1895 Landmarks of Oswego County, NY Book


Many thanks and appreciation to Cheryl Hanson for her time and efforts in transcribing this Biographical Section of surnames from Oswego County, NY. Cheryl is researching her Sandy Creek family, that of Darwin CRONK.  He married Jeanette ELDRED and they had the following children: Ann J., John E., Samantha, Aura Arthur, Darwin and Sarah A.  I am told that part of the family also went by the surname CONKLIN.  Thank you, Cheryl at: <ihansonb@fmtc.com>.

Part I


  To the subject of this sketch, as to but few men, has it been given to have his name become a household word in nearly every land.  Associated forever with the separation of starch from ripe Indian Corn, the name of Kingsford will go into history, as that of a benefactor of the race.  The history of the Kingsford family dated back, it is said, to the time of King John, the Usurper, who, having murdered young Arthur, and for this, and his oppressive exactions, drawn upon himself the bitter hatred of his English subjects, was flying before the triumphant banners of the French invader; coming late one night to the brink of a rapid stream, with no means of passage at hand, he was borne over on the shoulders of a stalwart subject, to whom, thereafter, in those days of new and quaint surnames, clung the well fitting title of “The King’s Ford.”  In 1767 we find the family ensconced among the sunny meadows of Kent.  Here on January 9, 1767, was born George KINGSFORD, who married at twenty-two, on January 18, 1789, Mary LOVE, also of Kent, and two years his senior (born at Headcorn, Kent, February 4, 1765).  Thomas, the son of this union, early forced to seek his own support and to aid his widowed mother, left the parental roof at the age of seventeen, and merged his life in that of the great city of London.  He embarked in business as a baker, which he followed with varying success for about five years.  Near the close of this period, at the age of twenty-two, he married (on January 6, 1818), Ann THOMSON, a native of the maritime borough of Deal.  Leaving London about this time, Mr. Kingsford obtained employment in a Chemical Works, where he developed a remarkable genius for chemical research.  Failing health drove him from this employment, and he resumed his former occupation of baker.  Overtaken by financial reverses, he was forced to return for a time to Canterbury, a former residence, but  leaving there after a brief period, he went to Headcorn, Kent, where he opened a school and conducted it six or seven years.  But the growing necessity of providing for his increasing family, obliged Mr. Kingsford to abandon this pursuit, and he turned wistful eyes to America.  After much thought, he decided to emigrate.  Leaving his faithful wife in charge of the school at Headcorn, he sailed from London in 1831, and landed in New York on December 12 of that year.  After a trying winter with but partial employment, and that at scant wages, he sought and obtained, in April, 1832, a position in the starch factory of William Colgate & Co. at Harsimus, Bergen county, N.J.   This firm was one of the largest in that manufacture, which was then in its infancy in this country.  In America in 1832 starch-makers were using principally wheat as the raw material, and vainly endeavoring to meet the ever growing demand for this commodity.  Amid such conditions, Mr. Kingsford at the age of thirty-three, came to the consideration of the starch problem.  A year or more of service, faithfully rendered, proved to his employers his value, and his wages were increased to a sum, which enabled him in 1833 to send to England for his family.  Mr. Kingsford now devoted himself for some years to the mastery of the details of his business, and a study of the conditions upon which its success depended.  He early became convinced that there must be sought in new directions, a raw material capable of yielding starch in sufficient quantities to meet the demand which was now fast outrunning the limited supply.  His observant mind noted the quality of the American Maize or Indian Corn and he suggested to his employers the practicability of extracting starch from it.  But they were manufacturing from wheat and were satisfied.  No one had yet succeeded in extracting starch from Indian Corn, and they did not care to experiment.  He conferred with other starch makers, but stood alone in his views.  He talked with his associates of his theories, and like many another seeker after light along untrodden paths, was met with incredulity, often with ridicule.  But his was not a nature to be easily turned from its purpose.  So strongly did he become impressed with the possibility of improvement, that he resolved to proceed with investigations on his own account.  In the year 1841 he began his experiments; bringing to the subject, together with his acquired practical experience, the chemical knowledge gained so many years before in England, and which now proved of great benefit.  The story of  his studies and researches, his repeated failures, the difficulties he encountered, and his ultimate success, reads like a romance; and can only be appreciated by those who have heard from his own lips, the recital of the incidents of that eventful year.  The jewel of success seemed to hang just beyond his grasp.  But he was not a man to be discouraged by failures.  With increased concentration his resolute mind set itself to the mastery of the problem before him, and he pursued his investigation.  But success was near at hand.   Throwing one day, into a tub containing a mixture of lye and corn pulp, a solution of lime in which he had unsuccessfully treated some corn for starch, he devoted several days following to racking his brain for new processes.  On desiring later to again use the tub, he was about to empty it, when he discovered on the bottom a quantity of beautiful clear white starch perfectly separated.  He had now clearly demonstrated that starch could be produced from ripe Indian Corn, and he rejoiced in his achievement.  It was always a treat to hear Mr. Kingsford tell, with a twinkle in his eye, of submitting to his employers his first sample of starch from ripe corn.  They had denied his premises, failed to admit his conclusions, and had looked upon him as a dreamer and an enthusiast.  But, as so often happens, the dreamer had made his vision a practical reality.  Here was the evidence not to be confuted.  They were compelled to admit that he had succeeded; that starch from Indian Corn was an accomplished fact, and that Mr. Kingsford had fairly won the right to rank as a great discoverer.  He now threw himself with enthusiasm into experiments for perfecting the new product, and arranging for its manufacture on a large scale; and in the year 1842 he succeeded in preparing a quantity suitable for the market.  The great superiority of the new starch was immediately recognized, and it sprung at once to popular favor.  So great was the demand from manufacturers of textile fabrics and the trade generally, for the new and better product, that Mr. Kingsford soon resolved to engage in the manufacture on his own account.  Accordingly in 1846 he severed his connection with the firm of William Colgate & Co., and formed with his son, Thomson KINGSFORD, who had assisted him in all of his experiments, the firm of T. Kingsford & Son.  A small starch factory was now built at Bergen, N. J., but within one short year, the young industry had outgrown its cramped accommodations, and enlargement became an imperative necessity.  In the fall of 1847, Mr. Kingsford and his son were approached by capitalists from Auburn, N.Y., who were desirous of being associated in the manufacture and introduction of Corn Starch to the world.  They made overtures for the investment of ample capital, to provide for the growing necessities of the new business.  These proposals being accepted, it was decided at the same time, to remove to a point where the raw material, Indian Corn, would be more accessible, pure water, a necessity in the processes, most abundant, and facilities for the shipment of the product more ample.  These conditions, most fully met in the City of Oswego, N.Y., decided them to locate at this point.  A stock company with a capital of $50,000 was formed in 1848, under the State manufacturing laws, having the corporate name of “The Oswego Starch Factory,” and with this company the firm of T. Kingsford & Son entered into a contract for the manufacture and sale of the starch.  A commodious factory was built on the bank of the Varick Canal just west of the Oswego River, and not far from its entrance into Lake Ontario.  From this time on the growth and development of the business was phenomenal, scrupulous care being taken that not a pound of starch which failed to reach the highest standard of purity should leave the establishment.  Beginning with sixty-five workmen in 1848, the output of starch for the next year was 1,327,126 pounds.  This had increased five years later to an average annual production of above 3,000,000 pounds.  This rapid growth made necessary not only additional buildings, but radical improvements in machinery and appliances.  In these the mechanical and inventive genius of the son, Thomson KINGSFORD, was brought into requisition, and the protection of the patent office was sought again and again for inventions, the control of which could be effectually secured.  Still the business grew; in 1859, eleven years after the location of the business at Oswego, the output of the factories had increased to an annual average of 7,000,000 pounds, and “Oswego” and the “Kingsfords” were fast gaining a national reputation as names connected with an indispensable, yet pure, perfect, and plentiful household necessity. 

  The five or six years succeeding 1859 covered the era of depression, caused by the late civil war, in manufactures in which large quantities of starch had previously been utilized; but still the annual average output of the Oswego Starch Factory continually increased.  New avenues of use were constantly opening for their product, and the manufacturers were kept increasingly busy in supplying the demand.  Starch had come to be employed, not merely in the manufacture of textile fabrics, or the making of paper, but was finding a wide consumption in confectionery, baking, paint-making, and a multitude of minor industries.  For these and for the laundry, The Kingsford’s Oswego Starch was increasingly sought, at home and abroad; and the sales during this period mounted rapidly upward, to a figure exceeding 10,000,000 pounds yearly.  The “Corn Starch,” “Prepared Corn,” or “Corn Flour,” as it was named in different countries, which had been introduced in 1850 by the Oswego firm of T. Kingsford & Son, had now won its way to universal favor as a pure, perfect, wholesome and nutritious article of diet, and was fast supplanting arrow root, sago, tapioca, and similar farinaceous foods in the popular estimation.  These most gratifying results had been wholly reached by the perfection of the product, the fame of which had now become well nigh world wide.  The phenomenal success of the business stimulated competition.  Other manufacturers, following in the wake of this pioneer firm, were investing ample capital, erecting buildings and buying costly machinery in the effort to attain a similar success.   In the twenty years from 1850 to 1870 the number of starch factories in the country had grown to 195, and the capital invested in this business was in 1870 $2,741,675.  Compelled to meet continually in new and ever changing forms, the rivalry of the trade and the claims of other manufacturers, unceasing vigilance was exercised by the Kingsfords in maintaining the recognized superiority of their product; so that “as good as Kingsford’s” became the argument of their competitors in pushing their own inferior wares.

  The corporation, “The Oswego Starch Factory,” lent its willing aid, augmented by large wealth, to maintain the prestige of the institution, and the business grew apace in spite of increasing and fierce competition.  No backward step was ever taken from the position at first assumed and steadily maintained by T. Kingsford & Son, of being the originators and the leading manufacturers in the world of starch from ripe Indian Corn.  The official seal of public and popular appreciation of Mr. Kingsford’s great discovery has been put upon it again and again by the great Industrial Exhibitions of the world.  Beginning with the great London Exhibition of 1851, down to the present time, whenever the products of the Oswego Starch Factory have been placed on exhibition in competition, by the Kingsfords, they have never failed to receive the highest award and commendation, under the most minute scrutiny of the world’s first experts, a record rarely gained, and one which speaks volumes for their purity and worth.

  Thomas KINGSFORD was a man who clearly recognized the truth that a business to be successful must be a system of mutual services.  The operatives were treated with fairness and good will, their interests consulted, their opinions and suggestions sought, their pleasure and comfort made a matter of thoughtful consideration.  Such treatment on the part of the employer, had its fruitage in the cordial relations which always existed between Mr. Kingsford and his employees.  Strikes and contentions were unknown in the business, and the utmost quiet, regularity, and kindly feeling ever prevailed throughout the whole establishment. 

  Mr. Kingsford’s uprightness and business ability were recognized by the citizens of Oswego soon after he took up his abode with them, and his co-operation was sought in many public and associated movements.  In 1856 Mr. Kingsford, with four others, established the Marine Bank of Oswego, of which Mr. Elias ROOT was the president, and Mr. Kingsford the vice-president.  In 1864 Mr. Kingsford in company with substantially the same parties organized the First National Bank and he was its first president.

  Mr. Kingsford never cultivated the arts of political life, but he embraced heartily, as a true patriot, the principles of the Republican party, and sustained the war measures of the administration in its efforts to preserve the Union.  In 1864 he was one of the Presidential electors who cast the vote of the Empire State in favor of Abraham Lincoln.

  Mr. Kingsford’s religious character, the result of early training by his pious mother, was decided and active.  An ardent Baptist, he early identified himself with Baptist history in New Jersey, and was a prominent organizer of the first Baptist church built in Harsimus, now Jersey City.  Soon after removing to Oswego he connected himself with the First Baptist Church in East Oswego, at that time under the ministrations of Rev. Isaac BUTTERFIELD.  The increase of population on the opposite side of the river let to the organization in 1852 of the West Baptist Church by forty-two members, dismissed from the parent church for that purpose, I which movement Mr. Kingsford took an active interest.  Mr. Kingsford was the first treasurer of the new church, and subsequently one of its leading deacons.  Mr. Kingsford gave with a liberal hand both to his church and to other charitable institutions.  Ever ready to assist those less fortunate than himself, he never turned a deaf ear to any proper appeal to his sympathies.  His manners were unassuming, and he did not embarrass the recipients of his bounty by a word or look.  At his death, which occurred at his home in Oswego on November 28, 1869, and which was universally mourned, he left an example of exalted success attained by singleness of aim, well directed application, and undeviating rectitude.  His unfailing kindness had made all his friends, and he left no enemy to begrudge his well earned prosperity.  Mr. Kingsford had four children – one son and three daughters, by his first wife, who died in 1834, soon after he arrival in America, his son Thomson being now the sole surviving child.

  As an inventor and discoverer the name of Thomas KINGSFORD will ever be associated with a great industry, and will live in history as that of a benefactor of the human race.  Dying, he has left a “foot-print on the sands of time,” which will not soon be effaced.  Of him, as of another great man, it may be said:  “It was his misfortune (if indeed it be one) to be born poor.  It was his merit by industry and perseverance to acquire wealth.  It was his misfortune to be without friends in his early struggles to aid him by their means or their counsel.  It was his merit to win them in troops in his maturer age by a Christian character that challenged all scrutiny.” 


  Thomson KINGSFORD, the present head of the firm of T. Kingsford & Son, was born at Headcorn, in Kent, England, April 4, 1828, one of four children of a family whose ancestry is traceable back to the days of the early English kings.  His earlier years, until the age of five, were passed in his native place, where his mother was maintaining a school founded by her husband, who, in 1831 had sailed for America to seek the opportunity for bettering his own condition and of educating his family, which seemed to be denied to him in his native land.  Locating in the spring of 1831, in Harsimus, Bergen county, N.J., where he had secured employment in the starch factory of Messrs. William Colgate & Co., the elder Kingsford was enabled during the following year to send to England for his family.  Thus it was that Thomson brought to the environment of the congenial air and institutions of America, those characteristic traits which its untrammeled freedom was so well suited to foster and develop.  The excellent schools and academy of Harsimus, laid for him the foundation of a thorough practical education; and at the age of fourteen he entered as apprentice the business of machinist and draughtsman.  During the first year of this apprenticeship, he constructed a perfect working steam engine of some six horses power, which was the first power used by his father in the then newly discovered process of extracting starch from ripe Indian corn.  At the age of eighteen years, the American Institute awarded him its diploma for the best mechanical drawing, a high honor when his age and the exclusive character of that Exhibition are taken into account.  It was in this year (1846) that his father, having severed his connection with the starch firm of William Colgate & Co., took into partnership his son Thomson, who had been a deeply interested participant in all of his father’s researches and experiments, and had rendered direct and efficient aid in their prosecution, and with him, organized, for the manufacture of starch from corn, the firm of T. Kingsford & Son, now so widely known as the largest manufacturers in the world in their peculiar line. 

  Thomson was therefore especially fitted, both by a knowledge of the needs and his thorough mechanical training, to supply the necessary machinery and many labor-saving devices for the factory which the firm erected at Bergen, N.J.   In the spring of 1848, the young business having crowded itself out of its New Jersey quarters by its rapid increase, the machinery was taken down and removed to Oswego, N.Y., where it served to form a nucleus for the establishment which has since made Oswego famous the world over, as the center of the starch making industry.  The steady and remarkable growth of the business in its new location, and the new uses and adaptations of the product in manufactures and the arts, which were constantly arising, necessitate continual improvements in appliances and treatment to suit various demands, in supplying which the inventive talent of Thomson KINGSFORD was often useful.  For twenty years the business life of father and son were interwoven, and an effect produced which probably would not have been accomplished by either single handed.  Neither knew any limit to his energy and perseverance, and having concert of tastes and views, the efforts of one supplemented those of the other.

  As the years of the father increased, the management devolved more and more upon the son, and at the death of his father in 1869, Thomson KINGSFORD found himself at the head of one of the largest manufacturing establishments in the country.  The sixty-five workmen of 1848 had been increased more than tenfold.  The capital, from $50,000 had been augmented to $500,000.  That the high quality of the product was maintained under the administration of Thomson KINGSFORD is evidenced by the fact that in 1876 the superior merits of the Kingsford’s Oswego Starch, which had steadily held the first place in all public exhibitions where the manufacturers had put it in competition, was clearly recognized by the report of the judges for awards of the Centennial Commission at Philadelphia, in which they paid tribute to the superior character of the exhibit shown, recognized the Kingsfords as “originators of starch from Indian corn.” 

  Mr. Kingsford maintains a constant and unremitting oversight over all manipulations of the starch.  He is familiar with all the countless ramifications of the business and nothing escapes his eye.  He is personally acquainted with every employee, and his relations with his subordinates are of the most cordial and helpful nature.  He aims to be the friend of each, and in this, unconsciously makes each a friend. 

  Mr. Kingford’s ability as a financier and manager, has received recognition both at home and abroad in his appointment to positions of honor, trust and confidence.  He is a trustee of Colgate University at Hamilton, N.Y., and also of Wells College at Aurora, N.Y., president of the corporation, The Oswego Starch Factory, and of its executive committee; a director, and subsequently vice-president of the National Marine Bank of Oswego; an active participant in the organization of The First National Bank; a promoter, with his father, of the Oswego Water Works Company; a director of the Oswego Gas Light Company; a trustee and one of the original incorporators of the Home for the Homeless, a local charity of widespread influence, originated by the ladies of Oswego in 1879.  Mr. Kingsford also now carries on a number of individual enterprises among which are a box shop and planing mill, which supplies the boxes for The Oswego Starch Factory; a machine shop and foundry, and a “department store,” one of the largest in this section of the State. 

  Mr. Kingsford’s influence has been frequently recognized in the councils of the Republican party in this State.  He was a member of the convention of 1879 in Saratoga Springs which nominated Gov. Cornell, and again three years later, in 1882, a member of the Convention which in the same place nominated the Hon. Charles J. Folger to the same office.

  Mr. Kingsford was, with his father, one of the founders of the West Baptist Church of Oswego, which has left its deep impress upon the community.

  Mr. Kingsford married, July 1, 1851, Virginia J., daughter of Augustus and Mary PETTIBONE of Oswego.  Two children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Kingsford; Thomas Pettibone KINGSFORD, born December 24, 1858; now associated in business with his father, and perpetuating the firm name of T. Kingsford & Son, and a daughter, Virginia M. KINGSFORD, now the wife of the Hon. John D. HIGGINS, one of the trustees of The Oswego Starch Factory, and at present mayor of the city of Oswego. 

  Mr. Kingsford is a public spirited citizen, a great manufacturer, a financier of comprehensive views and executive force; a kind employer, a strong friend with a helping hand, ad a philanthropist of deep seated religious principle.


Thomas Pettibone Kingsford
Thomas Pettibone Kingsford

  Eldest child and only son of Thomson and Virginia J. (Pettibone) KINGSFORD, was born in the city of Oswego on December 24, 1858.  He attended the schools of his native city, after which in 1876 he entered Madison (now Colgate) University, at Hamilton, Madison county, N.Y.  Closing his studies there in the spring of 1880, at the age of twenty-one years, he was immediately called into the business of The Oswego Starch Factory, and for the past fifteen years he has worked in harmony with the policy that has always governed the conduct of the several branches of manufacture and trade founded by this grandfather and his father, in unceasing efforts to maintain the high character of their product, and in that fairness and liberality towards the employees which seldom fails to secure their loyal service.  He was elected to the office of vice-president of The Oswego Starch Factory in June, 1894.

  Mr. Kingsford is a Republican in politics, but his exacting business relations prevent him from giving to public affairs more than the performance of the duties of good citizenship.

  On February 7, 1882, Mr. Kingsford was married to Jennie E. SCHUYLER, daughter of Harvey SCHUYLER of Little Falls, Herkimer county, N.Y.   They have one child, Thomson, born July 27, 1888.


  In the second generation back, John D. HIGGINS descended from Bradley HIGGINS, who was born in Norwalk, Conn., in 1793 and died April 30, 1885, at Mexico,  Oswego county.  He was married in early life in New York city to Maria de la MONTANYE.  In 1835 he removed to the northern part of the town of Richland, Oswego county, having successively conducted mercantile stores in New York city, Richfield, and Plainfield, a nearby place.  He carried on farming for eight or nine years in Richland and then moved into the village of Mexico, where he passed the remainder of his life.  He was a life-long and ardent Democrat and a highly respected citizen, and died at the advanced age of ninety-two years.  His oldest surviving son, John B. HIGGINS, was born in New York city July 17, 1822, and moved to Mexico with his father in the early forties.  Educated at Mexico Academy, he studied law in Mexico with Orla H. WHITNEY, beginning in 1843, and was admitted to the bar in 1846; began practice in Mexico and was for a few years associated with Luke D. SMITH.  George G. FRENCH and T. W. SKINNER were students in his office, and the former was subsequently his partner for a few years.  In 1856 he removed to Oswego and has continued in practice there since.  A Democrat in politics, Mr. Higgins has been active in his party and influential in its measures.  In 1850 he was elected district attorney and served one term.  After settling in Owego he was appointed deputy collector of customs under Orville ROBINSON, whom he succeeded as collector in 1857, under James BUCHANAN.  In 1874 he was elected recorder of Oswego for a term of four years.  Mr. Higgins was married in 1850 to Mary A. DAUBY, a native of Oswego county, daughter of Alexander J. DAUBY.  There were two children:  Dr. Frederick M. HIGGINS, of Bozeman, Mont., the elder, and John D. HIGGINS, the subject, who was born in Oswego city June 9, 1858.  His education was obtained in the public schools, the High School and the State Normal School of his native city. 

  Having determined to follow the law as a profession he entered the office of Rhodes & Richardson in 1877 and in 1880 was admitted to the bar.  He remained in the same office in the employ of the firm until February, 1882, when the firm was dissolved by the death of Mr. Richardson.  On the 1st of March of that year, the firm of Rhodes, Coon & Higgins was formed, composed of Charles RHODES, S. M. COON and John D. HIGGINS.  This firm continued in business until March 4, 1890, when it was dissolved by the withdrawal of Mr. Rhodes therefrom and the firm of Coon & Higgins was formed, which continued until September 1, 1891.  He early took an interest in local politics, departing from the precedent fixed by his father and grandfather and affiliated with the Republican party.  In 1887 he was elected city attorney and served one term.  On June 6, 1889, Mr. Higgins was married to Virginia M. KINGSFORD, only daughter of Thomson and Virginia J. KINGSFORD of Oswego.  Previous to the dissolution of the law firm of Coon & Higgins in September, 1891, before mentioned.  Mr. Higgins was chosen a director in The Oswego Starch Factory, T. Kingsford & Son, and soon thereafter abandoned his law practice and associated himself actively with the business of that company.  In the spring of 1894, he was elected to the office of mayor of the city of Oswego after a heated campaign, in which office he has not failed to uphold the principles which have always governed his public acts, nor flinched from what he believed to be his duty, in the promotion of the common good of the community.



  Alanson S. PAGE was born in Saratoga county, N.Y., on June 30, 1825.  His ancestry belonged to the hardy New England stock from which sprang so many of the pioneers of this State.  His father was David PAGE, born in Massachusetts, who removed with his parents to Providence, Saratoga county, when he was ten years old.  He was a respected farmer and later in life followed canal contracting.  His wife was Elsy SUMNER, a daughter of Robert SUMNER, of Edinburg, Saratoga county, who was a native of the State of Connecticut, where his daughter was born.  The father of David was also named David, was a native of Salem, Mass., and removed to Saratoga county and died there.

  Alanson S. PAGE was given exceptional educational advantages for one in his station in life and at that comparatively early time.  After attending the district school through his boyhood, he was sent to the Galloway Academy, which he left in 1842, when he was seventeen years old, to attend the Cazenovia Seminary one year; this was then an institution of learning of considerable note and gave its students excellent opportunity for obtaining a higher English education.  His attendance there was followed by a period in the academy of Professor BECK, in Albany, which he left well equipped for his after career.  It had been determined by himself and his parents that he should follow the profession of law, and he accordingly entered the office of S. & C. Stevens, in Albany in 1846, where he studied assiduously for two years, when he was admitted to the bar and settled in the then young but active city of Syracuse.  One year of practice there was sufficient to convince Mr. Page that in other fields of labor he could more surely, and certainly sooner, attain the success for which he was ambitious.  He removed to Oswego in 1850 and engaged in lumber trade with Myron S. CLARK under the firm name of Clark & Page, a successful business connection which continued until the death of Mr. Clark in 1862, which dissolved the firm.  The business was then continued three years longer to 1865 by Mr. Page associated with L. A. CARD under the style of Card & Page.   This firm was dissolved and Mr. Page became a member of the International Lumber Company, an organization at Albany comprising five co-partners.  This organization continued until 1873, when the business was closed up.
In 1853, during the existence of the firm of Clark & Page they purchased of Benj. BURT, the water power at Minetto, including an old saw mill, which they rebuilt into the second gang mill in this State.  Logs were imported from Canada, and the mill was operated by that firm and by Mr. Page until the close of the business in 1873.  During the period between 1868 and 1873 Mr. Page was associated with the late Delos DE WOLF in Oswego in the distilling business.

  With the winding up of these business enterprises Mr. Page found himself idle after a period of nearly thirty years of active life.  With means at his command and the possessor of a splendid water power at Minetto, he remained out of business three years, when his attention was attracted to a new industry.  The only manufactory of shade cloth in the country, for window curtains, was then in operation in Oswego, and Mr. Page determined to enter the field as a competitor for a part of the immense trade in these goods.  He accordingly in 1879 formed the Minetto Shade Cloth Company, consisting at that time of himself and Cadwell B. BENSON.  Charles TREMAIN became a member of the company prior to the beginning of manufacturing.  The old saw mill was remodeled for its new purposes, and a new structure was erected 300 by 40 feet in size, and the business was begun with about twenty-five workmen.  Mr. Page assumed the direct and active management of the business, and under his energetic and prudent control the manufactory prospered from the first and has become one of the largest industries in Northern New York.  Additional buildings for various purposes have been erected, a roller plant established, a large number of workmen’s houses built, and new processes evolved, until at the present time (1895) about 350 hands are employed, and the product of the manufactory finds its way to all parts of the United States, as well as to many other countries.

  Mr. Page’s superior business qualifications and his staunch integrity, sound judgment, and his character as a man, have received recognition from his fellow citizens.  He was chosen the first president of the Oswego County Savings Bank, upon its organization, but resigned the position and was succeeded by John B. EDWARDS.  Upon the resignation of the latter, on account of his advancing years, Mr. Page was again elected to the office, which he still holds.  He was also one of the directors of the City Bank, and for a number of years was in the directorate of the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad.  All of these institutions have profited by the business sagacity and conservative counsel of Mr. Page.

  In politics Mr. Page was formerly an independent Democrat; indeed, independence of character is one of his marked traits, and when the time came that prompted him to change his political affiliation, he did not hesitate, but cast a Republican vote for President Hayes.  Since that time he has supported the principles of that party as far as consistent with his sense of duty.  Naturally aggressive and impatient of injustice and trickery in the political field, he has never hesitated to denounce wrong-doing, by whomsoever perpetrated.  As far back as 1869, before he had changed his political allegiance, he was elected mayor of the city of Oswego by the Democrats and served in that capacity until 1872 inclusive.  His administration was satisfactory to the community, and the city business was carried on upon the same prudent basis that has always characterized his own affairs.  The new City Hall was erected during that period and is an enduring monument to those who had it in charge.  A sewerage system for the city was projected also during that administration, which has been since established on substantially the plan then inaugurated.

  In 1875 Mr. Page was elected to the Assembly and served in 1876.  In that body he was chairman of the Canal Committee, in which capacity he warmly opposed free tolls on the canals and made a minority report to that effect.  Mr. Page’s course in the committee was disapproved at the time by many men who have since lived to adopt the views then so energetically advanced by him.  The removal of tolls did not help the canal traffic, but, as he had often predicted would be the case, caused the railroads to lower their rates to a point where they could control the situation, just as they had previously done.  With the close of his term in the Assembly Mr. Page relinquished politics as far the acceptance of office is concerned; but he is found fearlessly aggressive and independent in support of what he believes to be for the best in local politics.  His public and private life has been such as to gain for him the unqualified respect of his fellow citizens.

  In 1858 Mr. Page was married to Elise BENSON, of Geddes, Onondaga county, N.Y., daughter of Dr. D. M. BENSON, who died in Geddes in 1854; the widow of the latter died at the residence of Mr. Page in Oswego in January, 1895.


Among the names of men who have contributed in a large degree to the growth and prosperity of Oswego, none stands out with more prominence or with a brighter luster than that of Thos. S. MOTT.  In many respects his career was a remarkable one; in some respects it was astonishing.  From the smallest of beginnings and by the sheer force of his natural and acquired qualifications, he rose to a position of opulence and power; and when it is understood that during about one-third of his comparatively short life, and during its period of greatest activity and heaviest responsibility, he was almost wholly deprived of sight, his career becomes more than remarkable and teaches lessons of fortitude, patience, energy and uprightness that possess inestimable value to the living.

  Thomas Smith MOTT was born in Hamilton, Madison county, N.Y., on December 15, 1826.  His father, Smith MOTT, was a native of Bridgewater, Oneida county, N. Y., whence he removed to Hamilton in 1826 and there became a prominent and influential merchant.  He married Lucinda RATTOONE, of Lansingburg, N.Y., born in September, 1806, and died in February, 1827.  She was a descendant of an old and honorable family of that place.

  The ancestry of the family on the mother’s side is traceable to Maj. Thomas BROWN, a Revolutionary officer, who was great-grandfather of the subject.  On the male side the family was of Quaker origin.

  Thomas S. MOTT was enabled to acquire a good business education in the then famous Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School at Washington, Dutchess county, N.Y. and in the Hamilton Academy.  He inherited from his father the characteristics that prompted him to engage in business pursuits and made him successful therein.  Leaving school he entered his father’s store as clerk and there laid the foundation of a broad knowledge of business principles, strict devotion to his duties and through-going, industrious habits, which characterized his after life.  In 1847 at the age of twenty years he engaged in mercantile trade on his own account in Hamilton and was unusually successful.  In the days of Oswego’s brightest commercial prospects, desiring to enter a broader field of operations, he removed hither in 1851 and engaged actively in general mercantile and shipping business.  Well equipped with a knowledge of correct and honorable business methods and the ability to judge accurately of men and their motives, and with a character already standing upon the solid foundation of integrity and fairness to all with whom he came in contact, he soon became a leader in the business life of his adopted city.  During the twenty years succeeding his arrival in Oswego the city saw her greatest commercial prosperity.  Grain came down from the West in immense quantities, the wheels of scores of great mills turned ceaselessly and the harbor was white with the sails of outgoing and incoming vessels.  In the buying and shipping of grain and other commodities Mr. Mott assumed a leading position, and ere long gained the distinction of handling more grain than any other person in the city.  The building of vessels for the growing commerce was also a great industry, and he early turned his energies in that direction.  Vessel after vessel was built by him;  Bermuda, Bahama, Thos. S. MOTT, Henry FITZHUGH, J. E. GILMORE, Norwegian, Jamaica, Florida, Nevada, John T. MOTT, Havana, Nassau, Atlanta, and the Pulaski followed each other from the stocks in rapid succession.  He also purchased the S. J. HOLLEY, the S. H. LATHROP, the Ostrich, and the James NAVAGH, altogether constituting one of the largest and finest fleets on the great lakes, and giving him a reputation that extended from tide-water to the Rocky Mountains. 

  While carrying forward these extensive operations, Mr. Mott never lost sight of the material welfare of Oswego, and every measure that promised advantage to the city received his hearty and efficient co-operation or financial support.  The First National Bank was organized in 1864; a year after he became its chief stockholder and its president, a position which he held until death, giving him the record of having been longer president of a bank than any other man who lived in Oswego.  This bank was conducted not alone for his own personal gain but upon those principles of liberality towards the business public which have ever characterized its operations.  So also, when further development of the water works system of Oswego became desirable, he assumed an active interest in the work, purchased a majority of the stock and was made president in 1883; he continued to devote his time and energy to the improvement of the system, and the old and inadequate facilities for extinguishing fires, the conditions of which had cost Oswego so dearly, were soon superseded under his energetic direction by extension of larger mains and new and more effective machinery which gave the community the present unsurpassed water supply.

  Besides his business connections, thus briefly described, Mr. Mott was a liberal investor in other industries and manufactories of the city.  Next to Mr. Kingsford he was the largest local owner of Starch Factory Stock, and other industries depended more or less upon his means and his wise counsel for their prosperity.  Nor was he less solicitous for the educational and moral welfare of the community.  He was several years a member of the Local Board of the Oswego Normal School, and showed a deep interest in the promotion of other educational facilities of the city.  He was a regular attendant of Christ Episcopal Church, which often benefited by his generosity.

  That beneficent institution, the Oswego City Hospital, found in Mr. Mott its most generous supporter. He donated the lot upon which the building was erected, and afterwards contributed most generously to its support.

  In early life Mr. Mott was a Democrat in politics, but after the formation of the Republican party he became one of its leading members in Northern New York.  During the period of the Nation’s peril in civil war the government received from him the most loyal support in time, energy and means, and the heroic men who fought the battles of the Union found in him a practical sympathizer and a generous friend.  He was a personal friend of General Grant and an intimate friend and admirer of Roscoe CONKLING.  When this great leader was in adversity, no man gave him more unqualified fealty than Mr. Mott.  It was inevitable than a man possessed of Mr. Mott’s characteristics – his aggressiveness against all wrong and corruption, his power to control men and influence them towards his own political views, his broad knowledge of current events – should become a leader in local politics as far as he would consent to assume such an attitude.  His influence became powerful in this field and was freely exerted for the advancement of those whom he believed to be worthy – never for his own.  His unyielding integrity was carried into politics as it was into his business relations, and the masses as well as politicians had confidence in him.  If he gave a man his promise to aid him to political preferment, that man knew what to expect and usually attained his desired object.  Never accepting office himself, he efficiently performed the duties of good citizenship, the general good his only incentive. 

  More than thirty years prior to his death, Mr. Mott’s sight began to fail, an during twenty years of his active life he was practically blind.  Such an affliction would have caused many to abandon all business and give way to despondency; but he was made of sterner stuff, and until the last continued to carry on his business operations and to wield his influence in the political field, when he could distinguish those with whom he came in immediate contact by their voices only.  This fact indicates one of the most prominent traits in his character – indomitable will and determination never to submit to adverse circumstances.  He was, however, hopeful and saw the brightest side of life; otherwise he must surely have faltered under his great deprivation.  Hence his career in his later years furnished a remarkable example of persistence in the activities of life under an affliction that would have appalled most men.

  Socially, Mr. Mott was amiable, courteous, serene in temperament and a thoroughly democratic American.  To him, it mattered little what was a man’s station in life if he was honest and upright.  Weakness he might tolerate and often he aided in raising such to a higher level; but the deliberate wrong-doer found little consideration at his hands.  The aspiring young man of business, the lowly and the suffering, found his door always open and his heart responsive.  No one knows, or ever will know, the innumerable occasions where his generous bounties were tendered to the needy, and it is not, therefore, remarkable that his death left a void not easily filled. 

  In July, 1947, Mr. Mott was married to Miss Sarah DE WOLF, sister of Delos DE WOLF, a former prominent citizen of Oswego and a local leader in the Democratic party.  They had three children – Col. John T. MOTT, of Oswego, Mrs. WARD, wife of Maj. Thomas WARD of the U.S. Army, and Elliott B. MOTT of Oswego.

  Mr. Mott’s death took place on September 13, 1891, at his home in Oswego.  His useful and honorable life was memorialized in resolutions of respect and esteem by the various organizations and institutions with which he was connected; among them the First National Bank of Oswego, the Oswego Water Works Company, the Local Board of the Normal School at Oswego, the Oswego Gaslight Company, the vestry of Christ Church and the Oswego City Hospital.


  John T. MOTT, son of Thomas S. MOTT, was born in Hamilton, Madison county N.Y., on October 11, 1848.  He was given unlimited opportunity to obtain a liberal education, and after attending the Oswego schools (whither his father had removed in 1851) he was sent to the Walnut Hill School in Geneva, N.Y., and graduated from Union College in the class of 1868.

  Under the circumstances surrounding his father’s life at that time it was almost inevitable that the young man would enter upon a business career, even if his tastes had dictated otherwise.  This, however, was not the case, for the same qualities with which nature had endowed his father, were, to a large extent, transmitted to the son.  They gave him the capacity to attack and successfully prosecute large business undertakings and a natural liking for the stirring activities associated with modern commerce.  His father’s sight had already begun to fail when he left college, but in this emergency he found in his son a devoted and efficient aid.  Immediately after graduating he entered the First National Bank of Oswego, of which his father was the principal owner and the president, filled for a time a clerkship, and in 1869 was made a member of the Board of Directors.  Two years later, in 1871, he was chosen vice-president, which office he held twenty years.  During this period he was conspicuous in the direction of the affairs of the bank.  With the rapid growth of his father’s commercial interest and the construction and purchase of his large fleet of lake vessels before described, and the contemporaneous failure of his father’s sight, the responsible duties connected with the large grain and shipping interest devolved very largely upon the son.  He proved equal to the burden and exhibited the ability to direct large business operations with success.  He continued in the practical management of the fleet of vessels and the shipping interests down to 1887, when his father retired from the shipping business, at the same time faithfully co-operating for the advancement of his father’s other numerous undertakings and acting in the boards of direction in several organizations in which they were jointly interested.

  With the death of Thomas S. MOTT in 1891 further responsibilities devolved upon his son.  He was promptly chosen to the office of president of the First National Bank, which position he has since filled, perpetuating in all respects the former policy of the institution and rendering it an important factor in the business life of Oswego.  In 1891 he was chose president of the Oswego Water Works Company, and still holds the position.  In 1891 he was made vice-president and treasurer of the Oswego Gas light Company, was elected secretary and treasurer of the Home Electric Light Company, all of which positions he now fills to the entire satisfaction of his business associates.  In 1892 he was chosen vice-president of the Niagara Falls and Clifton Suspension Bridge Company, and still holds the office.

  It will be seen by the foregoing brief statements that although scarcely in middle life, John T. MOTT is in a broad sense a man of affairs.  As such he enjoys the unlimited confidence and respect of his fellow citizens.  Prompt and outspoken in his decisions on all business questions, unfailing in that business courtesy which makes a man accessible to all and places the humblest at his ease, a quick and accurate judge of human nature, and a hater of sham and trickery of every kind, Mr. Mott is an exemplar of what is admirable in the modern American business man and citizen.  He is active in politics, believing that good citizenship demands it of every man.  The Republican party finds in him a earnest supporter, and though he never asks and never accepted strictly political office, his services are well understood and widely recognized.  As chairman of the Republican District Committee since 1880 he has given generously of his time and means to the advancement of the political measures which he believed were most contributory to the welfare of the State.  He is now a member of the Republican State Committee for the 24th District.  From 1880 to 1883 inclusive he held the post of aid-de-camp with rank of colonel on the staff of Governor Alonzo B. CORNELL, giving him his well-known military title.

  Mr. Mott is prominent in club life; is a member of the Fortnightly and the City Clubs of Oswego; of the University and Sigma Phi Clubs of New York city; of the Syracuse Club; of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club of Toronto; the Rochester Yacht Club; the Sodus Bay Yacht Club, and a member of commodore of Oswego Yacht Club.

  Mr. Mott was married on October 30, 1873, to Alice J. WRIGHT, daughter of Luther WRIGHT, who was long one of the prominent citizens of Oswego.  They have one son, Luther Wright MOTT.



  Wm. B. PHELPS was born in Eaton, Madison county, N.Y., on September 24, 1817.  He came from Puritan stock and always felt pride in the fact that his grandfather Elijah Phelps, fought as a private in the battle of Bunker Hill.  His father was John PHELPS, who was a farmer, and died at the age of forty-six years.  The early years of the subject were passed with his uncle at Springfield, Mass., where he obtained his education.  On October 7, 1839, when he was twenty-two years old, he removed to Oswego, traveling on a packet boat.  There he taught penmanship and composition for a time, and then found employment in the office of Penfield, Lyon & Co.   His first business venture on his own account was as a partner in a hat store; this was not successful and its failure gave him a life-long distrust of mercantile business.  After a brief period of work in a shoe store he entered the employ of the chandlery firm of Cooper & Barber, and in 1852 began work for a steamboat company.  This business was at that time rising to the height of its prosperity, and many men of good capacity found the beginning of successful careers in connection with the lake commerce of the place.  Mr. Phelps’s business capacity, his energy, and his popularity soon gave him a purser’s berth; this was then a lucrative position, for it was not uncommon for a lake steamer to sail with a passenger list of from 1,000 to 1,500.  Mr. Phelps performed the duties of this position on several well-known vessels to the satisfaction of his company, and soon gained a wide popularity.  About the year 1851 he went to New York as a steamboat agent, and in 1857 removed from Oswego to Buffalo; but the outlook there was not sufficiently attractive to him and he returned to Oswego.  At the beginning of the season of 1860 he was acting as chief clerk of the Ontario Steamboat Company, and continued his connection with that organization several years.  He finally, in common with other men of foresight, became convinced that the already numerous railroads would eventually outstrip the steamboats in commercial operations, and he counseled the sale of the Ontario line and aided in its accomplishment in 1867.  In 1867 he was appointed superintendent of the Oswego and Syracuse division of the D., L. & W. Railroad, then the Oswego and Syracuse Railroad.  In this responsible position he remained nearly twenty years, giving the highest satisfaction to both the company and to the public, and only resigned it in 1885 to accept the lighter duties of general agent of the same road, a station which he filled at the time of his death.

  Mr. Phelps always entertained a strong liking for military affairs, and was chiefly instrumental in continuing Fort Ontario as a military station, visiting Washington and having personal interviews with the secretary of war, General Sheridan, and others for that purpose.  His interest in military matters prompted him to store his mind with a large fund of statistical information on the subject, and he was especially well informed in the military history of the country.  He was a charter member of the old Oswego Guards, organized in 1837, and served as fourth corporal, from which fact he derived his familiar title of “Corporal.”  He was also an honorary member of various military organizations in Central New York.

  In politics Mr. Phelps was a staunch Republican, but not an active partisan.  His influence was always exerted for the cause of good government.  He served as alderman of the third ward and was honored with re-election.  In 1878 he was beaten by Thomas PEARSON in an exciting contest for the mayoralty of Oswego.

  Socially Mr. Phelps was one of the most companionable of men, and his popularity whenever he was known was boundless, while his domestic life was of the most enviable character.  He was married on December 24, 1843, to Caroline Matilda STONE, who died on September 25, 1889.  They had four children who survive, Mrs. B. S. OULD, Mrs. C. H. BOND, John P. PHELPS, and W.B. PHELPS, all of whom are residents of Oswego.

  It is proper to close this brief sketch of the life of Mr. Phelps with the following words of eulogy written by one who knew him well:

  “Men like Mr. Phelps are unfortunately the rarest of the earth.  But few communities are favored with such a character.  As wit, raconteur, and bon vivant, this quaint little man could keep a company in a roar.  Some of the quips and sallies that have dropped from his lips have provoked to laughter the mightiest of the land.  His smile was sunny, a true index of his disposition, almost invariably genial, inquiring, reminiscent and sanguine.  This was his social side – a good fellow, a prince of good fellows.  From another standpoint a good citizen was revealed, one whose love for his country, her history, her institutions, was so great, so high, so manifest in his every-day doings as to be worthy of standing as the type of sincere patriotism.  And more prominent than all, perhaps, was the business side of Mr. Phelps.  He was essentially a man of affairs, and however much his attention might be solicited by other matters, he never permitted it to stray from his work sufficiently long for the latter to suffer.  It was in the routine of his duties as the representative of the railroad, perhaps, that the manifold qualities which endeared the man to his fellows were best shown.  His ear was ever inclined to the take of the needy, his mind was ever ready to sympathize with the afflicted, while thousands in straits of trouble were made partakers of his generosity and kindness.  His monument has long been raised in the hearts of these.”

  Mr. Phelps died on May 17, 1893.



  H. D. McCaffrey was born on Island Noah, Canada (on Lake Champlain), June 14, 1841, son of Charles, born in the city and county of Armagh, Ireland, who died in Centerville, Canada, aged seventy-nine, and was buried with Masonic honors.  He was a life-long Mason.  Mary (DAVIS) Mc Caffrey, his wife, was born in Bath, England, and died in Centerville, Canada, aged seventy-two years.  The father was in the British service, connected with the Engineer Department at the time of our subject’s birth.  The latter first attended a military school at Kingston, Ontario.  He came to Oswego County, N. Y., when quite a young boy, worked at different vocations, and attended school, when possible, during the winter months.  At the breaking out of the war in 1861, he enlisted in the 12th Regiment, New York Volunteers.  After the military Telegraph Corps was organized he entered that department, and served in the line of construction of telegraphs during the war, and has since been, and is now, connected with telegraph and telephone construction.  He has been connected with all the chief lines of the United States during their construction.  He crossed the continent during the sixties, and is well versed in the geographical lay of the country, having built lines over the United States territories and British America.  In 1870 he came East to accept a position with the N.Y.O. & W. R. R. Co. as general lineman, having full charge of the lines between New York and Oswego. 

  In 1873 he married Mary A. FITZSIMMONS, and their children now living are Ida M., born August 5, 1875; Cora A., Laura E., Henry R., Frederick J., and Walter C.

  Mr. McCaffrey commenced constructing in a small way in 1879, and has worked his way up to be one of the largest and most successful contractors in telegraph and telephone construction in America.

  In 1883 and 1884 he represented the first ward of the city of Oswego as alderman, and was elected mayor in March, 1888, by the Republicans.  In his administration of these city offices he gave general satisfaction to his constituents.  He is intimately connected with all the charitable institutions of Oswego, and is now a trustee of the Oswego City Hospital, the Oswego Orphan Asylum, the Oswego County Savings Bank, and is a director of the Oswego Gaslight Company, and the Oswego Casket Company.  The family are all members of Christ Episcopal Church, in which Mr. McCaffrey has served several years as vestryman.  He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, in which he is a thirty-second degree Mason, and is also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  Mr. McCaffrey is now (1895) engaged in buying telegraph poles in Canada, and supplies the various telegraph and telephone companies in that country and the United States.

Source:  Landmarks of Oswego County New York, edited by John C. Churchill, L.L.D., assisted by H. Perry Smith & W. Stanley Child, Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Company Publishers, 1895. 
  Part II

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Copyright © August 30,  2004Cheryl Hanson, Transcriber 
    Copyright © Sept.,  2004Laura Perkins 
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