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: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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
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
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
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.
JOHN D. HIGGINS
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 SUMNER PAGE
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.
THOMAS SMITH MOTT
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
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
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
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
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
WILLIAM BENJAMIN PHELPS
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
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,
HENRY D. MC CAFFREY
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
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 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.