James L. Utter

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


James L. Utter, the leading farmer of Oak Hill, Durham, and owner, on a large scale, of Western real estate, was born in Oak Hill, on the spot where he now resides, on May 20, 1846, son of Isaac and Mary A. (Niles) Utter. The farm of which he is now the owner has been in his family for three generations, his great-grandfather, James Utter, a Revolutionary soldier, having settled here where the country around was a wilderness. He came here with his wife and son James from Saybrook, Conn., in the spring of 1783, and built a log cabin. Some years later, after he had cleared some land, he built a frame house, which stood until 1894, when it was burned.

The second James Utter was born in Saybrook, Conn, and came here with his mother on horseback. He was brought up on the farm, and in 1806 he built a house for himself where his grandsonís house is now standing. He kept increasing his farm by buying adjoining land, and became a very prosperous man. In January, 1837, when he was only fifty-six years old, he slipped on the ice and broke his hip, and on the 19th of the month died from the effects. His wife, to whom he was married on November 26, 1805, bore him six children, none of whom are now living. Her maiden was Elizabeth Post. She was a Presbyterian, and her husband was a Baptist.

Isaac Utter, above named, son of James, second, and Elizabeth, was born on December 19, 1808, and died on his sixty-fourth birthday. He always lived on the homestead, with the exception of four years which he spent elsewhere. He was interested in the real estate in the West, particularly in Wisconsin, where he owned considerable land and held farms on mortgages. Politically, he was a Republican.

He was a liberal contributor to the Methodist church, of which both he and his wife were members; and for many years he was one of its most honored trustees. He took a prominent part in public affairs in the town, and was one of its Supervisors from the time of its incorporation. His wife, who was one of a family of ten children, was a daughter of Samuel Niles, who moved to Oak Hill when she was a young girl, and spent the remainder of his life here. Mrs. Utter resides with her son James, who is her only child.

Mr. James Utterís house, which is one of the finest in the county, was built by his father and himself and under their daily supervision. It was built entirely by the day, and is of the best possible workmanship. The son furnished the plans and gave suggestions for interior decorating and finishing. The decorations were made from exclusive designs, and are really works of art. There are twenty and fully furnished rooms, some of them measuring fourteen by fifteen feet.

Mr. Utter was educated in the common schools, Greenville Academy, and a select school in Durham. After his fatherís death he then became proprietor of the homestead estate, which consisted of a hundred and ten acres. Since then he has bought some forty acres adjoining and eighty more on the mountain. He keeps seven horses and twenty-three head of cattle of Jersey stock, and makes butter for the New York markets. He cuts a large amount of hay, the annual crop sometimes reaching eighty tons; and, though he has built two new barns recently, he is still often obliged to stack some of it out of doors. He keeps two men employed the year through. Mr. Utter is a proficient carpenter himself, and has built a number of buildings on his place, though others he hired built. His tenant house, near his own residence, is an example of his own workman ship.

In 1883 Mr. Utter went into the enterprise of buying land in the West, and he has continued to buy until he now has about seven thousand acres there. Of this he tills some six hundred acres, raising large crops of corn, wheat, and oats. In looking after his interest he has made many trips West, particularly to Dakota and Michigan, where his land is situated. He is one of the directors in North American Loan and Trust Company of New York City, which has a paid-up capital of over half a million and a surplus fund of a hundred thousand dollars.

Mr. Utter married in 1871 Dora Kelsey, only child of Hiram Kelsey, a leading farmer of Albany County. Although he is an ardent Republican and takes active part in all political matters, attending State and county conventions as delegate, he refuses to accept public office. He is a member of the Methodist church, while Mrs. Utter is a Baptist. For many years he has been a church trustee. Mr. Utter is a hard worker, and everything about his place is kept in the best of repair. He is one of the best known men in the county.


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