James C. McWilliams

From the Biographical Review, Volume XXXIII, located at the Durham Center Museum.
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin


James C. McWilliams, an able farmer and enterprising insurance agent of Prattsville, was born in Kortright, Delaware County, August 4, 1845, son of Joseph S. and Mary Ann (Kilpatrick) McWilliams. His parents were both native of that town, and he is of Scotch descent. Joseph S. McWilliams learned the blacksmith’s trade, which he followed until turning his attention to farming; and he was engaged in the latter occupation at the time of his death, which occurred October 27, 1869, at the age of fifty-seven years. He was an upright, conscientious man, who possessed considerable natural ability, and he acquired success in his calling. In politics he was a Republican. He and his wife, Mary Ann McWilliams, were members of the Presbyterian church. They had two sons: John B., who is no longer living; and James C., the subject of this sketch. The mother died May 19, 1890, aged seventy-four years. John B. McWilliams enlisted for service in the Civil war while under age, and was rejected on the account, but when old enough he re-enlisted in Company K, One Hundred and Twentieth Regiment, New York Volunteers, of which he became Orderly Sergeant. He died in the army at the age of twenty-one years.

James C. McWilliams started in life for himself at the age of sixteen as clerk in the general store of G. C. Fenn, with whom he remained four years. After residing at Red Falls, N. Y., for a time, he became a travelling salesman for a Utica cigar firm, and a year later he went to New York City, where he secured a clerkship in a dry-goods store. He was subsequently in the employ of J. S. Conover, dealer in grates and fenders. After residing in the metropolis about five years, he came to Prattsville, where for the next seven years he was engaged in the cooperage business. Selling out in 1893, he was placed in charge of the post-office, and, being appointed Postmaster by President Cleveland, he continued to serve the community in that capacity until 1897. He is now local agent for several large insurance companies; and he also carries on a small farm, which he devotes to market gardening. He is quite extensively engaged in raising bees, and sells a large quantity of honey annually. Politically, he is a Democrat. He has been Justice of the Peace for twelve consecutive years, was for a number of years Inspector of Elections, served two terms on the special license board, and was nominated by his party for the presidency of the village, which he declined to accept. He is sincerely esteemed as a high minded, public-spirited citizen.

In 1869 Mr. McWilliams was united in marriage with Elizabeth Decker, his first wife, a native of Roxbury, N. Y., daughter of Lorin and Sally Ann Decker. Mr. Decker was a prosperous farmer and a life-long resident of that town. She died, leaving one son, William J., a farmer and market gardener, who married Mary Churchill. For his second wife Mr. James McWilliams married Ella Miller, a native of Cairo, N. Y., daughter of Seymour Miller. Her father was for years a widely-known hotel-keeper. At one time he was proprietor of the Prattsville House; and, previous to coming here, he kept hotels in Cairo, Windham, and other places. The children of this union are James E. and Marie.

Mr. McWilliams was made a Mason over thirty year ago, and is now one of the leading members of Oasis Lodge, in which he has occupied all the important chairs, having been its Worshipful Master for six years in succession. The family attended the Methodist Episcopal church.


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