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The men of New York: a collection of biographies and portraits of citizens of the Empire State prominent in business, professional, social, and political life during the last decade of the nineteenth century (Volume 1) online

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October ti, lS'/7 ; was educated at a private .scliool in
/: upland; came to the United States in 1SH-1 : mar-
ried Mary McGill of Lockport, N. Y., October U,
1870 ; li'in alderman in Lockport, 1881-83 and
1889-tn, mayor of Lockport, /,s',S'.;-,S'.$, water com-
ini winner, /.s',V {-,S7, and trustee nf /he hoard of educa-
tion, 1S88-80 and IHHO-'rt ; //,?.* been collector of
customs at Xiagara Falls since Marclt ' t ,




%. SeSSiOltS is a leading repre-
sentative of one of the most famous families in



southwestern New York. For more than forty years
he has been among the foremost in the politics of Chau-
taui|ua county. Always a strong Republican, he has
served his party, his state, and his country repeatedly,
holding positions which are a guarantee of his great
force of character and of the high esteem in which
he is held by his fellow-men. Away
back in the '5()'s he was elected a mem-
ber of the assembly, and held the office
for two years. During his second year
he was chairman of the committee on ways
and means, which is the most important
committee of the house. This position
made him the leader of the majority, and
put him in direct line for the speakership,
had he gone back for another term.

Just at the close of the decade, the
year Lincoln was elected President, the
name of Mr. Sessions is found in the list
of members of the state senate. Another
gap of five years, and he is again found
in the senate and again leader of the ma-
jority as chairman of the finance com-
mittee, the most important in the upper
house, as the committee on ways and
means is of the lower house. Most men
are content to, obtain this leadership in
the legislature after many years of un-
broken service, and such experience is
usually deemed necessary to familiarize
a man with the fine points of parliament-
ary practice requisite to successful guid-
ance of the controlling party. Mr.
Sessions, it will be observed, obtained
leadership in both the assembly and the
senate after having served in each only
one term. Moreover, his two terms in
the senate were not consecutive.

Reference to the Coi/gressiona! Direc-
tors will show the name of Walter L. Sessions among
the members of the 42d congress, which met in the
third year of Grant's first administration. Again his
name appears as a member of the 43d congress, elected
in the exciting Grant-Greeley campaign the most
interesting, perhaps, in the history of the Republican
party. There were famous men in those two con-
gresses. James G. Blaine was speaker of both, and
James A. Garfield was a leader on the floor. The
New York delegation included such men as Henry
\V. Slocum, Samuel S. Cox, Fernando Wood, Clark-
son N. Potter, John H. Ketcham. William A.
Wheeler, Kllis H. Roberts, and Thomas C. Platt.
Important measures were before congress, and the
sessions were often exciting. The " salary grab "



J/A'.V OF' \E\\~ YORK WESTERN SECTIO.N



139



bill, raising the compensation of members of congress
fifty per cent and giving them 85,001.) for back pay,
is a case in point. Mr. Sessions voted against this
measure, and returned the money to the treasury.
Another noteworthy bill was that abolishing mileage
for members of congress, which the house passed and
the senate allowed to drop. Mr. Sessions voted for
this bill. Reconstruction questions had not yet
passed out of. congressional notice : and the green-
back question, which has been handed down to
present times, was just beginning to demand atten-
tion. It is interesting to note that a bill providing
for the cancellation of greenbacks and substitution
therefor of notes payable in gold two years after
issue, was lost in the house of the 43d congress by a
vote of 7!l to Kill, with Mr. Sessions recorded in the
negative. The most far-reaching legislation of this
period, however, was the famous currency
law of 1873, coiit-.iining the clause that is
regarded in some quarters as having sur-
reptitiously demoneti/,ed silver.

Ten years after his retirement from the
43d congress, Mr. Sessions took his seat
in the 49th congress. This was the year
in which drover Cleveland first became
President.

Mr. Sessions is a New Englander by
birth, his father having moved from Bran-
don, Vt., to an unimproved farm in
Clymer, Chautauqua county, in 1S.'!.">.
Mr. Sessions went to the common schools
and to the Westfield Academy. He took
up his present residence in Panama in
1846, so that his entire manhood has
been spent there. He was admitted to
the bar in 184!>, and began practice in
Panama immediately. His only part-
nership, which was formed in 1880 and
continued six years, was with John Wood-
ward, now justice of the Supreme Court.
Mr. Sessions has served his county as
school commissioner and supervisor. He
was a member of the board of General
Managers of the New York state exhibit
at the World's Columbian Exposition at
Chicago. Aside from his law practice,
Mr. Sessions has been extensively en-
gaged in the tanning and currier business
and in lumbering.

PERSONAL CHR ONOL OGY-
IVa-ltcr Looinis Sessions wo.s born at Hi <i/n/t>n, Rut-
land county > //. . was filucfiled in llu- common schools
tin,/ in U'estfiehi ( .V. }' ) Academy : marricil Man- A'.
Terry of Clymer, N. }'., in IS 48 : was admitted to



tltc l>ar in 1S.' t !-> : was member of assembly, l85S-54i
state senator, 1XHO-61 and Ifiiiii-iil, member of co:i-
gress, 1871-75 and 18S-1-S7 : lias lired in Panaiu.i,
Cliaittain/iia county, since



SlUitb i s a splendid type of the Ameri-
can citi/en. His grandfather was one of the pioneers
of western New York, having settled in Chautauqua
county in 1810. His father helped clear the forests
and break land for farms where now are populous
communities. Hiram was the eldest of fourteen
children, seven boys and seven girls. He received
his education in the district school and Fredonia
Academy. His first business experience was obtained
as clerk in his father's establishment at Smith's Mills.
In 183H his father started a branch store at Great
Valley, in Cattaraugus county, and sent Hiram there




H1KAM SMI Tit



to take charge of it. The country had not then fully
emerged from the great panic of 1837, and it was
very difficult to realize money from produce, business
having sunk in a great degree to its primitive basis



140



.I//..V OF \E\\~



i'A" \VESTERN SECT/i>\



of exchange of commodities. Hiram soon had a
large amount of timber to the credit of the house,
and in 1X40 these logs were run to the mills and
rafted to Cincinnati. In all these transactions the
young man displayed so much business ability that
in I.s4o his father made him his partner, under the
firm name of Rodney B. Smith & Co. For eighteen
years they conducted an extensive and a successful
general merchandise business.

The outbreak of the Civil War found Mr. Smith
in the prime of his vigorous manhood. The nation's
call met a patriotic response on his part. He enlisted
in 1S(>1, and served till the close of the war, retiring
with the rank of major. Mr. Smith was connected
with the quartermaster general's department, and
had the responsibility of accounts aggregating many
millions of dollars ; but so accurate and honest
was his dealing with the government that he was one
of the comparatively few officers who were able,
when mustered out of service, to accept the generous
offer of the government of three months' extra pay
on presentation of certificates of nonindebtedness.

After the close of the war Mr. Smith moved to St.
Louis, where he engaged in mercantile business.
The climate there proved detrimental to the health
of his family, and he returned to New York state in
l!Sli7, settling in Jamestown, where he has since
resided. For the past quarter of a century he has
been engaged there in the insurance business, and
though now well advanced in years, he is as active
and energetic as many men in middle life.

Mr. Smith has taken an active interest in politics,
and served two terms in the New York legislature
before the war. He was for several years town clerk
of Hanover, N. Y., and filled one term of six years
,i> supervisor of the same place. In 1884 and again
in IS'.IO he was the Democratic nominee for congress
from the 34th district, and received the united sup-
port of his party. As a citizen and neighbor Mr.
Smith is regarded with high honor in Jamestown,
for his upright life, strict attention to business, and
just dealings with all men.

PERSONAL CHR ONOL O G Y Hiram Smith
was burn at Hanover, N. Y., Octol>cr ,.','/. IS In.- ,-. w\
educated in tlif district school and I<'rcdonia Academy ;
engaged in general mercantile Inisiness, IS-Hi-ill .- was
elet ted to the s/iite /e^is/atnre in 1S.~>1), an.i re-e/ected in
ISHit : se/Ti'i/ /// tlte Unii'ii iirmv, 1S<! !-(>''> : 7Ci!S
nominated for member of congress from flic ', /// district
in ISS', and IS! m ; married Melissa P. Lore of Forest-
vilie, X. ]"., September 10, lS' t ' t , and Anna /. Gray
of Jamestown, X. Y. , September In, lSH' t ; has lived
in /amestoion since ISH] , and lias been cn^a^cd in the
insurance business there since



B. Dan DUSCtl inherited an honor-
able name, which he has borne without blemish as a
lawyer and citi/en. Our best critics are those who
have the fullest opportunity to study us in all our
relations to society ; and if the good opinion of
one's neighbors is a source of happiness in life, Mr.
Van Dusen must derive great satisfaction from the
high esteem in which he is held in his community.

Mr. Van Dusen made no mistake when he chose
the law for his profession, and it would be hard
to picture him in any other calling. His success
has been all the more praiseworthy because he has
overcome no small obstacle in the lack of a collegiate
training. His elementary education was obtained in
the public schools of Jamestown, N. Y., and was
followed by a course in the Randolph Academy,
which enjoyed a favorable reputation as a preparatory
school. Having decided to become a lawyer, he
entered the office of Alexander and Porter Sheldon,
at Jamestown. After mastering Blackstone and Kent
and the dull routine of the law clerk, he was ad-
mitted to the bar in November, l!S(i(i, and three
years later was admitted to practice in the United
States District Court. He then formed a partner-
ship in Sherman, N. Y., and as junior partner of the
firm of Benson & Van Dusen began the slow and
arduous work of building up a clientage and winning
a name in his profession. He moved to Mayville,
N. Y., in 1871, and has since practiced his profession
there. He has been senior partner in the firm of
Van Dusen & Martin since ISSli.

Wherever he has resided, Mr. Van Dusen has
shown special interest in the cause of education, and
has done much to promote the welfare of the com-
munity. During the four years that he lived in
Sherman he held the position of president of the
board of education, and devoted much time and labor
to the task of elevating and improving the condition
of the public schools of the village. It was largely
through his instrumentality that a new schoolhouse
was built, in spite of much opposition. After his
removal to Mayville Mr. Van Dusen continued his
public-spirited efforts, and the handsome school
building of that village, as well as the system of water-
works, affords ample evidence of his devotion to
the public good.

In 1890 Mr. Van Dusen was elected to the bench
as judge of the County Court, and his record in
connection with this election is one of which he
may well be proud. He declined to resort to the
use of money or any other unworthy means of secur-
ing votes, preferring to rely entirely upon his personal
popularity and fitness for the office. He gave to the
county one of the most dignified and respectable



MEX OF XKir YOKKU'ESTER.V SECTfO.\



141



canvasses it had known for years. The result proved

the truth of the old saying that " Honesty is the best

policy," for he was elected on the Democratic ticket

by a majority of 88!) in a county where the normal

Republican majority is 5,000. Mr. Van Dusen as a

judge may be praised in unstinted measure. When

he was promoted to the bench he took

with him the ripened experience of a.

large and varied practice, an innate

judicial balance, and the confidence of

lawyer and layman alike. His record as

county judge very properly commended

him to his political associates, and in 1895

he was nominated by the Democratic

party for judge of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Van Dusen is a vestryman of St.
Paul's Episcopal Church of Mayville,
and a member of the Holland Society of
New York.

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY-
Almon Augustus I'an Dusen was born at
Jamestown, N. I'., fanuaryS, 184.3 ; was
educated in public schools and in Randolph
Academy ; wax admitted to the bar in
I860 : married Jcttie E. Merchant of
Brocton, N. Y. , January 30, 1S71 ; vn v
appointed judge of the County Court of
Chautauqua county [anuar\ 2, 1890,
and was subsequently elected to succeed
himself : was nominated for judge of the
Supreme Court in IS'.l.'j ; lias practiced law
in Mavrille since 1871.



(I. p. IDeDfcCr has had an enviable
career. Every man, it is said, has at least
one opportunity in life to demonstrate just
what he really is. His use of that oppor-
tunity becomes the test by which he is
ever after judged. The Civil War was
such an opportunity to men now in middle life or
beyond. To go to the front, leaving family, friends,
and fortune behind, to suffer, and perchance to
perish this was the test that confronted the genera-
tion born before the war. In their number was Mr.
Vedder. He had spent his boyhood on a farm at
Ellicottville, N. Y. In early manhood he worked
on the Erie canal, was a raftsman on the Allegheny
river, finally shipped as a sailor before the mast, and
rose to the position of captain at the early age of
nineteen. All this time he was saving money to pay
for an education, and the outbreak of the war found
him a student in Springville Academy. But his
ambition for a college course was not to be gratified.
He decided that his duty lay in responding to the < all



of his country. He closed his books, and left the
academy to enter the practical school of war, enlist-
ing as a private soldier in the 154th regiment, New
York volunteers.

Mr. Vedder's service in the field was long and
meritorious. He served from 18(i2 to the close of




ALMON A. VAN DUSEN

the war, and fought at Chancellorsville, Wauhatchie,
Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, siege of
Savannah, and Bentonville. He was wounded at
the battle of Rocky-Faced Ridge, was confined in
Libby prison, and participated in Sherman's im-
mortal march to the sea and through the Carolinas.
He was promoted to be 1st lieutenant and captain,
and for "gallant and meritorious conduct at the
battle of Lookout Mountain" he was brevetted
major in the regular army ; and " for bravery in the
campaign to Atlanta" he was promoted to be lieu-
tenant colonel of volunteers.

Returning to his native state, Colonel Vedder
>tiidied law and was admitted to the bar. His sue
cess in civil life as a lawyer, a business man, and a



142



.I/A'. V ()/' NEW \MR1<\\'ESTER.\ SCJ7< > \



legislator has been as complete and Conspicuous as
his record in the army was honorable and brilliant.
He occupied the responsible position of register in
bankruptcy lor eight years. He filled the office of
United States assessor of internal revenue for two
years, and was state assessor for three years. How




C. P. VEDDER

faithfully he performed the duties of these various
offices is best proved by repeated elections to the
:is>embly and senate at Albany.

In the legislature Mr. Veddcr made a splendid
record. He was first chosen to the lower house in
1*72, and took a leading part in the debates and de-
liberations of that body. He was chairman of the
committee to draft articles of impeachment against
Judge Barnard, of Tweed-Ring notoriety, and was
one of the managers at the trial of that offic ial,
evincing in both capacities legal ability of a high
order and wide knowledge of parliamentary pro-
cedure. In 1<S7") he was elected to the senate ; and
it is no exaggeration to assert that no man there did
more than he to lighten the burdens of taxation upon



those least able to bear them. He was the author of
the laws taxing gifts, legacies, and collateral and
direct inheritances, and requiring corporations to pay
for the privilege of organization in the Empire State.
As a result of these measures millions of dollars have
been paid into the treasury, and a permanent source
of revenue has been provided for the state.
Mr. Vedder was chosen a delegate at
large to the constitutional convention of
l' s '.>4, and served on several important
committees. ( If the thirty-three amend-
ments proposed by the convention and
adopted by the people, he drafted and
introduced four. Too much cannot be
said of the sagacity, zeal, and untiring
devotion to the public interests displayed
by Mr. Vedder in every position of trust
and responsibilty to which the people
have called him. The constitution and
the laws of the state alike attest his wis-
dom and his worth.

In the business world Mr. Vedder has
also been a conspicuous factor. He is
president of many corporations, including
the State Bank of Norwood, the New
York & New Jersey Ice Lines, the Klko
Mining, Milling & Manufacturing Co.,
and the Falls Klectrir Power & Land Co.
In politics he is a Republican. He is a
member of the Presbyterian church, of
the (i. A. R., and of the Masonic order.
His social clubs are the Holland Society,
the Republican Club, and the Lawyers'
Club, all of New York city.

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY-

Commoifore Perr\ VcJJer was horn at
Ellicottrille, N. Y., February .'!, 1888;
7iw.v educated at Springville (N. Y.) Acad-
finy ; served in tlie Union army, isn .'-ii.'i,
rising to tlic milk of lieutenant eolonel : v\ w> admitted to
tin' bar in ism; . was register in bankruptcy, lS<>'i-]~>
;\w> L'n/ted States assessor of internal revenue, lSr,!i-
71: was member of the assembly, lS7..'-i~>, and state
senator, 1876-77 and lSS^-91 ; ivas state assessor,
/,V,s'O-,v.; .- married Bettie E. Si/uires of Springville,
X. ]'., September ,.', 7.Y'/.', and Mrs. Genei'iere A .
Wheeler of Chicago July 12, 1892.



MentWOrtb received the hardy
training of a farm boy, for his parents moved from
Aurora, Erie county, when he was only four years
old, to Ellicottville, N. Y., and soon after to a farm
in the town of Randolph, N. Y. Practically his
whole life has been spent in Randolph, and he is a



J//-;.Y OF A'A'fr VOKKirESTERN SECTION



14::



representative of the class of men who are content
to cast in their lot in places that offer but modest
attractions, and who, by force of ability and persist-
ent effort, at length achieve a substantial competence
and high standing in the community.

Mr. Wentworth's educational opportunities were
of the limited kind usually available for the country
boy of half a century ago ; but he used them to the
very best advantage, and it is doubtful if the young
man of to-day who goes through a preparatory
school and a college without special effort on his
own part, derives as much benefit from the experi-
ence as did young Wentworth from his hardly won
privileges. For a time Mr. Wentworth paved the
way to each winter's study by a summer of hard but
healthful work on the farm. At seventeen he sub-
stituted teaching for the farm work, but continued his
study during spring terms at the Ran-
dolph Academy. At nineteen he began
reading law, and carried on all three
occupations as best he could for the next
three years. It speaks well for his natural
ability and for the excellent use he made
of his opportunities, that he was able to
complete his legal studies at the age of
twenty-two. He was admitted as an at-
torney and counselor at law at the General
Term held in Buffalo in May, 1K.~>9. An
interesting fact which Mr. Wentworth
recalls in this connection is that President
Cleveland was one of the class admitted
to the bar at this term.

Mr. Wentworth had pursued his legal
studies in the office of Weeden & Hender-
son of Randolph, and on admission to
the bar he at once formed a partnership
with William H. Henderson, under the
name of Henderson &: Wentworth, Mr.
Weeden retiring from the firm. This
connection has lasted ever since. The
firm, consisting of two men so able and
so public-spirited as Mr. Wentworth and
Mr. Henderson, has naturally become a
power in Cattaraugus county, and has had
a wide influence upon public affairs.
Their business is largely what is termed
in the profession " litigation," and is
varied and extensive, and they give to it
their undivided attention. Mr. Went-
worth's son, Crowley, a graduate of



when important interests are involved and there is ' 'no
politics in it," he is at times active and aggressive.
He has been willing to serve the community as presi-
dent of his village and in similar positions.

Mr. Wentworth is a prominent member of the
Masonic fraternity. He has been Master of Randolph
Lodge, No. .'I.V.I. F. \- A. M., most of the time for the
past twenty years ; and he was District Deputy Grand
Master of the 26th Masonic district from 1N74 to
1'S.so. At the latter date professional engagements
compelled him to decline the reappointment that was
tendered to him. These offices came to him without
effort on his part, and as a spontaneous testimonial of
the esteem in which he is held by his brother Masons.

PERSOXAL CHR ONOL OGY Alexander
ll'i'iifii'iirt/i K>a.< horn at Aurora, Erie county, N. Y.,
July ,'H, IS. 17: was educated in common se /tools and




:.V. \.\DER \\'E.\T\VORTH



Princeton, was admitted to the firm January 1,
Mr. Wentworth has no taste for politics, and has
never sought nor accepted a political nomination.
But he is not unmindful of his duties as a citizen, and



at Randolph Academy : was admit/fit to the bar at
Hull, -ilo in IS'iH : married Ellen C. Crowley of Ran-
dolph, N. Y., October 10, 185!) ; has practiced law in
Randolph since



144



.!//-:.V OF M-'.U' YORK WESTERN SECTION



3. JSatMieS is one of Buffalo's energetic
bankers and agreeable men of business. He has had
a thorough training in financial matters, and is a
conservative, industrious, and courteous official.
Commercial life often seems uneventful and made up
entirely of routine : but closer observation shows




Al.l-'RRD J. BARXES

that a successful mercantile career demands the
same qualities requisite in more stirring pursuits.
Good judgment, courage, and a high sense of honor
are as essential in the sphere of finance as in any
other field of human activity.

Mr. Barnes is a native of Troy, N. Y., and was
educated in the public schools of that city. His
earliest business experience wa* in association with
his father, who conducted a large steam-fitting and
plumbing business in the city of Troy. He desired
a different occupation, however, and when a position
was offered him in the Manufacturers' National Bank
of his native city, he eagerly accepted it. He en-
tered the service of that institution at the foot of the
ladder, and by faithful attention to his duties worked



his way up through the different clerical grades until

he became general bookkeeper. He continued in

this position for nine years.

l-'.arly in the '8()'s Mr. Barnes retired from the

bank, and engaged with a local business concern.

But his training and predilection was for finance, and
in 1.S.S3 he went to Chicago, and accepted
a place in the Continental National Bank
of that city. With this institution he
remained ten years, attaining the respon-
sible position of chief clerk. His success
in Chicago won him a valuable reputa-
tion, and led to his engagement in Buffalo
in ISil.S as cashier of the City Bank.

While Mr. Barnes's residence in Buffalo
has been comparatively brief, he has
nevertheless taken rank already as a
shrewd and active financier, a capable
official, and affable gentleman in all the
relations of life. He is a member of the
Ellicott and Independent clubs, and a
Republican in his party affiliations. His
circle of acquaintance in business and
social life is rapidly extending, and he
has the satisfaction of knowing that no
community is more open to receive a
man of his character than the Queen
City.

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY -
Alfred foseph Barnes was /><>ni at Trov,



Online LibraryMoses KingThe men of New York: a collection of biographies and portraits of citizens of the Empire State prominent in business, professional, social, and political life during the last decade of the nineteenth century (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 69)