History of Ontario Co. & Its People

Vol. 1, Pub. 1911  Pg.  135 - 141

Thanks to Deborah Spencer for transcription of these pages.


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Ontario County a Center of Political Interest -- Organization of the “Wideawakes” -- One of the Candidates for the Presidency Formerly a Resident of Ontario County and a Student in the Canandaigua Academy  --  Speaks at a Big Meeting near Clifton Springs  --  Loyal in the Hour of Defeat. 

The campaign of 1860 marked the culmination of the political movement whose rise we have been following.  In the election of LINCOLN and HAMLIN as against candidates representing every shade of dissenting political opinion, the people saw their will in a way to be obeyed and the aggressions of the slave power at last finally checked. 

In the intervening years the Republicans of New York had retained the control which they had won in 1856.  Governor John A. KING had been succeeded in 1858 by Governor Edwin D. MORGAN, for whom Ontario county gave a majority of 1,640.  Truman BOARDMAN, of Seneca county, had been elected State Senator from the 26th district, consisting of Ontario, Yates and Seneca counties, over W. W. WRIGHT (Democrat) and William H. LAMPORT (American), and Emory B. POTTLE had been elected to Congress from a district having the same numerical number and the same constituent counties.  Members of Assembly from Ontario county had been elected as follows:  1857, Volney EDGERTON (Rep.), of Manchester, and Ira R. PECK (Rep.), of East Bloomfield; 1858, Ulysses WARNER (Dem.), of Phelps, and Shotwell POWELL (Rep.), of South Bristol; 1859, Lewis PECK (Rep.), of Phelps, and Shotwell Powell (Rep.), of South Bristol.  In county offices, Elnathan W. SIMMONS had succeeded John J. LYON as county clerk; Orson BENJAMIN had succeeded John N. WHITING as surrogate; William HILDRETH had succeeded Henry C. SWIFT as sheriff; Edwin HICKS, by appointment, and subsequently William H. SMITH, by election, had followed Thomas O. PERKINS as district attorney; Spencer GOODING had succeeded Jacob J. MATTISON as county treasurer, and Simeon R. WHEELER in 1857, Jonathan PRATT in 1858, and Daniel ARNOLD in 1859, had been elected superintendents of the poor.

The Republicans in the 1857 and 1858 campaigns met two opposing tickets, one nominated by the Democratic and one by the American party.  In 1859 the opposing forces fused and put union tickets in the field for State, district, and county offices, but even then could not defeat the Republican ticket or check the growth of that party. 

So the opening of the year 1860 found the Republicans in possession of every county office and represented at Albany and at Washington by men of their own political faith.  Confident of success at the approaching National election and hopeful that the brilliant leader of their own State, William H. SEWARD, would be the nominee for the Presidency, they entered upon that campaign with the greatest enthusiasm. 

They fired the first gun in April, when they carried 12 of the 15 towns of the county by largely increased majorities.  The supervisors elected were as follows:  Canandaigua, Charles COY; Canadice, Walling ARMSTRONG; Bristol, Stephen A. CODDING; East Bloomfield, Edward BRUNSON; Farmington, George S. ALLEN; Gorham, James M. PULVER; Hopewell, Robert CHAPIN; Manchester, Andrew J. HANNA; Naples, Lester SPRAGUE; Richmond, Willard DOOLITTLE; South Bristol, Charles SHELDON; Seneca, Perez H. FIELD; Phelps, Ambrose L. VAN DUSEN; Victor, Lanson DEWEY; West Bloomfield, Elisha F. LEECH.  The minority members were Messrs. PULVER, CHAPIN and SHELDON. 

Charles J. FOLGER and Charles P. JOHNSON, of the First district, and Nathan J. MILLIKEN and Stephen A. CODDING, of the Second district, represented the county at the State convention, held in Syracuse, and there assisted in electing a delegation to the National convention pledged to the support of Mr. SEWARD’s candidacy.  Mr. SEWARD led on the first and second ballots, at the convention held in Chicago, May 16, 17, 18, but on the third ballot his Illinois opponent, Abraham LINCOLN, who had sprung into prominence two years before through his debate with Stephen A. DOUGLAS, received a large majority of the votes and was declared the nominee of the convention.  Hannibal HAMLIN, of Maine, was named for the Vice Presidency. 

The news of the nomination of LINCOLN and HAMLIN was received in Ontario county and elsewhere through the State with feeling of great disappointment, but the nominees were recognized as worthy exponents of the Republican cause and their nomination was ratified in a loyal spirit. 

The campaign was opened in Ontario county by a big ratification meeting held in Bemis hall, Canandaigua, at which General B. F. BRUCE and Hon. Elbridge G. LAPHAM made the speeches, and resolutions were adopted endorsing the platform and the candidates of the Chicago convention.  Republican clubs were organized throughout the county, pole raisings took place in many places, and a new force in campaign work appeared in the shape of uniformed clubs under a name destined to become historic-- “Wideawakes.”  Charles COY acted as chairman and George N. WILLIAMS as secretary of a meeting at which the first organization of this kind was formed in Canandaigua, and Lyman O. LAMPMAN was elected as captain.  The Wideawakes made their first appearance in the county at a meeting held in Canandaigua on August 10, at which Henry W. TAYLOR and James C. SMITH were the speakers.  The new organization numbered 100 men, were uniformed in black oil cloth capes and caps, and carried torches. 

At the Republican State convention held in Syracuse, at which Governor Edwin D. MORGAN and Lieutenant Governor Robert CAMPBELL were nominated for reelection, James C. SMITH, Esq., of Canandaigua, acted as temporary chairman and made an opening speech that was widely quoted.

At the Republican county nominating convention, held in Canandaigua on Thursday, September 27, Hon. Charles J. FOLGER, of Geneva, acted as chairman and W. S. CLARK, of Victor, and Harvey STONE, of Gorham, as secretaries.  The ticket nominated was as follows:  For county judge, George B. DUSENBERRE, of Geneva; for district attorney, William H. SMITH, of Canandaigua; for county superintendents of the poor, Simeon R. WHEELER, of East Bloomfield, and Daniel ARNOLD, of Farmington; for justice of sessions, William SEAVEY, of Victor; for coroners, Anson WHEELER, of Geneva, and Daniel P. WEBSTER, of East Bloomfield; for member of Assembly in the First or Eastern district, Perez H. FIELD, of Seneca, and for member of Assembly in the Second or Western district, Stephen H. AINSWORTH, of West Bloomfield; for school commissioners, Luther B. ANTISDALE, of Phelps, and David E. WILSON, of Bristol.  The Republican nominee for Congress in the 26th district was Hon. Jacob P. CHAMBERLAIN, of Seneca Falls. 

While there were four Presidential tickets in the field, the contest for local offices was between the Republican ticket as above named and a Democratic ticket made up as follows:  For county judge, Jabez H. METCALF; for district attorney, Charles W. GULICK; for superintendents of the poor, George RICE and Edward HERENDEEN; for justice of sessions, Ezra PIERCE; for members of Assembly, Amos JONES and William G. LAPHAM; for school commissioners, John B. HOSFORD and Horatio B. BRACE.  John L. LEWIS was the Democratic candidate for Congress in this district, and John G. CLARK was the candidate of the Breckenridge faction for the same office. 

The campaign was an exciting one from beginning to end.  The Southern Democrats, enraged and alarmed by the growing anti-slavery feeling at the North, withdrew from the National convention of their party when they formed themselves unable to control its action.  Two Presidential tickets resulted, one representing the Northern Democracy and headed by Stephen A. DOUGLAS and Herschel V. JOHNSON; the other representing the Southern wing of the party and headed by John C. BRECKENRIDGE and Joseph LANE.  A 4th organization, styling itself the Constitutional Union party, and assuming to represent the old Whigs and Americans, nominated John BELL for President and Edward EVERETT for Vice President.  

The most noteworthy demonstration of the campaign in Ontario county was that held at Canandaigua, on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 23, when United States Senator DOOLITTLE, of Wisconsin, made the principal speech in Bemis hall, in which were crowded, it was reported, over 1,000 people.

James C. SMITH, Esq., presided, and Albert LESTER, Jedediah DEWEY and R. C. STILES were named as vice presidents.  COOKE’s glee club led in singing campaign songs.  So many people were unable to gain admittance to the hall that an overflow meeting was organized on the square in front of the court house, Hon. Henry W. TAYLOR acting as its chairman and Harvey STONE, Marshall McLOUTH and Andrew J. HANNA as vice presidents.  A handsome banner was then presented to the Wideawakes of Canandaigua by Judge TAYLOR, speaking in behalf of the ladies, and Elisha W. GARDNER, Jr., made the speech of acceptance.  Following this ceremony, Judge JESSUP, of Pennsylvania, was introduced and spoke until a rain storm compelled the adjournment of the meeting. 

In the evening the Wideawakes of the several towns paraded the streets under the direction of Marshall HILDRETH and his aids.  Among the displays made by the paraders was a log cabin on wheels, drawn by four horses, decorated with emblems of frontier life and the inscription “Uncle Abe at Home,” and escorted by companies of Wideawakes from Rushville and Gorham. 

The local speakers of the campaign included James C. SMITH, Elbridge G. LAPHAM, Edwin HICKS, Elisha W. GARDNER, Emory B. POTTLE, William H. SMITH, and William H. LAMPORT.  The latter had been affiliated with the American party and in 1856 its unsuccessful candidate for the State Senate. 

At the election held on the memorable 6th of November, 1860, the LINCOLN ticket carried every free State, with the exception of New Jersey, where there was a fusion of the opposition forces, and as a consequence it secured only four of the seven electoral votes, the other three going to the DOUGLAS ticket, which obtained beside these only the nine votes of Missouri.   

Mr. BRECKENRIDGE carried the Southern States with the exception of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, which went to Mr. BELL. 

Ontario county, doubling her majority for Fremont four years before, gave LINCOLN 2,100 plurality.  Mr. CHAMBERLAIN was elected member of Congress in the Ontario-Yates-Seneca district by 3,800 majority, and the entire Republican ticket for county offices was elected.  In the National contest, party lines had been forgotten and the people of the county had rallied magnificently to the support of the cause of union and freedom. 

The news of the election of Lincoln was received in Ontario county with rejoicing, but the demonstrations were of a comparatively moderate character, owing to the feeling of apprehension as to the future.  During the campaign the expressions of Southern newspapers and orators had plainly indicated that in the event of the election of the Republican ticket the Southern States would attempt to secede from the Union, and if this threat was carried out the people realized it would mean nothing less than war.  As a consequence the election was followed by an expectant hush, which was first disturbed by the withdrawal of Southern members from Congress and by the action of Southern legislatures in assuming to withdraw their States from the Union, and which was finally broken by the attack upon Fort Sumter. 

Stephen A. DOUGLAS, though winning only 12 electoral votes, had received a splendid endorsement, his popular vote exceeding that given BRECKENRIDGE by 50%, and falling less than 500,000 below LINCOLN.  His vote in Ontario county was 3,634 as compared to LINCOLN’s 5,764.  That he did not receive a larger vote or carry the county shows how thoroughly public sentiment had been aroused over the question of slavery and how convincingly the arguments of LINCOLN had appealed to loyal citizens.  Mr. DOUGLAS was personally known to many of the people  of the county.  He had been a student at the Canandaigua academy from 1831 to 1833, spending his spare time in the law office of Walter HUBBELL, Esq., and absorbing there and in the court room where practiced such lawyers as John C. SPENCER, Jared WILSON, Dudley MARVIN, and Mark H. SIBLEY, much of the knowledge of the law and of public affairs that later made him an eminent lawyer and a great politician.

His mother lived at Clifton Springs with her second husband, Gahasa GRANGER, and there, in the campaign of 1860, on September 15, he addressed one of the largest public meetings ever assembled in the county.  Newspapers of the time reported that there were at least 6,000 people present. 

But while the Ontario county voters had followed Mr. DOUGLAS’s career with much interest and admired his brilliancy of intellect and his great ability as a public speaker, they were not misled by his specious arguments in support of “Popular Sovereignty.”  That the “Little Giant,” as he was affectionately called, declined to follow the reactionary elements of his party in their efforts to embarrass the new administration, and generously gave his allegiance to his successful rival, Mr. LINCOLN, in furtherance of the latter’s determination to save the Union, confirmed their faith in his statesmanship and his patriotism.


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