Bissell, Amos A - Erie County

AMOS A. BISSELL, son of Noah Bissell, was a noted resident of Western New York. Throughout his career Amos A. Bissell was identified with transportation business on the Erie Canal, and became a very large canal forwarder, owning as many as 100 boats at a time. In 1865 he removed to Lockport, N. Y., but from that year till the close of his life Buffalo was his place of business, and he became one of the leading members of the local Board of Trade.

In 1874-75 Mr. Bissell represented the First District of Niagara County as Member of Assembly.

In 1852 Mr. Bissell married Amelia S. Wilsey of New London, N. Y. The ancestors of Mrs. Bissell came from Holland and were among the settlers of the Mohawk Valley. Her father was Blenis Wilsey, who died in September, 1906, at the age of 100 years. His father, James Wilsey, a farmer in Herkimer County, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War under Gen. Herkimer. The surviving children of Amos A. Bissell and Amelia S. Wilsey are: Angus C. Bissell of New York City; Herbert P. Bissell of Buffalo, and Dr. William G. Bissell, also of this city.

Herbert P. Bissell was born at New London, Oneida County, N. Y., on the 30th of August, 1856. When eight years old he removed with his parents to Lockport, N. Y., and there he attended the public schools during the next four years. At the age of twelve he became a student at DeVeaux College, Niagara Falls, and in 1873 was graduated. Shortly afterward he went to Germany, where he studied two years at the Gymnasium Catharinareum, a public school at Braunschweig, where he acquired a thorough knowledge of the German language. On returning to the United States, Mr. Bissell entered Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1880, with the degree of A.B. The same year Mr. Bissell came to Buffalo and began reading law with the firm of Laning, McMillan & Gluck. In 1883 he was admitted to the bar. For several months thereafter he continued with the firm in the capacity of managing clerk.

On the 1st of January, 1885, he began practice by himself, and continued till 1886, when he became identified with the firm of Brundage, Weaver & Bissell. Six months afterward was formed the copartnership of Bissell, Sicard, Brundage & Bissell, a firm of which the late Wilson S. Bissell, a former Postmaster General, was the head and Herbert P. Bissell the junior partner. This association, which some time later became Bissell, Sicard, Bissell & Carey, was a firm of no less historic importance in the annals of the Buffalo bar, its origin being traceable as far back as 1834. Among those at an early period connected with the firm was Nathan K. Hall, Postmaster-General under President Fillmore, and Grover Cleveland was the senior partner when he was elected Governor in 1883.

In 1896 the firm of Bissell, Sicard, Bissell & Carey was dissolved, and in March, 1897, Mr. Bissell formed a copartnership with J. Henry Metcalf, under the style of Bissell & Metcalf. Later he established, with George 0. Riley, the present law firm of Bissell & Riley.

Mr. Bissell is counsel for a number of leading corporations, including the Niagara Gorge Railroad Company, of which he is Vice-President; the Buffalo Traction Company; the Buffalo & Depew Railway, and the New York Power Securities Company, of which he is President and General Counsel. A representative Democrat, Mr. Bissell first came into political prominence at the time when Grover Cleveland was candidate for Governor. He was one of the principal organizers of the Cleveland Democracy of Buffalo, serving for three terms as its President, and since 1884 has been a recognized leader in his party.

In 1885, Mr. Bissell was nominated for State Senator for the Erie County District, and though he failed of election he ran ahead of his ticket by .1,500 votes. A distinctive feature of the campaign was a series of speeches delivered by Mr. Bissell to the German residents of the East Side. These addresses were not only brilliant from the oratorical viewpoint, but were remarkable from the perfect command Mr. Bissell displayed of the German language. In 1892 Mr. Bissell received the Democratic nomination for District Attorney. It was a Republican year in Erie County, but such was Mr. Bissell's popularity that an official count was necessary to ascertain the result. He was declared successful, but owing to some irregularities and errors in the returns, he withdrew his claims. In the fall of 1901 Mr. Bissell was made the nominee of the Democratic party for the office of Mayor of Buffalo. But at that election the whole Republican ticket was elected.

When the Pan-American Exposition Company was formed, Mr. Bissell was chosen a Director of that body and Chairman and counsel of the Exposition Law Committee. In these capacities he did all the legal work connected with the Pan-American enterprise without compensation. In 1904 Mr. Bissell removed his home to East Aurora. The following year he was elected a member and President of the Board of Education. In the fall of 1906 lie was reelected. Since 1887 Mr. Bissell has been a trustee of De Veaux College, and he has also served as trustee of the Gary Collegiate Seminary at Oakfield, N. Y. He is an active member of the Niagara Frontier Landmarks Association, has filled the position of Curator and Chairman of the Board of Real Estate of the Buffalo Public Library, and belongs to the Ellicott and University clubs of this city, and the University Club of New York. He is a vestryman of St. Mathias Episcopal Church of East Aurora.

On the 30th of October, 1883, Mr. Bissell married Miss Lucy Agnes Coffey of Brooklyn. They have three children, Mary R., born October 1, 1884; Harriet A., born September 3, 1888, and Lucy A., born July 19, 1894.

The arduous professional pursuits and the varied public activities of Mr. Bissell have not prevented him from gratifying his ardent love of culture for its own sake. No man takes a keener delight in literature, and his appreciation of its masterpieces is the greater because founded on a thorough classical training and guided by an intellect disciplined by the severe researches of a learned profession. Occasionally Mr. Bissell has delivered addresses on literary topics, and the only criticism to be made relative to his discourses on these fascinating themes is that they are not more numerous. A notable example of Mr. Bissell's critical discernment and charm as a lecturer was an appreciation of the poet Schiller, delivered in Buffalo two or three years ago before a German audience and illustrated by readings from Schiller's works. This address, given in German of classic purity of diction and admirable both for depth of thought and wealth of expression, will linger long in the memory of those who were privileged to hear it.

SOURCE: Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York; Volume I