William D Murphy.

Biographical sketches of the state officers and members of the Legislature of the state of New York, in 1858 online

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ential party men in the district or ward where he re-



102 • BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.

resides. He is always on hand on election day, ready
to devote one day, at least, to the service of his
country, and never fails to contribute his full share of
labor to the success of the candidates and measures
of the party to which he belongs.

Senator Spinola is married, and was reared in the
Episcopal branch of the church. In person, he is
somewhat above the medium height; has a muscular,
elastic frame; dark hair and complexion; sharp, blue
eyes; smooth face, and a frank, good natured counten-
ance. He is a good speaker; a practical, energetic
legislator, and faithful in the discharge of his duty to
his constituents and the state at large.



HORATIO J. STOW.

On entering the Senate Chamber the stranger's
attention seldom fails to be first attracted by the
personal appearance of Senator Stow. He is, physic-
ally, the largest man in the Senate, being tall, very
fleshy and corpulent, and weighing about two hundred
and twenty-five pounds. He has a full, round, mas-
sive face; a large, well-formed head, thinly coated
with light, gray hair; light blue eyes, and a glowing
countenance, which indicates a good liver — a highly
seasoned relish for the best of oysters, fresh canvas
back ducks, good, genuine heidsick, and all the
other delicacies of this life.

Senator Stow is doubtless, in his own way, the
most remarkable man in the Senate. It is possible,



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 103

that, as he once said of Gen. Harrison, he was born
at a very early period of his life, though the author
having failed to obtain any authentic information as
to his birth, it is not improbable, that, like another
distinguished individual of whom we read in Uncle
Tom's Cabin, he was never born at all. It appears, .
however, that he is a native of Lowville, Lewis
county, N. Y., and is about forty-eight years of age.
He is descended from good, old, substantial English
stock, and his father, Silas Stow, was a man of emi-
nent distinction during his life time. He emigrated
from Middletown, Conn., to New York as early as
1797, and settled in Lewis county, which was then a
part of Oneida. He was subsequently a Representa-
tive in the Twelfth Congress from what was then the
Tenth district, and for quite a series of years presid-
ed on the bench of Lewis county as Chief Judge.

Senator Stow was educated at the Lowville aca-
demy, an institution of considerable reputation, and
after leaving school, went into Jefferson county, and
commenced the study of the law in the office of the
Hon. Thomas C. Chittenden, a prominent lawyer in
that section of the state, with whom he remained
until admitted to the bar. Some time after, he re-
moved to Erie county, and settled in Buffalo, where
he at once established himself in the pursuit of his
profession, speedily acquiring a reputation as a man
of good mind and a sound, reliable judgment. Having
practiced law a few years, he was elected Recorder of
the city of Buffalo, which office he occupied several
years, and was sent from Erie county to the Consti-



104 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES

tutional convention in 1846. He took an active and
somewhat influential part in the deliberations of that
body, but at the close of the Convention declined to
subscribe to the new constitution, and went back to
his constituents, repudiating every feature of the work
that had just been accomplished. This was the last
position he ever held at the hands of the people of
Erie county, and a few years ago he abandoned the
law, and removed to Lewiston, Niagara county, where
he is now engaged, on a pretty extensive scale, in
farming.

In politics Senator Stow belongs to no distinct or-
ganization, claiming to be entirely " Independent,''
and although strictly honest, is a striking illustration
of the truth of the definition of Jefferson, who says
that "an independent man is one upon whom no one
can depend." He, at one time, formerly, acted with
the Whig party, professing great friendship for and
admiration of the lamented Clay, and in 1848 sup-
ported Mr. Van Buren for the Presidency, on the cele-
brated Buffalo platform. He was strongly opposed to
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, as he now is
to the further extension of slavery, and in 1856
warmly advocated the election of Col. Fremont to the
presidency. In 1857 he was brought forward by the
antirail-road interest of the Twenty-ninth district
for Senator, in opposition to the Hon. Alonzo S.
Upham, the Republican candidate, who was the spe-
cial friend of the rail-road power, and was elected by
a complimentary plurality. Thus far he has acted
with all parties in the Senate, and has lost no time in



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 105

declaring war against what he regards the iniquitous
rail-road power of the state — a subject which is seem-
ingly claiming his entire time and attention. He ap-
pears to sympathize more with the Republicans than
either of the other parties in the Senate, and is some-
times denominated an "Independent Republican;'*
but it is difficult to correctly classify him, for he is

"A creature of amphibious nature,
On land a beast, a fish in water ;
That always prays on grace or sin,
A sheep without, a wolf within.'-

Senator Stow is vain, eccentric, and volcanic, being
often guided more by impulse than intellect, and ap-
parently looks upon all men as his inferiors. His
manner is singular and difficult to comprehend, one
moment being social and communicative, at another
entirely reserved and exceedingly repulsive; and he is
as likely to meet you with a cool, distant turn of the
head as a hearty, welcome smile. In social life, as
in politics, he is a huge comet, sweeping recklessly
through space, and neither his course nor his appear-
ance can be calculated with the least precision. He pos-
sesses more than ordinary originality of thought; is
a sound and correct reasoner, and a fine speaker, sel-
dom failing to command the closest attention of his
hearers whenever he addresses the Senate. If it be
true that he has determined to pursue a course not
indicated by his general appearanoi^, there is doubt-
less a brilliant future before him ; but he must not,
like Alcibiades, deface the images of the gods and
expect tc be pardoned on the score of eccentricity.



106



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.



LYMAN TRUMAN.

Senator Truman is a native of Candor, Tioga
County, N. Y., and is of English and Scotch descent.
He was born on the 2d of March, 1806, and is there-
fore now fifty-two years of age. Both his paternal
and maternal grand- fathers took part in the Revolu-
tionary struggle, and the latter was especially promi-
nent in the troubles at Stonington, Conn., where the
general government contracted a debt with him which
was paid only a few years since. Lyman's father,
Aaron Truman; emigrated from Massachusetts to New
York, in 1804, and settled in Tioga county, where he
died, in 1838, at the age of thirty-eight. His wife,
the mother of the subject of this sketch, was a native
of Connecticut, and died, in 1844, at the age of sixty.

Senator Truman is entirely the architect of his own
fortune, having arisen to his present distinguished posi-
tion from an humble condition in life. At the age of
ten he was sent to a common district school, in his
native town, where he passed about three months
each winter, until he had attained his sixteenth j'ear.
About this lime his father died, leaving him alone
with a widowed mother and four brothers and three
sisters, younger than himself, without any means
scarcely of a support. His father, who was a farmer,
it is true, left them in possession of the place upon
which they were living, but it was so far encumbered
as almost to preclude the possibility of his retaining
it. Nothing daunted, however, Lyman went to work
like a good fellow, and succeeded in supporting the



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 107

family, sending the children, at the same time, to
school, and in retaining the farm, until all claims
against it were fully paid, to the very last farthing.
In accomplishing this he employed himself in various
ways until he was twenty-four years of age, when he
became a clerk in a store in an adjoining town.
Here he remained three years in this capacity, when
he embarked with a partner in the mercantile trade
for himself, and continued thus engaged about three
years. He then purchased his partner's interest in
the establishment, and shortly after took his three
younger brothers in with him as partners. About
this time he purchased a farm, and presented it to
the oldest of his brothers who had always followed
the plow. He was succeeded in the mercantile trade
a short time ago by his brother in law, and has since
then been engaged with his younger brothers, in
various successful enterprises. During the last thirty-
four years he has likewise been a practical raftsman, and
has never failed to make his annual trip down the Sus-
quehanna in this capacity. He is a man of sterling in-
tegrity and untiring energy; upright and honorable in
all his dealings; and occupies a prominent position
among the business men in the section of the state where
he resides. A few years since he was elected President
of the Bank of Owego, an institution which had then
descended to almost universal discredit; but he suc-
ceeded in placing it upon a sure footing, and success-
fully carrying it through all the finantial troubles of
the recent panic. Indeed, there are probably few
better business men in the state than Lvman Truman.



108 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.

Senator Truman held various unimportant town
offices previous to 1840, when he was elected Super-
visor. He was again elected twice to the same posi-
tion, and in 1847 ran as a stump candidate for the
Assembly in what was then a strong Democratic dis-
trict, lacking only a few votes of an election. He
declined all further nomination from that time until
1857, when the Republicans of the Twenty-fourth dis-
trict brought him forward as a candidate for, and
elected him to the seat he now fills in the Senate.
In early life he was an advocate of Democratic mea-
sures and cast his first vote for Gen. Jackson. He
became a Whig after 1833, and voted with that party
until 1848, when his free-soil proclivities led him into
the ranks of the supporters of Mr. Van Buren, for
whom he then voted for President. From this time he
took no further part in politics, being too much en-
grossed with his own private affairs, until he was
awakened from his political lethargy by the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise. He immediately then be-
came a zealous advocate of the Republican movement,
and has ever since been a warm supporter of the
docti-jnes of that party, taking the stump on all proper
occasions in their behalf. He is, also, a strong ad-
vocate of the system of free schools, and never fails
to exert all his power and influence in support of the
great cause of Temperance,

Senator Truman was married on the 10th of January,
1838, to Miss Emile M. Goodrich, by whom he has
three children, and his family attend the Congrega-
tional church. In person, he is a man about the



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 109

medium height; is muscuhir and well formed; has
blue eyes, a dark complexion and a profusion of dark
brown hair, with a pleasant, business-like face, whose
features are very strongly marked. He is mild,
courteous, and unostentatious in his manner; is plainly
and well dressed; and never seems to be disengaged.
He is a fair speaker, and a good reasoner, but never
troubles the Senate with speech-making, regarding
good, sound, safe legislation as more the result of
correct thinking and thorough work than long-winded
speeches.



JAMES WADSWORTH.

Senator Wadsworth is a native of the good old
town of Durham, Middlesex county, Conn., where he
was born in the year 1819. His father was an honest,
upright and influential man, extensively engaged in
farming in that section of the state, and although fre-
quently nominated for some of the most distinguished
places in the gift of the people, alwa3'S peremptorily de-
clined holding any political office. During his life time
'he was deeply interested in various benevolent and
religious institutions, and for some time presided over
the Connecticut State Agricultural society, as its
chief officer. He was emphatically a farmer.

Senator Wadsworth graduated at Yale college, in

1841, with one of the first honors of his class, and is

probably the most finished scholar in the Senate.

After graduating he passed nearly three years in the-

10



110 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.

belles lettres and law department of that institution,
after which he went to New York, and spent two
years in the law office of Benjamin D. Silliman, of
that city. His legal course having been completed he
was married in 1846, to Miss Rose F. Robinson, of
his native place, and in the following year was ad-
mitted to the bar, and established himself in the city
of Buffalo in the practice of the law. He at once
took a high position in his profession, and as early
as 1849 — two years after his admission to the bar — •
was appointed Attorney for that city, which office he
held a year. It was customary then for the City At-
torney, when engaged in the trial of an important
case, to choose an assistant counsel — a contingency
for which a special appropriation was made from the
city fund; but Mr. Wads worth coneluHed to conduct
his first cause, at least, without any aid, and so suc-
cessful was he in doing so, that the city authorities
immediately increased his salary and dispensed with
the services of any assistant counsel during the bal-
ance. of his term of office. From this, it will be seen,
that he was eminently successful then as a young
practitioner in the law.

In 1850 Senator Wadsworth was brought forward
as the Democratic candidate for Mayor of Buffiilo,
and was elected by a larger majority than was ever
before given for that office in that city. He was re-
nominated in 1851, but declined being a candidate,
in consequence of his having just previously been ap-
pointed President of the Buffalo, Brantford and Gode-
rich Rail Road company, now the Buflfalo and Lake



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. lH

Huron company, which position then occupied nearly-
all his time. Daring the years 1852, '53 and '54, he
went to England three several times on a mission for
this company, to negotiate its bonds, and brought
home with him as the result of his labors, three and
a half millions of dollars. Shortly after his return
the last time, to the United States, he resigned his
place as president of the company, and devoted his
whole time and attention to a large landed estate
which he had on hands, and which he had previously
too much neglected. While abseiit in Canada, in
1855, he was nominated by acclamation as a repre-
sentative in the Senate, from the Thirty-first district,
and was successful as the first Democratic Senator
ever elected from Erie county. The Opposition had
been in the ascendancy in that section of the state for
upwards of thirty years, and his election was perhaps
the most signal political triumph ever achieved in
that county. He was again nominated by acclamation
for the Senate, in 1857, and was successful by a ma-
jority of three thousand, carrying every ward in the
city of Buffalo. Thus far his career as a Senator has
been straight-forward, consistent and patriotic, and
he is entirely unsurpassed by any member of that
body as a close reasoner, a finished orator, a success-
ful impromptu debater, and a sound, faithful and in-
dustrious legislator. During the session of 1857 he
took a deep interest in the toll question, and enacted
a conspicuous and influential part in behalf of Trinity
church, against the determined and almost irresist-



112 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.

ible effort that was then made for a division of her
property.

Senator Wadsworth has always been a staunch,
unflinching national Democrat, and although belonging
to the purer class of politicians, has never failed to
contribute his full share of service to the promotion
of the principles of that party. In person he is tall,
being upwards of six feet in height; is finely formed;
lias dark hair, large, soul-lit eyes, and pale features.
Me is whole-souled, generous, and courteous in his
intercourse with persons in the Senate and out of it,
and enjoys an unusual degree of personal popularity
among the great mass of the people. He was bred a
Congregationalist, but now attends the Presbyterian
vchurch.



OSMER B. WHEELER.

Senator Wheeler is the son of Jesse Wlieeler, a
professional lawyer and successful agriculturist, in
Connecticut, and was born in 1810, in the town of
Weston, Fairfield county, in that state. At the age
of fourteen he was apprenticed to the tanning and
•currying trade, in the city of Bridgeport, a few miles
from his native place, and served an apprenticeship
until he was twenty years of age. Shortly after, he
immigrated to Greene county, N. Y., where he became
foreman of the extensive establishment of Col. Zadock
Pratt, with whom he remained in this capacity about
eight years, at the end of which time, he removed to



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 113

Sullivan county, where he engaged in the tanning
business, on his own responsibility. He is now a very
large land holder, and is proprietor of the most ex-
tensive oak tannery in the United States. His esta-
blishment is known as the " Oakland Tannery," and
is surrounded by a village, with a population of abo.ut
three hundred, which he has built within a few years,
and which is known by the name of Oakland. He has
taken great pains in laying out the village, and has
succeeded in making it one of the most pleasant little
places in the state.

Senator Wheeler has received a thorough business
education, and is emphatically a self-made man . When
he removed to Greene county from his native state, his
entire capital consisted in two dollars and a half, in
cash; but he is now comfortably situated in life, hav-
ing, by his industry, perseverance and frugality, ac-
quired an independent fortune. His reputation as an
active, correct business man, is unequaled in Sullivan
county, and to this trait in his character may, no
doubt, be safely attributed the largest share of his
success in life. Indeed, wherever he is known, he is
regarded as a useful, practical, energetic and common
sense man, and his whole life affords an additional
illustration of the truth, that it is impossible "to get
something for nothing,^' and that the Divine declara-
tion, •' thou shalt eat thy bread by the sweat of thy
brow," has lost none of its original force.

Senator Wheeler made his first entrance into public
life, in 1852, when he was elected Supervisor of the
town in which he now resides. He was subsequently



114 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.

elected three times to the same position, and held
several other responsible public trusts, until the fall
of 1857, when the Americans of the Ninth district,
nominated him for the seat he now fills in the Senate.
His nomination was afterwards endorsed by the Re-
publicans, who were favorable to him on personal
grounds, and who had nearly despaired of succeeding
with a candidate of their own peculiar faith, and he
was elected by a majority of upwards of sixteen hun-
dred, notwithstanding the fact, that many dissatisfied
Republicans either voted for the Democratic candidate,
or did not attend the polls at all. He, however, went
into the contest as a genuine, national American, and
may consequently be said to have triumphed almost
entirely, through the influence and strength of his own
party. He was rocked in a Henry Clay Whig cradle;
was reared as a Whig, and w^as always an active and
devoted advocate of the principles of that party, while
it had an organization. But when the American
party suddenly sprung into existence, upon the exi-
gencies of the times, he immediately took a decided
stand in behalf of its principles ; and was among the
first to take part in its organization, in Sullivan
county. He has never been an aspirant for political
distinction, although, by no means, an indifferent ob-
server of whatever pertains to the welfare and interest
of the country, and has not unfrequently refused pro-
minent public positions, at the hands of the people.

At the age of twenty-three, 'Senator Wheeler was
married to Miss Rebecca Jones, a daughter of John D.
Jones, an eminent physician, then residing at Wind-



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 115

ham, Greene county, N. Y., by whom he has six child*
ren — three sons and three daughters. He is a warm
hearted and affectionate man; a faithful friend and a
generous enemj^; and possesses, in an eminent degree,
the elements of personal popularity. He is not im-
pulsive; and when once settled in his opinions and
convictions, is decidely frank and fearless in their ex-
pression. He is easily approached, and combines
courtesy and affability with dignity arid firmness. His
frank and open countenance is peculiarly inviting, and
he is rarely addressed by a stranger without adding
one more to his already extensive circle of personal and
political friends. In person, he is of medium height;
has full, dark eyes, and dark hair; a smooth, frank
face; and exhibits unmistakable signs of permanent,
good health. He very seldom addresses the Senate,
but when he does, he advances immediately to the
real point in controversy, which he n"ever fails to dis-
cuss with clearness and sound logic.



WILLIAM A. WHEELER.

Senator Wheeler is emphatically a self-taught, self-
made man, having arisen from an humble condition
in life, to his present distinguished position before the
people of the Empire State. He is a native of Ma-
lone, Franklin county, N. Y., where he has always
resided, and is just verging upon the meridian of
manhood, being only, thirty-seven years of age. His
paternal ancestors were Welch, and maternal, English,



116 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES.

His father died when he was quite youngjeaving him
to take care of himself, which he did, for a brief pe-
riod, when the Hon. Asa Hascall, a prominent law-
yer in Malone, discovering something more than ordi-
narily promising in the boy, took him under his
special guardianship. He immediately went into the
office of Mr. Hascall, where he became a diligent
and faithful student, making himself, at the same
time, as serviceable as possible to his guardian and
preceptor, until he was about twenty years of age,
when he took charge of the entire office and its busi-
ness himself, Mr. Hascall having been rendered in
capable to attend to business, by an apoplectic stroke,
which prostrated him about that time. He then fbl-
fowed his profession as a lawyer about eight years,
when he was tendered and accepted a position in the
Bank of Malone, as Cashier, which he has always
since held. Shortly after, he was also appointed
Clerk of the Board of Directors, of the Northern rail
road, running from Ogdensburgh through the city of
Malone, to Rouse's Point; a road with which he has
always since b-een connected, and of which he became
President, in February last. He has always been a
practical, thoroughgoing business man; never an active
politician.

Senator Wheeler never occupied any political posi-
tion until 1849, when the Whigs of Franklin county
nominated and elected him to the Assembly. He was
again the successful Whig candidate as a member of
that body, in the fall of 1850, and during both sessions,
established his reputation as an accurate and industri-



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. . 117

ous representative. Having completed his second
legislative term, as a member of the House, he de-
clined all further political distinction, until the fall of
1857, when at the urgent solicitation of many personal
and political friends, he became the Republican candi-
date for Senator, in the Seventeenth district, and was
victorious, as the incumbent of the position he now
occupies in that body. He was formerly closely at-
tached to the Whig party, but never participated in
politics, his business engrossing his entire time and
attention, until the Republican movement was organ-
ized, since which, he has become somewhat active,
though, even yet, an attentive and industrious busi-
ness man.

About ten years ago, Senator Wheeler was married
to a daughter of Judge King, of Franklin county. He
has no children. He is a man about five feet ten
inches in height; is somewhat singularly proportioned;
has light hair and light, blue eyes; a wide expressive


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Online LibraryWilliam D MurphyBiographical sketches of the state officers and members of the Legislature of the state of New York, in 1858 → online text (page 7 of 15)