BANKS.---The First National Bank at Oxford, was established in 1864, with a capital of $70,000, which was increased May 10, 1864, to $100,000, and again Feb. 16, 1865, to $150,000, at which amount it stood till June 2, 1879, when it was reduced to $100,000, which is the present capital.
The shares were fixed at $100 each, and were taken by the following named persons, who were the incorporators:---
James W. Clarke, 100 shares, $10,000 00 Francis G. Clarke, 60 " 6,000 00 John R. Clarke, 40 " 4,000 00 Samuel W. Kinney, 10 " 1,000 00 Peter W. Clark, 100 " 10,000 00 Joseph A. Coville, 10 " 1,000 00 Frederick A. Sands, 100 " 10,000 00 Alanson W. Powers, 10 " 1,000 00 William B. Race, jr., 10 " 1,000 00 Wm. Van Wagenen, 70 " 7,000 00 Wm. H. Van Wagenen, 50 " 5,000 00 R. Yale, 10 " 1,000 00 John W. Bartle, 20 " 2,000 00 John Tracy, 20 " 2,000 00 S. H. Farnham, 5 " 500 00 Clark T. Rogers, 5 " 500 00 Russell Maxon, 10 " 1,000 00 Solomon Bundy, 5 " 500 00 James A. Glover, 10 " 1,000 00 Nathan Rogers, 5 " 500 00 Lester Turner, 10 " 1,000 00 David Dickinson, 5 " 500 00 John Moore, 10 " 1,000 00 Calvin Cole, 5 " 500 00 Frederick P. Newkirk, 10 " 1,000 00 George Douglas, 10 " 1,000 00
The first directors were: James W. Clarke, Frederick A. Sands, Peter W. Clarke, William Van Wagenen, William H. Van Wagenen, Francis G. Clarke and John R. Clarke. The first board of officers were elected Feb. 10, 1864. They were James W. Clarke, President; Frederick A. Sands, Cashier. May 10, 1864, John R. Van Wagenen was elected assistant cashier.
James W. Clarke held the office of president till his death, June 30, 1878. He was succeeded Jan. 23, 1879, by John R. Van Wagenen, who still holds the office.
F. A. Sands was succeeded in the office of cashier March 22, 1865, by Henry L. Miller, who held the office till he was elected vice-president, Oct. 8, 1867, when John R. Van Wagenen was elected cashier, and held the office till he was elected president, when J. Fred Sands succeeded him and still holds the office. Feb. 7, 1879, Peter W. Clarke was elected vice-president in place of Mr. Miller, who declined a re-election.
Cory D. Hayes was appointed assistant cashier Jan. 14, 1873, and resigned March 1, 1878.
The present directors are: Henry L. Miller, Peter W. Clarke, William H. Van Wagenen, Gerrit H. Perkins, Francis G. Clarke, Joseph A. Coville and John R. Van Wagenen.
The bank took up quarters on the second floor of the Clarke Block, while the present location was being prepared for its reception, to which it removed within a few weeks from the organization. The bank opened for business Feb. 13, 1864. No interest is paid on deposits. The dividends have ranged from four to six per cent, semi-annually. This is the first and only bank in the village.
The following is a report of its condition on the 11th of July, 1879:---
RESOURCES. Loans and Discounts $ 211,196.97 Overdrafts 8.23 U. S. Bonds of 1881, to secure circulation 100,000.00 U. S. Bonds on hand 4,950.00 Other Stocks, Bonds and Mortgages 17,250.00 Due from Approved Reserve Agents 19,106.27 " " other National Banks 246.19 " " State Banks and Bankers 814.94 Real Estate, Furniture and Fixtures 5,975.00 Checks and other Cash Items 287.01 Bills of other National Banks 967.00 Fractional Currency, (including Nickels,) 7.24 Specie 659.00 Legal Tender Notes 8,390.00 Redemption Fund with U. S. Treasurer (five per cent of circulation) 4,500.00 ------------ Total 374,357.85 LIABILITIES. Capital Stock paid in 100,000.00 Surplus Fund 50,000.00 Profit and Loss 21,299.28 National Bank Notes outstanding 89,980.00 Dividends unpaid 6,000.00 Individual Deposits subject to check, Demand Certificates of Deposit, 104,843.15 Due to other National Banks 1,325.20 Due Treasurer of United States 910.22 ------------ Total $374,357.85
MANUFACTURES.---The Fort Hill Mills (grist, planing and saw,) were built in 1793 or '4, by Theodore Burr and Jonathan Baldwin, the former of whom owned them. They came into the possession of Messrs. E. M. Tower and N. A. Bundy in 1874, and were operated by them four and one-half years, when Mr. Bundy bought his partner's interest, and has since operated them alone. They contain three run of stones; give employment to three men, and grind about 30,000 bushels of grain per annum. The building is 35 by 90 feet, two and a half stories high. There is an additional building, 33 by 50 feet, used as an office and sales room, which is connected with the mill by a building 20 by 36 feet, used for storage purposes. The motive power is furnished by the Chenango, which has a fall of four feet.
Plaster was formerly ground here extensively, but the opening of the railroads and closing of the canal conspired to make the business unprofitable.
The Foundry and Machine Shop was established about 1831 or '2, by Amos A. Franklin and James A. Glover, who carried on the business a few years, when Levi Chubbuck and Erastus Miller became associated with Mr. Franklin. The business was continued a short time under the name of A. Franklin & Co., when E. P. Willcox became a partner and the firm name was changed to Franklin, Willcox & Co., who operated it three years. Messrs. Franklin & Miller then withdrew and the remaining partners continued under the name of Chubbuck & Miller till 1846, when, the building having been burned in August of that year, they dissolved. The shop was rebuilt in 1847, and Mr. Willcox continued the business till about 1856, when he sold to George Rector and Eli Willcox, who, after two or three months, dissolved, Willcox withdrawing. Mr. Rector sold January 1, 1868, to J. M. Edwards, the present proprietor. The building is constructed of stone; is about 62 by 40 feet, two stories high; and stands upon the same foundation as the one burned, which was only one story high. The wood shop and store room, a story and a half building, is 46 by 26 feet, and was rebuilt at the same time as the foundry. Mr. Edwards does a general machine and foundry business and employs three hands.
The Union Tooth Company, composed of C. H. Eccleston and his son, C. G. Eccleston, was originally established in Dunkirk, N. Y., in 1860, as the Lake Erie Tooth Company, for the manufacture of artificial teeth for dentists' use. April 18, 1871, Dr. Robert B. Sutton purchased the establishment and changed the name to The Union Company, and about July, 1872, removed it to Oxford and formed a copartnership with C. H. & C. G. Eccleston, (the former of whom had carried on the dental business since 1849, and the manufacture of teeth since 1860,) which continued till the death of Sutton, September 22, 1876, when the Ecclestons bought his interest. They do quite a business in this line, and manufactured in 1877 a hundred thousand teeth, which were sold in all parts of the country.
Mr. John E. Miller conducts one of the prominent industries of Oxford, in working the famed building and flagging stones from the quarries of this and neighboring towns. Mr. Miller controls six quarries, and in his busy season employs some seventy-five men. Through his energy and skill the Oxford trimmings ornament nearly every city in the State. He supplied thirty thousand dollars worth of cut stone for the Elmira Reformatory. St. Paul's church in Oxford exhibits a fine specimen of stone from the Oxford quarries.
The Oxford Hoe and Edge Tool Company was organized June 1, 1853, by a stock company composed of Joseph C. Thorp, N. C. Chapman, A. Watson, Thomas J. Wood, Lemuel Bolles and John Stratton, with a capital of $10,000, which was increased January 1, 1854, to $20,000. The first President was A. Watson, who held that office till January 1, 1854, when he was succeeded by Hon. John Tracy, who held it till the expiration of the charter, which was granted for ten years, when they sold to John Y. Washburn and William A. Martin, who continued the business till June 1, 1871, when Mr. Washburn bought Mr. Martin's interest, and continued till September, 1871, when the establishment was burned and not rebuilt. The building stood on the west side of the river, on the canal, opposite the "hoe factory tenement houses," in the lower part of the village. It was erected in 1863. They employed on the average about thirty men, and manufactured about $40,000 worth of goods per annum. They made hoes, forks and butcher knives, principally the former.
HOTELS.---The St. James is the principal hotel in the village, and, all things considered, is not surpassed by any in the county. James G. Van Wagenen, the present proprietor, has kept it since April, 1873. The frame of the main part was built by Jonathan Baldwin, about the time when the question of the location of the county seat was being agitated, and is said to have been built with the expectation that Oxford would be designated as the site for the Court House, for which purpose, it is also claimed, it was built, though there is good reason to question this latter assertion. It was long used as a store, lodge room, tenement house, and for shops, and was converted into a hotel about twenty years ago by Thomas C. Pettis, who built the east wing about 1871, and kept it till he sold it to William Daniels and J. G. Van Wagenen, the latter of whom now keeps it.
The Rogers House, now kept by Samuel L. Hotchkiss, is the oldest hotel in the village. It was built previous to 1796, but has been remodeled very much and several times enlarged. The Park House was built about 1801 or '2, by Erastus Perkins, and was kept by him and members of his family as late as 1850. The present proprietor, Van Ness Glazier, took possession April 1, 1879. He had previously kept it two years from 1873, and was subsequently engaged in the same business in Afton, from which village he came to Oxford.
FIRE DEPARTMENT.---Oxford has a very efficient fire department, consisting of two fire and two hose companies, under the supervision of A. S. Lewis, Chief Engineer, H. O. Daniels, Assistant Engineer, F. H. Burchard, Treasurer, and S. Moore, Clerk. The equipment consists of two hand engines, two hose-carts, a hook and ladder truck, and a thousand feet of serviceable hose. The department occupy a building on Fort Hill, formerly used as a store, which was purchased by the village for fire purposes in 1867, and furnished by the companies occupying it.
The first fire-engine was introduced into the village some time between 1808, and 1823, as appears from the Oxford Times of Sept., 1874. From the same publication (issue of Nov. 4, 1874,) we extract the following in reference to this subject: -
"In our endeavors to find when the first fire-engine was introduced into this village we learned of the following incident: During the summer of 1823, a bridge was being built across the river, where the present structure now stands. Jonathan Baldwin and Thomas Brown were the builders, we believe. One day the engine, a small affair, under the command of Daniel Shumway, was taken down the river to practice, to a spot located on the north side of the present grist-mill, there being no buildings there then. During the operations, Shumway, a noted wag, who held the pipe, threw water on to Brown, who was on one of the abutments of the bridge where he could not escape. This wanton sprinkling aroused the ire of Deacon Baldwin, well known for his quaint expressions and terrible wrath when provoked, who shouldered a broad-ax and confronting the foreman exclaimed 'by __ Daniel Shumway, you let a drop of water fall on the hem of my garments, and every man in the town will have an Engine.' Our historian says Shumway was pretty well frightened, and there was no more 'squirting' that day."
The first authentic record which refers to the existence of a fire company in the village which has come under our observation, bears date of March 9, 1824, when John Tracy, then president of the Board of Village Trustees, appointed Thomas G. Newkirk a fireman. May 23, 1825, a certificate was given by "Fire Co. No. 1," to Thomas G. Newkirk, as a member of that company. The certificate is signed by Daniel Shumway, Foreman, and Austin Hyde, Secretary.65
Niagara Engine Company was organized about 1846, in which year their hand engine was purchased. The engine was stored in Albany while in transit and was made to do duty at a large fire in that city, which broke out while it was there. The Department of Albany acknowledged their indebtedness and recommended the engine. The officers are: Charles M. Dodge, Foreman; Z. N. Lamphere, Assistant Foreman; S. Moore, Secretary; S. S. Stafford, Treasurer.
Lady Washington Company was organized about 1859, in which year the engine, a second-hand one, which during the frays between the volunteer fire companies in New York, had been thrown from the dock into the river, was purchased in that city. The first officers elected in the company were, F. P. Newkirk, Foreman; D. B. Smith, Assistant Foreman; W. H. Van Wagenen, Secretary; George Rector, Treasurer; C. B. Maynard, Engine Master; Henry Houghton, Steward. The present officers are: William Cook, Foreman; Thomas Robinson, Assistant Foreman; W. H. Van Wagenen, Treasurer; A. Morse, Secretary; George Ingraham, Steward.
Sappho Hose Company, was organized as Lady Washington Hose Company, a year or two after the Lady Washington engine was received. The name was changed Feb. 11, 1873, at which time the company, which had been previously merged in the engine company, became a distinct organization. The officers elected Feb. 11, 1873, were William M. Miller, President; George D. Hoyt, Foreman; T. B. Galpin, Assistant Foreman; C. G. Eccleston, Secretary; William Miller, Treasurer. The present officers are G. J. Parker, President; N. A. Bundy, Foreman; C. G. Eccleston, Assistant Foreman; T. B. Galpin, Secretary; M. D. McNeil, Treasurer. This company owns a fine parade carriage, purchased with their own means; and a banner, presented by a lady in Buffalo, who imposed as a condition to its reception that the members refrain from drinking for one year. As the company claim ownership, it is to be presumed that the condition was complied with.
Niagara Hose Company, which had formerly been identical with the engine company, was organized as an independent company in April, 1877. The first officers were J. R. Glover, President; E. F. Eccleston, Secretary; Charles H. Seely, Treasurer; Charles Gillman, Foreman; George W. Hackett, Assistant Foreman. The present officers are: F. H. Burchard, President; E. F. Eccleston, Secretary; J. R. Glover, Treasurer; G. A. Moulton, Foreman; E. R. Gifford, Assistant Foreman. There is no organized company connected with the hook and ladder truck.
OXFORD ACADEMY.---The history of this remarkable institution dates back almost to the first settlement of the town. Within three years from the time the first falling tree in this wilderness echoed the onward march of civilization it had taken root, and though many difficulties attended its birth and early childhood, through the fostering care of those who founded it, it has survived to a vigorous old age, still being deeply rooted in the affections of the community it has so long blessed. It is a fitting, as it has been an enduring monument to the sagacity and enterprise of its founders, and well illustrates the character of the men who undertook to plant here the seeds of a growing civilization. It is among the earliest,66 as it is the most honored of the literary institutions of the State; and we doubt if its history, especially its earlier associations, is paralleled by any similar institution in the State or country. Its longevity is not so remarkable as its survival of the conditions under which it was projected; for it has not encountered the iconoclastic influences and demands of an urban population. Going back in imagination eight-seven years, "and divesting the landscape of every vestige of civilization, save here and there a small log house or an unfinished frame dwelling, replacing again the forests in their primeval grandeur, except when a small clearing had furnished sufficient room for the absolute necessities of life," we can faintly realize the state of this valley when the Oxford academy was established.
The building first used for the academy was erected in 1791, or the early part of 1792, and a school had been in operation eighteen months before the Academy was chartered. This building was the first frame building in the town. It stood on grounds now occupied by the residences of William H. Van Wagenen and William R. Mygatt, on the west side of Washington Square.
January 12, 1793, the persons named below, who had "contributed for the purpose of erecting an Academy in the town of Jericho in the county of Tioga, for the instruction of youth in the learned languages and other branches of useful knowledge," and who had purchased a lot of land and erected a building thereon, with the moneys contributed for the use and profit of said Academy, petitioned the Regents, pursuant to an Act of the Legislature passed April 13, 1787, (entitled an act to institute a University in this State, and for other purposes,) for the incorporation of said Academy:--- 67
Avery Powers,* Asa Lamb, James Phelps,* John Holdin, Gershom Hyde,* Thomas Lyon, Sr., Samuel Coe,* Thomas Lyon, Jr., Benjamin Ray,* James Mitchel, Sherman Wattles,* Oliver Jinks, Witter Johnson,* William McCalpin, John Moore, Samuel Lyon, Medad Hunt, William Linsley, Nathaniel Wattles,* Anson Cary, David White, Silas Hutchinson, John McNeil, William Hanna, William Gordon, Hugh Thompson, Luther Hunt, Martin Laraway, Jesse Locke, Silas Cole, Benjamin Hovey,* Peter Osterhout, Jonathan Fitch,* Goodman Noble, Uri Tracy,* Henry Osterhoudt, David Bates,* James McMaster, Joab Enos,* Thomas Thompson, John Harper, Matthew Bellamy, Alexander Harper, James Gray, William McFarland, David Paine, John McWhorter, Ephraim Belding, Solomon Martin,* Chs. Arnold, Oliver Trowbridge, Charles Anderson,* Stephen Day, Rickerson Burlingame, George Hale, Solomon Dodge, John V. D. Scott, Daniel Tucker, Francis Balcom, Benjamin Jones, John Church, Daniel Hudson, Nathaniel Bager, Asa Turner, Jehiel Wattles, Beman Brockway, Ephraim Barrett, Thomas H. Crosswell, Daniel Mark, Noah Everett, Asahel Jones, John Fitch, Ashly Gilbert, Jacob Riddell, Samuel Haight, Thomas Burn, Uriah Blaw, Samuel M. Hopkins.
The charter was granted January 27, 1794. The first recorded meeting of the trustees was held the second Tuesday in April, 1794. John McWhorter was chosen Treasurer, and Benjamin Ray, Clerk. At a meeting held the next day it was voted to allow Benj. Hovey £164 13s. 6d., for materials, services, and other expenses attending the building of the school house before referred to; and £155 11s., to Uri Tracy for teaching eighteen and two-thirds months. Benjamin Hovey and David Bates, the latter of Otsego county, each donated an acre of land for the use of the Academy. Among the rules adopted at the meeting last referred to for the government of the school were the following:---
"No scholar shall be admitted into the school until he can spell well, and read the lessons in Mr. Webster's first part and begin to read in Webster's third part.
"There shall be public exhibitions in speaking and writing, etc., twice a year, and those who are adjudged the most meritorious by the trustees of the school present, shall each of the two first have a premium of a book worth a dollar. The two next, of a book worth six shillings, and such other small premiums as the trustees present shall allow, not to exceed five dollars."
It was also voted "that all scholars in the Academy shall be taxed according to the studies they pursue viz: the Latin scholars, one shilling and sixpence per week. Those who write, nine pence per week, and those who read, only a sixpence per week."
It was also voted at that meeting to employ Uri Tracy as Principal of the Academy for six months, at the rate of £100 per year, and action was taken relative to completing the house, which was then unfinished.
October 18, 1794, a committee consisting of Avery Powers, Solomon Martin and Uri Tracy, delegated to apply to the Regents for money due the Academy, presented for approval a petition showing:---
"That said Academy being established in a place where three years ago there were no inhabitants, the country is yet in an infant state, and consequently the said Academy, though in a very flourishing situation, needs the fostering care of the Regents of the University, the patrons of literature, to assist it in coming forward among other literary institutions in a respectable and useful manner. That we have deserved of that respectability, which anticipated would accrue to the institution by a visit from the committee of the Regents of the University the past season; and also of the appropriation of the money which said Regents were generously pleased to grant for the benefit of said Academy the present year. That said Academy at present consists of nearly forty scholars, and is daily becoming respectable in this western country, and bids fair under the patronage of the Regents of the University to become of very considerable consequence to the promotion of science.
"That we have had no funds but the generous donations of individuals, which were entirely expended in building a house and supporting the school free for two years, we have already incurred a debt, and the usefulness we have anticipated may be obstructed unless the Regency of the University are pleased to remember us favorably at their next meeting and assist us the ensuing year.
"That we are now in debt and deficient as it respects a library, and entirely destitute of any philosophical or mathematical apparatus, we request the visiting committee would proceed to appropriate the money already granted us, or that they would assign it to the trustees of the Academy, to be by them appropriated, and that said visiting committee be pleased to make favorable mention of this institution to the Regents of the University at their next meeting."
Elisha Mosley, the second Principal, commenced his duties in the spring of 1794.
The following report of the Treasurer throws some light upon the condition of the finances at this early period:---
£. s. d. 1795 - To amount of subscription 349 7 0 To tuition bill for six months in 1794 19 18 0 To money received of the Regency 120 0 0 To tuition bill for 1795 41 14 10 ---------------- £530, 19s. 10d. 1794 - By paid Benjamin Hovey for procuring materials for building a house and bringing water thereto 164 13 6 By paid Uri Tracy for 182/5 months as Principal 255 21 0 By overcharge in subscription 3 4 0 1795 - By paid Benjamin Hovey for his expenses in preparing a petition to the Regency, repairing the school-house, procuring a Seal and making provision for the Trustees at their two first meetings 34 17 0 By paid Uri Tracy for six months as Principal in 1794 50 0 0 --------------- 408, 5 6 -------------- Balance due the Trustees £122, 14s, 4d.
November 19, 1796, measures were taken to dispose of the house and build a "better and more convenient" one; and a committee was appointed to petition the Legislature to set apart to the use of the Academy a part of the lands set apart for the promotion of literature. December 22, 1797, a committee was appointed to procure of Benjamin Hovey a deed for a lot of ground on which to build a new Academy. The old Academy building was sold to Ebenezer Bowen Upham, in December, 1797, for £80, with the reservation of its use one year from that date. The new house seems to have been completed in 1799, in September of which year, Ephraim Fitch, who was appointed a committee to adjust the accounts of the contractors, reported that he had paid to Jonathan Baldwin for labor on the new Academy as per contract, £62, and to Samuel Balcom, for a like purpose, £40 10s.; and for materials, mason work, &c., £86 0s. 8d. A committee was appointed the same date, (Sept. 18, 1799,) to take measures to complete the house.68 This building stood near and in front of the site of the residence of Dr. William G. Sands. It was burned in the latter part of that year, and on the 18th of January, 1800, a committee was appointed to petition the Legislature to grant a lottery to rebuild it.69 A third building was soon after erected under State patronage.70 It stood diagonally opposite the residence of Ward Van Der Lyn.71
June 5, 1800, the trustees made choice of lot 82, in the town of Scipio, Cayuga county, for the use and benefit of the Academy, agreeable to an act of the Legislature passed April 7, 1800, and Uri Tracy was instructed to notify the Secretary of State of such choice and apply to the Commissioners of the Land Office for a patent therefor. September 30, 1801, the sale of this lot to John Swartout was confirmed. What amount was received for it is not stated, but on receipt of the deed he was required to pay a balance of £186 5s. 4d.
January 21, 1804, James Glover was chosen President of the Board of Trustees. The records do not show that this office was previously held by any one; the meetings of the trustees were apparently presided over by the senior trustee.
The losses sustained by the fire and the arrears in the teacher's salary created a debt which became a lien upon the corporate property. In consequence the institution suffered a period of decline during several years immediately succeeding the erection of the third Academy building; and the school, when there was any, seems to have been conducted by private enterprise during the major portion of this time.72 The records do not show that a trustee meeting was held between April, 1809, and December, 1820.73
In 1821, the Academy aroused from its lethargy.74 A petition to the Regents, presented Jan. 27, 1821, states that, although the inhabitants in this part of the State were in indigent circumstances, through the unexampled exertions of a few individuals and assistance of the Regents, the trustees succeeded for a number of years in supporting a respectable academic school, which was of eminent usefulness to this and the adjoining counties. For a number of years past, however, owing to a series of misfortunes, the trustees have not been able to progress with the institution. One academy being erected and nearly finished accidentally took fire and was destroyed, and although the Regents generously assisted in obtaining for the use of the institution one of the literature lots, yet the small price which it then brought was all expended in another building, and the trustees, when the present building was completed, were left in debt. Several of the most distinguished supporters of the institution failed or have moved away, and the trustees have suffered a part of the house to be occupied for common schools. The house is now repaired by the trustees, they have cancelled all claims against the institution, procured an excellent instructor, and are determined that nothing shall be wanting on their part to make the Oxford Academy useful to the diffusion of literature and an object worthy of the fostering care of the Regents. There was then no other academy within forty miles.
March 3, 1821, a committee was appointed to treat with the officers of the Oxford Library Corporation75 for its transfer to the trustees of the Academy. In Jan. 1825, the number of volumes reported in the library was seventy-two.
From the report to the Regents of March 5, 1821, it appears that the value of the academy lot and building76 was $1,000; that there was no revenue; that the number of scholars was thirty-four, of whom fifteen studied the Latin and Greek languages, fourteen English Grammar, Geography and Arithmetic, four Reading and Writing, and one Mathematics.77 David Prentice, LL.D., was the teacher and received a salary of $400.
In 1821, the Legislature appropriated the avails of the literature lot in the township of Fayette as a fund for the support of the Academy.
This appropriation was secured through the efforts of Hon. John Tracy, who was then in the Assembly; and the report to the Regents Feb. 23, 1822, indicates the revenue derived therefrom, together with other sources of revenue, as follows:---
Fayette Literature Lot, 106 acres Sub. No. 1, contracted to George Pearson, due $318.00 Fayette Literature Lot, 62 acres Sub. No. 1, contracted to George Pearson, due 224.10 Fayette Literature Lot, 50 acres Sub. No. 2, contracted to Wm. Keith, due 100.00 Fayette Literature Lot, 100 acres Sub. No. 3, contracted to Isaac Dutcher, due 168.58 Fayette Literature Lot, 161 acres Sub. No. 4, contracted to Asa Willey, due 424.00 Fayette Literature Lot, 58 acres sold No. 5, contracted to John Loop, due 131.24 Fayette Literature Lot, 100 acres Sub. No. 5, contracted to Wm. Scoff, due 260.70 Fayette Literature Lot, 50 acres Sub. No. 6, contracted to Wm. Barstow, due 95.49 Cash received under the Act of 1822 1,247.91 Apparatus, one globe, bought in 1821 12.00 Tuition for preceding year about 400.00 In this report the value of the Academy lot and building was fixed at 750.00
The following list of students at this period presents names which are familiar to many who are now living:---
John W. Allen, commenced Jan. __, 1821 Squire W. Corbin, commenced Feb. 1, 1821 Stephen Franklin, commenced Jan. __, 1821 Rowland T. Gibson, commenced Jan. 1, 1822 Samuel S. Gibson, commenced Jan. 1, 1822 Richard A. Hosmer, commenced Sept. 25, 1821 James S. Hunt, commenced July 24, 1821 Ward Hunt, commenced July 24, 1821 Charles Josslyn, commenced Jan. 1, 1822 John Kent, commenced Jan. __, 1821 Daniel Lee, commenced Dec. 3, 1821 Jno. F. McCalpin, commenced Jan. __, 1821 Daniel A. Marsh, commenced July 20, 1821 Burrage Miles, commenced July 1, 1821 Henry R. Mygatt, commenced Jan. __, 1821 John F. Rathbun, commenced Jan. __, 1821 Wm. R. Rathbun, commenced Jan. __, 1821 Horatio Seymour, commenced Jan. 1, 1822 Geo. R. Shumway, commenced Jan. __, 1821 Benj. K. Throop, commenced Jan. 1, 1822 Theodore G. Throop, commenced Feb. 1, 1821 Charlemayne Town, commenced Jan. 1, 1822 Edward Tourtelott, commenced Jan. 1, 1821 Charles O. Tracy, commenced Jan. 1, 1821
Students in Geography, English Grammar and Arithmetic:
Hiram Balcom, Luke Balcom, Chas. Baldwin, Joseph Clark, Calvin Cole, Jno. M. Gurnsey, John Howe, Lucius C. Hyde, William Lawton, Nathaniel Locke, Alvin S. Perkins, Joseph E. Smith, Nehemiah Smith, Susan M. Avery, Eliza Baldwin, Frances Balcom, Fayette Balcom, Leafa Balcom, Anne V. Brown, Eliza H. Brown, Amanda Gurnsey, Julia Garnsey, Ruth Hovey, Jane Hughson, Lydia Knapp, Rebecca Morgan, Lucy Morse, Sarah Northrup, Lucretia Packer, Anne M. Perkins, Jane E. Perkins, Emily Tracy.
Students in Reading and Writing:
Samuel Baldwin, John W. Gibson, William Kent, John Locke, William McCalpin, Henry L. Miller, Emeline Patterson, Anne A. Willcox.
Students in Mathematics:
June 2, 1823, action was taken relative to procuring a bell. David Prentice continued to act as principal till January 1, 1825, and under his supervision the academy prospered. He was succeeded by William D. Beattie. Daniel Marsh of Schoharie, was employed as teach in November, 1825, for one year. He was succeeded by Rev. Edward Andrews, who resigned in the spring of 1828. William D. Beattie was again employed to succeed him, the term to commence July 1, 1828.
September 25, 1829, action was taken with reference to the selection of a new site and the erection of a new building. April 20, 1830, the committee appointed to consider the expediency of changing the site, reported it inexpedient. December 2, 1830, it was resolved: -
"WHEREAS, The present building occupied as the Oxford Academy has become old, unfit and inconvenient, and the interest of the institution, as well as the village, will be promoted by the erection of a new building, with suitable rooms for a male and female department;78 therefore,
"Resolved, That a subscription paper be now opened, for the purpose of obtaining the funds necessary to enable the trustees to erect said buildings as early in the ensuing season as shall be found practicable, and that as soon as the necessary amount shall be raised, then that immediate measures be taken by this Board to cause therewith a new building to be erected the ensuing season, with proper and convenient rooms, &c., for a male and female department; and that measures be also taken by this Board to employ an accomplished female instructress in the female department by the time the building shall be completed."
December 13, 1830, arrangements were made to purchase of Epaphras Miller a lot 52 feet front and 76 feet deep, upon the south side of, and facing on, Fort Hill Square, for the sum of $400. This purchase was subsequently consummated. January 14, 1831, it was resolved to build of stone, at a cost not to exceed $2,100. January 24, 1831, a committee was authorized to contract for the erection of a building 30 by 37 feet, two stories, of wood or stone, as they, in their judgment, thought best, with stone underpinning five feet above the ground, a cupola, Venetian blinds, and out-houses.
September 28, 1831, it was resolved to sell the Academy building to the Methodist Episcopal church of Oxford for $400. A committee was also appointed to dispose of the bell and purchase another. This sale was effected, and the building was afterwards burned.
November 17, 1831, Miss Emily C. Benedict was employed as instructress for one year; and the Executive Committee were authorized to purchase suitable chemical, astronomical and philosophical apparatus, at a cost not to exceed $200.
December 30, 1831, the new academy was accepted as finished within the terms of the contract, with some slight exceptions.79
Its original cost was $1,956.06.80
January 9, 1832, the employment of Merritt G. McKoon81 as principal was approved. Miss Benedict resigned January 1, 1833, and Miss Elizabeth Merwin, daughter of Rev. Samuel Merwin, of Wilton, Conn., was engaged as preceptress. Miss Merwin served two terms of fourteen weeks each, and was succeeded by Miss Elizabeth G. Giles, commencing Sept. 8, 1834. Miss Giles' resignation was accepted May 23, 1835, to take effect at the close of the term. Miss Sarah E. Robinson, of Troy, was employed the same date, commencing the first Monday in Sept., 1835. She resigned March 23, 1836, to take effect at the close of the term. June 13, 1836, Miss Katharine Whitney, of Boston, was employed as preceptress.
In 1833, the basement of the academy was fitted up for a primary school, which was in successful operation Jan. 1, 1834. Feb. 7, 1835, the trustees resolved to establish a department for the education of teachers for common schools, pursuant to an ordinance of the Regents enacted Jan. 20, 1835. In this latter year another bell was procured. August 13, 1836, Henry B. McNeil was appointed librarian and that year books to the value of $174.27 were added to the library.82
December 25, 1840, Miss Whitney tendered her resignation as preceptress, to take effect at the close of the term. She was succeeded by Miss Jennette M. Hall, who tendered her resignation Oct. 13, 1844, to take effect at the close of the term. Miss Maria Hyde succeeded her, and her resignation was accepted April 25, 1846. Miss Elizabeth B. Hinckley was the next preceptress. She resigned Nov. 15, 1848, was re-engaged the following term, and was finally succeeded by Miss Elizabeth A. Barrett. The next preceptress was Miss Sarah Jane Stocking, whose resignation was accepted May 7, 1853. Dec. 1, 1843, a contract was entered into with John Abbott, A. M., to act as principal, succeeding Mr. McKoon. He had previously for seven years filled the position of assistant. Mr. Abbott tendered his resignation Aug. 28, 1851, to take effect at the close of the following winter term. May 17, 1852, Myron M. Goodenough was engaged for one term. His resignation was received and accepted June 18, 1852. Abel Wood, from the Academy at Gilbertsville was engaged as principal July 8, 1852. He does not seem to have served, however, for August 2, 1852, an arrangement was entered into with Charles E. Vanderburgh to act in that capacity. His resignation was presented Dec. 7, 1852. Abel Wood, A. M., was again engaged Feb. 14, 1853. His resignation was accepted May 31, 1853, to take effect at the close of the term.
The positions of principal and preceptress seem now to have been filled temporarily, the former by Charles E. Vanderburgh, and the latter by Miss Sarah Patterson. William Wright, a graduate of Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, succeeded to the former position, and Miss Jane N. Corey, to the latter. Merritt G. McKoon succeeded Mr. Wright in the principalship, and held the position till his death, Nov. 28, 1854. He was succeeded by Frederick Humphrey, from Norwich Academy, and Samuel McKoon, who jointly assumed to conduct the Academy and pay the contingent expenses, together with their own compensation, from the revenue arising from tuitions and the appropriations made by the Regents for the support of teachers' classes, as their predecessor had done. Mr. Humphrey resigned the principalship July 29, 1856, and was succeeded by J. C. Van Ben Schoten, who resigned June 26, 1858. Henry Barnes, Jr., next succeeded to the position and held it till his death, Feb. 24, 1859. He was succeeded by D. G. Barber.
Miss Zilpha Redfield, a graduate of Brooklyn Female Seminary, was preceptress at the close of the school year in 1854; and Miss Sarah Stebbins, in March, 1856. Miss Maria M. Austin, held that position March 27, 1858, and was succeeded August 30, 1859, by Miss Mary Thorp, who remained only one term. She was succeeded, but whether immediately the records do not show, by Miss Emily Thorp, whose name first appears in that connection August 25, 1863.
June 3, 1865, D. G. Barber and J. W. Thorpe were allowed to manage the Academy (except the primary department), under the direction of the trustees, and as a full compensation therefor receive the tuitions and the moneys to be received from the Regents, to commence in August following. This arrangement was terminated February 28, 1868, to take effect at the close of the next term. During this period, or a portion of it, Miss L. J. Reddy was preceptress, for she and Mr. Barber presented their resignations January 17, 1868. Miss Reddy's was accepted February 7, 1868, and she was succeeded by Miss Margaret R. Gorton. Miss Margaret S. Thorp was engaged as preceptress, July 27, 1869. Mr. Barber was relieved as principal, January 15, 1870, and was succeeded by _____ Storrs, who stayed but a short time, for Professor Herbert J. Cook was Principal September 2, 1870. His principalship was terminated April 15, 1871, to take effect at the close of the academic year. It was voted June 22, 1871, to re-engage him. Miss Thorp's resignation was accepted May 3, 1871. Miss M. A. B. Raymond, of Hartford, Conn., was employed as preceptress August 3, 1871.
June 24, 1841, lots number 7 and 8, adjoining Fort Hill, and containing about one and one-fourth acres, were bought of Henry R. Mygatt for $1,000, as a site for a new academy building; but the project was not consummated till 1854. January 25, 1853, John Tracy, Calvin Cole and Joseph G. Thorp were appointed a building committee to superintend its erection. February 15, 1854, the Legislature was memorialized for a loan of $3,000, with which to finish the new academy building, which had been begun, but the records do not indicate the result of this appeal. May 16, 1854, it was resolved to move the old academy building to an adjacent lot and convert it into a boarding house, in accordance with a proposition of the Oxford Academy Boarding Association, who offered to accept the building when so removed and fitted up, in payment of $1,000 of the stock of the association. The new building, of wood, 84 by 44 feet, two stories, with stone basement, was completed in 1854, at a cost of $6,047.53; and the old building removed to the new lot, fitted up and occupied as a "Young Ladies' Boarding Hall," for which purpose it is now used.83 The report to the Regents, January 15, 1855, speaks of the new building as being "beautiful in exterior, commodious and well finished," and places the value of the two buildings at $8,000. The new building is the one at present in use as an academy.
The completion of this elegant edifice and the approach of the sixtieth anniversary were deemed a fitting occasion for a grand jubilee and reunion of teachers and students of the Academy, who were widely scattered, and then, as now, filling high official stations---some in the halls of legislation, others in the learned professions, while many adorned the humbler walks of life. Invitations were accordingly sent to former teachers and alumni, and on the 1st and 2d of August, 1854, a large representation gathered to do honor to the occasion. The ceremonies were imposing and impressive, and highly interesting throughout; but we have not the space at our command to give even an epitome of the proceedings.84
February 7, 1868, the committee previously appointed to investigate and report the condition of the Academy, presented a plea for raising the school to a higher grade and making it a greater means of usefulness that it had maintained for some years past, by employing more teachers and better compensating them.
April 27, 1868, the Legislature authorized and directed the trustees of the village of Oxford to levy and collect, on the taxable property of the corporation, $1,500 for the relief of the Oxford Academy, $874.81 of which was to be applied to the liquidation of the indebtedness of the Academy, and the balance expended in improving the property. The whole amount so expended in repairs was $834.75.
June 12, 1871, it was "Resolved, That the presiding officer of this meeting, [J. W. Glover,] with Mr. James W. Clarke, be a committee to inform the Bishop of this Diocese, Rt. Rev. F. D. Huntington, of the present condition of the Academy, and to advise with him as to its future progress." It was also resolved to circulate a subscription for the permanent endowment of the Academy, with directions to endeavor to raise without delay at least $10,000 for that purpose. At the next meeting, June 19, 1871, the committee reported that the amount had been subscribed, and the further sum of $1,500 pledged to the same object. The latter date Bishop Huntington was unanimously elected a trustee and President of the Academy, which office he held by successive re-elections till Feb. 3, 1876, when he resigned. Aug. 1, 1871, a negative answer was given to a question propounded by the Bishop, as to "whether the fact of the lady [then] under consideration for the position of preceptress being a Congregationalist would be considered by the trustees as a disqualification?" Aug. 3, 1871, a committee was appointed to decide on suitable church services for opening the school.
March 1, 1872, it was resolved to petition the Legislature to do amend the Statute as to permit an increase to twenty-one of the number of trustees, which had been previously increase from nine to twelve. The request was subsequently made to the Regents, who, it was discovered, had jurisdiction over the matter, and was granted November 12, 1872. Permission to elect a Vice-president was also given, and Dec. 3, 1872, Henry R. Mygatt was elected to that office.
Prof. Herbert J. Cook presented his resignation as Principal, March 21, 1872, to take effect at the close of the academic year. Rev. Charles Woodward, A. M., who had been engaged some weeks previously by a committee appointed for that purpose, was chosen Principal, Aug. 21, 1872, and presented his resignation the same day, by reason of ill health. Charles W. Brown, late a teacher of mathematics in the Academy, was engaged as Principal the balance of the term.
Rev. Frank B. Lewis was engaged as Principal Dec. 8, 1872, to enter upon his duties January 6, 1873; a short interim, while Mr. Lewis could enter upon his duties, being filled by Warren E. Hubbard. Mr. Lewis tendered his resignation March 26, 1879; it was accepted March 28, 1879. He was succeeded by James A. Brown, of Hamilton College, who is the present Principal. Miss M. A. B. Raymond's resignation was received June 30, 1874, to take effect July 1, 1874, the close of the term. She was succeeded by Miss C. H. McNeil, who had previously served some time as assistant, and who was relieved from the duties of preceptress at her own request, on account of ill health, and re-assigned to the position of assistant, to take effect Aug. 31, 1875. She was re-engaged as preceptress Feb. 12, 1876, and was succeeded by Miss Louise Bacon, of Greenfield, Mass., who was engaged June 27, 1876. Mrs. Olive C. Beauchamp succeeded to the position in July, 1877. Her resignation was tendered Feb. 15, 1879, and accepted March 21, 1879, to take effect at the close of the school year. She was succeeded by Miss Estella June, of Oxford. Miss Louisa Humphrey is the teacher of the primary department.
We extract from the report to the Regents to June 22, 1878, the following statistics:---
Schedule of Academic Property:
Value of grounds $ 1,500.00 " of buildings,85 11,000.00 " of library, 1210 volumes 86 955.00 " of philosophical apparatus,87 962.67 Bonds and Mortgages 7,250.00 Notes receivable 2,150.00 Furniture, not fixtures 450.00 Real Estate, other than Academy lot 150.00 ----------- Total 24.417.67 Treasurer's notes payable $900.00 Balance due Treasurer at date of report 5.97 905.97 --------------- Total, less debts and incumbrances, $23,511.70 Revenue for the year ending June 22, 1878:--- From tuition collected or considered collectable $ 1,437.80 From income derived from real and personal property 936.15 Apportionment from Literature Fund 41.18 ----------- Total revenue $ 2,415.13 Disbursements: For teachers' salaries $2,700.00 For interest accrued during year on debts due from Academy 45.11 For repairs 1.72 For fuel and other incidental expenses 312.57 3,059.40 ------- -------- Excess of expenditures over revenue 644.37
The number of scholars taught during the year was 128, of whom 67 were males, and 61 females. The average age was 15 6/10 years. The number of academic students enrolled during part of the year, and who were claimed by the trustees to have pursued for four months or more of said year, classical studies, or the higher branches of English education, or both, after having passed the preliminary academic examination, was nine males and five females. The average age of the males was 17 1/10 years; females, 16 2/10; general average 17. The number of scholars pursuing classical studies during the year was twenty-one, of whom nine were males and twelve females.88
Rates of tuition:---
Common English Studies $ 7 00 Mathematical and Higher English 9 00 Classical, including all the preceding 11 00
CHURCHES.---"Our ancestors," says William H. Hyde, Esq., "seem to have acted upon the sentiment, that 'the groves were God's first temples,' and enjoyed more the advantages of natural religion, that the stated preaching and ordinances of revealed Christianity. They were more distinguished for worldly enterprise than for piety, postponing the interest of organized Christianity even to those of literature and learning. * * * Our early settlers were strong, earnest men, impelled by common necessity, and subject to feelings of common interest; they loved their neighbors as themselves, labored hard and long, and left the result to Providence. If they had not the advantages, they were without the evils of more advanced society; and 'a fellow-feeling made them wondrous kind.' " 89
The Associated Presbyterian Church is, with one exception, the oldest ecclesiastical organization in the county. It may be called "the mother of churches," in this village, as, for at least fifteen years, it was the only one here; and when at length others were organized, they drew some of their most valued material from its membership. The history of this church reaches back into the last century. The record of its formation is lost, and the precise date cannot be determined; but when the Associated Presbyterian Society of Oxford was legally organized at a meeting held Sept. 19, 1799, the church was already in existence, and was represented by its officers in that meeting.90
The faithful minister and missionary who gathered this little band of Christian disciples in the midst of these forest wilds, was Rev. John Camp. A graduate of Yale College, Mr. Camp, brought to this new community the intellectual culture and devoted piety which marked the New England ministry of that day. He early identified himself with the educational interests of the place, was a trustee of the Academy, and endeavored to promote in every way, the religious, moral and material interests of the young and thriving village. His ministry continued about three years.
For more than a dozen years the only public religious services in the place were maintained by this people in the village academy; then they met for a time at the private residence of Deacon Amos A. Franklin. When this grew small for their increasing numbers, the good deacon finished off at his own expense, the second story of his cabinet shop, and for a number of years made them welcome to its use. This building, now a private dwelling, still stands on "Merchants' Row," nearly opposite the Presbyterian parsonage. At length, under the impulse of a powerful revival of religion, a house of worship was determined upon. It was begun in 1822, and dedicated to the service of God, July 31, 1823. The building cost about $4,000, the land, (upon which the church still stands,) being donated by Mr. Ira Willcox. In 1857, after thirty-four years of service, the church was put in thorough repair; the old square pews replace by modern ones, and the whole recarpeted and upholstered. No great changes were made after that until 1873. In that year the semi-centennial of its erection, it was determined to entirely remodel it and adapt it to the demands of modern taste. This was done at an expense of over $10,000, and when it was rededicated, May 6, 1874, it was pronounced one of the most tasteful and beautiful village churches in this part of the State.
The present and only parsonage was purchased in 1866, at an expense of $3,100, and has since been greatly improved.
The present membership of the church, (in 1879,) is 133; the number of Sabbath School scholars, 137. The Church is in a good financial condition, being entirely out of debt, and having an income equal to its expenses. It gave last year, to further the interests of religion, $1,750, of which sum $302 were contributed to Christian work outside the village. Though connected with the Presbytery of Otsego, the church is Congregational in its government.
The following is the succession of pastors:---
Revs. John Camp, 1799; Eli Hyde, 1808; Edward Andrews, 1818; Marcus Harrison, 1822; J. D. Wickham, D. D., 1823; Elijah D. Wells, 1825; Charles Gilbert, 1829; James Abell, 1830; George W. Bassett, 1837; Arthur Burtis, D. D., 1839; William M. Richards, 1846; Charles Jerome, 1847; Henry Callahan, 1850; Elliott H. Payson, 1862; Charles F. Janes, 1870; Henry P. Collier, 1873; Henry N. Payne, 1879.
OFFICERS:---Rev. Henry N. Payne, Pastor; John W. Thorp, M. D., Geo. H. Turner and Geo. L. Trask, Deacons; John W. Thorp, M. D., Superintendent Sunday School; McGeorge Bundy, Assistant Superintendent Sunday School; J. A. Coville, W. M. Miller and E. L. Corbin, Trustees.91
St. Paul's Church of Oxford was organized under the labors of Rev. William B. Lacey, the first rector, May 23, 1814. The meeting at which the organization was effected was held at the house of Abijah Lobdell, Jr., in Oxford, and Frederick Hopkins and John Backus were elected wardens, and Peter Burgot, Ransom Rathbun, Chauncey Morgan, Abijah Lobdell, Jr., Ebenezer Hull, William M. Price, John Spoor and John Church, vestrymen. At this time, Lucinda Backus and Bede Hull were the only communicants.
Meetings were held at first in the Academy; but efforts were early made to procure a suitable place of worship. Henry Van Der Lyn interested himself in the circulation of a subscription for this purpose,92 and Feb. 23, 1815, the amount subscribed having reached $1,995, a committee, consisting of William M. Price, Ransom Rathbun and Frederick Hopkins, was appointed to receive proposals for the erection of a church. March 21, 1815, a contract was entered into with Messrs. Smith & McGeorge, who engaged to build an edifice, 40 by 50 feet, for $2,200. The site selected was on Fort Hill Square, and was conveyed to the church by the village trustees. The church was completed and consecrated by John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York. This, apparently, was the first church edifice erected in the village. A bell was added in 1818.
In 1855 and '56 the building of the present church edifice engaged the attention of the Society, and $10,000 were subscribed towards that object. Its construction was commenced in 1856 and finished in 1857. Its cost was $13,387. It was consecrated Oct. 14, 1857. In this year also (1857) the rectory was built, at a cost of $2,540. The chapel, which was begun in 1859, was completed and paid for in 1860. In 1861, $1,505 were paid for the iron fence around the church. In 1863, $4,000 were subscribed for the purpose of adding a stone porch and bell tower to the church. In 1870 a new organ was purchased at a cost of $3,200. In 1877 the interior of the church was richly decorated and newly carpeted, and a new bell hung, at a cost of about $2,000. The church is a fine, substantial stone structure, and with its elaborately, costly and tastily decorated interior, and ornate exterior surroundings, is a real gem in an otherwise beautiful village.93
The first Communion was held Dec. 10, 1815, at which time there were seven communicants.
The following have been the successive rectors of this church: Revs. William B. Lacey, 1814- - '18; Leverett Bush, 1818 - '42; Thomas Towell, 1842 - '44; T. R. Chipman, 1844; Dr. Benjamin W. Stone, 1845 - '50; S. Anson Coxe, 1850 - '53; Mannsell Van Rensselaer, 1853 - '54; S. Anson Coxe, 1854 - '57; D. H. Macurdy, 1857 - '65; Walter Ayrault, 1865 - '75; R. M. Duff, 1875 - '79.
The table given below shows the number of baptisms, marriages, funerals, confirmations and offerings, and the average number of communicants, scholars and families during each rectorship, as nearly as they can be ascertained from the records and minutes.
|Wm. B. Lacey||1814-18||46||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|Thomas Towell||1842- 3||21||4||10||11||88||46||-||-|
|T. R. Chipman||1844||4||4||6||4||-||-||-||$ 672 00|
|Dr. Benj.W.Stone||1845-9||40||15||29||28||101||68||77||3,560 00|
|S. Anson Coxe||1850-2||18||9||17||13||126||-||56||1,217 00|
|M.Van Rensselaer||1853-4||28||6||9||7||120||-||60||1,095 13|
|S. Anson Coxe||1855-7||19||5||18||18||116||65||71||1,142 00|
|D. H. Macurdy||1858-64||84||16||57||54||126||97||88||15,522 6696|
|Walter Ayrault||1865-75||161||32||83||120||17497||9598||107||76,086 6999|
|R. M. Duff||1876-9||83||18||34||58||189||110||131||16,171 00100|
The Oxford Baptist Church of Christ was organized in what was then known as the McNeal school house, July 14, 1815. In a neighboring grove, situated on the left bank of the Chenango, a half-hour's walk below the village bridge, the council of recognition met, August 17. Among the sixteen constituent members were Nathaniel Havens, Mrs. Clara Havens, Daniel Tracy, Jr., Mrs. Polly Tracy, John Dodge, Mrs. Betsey Gifford, Mrs. Abigail Hackett, John Hull, Mrs. Hannah Hull, John Perry, Mrs. Mary Perry, Hiel Tracy and Mrs. Susan Tracy. Diligent search after the names of the remaining three has been unavailing.
The organization grew rapidly, gaining within three years a membership of 103. In July, 1819, the question of building a house of worship was agitated. Fourteen years passed before the desire was realized. Meanwhile the congregations worshiped in school-houses and elsewhere; many souls were converted, and about one hundred persons were received into the membership of the church, upon the confession of their faith in the Saviour. Elder Jabez S. Swan, subsequently pastor, preached on the occasion of the dedication, January 9, 1834, on "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven," Gen. 28:17. This text was truly prophetic in import. The Holy Spirit has indeed dwelt among the worshipers in the sanctuary, with regenerating and sanctifying power. The church has since numbered about 600 additions by baptism, an average of more than one per month. Few years have passed unblessed in this regard.
The church has served as a feeder of other Baptist churches, recording 609 dismissions by letter against 417 accessions from that source. 126 members have passed from her fellowship to the joys of the Church Triumphant. The average membership reported has been 192. In August, 1879, it was 259.
The Sunday-school has for many years included in its membership the majority of those in attendance at the morning services. Its superintendents have been Randall Maine, Samuel Root, William L. Beardsley, David G. Barber and Cyrus M. Gray. The contributions of the church and school for benevolent objects are estimated to have averaged about $100 per year for a long series of years. During the year ending September, 1878, they aggregated $360.53. The women of the church have sustained efficient missionary and other societies, and have always been recognized by their pastors as faithful helpers in the gospel. The young people have contributed much to the strength of the church, and merit grateful mention.
The following list gives the names of the pastors in the order of their service, and the dates at which their several labors terminated, as nearly as can be ascertained. For the record of memorable events in Elder Swan's pastorate, the reader is referred to his autobiography, which may be found in many homes in the county. Levi Holcomb, Oct. 31, 1822; Nathaniel Otis, Dec. 18, 1831; Robert Adams, April 20, 1833; Washington Kingsley, Feb. 4, 1837; ________ Bestor, July 29, 1838; Jabez S. Swan, Nov. 20, 1841; Elisha G. Perry, April 25, 1844; George W. Stone, March 31, 1847; William S. Smith, April 1, 1851; Elijah Baldwin, March 19, 1853; Nathaniel Ripley, April 18, 1857; William T. Potter, Jan. 11, 1864; Lysander E. Spafford, March 27, 1870; Allen Reynolds, March 30, 1873; John C. Ward, March 31, 1877; William R. Baldwin, now pastor, Aug. 1879.
The following named have served as deacons: Hiel Tracy, John McNeal, John Perry, Randall Maine, Ira Noble, Jeremiah York, Benjamin Randall, William L. Jacobs, Samuel Root, Obadiah Tower, David G. Barber, Whitman R. Mowry. The four last named were serving at this writing, August, 1879.
Among those licensed to preach the gospel are the Rev. Messrs. George Balcom, now of Kansas; E. T. Jacobs, of Afton, N. Y.; and George W. Stone. The two last were also ordained here, Mr. Stone while he was serving as pastor.
The house of worship has recently been somewhat enlarged and thoroughly remodeled. When complete, among other noticeable improvements, there will be a stately tower, surmounted by a neat spire; commodious basement rooms fitted up with modern appliances; and an audience room provided with a horseshoe gallery, frescoed, reseated and refurnished, with a seating capacity of upwards of 450. An open baptistry of the most approved pattern will appear at the rear of the platform. The contemplated outlay is $5,200.
With a parsonage, barn and ample grounds, for the use of her ministers; first-class shed for the accommodation of the many of the congregation living on their distant farms; and a house of worship unsurpassed for convenience by any in the county, the church will possess the material requisites for the achievement of a future worthy of her past. For these gifts from His hand, she is grateful to her Lord. For a continued supply of spiritual facilities, she waits on Him in worship and work.101
The First Methodist Episcopal Church. It cannot be determined when this church was organized, but it is believed that its history dates back to about 1815. The corporate existence of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the Village of Oxford dates from September 24, 1831, at which date "the male persons of full age belonging to the Methodist Episcopal church in the village of Oxford met at the Academy in said village, where they steadily attended for divine worship * * * for the purpose of electing nine discreet persons of the said church as trustees, to take the charge of the estate and property of the said church and to transact all affairs relative to the temporalities thereof." James Atwell, who was then pastor of the church, and William E. Chapman were chosen to preside, and Bliss Willoughby, Nathaniel Willcox, Caleb Sebury, Everitt Judson, Gardner B. Lewis, Elias Widger, William E. Chapman, George H. King and Daniel Dudley, member of said church, were elected trustees.
The earliest meetings are supposed to have been held about 1815, and organization effected about 1817, in Mr. Van Wagenen's barn, on Albany street. The old barn is still standing. Bliss Willoughby, Nathaniel Willcox, Eliakim Northrup and James Fenner were among the first members.
Up to the time of its corporate existence, the Society seems to have worshiped in the barn in which the organization was effected. About that time they purchased the old Academy building, in which they worshiped till 1841, when their present church edifice was erected, at a cost of about $3,000. It was quite extensively repaired seven or eight years since.
There is no record of the earlier preachers. From an early day the church was connected with the Norwich circuit, but the church there was not organized until 1814. Previous to 1828, Revs. Densmore and Benjamin Shipman preached here, but how long cannot be ascertained. The following is the succession of pastors from 1828: Revs. Henry Peck, 1828; Mr. Mansfield, 1829; John Snyder, 1830; James Atwell, 1831; William Bowdish and Mr. Stowell, 1832; Henry Halstead, who was the first stationed preacher, 1833-34; John Bailey, now a minister in the Protestant Episcopal church, 1835; Lyman Sperry, who was some years since placed on the superannuated list and is now living in Unadilla, N. Y., 1836-7; George Harmon, an eccentric, yet powerful man, 1838-9; J. C. Ransom, a great revivalist in his day, now superannuated and living in Oxford, 1840; W. H. Pearne, D. D., under whose administration the present church was built, 1841-2; Lyman Sperry, 1843-4; William Bixby, 1845; L. L. Knox, 1846; William Wyatt, a remarkable man and able preacher, 1847-8; Bottwick Hawley, D. D., 1849; Zedekiah Paddock, D. D., died recently in Binghamton, N. Y., 1850; Selah Stocking, 1851-2; A. S. Graves, 1852-3; J. S. Wright, 1854; Hiram Gee, 1855-6; L. H. Stanley, 1857; A. T. Mattison, 1858-60; William R. Cobb, 1860-2; Dwight Williams, 1862-4; Wm. C. Brown, 1864-6; Wm. G. Queal, 1866-8; T. P. Halstead, (son of Rev. Henry Halstead, who was pastor here in 1833-4,) 1868-71; S. F. Brown, 1871-3; H. V. Talbot, 1873-5; J. K. Peck, A. B., 1875-7; S. C. Fulton, Ph. B., 1877-9.
The present number of members is 113; the attendance at Sabbath School, 89. With scarcely an exception since its organization this church has been favored with pastors of ability and culture. Some of them have ranked among the strongest men of the denomination.
The First Universalist Society in the Town of Oxford, at Oxford village, was organized at the school-house in that village July 8, 1833, at a meeting over which Anson Cary and Luke Metcalf presided, and of which D. Denison was clerk. Nine trustees were elected, viz: Luke Metcalf, Philip Bartle, Daniel Denison, Anson Cary, Oliver Richmond, Ira Dodge, Jabez Robinson, Thomas Brown and Henry Balcom. Charles Perkins was elected clerk of the Society, and Calvin Cole, collector.
Their church edifice was built in 1836, at a cost of about $3,000. The site was bought by Henry Balcom and Ira Dodge, about 1835 or '6, of Ethan Clarke, for the purpose of erecting a church thereon, to be conveyed to the Society at a future time, and was deeded to the Society Nov. 26, 1839, for $300. In 1871, the church was repaired, repainted and lowered about twenty inches, at an expense of about $1,000.
Previous to the erection of the church, meetings were held in the school-house by Rev. Nelson Doolittle, who came here occasionally as an itinerant and created a sentiment in favor of building a house of worship. Rev. Mr. Skeels also held meetings occasionally. The first pastor was John T. Goodrich,102 who commenced his labors in 1836 and remained till October, 1849. He was succeeded by A. W. Bruce, who remained about two years. Rev. Charles E. Hughes next served them about five years. Rev. J. G. Bartholomew was engaged to preach half the time January 18, 1856, and served them about two and a half years. A Mr. Bennett, who was a student in the St. Lawrence University, at Canton, N. Y., preached for them for a year after Mr. Bartholomew left. Daniel Ballou preached here and at East Smithville while attending the St. Lawrence University. After his graduation his services were engaged, and Jan. 7, 1861, a convention was called to ordain him. A committee from this church was appointed to confer with a similar committee from the church at East Smithville for this purpose. He closed his labors April 1, 1863. John W. LaMoine served them two years, about 1872 and '73, since which time they have had no pastor. Occasional meetings have been held, about three months in 1876, by Daniel Ballou, then and now residing in Utica.
There are less than a dozen members, and the Society embraces only about ten families.
The present trustees are Samuel E. Lewis, David H. Bixby, Irving Taintor, Amos Miner, James M. Edwards and Charles A. Bennett.
SOCIETIES.---Oxford Lodge, No. 175, F. & A. M., was organized March 10, 1815, as Oxford Lodge, No. 235. The officers at that time were: William M. Price, W. P. M.; Ransom Rathbun, S. W.; David Shumway, J. W.; Levi Sherwood, Treasurer; Thos. W. Watkins, Secretary; Ira Burlingame, S. D.; Philo Judson, J. D.; Ishmael Nichols and Isaac Sherwood, Stewards; Gurdon Williams, Tiler. This lodge was probably disbanded in 1831, as the last communication recorded bears date of May 26, 1831, though no reference is made to the surrender of the charter.
It was re-organized July 22, 1850, as Chenango Valley Lodge, No. 175, at a meeting of the following named Master Masons, at the room of Cyrus Tuttle: Joseph Walker, William G. Sands, Elijah B. McCall, Cyrus Tuttle, Jeremiah York, Merrit S. Pierpont, Derrick Race, and John Backus. At that meeting they petitioned for a charter under the above name. The first officers under this organization were: Joseph Walker, M.; William G. Sands, S. W.; Elijah B. McCall, J. W.; Cyrus Tuttle, Treasurer; John Backus, Secretary; Jeremiah York, S. D.; Derrick Race, J. D.; and Merrit S. Pierpont, Tiler.
They were again re-organized as Oxford Lodge, No. 175. The charter under this organization was granted in June, 1862. The first officers were: L. P. Wagner, W. M.; J. R. Clark, S. W.; D. E. Comstock, J. W.; William B. Race, Treasurer; William A. Martin, Secretary; A. B. Olds, S. D.; A. D. Root, J. D.; F. P. Newkirk and H. Houghton, M. of C.; Charles Fraser, Tiler.
The present officers are: Benjamin M. Pearne, W. M.; J. A. Coville, S. W.; A. D. Harrington, J. W.; G. H. Perkins, Treasurer; J. J. Hull, Secretary; L. R. Coville, S. D.; H. O. Daniels, J. D.; C. M. Dodge and T. L. Moore, M. of C.; E. Cooley, Tiler.
The lodge numbers about 100; and meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month in Lewis' Hall.
The Past Masters since the last organization are: L. P. Wagner, J. R. Clark, F. P. Newkirk, A. B. Olds, J. B. Brown, L. R. Coville, L. A. Knott and C. M. Dodge.
Oxford Chapter No. 254, was organized under a dispensation in June, 1870, and a charter was granted at the next meeting of the Grand Chapter of New York the following January. The charter members were: John R. Clarke, Horace Packer, D. B. Smith, F. P. Newkirk, James A. Preston, Elihu Cooley, G. H. Perkins, E. J. Berry, Derrick Race, G. H. Rogers, Norman Ford, Clark T. Rogers, J. F. Leitch, Peter W. Clarke, Dwight H. Clarke, John C. Maxson, S. F. McFarland, Samuel E. Lewis, Benajah Landers, and Andrew B. Olds.
The present officers are: J. B. Brown, High Priest; B. M. Lee, King; B. M. Pearne, Scribe; G. H. Perkins, Treasurer; J. J. Hull, Secretary; J. A. Colville, Captain of the Host; L. R. Coville, Principal Sojourner; C. M. Dodge, R. A. C.; E. C. Beardsley, D. Race, William Cook, Masters of Veils; E. Cooley, Tiler.
The present number of members is 31; the whole number who have belonged, 47. The lodge meets the first Monday in each month.
Past High Priests---F. P. Newkirk, S. F. McFarland and L. A. Knott
Oxford Lodge, No. 254, I. O. of O. F., was organized as Chenango Lodge, No. 114, April 16, 1844, on petition of B. Fish, Daniel Dudley, William W. Packer, James Tyrrel, Moses J. Ferry and William Ralph, and dedicated the same day. The first officers were William Packer, N. G.; Daniel Dudley, V. G.; James Tyrrel, Secretary; Luman B. Fish, Treasurer.
The lodge surrendered its charter March 23, 1857. It was re-instituted November 9, 1870, as Oxford Lodge, No. 254, and re-chartered August 24, 1871. The first officers under this organization were: James W. Glover, N. G.; John Shattuck, V. G.; Edward Bradley, Recording Secretary; F. A. Webb, Permanent Secretary; A. W. Bartle, Treasurer; who were installed by District Deputy Grand Master H. C. Willcox, of Smyrna.
The present officers are: A. S. Lewis, N. G.; Fred A. Burchard, V. G.; T. B. Galpin, Recording Secretary; Charles O. Willcox, Permanent Secretary; F. E. Billings, Treasurer; George Bradley, Warden; James O. Dodge, Conductor; A. Morse, I. G.; J. J. Brown, R. S. N. G.; J. G. Van Wagenen, L. S. N. G.; H. J. Galpin, R. S. V. G.; A. D. Harrington, L. S. V. G.; William R. Mygatt, R. S. S.; James T. Hill, L. S. S.; C. R. Miner, P. G.
The present number of members is 33. The lodge is in a flourishing condition, and meets Thursday evenings in Harrington's Opera House.
South Oxford, in the south-west part of the town, was formerly the seat of a post-office and a manufactory of hoes, forks and edge tools of considerable importance. The post-office was removed to Coventry Station, a mile below, after the completion of the Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley Railroad. The station agent is postmaster. He succeeded his father in the former position, and probably as postmaster also. There is a small grocery kept by Henry Willcox, and a cooper shop, kept by Charles Holmes.
Cheshireville is a hamlet near the south line, and derives its name from the fact that most of the early settlers in that locality came from Cheshire, Connecticut.
MANUFACTURES.---On the west side of the river, about two miles below Oxford, is a saw and grist-mill owned by Edwin Towers. It was built some forty years ago by Stephen and Clark Lewis, the former of whom operated it till the fall of 1878, he having brought his brother's interest some twenty years ago. A saw-mill was built on the same site by John Stratton about fifty years ago.
WAR OF THE REBELLION.---The earliest recorded action taken by this town with reference to filling its quotas during the recent war was on the 3d of January, 1864. But this was long after that earlier action which best illustrates the spontaniety of its patriotism, and which transpired before the efforts were systematized and legalized by legislative action, but of which no record is preserved. This is in a measure indicated in the general history of the county.
January 3, 1864, the town voted a bounty of $323 to all volunteers applied on its quota of forty-six under the last call of the President, and Henry L. Miller, A. Watson and William Van Wagenen were appointed a finance committee to provide the means for paying the bounties, and to carry into effect the object of the resolution. At a meeting of the Town Board, January 6, 1864, at the request of the finance committee, William H. Hyde was appointed treasurer of that committee, and H. H. Cooke, Henry R. Mygatt, James W. Glover and Dwight H. Clark were appointed a committee to draft and present to the Legislature a proper bill to give effect to the action of January 3d.
At a special town meeting, held March 28, 1864, it was
"Resolved, That the Board of Town Auditors, of the town of Oxford, be, and they hereby are authorized to pay such sum, not exceeding $400, as may be necessary to each and every person who shall volunteer to enter the military service of the United States and be credited to said town on its quota, under the last call of the President of the said United States for 200,000 men, to a number sufficient to fill the deficiency of the quota of said town under said call, and that for that purpose said Board of Town Auditors be hereby empowered to borrow money on the credit of said town of Oxford, and to issue the bonds of said town therefor in such sums, payable upon such times and upon such conditions as they may deem best, or to provide for the payment of said money as aforesaid in such manner as the statute may provide and direct."
The Board of Town Auditors, at a meeting held March 31, 1864, fixed the amount at 400; and at a meeting April 2, 1864, they ratified and confirmed the action of the committee appointed for the purpose in negotiating with W. W. Ingersoll to fill the quota, and agreed to pay to every volunteer mustered into the service and applied on the quota of the town, to the number of ten, $375; and for the purpose of raising the necessary sum for this object, and the expenses incidental thereto it was resolved to raise $3,800 on the bonds of the town, bearing seven per cent, annual interest and payable January 1, 1866. John R. Wheeler, H. H. Cooke and John Lord were appointed a committee to carry the resolution into effect.
At a special town meeting held June 21, 1864, the following resolution was passed by a large majority:---
"WHEREAS, It is evident there is soon to be a call from the President of the United States for men to reinforce our armies in the field, therefore,
"Resolved, That the Board of Town Auditors of the town of Oxford be, and they are hereby authorized to pay as bounty such sum as may be necessary, not to exceed the sum of $400, for each man mustered into the service of the United States for a term of three years and credited to the town of Oxford, and to apply on the quota of said town, under any call hereafter to be made by the President for men."
At a special meeting held August 22, 1864, this resolution was so amended as to provide for the payment to one year's men a sum not exceeding $600; to two years' men, $800; and to three years' men, $1,000. A similar resolution to the last was passed at a special meeting held December 30, 1864, with reference to the town's quota under the then recent call for 300,000 men, and its provisions were made also to apply to substitutes. At a meeting of the Board of Town Auditors the same date it was resolved to pay a bounty of $600 for one year's men, $700 for two years' men, and $800 for three years' men, and to the persons furnishing substitutes applied on the quota of the town, under said call, a town bond for a like amount.
From the record it appears that Oxford contributed in personal towards crushing out the Rebellion:---
White volunteers who entered the military service, 154 Colored " " " " " " 20 " substitutes " " " " " 1 White " " " " " " 26 " " " " " naval " 19 " volunteers " " " " " 5 Total number of enlisted men credited to Oxford, 225
Of this number one was a Lieut.-Colonel, three were captains, four were second lieutenants, eleven were sergeants, nine were corporals, one was a musician, and one was a farrier. They were assigned to the following organizations, as nearly as can be ascertained from the records: 1 in the 12th, 2 in the 17th, 1 in the 44th, 1 in the 50th, 2 in the 62d, 1 in the 83d, 28 in the 89th, 4 in the 90th, 28 in the 114th, 1 in the 140th, 1 in the 144th, and 1 in the 152d infantry regiments; 1 in the 8th, 42 in the 10th, 10 in the 11th, and 2 each in the 20th and 22d cavalry regiments; 15 in the 5th and 2 in the 9th heavy artillery; 4 in the 8th independent battery; 1 in the 50th N. Y. engineers; 2 in the mounted rifles; 1 in the V. R. C.; 1 in the 117th Penn. Colored regiment; 1 in the 2d Maine; 1 in Hancock's veteran corps; 1 in the 8th Connecticut; 1 in the 12th Tenn. Cavalry; 1 in the 14th R. I. heavy artillery; 1 in the 16th U. S. regulars; 1 in the 11th, 1 in the 2d, and 4 in the 106th U. S. colored infantry; 1 in the 5th U. S. colored engineers; and 8 in the 9th U. S. colored heavy artillery.
The number who enlisted for one year was 13 " " " " " two years was 3 " " " " " three years was 202 " " " " " four years was 1 " " not designated was 6
The nativity of all except thirty-six is indicated. Sixty were natives of Oxford, thirty-eight of other towns in the county, sixty-seven of other parts of the United States, ten of Canada, six of Ireland, five of Germany, two of England, and one of New Brunswick.
The occupation of all except twenty-three is indicated. Eighty-nine were farmers; forty-four, laborers; nine, mechanics; six each, blacksmiths, students and carpenters; five, clerks; four, painters; three each, butchers, shoemakers and teachers; two each, millers, masons cabinet makers, waiters and barbers; and the stone-cutters, physicians, tailors, bartenders, news-dealers, clothiers, harness makers, jewelers, photographers, printers, saloon keepers, gilders, soldiers and sailors, had each one representative.
The early history of Chenango county would not be complete without a sketch of the life and services of John Tracy. Among its early settlers, whose lives and characters illustrated the qualities which adorn alike public and private station, and secured for it respect and honor, not only at home, but in the councils of the State as well, none is more worthy of honorable mention.
Mr. Tracy was born in Norwich, Conn., October 26, 1783. Near the beginning of the present century he removed to Columbus, in this county, making the journey on Horseback, a mode of travel made necessary at that early day by the unsettled state of the country and the lack of public conveyance. He brought with him but a small share of worldly wealth, but the sturdy common sense, integrity of purpose, and steadiness to duty, which marked his after life, served him in stead much better. In 1805 he came to Oxford, where, as Deputy Clerk under Uri Tracy, his kinsman, who was then the Clerk of the county, he also pursued the study of law with Stephen O. Runyan, Esq. After his admission as an attorney in the Supreme Court, in 1808, he commenced and successfully practiced his profession at Oxford. Such, however, was the confidence which his ability, sound judgment and integrity won for him among those who knew him, that he soon became the recipient of official trusts in his own county, and surrendered the pursuit of an increasing and lucrative practice, for the public service. He was married August 30, 1813, at Franklin, Conn., to Susan Hyde, who proved herself the worthy partner of his virtues and his honors, and died but a short time before him.
There came to him first the important office, under the old practice, of Examiner and Master in Chancery. This was followed in 1815 by his appointment as Surrogate of his county, which he held four years. He was elected in 1820 and returned in 1821, '22 and '26 to the House of Assembly, having as colleagues in the former years, William Mason and Edward G. Per Lee, and in the latter, Tilly Lynde and Robert Monell. In 1821 he again received the appointment of Surrogate, and in 1823 that of First Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and held these offices until 1833, when he resigned them. The Legislature, in 1830, made him a Regent of the University, and in 1831, upon nomination of the Governor, the Senate appointed him Circuit Judge of the Sixth District, in the place of Samuel Nelson, but he declined the appointment. In 1832 he was elected Lieutenant-Governor with William L. Marcy, Governor; and with him was re-elected in 1834 and '36, and was the presiding officer of the Senate, whose roll included among others the names of Henry A. Foster, Nathaniel P. Tallmadge, William H. Seward, Samuel Young, Daniel S. Dickinson, Gulian C. Verplanck and Edward P. Livingston. As Lieutenant-Governor and President of the Senate, he also presided in the Court for the Correction of Errors; and in each place alike, showed that urbanity, patience and impartiality which command the highest respect and honor. In 1846 he was elected from Chenango county, with the lamented Colonel Elisha B. Smith as his colleague, a delegate to the Convention for revising the Constitution, and was chosen to preside over that distinguished body, which had on its toll the names of Ira Harris, Ambrose L. Jordan, Samuel Nelson, Michael Hoffman, Charles O'Conor and Samuel J. Tilden.
During the term of his active participation in public affairs, Mr. Tracy was a Democrat of the school of Wright, Flagg, Young, Hoffman and Marcy, all of whom were contemporaries and personal friends. After the Convention of 1846, he withdrew from political life.
His constant occupation with public concerns did not prevent an earnest and active interest in all matters which affected the welfare of the village and community in which he lived. The Oxford Academy, of whose Board of Trustees he was for years the President, was always near his heart, and he ever gave to it the benefits of his wise counsels and active support. The striking features of the life and character of John Tracy, was its consistency and symmetry.
The principles which controlled his political career did not contradict, but were in harmony with his private life. He knew no standard of moral action which prescribed one rule of conduct for the man, and quite another for the politician, which is summed up in the baneful maxim that "All is fair in politics." He had that incorruptible honesty which an old writer has fitly called the sister of justice. If he had ambition, it was not of the sort that seeks preferment by detraction and ignoring the rights of others, for there mingled with it a courtesy and kindness which scorned to seek his own advancement at the cost of his self-respect and sense of justice. Hence, he wore his honors unobtrusively, as the spring its flowers, the forest its foliage, as trusts which honored him only in their faithful discharge.
"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!"
One who well knew him has left on record the following tribute, and all who knew him will recognize the faithfulness of the portraiture:---
"Throughout his career of official position and preferment, Governor Tracy never held a station, from the lowest to the highest, upon which he did not, by his virtues and ability, confer honor, rather than having honor conferred upon him. His life, public and private, was absolutely without spot or blemish. To intellectual grasp and vigor he added an amiability of character, and an unswerving integrity of purpose, that lifted him above the sphere of ordinary men. His mind was always clear and firm, precise and comprehensive, and whether as Judge or Legislator, President of the Senate in its palmiest days, or presiding over the deliberations of a Convention to remodel the fundamental law of the State, it enabled him to discharge his high and responsible duties with distinguished credit and success. As a public man, he was unselfishly devoted to the public interest, ever keeping it in view above all the allurements of private gain."
Mr. Tracy died at Oxford, June 18, 1864, at the ripe age of four score years. There survives him two children, Esther Maria Mygatt, now the widow of the late Henry R. Mygatt, Esq., and Susan Eliza Clarke, the widow of the late James W. Clarke; and grandchildren, John Tracy Mygatt, Esq., of New York, William R. Mygatt, Esq., a lawyer in practice at Oxford, and Mai Mygatt.
To the State he has bequeathed the example of many years of public service, which he exalted by his fidelity, integrity and ability; and to the community where he died, the priceless heritage of a career ennobled by the constant and steadfast practice of virtue and of truth.
The steady and persistent devotion of the best efforts and energies of any man, during nearly a half century, to the attainment of excellence in any high and honorable calling, unswayed by everything which stands in the way of his purpose, is, of itself, a sure passport to public respect and admiration. But when, in addition to this, he makes his own success and gains the means of constant and continued benefactions to others, and scatters the pathway of his life with deeds of kind and thoughtful generosity, the record of his life is a public heritage, his name a legacy to those who shall follow him.
The career of Henry R. Mygatt furnishes a worthy example of this kind. He was born in the village of Oxford, in the county of Chenango on the 10th day of April, 1810. His father, Henry Mygatt, came from New Milford, Conn., and was well and favorably known as a prominent merchant at Oxford, in the years that followed its settlement. His mother, whose maiden name was Sarah Stephens Washburn, died while the subject of this sketch was quite young. My Mygatt was prepared for college at Oxford Academy, when it was in the charge of David Prentice, a successful and popular teacher of youth, and in after years more widely known for his scholarly attainments as a professor in one of the colleges of this State. Of those who were schoolmates of Mr. Mygatt at the Academy were Horatio Seymour, Ward Hunt, John W. Allen, Henry W. Rogers, Joseph G. Masten, John Clapp, and others who like them have left their impress upon their age, and some of whom have given their names to history. Mr. Mygatt entered Hamilton College in 1826, remained there two years, when he went to Union and was graduated in 1830, in a class including the names of Henry S. Randall, Benjamin R. Rexford, George D. Beers, and Robert C. Livingston. It was during his stay at Union, and about the year 1880 (?), that he made a note in his memoranda of current events, of the ceremony of removing the first shovel of earth for the Albany & Schenectady railroad, one of the first ever built on this Continent.
After graduation, Mr. Mygatt began the study of law in the office of James C. Clapp, in Oxford, whose name for years was a synonym for strength, integrity and ability in his profession. In that office, thorough scholarship, exhaustive research, exact knowledge and a high sense of Professional honor were inculcated by precept and practice, as the essentials for merited success at the bar. Mr. Clapp also had a broad culture and general knowledge of men and books, combined with rare felicity of expression and charm of conversation, which inspired his students with the ambition to attain to something higher than the mere routine and technicalities of their profession, and least of all to content themselves with the arts and devices of the pettifogger. It is a circumstance of marked significance in weighing the legal merits and acquirements of Mr. Mygatt, that his tutor ever held for him the highest esteem and confidence, and that too during many years in which they were often brought together in intimate social and professional relations, and associated in cases of great importance requiring close investigation and deep research. He was admitted an Attorney and Counsellor in the Supreme Court at Albany, in 1833, and returned to his native village, where he entered upon and continued the practice of law during more than forty years, and until weakness and exhaustion compelled him to withdraw from the active duties of a professional career of distinguished usefulness and honor. That career began when James Clapp and Henry Van Der Lyn were in the full tide of success, in his native village, and found him at its close almost alone of the men who had entered the lists with him, at the Chenango county bar, but receiving still the same consideration and respect from the younger members of the profession at the close of his career, which was awarded him by his elders in the early years of his practice.
He was married Dec. 2, 1835, to Esther Maria, daughter of John Tracy, formerly Lieutenant-Governor of the State. She, with two sons, John T. Mygatt of New York, William R. Mygatt, a lawyer at Oxford, and one daughter Mai Mygatt, survives him. It is not the purpose of this sketch to recount the professional triumphs of its subject, but two only may be fitly cited as showing his exact and close study of adjudicated cases bearing upon a particular principle, and his persistence even under defeat until he had reached the court of final resort, so long as he could see that he was right with the authorities. The one, proving his indomitable perseverance and tenacity for the right, was the case of the Chenango Bridge Company against the Binghamton Bridge Company, in which upon appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States after defeat in the trial and General Terms of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals of this State, he obtained in that highest tribunal of the nation a reversal of the decision of all the State courts, and maintained the inviolability of a legislative franchise as a contract. The other was an action in equity, which resulted in a decree in his favor declaring a will which was a cloud upon title, void for incapacity of the testator, and that too, after it had been proved and of record for more than a quarter of a century.
But we prefer to leave the question of his acquirements and merits as a lawyer to the spoken or written authority of those who were associated or opposed to him at the bar, to the public press of the State, and to the judges of our highest courts, before whom he appeared at trial or for argument. One writes, who was a schoolmate, of the same profession and a life-long friend, "His success was due to honest, hard work, to an energy that never tired, a tenacity of purpose which never yielded except to the mandate of a court of last resort, combined with integrity never even tainted with suspicion."
One of his profession and a neighbor, said of him at a meeting of the Bar in his native county called to tell their regret for his loss and express their sense of his noble career:---
"I entered Mr. Mygatt's office as a student-at-law in October, 1841, and remaining in his office from that time until April, 1846, I became very conversant with the habits and characteristics of the man, and I assure you that no man, probably, ever labored harder, more hours, more unceasingly to make himself perfect in his profession, and to make himself what subsequent events proved him to be, one of the ablest lawyers in the State of New York. The extent and variety of his work has been simply enormous, and it shows what a man may attain by perseverance, labor, by devotion to his object, and a love of the profession, which he regarded as the highest that man can pursue, save one."
Said another, a Judge of the Supreme Court, before whom he often appeared during many years: "His virtues, his integrity, his goodness, his usefulness, his benevolence and example as a citizen as well as a lawyer, will long be remembered, and should be emulated by all lawyers who desire the esteem and welfare of the people among whom they live."
One, his junior in the profession, a townsman, spoke thus kindly of him:---
"Our loved and honored friend was rich in nature's best endowments, but it seems to me he was richer far in acquired forces, which come of ripe scholarship, a life of patient labor, well directed efforts, and the constant adherence to right, and the practice of everything becoming an honest man, the noblest work of God."
And again a former judge, and who knew him well, spoke these words of tender regret:---
"I feel that the profession has lost one of its brightest ornaments, and the community one of the noblest of men. Never, in my experience, have I known a lawyer who was as devoted to the interests of his client, or who would make so many sacrifices that justice might be done to his client, as Mr. Mygatt."
A Judge of the Supreme Court for many years, and afterwards of the Commission of Appeals, who presided at the meeting of the Bar in Chenango county, called after his death, said of Mr. Mygatt: "I cannot permit myself to remain entirely silent and be simply a listener to these proceedings. I have known Mr. Mygatt for more than thirty years. When he first appeared before me as a member of the Bar, there was one thing that I particularly noticed, and which proved true of him at all times, that the case upon his part was exhausted both upon the argument and authority. And very often this fact forced upon the Court a more careful examination of the other side of the case, and the result was that the cases in which he appeared as counsel were sometimes more carefully considered, fearing that injustice might be done his opponent."
The Broome County Bar Association adopted and published a minute, stating their estimate of his career as a lawyer in these words:---
"Resolved, That in our deceased brother, there existed that admirable union of great knowledge, untiring perseverance, fidelity, integrity and devotion to truth and honor, combined with great urbanity, which form a character worthy of imitation, and a model which all entering upon the study and practice of the profession may adopt for their own and the public good."
The press in his own county, and in other counties and cities of the State as well, added its tribute to his worth. It is, however, needless to further extend the testimonials of Mr. Mygatt's standing in his chosen profession. He took pleasure in the research which it required, and thought it as Edmund Burke well said, "one of the first and noblest of human sciences; a science which does more to quicken and invigorate the understanding than all the other kinds of learning put together."
But in the larger sphere of equity jurisdiction he found greater pleasure and won deserved success. Whatever the result of the litigation might be, his client never doubted that he had devoted to him his best services, and his antagonist, whether in defeat or victory, retired from the contest with a higher sense of his courtesy, his fairness and his honor. In ready perception of analogies and exact application and knowledge of adjudicated cases bearing upon a particular point, or establishing a given principle, he had no superior.
It is enough that commencing and continuing in a quiet and then secluded village, with no advantages gained from that fame which political honors and official position confer, he won, as a private citizen only, by honest, hard work, persevering study, deep research and skillful and honorable practice, a pre-eminent place in his profession not only in his own county, but in the State at large. Success and honor thus won are not accidents, they come of an abiding purpose, and therefore is it that they are the more valuable as examples for those who are struggling for excellence, not only in the professions, but in any worthy business or calling. And such an example is most valuable in these latter days, when the temptation to tread forbidden paths and to use, to say the least, doubtful expedients in the headlong scramble for riches and honors, has left so many human wrecks along the pathway of the generation. Instances there are of transcendent talents and large endowments, which have given their possessors too often a short-lived fame, only to be buried in disgrace, or clouded with dishonor.
But the fact remains that the firm purpose, quiet perseverance and faithful pursuit of any worthy calling will in the end bring the only enduring reward, the only abiding honor. And it is this, which gives value to the example of Henry R. Mygatt. His pathway to success is clear and open as the day, the honors and rewards which he reached were honestly won and justly merited; they admit of no doubtful interpretation nor require any secret explanation.
The possibility, nor only so, the certainty of attaining to excellence in any honorable calling or profession is open to all upon the same conditions. There are not a few in the county where he lived, within whom are enfolded, as the oak in the acorn, the undeveloped germs of the same success upon like conditions. As certain as the sun and the rain will from the acorn bring to its majestic proportions the oak, so certain will the firm purpose, the steady and persistent march in the way of a high and noble intent, lead to the goal of excellence at last. If this sketch shall find lodgment in the breast of any, struggling upward and onward in the way of a high and noble purpose, and his heart shall take new courage and his sinews gather fresh strength for the life-battle, it will not prove to be without a benefit. But it is often charged to biography that it is partial, and can see only virtues in its subject. Admitted that the subject of this sketch had infirmities and weaknesses, common to human nature, the example does not fail, for he kept onward and reached his reward despite them all. It is with his completed life and its results as a whole, that we have to do, and that life was a success.
One, a neighbor, well said of him: "It may not, cannot be presumption for me to say that if we copy the example of our departed friend and brother, we shall not go far astray; if we follow in his footsteps we shall not widely err." It was less than two years before his death that Mr. Mygatt fully yielded to the weakness and disease which finally ended his life. Those even who knew him best, can only faintly realize the struggle only less than that with the last enemy, which enforced retirement from his life-work so well and justly done, must have cost him.
His last presence in court in his own county was well told in the words which follow, at a meeting of the Bar, by his junior who had often striven and been joined with him in important trials: "We were in court at one of our regular sessions about two years ago. Our departed friend had been sick, but with improved health and strength, he came in as of old. A cause in which he felt a deep interest came on for trial. It had been tried once and was returned for a re-trial. The trial was hardly commenced, when at some remark of his adversary, he raised an objection with evident feeling, and for a moment discussed the point thus raised. It was more than his weakened strength could bear, and no one saw this fact more clearly than himself. He asked a friend to take his place at the trial, and that proceeded as if nothing had occurred; but he, leisurely picking up his papers and putting on his wraps, with one glove on, and his hat and remaining glove in his hand, went to and shook hands with each member of the Bar present; in like manner he greeted the sheriff, the clerk, the crier and the judge; saying to each as he held the proffered hand, 'good-by, sir, good-by', and calmly and quietly walked out. He said not a word that it was his last there, that is, not in words; but the manner told us that he was going forth never to come in again, and that he was as conscious of this fact as any of us.
"That good-by, sir, and that clasp of the hand, we shall never lose from memory. There was no expression of sorrow, no expression of regret, no repining. He went forth as one who through two score of years of labor there had filled his mission to the full."
Mr. Mygatt always preserved a lively interest in matters of public concern, and kept up with political affairs in the State and nation.
But he never entered the arena of politics, much less was he a political place-seeker. There seemed inherent in his very nature, a distaste reaching almost an abhorrence of the practices of politicians, and of the ways of politics. And yet he was ready to aid those whom he thought worthy and who desired promotion. There were times when friends who knew his eminent qualifications, and especially for judicial station, urged him to yield to their wishes, and a seat upon the bench of our highest Court required only his consent. But he always valued the rewards, honors and usefulness to be derived from steady adherence to this profession above all that political office and public place could bestow. But we have no right to leave the character and career of Henry R. Mygatt to be measured only by his merits, great as they were, in his chosen profession. Stretching above and beyond the round of his daily toil, is the better and nobler life of the man, which included and supplemented all his professional labors and successes. Indeed the life of the lawyer, and the broader and higher mission of his manhood, seemed to act and re-act on each other. His enthusiasm seemed to get new strength, and his energies to quicken for his work, that he might the better serve the nobler impulses and fulfill the higher behests of the man and of the citizen. To those who day by day witnessed his constant and exhausting labors, the surprise was not so great that he accomplished so much, but rather that the slight form and delicate organism could sustain the steady and continued strain to which they were subjected. He seemed to measure time not so much by the common standards, as by heart-throbs, not so much by minutes as by pulsations, and his life became to those who could read it best, poetry put into action, to teach them.
" Life's more than breath, and the quick round of blood; It is a great spirit and a busy heart. "
The friends of his youth from afar, his brethren of the same calling, and Judges crowned with years and with wisdom, who came to his burial, had a better purpose than honor for the mere lawyer. Rather were they impelled by that higher tribute which their better nature accorded to that respect for authority, that courtesy for all, that helpfulness for the weak and the struggling, that hand outstretched to the poor and oppressed, that heart open to melting charity, that completed mission of manhood so well and faithfully fulfilled.
Promptness in meeting appointments, and system in his business, entered largely into the success of Henry R. Mygatt. His failure to meet an engagement was the result of inevitable necessity, and such was the care bestowed in the preparation of his cases, that he avoided those surprises which so often embarrass and delay, if they do not prevent, success. And the same system and promptness which made his professional career a success, were conspicuous in the bestowal of his benefactions. For a series of years before his death his gifts and charities were constant and unremitted, and represented a large part of his income. The village in which he lived felt the wholesome and strengthening influence of his munificence, in whatever concerned its true welfare and progress. For forty years, during most of which he was a Trustee, and during many its President, his gifts to Oxford Academy were constant and munificent. Nor only so, during a part of those years he put at its disposal a fund to supply free tuition to poor and worthy students, struggling more vainly for their daily bread than for the bread of knowledge, the objects of his bounty being unknown to him.
There are those yet alive who will associate the name of Henry R. Mygatt with the Jubilee of Oxford Academy, in August, 1854. It was an event which gathered back, after sixty years from its foundation, the representatives from 1794 of the classes that in succession had gone out from that institution; and to Mr. Mygatt's efforts and liberality the happy result was greatly due. The words of graceful and cordial welcome with which, as President of the Board of Trustees, he greeted that remarkable assemblage, is a part of the published record of that anniversary. Of those whose addresses gave an unwonted fascination to the banquet spread on that occasion, Henry W. Rogers alone remains.
Among the rest, who with Mr. Mygatt are lost to mortal sight, were Merritt G. McKoon who through long years of service saw more students go out from its halls than any other of its principals, Charles Mason the pure and learned jurist, Judge Henry Stephens who first knew Oxford in 1802, and was of the class of 1807 in the Academy, Edward Tompkins the silver tongued, who lent to the occasion the charm of his fertile fancy and the sparkle of his wit, Edward Andrews, a former teacher, rich with the husbandry of souls, the earnest and able preacher of the Gospel of his Master, Daniel H. March, a former teacher, then the accomplished and upright lawyer, and who after twenty-seven years had come back to meet his schoolmates of the class of 1821, and Daniel S. Dickinson, even then known to the nation, in the full strength of his noble manhood.
But great as were Mr. Mygatt's benefactions for the benefit and advancement of the village and community where he lived, they were not limited by them. He was not forgetful of educational and religious establishments in his own State and in remote sections of the country, and the Missionary of the Cross, battling in new and distant territories with vice and irreligion, felt his burden grow lighter, and his heart stronger, for his bounty. A young and lion-hearted Missionary Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, wrote to him not long before his death, from across the Continent, these words of grateful benediction, "You have been too kind, and loving, and steadfast and unselfishly helpful a friend to me, for me to forget you. My heart has higher aims for that I have known you. My hopes are to know you better and to be with you more in the great hereafter." And then supplementing all these larger benefactions, he scattered along the pathway of this daily life bright deeds, tender courtesies and thoughtful charities.
" That best portion of a good man's life His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love."
Mr. Mygatt was attached to the faith and worship of the Protestant Episcopal church, but he took a kindly interest in all that concerned the progress of true Christianity under whatever name, and his principles and practice were free alike from irreligion and intolerance. He died on the 31st of March, 1875. Some have not forgotten that morning of the early spring, when it was first told that he was dead. It was a morning glad with bird-songs and radiant with sunlight, fit counterpart of the active, bright life just then closed. That life went out only a stone's throw from where it was taken up, the circle of its orbit seemed not so very wide, it included no foreign travel nor spanned remote continents, yet it stretched away into a horizon reflecting back the serene light of kind and generous deeds. That other day came when judges and lawyers and friends of his youth from afar, tenderly bore his pall to the church, where the beautiful Episcopal burial service was said over his remains. His well-known wish that no other words should be spoken, was reluctantly but religiously kept. But the organ would somehow repeat his name, and the stones that stood up in buttress and column and tower over his sleeping clay, found voices to tell of his benefactions. And then the long procession went with his ashes by homes each with its badge of sorrow, to the little City of the Dead, upon the hill-side. There, at the open grave, while tears gathered in regretful eyes and the blending voices of school and church bells, from the village, told of their common sorrow, it seemed passing strange that so many will leave their names only to be cut in pale, cold marble, when they might write them on the tablets of living, loving, human hearts.