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The county's heavy hitters wielded power and clout. Roscoe Conkling had it. So did Rose Cleveland, Gerrit Smith, Horatio Seymour, Theodore Faxton, Henry Highland Garnet and a handful of other giants who walked Oneida County in the 19th century.

Oneida County was fortunate, too, that entrepreneurs like Theodore Faxton, Alfred Munson, John Butterfield and Silas Childs were able to start businesses with their own money and local capital. There was no shortage of inventors and engineers such as Squire Whipple, John B. Jervis and Jesse Williams whose discoveries not only impacted Oneida County but eventually the entire nation.

  • John Butterfield
  • Roscoe Conkling
  • John Devereux
  • Theodore Faxton
  • Henry Inman
  • Jervis, White and Wright
  • Charles Mott
  • Erastus Palmer
  • Thomas R. Proctor
  • Elihu Root
  • Jedediah Sanger
  • Horatio Seymour
  • James Sherman
  • Charles Walcott
  • Hugh White
  • Squire Whipple
  • Jesse Williams
  • Maria and Racheal Williams

John Butterfield

John Butterfield

John Butterfield was born in Berne, New York, about thirty miles Southwest of Albany on November 18, 1801, son of Daniel and Catherine Ebert Butterfield. He had little schooling and in 1821 he left the farm at the age of 19 to seek his fortune. He secured a job with Thorp and Sprague Express Company where he gained a reputation as one of the most capable and dependable of drivers in that city and which started him on his career in the transportation industry. He shortly moved to Utica, New York, where he was employed by Jason Parker and started his own livery business with the purchase of a horse and carriage. He married Malinda Harriet Baker in 1822 and sired ten children.

His connections with the transportation business pointed out the necessity of having good roads and he built, and had built, plank ( corduroy ) roads through the area - which experience helped him greatly when he came to establish the Overland Mail. He was also one of the first to realize the importance of North-South roads as well as the migratory East-West roads of the time and he established a stage line from Utica South, connecting with other lines at Mt. Pleasant, to New York via Newburgh, and Philadelphia via: Easton, Pa.

In 1857 an act of Congress authorized the adoption of a mail and passenger stage line, awarding the contract to John Butterfield, an experienced stage driver and expressman from New York State.

Since the gold rush of '49 the west had been badly in need of overland transportation that would prove faster and more effective than the long, circuitous routes around the Horn and across the Isthmus of Panama. The contract provided for one year of preparation, calling for the first service from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco to begin September 16, 1858, with semi-weekly runs over the 2800 miles to be covered in a maximum of 25 days.

Butterfield House

When the line started operation in September of 1858, one hundred forty one stations were listed. A year later there were about two hundred. Stations averaged about twenty miles apart. Some were meal stations. All were "change" stations, (change of horses) and about every three hundred miles a fresh coach was supplied. Two meals were served each day, and passengers were advised to take along extra food as well as blankets.

"Remember, boys, nothing on God's earth must stop the U.S. Mail!" This was John Butterfield's maxim to his drivers, conductors and stage personnel.

The Butterfield Overland Stage Line was the longest stage coach route in the world. At the beginning of the route, fares for eastbound passengers were $100 and for those going west $200. Eventually they were reduced to $150 each way.

The Civil war and the consequent removal of the troops stationed at forts along the stage road as well as the confiscation of Overland property and stations by the Secessionists, brought the great Overland Mail to an abrupt halt in March of 1861.

Throughout his life, John Butterfield was truly a giant, a founder of the American Express Company, the New York, Albany, and Buffalo Telegraph Co., (the basis of the Western Union Telegraph), a developer of lands around Utica, builder of the Butterfield House, Utica's largest Hotel, Bank Director and Mayor of Utica.

The Butterfield House attracted hundreds of guests and others from throughout the Northeast. It was called "the most modern hotel between New York City and Chicago."

The hotel, built by John Butterfield on the northeast corner of Genesee and Devereux streets in downtown Utica, was designed by Utica architect Azel L. Lathrop. It cost nearly $250,000 to build and furnish.

John Butterfield's Home 1865

The first floor had offices, a gentlemen's reception room and a reading room. The second floor was dominated by a dining room whose design, accessibility and numerous convenient features, says the Utica Observer, "call forth expressions of almost unlimited praise." There also was a ladies drawing room, a library and billiards room. The third and fourth floors had single bedrooms and suites. The basement was the home of Chris Freymuller's six-chair barber shop, complete with a back room with three bathtubs.

On November 14, 1869, John Butterifeld died, leaving many descendants who are proud of his accomplishments. His funeral was held from Trinity Church in Utica, New York, and it was recorded that nearly every business place was closed and was draped in black.

He has not been forgotten - Mayor John T. McKennan proclaimed September 16, 1958, John Butterfield Day in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Overland Mail and in 1981, a new Post Office was opened in Utica, The Butterfield Station.

Roscoe Conkling


Roscoe Conkling is remembered by the image his name evokes: the "finest torso in public life" topped by a handsome, red-bearded head. This made him a striking figure on political platform and courtroom floor. "Imperious man ... He battled for a nation's life ... for the rights of slaves, the dignity of labor and the liberty of all. He was an orator-earnest, logical, intense and picturesque. He filled the stage ... he satisfied the eye ... The audience was his. He had that indefinable thing called presence."

The Presence was Roscoe Conkling eulogized in Robert Ingersoll's memorial address before the New York State Legislature. Born in Albany on October 30, 1829, Roscoe Conkling was the youngest son of Alfred and Eliza Cockburn Conkling. After attending the Mount Washington Collegiate Institute in New York City and the Auburn Academy, he studied law with the Utica firm of Spencer and Kernan. Admitted to the bar in 1850 he progressed in his career exhibiting extraordinary skill in the examination of witnesses and the presentation of arguments before juries. His appointment as district attorney of Oneida County gave him a varied experience. He formed a partnership with Thomas Walker in Utica.

Conkling married Julia, a sister of Horatio Seymour, a leading Democrat. He helped to organize the Republican party in 1854 and became Utica's mayor in 1858. His administration was known for efficiency and economy.

Elected a representative to Congress in 1858 Conkling was a prominent political figure for the next 30 years. As leader of the Republicans then in control of the country, he had great influence in determining policies for the nation. The national election of 1860 made Abraham Lincoln President. Conkling supported Lincoln's administration in the conduct of the Civil War, advised General Grant and opposed the Northerners, called Copperheads, who sympathized with the South.

Julia Seymour Conkling

Although he usually won his political contests, Mr. Conkling lost to Mr. Kernan in the Congressional election in 1862. Two years later the tables were turned; Conkling won.

The ambitious gentleman from New York held the high office of United States Senator from 1867-1881. He assisted in framing the reconstruction policy after the war and was chiefly responsible for the Electoral Commission Compromise of 1876 which brought the country through troubled times and may have prevented a second civil war.

His personality was such that he seemed to consider those whose views were different from his as enemies of mankind. No feud in history or literature was more relentless than the fight within the Republicar Party between the Stalwarts led by Mr. Conkling and the Half Breeds by Mr. James Blaine. Wily politicians, they had battled before in House and Senate. In a speech Mr. Blaine referred to Mr. Conkling's "grandiloquent swell, his majestic super-eminent, over-powering turkey gobbler strut" and cast unjustified doubt upon his integrity, the "most unkindest cut of all."

Insulted, Conkling retaliated. His strategy was to engineer the re-nomination of President Grant for a third term in 188C thus thwarting Blaine's own presidential aspirations. He failed in his first objective -but succeeded in the second. A dark horse, James Garfield, emerged as a compromise candidate and won. His assassination was attributed to the Stalwart-Half Breed hatred which Mr. Conkling had abetted.

Although Roscoe Conkling dominated House and Senate for almost two decades, he left practically no legacy of constructive achievement. He is remembered rather as a bitter partisan who fought civil service reform. Although he did not use public service for private gain, in an era when graft and corruption were all too common, he did work closely with the worst spoilsmen in his party.

Senators Conkling and Thomas Platt resigned in a dispute with President Garfield over patronage. Seeking vindication through re-election, both lost. When President Grant offered Conkling the post of Chief Justice of the United States, he refused stating that he would be "forever gnawing at his chains." He also declined the ambassadorship to the Court of St. James and appointment to the United States Supreme Court. He preferred to remain in the Senate where he could castigate his opponents in vitriolic terms.

Conkling Homestead, Rutger Park, Utica

Demanding as the duties of his positions ,were, Conkling did not neglect his profession. In important cases he invariably found Mr. Kernan his adversary. If a plaintiff retained one of the most able lawyers available, the defendant had little choice but to engage the other. Whenever the two attorneys brought a case to trial, spectators crowded the courtroom to witness the robust Republican and the decorous Democrat in action! In his History of Oneida County Mr. Cookinham reminds us that Conkling once declared he would rather stand up before a jury and look the 12 men in the eye than to do any other thing in the, world.

He had weathered stormy scenes in political life, braved many tempests in his ascent to power but in the great blizzard of 1888 he was "like the chaff which the wind drives away." He died of pneumonia in New York City on April 18, 1888.

Called the "spread eagle orator of the day" he could "soar to the heights on the wings of words." "His success," writes Mr. Cookinham, "was due not so much to what he said as to the way he said it." Roscoe Conkling is remembered by the image his name evokes: the "finest torso in public life" topped by a handsome, red-bearded head. This made him a striking figure on political platform and courtroom floor.

John Devereux

John Devereux was born in 1774 in Wexford Ireland and was the second oldest of nine children. The Devereux were an old, well-to-do, respected Roman Catholic family which lost lives and money in the short, but bloody, Irish Rebellion of 1798.

John had fortunately left Ireland before the troubles of 1798, and after a sojourn in France arrived in the United States in mid-1796. In September of that year, "John C. Devero, Dancing Master, lately from Europe" advertised that he was opening a Dancing School in Hartford Connecticut. Two years later he advertised that he was teach­ing in Windham and Tolland. He taught also in the Connecticut towns of Middletown and Norwich, Pittsfield and elsewhere in Massachusetts, and in Troy, New York.

The family tradition from John's mouth is that he "danced one thousand dollars out of the New Englanders", and this $1,000 started the immensely successful Devereux merchant business. When John opened his store in 1802, Utica was a hamlet of a few hundred persons. Judging from the Utica store advertisements of the Devereux and others of that time, the merchandise sold included whiskey, gin, wine, brandy, cigars, tobacco and snuff. John did well enough so that by 1805 he had bought property in Utica, and then by 1806 on the waterfront of Sackets Harbour, where he and his brother Nicholas later had a store.

Devereux Block

In 1814 Utica was growing rapidly. He was joined by his brother Nicholas and the firm became John C. and Nicholas Devereux. At this first recorded partnership of John and Nicholas, John was forty, having arrived in America at the age of twenty-two, eighteen years before. Nicholas was twenty-three, with widely varied and helpful experience. These two brothers, with their initiative, ability, and seventeen year age-gap, were destined to leave a notable record in Utica, a community that grew at mushroom speed during their lifetimes.

On July 4, 1817, work was started on the Erie Canal. The first excavation was at Rome, near Utica, and the canal eventually became the base for their operations. Two years later the canal became a reality; on October 23, 1819, a canal boat of officials opened the first section-Utica to Rome.

In 1821 the canal was opened to the east as far as Little Falls. This, with the already opened western stretch, created a "Throughway" across the village. Business then gravitated to the canal banks, about half a mile south of the old center which was near the Mohawk, and based on Bagg's Square. John C. and Nicholas Devereux bought property on the south side of the canal and west of Genesee Street. Part of this later became the site of the "Devereux Block", still a landmark; but their first buildings here were a store and a warehouse. Devereux dealt extensively in imported goods, and the quantities make it clear they were wholesalers. The business was very extensive with tavern­ keepers and store keepers of the smaller towns.

Devereux Home

In 1823 John, then forty nine, retired as an active partner and bought the Jeremiah Van Kensselaer house at the edge of the village. The land had a frontage of 416 feet on the east side of Genesee Street, running south from a point just south of Elizabeth Street. It totaled seven acres and eventually became the center of the Utica business district.

The Devereux's banking interests had started in 1819, for with so much "canal money" around, the Devereux brothers began a savings bank. This bank paid regular dividends to its depositors and the bank was incorporated two years later, March 21, 1821. John was president of the Utica Bank for Savings, about which we know nothing except that it is listed in the Utica Direc­tories of 1832-1834.

The Devereux brothers were founders and original board members of the Utica Savings Bank. The Utica banks had survived the troubled finan­cial years but an institution for savings was needed. John was elected president and remained so until his death in 1848. By the time his widow died in 1868, the one thousand dollars that John had danced out of the New Englanders had become a fortune of $450,000.

Theodore S. Faxton

Theodore S. Faxton was born in Conway, Massachusetts on January 10, 1794. He was a penniless lad when he came to Utica and broke stone on the Miller turnpike leading to the village. He became a resident in 1812 and was employed by Jason Parker as a stage driver on the line running between Albany and Buffalo. He was such a good employee that he was made superintendent of the lines. He made frequent trips, inspecting the drivers and equipment. If he found incompetence, he would dismiss the driver on the spot, take his seat on the box and finish the run himself.

It was some time about the winter of 1822-23 that Faxton performed a feat which gave much notoriety to Parker & Co. He held the reins over a four-in-hand turn-out belonging to the company which carried James Platt, Richard R. Lansing, John H. Ostrom, Charles P. Kirkland, Joseph S. Porter and William Williams from Utica to Albany and back in eighteen hours. They started at midnight, had relays of horses, reached Albany before the opening of the morning session of the Legislature, rested an hour, returned to Utica, pushed on to New Hartford and returned to make the distance 200 miles and left the stage in Utica by early bedtime.

After the death of Parker in 1830, Faxton carried on the business until the railroad drove the stage lines off the road east of Utica. The stage company gradually closed its business, and Faxton thereafter engaged in other business enterprises and made great contributions to the growth of the city.

Faxton Hospital

When Faxton married in 1826 (the daughter of William Alverson, brewer and grocer) he went to live at what was 24 Seneca street. In connection with John Butterfield, Hiram Greenman and others he was involved in the operation of the packet boats on the canal. Captain Greenman then owned a fine residence and property on the northwest corner of Lafayette street and Broadway, the house having been built in the early years of the century. In 1837, Mr. Faxton and Captain Greenman exchanged properties, and Faxton took up his residence on Lafayette street, where he resided until his death, November 30, 1881.

The first commercial telegraph operation in the United States was opened between Utica and Albany by Theodore Faxton in January of 1846. Faxton’s company was the N.Y., Albany & Buffalo Telegraph Co. and was to link these cities when it was completed. The central office of the company was located in Utica at Dudley's Triangle on the South-West corner of Genesee and Whitesboro streets on Bagg's Square.

The first news dispatch via commercial telegraph was printed in the "Utica Daily Gazette" on February 31 1846. As the completion of the entire telegraph line from hew York City to Buffalo approached, Mr. Faxton decided that a better system of dispatching was needed. A meeting of Utica and Syracuse editors was held to discuss the matter at Syracuse June 1, 1846. The result of this meeting was a decision that a plan could be evolved to furnish upstate newspapers with telegraphic news service on a cooperative basis, for Northway & Co. sent a circular out to twenty newspapers calling for a meeting of editors to discuss the plan in Utica on August 5, 1846. Betweeen this first meeting and the proposed second meeting, the line from Utica to Buffalo was completed on July 4. The group was known as the New York State Associated Press.

Home for the Homless

On November 19, 1866, a charter was granted under the name of the “Home for the Homeless in the City of Utica” to take care of the aged, indigent and infirm women who were unable to support themselves. The home was opened in a building on Whitesboro street, opposite the State hospital, in May 1867. Theodore S. Faxton, contributed $20,000 and two acres of land on Faxton street toward the erection of a new home there. Citizens contributed an additional sum of $26,000 and B. F. Jewett and his sisters donated four lots adjoining those of Faxton and a new building was opened on December 26, 1870 at a cost of $30,000 and in 1879 an additional building was added at a cost of $6,000.

Faxton Hospital, a gift from Theodore S. Faxton, opened in 1875. The growth of Faxton Hospital for the first ten years was slow. In 1892, a training school for nurses was established and in 1895, Dr. Fred J. Douglas was appointed the first resident physician of Faxton. In 1897, a home for the nurses was opened and in 1926 a new addition was added to the hospital.

In 1867 Faxton purchased the former residence of DeWitt C. Grove and the adjoining land, located on a triangular plot on the north side of Court street where Varick intersects, for the purpose of erecting a building dedicated to public use. He commissioned Azel Lathrop to design an appropriate structure. It was decided to construct a two story brick building with a stone foundation, in the French style of architecture.

Faxton was rightly considered one of Utica’s great benefactors.

Henry Inman

In 1801, Henry Inman, America's premier portrait painter of the 1830s, was born just outside of Utica on the Whitestown Road, and enjoyed a happy childhood here in Oneida County.

When Henry Inman was 12, the family moved to New York City, in some measure to advance the young boy's precocious talents in the arts. He served a seven-year apprenticeship with the then-renowned painter John Wesley Jarvis.

By 1823 the young Inman was back in Utica painting miniatures of the prominent Utica families that could afford to commission him. Henry's father, William Inman, a native-born Englishman, who had come to American in 1792 as an upstate land agent for the North American Land Company, returned to our area, to West Leyden, in 1825.

Henry stayed in New York City as a most famous member of the "Knickerbocker" circle, and together with Samuel F. B. Morse, the painter and later telegraph magnate (who also had Utica family connections), Henry Inman founded the National Academy of Design. Inman was now much sought after by the prominent people of New York City and Philadelphia, and thereafter nationally and internationally, to paint their portraits, till his early sickness and death in 1846.

Among his numerous portraits are those of:

  • Statesmen: DeWit Clinton, Erastus Corning, Nicholas Biddle, Richard Varick, William Seward, Martin Van Buren, and Chief Justice John Marshall;
  • Clerics: Bishops Charles McIlvaine and William White (in the  Munson-Williams-Proctor collection)
  • Artists, writers and actors: James Audubon, Thomas Sully, William Cullen Bryant, Frances Wright, Fanny Kemble, William Macready, and James Henry Hackett (with Utica roots); and in England, Thomas Babington Macauley and William Wordsworth.

Mumble the Peg

In 1987, the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. published a sumptuous exhibition catalogue of Inman's work, "The Art of Henry Inman," edited by the distinguished scholar William H. Gerdts. But as Gerdts points out in this catalogue and in an earlier article, "Henry Inman: Genre Painter" (The American Art Journal 9, May 1977), Henry Inman has been acclaimed as more than a portrait painter; famed as well for graphic works, for his landscapes, and for his "genre" painting, that is, of scenes of everyday life. And it is in these latter works of landscape and genre that I would submit that the Central New York roots of the Inman imagination can be seen, the effects of that happy childhood he spent in Oneida County.

It is these genre paintings largely of the last decade of Inman's short life that, in the words of William Gerdts, display "the nostalgia for the purity of childhood days, the message of most of Inman's genre paintings": "1842 saw the creation of what instantly became Inman's most admired genre picture and is still the best known today, his 'Mumble the Peg' (Cover & page 6, in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia)...The painting was greeted with much enthusiasm and admired for its presentation of idyllic and innocent childhood."

The "city boy" and the "country boy" playing the child's game amidst the lovely country landscape is surely made up of reminiscences of Inman's own boyhood in Central New York, as is his equally famous last painting (1845), "Dismissal of School on an October Afternoon" . The children are very young, younger than the 12-year-old Henry Inman before he left our locale for New York City. The warmth and joy of the children and the mellow landscape certainly do suggest a nostalgic look backwards to a lovelier time. Inman does place the name of "Ichabod Crane" over the schoolhouse door, in tribute to his friend Washington Irving's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." But that is a side tribute to Irving's nostalgia; the painting is a tribute to Inman's.

The case is probably the same with Inman's magnificent "Trout Fishing in Sullivan County". Inman was an expert and quite famous angler throughout his life and certainly did some later fishing in Sullivan County. But it would have all started in his boyhood in Utica and Whitestown, likely on the Mohawk River and Oriskany Creek. One other of his most famous (and early) genre paintings is in fact titled "The Young Fisherman", and we have in this painting a boy not yet an adolescent on his way to a stream to fish, picking berries, with a fishing pole over his shoulder. So that Sullivan County may be in the title of the painting, and even in the landscape, but it is Oneida County that is in the romantic sentiment that the painting so beautifully embodies.

John B. Jervis, Canvass White and Benjamin Wright - Lead the Way for Engineering "Firsts" in the United States

In 1817, Governor DeWitt Clinton decided that work on the 365-mile Erie Canal would first begin on a 94-mile middle section from Utica west to the Seneca River. Three Oneida County residents were to play a vital part in the construction of the canal and lead the way for engineering in this country.  The undertakings were "pioneering" ventures. The projects were filled with "first" and "untried" engineering principles, and as such, were "schools" for a generation of American civil engineers.

Benjamin Wright

Benjamin Wright of Rome was named chief engineer of the Erie Canal in 1817. Wright's engineering experience was practically non-existent but, at the time few Americans had any knowledge of civil engineering. Under Wright’s direction the construction of the canal became "the first practical school of engineering in the United States."  Upon the completion of the Erie, Wright went on to other canal works such as the Delaware and Hudson and Chesapeake and Ohio. He served as New York City Street Commissioner in the 1830s.

Benjamin Wright was born in Connecticut in 1770. He had little formal education, but learned the rudiments of surveying and law from an uncle. He came to Fort Stanwix (Rome) in 1789 to join his family where they had migrated right after the Revolutionary War.
Benjamin’s reputation for accuracy and honesty spread, his services were in demand. He surveyed thousands of acres of land in the Oneida Lake area. When he was 24 years old Wright assisted the famous English engineer William Weston in canal surveys for what would become the Erie Canal. Wright also served as a New York State Assemblyman and a judge.

With the help of such "students of engineering" as John B. Jervis, Canvass White, Nathan Roberts and David Bates, Wright overcame both technical and political difficulties, and completed the greatest engineering feat in history to the time. When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, Wright was 55 years old.  He died in New York City in 1842. On October 17, 1970, the bicentennial of his birth, Benjamin Wright was declared the Father of Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Canvass White

Another Oneida County resident who gained prominence on the Erie Canal was one of Wright's assistants, Canvass White. Son of Hugh White, the founder of Whitestown, Canvass White was responsible for the introduction of the use of hydraulic cement in the United States. White was engaged in several canal projects prior to his untimely death in 1834.

Canvass White was born in Whitestown, New York on September 8, 1790. Even at an early age he displayed a talent for invention, and constructed many things needed in his hometown. In 1813, he established himself as a student in the Fairfield Academy, where he studied Mathematics, Science, and Surveying.

Governor DeWitt Clinton realized the need for civil engineers, and in 1817 sent White to England to inspect and report on the materials and tools used to build bridges, canals, aqueducts, and culverts. One of his first goals was to find a better material means to waterproof canal locks, constructed of wood or brick which rotted after a few brief years. English canals used a limestone mix, but it was too costly to import.

White eventually produced a waterproof hydraulic cement that was both cheaper and of better quality than that used in England. At first his cement met with much reluctance and caution, but after proving its success in numerous applications was not only universally used for the face work of canal locks and arches in New York, but was also exported from the state in immense qualities.

John B. Jervis

The most prominent civil engineer from Oneida County was John B. Jervis. A Rome native like Wright, Jervis began his career in Rome as an Axeman for an Erie Canal survey party in 1817.  By 1823 he was superintendent of a fifty-mile section of the Erie Canal. He learned engineering as a pupil of Wright and other Erie engineers.

During his 89 very productive years he was responsible for directing the construction of several transportation projects. These included three New York canals, New York's first railroad plus two additional railroads in the state and several railroads in the mid-West. Jervis also engineered the Croton Aqueduct, constructed to provide New York City with an adequate supply of fresh water. Perhaps Jervis most valuable contribution to transportation was the introduction of the 34 forward moveable truck on railroad locomotives. This device acted as a guide to enable locomotives to negotiate curves without jumping the track.  Jervis helped found a local industry, the Rome Iron Mills; and, of course, is the founder of Rome's public library.

Jervis returned home to Rome in 1864. He spent the remainder of his life writing and in 1877 published a book on economics, The Question of Labor and Capital.

Charles Stewart Mott

Charles Mott

In 1922, Forbes magazine described former Utican Charles Stewart Mott as "a doer rather than a talker whose brain works better than his tongue."

Mott was a pioneer of the auto industry. He was one of the founders of General Motors and owner of more than a half a million shares of GM stock, making him not only the corporation's largest single stockholder, but also one of the wealthiest men in the world.

But to the citizens of Flint, Michigan, Mott - who died at age 97 in 1973 - was more than an auto pioneer. He was their "first citizen" and a man who, as mayor of Flint for three terms beginning in 1912, initiated programs to tackle the problem of juvenile delinquency in the city of 160,000 and reduce the number of children being killed by newfangled horseless carriages on the streets of Flint, especially in the summer.

Mayor Mott's plan was to convert Flint's school buildings into recreational centers when not in use during the summer and evenings during the school year. It would, he said, keep children off the streets. Activities in the center would be led by trained volunteers and paid people and include art, music, sewing, knitting, dancing, dramatics, story-telling, singing, sports and stamp collecting.

His plan worked.

Charles Mott at the steering stick of an early automobile

Juvenile delinquency was cut by 60 percent and while Mott was mayor, not a single child was killed in the streets.
Mott was born in Newark, N.J., in 1875. In 1897, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.

He moved to Utica in 1900 to become superintendent of the Weston-Mott Company, on Lincoln Avenue, where his grandfather and several uncles manufactured wheels and rims for bicycles and carriages.

Mott realized that the automobile era was about to begin in earnest so he designed an axle for automobiles and began to manufacture them in Utica.

In 1901, he became first president of the Automobile Club of Utica and represented the club in 1902 when Utica and eight other clubs met in Chicago and formed the American Automobile Association (AAA).

C.S. Mott during the 1939 GM "Parade of Progress" in Flint.

In 1906, William Durant, president of Buick Motor Company, convinced Mott to move to Flint and begin making axles for Buick.

In 1908, Durant founded General Motors and in / 1912, purchased all Weston-Mott stock. Mott took GM stock - instead of cash - for his company. He added steadily to his GM holdings until it was reported he owned 523,087 shares.

Mott maintained an interest in Utica until he died. He was a member of several Masonic organizations, having become a Mason in 1904 in Utica in Faxton Lodge 697. In 1955, he was honored on his 5oth anniversary as a member of Utica's Ziyara Temple.

His interest in fighting juvenile delinquency in Flint resulted in his establishing the Mott Foundation for Youth with a $5.2 million gift. Once asked about what he was most proud of during his years as mayor of Flint, he replied, "The children of Flint don't play in the streets anymore."

Erastus Dow Palmer

Born in 1817 in Pompey, New York (birthplace also incidentally of Horatio Seymour in 1810), son of a carpenter, Erastus Dow Palmer moved with his family at the age of 9 to Utica in 1826, and till 1846 and the age of 29 apprenticed and worked at the trade of carpenter.

While working in the houses of the wealthy in Utica, Palmer had occasion to see and admire the sculpture (often copies) and the small cameos carved in shell (called conchiglia) that adorned these mansions. He tried his hand at carving the head of his wife in miniature on a shell, and with some trepidation showed it to one of the movers and shakers of Utica, Thomas R. Walker. Walker was chairman of many Boards, Mayor of Utica from 1849-50, law partner of Roscoe Conkling, patron of the arts, and owner and occupant of 3 Rutger Park, Utica's grandest mansion, from 1859 to 1869 (thereupon sold to Conkling). Walker was delighted with Palmer's cameo and thereafter became Palmer's patron, introducing him to Utica's elite and to patrons in Albany, New York City, and beyond.

Walker helped Palmer in the transition from cameos to large sculptures in marble, and in the settlement in a studio and home in Albany, where Palmer subsequently became nationally known and admired.

First with his cameos: "the palm in this art is now borne by E.D. Palmer ...whose skill is conceded by our most distinguished artists and connoisseurs to have reached a point of excellence far beyond that of any other artist in the profession" {New York Commercial Advertiser, Feb. 22, 1848); and then in sculpture: "The Vagabond column was devoted chiefly to 'The White Captive', proposing it as a 'glory' of American art that all... must recognize" ( J. Carson Webster, Erastus D. Palmer, 1983, reference is to Adam Badeau, "Vagabond," in the New York Sunday Times, Nov. 20, 1859). Palmer's friends now included the renown painters Frederic Church and Asher Durand and the poet William Cullen Bryant.

Palmer did, of course, sculpture for the Albany aristocracy, the Bleeckers, Dudleys, Corings, and Olcotts, etc., for Commodore Perry, Governor Edwin D. Morgan, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, and other notables. Perhaps half of his sculptures, however, were not commissions of living people, but imaginative tableaux of various scenes and ideal characters (with titles like "Faith," "Grief," "Resignation," "Remorse," "Memory," "Hope," and "Sleep".)

Palmer's scuptures on display at Albany Institute of History and Art

Palmer in Albany in the years 1849-1904 kept in constant communication with his Utica patrons, in particular, Thomas R. Walker and the Munson-Williams family of Fountain Elms on Genesee Street. The Munson-Williams-Proctor Museum has in its collection cameos and sculptures of Thomas Walker, Horatio Seymour, Alfred Munson, James Watson Williams, Benjamin Walcott (NY Mills industrialist and philanthropist), Charlemagne Tower (the Munson-Williams' financial counselor) and Grace Williams, the child of James Watson Williams and Helen Munson, who died at the age of 7. The Oneida Historical Society has a marble bust of Georgiana Perkins of Utica, who died at the age of 20, and in the vestry of Grace Church is the famous statue of the child Grace Williams, commissioned by her parents shortly after her tragic death.

Viewers of the television program, the "Antiques Roadshow," may recall a cameo by E. D. Palmer being appraised at $65,000! He is currently better known by the connoisseurs and collectors of American sculpture than the general public. Citizens of the Mohawk Valley are, however, fortunate in being able to view much of Palmer's work at the Albany Institute, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Museum, the Oneida County Historical Society, and Grace Church. The definitive study of his work is E. D. Palmer by J. Carson Webster (Deleware University Press, An American Art Journal/Kennedy Galleries Book, 1983), available at the Pratt-MWP School of Art Library.

Erastus Dow Palmer died in Albany on March 9, 1904; he was buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

Thomas R. Proctor

The Proctors - Maria and Thomas

Thomas Redfield Proctor, a leading citizen of Utica during his lifetime and perhaps its greatest benefactor, was born in Proctorsville, Vermont on May 25, 1844, a son of Moody S. and Betsy Nancy Redfield Proctor. His great grandfather, Leonard Proctor, a soldier in the Revolutionary War and a descendant of Robert Proctor, who settled at Concord, Massachusetts, as early as 1645, founded Proctorsville.

As a young man, Thomas Proctor enlisted in the Navy during the Civil War and was paymaster's clerk on the ship "Brandywine" of the North Atlantic Squadron, and was later transferred to and became secretary to Admiral Pearson, of the Pacific Squadron aboard the warship "Lancaster". With the end of the war, he returned to Proctorsville to manage the family business. After a year or two there, he went to Nyack, New York, and became the proprietor of the Tappan Zee House. Becoming proficient in the business of hotel management, at the age of 25, he came to Utica and pur¬chased Bagg's Hotel in 1869. He then became proprietor of the Butterfield House in Utica and of the Spring House in Richfield Springs. He operated Bagg's Hotel Farm in connection with the hotel and made it famous for Jersey cattle and high grade swine. The Spring House was burned in 1897, and three years later he retired from hotel ownership and management. His connections with banking, manufacturing and other business enterprises aside from hotel management were very numerous.

On April 9th, 1891, Proctor married Miss Maria Watson Williams, a daughter of Mrs. James Watson Williams, of Utica. Their only son died in infancy. 

As a prominent member in the Republican party, Proctor was a delegate to its national conventions of 1908, 1916 and 1920. His influence brought about the nomination of James S. Sherman for the vice-presidency.  As one of the New York commissioners for the World's Fair at Paris in 1900 and as a member of the Board of Visitors of the Naval Academy at Annapolis appointed by President Taft in 1910, he rendered effective non-political service.

Proctor was senior warden of Grace Episcopal Church in Utica and frequently attended the diocesan conventions.  As a member of Utica Commandery No. 3, Knights Templar, he was a leader in bringing about the erection of the Masonic Home in Utica and was for several years one of its trustees. In addition to membership in many societies of a civic and patriotic nature, he was a member of several educational, historical and social organizations.

Mr. Proctor gave the site of the House of the Good Shepherd in Utica and paid for the building of the north wing. Additionally he gave Grace Church in Utica its club house, erected a statue of Alexander Hamilton on the campus of Hamilton College and established a fund in New York City from which an annual prize of $200 was granted the artist adjudged to have painted the best portrait. The site of the Utica Public Library was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Redfield Proctor and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick T. Proctor.  A collection of letters written by all of the Presidents of the United States and a bronze tablet containing Lincoln's Gettysburg address were given the library by him.

Grace Church and to the right the Butterfield House

Pre-eminent among his gifts to the City of Utica is its park system. In 1897 Watson-Williams Park was given by him and Mrs. Proctor and named it for her father. A little later Proctor bought 400 acres of farm land, had it laid out with walks and drives by Frederick Olmstead, the famous landscape architect, and gave the land to the city for a park. In 1908 he gave the city four parks with a total area of over 31 acres, named after prominent Uticans - Horatio Seymour, Addison C. Miller, Truman K. Butler and J. Thomas Spriggs. In 1909, Thomas R. Proctor Park of 100 acres, and Roscoe Conkling Park of 385 acres, were given by him to the city. He bought another farm near the Masonic Home, laid it out as a park, which he and his wife maintained, named it Frederick T. Proctor Park, and opened it to the public. He added 35 acres to Roscoe Conkling Park and thereby prevented the encroachment of dwellings. He bought land on Genesee and Eagle Streets and converted it into a garden to prevent its use as the site of a building. Proctor frequently visited Europe and made a careful study of its parks and landscape architecture.

It was said that his guests at the Spring House always returned for another season and he made Bagg's Hotel famous throughout the State. After his management of hotels had ended, arrangements were usually made to have the distinguished visitor in Utica entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Proctor. The hospitality of the Proctor home was unrivaled. No one in the State had a wider acquaintance with prominent persons than the Proctors.

In December, 1919, on the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. Proctor's residence in Utica. the Chamber of Commerce presented him with a testimonial.  Some years prior ten thousand school children of the city sent him letters, expressing  gratitude for the gifts of the city parks. The people of Utica have observed an annual " Proctor Day."

Mr. Proctor died on July 4, 1920, and the "Saturday Globe" wrote: "Utica has lost him, but to no man stands a more lasting memorial than the splendid parks which Mr. Proctor gave to the city. They are the people's own, forever consecrated to their use, a heritage to the thousands who will come after us when our brief stay is ended. Mr. Proctor visioned the future. He saw not only the city that was, but the city that was to be, and it was for the city of the future that he sought to provide." Funeral services were held at Grace Episcopal Church at noon July 7th. During the services the business of the entire city was suspended for five minutes. Proctor was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery on a hillside overlooking the parks of Utica. Flowers gathered from the parks were strewn upon the grave and daisies gathered from the hillsides were placed upon it by children from the House of the Good Shepherd.

Elihu Root

Elihu Root

Elihu Root was a lawyer, diplomat, political leader, orator, cabinet member, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was born in Clinton, New York and attended a one-room schoolhouse on College Hill, then the village grammar school, and graduated as valedictorian from Hamilton College in 1864.

Following a year of teaching, Root enrolled in the law school at New York University. He received his degree and was admitted to the New York bar in 1867.  He married Clara Wales in 1878 in New York City where he practiced law. In the 1870s his cases concentrated on corporate law. His advocacy of the interests of various railroads and financial institutions made him a wealthy man by the age of 30. During these early years, Root did not run for public office, but became active in local Republican politics.

A sensational, highly publicized case was the defense of "Boss" Tweed, leader of the infamous Ring whose scandalous looting activities were rampant in the 1870s. Years later Root addressed a graduation class of the Columbia Law School and referred to the Tweed case with this admonition: "No matter how vile the criminal, if he represents a constitutional right, you will do your country a service by defending him." Root was a conservative with deep respect for the majesty of the law.

His most important role was in defending American corporations and other companies that had failed, and advising business men how to cope with anti-trust laws. Corporation executives eagerly sought his legal help for several decades.


Root was chairman of the Board of Trustees of Hamilton College. An able administrator, he served over 40 years and because of his association with wealthy men, was able to steer large gifts to his college. A major benefactor, he established the Root Hall of Science and the Root Fellowship. His pride in the maintenance of the campus was vigilant; his fondness for every tree in Root Glen endured all his life.

In 1883, Elihu Root was appointed U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a position that allowed him to become acquainted with Theodore Roosevelt. He resumed his private practice in 1885. As Secretary of War under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, he made drastic reforms in the organization of the army and established the Army War College.

Elihu Root retired briefly in 1904, but answered the call to become Roosevelt’s secretary of state the following year. His accomplishments included bringing many State Department employees under civil service protection, improving U.S. ties to Latin American governments in the wake of the events in Panama and concluding the Root-Takahira Agreement with Japan. He also helped to settle a fisheries dispute with Britain in the North Atlantic and negotiated a variety of arbitration treaties.

In 1909, Root began a single term as a U.S. senator from New York. During this time, he supported William Howard Taft for the nomination in 1912, served as a member of the Hague Tribunal and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his many efforts on behalf of international understanding. Root declined reelection to the Senate in 1914.

Elihu Root House, a NHL on the Hamilton College campus

His award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912 was based upon his contribution to the cause of arbitration, to his defense of the sanctity of treaties and his earlier achievement in establishing an enlightened colonial system.

Elihu Root remained extremely active as an elder statesman. He was critical of Woodrow Wilson’s [neutrality] policies, but later supported the president during American participation in World War I. In 1917, he headed a diplomatic mission to Russia and later worked on behalf of the League of Nations and the World Court. Root was a delegate to the Washington Naval Conference in 1921-22.

In his final years, Root worked with Andrew Carnegie on a variety of international peace projects. While not well known to the casual student, Elihu Root was one of America’s most distinguished public servants. He was dedicated to advancing the use of arbitration as a means of enhancing peace prospects worldwide. He was not a starry-eyed idealist, but instead brought his talents as a tough-minded attorney to his task.

A remarkable succession of honors. awards, honorary degrees, and citations came to Mr. Root. He devoted much of his 92-year lifetime to making friends for the United States. He is remembered as Oneida County's international statesman.

Jedediah Sanger 1751-1829

New Hartford's founder Jedediah Sanger was one of the first pioneers to settle in the Upper Mohawk Region. He founded New Hartford in 1788 and spent the early 1790s working to convince state legislators in Albany to form an Oneida County. Sanger was born in Sherburne, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in 1751, being the ninth of a family of ten children of Richard and Deborah Sanger.

In May 1771, Jedediah Sanger married Sarah Rider by whom he had four children: Sarahin, Sarah, Walter and Zedekiah. In 1782 he moved to Jeffrey, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. There he established a large farm, store and tavern. Fire destroyed his property in 1784 and forced him into bankruptcy.

Soon after, he heard of the "Whitestown Coun­try," purchased by land speculators George Washington and George Clinton. In 1788 he purchased 1,000 acres of land at fifty cents an acre from Washington and Clinton. This tract was divided almost equally by the Sauquoit Creek and included what is now the Village of New Hartford. He built a log cabin and in March 1789, he brought his wife and family to his wilderness home. In this same year he built a sawmill and in 1790 a gristmill and the famous "Sanger Barn" used as a meeting place for the early settlers.

Jedediah bought and sold thousands of acres of land throughout the country, including the purchase from the State in 1790 and 1791, the land comprising the Town of Sangerfield, from whom the town derives its name.

In 1793 Sanger, along with Samuel Wells, Elijah Risley and the printer, Richard Vanderburg, published the first newspaper west of Albany ever printed, the Whitestown Gazette. He was among the founders of the Hamilton­Oneida Academy now known as Hamilton College.

He built oil and paper mills in New Hartford and was engaged in the manufacture of cotton. He served in Albany as a member of Senate and Assembly for many years. He was the first supervisor of Whitestown and was appointed one of the first judges of Oneida County.

His first wife died Sept. 26,1814 and he married Sarah B. Kissam on Aug. 31, 1815. She died April 23, 1825 and he married his third wife, Fanny Dench on Oct. 3, 1827.

Judge Sanger died June 6, 1829. He was originally interred in the village cemetery in New Hartford, later in a family burial lot on his farm and finally in Forest Hills Cemetery in Utica.

Horatio Seymour

h seymour
Mary Seymour

In 1801, Henry Seymour, his wife and children left Litchfield, Connecticut, for a tract of land on Pompey Hill, some forty miles west of Utica, where Henry opened a store and dabbled in politics. When the Martin Van Buren faction won control of the canal board, they appointed Henry Seymour canal commissioner with the task of inspecting the construction of the middle of the Erie Canal.

The Seymours moved to Utica early in 1820 and took up residence in a brick house on Whitesboro Street facing south and almost on the bank of the canal. Horatio used to accompany his father on some of his inspection trips and he watched the boats passing east and west over the canal. Thus began his life-long love affair with the Grand Canal.

Young Horatio attended various schools in Utica before his parents sent him to the academy in Geneva and then to a military academy in Middletown, better known for teaching drill formations than classics. His schooling completed, Horatio entered the law office of Green C. Broonson and Samuel Beardsley, both active Democrats. Beardsley, a close ally of President Andrew Jackson, exercised much power in the House of Representatives. Bronson, in 1854 ran for governor as a hard line Hunker Democrat who challenged Seymour, candidate of the regular Democrats, and took enough votes to cause the defeat of Seymour.

Horatio Seymour plunged into the world of politics when Governor Marcy appointed him his military secretary. A striking figure in his uniform, the six foot tall aide received many invitations to the homes of Albany aristocrats, a blend of Dutch patricians and transplanted Yankees. Horatio fell in love with Mary Bleecker, daughter of John Rutgers Bleecker, who had inherited many acres of land on both sides of the Mohawk River. Within two years, Horatio and Mary exchanged vows and their home became a center of gracious hospitality.

The rapid growth of Utica meant increasing wealth for the Seymour-Bleecker families. Even today, several Utica streets recall the given names of these families – Rutgers, Bleecker, Catharine, Miller to name a few.

The family wealth enabled Seymour to devote considerable time to politics and public service, including a term as mayor of Utica beginning in 1842. In 1841, he was elected to the New York State Assembly rising to the office of speaker in 1845. Party chieftains recognized his gifts as an orator and his talent as a conciliatory figure among warring factions. Six times the Democratic Party nominated him for the office of governor and twice he was victorious.

Seymour subscribed to the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson – a weak central government, low taxes, free trade, reliance on freeholding farmers and artisans.

Seymour distrusted zealots such as ‘abolitionists, prohibitionists, and nativists because they disrupted party harmony and upset public concord.

As governor, Seymour faced not only the Whigs but also Democratic factions. He leaned toward the Hunker Democrats who favored grants for canal enlargement.

In 1860, he backed Stephen A. Douglas who won the nomination of the National Democratic party. Abraham Lincoln, however, won a majority of electoral votes although he attracted only 40 percent of the popular vote.

The boyhood home of Governor Horatio Seymour, built about 1815 on Whitesboro Street at Hotel Street, is shown circa 1890.

The shots by Confederate soldiers on Fort Sumter awakened New Yorkers to the reality of disunion, Seymour opposed the secessionists but he also criticized some of Lincoln’s actions as provocative and unconstitutional. He charged that Republicans arbitrarily arrested and by suspending habeas corpus were violating civil and political rights, The Republicans in turn accused Seymour of encouraging the rebels and obstructing efforts to put down the rebellion.

In 1862, Seymour accepted The Democratic nomination for governor and won by a comfortable margin. Seymour criticized the draft act passed by Congress in March 1863 as unfair because rich men could buy exemption and hire substitutes in order to avoid conscription. Moreover the federal government assigned New York state exceptionally high quotas by ignoring the exceptionally high number of volunteers who rallied to the colors in 1861.

In July 1863, after a weekend of grumbling in saloons about the draft, Manhattan workingmen formed a mob in protest and for three days roamed the streets. They burned the homes of abolitionists and even torched an orphanage for colored children. Although Governor Seymour put down the disorders, Republicans blamed him for encouraging the rioters.

In 1864 Seymour lost his race for a third term by the slim margin of eight thousand votes. The Democrats charged that the Lincoln administration obstructed agents of the Democrats from delivering ballots to soldiers and other dirty tricks.

The governor moved to Marysland, a five hundred acre farm in Deerfield where he and Mary Seymour could enjoy semi-retirement. Actually, their new wooden farmhouse soon became a regular stop for politicians, journalists, and family friends. Political leaders such as Samuel Tilden secured Seymour’s help in prying loose the hold of Boss Tweed on their party. In 1868 he presided over the Democratic national convention driven by factionalism. Unable to agree on a candidate, the delegates drafted Seymour, the only true draft by a major party in our history. 0f course, the Democrats, soon to be labeled the party of Rum, Romanism and Rebellion in the campaign of 1884, had only a slight chance of winning the election. This chance evaporated when the Republicans nominated a war hero, Ulysses S. Grant.

Ironically, one of Seymour’s bitterest opponents was his brother-in-law Roscoe Conkling, Republican leader in the Senate and a close ally of President Grant. Conkling had married Seymour’s youngest sister over the objections of Seymour. Whenever Seymour ran for office, Conkling campaigned strenuously against him, his brother-in-law.


Seymour took keen interest in history and education. He served as trustee of Hamilton College which awarded him an honorary degree. He became the first president of the Oneida Historical Society and planned the centennial celebration of the Battle of Oriskany. His welcoming speech at that event greatly impressed Harold Frederic, youthful reporter for the Utica Observer. Frederic dedicated his novel In the Valley to Seymour, whom he described as a “venerable friend to whose inspiration my first idea of the work was due”.

Seymour’s career straddled years of turmoil and progress. Throughout all this “an old humbug of a farmer” (his phrase) upheld Jefferson’s concern for democratic values, calmed angry voices, and raised the standard of public service.

No wonder the London Times discovered in Seymour a political leader comparable to luminaries in British public life. For Americans, however, a more apt comparison might be with that extraordinary galaxy of founding fathers who established a federal union, maintained local and state powers, and balanced the rights of individuals against those of society. If Marysland did not match Monticello in architectural quality, its gentleman farmer proved a worthy heir of Thomas Jefferson.

James Schoolcraft Sherman

James Schoolcraft Sherman was born in Utica on October 24, 1855, one of the six children of Richard and Mary Frances Sherman. His education began in a little red schoolhouse near Washington Mills. He attended Whitestown Seminary and graduated from Hamilton College in 1878 where he won honors in declamation. In Congress he was credited with speaking more distinctly than any other member, perhaps because he had practiced his student speeches in the woods atop College Hill-the trees his critical audience.

After studying law in the offices of Beardsley, Cookinham and Burdick, he was admitted to the bar in 1880, his practice mainly as counselor and business advisor rather than as an advocate. Later he retired from the legal profession, and gave his attention to politics. Active in Republican politics since 1879 he progressed through a succession of political paces as delegate to state and national conventions, campaign speaker, and chairman of committees. He was mayor of Utica in 1884 and a member of Congress continuously from 1886 until 1908, except for a two-year interlude.

Mr. Sherman was a staunch party man and conservative Republican who opposed progressive legislation. While in Congress he gave conscientious attention to the responsibilities of various committees: Judiciary, Census, Industrial Arts and Expositions, Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Rules, and the Committee of the Whole. Of special interest to him was his 14 year chairmanship of the Committee on Indian Affairs. During these years he developed sympathetic understanding of the problems of the Indians who fondly called him "Four Eyes" because he wore spectacles. He collected Indian artifacts and relics as a hobby. He was a trustee of Hamilton College, president of the Utica Trust and Deposit Company. and maintained other business interests.

Vice-President James S. Sherman, standing, during the ceremony at his home August 21, 1912 notifying him of his nomination to a second term as vice-president. This was the last public speech Sherman made before his death.

The Republican National Convention of 1908 nominated Mr. Taft for president and Sherman for vice-president. The latter's illness delayed the original plans for the homecoming celebration in Utica but when he returned from the convention rejoicing crowds met the train with fanfare.

The site of the official notification was the lawn of his gaily decorated home on Genesee Street midway between Clinton and Jewett Place, a landmark often pointed to with pride by fathers showing their children the home of the Vice-President of our country. March 4, 1909 was Inauguration Day in Washington-a memorable date on the calendars of Uticans. Scheduled to attend, besides family, friends, business and political associates, were members of the marching clubs-the Conkling Unconditionals and the Sherman Scouts. Through slush covered streets the Scouts marched but the train carrying the Unconditionals arrived after the parade was over.

The new Vice-President presided over the Senate with extraordinary skill and parliamentary expertise. His early courses in public speaking served him well.

A few days before the next election in 1912 at the age of 57, he died. Official Washington attended memorial ceremonies in the Senate Chamber on February 15, 1913. President Taft paid tribute to his vice-president as a "modest American, distinguished patriot, able statesman, and noble man." Finally Senator Elihu Root, his lifelong friend, spoke of the influence of the vice-president in words that would then and in future years hearten his family, his descendants, his friends, and his countrymen: "His life made men happier; his example is making men better. His service will endure in the fabric of our institutions." Oneida County remembers and reveres James Schoolcraft Sherman.

Charles Doolittle Walcott

Charles Doolittle Walcott was born in New York Mills, New York in 1850. He was interested in nature from an early age, collecting minerals and bird eggs and, eventually, fossils. He attended various schools in the Utica area but left at the age of eighteen without completing high school, the end of his formal education. 

On January 9, 1872, Walcott married Lura Ann Rust, daughter of the owner of a farm in Russia, New York (Herkimer County) where Walcott made one of his most important trilobite discoveries.  The Walcott-Rust Quarry is one the most famed and storied trilobite localities in the world. Perhaps if Charles Doolittle Walcott had not discovered this amazing locality he may not have gone on to discover the amazing things he did.  Lura died on January 23, 1876.

 Walcott began his professional paleontology career by discovering new localities, such as the Walcott-Rust quarry in upstate New York and the Georgia Plane trilobite beds in Vermont, and by selling specimens to Yale University. In 1876, he became the assistant to James Hall, State Geologist of New York.  Walcott also became a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1879, Walcott joined the US Geological Survey and rose to become its director in 1894. He married Helena Breese Stevens in 1888. They had four children between 1889 and 1896: Charles, Sydney, Helena and Benjamin.

Charles Doolittle Walcott and his family in Provo, Utah around 1907. Walcott often took his family along on collecting trips.

Walcott was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1896. In 1902, he met with Andrew Carnegie and became one of the founders and incorporators of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He served in various administrative and research positions in that organization. In 1921 Walcott was awarded the inaugural Mary Clark Thompson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.

Walcott became Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1907 after the death of Samuel Pierpont Langley, holding the latter post until his own death.  Because of Walcott's responsibilities at the Smithsonian, he resigned as director of the United States Geological Survey.  As part of the centennial celebration of Darwin's birth, Walcott was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Cambridge in 1909.

The Burgess Shale Formation, located in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, is one of the world's most celebrated fossil fields, and the best of its kind.  It is famous for the exceptional preservation of the soft parts of its fossils. At 505 million years old, it is one of the earliest fossil beds containing the imprints of soft-parts.  The Burgess Shale was discovered by Walcott in 1909.

In 1910, Walcott returned to the area accompanied by his sons Stuart and Sidney. Together they examined all the layers on the ridge above the point where the fossil-laden rock had been found.  Between 1910 and 1924, Walcott collected more than 65,000 specimens.

He served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1923 and was an advisor to then-president, Theodore Roosevelt. Walcott had an interest in the conservation movement and assisted its efforts.


Walcott's wife Helena died in a train crash in Connecticut in 1911. In 1914, Walcott married his third wife, Mary Morris Vaux, an amateur artist and avid naturalist.

Although Walcott spent a considerable amount of time at the Burgess Shale quarry on what became known as Fossil Ridge, he also traveled widely in other areas of the Canadian Rockies. After Walcott's death in Washington, DC, his samples, photographs, and notes remained in storage until their rediscovery by a new generation of paleontologists in the late 1960s.

A peak on Mount Burgess in Canada was named after him. The Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal is awarded by the National Academy of Sciences every five years for outstanding work in the field of pre-Cambrian and Cambrian life and history.

Hugh White 1733-1812

Whitestown's namesake Hugh White, who founded White's Town in 1784, was one of the pioneers who led the fight in the 1790s for the formation of an Oneida County. He was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1733 and served in the quartermaster with the American Continentals during the Revolutionary War.

In 1783, he and a group of other men bought 6,000 acres of land near what is today Whitestown, and White was sent there to survey the purchase. He liked what he saw fertile soil and an abundance of water and trees.

In early May 1784 White, accompanied by his family, journeyed along the Mohawk River. When they reached the mouth of Sauquoit Creek, on June 5, 1784, he saw only an unbroken forest.

The first accomplishment of was the erection of a temporary home. He constructed a bark shanty very close to the Sauquoit Creek. In the spring of 1785, he started to build his permanent home on the east end of what is now the Village Park. The location he selected was several hundred feet from the Military Road between Old Fort Schuyler ( Utica ) and Fort 5tanwix ( Rome ).

The Sadaquada River ( Sauquoit Creek ) was much larger at that time, as the volume of water was sufficient to operate gristmills and sawmills. Gristmills and sawmills were of extreme importance in the founding of a community. At the time of White's arrival the nearest gristmill was at Canajoharie, some forty miles down the valley. To remedy this situation Amos Wetmore and Hugh White built a gristmill in partnership on Sauquoit Creek.

White continued to clear land, planted crops and built homes. White's Town was born. He saved all his biggest ears of corn, squash and other vegetables, the best apples and, of game shot, the best and finest looking furs and sent them back to Middletown, Connecticut with tales of the productivity of the "Whitestawn Country". This approach was a huge success, as attested to by the fact that by the time the 1810 Census was taken the population of the original town of Whitestown exceeded that of his native state of Connecticut.

Through the years, he served as justice of the peace and when Oneida County was formed March 15, 1798, he was commissioned to “keep the peace” and was appointed one of its first judges. He continued to serve in that position until 1804. He died the 16th of April 1812 and was buried in what is now Grand View Cemetery.

Squire Whipple

Squire Whipple

Squire Whipple was not a rural justice of the peace; he was given the name of "Squire" at birth. He was born in Hardwick, Massachusetts on March 24, 1804.  After his graduation from Union College in 1830, he was engaged in canal and railway surveying. He settled in Utica and the city directory of 1840 lists him as a civil engineer, boarding at the Bleecker Street House. Afterwards until 1851 he lived on Steuben street above Rutger.

Bridges had been made of wood in the early days. Whipple studied and analyzed the stresses in the truss design of bridge-building, observing among other things, that cast iron had about the same tensil strength as wood. He put his theory into practice and began to build in 1840 an experimental iron bridge of seventy-two feet span over the Erie Canal at Newville, near Rome, which proved perfectly satisfactory.  Whipple developed a bowspring overhead truss with a curved upper chord made of cast-iron and the lower and intermediate members of wrought iron.  Patented in 1841, his truss bridges were built throughout the United States for spans of less than 200 feet and lasted for decades. His bridge at Union College in Schenectady is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The "Whipple Iron Trussed Bridge" was erected replacing the old wooden one at the Genesee street crossing of the Erie Canal. The Genesee street bridge was erected by Squire Whipple and his nephew, John M. Whipple. The wrought iron needed for its construction was made by Shipman Brothers, at Springfield Center, Otsego county, New York. There were no rolling mills or similar establishments in those days and what wrought iron was required was made in blacksmith shops. The bridge was built to sustain a uniform weight over its surface of 100 pounds to the square foot, but not intended to carry a greater weight concentrated at one part of the bridge. Despite that fact, soon after it was built, the Utica and Binghamton railroad company began to haul loaded freight cars across the bridge, some weighing twenty tons. The result was the overstraining of one beam, but not injuring the trusses or main support of the bridge. Later, the railroad secured another entrance to the city and ceased drawing its cars over the bridge.

After an accident in 1883 on the Erie Canal, onlookers gathered on Whipple's Genesee Street bridge.

Squire Whipple designed a type of bridge known as the "Whipple Trapezoidal Type". In 1872, Whipple secured a patent on his design for a lift bridge, to be raised and low­ered to allow the passage of bigger boats. He persuaded the State to build such a bridge—the first of its kind—at the Hotel street crossing of the Erie Canal. The plans were drawn by Chubbuck & Whipple, of Utica and construction began in 1874. The parts were molded and hand forged in their foundry which was then on upper Whitesboro street. The total cost of the bridge was $10,000.  The bridge platform was counter-balanced so that it could be raised or lowered by weights.

In 1888, a lift bridge was erected over the canal at John street. It was 96 feet in length with a roadway 24 feet wide, on each side of which were two sidewalks, one above the other. The upper sidewalks were designed for use when the bridge was raised to allow boats to pass. On the top of the bridge, nearly in the center was a small house, from which the bridge-tender could raise and lower the bridge, which was operated from water power obtained from the canal. Gates were placed at each end of the bridge to prevent the possibility of teams or pedestrians falling into the canal when the bridge structure was elevated.

When Squire Whipple died on March 15, 1888 at Albany, New York, he was considered one of the country's great iron bridge builders of the nineteenth century.

Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams, a mid-19th century Rome resident, was responsible for what many today consider one of the most important developments in agriculture in the history of Oneida County and beyond.

Williams founded the cheese factory system in 1851, which made it possible, for the first time, to take milk and convert it directly into large quantities of high-quality cheese.

Previously, small amounts of cheese were made on individual farms. The small number of cheese manufacturers who did exist at the time bought curd, that was separated from milk in farmhouses, and then made cheese from that curd.

Williams' plan was to buy milk in large quantities from farms in the vicinity and transport it to a factory he erected. There, using a machine he invented, he would convert the milk directly into high-quality cheese of uniform sizes, with some blocks weighing as much as 150 pounds. This had never been done before.

Williams opened his cheese factory, the first such factory in the world, May 10, 1851. It quickly revolutionized the cheese-making industry in the United States and abroad.

Williams was born near Rome on Feb. 24, 1798. His father, David, and three uncles were with Col. Peter Gansevoort at Fort Stanwix during the siege of August 1777 that led to the Battle of Oriskany.

Original Cheese Factory

Jesse Williams and Amanda Wells were married in 1822 and 12 years later they inherited David Williams' 265-acre farm near Rome. They then owned 65 head of cattle, 3 horses, 72 sheep, and 27 hogs.  They made their own cheese, a New England-type cheddar.

After his cheese factory became successful in 1851, his fame spread throughout the land. Soon, factories, following his design, were built in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio and countries in Europe, including a large number in France.  Fifteen years later, 500 cheese factories were operating in New York state alone.

By 1864 Rome had become the cheese-making capital of the world and that year cheese makers from throughout the country met in Rome and formed the New York State Cheese Manufacturers Association.

George Williams, Jesse's son, was elected its first president. It later evolved into the American Dairymen's Association. Jesse Williams died December 20, 1864 at age 67.

About 25 years ago, the state of New York spent approximately $175,000 to move the original factory building to the Erie Canal Village, where it can now be visited during the village’s seasonal hours.

Maria and Rachael Williams Proctor

Rachael and Maria

The city of Utica has many reminders of half-brothers Thomas and Frederick Proctor, whose philanthropic undertakings were numerous. A school, parks, and monuments have been erected and named in their honor around the city. But what about their wives? They too made invaluable contributions to the Utica area.

The two Williams sisters — heirs to the fortune of their mother, Helen Elizabeth Munson Williams, one of the richest women in the country — married the brothers in mid-life. Maria was 38 and Rachel was 44 when they wed.

Following the example of their mother, who donated large sums to Grace Church, they used their wealth alone and in concert with their husbands to make enduring impressions on the community in the areas of health, recreation, the arts, charity and religious life. The sisters were alike in their philanthropy, but each expressed it differently.

Religion and health played a large role in Rachel's giving. In 1912, Rachel returned from England with a mission. She expanded an Episcopal sisterhood, the Sisters of St. Margaret, from sites in England and Boston. She ensured the work of the sisters would continue by willing them most of her large estate upon her and her husband's deaths.

In addition to her interest in the Sisters of St. Margaret, she and Frederick built and furnished a new hospital for St. Luke's Home and Hospital on Whitesboro Street in 1904.

Rachel also made many contributions to Grace Church, but Maria was cited in a newspaper account as giving to the family church than any other individual had given to any church in the city. In addition to rebuilding the church spire at a cost of nearly $93,000 when it was found unsafe, Rachel and Frederick had the 70-room parish house built for $443,000.

Rachel loved music, art and tasteful surroundings. The beautiful appealed to her. She was choir director at Grace Church and occasionally slipped in to play the organ at services when the regular organist was ill. One of the few women drivers in those early days of the automobile, Rachel had a Mercedes named Bluebird.

Rachel had no children, and Maria had a son who did not survive birth.

Maria was a strong-willed woman and she had the wealth and prominence to ensure her will was carried out.

She, Frederick and Thomas decided to establish a center for the, the Proctor-Williams-Munson Institute, arts in Utica. Rachel had died four years before the plan was hatched in 1919. After receiving their charter, the three met the next year and Thomas was elected president. At this same meeting, Maria commenced to change the corporation name to Muson-Williams-Proctor Institute.

In 1926, she squelched plans to tear down Utica's city hall and then donated the cost of painting it.

Maria's contributions leaned to the practical, particularly when the depression had decimated the area economy and banks were in dire straits. In 1931, her fortune still intact, she deposited $1 million to protect banks and reassure customers. Maria was the only one of the four still alive at the time.

The next year, she paid for $10,000 in city hall improvements and required that unemployed workers be used for the job. Later that year she was named Utica's Most Useful Citizen, the first woman to receive the honor. She insisted on dispensing with the usual large public ceremony. She said the money would be better spent on the needy, and she received a few people at her home instead.

In 1932, Maria Watson Williams Proctor took over the failing Bagg's Hotel and had it torn down by hand. She could have had it razed by machinery, but she wanted to provide jobs for as many people as possible in the Great Depression. The lumber from the 120-year-old hotel went to heat area homes. That's the kind of woman she was.

Newspaper accounts of the time describe Maria's modesty and her shrinkage from the limelight. After her husband's death in 1920, she continued to make gifts in both their names.

At the time of her death in 1935, her minister the Rev. Harold E. Sawyer, told the Observer-Dispatch: “Very seldom is there, a person who has touched so many people in so many different walks of life.”

© 2014 Oneida County Historical Society
1608 Genesee Street, Utica, New York 13502-5425
315-735-3642, e-mail: ochs@oneidacountyhistory.org
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