William Vanderbilt

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


wpe1E.gif (108661 bytes)WILLIAM S. VANDERBILT, a representative citizen of the village of Greenville, was born in New York City on February 10, 1845, his parents being William S. and Susan A. (Wright) Vanderbilt. He belongs to a family that had for many years been prominent in Rockland County. His great-grandfather settled in Clarkstown, in that county, when a young man, and resided there on a farm during the remainder of his life. His grandfather, Isaac Vanderbilt, was born in Clarkstown, and spent his life there engaged in agricultural pursuits.

William S. Vanderbilt, Sr., son of Isaac and father of the subject of this sketch, was also born on the homestead, but at the age of fifteen he left the parental roof and learned the merchant tailor’s trade. At twenty-one he began business for himself in New York City, an subsequently for twenty-seven years conducted it most successfully. His store was at 416 and later 408 Broadway, and his was one of the best-known tailoring establishments in the city. He died on February 13, 1864, being only forty-eight years of age. His wife, Susan, who died in 1893, at the age of sixty-nine, was born in Greenwich village, now a part of New York City, and spent the whole of her life in the great metropolis. She was the daughter of Charles S. Wright, who was for many years one of the most influential members of the School Board of Trustees of the Ninth Ward in the city of New York, and for a long time its chairman. At one time Mr. Wright was waited upon by a committee to see if he would accept the nomination to the legislature. Mr. Wright declined the honor. He lived, about 1824, in the house in Greenwich village which his father had built. It was then out in the country, and the canal wound its sluggish way through what is now Canal Street.

William S., Sr., and Susan Vanderbilt, had eight children, of whom four are now living; namely, William S., Oliver DeGray, John, and Mrs. George W. Vanderhoef. Mrs. Vanderbilt, after the death of her first husband, married Andrew Hoogland, a prominent and well-to-do citizen of New York, and one of the best-known members of the New York Produce Exchange. Mr. Hoogland was born on May 20, 1815, and died in 1879. He was a director in the Corn Exchange Bank, and of the New Amsterdam Insurance Company, and for many years a member of St. Andrew’s Curling Club, its president in 1873 and 1874, and at one time president of the National Curling Club. He also represented the St. Andrew’s of New York City at the national convention in Toronto in 1873. To the last-named club he gave a fine flag. He held membership in the Dutch church, and was one of its active and liberal supporters. At one time he was a member of the Seventh Regiment of militia, and later a member of the Victorian Association.

William S. Vanderbilt, the subject of this sketch, lived in New York City until 1871, when he took up his residence in Greenville. He boarded in different families for a number of years, but in 1888 began buying land, and the following year built his present handsome residence. He owns a number of fine farms, including what are known as the Lewis Sherrill and Prevost farms. Mr. Vanderbilt is one of Greenville’s most public-spirited citizens, and has shown this in many ways. He built in the village a beautiful opera house, and gave a great stimulus to the introduction of water in the town by placing it in all of his buildings.

Mr. Vanderbilt married in 1876 Miss Mary J. Hickok, of this town, a descendant of one of the old and leading families. She died at the age of thirty-three, leaving one daughter, Lizzie H. Vanderbilt. On November 14, 1888, Mr. Vanderbilt married Mary Reed, daughter of John K. and Ann (Sherrill) Chapman. Her father was born at Salisbury, Conn. While yet a mere lad his father, Robert L., moved to the vicinity of Greenville, where he died in 1857, eighty-two years old. Mrs. Vanderbilt’s father was an early gold hunter on the Pacific Coast, going to California by the way of the Isthmus of Panama in 1849. After acquiring considerable money for those days, he returned to Greenville, was married, and shortly after went to Janesville, Wis., where with a brother, he engaged in the dry-goods business. Here his daughter Mary was born. He returned to Greenville in 1865, residing there until his death in 1888, at the age of seventy years. His wife, Mrs. Vanderbilt’s mother, was the daughter of Lewis Sherrill, a descendant of one of the pioneer families of the town. Her grandfather, Jonathan Sherrill, had extensive tanneries. One of them was located on the corner of where Coonleys Hotel now stands. Jonathan Sherrill built and occupied the house that is now the residence of Dr. B. S. McCabe. His home at the time of his death was the house on North Street owned by Charles R. Knowles, of Albany (a grandson), and used as a summer residence. He died in 1851, in his eighty-second year.

Lewis Sherrill, for many years president of the old Greenville Academy, was a broad-gauge public-spirited man. He was a successful farmer and stock-raiser, a life-member of the New York State Agricultural Society, and the first president of the Greene County Agricultural Society. The stone walks about the village, among other things, are largely the result of his energy and push. He died March, 1889, at the age of eighty-eight. His wife, Esther Ford, died in 1872, at the age of sixty years. Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt have two children living, the elder being William Stephen, and the younger George Vanderhoef Vanderbilt.

In politics Mr. Vanderbilt is a Republican, and some years ago he was very active in all political matters. He is a member of the James M. Austin Lodge, F. & A. M., of which he had been treasurer for a number of years, he holds membership in the Royal Arch Chapter of Greenville. He is also a charter member of the Knights of Pythias organization here. He is warden and treasurer of the Episcopal church, and treasurer of Greenville Fire District.


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