Yates County, New York

Biographies & Family Trees

from History Books  pg 487-524

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from History of Yates Co., by L. C. Aldrich,  Pub. 1892   Pg 501 - 503

ANDREWS, Hon. J. T. -  In the year 1812, on the day that war was declared by the United States against England, Ichabod ANDREWS purchased of Phelps and Gorham, 200 acres of land in the town of Reading, file miles south of Dundee.  In the spring of the following year, the Andrews family, consisting of the parents, five sons and one daughter, removed from Greene County to their new home.  The country at that time was almost unbroken wilderness.  Other families from the same locality, including a brother (Amherst ANDREWS), soon settled in the same neighborhood, which was then and is still known as the Andrews Settlement.  The genealogy of the ANDREWS family reaches back to the early settlement of the country and numbers among its members such names as Aaron BURR and Jonathan EDWARDS.   The family was from sturdy English stock.  The mother�s family, the TUTTLES, was more in the clerical line, and has among its members two bishops and several clergymen, mostly Episcopalians.  The primitive ANDREWS house was a �double� log building, larger and better than the houses of most of the settlers.  It was a pleasant place of resort for the neighborhood, and to it all were welcome.  The nearest post office was at Havana, twelve miles distant.  The only newspaper taken in the settlement was The Catskill Recorder, and Mr. ANDREWS was the only subscriber.  Every Saturday, John was dispatched to the post office for the mail; the distance traveled going and returning, twenty-four miles.  Sunday afternoon the neighbors would congregate and the paper would be read aloud, beginning at the title and ending at the last advertisement.  It was during the time of the last War with England, and people were eager for the news.   

John Tuttle ANDREWS was born in the county of Greene, NY, near Schoharie Creek on the 29th day of May, 1803.  His early years were passed among the Catskill Mountains.  His early education was obtained in the district school.  He was fortunate later in having for his teacher, Street DAVENPORT, a whimsical old bachelor, though a thorough scholar and a graduate from some eastern seminary.   Under his instruction, Mr. ANDREWS studied the higher branches.  In his early ears he was  engaged in teaching school and was clerk in a county store.  Later he was in the mercantile business with Hiram CHAPMAN as partner, in Irelandville and Watkins.  The business was not a success, and in closing it, Mr. ANDREWS was a heavy loser. 

He was married to Ann Eliza ANDREWS, April 12, 1832.  The union was a happy one and continued for forty-three years.  Mrs. ANDREWS died in the year 1875 on the anniversary day of her marriage.  One child was born to them, that died in infancy. 

Mr. ANDREWS�s political career commenced early in life.  His first office was justice of the peace, which office he held until his election to the office of sheriff.  He was elected sheriff in 1835 and the following year, Representative to the XXVth Congress.   Mr. ANDREWS was the youngest member of that body, and is now the only one living. 

He lived several years in Bath, NY, where he made many friends, not one of them now remaining.  Among those friends were John MAGEE, ex- Lieutenant-Governor Robert CAMPBELL, Judge EDWARDS, General MARSHALL, Judge RUMSEY, and many others.  Mr. MAGEE was the first to propose his candidacy for representative to Congress.  The preposition was a surprise to Mr. ANDREWS and he reluctantly accepted.  There was some dissatisfaction among the older members of the party.  They thought that for so young a man he was unduly crowded to the front, that he could afford to wait for political honors.  After he had secured the Congressional delegates, Mr. ANDREWS handed to the editor of the Farmer�s Advocate, a note declining the nomination. After consultation with Mr. MAGEE, Governor CAMPBELL and others, a change was considered not advisable and Mr. ANDREWS was nominated and elected.  He served two regular sessions and the memorable extra session called by Mr. VAN BUREN.  At that time, John Quincy ADAMS was fighting for the right of petition and the Senate was composed of such giants as WEBSTER, CLAY, CALHOUN, MC DUFFEE and others. 

He came to Dundee somewhere in the �forties�.  He did not engage in any active business until 1866, when he became a member of the firm of Martin Vosburgh & Co.,  In 1877 he retired from the firm, and since then has not engaged in business, employing his leisure in caring for his personal estate, and with his library, which is one of the most extensive in the county.

 What wonderful changes have occurred during this long life, �looking backward� almost to a former century!  The forests have disappeared, generation after generation has been born, has lived and passed away.  State after State has been added to the Republic.  The map of the world has been changed.  At the date of Mr. ANDREWS� birth, Fulton had just perfected a steamboat that would make the magnificent record of four miles an hour.  Ocean navigation by steam was not considered possible.  Of the present great railroad system there was nothing.  Not a railroad, or telegraph, or telephone, or an express company on the earth.  What of the next century?  Few of us will see it, but we can speculate and the speculation is bewildering.   


from History of Yates Co., by L. C. Aldrich, Pub. 1892 Pg. 490

BITLEY, Peter H., of Jerusalem, NY, was born at Moreau, Saratoga Co., NY, in 1801, and was the son of Henry and Elizabeth (DONALDSON) BITLEY. His ancestors on the paternal side were from Germany, and on the maternal, they were of Irish and Holland extraction. His parents were natives of Moreau, NY. Mr. BITLEY came to Yates County in 1833, being in the employ of Paddock & Nichols, who were lumber merchants of Yonkers, NY. He commenced furnishing square timber and spars by contract and delivering same at his employer�s dock at Yonkers. In 1843 he commenced operations for himself, buying timber in Yates and Steuben Counties and other localities and shipping to eastern markets by way of the Erie Canal. His shipments amounted to as high as 300,000 cubic feet in a single year, and average, till 1867, when he retired from the lumbering business, 250,000 cubic feet. After 1867 he devoted himself largely to the management of his farming lands. He became a resident of Branchport soon after that place was founded and where he accumulated a large fortune and was one of its most valued and worthy citizens. Mr. BITLEY was a man of large and generous heart, and was noted for his benevolence. He was for many years closely identified with the interests of the Universalists denomination, and mainly through his efforts a church was erected and sustained in the village of Branchport. He gave largely of his means for general religious purposes and was always a steadfast friend to the poor and needy. 

Mr. BITLEY married in 1839, Mary J., daughter of Benjamin LAIRD. They had one daughter, Mary E., who married in 1868, Rev. Henry B. HOWELL.   Mrs. HOWELL�s death occurred in 1876. There comes a time when all useful and well-regulated lives must close their earthly career. Mr. BITLEY passed away August 12, 1888. His widow still resides at Branchport, lending a helping hand to all those in need of assistance, and enjoying the love and respect of all who know her.

   William S. BRIGGS
                                     from History of Yates Co., by L. C. Aldrich, Pub. 1892 Pg 496-498

William S. BRIGGS - The subject of this sketch was born in the town of Milo on the 30th day of October 1820, and has lived continuously in the same town from his birth, being one of the best known and distinguished citizens of the county. His parents were David and Anna BRIGGS, old and respected residents of the county, whom to know was to love. 

BRIGGS entered upon school teaching at an early age of seventeen years, and continued in that work for about four years, during alternate terms of which period he attended schools as a student in Lyons in this State. 

In the spring of the year 1840 he took up the study of the law in Penn Yan in the office of the late
David B. PROSSER, with whom he continued until the year 1844, when he commenced the active practice of his profession with the late Hon. Abraham V. HARPENDING, although he was not admitted to the profession until January 1845. In the fall of the year 1846, the law firm of Harpending & Briggs terminated because of the failing health of the latter, which caused him to engage in agricultural pursuits for three years. 

In October 1849, the co-partnership law firm of Prosser & Briggs was formed, Judge BRIGGS having regained his health and sold his farm. At the general election in the year 1855, Judge BRIGGS was elected County Judge and Surrogate of Yates County, and was continued in that office by virtue of three additional elections thereto. In 1871, he declined a proffered fifth election, preferring to again resume his place at the bar. 

Judge BRIGGS and John T. KNOX, who had read law in his office, commenced doing a general law business on the first day of January 1872, under the firm name of Briggs and Knox. This co-partnership continued for six years, and proved to be both pleasant and profitable alike to both members, and the firm arose to the first rank in the law business of the county. 

But the people demanded that
Judge BRIGGS should again be their servant in the office of County Judge and Surrogate. It therefore, so happened that Judge BRIGGS was again nominated to fill that office in the fall of the year 1877, and his partner was at the same time placed in nomination for District Attorney. 

The election of either followed almost as matter of course, and so
Judge BRIGGS served a term of six years in that office, the official term having been lengthened since he occupied the office before. At the first of January 1884, the firm of Brings & Baker came into existence, the junior member being Charles S. BAKER, and continued until Mr. BAKER�s death, March 27, 1891. After the death of Mr. BAKER, a partnership was formed by Judge BRIGGS and Judge Martin J. SUNDERLIN, which still exists under the name of Briggs & Sunderlin. 

Judge BRIGGS was called upon to fill several important offices. He was clerk of the village for several years, a trustee of the village, clerk of the board of supervisors of the county from 1852-56, a member of the board of education of Penn Yan Union School district for may years, and vice present of the First National Bank of Penn Yan from the time of its organization in April 1873 until the fall of 1885. 

Judge BRIGGS has been three times married. In 1843 he married first, Elizabeth S. DORMAN, a daughter of the late Joel DORMAN. This estimable lady died in the month of May 1877. By this marriage, four children survive: Mrs. Wilson W. QUACKENBUSH, Mrs. Charles H. ROSS, Mrs. George R. WHEELER and William S. BRIGGS Jr.  

The second marriage was in April 1883 with Adelaide L. POST, widow of the late John POST of Geneva, NY. This lady died very suddenly on the 19th day of May 1888. The third marriage occurred in the city of Chicago in October 1889 with Joanna M. OLIVER, widow of the late Gen. John M. OLIVER. The parties to this union now have one of the happy homes of Penn Yan. 

Judge BRIGGS is easily one of the first in the profession of law in Yates or neighboring counties of the State. He possesses a sound, reasoning, judicial mind. The ability to weigh legal questions is possessed by him in a pre-eminent degree. Well grounded in the principals of the common law, equity has become his strong point in the practice. His deep research and strict application to the dues of the judicial offices he has filled have tended to make him a sound and safe adviser and counselor. In all th4se points his ability and penetrating knowledge have become so well known that he has enjoyed the rare distinction of being a chosen referee by the members of his profession in an exceedingly large number of important litigated cases in Yates and surrounding counties. 

As a neighbor and friend he has the admiration of all him acquaintances. Clever, kind, tender, all appreciate and love him. He is ever ready to aid the young, while those of his years have his full confidence. As was pronounced of Brutus, so may be truthfully said of
Judge BRIGGS: �His life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, �This was a man� .�





Ezekiel CASNER

from History of Yates Co., by L. C. Aldrich,  Pub. 1892   Pg. 519 - 520 

CASNER, Hon Ezekiel, the son of John and Lydia (RHODES) CASNER, was born in Norristown, Pa., April 23, 1802.  His father dying when Mr. CASNER was quite young, he was only able to obtain the advantages of a common school education.  He was appreciated to learn the trade of miller, and when hardly in his majority he engaged in the milling business in Allentown, Pa., which place he left in 1824 and came to Penn Yan, which thereafter he made his future home.  He first obtained employment of Abraham WAGENER who ran a flouring mill where the present one is located in Penn Yan.  In company with Hon. Aaron REMER, he purchased the mill and the firm continued until 1843 when it was dissolved by the death of Mr. REMER.  During the same year, Mr. CASNER formed a partnership with John C. SCHEETZ, under the firm name of Casner & Scheetz.  This firm continued business until the death of the senior partner; and during a partnership of most forty years the most pleasant relations existed, which speaks well for their enterprise and mutual confidence.  In politics Mr. CASNER was originally a Whig; he was elected a member of the Assembly in 1844; he was appointed by President FILLMORE to fill the unexpired term of Mr. James ROBINSON as postmaster of Penn Yan, and during the seven months he filled that position he gave the income of the office to his assistants.  Upon the disruption of the Whig party he became a Democrat, with which party he thereafter affiliated, taking an active part, and persistently refusing any political honors, though often solicited to do so. 

Mr. CASNER was a man of sincere convictions, and free and frank in the utterance of his views.  He was in no mean sense a wit and as such was a character in his originality.  When in his neighborly way he did talk it was to the point and the hits were worth considering and remembering.  He was industrious, economical and exemplary in his daily unostentatious life.  Commencing business in Penn Yan with no advantages and among strangers, he early attracted the men of prominence in the community by his self-reliance, merit and worth, and always enjoyed their confidence.  He married before coming to Penn Yan, Miss Elizabeth KACHLINE.  They had a family of nine children, and though six of them arrived at the age of maturity, none are now living.  The six mentioned above were Joanna, who married Henry L. KENDIG; Frank, Lydia, Margaret Prior, who married Hon. George H. LAPHAM; Samuel, and Albanus C.   

Mrs. CASNER died May 26, 1846 and on June 17, 1852, Mr. CASNER married Elizabeth J., daughter of Dr. E. E. W. GALE, of Albany, NY, who survives him and resides on the CASNER homestead in Penn Yan.  The issue of this marriage was Elizabeth A., who married Dr. Byron HB. HARCAS, at Penn Yan, and died at Rushville, NY.  Mr. CASNER died October 22, 1882, and the universal testimony and appreciation of the poor to his goodness of heart and sympathizing disposition are sufficient evidences of the love he bore his neighbors, however lowly.  His benevolence was a marked trait of his character.  He was successful in accumulating a comfortable competency, which, after providing liberally for his widow, was equally distributed amongst his surviving heirs.  Besides being engaged in the milling business, Mr. CASNER was connected with other mercantile enterprises.  He was from its organization in 1873 until his death a director of the First National Bank of Penn Yan, and on financial and other matters his approval was often sought by the general public.  He was very outspoken, direct and practical and rarely erred in judgment of men and things.  


  George Rathbun CORNWELL

from History of Yates Co., by L. C. Aldrich,  Pub. 1892   Pg 490

CORNWELL, George Rathbun, was born in the village of Penn Yan, on the same premises on which he now resides on the 24th day of February in the year 1836.  He was the son of Dr. William and Sarah (CHIDSEY) CORNWELL, and the 8th of their nine children.  His father was born in Delaware County in 1787 and settled in Yates as early as 1809.  He taught school for a time, but soon became a medical practitioner, and was in the service as �surgeon�s mate� during the War of 1812 � 15.  After his return the hardships of extensive riding that fell to the lot of every early physician, induced failing health, and obliged him to leave the practice of his chosen profession.  Thereafter he was admitted to the bar ad took to the practice of the law.  In 1822,  Dr. CORNWELL represented Ontario County in the Assembly, and was one of the important factors in bringing about the erection of Yates County in 1823.  He was considered a man of ability and learning, and was honored and esteemed by his fellow-men. 

Sarah (CHIDSEY) CORWELL was the daughter of Maj. Augustus CHIDSEY, a former resident of Cayuga County, but later a highly respected citizen of the town of Milo.  Her mother�s maiden name was Anna RATHBUN, a relative of the late Hon. George RATHBUN of Cayuga County.  She was a woman of uncommon endurance and industry; kind and considerate in her intercourse with others, and faithful to her family to the last degree.  She was also one of the thirty-six persons who formed the First Presbyterian Church of Penn Yan, organized in 1822, and was the last surviving original member at the time of her death in 1888. 

When our subject was not quite ten years old his father died, leaving to the mother the care and education of a large family of children.  George attended the public schools of the village, a part of the time at the select academic institution conducted by Professor MURRAY.  At the age of seventeen, George commenced work as a clerk in the bookstore of Burns & Miller, of Penn Yan, and continued at that employment though through several changes in partnership, from 1853 to 1858, when in October of the year last mentioned, he purchased the stock of L. & S. Denton, booksellers and stationers doing business on Main street, next south of the present First National Bank. 

In 1864 Mr. CORNWELL moved to his present location on the east side of Main street, where he has without intermission conducted business to the present time.  In October 1872, he purchased the block of three stores since known as �Cornwall�s Opera House Block.� 

At the time of starting out to make his own way in business life, Mr. CORNWELL had little or no capital except his own determination and energy.  But what to him was of equal value, he possessed the confidence and respect of the best men of the village. 

George R. CORNWELL has been known in business circles in Penn Yan for a period of more than thirty years, and in that time he has made an acquaintance throughout the whole of Yates County, and even beyond it, and he has ever been know as a straightforward, reliable and successful business man.  Not only is he a man of undoubted worth and integrity of character, but as well a man of rare business ability, tact, and judgment.  He is what has been aptly termed a �detail man�, and would have made a success in any business calling, but his constant familiarity with books, coupled with his naturally studious mind, has peculiarly fitted him for his present occupation, and as well stamped him as a man of superior culture.  Naturally enough such a man, with so extended an acquaintance, and having at heart every interest that might tend to promote the welfare of the county or of his village, could not well avoid being drawn somewhat into the field of politics.  He is a Republican, and one of the leaders of his party in the county and the congressional district.  While he has not made oratory a study, and lays no claim to ability as a public speaker, his services upon the stump have been required by his fellow workers in every important campaign during the last twenty or more years.  In presenting the issues in any canvass, Mr. CORNWELL speaks with force and directly to the point.  He addresses himself to the understanding of his hearers rather than appealing to their passions, and approaches the subject in hand with dignity, self-possession and in the light of reason and common sense.  Since attaining his majority he has taken an interest in politics, but as a factor therein he has been especially prominent for the last score of years.  Still, however much he may have indulged in this direction, the end sought to be accomplished has been more for the benefit of his friends than himself. 

In matters pertaining to education, Mr. CORNWALL has felt a deep interest.  Especially is this true respecting the public schools of Penn Yan.  In 1872 he was elected a member of the Board of education for the village of Penn Yan Union School district, a position he has held for that until the present time.  On January 1, 1891, he was elected president of the board, and was re-elected for 1892.  That Mr. CORNWELL is familiar with the schools, academics and other institutions of learning in this county is fully evidenced in the fact that the chapter on education in this work is from his pen. 

George R. CORNWALL represented Yates County in the Assembly during the legislative sessions of 1887 and 1888.  He were there honored by positions on the Ways and Means, Internal Affairs, Claims, Public Education, and Manufacture of Salt Committees, four of them the most important committees of the House.  In 1882, -83 and �84, Mr. CORNWELL was chairman of the Yates County Republican Convention that placed in nomination James G. BLAINE for the presidency of the United States.  The same fall, and again in 1888, he received the delegates from Yates for the nomination of representative in Congress from this district. 

On the 11th of November 1863, George R. CORNWELL was married to Catharine E., the daughter of Dr. James HERMANS, then of Penn Yan, but formerly of Potter. 

The children of George R. and Catharine E., CORNWELL are William S., Mary E., James H. (married Maud E. WHITAKER), France E., wife of Remsen M. KINNE, Catharine E., George R. Jr., Sarah H., Hermans Hart (who died in infancy) and Henry B.  All of these children who have attained their majority have received a thorough education.  William S., the eldest, is county clerk of Yates County, James H., the second son, remaining with his father in business. 

Mr. CORNWELL is still in the prime of life � the measure of success achieved by him has been wrought by well-directed thought and action.  His family is his greatest ornament, and with that his is content.  


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