things. Two of his sons were val-
iant soldiers of the Continental Line in the War of the
Revolution. In 1738, he married Ann Green, and they
had eight children : Richard, Luther, Sarah, Elizabeth,
Margaret, Frances, Hannah and Catherine. Richard,
the elder son, was a substantial farmer, and served
forty years as justice of the peace at Kingwood, be-
sides which he presided eleven years on the bench of
the county court. He was a true patriot, a man of
much influence in public affairs, and represented his
counr\' in the Colonial Congress.

Luther Opdycke, the younger son, was born March
29, 1740, and died in 183S. He held the office of justice
of the peace for half a century, and it is a matter of
record that within this long period none of his decisions
was ever reversed by a court of higher jurisdiction,
while during a portion of the time he served as asso-
ciate judge or surrogate of the Court of Common
Pleas. He was the administrator of many estates and
was commonly known as "Squire Opdyche." He re-
ceived a regular commission as ensign, and served as a
gallant soldier during the major part of the War of the
Revolution, to the tension and vicissitudes of which he
fully lived up, as he took part in various battles and
endured his share of hardships. In 1770, he erected the
"old red house" in which all of his children were born
and in which he continued to make his home until his
death. He was a man of strong character and great
energ>-, and that he was progressive in his day and
generation is indicated by the fact that he became the
owner of several farms, and owned and operated two
mills and a distillery. He was thrice married, and his
wile, whose maiden name was Gertrude Hall, was the
mother of his seven children. He was a zealous mem-
ber of the Baptist church and frequently served as a
preacher in the same. Of his children the eldest was
George, the ancestor of him to wln^m this sketch is

George Opdycke was born in the old homestead of
which mention has just been made, and the date of his
nativity was Dec. 0, 1773, his death having occurred
'.n Jun'.- 15, 1851. Concerning him the following state-
ment has lx;cti written :

H<- w.Tx a man of '■ontented dlspo.sltlon, took keen
Intcr'-Ht In pa.valni? f;vi.ntH hut hart no desire to bPcome
a'tlv., in puMIc affalrM. He wuh held in un<iualifled
rcfrpfcct by hl« nel(?hbor». who yald that he "knew
more than all the Hclioolma.sterB." He .stood hIx feet
In helKhl, welched one hundred and eighty poundn,
and was a man of Impressive appearance. Ho Inher-

ited the old red house in which he was born, and 1
there he lived a quiet, peaceful life. In 1793 he en-
rolled In the Hunterdon Militia, and at Kingwood he
served as school trustee, assessor, overseer of the poor,
and as a member of the grand jury.

.\t Baptistown, Hunterdon county, N. J., George Op-
dyke married Mary Stout, and of their ten children
George (second of the name), was the third in order
of birth, he having been born in the historic old home- jj
stead, Dec. 7, 1805. I

George (2) Opdyke passed his early life on the farm,
and at the age of si.xteen years he assumed the dignified
position of schoolmaster, in which connection he
served as instructor to a number of his former school-
mates, who obeyed him only after he had flogged them
into submisssion. At the age of eighteen years he be-
came clerk in a general store at Baptistown, and he
sedulously saved his earnings. When twenty years
old he borrowed $500.00 and in company with one of his
chums made his way, by river, canal and Lake Erie, to
Cleveland, Ohio, where for a short time he was engaged
in the grocery business. He then continued his journey
to the city of New Orleans, La., where he formed a
partnership with another young man. Fitch Falger, and ■
opened a clothing store, in which they manufactured j
their own goods. The enterprise proved very success- (
ful, and through this means Mr. Opdyke always main-
tained that he laid the foundation of his fortune, besides
which he gained many of the Southern mannerisms
of speech and deportment which characterized him
through the remainder of his life. In 1832, Mr. Op-
dyke disposed of his business interests in New Orleans
because of yellow fever, and engaged in the clothing
trade in New York City, his first establishment having
been on Cherry street, when he later removed to Nas-
sau street, near the site of the old Dutch church. He
continued his successful business operations as a
clothing merchant for several years, and then engaged
in the drygoods business, in connection with which he
became an importer and made frequent trips to Europe,
each foreign sojourn having recorded his visitation to
Switzerland and the historic Rhine country of Ger-

When the first railroad was built to Newark, N. J.,
Mr. Opdyke purchased twenty acres of land on the
heights overlooking Newark and New York bays.
There he made many improvements in the way of
building and general development during the fifteen
years that he there maintained his residence. He de-
veloped wonderful discrimination, circumspection and
judgment as a business man, had a seemingly incxliaust-
ible command of resources and expedients in bending
forces and mediums of details to his will, developed
splendid executive and administrative talent, and by pre-
cept and example he encouraged and aided the young
men wlio came within the splierc of his benignant influ-
ence. He found diversion and mental uplift and ex-
pansion through his well directed reading and study,
which touched and brouglit familiarity with the best
in literature, including history, logic, pliilosophy and
scientific subjects. He became a really scholarly man
of liigh attainments and broad intellectual ken, and
was distinctively a man of thought and action, as
shown liy the fact that men of learning sought his
comjiany and found profit in the same. In 1851, he



wrote and published a most valuable work on political
economy, and the same found distinctive favor among
the most profound students on the subject, even in-
cluding John Stuart Mill. The work was, however, in
advance of the times and thus it did not meet with the
general popular reception which was its due. In this
volume Mr. Opdyke discussed the theory of wages, the
value of land and other questions, and advocated many
theories that today are accepted doctrines, among them
being that of inconvertible paper money, in connection
with which subject he described and recommended the
currency system now in vogue in the United States. In
the same work he discussed the question of slavery,
and gave a logical argument on free trade, as close and
strong as any demonstration in Euclid.

In 1854, Mr. Opdyke returned with his family to New
York City, where he became president of one of the
largest banks and a director in several important in-
surance companies. He was a member of the New
York Chamber of Commerce from 1858 to 1880, and
was its president from 1867 to 1875. He was a staunch
Democrat, was opposed to the extension of slavery in
the climacteric period leading up to the Civil War, and
his initial prominence in politics came in 1848, when he
was a delegate from New Jersey to the national con-
vention of the Free Soil party, at Buffalo. In this con-
vention he served with Hon. Salmon P. Chase on the
committee on resolutions, and to strengthen the party
cause in New Jersey, he consented to became its can-
didate for Congress. In 1856, he supported Gen. John
C. Fremont, the Republican candidate for the presi-
dency, and in the same year he was defeated as a can-
didate for representative of the Murray Hill district in
the New York Legislature, though two years later he
was elected to the Legislature from this same district,
his service in the Legislature embodying a strenuous
opposition to the schemes of plunder which a certain
contingent was attempting to force through the legisla-
tive body. In 1859, he was the Republican candidate
for mayor of New York City, but was defeated by his
Democratic opponent, Fernando Wood.

In i860, Mr. Opdyke was a delegate to the Repub-
lican National Convention, in the city of Chicago, where
he did most effective service in furthering the nomina-
tion of Abraham Lincoln for the presidency. David
Dudley Field and Mr. Opdyke cooperated with Horace
Greeley to defeat the nomination of Seward, and effected
the formation of the combination that named Lincoln
as the party's candidate. Mr, Opdyke gave $20,000 to
the carrying forward of the Lincoln campaign, and after
election President Lincoln tendered him appointment as
collector of the port of New York City, a position
which he felt constrained to decline. The first public
action taken by the New York Chamber of Commerce
in support of the government at the inception of the
Civil War was the adoption of a resolution that was
offered by Mr. Opdyke, April 19, 1861, and he personally
contributed liberally of time and money to further the
cause of the Union during the dark period of the war.

In 1861, Mr. Opdyke was elected mayor of the City
of New York, and his administration continued until
the close of the fiscal year of 1863. He was active in
the raising of troops and sending them to the front,
and it was during his term as mayor that the historic

draft riots occurred in the national metropolis. Mayor
Opdyke had protested to Secretary Stanton against re-
moving every regiment of the State Militia from New
York City, but in vain. He was advised by friends to
leave the city until the excitement, involving personal
peril to the mayor, should subside, but he refused to
leave his post of duty, and to meet the grave dangers
incidental to the draft riots he called to his aid the heads
of the police and militia departments, the governor of
the State, General Wood, with his few soldiers in the
harbor, and the marines in the navy yard. Through
such cooperation the mayor was enabled to present a
bold front during the three days of terror, the streets
of the city having been as silent as though struck by
plague save for the time when the mob raged, plun-
dered, burned and murdered. The mayor's factory at
Second avenue and Twenty-first street was destroyed by
fire through the work of the mob, and his home at No.
79 Ffith avenue was twice attacked, Mrs. Opdyke
having escaped through a neighboring house to a car-

Online LibraryJohn Phillips DownsHistory of Chautauqua County, New York, and its people (Volume 3) → online text (page 57 of 101)