History of Ontario County, NY

published 1893    Pages  154 - 179

kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer

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To properly understand and fully appreciate the history of the judiciary of any commonwealth, and the worth and attainments of the magistrates and practitioners at the bar, some knowledge of the origin and development of the machinery and spirit of this branch of the government is necessary. 

The sentiment is commonly expressed that the judicial system of the State of New York is largely copied from the common law of England. 

This is true in many respects, and resemblances may be traced therein, but a close study of the history of the laws and judicial practice of this State will reveal the fact that they largely are an original growth, and differ materially from the old systems of Europe.  This difference is strikingly manifested in the simple matter of entitling a criminal process.  In this State it is the people versus the criminal; in England it is rex versus the criminal.  In the one the requirement is an independent judiciary responsible to the people only; in the other it is a court subservient to a king. 

This great idea of the sovereignty of the people, even over our laws, has had a slow, conservative, yet progressive and systematic unfolding of the germ into organism.  In the early history of the State the governor was in effect the maker and interpreter, as well as enforcer of the laws.  He was the chief judge of the court of final resort, while his councillors were generally his obedient followers.  The execution of English and colonial statutes rested with him, as did also the exercise of royal authority in the province; and it was not until the adoption of the first constitution in 1777, that he ceased to contend for these prerogatives, and to act as though the only functions of the court and councillors were to do his bidding as servants, while the Legislature should adopt only such laws as the executive should suggest and approve.  By the first constitution the governor was entirely stripped of the judicial authority which he possessed under the colonial rule, and this power was vested in the lieutenant-governor and the Senate, the chancellor and justices of the Supreme Court; the former to be elected by the people, and the latter to be appointed by the council.  Under this constitution there was the first radical separation of the judicial and legislative powers, and the advancement of the judiciary to the position of a co-ordinate department of the government, and subject only to the limitation consequent upon the appointment of its members by the council.  This restriction, however, was soon felt to be incompatible with the independence of the judiciary, though it was not until the adoption of the constitution of 1846 that this connection between the purely political and judicial parts of State government was abolished, and with it disappeared the last remaining relic of the colonial period.  From that time the judiciary became more directly representative of the people.  The development of the idea of the responsibility of the courts to the people, from the time when all its members were at the beck of an irresponsible master, to the time when all judges (even of the court of last resort) are voted for directly by the people, has been indeed remarkable. 

Let us now look briefly at the present arrangement and powers of the courts of the State, and then at the elements from which they have grown.  The whole scheme is involved in the idea of first a trial before a magistrate and jury--arbiters, respectively, of law and fact--and then a review by a higher tribunal of the facts and law, and ultimately of the law by a court of last resort.  To accomplish the purpose of this scheme there has been devised and established, first, the present Court of Appeals, the ultimate tribunal of the State, perfected in its present form by the convention of 1867 and ' 68, and ratified by a vote of the people in 1869; and taking the place of the old court for the trial of impeachments and correction of errors.  The Court of Appeals as first organized under the constitution of 1846, was composed of eight judges, four of whom were elected by the people and the remainder chosen from the justices of the Supreme Court having the shortest time to serve.  As reorganized in 1869, and now existing, the court consists of a chief judge and six associate judges, who hold office for the term of 14 years. 

The court is continually in session at the capital in Albany, except as it takes a recess on its own motion.  It has full power to correct or reverse the decisions of all inferior courts when brought before it for review.  Five judges constitute a quorum, and four must concur to render judgment.  If four do not agree the case must be reargued; but no more than two rehearings can be had, and if then four judges do not concur, the judgment of the court below stands affirmed.  The Legislature has provided how and when proceedings and decisions of inferior tribunals may be reviewed, and may in its discretion alter or amend the same.  Upon the reorganization of the court in 1869 its work was far in arrears, and the law commonly known as the "judiciary act" provided for a commission of appeals to aid the Court of Appeals; and still more recently there has been organized a second division to assist in the disposition of the business of the general court caused by an overcrowded calendar. 

Second to the Court of Appeals in rank and jurisdiction stands the Supreme Court, which is made up of many and widely different elements.  It was originally created by an act of the colonial Legislature, May 6, 1691, and finally by order of the governor and council May 15, 1699, and was empowered to try all issues to the same extent as the English courts of King's Bench, Common Pleas and Exchequer.  It had jurisdiction in actions involving one hundred dollars and over, and to revise and correct the decisions of inferior courts.  An appeal lay from it to the governor and council.  

The judges, of whom at first there were five, made an annual circuit of the counties, under a commission issued by the governor, and giving them nisi prius, oyer and terminer, and jail delivery powers.  Under the first constitution the court was reorganized, the judges being then named by the council of appointment, and all proceedings were directed to the entitled in the name of the people. 

By the constitution of 1821 many and important changes were made in the character and methods of the court.  The judges were reduced to three, and appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate, to hold office during good behavior, or until sixty years of age.  They were removable by the Legislature on the vote of two-thirds of the Assembly and a majority of the Senate.  Four times a year the full court sat in review of their decisions upon questions of law.  By the constitution of 1846 the Supreme Court was abolished, and a new court of the same name and having general jurisdiction in law and equity was established in its place.  This court was divided into General Term, Circuits, Special Terms and Oyer and Terminer.  Its members were composed of thirty-three justices to be elected by the people, and to reside five in the first and four in each of the seven other judicial districts, into which the State was divided.  By the judiciary act of 1847, General Terms were to be held at least once in a year in counties having more than 40,000 inhabitants, and in other counties once in two years; and at least two special terms and two circuits were to be held yearly in each county except Hamilton.  By this act the court was authorized to name the times and places of holding its terms, and those of the Oyer and Terminer, the latter being a part of the Circuit Court, and held by the justice, the county judge and two justices of sessions. 

Since 1882 the Oyer and Terminer consists of a single justice of the Supreme Court. 

The Court of Chancery of the State of New York was an heirloom of the colonial period, and had its origin in the Court of Assizes, the latter being invested with equity powers under the duke's laws.  The court was established in 1683, and the governor (or such person as he should appoint), assisted by the council, was designated as its chancellor.  In 1698 the court went out of existence by limitation; was revived by ordinance in 1701, suspended in 1703, and re-established the next year.  At first the Court of Chancery was unpopular in the province, the assembly and the colonists opposing it with the argument that the crown had no authority to establish an equity court in the colony. 

Under the constitution of 1777 the court was reorganized, but its chancellor was prohibited from holding any other office except delegate to Congress upon special occasions.  Upon the reorganization of the court in 1778, masters and examiners in chancery were provided to be appointed by the council of appointment; while registers and clerks were appointed by the chancellor, and the latter licensed all solicitors and counselors of the court.  Under the constitution of 1821 the chancellor was appointed by the governor, and held office during good behavior or until sixty years of age.  Appeals lay from the Chancery Court to the Court for the Correction of Errors. 

Under the second constitution equity powers were vested in the circuit judges, and their decisions were reviewable on appeal to the chancellor.  This equity character, however, was soon taken from the circuit judges, and the duties devolved upon the chancellor, while the judges referred to acted as vice-chancellors in their respective circuits.  The constitution of 1846 abolished the Court of Chancery, and its powers and duties were vested in the Supreme Court. 

By an act of the Legislature passed in 1848 and entitled the "Code of Procedure," all distinctions between actions at law and suits in equity were abolished, so far as the manner of commencing and conducting the same was concerned, and one uniform method of practice in all actions was provided.  Under this act appeals lay to the General Term of the Supreme Court from judgments rendered in the justice's, mayor's or recorder's and county courts, and from all orders and decisions of a justice at special term or circuit, and from judgments rendered at any trial of the Supreme Court. 

The judiciary article of the constitution of 1849 was amended in 1869, the Legislature being authorized to provide (not more often than once in five years) for the organization of General Terms, consisting of a presiding justice and not more than three associates, but by chapter 408 of the laws of 1870, the then organization of the General Terms was abrogated, and the State was divided into four departments, and provision made for holding General Terms in each.  By the same act the governor was directed to designate from the justices of the Supreme Court, a presiding justice and two associates to constitute a General Term in each department.  Under the authority of the constitutional amendment adopted in 1882, the Legislature in 1883 divided the State into five judicial departments and provided for the election of twelve additional justices to hold office from the first Monday in June 1884. 

In June 1877, the Legislature enacted the code of civil procedure to take the place of the code of 1848.  By this many minor changes in the practice of the court were made, among them a provision that every two years the justices of the General Terms and the chief judges of the Superior City courts should meet and revise and establish general rules of practice for all the courts of record in the State, except the Court of Appeals. 

These are, in brief, the changes through which the Supreme Court has passed in its growth from the prerogative of an irresponsible governor to one of the most independent and enlightened instrumentalities for the protection and attainment of the rights of citizens of which any nation, ancient or modern, can boast.  So well in this fact understood by the people that by far the greater amount of business which might be done in inferior courts at less expense, is actually taken to this court for settlement. 

Next in inferiority to the Supreme Court is the County Court, held in and for each county in the State at such times and places as its judges may direct.  This court had its origin in the English Court of Sessions, and like it had at first only criminal jurisdiction.  By an act passed in 1683, a Court of Sessions, having power to try both civil and criminal causes by jury, was directed to be held by three justices of the peace of each of the counties of the province twice a year, with an additional term in Albany and two in New York.  By the act of 1691, and the decree of 1669, all civil jurisdiction was taken from this court and conferred on the Common Pleas.  By the sweeping changes made by the constitution of 1846, provision was made for a County Court in each county in the State, except New York, to be held by an officer to be designated "the county judge," and to have such jurisdiction as the Legislature might prescribe. 

Under the authority of this constitution County Courts have, from time to time, been given jurisdiction in various classes of actions, and have also been invested with certain equity powers in the foreclosure of mortgages and the sale of infants' real estate, and also to partition lands and to admeasure dower, and care for the persons and estates of lunatics and habitual drunkards.  The judiciary act of 1869 continued the existing jurisdiction in all actions in which the defendant resided within the county and the damages claimed did not exceed one thousand dollars. 

Like the Supreme Court the County Court now has its civil and criminal sides: In criminal matters the county judge is assisted by two justices of sessions, elected by the people from among the justices of the peace in the county.  It is in the criminal branch of this court, known as the "Sessions," that the minor criminal offenses are now disposed of.  All indictments, except for murder or some very serious felony, may be sent to it for trial from the Oyer and Terminer.  By the codes of 1848 and 1877 the methods and procedure and practice are made to conform as nearly as possible to the practice of the Supreme Court.  This was done with the evident design of attracting litigation into this court, and thus relieving the Supreme Court.  In this purpose, however, there has been an evident failure, as litigants much prefer the broader powers of the Supreme Court.  By the judiciary act the term of office of county judges was extended from four to six years.  Under the code the judges can perform some of the duties of a justice of the Supreme Court at chambers.  The County Court has appellate jurisdiction over actions arising in Justice's Courts and Courts of Special Sessions.  Appeals lie from the County Court direct to the General Term. 

Surrogate's Courts, one of which exists in each county of the State, are now courts of record, having a seal, and their especial jurisdiction is the settlement and care of the estates, both of infants and also of the dead.  The derivation of the powers and practice of these courts is from the Ecclesiastical Court of England, also through a part of the Colonial Council which existed during the rule of the Dutch, and exercised its authority in accordance with the Dutch Roman law, the custom of Amsterdam and the law of Aasdom, the Court of Burgomasters and Schepens, the Court of Orphan Masters, the Mayor's Court, the Prerogative Court and the Court of Probates. 

The settlement of estates and the guardianship of orphans, which was at first vested in the director-general and council of New Netherland, was transferred to the Burgomasters in 1653, and soon after the Orphans' Masters.  Under the colony the Prerogative Court controlled all matters in relation to the probate of wills and settlement of estates.  This power continued until 1692, when, by act of legislation, all probates and granting of letters of administration were to be under the hand of the governor or his delegates, and two freeholders were appointed in each town to take charge of the estates of persons dying intestate.  Under the duke's laws this duty had been performed by the constables, overseers and justices of each town.  In 1778 the governor was divested of all this power, except the appointment of surrogate, and it was conferred upon the judges of the Court of Probates. 

Under the first constitution surrogates were appointed by the Council of Appointment, but under the second constitution by the governor with the approval of the Senate.  The constitution of 1846 abolished the office of surrogate in all counties having less than 40,000 population, and conferred its powers and duties upon the county judge.  By the Code of Civil Procedure surrogates were invested with all the necessary powers to carry out the equitable and incidental requirements of their office.  In its present form, with weekly sessions, this court affords a cheap and expeditious medium for the care and settlement of estates and the guardianship of infants. 

The only remaining courts which are common to the whole State are the Special Sessions, held by a justice of the peace for the trial of minor criminal offences, and also Justice's Courts with a limited civil jurisdiction. 

Previous to the constitution of 1821 (modified in 1826) justices of the peace were appointed, but since that time they have been elected.  The office and its duties are descended from the English office of the same name, but are much less important, and under the laws of this State it is purely the creature of the statute. 

This brief survey of the courts of New York, which omits only those that are local in character, gives the reader some idea of the machinery provided for the use of the members of the bench and bar at the time of the creation of Ontario county in 1789. 

The organization of the courts in Ontario county was accomplished without ceremony and with but little formality.  The act creating the county was passed January 28, 1789, and among other things provision was therein made for a "Court of General Sessions of the Peace, and a Court of Common Pleas," to be held at "such suitable and convenient place within the county as the judges of the Court of Common Pleas and the justices of the Court of Sessions may direct."  It was also provided that there should be held two terms every year, "to commence on the first Tuesday in June, and end on the Saturday following; and on the first Tuesday in November, and to end on Saturday of the same week." 

A later section of the erecting act provided that "it shall not be the duty of the justices of the Supreme Court to hold Circuit Court once in every year in said county of Ontario, unless in their judgment they shall deem it proper and necessary."  However, by an act passed April 9, 1792, this provision was repealed. 

The first judge of Common Pleas of Ontario county was Oliver Phelps, who was appointed to that office May 5, 1789.  The other officers of the court, with dates of their appointment, were as follows: Sheriff, Judah COLT, April 7, 1790; clerk, Nathaniel GORHAM, jr., May 5, 1789.  The first surrogate of the county was John COOPER, appointed May 6, 1789.  However, it was not until the first Tuesday in June, 1792, that a term of the Common Pleas and General Sessions of the Peace was in fact within the county, and at that time the court-house had not been erected, and the session was held in the unfinished chamber of Dr. Moses ATWATER's house.  It is said also that Vincent MATTHEWS was the only lawyer present at the opening of the court. 

The first court-house of the county was erected in pursuance of an act of the Legislature, passed April 9, 1792, by which the supervisors were authorized to raise by tax the sum of six hundred pounds, with an additional allowance for collection.  The building, a plain frame structure, stood at the northeast corner of the public square, and was erected during the year 1794.  Later on, after the second court house was built, the old pioneer building was removed to the west side of Main street, on the park lot, and still later to Court street, where it still stands. 

The second Ontario county court-house was a more pretentious structure than its predecessor, and was erected at an expense of about $6,000, under the authority of an act of the Legislature passed in April, 1824.  This building is now used as a town house and, therefore, requires no extended mention in this chapter.  On the 4th of July, 1824, the corner stone was laid with due ceremony, and on that occasion nearly all the legal profession of the county and region were present, many of them participating in the proceedings. 

In 1857 and 1858 the present court-house was erected at the joint expense of the county and the United States government, the latter contributing, it is said, about $30,000 of the entire cost of construction, and having an interest in the property to the extent of a large room on the first floor for use as post-office, and room above for the Federal Courts.  However, as the county buildings are fully described in another chapter of this volume, no further reference to them is requisite here; but rather we may turn to the profession which has been so particularly prominent in connection with the past and present history of this county. 

The legal profession of Ontario county has ever been noted for its strength.  On the bench and at the bar of the courts have been men of the highest character and of great moral worth.  Among the leading legal minds of the State Ontario county has furnished a liberal proportion, many of whom have attained distinction and some eminence.  They were, indeed, characterized by strict integrity as well as rare ability; qualities which have made for them a high standard, not only in the courts, but also in the legislative halls both of the State and the nation. 




Oliver PHELPS was the first judge of Ontario county, but was not a member of the legal profession, nor was he "learned in the law" as attorneys and judges now understand the term.  However, he was a man of much prominence, and through his efforts the county was created.  As the first judge of the county he is entitled to at least a passing mention in this chapter. 

Vincent MATTHEWS, a lawyer of repute in the early history of the Genesee country, was one of the pioneers of the profession in the region, and enjoyed the distinction of being the only attorney in attendance at the opening of the first term of court in this county.  However, he was never a resident of the county, his home being at Newtown (Elmira), but afterward at Rochester, where he died in 1846.  He was the co-temporary of Judge HOWELL and Peter B. PORTER, who are mentioned in this chapter. 

Among the prominent members of the early bar of the county may be mentioned the familiar name of Nathaniel W. HOWELL, more familiarly known, however, as Judge HOWELL, a title he honestly earned by his long service upon the Common Pleas bench of the county.  Mr. HOWELL was born in Orange county, NY, January 1, 1770, and came to this county from Elmira in 1796.  He was engaged in some of the important cases tried during the early history of the county, and was considered a leader at the bar, though his manner and bearing were such that he showed to better advantage on the bench than in practice.  He became judge in 1819 and served in that capacity thirteen years, then retiring from active professional life to the more congenial pursuits of farming and gardening.  His sons, Alexander H. and Thomas M. HOWELL, likewise entered the legal profession, the latter dying in 1892, and the former quite recently.  Judge HOWELL was admitted to practice in 1794, and for a time lived in Tioga county before coming to Canandaigua.  He became the legal adviser of Charles WILLIAMSON, agent of the Pulteney Associates, and also was connected in the same capacity with the Holland Land Company.  In 1799 Mr. HOWELL was  [1] Prominent Members of The Old Bar-- The data upon which these sketches are based have been drawn from all reliable sources, much being from the published articles written by Dr. Noah T. CLARK and contributed to the Ontario County Times, appointed assistant attorney-general for the five Western New York counties, which office he held until 1802.  In the 13th Congress he represented this district, succeeding his old legal associate, Peter B. PORTER, and being in turn succeeded by him.  Judge HOWELL died in Canandaigua in 1851. 

Dudley SALTONSTALL was a pioneer at the Ontario county bar.  He was a highly educated young man, a graduate of Yale, and afterward pursued a course of law study in the school of Judge REEVES, at Litchfield, Conn.  In 1795 Mr. SALTONSTALL was admitted to practice in this county, but later on left the county seat and took up his residence in a Southern State. 

General Peter B. PORTER was born in Salisbury, Conn., in 1773, and became a resident of Canandaigua in 1795.  He was not only one of the strong pioneer lawyers of the county, but during the War of 1812-15 won distinction as commander of the militia in a number of severe battles of that war on the western frontier of New York.  As a lawyer he was highly respected, and is credited with having engaged in the first jury trial presented in the courts of this county.  After an honorable service of seven years in Canandaigua, General PORTER moved to the western part of the State, and died at Niagara Falls in 1844. 

Dudley MARVIN, who honorably bore the title of general, was one of the most distinguished early members of the Ontario bar, was also one of the ablest advocates who appeared in the courts of the State, his especial strength being before the trial jury.  However, recollections of General MARVIN are very meager, and we can only state in a general way that he was the peer and cotemporary of Spencer, Willson, Hubbell and Sibley.  In the 18th, 19th and 20th sessions of Congress Mr. MARVIN was one of the representatives of the 26th District, and after his removal to Chautauqua county, he likewise served in the same capacity in that district. 

John GREIG, who is still remembered by the older members of the present bar, was in some respects a distinguished lawyer, but was especially noted for his peculiarities of manner and conversation, for he was a Scotchman and seemed to have inherited to a remarkable degree the peculiarities of his people.  John GREIG was an honorable and straightforward citizen and lawyer, and one who enjoyed the full confidence of the people.  It is regretted that he left active professional life to assume charge of the HORNBY estate and interests, as his continuance in practice would have undoubtedly developed legal abilities far beyond the average of his time.  Mr. GREIG was born in Dumfrieshire, Scotland, in 1779, and settled in Canandaigua in 1800, but of his early life and education we have no data except that he read law with Judge HOWELL, and began practice in 1804.  His old residence on upper Main street is still a conspicuous structure, and one which, with many others, the people of the present day describe with pleasure and pride.  Mr. GREIG, though not a farmer, was interested deeply in agricultural pursuits, and perhaps preferred the life of farmer to that of lawyer.  He was one of the early presidents of the county Agricultural Society, and by his efforts did much to promote its prosperity as one of the institutions of the locality.  Mr. GREIG was for a time associated in law practice with Judge HOWELL, an exceedingly strong partnership, for as Mr. HOWELL was inclined to be somewhat severe and possibly harsh in presenting a case, Mr. GREIG displayed the opposite and more captivating qualities of affableness and courtesy; and while at times apparently odd in manner and conversation, Mr. GREIG was a man of fine sensibilities and cultivated tastes, extremely courteous, and a generous entertainer and host.  His public service was confined to one term in Congress, he being elected to the vacancy caused by the resignation of Francis GRANGER.  This was in the 27th Congress.  Mr. GREIG was also one of the organizers of the old Ontario Bank, and its president at one time.  In 1825 he was one of the Regents of the University, succeeding De Witt CLINTON, and was himself succeeded by William C. BRYANT in 1858.  Mr. GREIG's appointment as vice-chancellor of the Board of Regents dated January 9, 1845.  He died in Canandaigua in 1858. 

John C. SPENCER was the son of Ambrose SPENCER, the latter a lawyer of distinction, a justice of the Supreme Court in 1804 and chief justice in 1819, but not a resident of Ontario county.  John C. SPENCER was born in Columbia county in 1788, became a resident of Canandaigua in 1809, left the county in 1845, and died in Albany in 1855.  At the age of twenty-one Mr. SPENCER became a member of the legal bar, and although neither the brilliant orator nor charming advocate, he was nevertheless a leading lawyer of his time, and one whose understanding of the law was almost marvelous.  He was highly educated and had the highest respect for men of scholarly attainments.  Moreover, he was deeply interested in all matters pertaining to education.  As a lawyer in general practice Mr. SPENCER acquired an enviable reputation, and was associated in the trial of some of the most important cases in this region.  In fact, without detracting from the standing of his professional associates, it may be truthfully said that Mr. SPENCER was undoubtedly the ablest lawyer of the county during his palmy days.  Naturally a man of his mark could not well avoid being drawn somewhat into political life, and we find him in June, 1818, the district attorney of Ontario county; in 1820 he was elected to the Assembly, and served several terms in that body.  From 1825 to 1828 he was in the State Senate.  In 1827 he was appointed one of revisers of the laws of the State, and on the 4th of February 1839, was appointed secretary of state by Governor William H. SEWARD.  Still later, on October 12, 1841, he was appointed secretary of war under the administration of President TYLER, and on March 3, 1843, was transferred to the cabinet office of secretary of the treasury.  Mr. SPENCER died in Albany in 1855. 

Micah BROOKS was a native of Connecticut, and a pioneer of East Bloomfield, this county, where he settled in 1799.  For several years he was one of the associate judges of Common Pleas; a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1821, and member of Assembly during the legislative session of 1808-9.  He finally left this county and resided in Livingston county. 

Myron HOLLEY was for a time a resident lawyer of Canandaigua and held the office of county clerk in 1811.  Later on he moved to Lyons, in Wayne county.  He was made canal commissioner in 1816.  In this year also he was one of the Ontario county assemblymen, and again in 1820-21. 

Gideon GRANGER was also a distinguished member of the early bar of the county, but earned many of his honors before coming to Canandaigua.  He was born in Suffield, Conn., in 1767, and was educated and entered professional life in his native State.  From 1801 to 1809, during the administration of Thomas JEFFERSON, Mr. GRANGER was postmaster general, and continued some time in the same capacity under President MADISON.  In 1816, after retiring from public service, he became a resident of Canandaigua, the chief object of his coming to this locality being to assume charge of certain interests which the State of Connecticut then had in lands in Western New York.  Although not actively identified with professional life in this county, Mr. GRANGER is nevertheless worthy of mention in this chapter.  He died in Canandaigua, December 31, 1822. 

The name of Timothy BURT is recalled among the earliest lawyers of the county seat, and although remembered as standing well in the profession, does not appear to have been prominently connected with political life at that time.  However, he was town clerk of Canandaigua in 1799, and supervisor of the same town in 1806 and 1807. 

Jared WILLSON was one of the leaders of the local bar, the partner of John C. SPENCER, and the comtemporary of Mark H. SIBLEY, Walter HUBBELL and Francis GRANGER.  Mr. WILLSON was born in Massachusetts in 1786, and became a resident of Canandaigua in 1811, immediately after his graduation from the University of Vermont.  He read law in the office of John C. SPENCER and after being admitted to practice became partner with him.  He is not remembered as having been a brilliant orator, but he possessed a remarkable knowledge of the law and hence soon became recognized as one of the leading lawyers of the county.  During the early part of his professional career, Mr. WILLSON was one of the leading Democrats of Western New York, but in 1848 the attitude of his party on certain questions so disgusted him that he severed his connection with it and became a Free Soiler and afterward Republican.  Mr. WILLSON died in April 1851. 

Bowen WHITING was a native of Massachusetts, but an early member of the bar in this county; having a residence at Geneva.  In 1823 he was made district attorney for this county; member of assembly in 1824-25; county judge in 1838, and one of the judges of the Seventh Circuit in 1844. 

Daniel D. BARNARD was one of the members of the old bar, residing in this county as early as 1825, but at a later day locating at Rochester.  Still later he moved to Albany, and from that county was elected to the Assembly, and to Congress, and still later was appointed minister to Prussia. 

Walter HUBBELL was born in Bridgeport, Conn., February 25, 1795, and received his early education in Saratoga county, NY, whither his parents had removed while he was a child.  He afterward graduated from Union College, still later read law with Judge HOWELL and John GREIG, of Canandaigua, and was admitted to practice about the year 1817.  Mr. HUBBELL was a careful, painstaking and conscientious lawyer, and withal an upright Christian man.  He sought no political advancement, yet he was in the Assembly in 1829, and was also master and examiner in chancery for a number of years.  His law partners were Judge HOWELL, followed by Levi HUBBELL, his brother.  His third partner was David GREIG, and his fourth, Thomas M. HOWELL, Walter HUBBELL died at Canandaigua March 25, 1848. 

Francis GRANGER, son of Gideon GRANGER, was born in Suffield, Conn., and came with his father to Canandaigua in 1816, and soon afterward entered the legal profession.  Mr. GRANGER was a lawyer of ability, and practiced at the county seat several years before he entered into politics.  He might have been an eminent legist, but unfortunately for such an end, he inherited a large property, and the practice of his profession was therefore unnecessary, hence he lost an otherwise impelling power.  In 1826-27-28, and again in 1830-32, Mr. GRANGER was one of the members of Assembly from Ontario county.  In 1835 he was elected to Congress and served continuously in that body until March 3, 1841, when he resigned and was succeeded by his old Ontario county associate, John GREIG.  Three days after his resignation, on March 6, 1841, Mr. GRANGER was appointed postmaster-general under President HARRISON.  Returning from his public service, Mr. GRANGER continued his residence in Canandaigua until his death, August 28, 1868. 

Gideon GRANGER, son of Francis and grandson of Gideon GRANGER, heretofore mentioned, was also a noted Canandaigua lawyer, of whom an extended notice will be found among the personal sketches in another part of this volume. 

Mark H. SIBLEY was another of the master minds of the legal profession of this county, and was, perhaps, the peer of any lawyer at the local bar during his time.  He was a native of Great Barrington, Mass., born in 1795, and became a resident of Canandaigua in 1814.  He read law under the direction and in the office of Dudley MARVIN, and became the professional rival of his instructor.  He was noted as an advocate rather than for learning in the law; was usually successful in winning favor with the jury, and hence was popular throughout the region.  His law partner at one time was Alexander H. HOWELL, while is other legal associates, and not infrequently his antagonists, were Jared WILLSON and William H. ADAMS.  Mr. SIBLEY represented the county in the Assembly during the legislative sessions of 1835 and 1836; in the Senate in 1840 and 1841; was made county judge in 1847; serving four years, and was a member of the 25th Congress, his years of service being 1839-41.  He died at Canandaigua September 1, 1852. 

Alexander DUNCAN was also one of the members of the old bar of Ontario county, but of his antecedents or early record we have no data.  He did his law business in the land office of John GREIG. 

William H. ADAMS was another of the older members of the Ontario county bar, and for a number of years lived at Canandaigua.  He was admitted to practice in 1815, but the greater part of his life was passed in Wayne county, where he became quite prominent, filling the responsible positions of member of Assembly, district attorney and county judge.  He died in the village of Lyons. 

The name of Henry F. PENFIELD is also to be mentioned as one of the old bar of the county.  He was district attorney from 1832 to 1835. 

Henry W. TAYLOR, also one of the early bar of the county, was a native of New England, and on locating at Canandaigua was the associate of Spencer, Willson, Sibley and other prominent attorneys of the old bar.  He was evidently a man of strength and popularity, for during four legislative sessions, beginning with 1837, he was in the Assembly.  On March 27, 1850, he was appointed justice of the Supreme Court in the place of Judge MAYNARD, deceased, and in November, 1857, he was elected county judge of Ontario county.  At one time Judge TAYLOR was in partnership with one Mason. 

Albert LESTER came to Canandaigua from Litchfield, Conn.  He read law in the office of John C. SPENCER, and practiced from about 1825 to 1850.  He was at one time partner with Jared WILLSON, and the firm was one of the strongest in the county.  He was State Senator in 1844 and 1845.  Mr. LESTER died in Canandaigua, in 1867. 

Alvah WORDEN was born in Saratoga county, June 11, 1798, and came to Canandaigua in 1835, then having recently been admitted to practice law.  Early in life he prepared to enter the medical profession, but changed his purpose, and for several years engaged in mercantile pursuits.  However, having a strong inclination for professional work, he read law, was admitted, and began practice in Cayuga county.  He soon came in contact with Mark H. SIBLEY and defeated him in a memorable trial in Cayuga county, and the skill and learning of the young attorney so attracted Mr. SIBLEY that he invited a law partnership with him at the Ontario county seat.  The offer was accepted, and the firm soon took rank among the strongest in Western New York.  Mr. WORDEN represented Ontario county in the Assembly in 1841, and again in 1845 and 1846.  He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1846, and under the constitution of that year was appointed one of the commissioners to revise and codify the statutes.  Mr. WORDEN died in Canandaigua in 1856. 

Orson BENJAMIN came from Bloomfield to Canandaigua, and was for several years a practicing lawyer.  He held the office of surrogate by appointment dated January 29, 1840. 

George R. PARBURT was also one of the older lawyers of the county seat, and who was appointed surrogate of the county, April 10, 1844. 

John CALLISTER may properly be referred to at this time, but for an extended sketch of his life the notice of the reader is directed to the biographical department of this work. 

Henry S. COLE was also of the old bar, and as well a native of Canandaigua, born September 23, 1800.  He was admitted to practice in 1821, but soon afterward moved to Michigan, where he acquired a high standing in his profession. 

Alexander H. HOWELL, the oldest son of Nathaniel W. HOWELL, was born in Canandaigua, and was educated at the Canandaigua Academy and Hamilton College.  He was admitted to the bar and became a partner of Mark H. SIBLEY.  After a few years he gave up the law for other pursuits.  He held the office of county clerk of Ontario for a term, for many years was a justice of the peace, and died in 1893, respected and beloved by all who knew him. 

Thomas H. HOWELL, second son of Judge Nathaniel W. HOWELL, was born in Canandaigua in 1811, and acquired his early education at the academy, after which he took a graduating course at Amherst College. 

He read law under the direction of his father, and was admitted to practice in 1834.  Then, for a period of full 58 years, Mr. HOWELL was actively identified with the profession in the county, and only a short time before his death he argued an important case in the Supreme Court.  He was a careful and diligent lawyer, and in all his habits in life he was characteristically methodical; hence was a safe counsellor and trustworthy attorney.  From 1840 to 1847 Mr. HOWELL was district attorney, was United States commissioner from 1855 until the time of his death, and was police justice of Canandaigua from 1876 to 1880.  Mr. HOWELL was a strong Democrat, and one of the leaders of the party in the county, and he was deeply interested in local and Indian history; was an acquaintance of the famous RED JACKET, and the local papers frequently published interesting historical articles from the pen of our subject.  Mr. HOWELL died in Canandaigua, October 27, 1892. 

Jabez H. METCALF was a native of Ontario county, born in the town of Naples, or rather that portion of the town which was afterward set off and called Italy.  Mr. METCALF read law with Willson and Lester of Canandaigua, and began practice in 1843.  He resided at the county seat, and there he died in 1883.  Mr. METCALF was a brother to Hiram METCALF, a lawyer at Canandaigua, and father to J. Henry METCALF, the present county judge. 

Elbridge Gerry LAPHAM was born in the town of Farmington, October 18, 1814.  His father was a farmer, and on the farm our subject passed his youth and attended the public schools, later on, however, attending the Canandaigua Academy, where he was the classmate of the afterward eminent Stephen A. DOUGLASS.  Mr. LAPHAM studied civil engineering and was for some time employed on the Michigan Southern Railroad, which was then being built.  He read law with Jared WILLSON, and was admitted to practice in 1844.  He opened an office at the county seat, his first partner being Jabez METCALF, father of the present county judge.  In 1855 he formed a law partnership with James C. SMITH, which continued until Mr. SMITH entered upon his duties as justice of the Supreme Court.  Later on Mr. LAPHAM was in practice with William H. ADAMS, and so continued until elected to Congress, in November, 1875.  He served continuously in that body throughout the 44th, 45th, 46th and 47th Sessions, and then returned to his law practice, not engaging in it, however, as ardently as before, but being connected with many important cases.  Mr. LAPHAM was a very strong lawyer, especially so as an advocate before a jury, and in this branch of practice he attained much prominence.  Originally he was a Jackson Democrat, but in 1856 became a Republican, and was ever afterward identified with that party; and in the councils of the party he occupied a high position, and was considered one of its leaders in the State.  On July 22, 1881, Mr. LAPHAM was elected United States senator to the vacancy caused by the resignation of Roscoe CONKLING.  In 1867 he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.  Mr. LAPHAM died in Canandaigua, January 18, 1890. 

Henry O. CHESEBRO was born in Canandaigua in 1822.  He was educated at the academy and afterward was graduated from Union College; read law with Alvah WORDEN, and was admitted to practice in 1846.  From this time on and until the death of Mr. WORDEN (in 1856), Mr. CHESEBRO was associated with him in law practice. He died at Canandaigua, November 24, 1888. 

Stephen V. R. MALLORY was another lawyer of note residing in Canandaigua, and who in 1854 represented this county in the State Assembly. 

John RANKINE, when a child, emigrated with his father from Scotland, was educated in the Canandaigua Academy, and after graduating at college, read law, married Julia, the second daughter of Jared WILLSON, who still survives him, engaged in the practice of his profession in Canandaigua, and was for a time the president of the Canandaigua and Niagara Falls Railroad Company.  He died about 1880. 

James M. BULL was born in Canandaigua, read law, was admitted to practice, and was for some years managing clerk in the law office of Smith & Lapham.  While occupying that position, in 1862, he enlisted in the 126th Regiment of N. Y. State Volunteers, was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the regiment in September, 1862, was promoted to the colonelcy in July, 1863, soon after the battle of Gettysburg, in which he distinguished himself by his bravery, resigned in April, 1864, in consequence of ill health, and died soon after the war. 

Edgar W. DENNIS, a native of Canandaigua, was educated at the academy there, read law and was admitted to practice, and enlisted in the military service of the United States in the war of 1861-' 65.  After the close of the war he removed to Topeka, Kansas, was the counsel of important railroad corporations in that State, and died at Topeka in the prime of life, but not before he had attained distinction in his profession. 

In the same connection also may be recalled the name of Oliver PHELPS, the grandson of the proprietor, who was a member of the old bar, and as such entitled to notice in this chapter. 

In the present connection we may also appropriately mention the name of Samuel A. FOOT, who for a number of years was a member of the Ontario county bar, although his professional life had its beginning in the eastern part of the State.  Judge FOOT came to Geneva from New York city.  On the 11th of April, 1851, he was appointed to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals bench, and in 1856 and 1857 he represented Ontario county in the Assembly.  Judge FOOT died in Geneva. 

Henry H. VAN RENSSELAER was the first lawyer in Geneva, but remained here only a few years. 

Herman H. BOGERT, born October 13, 1768, began the practice of law in Geneva in 1797.  He was also largely interested in real estate in this county; was one of the incorporators of the Bank of Geneva, and the founder of the village of Dresden.  He died in June 1851. 

David HUDSON was born in 1782, and practiced law at Geneva at a very early day.  He achieved some political fame, and was State canal commissioner from 1840 and 1842.  He died in 1860. 

Daniel W. LEWIS was a member of the old Geneva bar, but moved to Buffalo, where he died. 

Lansing B. MIZNER was another of the older Geneva lawyers, and an active participant in public affairs.  He afterwards moved to Detroit. 

Also among the early lawyers of Geneva there may be mentioned the names of Robert W. STODDARD, MOTT, Nathan PARKE, Godfrey J. GROSVENER, William E. SILL, John M. BRADFORD, Peter M. DOX, and James H. WOODS.  Some recollections of these lawyers are still preserved in the public records.  Nathan PARKE represented Ontario county in the Assembly in 1827, and was district attorney from August 16, 1836, to May 23, 1840, and is remembered as a lawyer of ability and worth. 

Godfrey J. GROSVENER was also a lawyer of prominence, and held the office of postmaster at Geneva for a number of years. 

John M. BRADFORD held the position of county judge by appointment, in place of Peter M. DOX, resigned.  

Judge DOX was elected to office in November, 1855, and served till March following.  Mr. DOX represented Ontario county in the Assembly in 1842.  Upon his resignation he went to Alabama, and was afterward elected to Congress from that State. 

The most distinguished lawyer, however, who made his home in Geneva, was the late Charles J. FOLGER; and without exception the bar of the entire county will freely concur in according to Judge FOLGER the honorable mention made above.  Charles J. FOLGER was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, April 16, 1818, and came with his parents to Geneva about the year 1830.  He was graduated from Hobart College in 1836, and afterward read law in the office of Sibley & Worden, of Canandaigua; in 1839 Mr. FOLGER was admitted to practice.  His life as an active lawyer was marked by a display of intelligence rarely found in a young man, and he naturally soon became a candidate for political preferment.  In 1844 he was appointed county judge, and served continuously until 1855.  In November, 1851, he was elected to the same office and served four years more.  During the legislative sessions of 1862 and ' 63, and thence continuously until 1869, Mr. FOLGER represented Ontario county in the State Senate, and during the year 1867, also, he was one of the delegates at large to the Constitutional Convention.  On May 17, 1870, he was elected judge of the Court of Appeals, and ten years later, May 20, 1880, was elected chief judge of the same court.  In 1881, on the 27th of October, Judge FOLGER was appointed by President ARTHUR to the cabinet office of secretary of the treasury, consequently he resigned from the Court of Appeals bench on November 14 following.  In 1882 he became the candidate of the Republican party for the office of governor of New York State, but on account of a widespread feeling of discontent then existing in the party, and in which Judge FOLGER was neither directly of indirectly concerned, he was overwhelmingly defeated at the polls, but not one whit did this disaster reflect adversely upon the character, standing, popularity or worth of its victim.  After the campaign Judge FOLGER returned to his cabinet position.  However, he lived only a short time afterward, and died the 4th day of September, 1884, at his old home in Geneva. 

In point of numbers Geneva has been hardly less productive of lawyers than the county seat.  Through the courtesy of counselor John E. BEAN, of Geneva, we are enabled to reproduce a nearly complete list of the lawyers who in the past have practiced in the village, but who have either moved to other places or are now dead.  The list referred to is as follows:  

Judge GORDON, Bowen WHITING, Judge SUTHERLAND, Charles J. FOLGER, George M. HORTON, Edgar H. HURD, Silas WALKER, Calvin WALKER, Jr., John M. BRADFORD, Wm. E. SILL, Theodore SILL, John M. WHITING, John SUTHERLAND, Gideon MUNDY, George R. PARBURT, Nathan B. KIDDER, James H. WOODS, John C. STRONG, James C. BROWN, David and Joseph HERRON, Henry V. R. SCHEMERHORNE, Samuel Miles HOPKINS, Samuel A. FOOTE, Wilbur F. DIEFENDORF, George PROUDFIT, George E. PRITCHETT, Peter M. BAUM, De Witt C. GAGE, _____ STRYKER, Marvin D. REED, Harvey HENRY, Anthony C. SIMPSON, Barzillai SLOSSON, Geo. B. DUSINBERRE, Angus Mc DONALD, Robert W. STODDARD, Elias R. STODDARD, Godfrey J. GROSVENER, Nathan PARKE, Herman H. BOGART, George E. DODGE, Peter M. DOX, John N. DOX, John MITCHELL, James BISHOP, David HUDSON, E. Fitch SMITH, Hatley W. HEMIUP, Silas C. TEASE, John B. BISSELL, _____ GREEN, John RAINES, Frank RICE, Wm. H. HIGBIE, ______ MORAN, W. R. LINSON. 

The town of Naples has furnished a small numerical contingent to the county bar, among whom we can recall the name of Josiah WARD, a good lawyer, and who was in practice between 1820 and 1830, but about the latter year he left the county and became a citizen of Michigan. 

Robert FLINT was also in practice at Naples about 1830, but he too soon left the town and settled in Allegany county. 

Edward P. BABCOCK was a native of Naples, and lived and practiced in that town for many years, except during such times as his duties as surrogate required his continual presence at the county seat.  He was elected to that office in 1879.  He was elected member of assembly in 1886 and 1887.  Mr. BABCOCK died in Naples in October, 1892. 

Emory B. POTTLE, of Naples, is one remembered by the present bar of the county, he having engaged actively in professional work until about the time of his death.  Mr. POTTLE was a man of worth and excellent standing, and hence was honored by the people of the county in advancement to positions of trust.  In 1847 he was elected to the Assembly, and in the 35th and 36th sessions of Congress he represented the 26th District, the years of his service being 1857-59 and 1859-61. 

In the town of Phelps one of the earliest legal practitioners was Thomas SMITH, father of Judge James C. SMITH, late justice of the Supreme Court.  Mr. SMITH was a lawyer of quiet tastes and conservative habits.  For nearly a quarter of a century he was continued in the office of justice of the peace by the votes of his townsmen, and is remembered as a sound and upright magistrate and an honest man.  He died in Phelps in 1863. 

William MARVIN was also a lawyer residing in Phelps, and was for a time the law partner of Mr. SMITH.  He afterward became United States district judge, and lived in Florida, at Key West.  He achieved prominence in the South during the reconstruction period, he having been appointed provisional governor of Florida.  He is yet living at Skaneateles. 

George R. PARKHURST and _____ JOHNSON also practiced in Phelps at a comparatively early day, the former, however, afterward emigrating to California. 

Dolphin STEPHENSON, Charles E. HOBBY, and Robert W. LANSING may also be mentioned as lawyers of the town of Phelps, and members of the old bar. 

John DICKSON was a lawyer of note in the town of Bloomfield, and also gained prominence in the Assembly (1830) and in Congress, he serving in the latter body during the 22nd and 23rd Congressional sessions. 

Spencer COLE and Isaac MARSH were also early lawyers in practice in Bloomfield, both of them before 1810. 

Throughout this chapter reference is frequently made to the names of lawyers who have at various times filled the offices of county judge, surrogate and district attorney; wherefore, in the present connection it becomes proper that we here furnish the succession of persons appointed or elected to the offices named.  However, no dates of incumbency are here given, and should the reader desire to be fully informed in that respect, his attention is directed to the county civil list in a preceding chapter of this work. 

Succession of County Judges---Oliver PHELPS, Timothy HOSMER, John NICHOLAS, Nathaniel W. HOWELL, Oliver PHELPS, Bowen WHITING, Charles J. FOLGER, E. Fitch SMITH, Mark H. SIBLEY, Charles J. FOLGER, Peter M. DOX, John M. BRADFORD, Henry W. TAYLOR, George B. DUSINBERRE, William H. SMITH, Francis O. MASON, William H. SMITH, Frank RICE, J. Henry METCALF. 

Surrogates---John COOPER, Samuel MELLISH, Israel CHAPIN, Jr., Amos HALL, Dudley SALTONSTALL, Reuben HART, Eliphalet TAYLOR, Reuben HART, Stephen PHELPS, Ira SELBY, Jared WILCOX, Jared WILLSON, Orson BENJAMIN, George R. PARBURT, George WILSON 2d, O. Benjamin, Samuel SALISBURY, John N. WHITING, O. BENJAMIN, Elihu M. MORSE, Isaac R. PARCELL, Charles A. RICHARDSON, Edward P. BABCOCK, David G. LAPHAM, Oliver C. ARMSTRONG, John COLMEY, David G. LAPHAM. 

District Attorneys--John C. SPENCER, Abraham P. VOSBURGH, Bowen WHITING, Henry F. PENFIELD, George W. CLINTON, Nathan PARKE, Thomas M. HOWELL, Barzillai SLOSSON, James C. BROWN, Stephen V. R. MALLORY, Jacob P. FAUROT, Thos. O. PERKINS, Edwin HICKS, William H. SMITH, Edwin HICKS, Frank RICE, Oliver C. ARMSTRONG, Maynard M. CLEMENT. 



The present Ontario county bar is the worthy successor to the old bar, the members of which have been fully referred to in a preceding portion of this chapter.  It is a recognized fact, and one frequently mentioned both in and outside the county, that the early bar of Ontario ranked well with almost any in the State, and stood at the front of the profession in Western New York; and it has been said, too, that the influences of the early bar have reached even to the present representatives of the profession and inspired them also with high purposes and with a commendable ambition to maintain the standard established by the old members.  In fine the influence of the old bar has been so salutary and pervading that the present profession has inherited much of its spirit and has maintained a freedom from all unworthy methods. 

However interesting might be a brief reference to the professional life of each of the present legal practitioners of the county, such has been deemed inadvisable from the fact that many of the bar are still young men and although worthy of anything we might feel inclined to say of them, have yet their records to complete, and in view of this prefer that no mention be made of the personnel of the bar except as is disclosed by the record of their names taken from the court calendar, which is as follows:






Maynard N. CLEMENT

John S. COE



George B. COOLEY

Leander M. DRURY

Henry M. FIELD





Lorenzo C. HALL






Walter H. KNAPP

Charles G. LAPHAM




Elihu M. MORSE




Homer J. REED


Frank RICE

Samuel H. TORREY

William H. SMITH

James C. SMITH

Royal R. SCOTT


Jacob A. WADER







John E. BEAN

Charles D. BEAN



Charles A. HAWLEY

Lansing G. HOSKINS


Lewis W. KEYES



Francis O. MASON

William S. MOORE



Arthur P. ROSE




Nelson W. CLARK

Cyrillo S. LINCOLN

William L. POTTLE





Rockwell BROWN



Francis L. BROWN

Seward FRENCH ---- Miller Corners, East Bloomfield and Victor


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