Schoharie County NYGenWeb Site

scanned for web-site by Peter Ann Stenberg

Thomas Lawyer


Thomas Lawyer was a grandson of Jacob Frederick Lawyer, of the "Beller place" near Schoharie village, son of Johannes Lawyer, (the third large land-holder.) Of General Lawyer we will copy an article written by one of the younger members of the County bar, after his death which occurred at Lawyersville on the 21st of May, 1868:-- "The deceased, during the course of the long and honorable life just closed, had occupied so many places of public trust and responsibility, had gained such a hold upon the affections and memories of the present generation, that it is deemed fit and appropriate that something more than a simple mention of his death, is due to his memory.

"It is only regretted, that to one of his professional and official contemporaries, or to some person more familiar with the public life and services of the deceased and more competent to express in an appropriate manner his many virtues and noble characteristics, has not been confided this delicate, yet pleasant duty. A plain, simple presentation of some of the many good things that could truthfully be said of him, is all that will be attempted, or can be given in this article.

"The subject of this memoir was born in the town of Schoharie, in the County of Schoharie, N. Y., on the 14th day of October, 1785, on the farm now occupied by John G. Gebhard. His ancestors emigrated to this country from Germany, and were among the early settlers of the Schoharie valley. After receiving a liberal education for the period in which his early life was spent, he commenced the study of law in the office of George Tiffany, at Schoharie, who subsequently removed to Canada. At the age of twenty-one years, he was duly licensed to practice as an Attorney, and located at Lawyersville, which bears his name, succeeding the late Isaac Hall Tiffany, then a prominent lawyer. He was subsequently licensed as Counselor of the Supreme Court, as Counselor and Solicitor in Chancery, in the U. S. Court for the Northern District of New York.

He loved the profession he had chosen, was an honorable, accomplished and successful practitioner, established and continued a successful and lucrative practice in his profession until the adoption of the "Code" in this State. He then retired to private life, and the quiet enjoyment of the ample fortune he had accumulated, beloved, respected and revered by all who know him, as "an honest man, the noblest work of God."

"He held the office of Loan Commissioner in this County for several years, and a commission as Brigadier-General in the militia of this State, by which title he was ever after so familiarly known. He was twice elected a Member of the Assembly from this County, serving his first term under the First Constitution of this State, in the 39th session of the Legislature in 1816, during the administration of Governor Daniel D. Tompkins. The late lamented ex-Governor William C. Bouck, his kinsman and intimate personal and political friend then serving his third term, and Peter A. Hilton then serving his second term in the Assembly, were his colleagues. It has been often remarked of General Lawyer, that he was emphatically "a business member of the House"--that he never seemed anxious to establish a reputation by a simple display of powers of oratory, thus often vexing the ear of his associates with ill-timed, tedious and unnecessary debate. He preferred, without ostentation, in his usually quiet and unobtrusive manner, to so discharge the responsible duties of his position, as to merit the approbation of his associates and constituents, as an active, practical, useful legislator. Instead of seeking to fill the public eye by greater display, thus gaining an ephemeral distinction, by winning the applause of his listening auditors, or from the editors and readers of the journals of the day, he seemed only ambitious by the exercise of a manly firmness, patriotic courage, and integrity of purpose, to serve his country and his party in the enactment of wise and salutary laws. How well he succeeded, and how wisely he acted in choosing the proper and direct path to higher honors, future personal distinction and political preferment, is evidenced by his further triumphant march in his political career.

"At the next general election he was elected a member of the 15th Congress, from the 13th District of this State as organized under the Act of June 10, 1812, composed of the counties of Schenectady and Schoharie. He served from March 4, 1817, to March 3, 1819, during the first two years of the term of James Monroe as President, and Daniel D. Tompkins as Vice-President of the United States.

"As a Member of Congress he maintained and enhanced the previous enviable reputation he had gained as a Member of the Legislature of his State, always promptly performing his duties with fidelity to his country, and party, thus meriting and receiving the approval, confidence and gratitude of his constituents. Here, as in the lower walks of his legislative life, he manifested those qualities that enabled him to render to his country a service if not of the most brilliant kind, at least of no secondary importance.

"Under the second Constitution of this State, he was appointed District Attorney of this County, February 4, 1822, holding the office until October 11, 1831, when the late Jacob Houck, Jr., succeeded him.

"During this period occurred the exciting political contest for President of the United States of the tenth Presidential term, in which Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William H. Crawford and Henry Clay were the candidates. General Lawyer was appointed by the Legislature of this State, November 11, 1824, the Presidential Elector for the 12th Congressional District of this State, as organized under the Act of April 17, 1822, composed of the counties of Schenectady and Schoharie; (it will be remembered that no choice was effected by the people, and Mr. Adams was subsequently chosen by the House of Representatives at its next session.) He was again elected as Member of Assembly from this County in the fall of 1845, under the second Constitution, and served during the 70th Session in 1846, with the late Hon. Thomas Smith, as his colleague. At the close of this his last official term, full of honors and years of official distinction, so cheerfully awarded him by his neighbors and those who knew, and appreciated him so well, he retired to private life.

"How fitting and appropriate, that his official career should seem to terminate in point of rank and distinction where it first began. General Lawyer never became giddy and vain in the possession of places of high honor and distinction, of great public trust and responsibility. He seemed by nature just fitted and equal to the duties and various positions to which he attained, but never felt himself above them. It can in truth be said of him, that during his entire official life, by his strict adherence to a resolute purpose to pursue the right, the self-imposed restraints of a high regard for personal honor, at the close of each of the several official terms he so well and ably filled, he laid aside his robes unsoiled by a single act that tended to destroy either his own self-respect or the respect of others for him. He seemed to possess a soul that would have sickened under a sense of personal, professional or official dishonor, and to have acted upon the important principle that 'duty and fidelity in a public servant make up an important portion of a nation's wealth.' In public life, in his official intercourse, in his business and social relations, he was firm without obstinacy, prompt without undue haste, self-confident without arrogance, influencing others because he had learned to govern himself, and neither doing nor countenancing an intentional wrong. Of him it may well be said:--

'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.'

"But it was not in his official and professional life alone that his virtues were seen and appreciated. In his social and business intercourse with those around him, in the home circle, everywhere, those eminent qualities, that uniform urbanity, that dignity of manner and gentlemanly bearing that ever characterizes the true gentleman at heart, were pre-eminently his own. In brief he was truly possessed

With all good grace to grace a gentleman.'

"His funeral obsequies were attended at the church at Lawyersville, on Sunday, the 24th inst., by a large circle of mourning friends, members of the Bar, and citizens generally from his own, and adjoining towns. The solemn and impressive services were conducted by Reverend H. A. Raymond, of Cohoes, and Reverend J. VanWoert, of Lawyersville, both of whom bore willing testimony to the Christian virtues, and bright hopes expressed by our deceased friend, in reference to his future state. This clearly shows that in reviewing a long well spent and active life, he has not forgotten that

'The path of glory leads but to the grave,
That there all human efforts end.'

"Thus has passed away a good man, one who has witnessed the varied scenes of tranquillity and excitement in our history as a nation from its earliest date to the present hour.

"It seems by his death, the last connecting link that bound us to our past history and past generations, has been broken. He had lived to follow to the tomb his wife, and several of his children, who died in the prime of life. He had survived by many years, most of his political and professional contemporaries. He had lived beyond man's common lot, had enjoyed much more than ordinary honors, still the poignant grief caused by his death, will only give place to silent sorrow, as the mind recalls the virtues of General Thomas Lawyer. His memory will live in the grateful recollection of all who knew him, though his noble spirit has passed to the land of shadows.

"He sat, as sets the morning star, which goes
Not down, behind the darkened west, nor hides
Obscure amidst the tempest of the sky,
But melts away into the light of Heaven.' "

General Lawyer's pastor, Reverend J. VanWoert, said of him:--

"He was a diligent student of the Bible; his scrap-books he filled with religious extracts, and many passages are marked by him in his favored religious books.

"In his public and professional duties, and in his private life, he seems to have imbibed the truth of a verse he had written in the fly-leaf of his Bible dictionary:--

"Our lives are rivers gliding free
To that unfathomed, boundless sea,
The silent grave.
Thither all earthly pomp and boast,
Roll to be swallowed up and lost
In one dark wave."

Since the year 1839, the old Lawyer place has been the property of Charles Courter, who for many years was the leading business man of the town.

Welcome Page of the Schoharie County NYGenWeb Site
This page established March 4, 1998