The History of New York State
Biographies, Part 44

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



The city of Granville has developed rapidly during the last decade, and its success is largely due to a small group of local business men, many of whom are "self-made," and all of whom are constantly giving of their time and best efforts to promote the civic welfare and betterment of this community. Among this body of representative citizens is Will E. Roberts, of the Granville Furniture Company, and since 1924 postmaster of Granville.

William W. Roberts, father of Will E. Roberts, was born at Festeniog, North Wales, in 1836. Early in his youth he learned slate-making and at the age of twenty years came to this country and located at Middle Granville. Here he became a contractor in slate, and continued thus until his death in December, 1901. He married Anne Pritchard, a native of Llan Beris, North Wales, who died in 1871. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts were the parents of two children: Elizabeth, widow of Fred O. Jones, of Utica, New York; and Will E., of whom further.

Will E. Roberts was born in Middle Granville, September 16, 1867. His early education was obtained in the public schools of his native place, after which he entered Albany Business College and graduated from this institution in 1888. His first employment was in the general store of Norton Brothers, after which he helped to established and manage the general store of George D. Getty, in which was located the post office. Here he continued for two years, until the store was burned. He then became employed by Whittemore & Potter, a retail store at Granville, and here he remained for two years, going then with O. A. Adams, who conducted a general store. Three yeas later he helped to establish and to manage the business of Frank Scott, who ran a boot, shoe and grocery store, and after another three years he was with George H. McDonald, who conducted the same king of a store. When Mr. McDonald sold out to the Granville Mercantile Company, Mr. Roberts continued in the former business for one year, and, on august 20, 1902, he bought out the interests of O. S. Simonds and Owen Jones and subsequently became a partner of David J. McHenry in the Granville Furniture Company. The following year Mr. Roberts graduated from the Eckels School of Embalming at Philadelphia and both partners have met with unbounded success in their venture, which includes furniture and undertaking. Mr. Roberts is also president and a director of the On-Da-Wa-Slate Company of Granville.

Early in his career he became interested in politics and soon became an active member in the affairs of the Republican Party. He served the town for eighteen years as town clerk; was justice of the peace from 1903 until 1923; and in 1924 was appointed b y President Calvin Coolidge postmaster of Granville, an office he now holds. He is a Mason, member of Granville Lodge No. 55, of which he was secretary for nineteen years; a member of Granville Chapter No. 386; Calvary Commandery No. 69, Hudson Falls; Cairo Temple, of Rutland, Vermont; of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Mattowee Lodge, No. 559, of which he served as treasurer for sixteen years; Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Glen Falls Lodge, No. 81; and also hold membership in the Masonic Club of Granville. His religious affiliation is with the Welsh Presbyterian Church of Granville, in which he is trustee.

On June 6, 1894, at Fort Ann, New York, Will E. Roberts married Harriett E. Swift, a daughter of Willis and Ellen M. (Lewis) Swift, residents of Fort Ann. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts' residence is in Granville, and Mr. Roberts finds his recreation in out-of-doors sports, being particularly fond of baseball and of trotting horses.


Librarian of the Jamestown Free Library, of Jamestown, Chautauqua County, Lucia Tiffany Henderson belongs to a family long prominent in the progress of this county. She is a grand-daughter of Sylvanus Lyon Henderson, and, through his wife, a great-grand-daughter of Nathaniel Johnson, who was a soldier of the American Revolution.

Nathaniel Johnson settled at Sinclairville, Chautauqua County, in 1816, and died while on a visit to Jamestown, at the home of his son, Forbes Johnson, October 31, 1828, at the age of sixty-five. He married Mary Nye, who died December 11, 1838; and of this union was born a daughter, Hannah, grandmother of Lucia Tiffany Henderson.

Sylvanus Lyon Henderson married, October 8, 1816, Hannah Johnson, who survived him many years, her death having occurred at Sinclairville, march 3, 1891, at the age of ninety-one. Her husband has died April 6, 1870, aged seventy-seven. Settling at Sinclairville, he was active in its affairs for more

Page 243

than half a century. A devoted Mason, he was Master of Sylvan Lodge, Sinclairville, and it was he who preserved the valued records of the lodge when the Free and Accepted masons were weathering the intense anti-Masonic feeling of the era following the death of Morgan in the "eighteen-twenties."

William Wallace Henderson, son of Sylvanus Lyon and Hannah (Johnson) Henderson, was born in Sinclairville, September 11, 1828, and died at buffalo, New York, November 17, 1910. In 1876, when he was forty-eight years old, he brought his family to Jamestown; and from that year to the present the house has been important in the cultural development of this community. From boyhood his scholarly tastes led him to read widely and with discernment; he accumulated an unusually good library, and opened it to his friends. He became an acknowledged authority on history and archaeology, literature and natural science. As a young man he studied medicine, then adopted the profession of pharmacy, which he continued nearly fifty years. He was founder of the Chautauqua County Society of History and Natural Science, having been secretary from the organization of that body till within a few years of his death. He had also contributed valuable papers to its archives. He was a charter member of the New York State Pharmaceutical Association, was president of the Chautauqua County Pharmaceutical Association, as he was also of the Pharmaceutical Association of Jamestown. In 1886 the Department of Pharmacy was organized at the University of Buffalo; and thence onward until his death he was a curator of the department. Like his father before him, he became Master of sylvan lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, supported the anti-slavery movement, was appointed postmaster by Abraham Lincoln, was named Federal collector of internal revenues for the fifty-first district of new York by General Ulysses S. Grant, and after the consolidation of this district with the twenty-seventh was re-appointed collector, with offices at Elmira. For a number of years he was chairman of the Jamestown Board of Education. William Wallace Henderson married, in 1867, Martha Yevonette Tiffany, of Jamestown, daughter of Silas Durkee and Lucy (Hyde) Tiffany. Mrs. Henderson's death, at Jamestown, February 20, 1903, preceded that of her husband. Two daughters survived: 1. Lucia tiffany, of whom a sketch follows. 2. Nina Stoneman, who became the wife of William H. Henchey, of Detroit, Michigan. On the maternal side there is also American Revolutionary ancestry.

Lucia Tiffany Henderson was born in Sinclairville, Chautauqua County, and was a child when her parents came to Jamestown, in 1876. She attended the Glidden Private School, Jamestown High School, and Bartholomew English and Classical School, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Later she studied under private tutors, and for a time was employed in the book department of her father's store. She completed her course in library training at Drexel Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in the fall after graduation, took a position in the Buffalo Public Library as cataloguer. For nearly nine years Miss Henderson continued with the Buffalo Library, advancing to the grade of assistant reference librarian, and in 1906, returning to Jamestown, assumed the office of librarian of the James Pendergast Free Library, which position has been hers continuously since. Miss Henderson has ever been earnestly active in her professional work, and has done much to make the library the efficient institution that it is. She is alert to secure improvements for the library, and always has been interested in social club and church relationships, responding liberally with assistance to all calls made upon her for cooperation and counsel. She is a communicant of the Unitarian Church, is historian of Jamestown Chapter, Daughter of the American Revolution; formerly was president and continues as active member of the Fortnightly; officer of the New Century Art club, and has served as secretary of the Mozart Club, of which her mother was a founder and for many years vice-president. Miss Henderson has held office as vice-president and secretary of the New York Library Association, and is a member of the American Library Association.


In the service of the Federal Government, Clayton J. Bannister, postmaster at Westfield, has demonstrated tot he satisfaction of the Post Office Department and the patrons of the Westfield office, a standard of efficiency and a personnel integrity which should assure his retention in that position.

Mr. Bannister is one of the best-known Republicans in Chautauqua County, having pre-

Page 244

sided over the deliberations and activities of the County committee with a political acumen which gave point and power to his leadership. As a member of the Republican State Committee for a number of years, Mr. Bannister has been closely identified with State politics; always a delegate to State nominating conventions in which he took a prominent part, he is closely associated with the leaders of his party throughout the State and enjoys their confidence and esteem. A former merchant of Westfield, he also at one time was extensively engaged in the building, installation and maintenance of the lines ina local telephone system, which included the Fredonia, Ripley, Portland, Mayville and Westfield telephone companies.

Mr. Bannister is descended from old families, honored and respected in Chautauqua County. His paternal grandfather, Alvin Bannister, came originally from Barnard, Vermont, when a young man, and settled at Cherry Creek, where he spent the rest of his life in farming pursuits. He married Harriet Newton, whose family was well and favorably known in Chautauqua County. they had children: 1. Henry, of whom further. 2. Gideon. 3. Lydia. 4. Elizabeth.

Henry Bannister, son of Alvin and Harriet (Newton) Bannister, was born in Vermont and was brought when an infant from his native town to Cherry Creek. There he lived the greater part of his life, conducting a general merchandising business, removing in his latter years to Westfield.

He was prominent in the affairs of the communities in which he lived and merited the esteem of the people with whom he did business or had social relations.

He married Lucretia Safford, daughter of John Leffingwell and Jane (Buck) Safford, and they had children: 1. Clayton J., of whom further. 2. Claude G., who was a corporal in the United States (regular) Army and was killed inaction neat Havana, Cuba, in the Spanish-American War. 3. Harriet J., who resides in Westfield.

Clayton J. Bannister, eldest child of Henry and Lucretia (Safford) Bannister, was educated in the public schools of his native district and at Chamberlain Institute at Randolph. From school he entered at once on a business career, becoming a partner of his father in the general store at Cherry Creek. This association lasted until 1889, when the store burned, and he came to Westfield to engage in the grocery business, which line he followed for six years. He next entered the telephone business, making a specialty of the organization of local telephone companies and of building their lines.

From business pursuits, Mr. Bannister turned his attention to public service and politics, for which he has a natural ability. Having been called to Albany, he joined the staff of the State comptroller at the State capitol and was in that service for a number of years. Subsequently he accepted appointment as index clerk in the New York Senate, holding that position for five years. During this stay at Albany, he made and increased a valued acquaintance among political leaders and officeholders of the State. His knowledge of practical politics was also considerably augmented and improved.

Having returned to his home jurisdiction, Mr. Bannister began to pout into effect the results of his training in the political arena. Possessing managerial ability out of the ordinary, his colleagues were quick to perceive that he was the member of the Chautauqua County Republican Committee to fill the position of mapping out and directing the campaigns which should come on in this jurisdiction. He was, accordingly, elected committee chairman, and for seven years he was the moving spirit of Republican county organization. Much of the success of the political ambitions of the party's candidates in Chautauqua County during the period of his regime was due to his political perspicacity and sagacity and the fine spirit of cooperation on the part of his fellow members which he was enabled to enlist.

The high spot in Mr. Bannister's career of public service, from a local viewpoint, at least, was reached wit his appointment in 1924 as postmaster of Westfield, he having already served, under a temporary appointment, as acting postmaster from November 1, 1923. His administration received approval from the Government, when he was re-appointed in March, 1928. He still retains a keen interest in Republican polities, local, State, and National, but not in an official capacity.

During the World War period he was actively identified with all movements looking to a successful conclusion of the war. His religious connection is with the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Clayton J. Bannister married, September 21, 1892, Frances Jewett, of Westfield, whose death occurred March 12, 1927.

Page 245


The work of James O. Sebring, of corning, Steuben county, New York, both as one of the most able lawyers in the Southern tier, and as a politician in his interests for the working man, prohibition and other law enforcement, is doubly interesting when compared with his early life, its trials and hardships, the all-consuming desire for education, the monetary obstacles that hampered him, and the eventual arrival at his objective after years of intensive application. His early life is a story of will pitted against adverse circumstances, and his subsequent successful career and present status in the professional world are ample proof that the old saying of "Where there's a will there's a way" is more of a truism than an abstract adage.

The birth of James O. Sebring, son of Charles W. and Catherine Augusta (Miller) Sebring, occurred November 4, 1860, in the town of Pulteney, Steuben County, New York. The house, consisting of three unfinished rooms, the exterior of which was rough and unpainted, was on a small, heavily mortgaged farm of fifty acres, from which his parents had a mighty struggle to eke out an existence for their family. The lad received but little schooling; the three summer and three winter terms of but two months each in a district school were supplemented by two terms at Franklin Academy and Union Free School at Prattsburg. To attend the high school he worked out at a dollar a day, earning money in this manner to pay for his tuition, room rent and raw food. He rented a room in the attic of a tenement house owned by the late Hon. William B. Pratt, father of Hon. Henry V. Pratt, of Wayland, new York, paying therefore two dollars a week. He drew wood from his home five miles away, and with a small cookstove, potatoes, flour and accessories from home, did his own cooking. In this manner he fitted himself for a teacher, and on October 12, 1880, received his third grade certificate, which allowed him to teach ina district school for six months. He taught his first term ina district school, having forty pupils, and received sixty-two and one-half cents a day for his labors; he boarded around, staying a night at a time in the homes of the pupils who attended the school. He also taught in the Presbyterian Sunday School at Prattsburg. Having in the meantime received his first grade certificate, which enabled him to teach anywhere in New York State, he was engaged to teach the grammar department of Franklin Academy, and Union Free School at Prattsburg. This department, which had been experiencing great difficulty, in discipline, comprised forty-five pupils, ranging in age from twelve to thirty-four years, many of whom were very hard to mange; a former teacher had been unceremoniously ejected from a window. With a salary of but nine dollars a week, Mr. Sebring took on the job of subduing and teaching them, and during his stay there, it was but a short time before they realized who was boss and governed themselves accordingly. He worked on his father's farm most of the time until he was twenty-four years old, giving his work to his father. From teaching he saved four hundred dollars with the idea in mind of securing further education, but finally he gave this money to his father to prevent, for a time, a foreclosure of the mortgage on the latter's farm. Having determined to take up the profession of law for his life-work, he read books dealing on this subject while teaching and working on the farm, and later read law in an office in Prattsburg. He purchased his first suit of store clothing in Penn Yan for ten dollars, with the money be secured by raising a crop of cabbage on a small piece of land which his father had permitted him to use for the purpose. One day, after he had begun to read law, while he was walking along the street in Prattsburg, he heard Dr. William W. Green of that village sarcastically say; "What is that boy around here for?" and when told that eh lad was reading law, remarked: "Well, he might better stay upon the farm and raise buckwheat, he'll never make a lawyer." Bur Sebring, the young man, was a fighter then as he is now, and this incident aroused him and did more to make a leading lawyer of him than anything else. In June, 1885, with fifty other applicants, most of whom were college graduates, he took the bar examination, and although it was very difficult and many of the students failed, he had the distinction of attaining the highest marks of them all. Mr. Sebring began the practice of his profession in the village of Hammondsport with no money, friends nor influence. His office, which was over the Hammondsport Bank, in a room twelve by fifteen feet in size, was furnished with a small, round table brought from home, two chairs, a small kerosene lamp, of which he was very fond as it held enough oil to burn all night, and an armful of second-hand law books. Back of his office was a small room which he had fitted up as a bedroom, and here he boarded himself, but it is hardly necessary to say that he often went without the necessary food. Calling upon the late Robert

Page 246

Beck, a furniture dealer of Hammondsport, he picked out a cheap bedstead and stand, which came to fifteen dollars. Explaining to him that he had no money, and must have credit. Mr. Beck told him he would hold the furniture for him until he could pay for it. the young man did not wait long for clients, and the following ten years while he remained in the village he built up for himself a lucrative practice, the largest that had ever existed in that community. Removing to Corning in 1895, he later formed a partnership with the late Judge Warren J. Cheney, which lasted for fifteen years, and subsequently associated himself with George A. King; bur he has since and for many years practiced largely alone. Upon the court calendars of Steuben County he and his firms have more than half the cases, and he tries more law suits than any other lawyer in this section. In fact, he is believed to have the more actual experience as a trial lawyer then any other lawyer in New York State. It has always been a rule of his office never to refuse to work for a poor client who is unable to pay him, and in this manner he yearly gives away thousands of dollars in legal work. He enjoys the esteem of the people for his professional abilities and his qualities of good citizenship; the elements that go to make up a successful practitioner before the courts and a wise counselor of his clients constituting the native and acquired equipment with which he is so generously endowed. Judge Pratt of Wayland, a school-mate of Mr. Judge Pratt of Wayland, a school-mate of Mr. Sebring at Prattsburg, once said: "We who know how Jim Sebring started and have seen him climb appreciate his great ability." While he has made an army of fast friends, no man with his aggressiveness and unflinching honesty and courage could hope to go through life without making enemies. Governor and Untied States Senator David B. Hill once said; "Show me a man who has made no enemies and I will show you a man who never did anything." Three times urged on by his many friends, he has entered the race for the mayorship of Corning, first time as a Democrat, second as a Independent, and the third time as a s Republican; but, owing to the many uncertainties which go to make up politics, he has been defeated. In two campaigns, however, he was defeated by less than forty votes. He has made a gallant fight for tax reduction, prohibition enforcement, and for the saving of the town's landmark, the Erastus Corning Memorial Clock Tower, which the city government voted, in May, 1922, to destroy. This tower was saved through the efforts of Mr. Sebring, who, after a long legal battle, secured a permanent injunction against its removal. In all his campaigns, Mr. Sebring has been a strong advocate for the rule of the people, and his chief delight is found in helping those less fortunate than himself. He has been a delegate to many State Conventions, and is ever unfailing when called upon to further the welfare and advancement of his home community. He is affiliated with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Loyal Order of Moose, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, but has never allied himself with any clubs, his chief interest in life and his sole recreation being found in his professional and business activities.

On August 29, 1889, James O. Sebring married Mary A. Bushnell, of Bath, New York. During her residence in Corning, Mrs. Sebring has done much ina philanthropic way, being interested in promoting every worthwhile movement for the city's good. She was the founder of the local branch of the Daughters of the American Revolution; is an active member of the Corning City Women's Club; and a member of the Clionian Circle. Mr. and Mrs. Sebring have no children. Their home is one of the finest in this section.

Such, in brief, is the life of one who lived up to his own definition of a man; whose actions and life leave no question as to his honor, equity and liberality; who is free from greed; and who has the courage of his own convictions. Such a record is indeed worthy of emulation.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie Axtman

You are the Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since September 5, 2004.


[Index][Book Index][NY][AHGP]