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Biography of Benjamin W. Wooster

BENJAMIN W. WOOSTER OF THOSE who have worthily represented a useful and indispensable industry in Albany, the specimens of whose skillful workmanship are scattered far and wide through the land, we have a notable example in the career of Mr. B. W. Wooster, the popular furniture manufacturer of Nos. 36-38 North Pearl street, and the efficient president of the Albany County bank. Born in Albany County, N. Y., on the 24th of March, 1820, he is a son of David Wooster and Polly Woodbury, of New Hampshire. His parents, with a view of improving their financial condition, left the old granite state in 1816, and came to Albany. Here, with the characteristic enterprise, economy and perseverance of New Englanders they started out to make an honest living by hard work. On account of their limited means their son Benjamin was obliged, early in life, to look out for himself. After receiving a good, common-school education, he found that the best thing for him to do was to learn some useful trade. From a small boy his natural taste was found to be altogether in the line of cabinet making, and even then he would cultivate his budding genius in this respect by making various miniature articles of furniture by which his own childish fancy was highly pleased. It was not hard even then to predict what occupation he would adopt and follow through life. Without any hesitancy, and of his own accord, he at once became an apprentice in the cabinet-making business, and for four years served in this capacity with all the faithfulness, devotion and enthusiasm of a...

Biography of Francis H. Woods

FRANCIS H. WOODS AN ALBANIAN whom his fellow-citizens delight to honor is Francis H. Woods. He was born forty-five years ago in this city, which has always been his cherished home. His love for the city and his pride in its history have often found eloquent expression in him. Early in the present century his parents emigrated to this country from Longford county, Ireland – a. county which gave Maria Edgeworth and Oliver Goldsmith to the world, and which is also notable for being the birthplace of the progenitors of the Clintons, so illustrious in the history of the state. No wonder then that he glories in his ancestral land or that he is in full sympathy with her struggling patriots. He received his early education at the school of Capt. Michael O’Sullivan, and subsequently took the English course in the Albany Boys’ academy, where he won the principal’s prize for his essay on “Mahomet.” His favorite teacher here was Prof. E. P. Waterbury. A beautiful friendship existed between teacher and pupil which only the hand of death could break. He soon began to take an active part in the more public duties of life. His ardent nature loved excitement and while a delegate from the famous engine company No. ii, he was, after a contest which is still recalled, elected president of the Albany fire department in 1865, and by his prudent management secured the stability of the relief fund – a fund which is to this day accomplishing great good. A quarter of a century ago the fire department had a strange fascination for the young men...

Biography of Chauncey P. Williams

CHAUNCEY P. WILLIAMS AMONG the noted men of Albany Chauncey P. Williams stands in the front rank as a banker and financier. He is a native of Connecticut – a state which has furnished so many of the enterprising pioneers of our own and other states of the Union. He was born at Upper Middletown (now Cromwell), Conn., on the 5th of March, 1817, the son of Josiah and Charity Shaler Williams. His early years were spent upon his father’s farm, where in summer his physical powers were trained to healthful development by the labors of the farm, and his winters occupied in mental culture at the common school. He early developed a taste for mathematics and astronomy, and probably would have devoted his life to those sciences, but for the fact that circumstances made it imperative that he must earn his own way in the world. At the age of sixteen he accepted a clerkship with his brothers, the firm of T. S. Williams & Brothers, then engaged in extensive commercial business at Ithaca, N. Y.  He remained at Ithaca two years, when in 1835 he was transferred to the Albany house of the same firm, then under the direction of Josiah B. Williams. In 1839 he succeeded to the business of the Albany house, which, in connection with Henry W. Sage as his partner, conducting the business of the new firm at Ithaca and elsewhere, continued through a long term of years. Mr. Williams’ ancestry is of Welsh stock. Certain dim traditions claim for it an origin in common with that of Cromwell, lord protector of the...

Biography of Diedrich Willers, Jr.

DIEDRICH WILLERS, JR. IN PERSONAGE, who, by reason of his official relations at our state capitol has from time to time been an official resident of Albany, is the Hon, Diedrich Willers, Jr. Born on the 3d of November, 1833, at the town of Varick, Seneca county, N. Y., he passed his youthful days amidst the rural scenes of his birthplace under the careful guidance and instruction of excellent parents. His parentage was of German origin. His father, the Rev. Diedrich Willers, D. D., was a native of Bremen, Germany, and was educated at the public schools of that city. It was a period of stirring scenes in the annals of the old world. In the early part of this century the thunders of Napoleon’s cannon were shaking Europe, and large armies of different nationalities were engaged in deadly conflict. Inspired by the enthusiasm of those times Diedrich Willers, Sr., then a youth of sixteen, boldly enlisted in the army of Hanover in defense of his fatherland against the invasion of the French. Marching with the allied forces under Wellington and engaging in various conflicts with the enemy, he won his greatest military distinction in the memorable and decisive battle of Waterloo in 1815, where, for his bravery, he received a silver medal. His military career lasted about five years. On leaving the service he made up his mind to emigrate to America, and, accordingly, in 1819, he left the shores of ” the fatherland,” crossed the Atlantic, and safely landed at Baltimore, Md. In 1821, he completed in Pennsylvania his theological studies toward which his youthful attention had...

Biography of Zerah S. Westbrook

ZERAH S. WESTBROOK HON. Zera S. Westbrook, the present deputy comptroller of the state of New York, has an interesting and instructive history. As a state official he is at this time a temporary resident of Albany, his residence and home being at Amsterdam, N. Y. His career is one which illustrates in a striking manner, the rise, progress and development of a character such as only can be found in a land of free institutions, without the aid of the wealthy, titled, so called nobility. As will be seen in a brief review of his life, he has already exhibited those qualities which belong to true manhood. Born at Montague, Sussex County, N. J., on the 7th of April, 1845, he spent his youthful days on a farm. His father, Severyne L. Westbrook, tilled a farm at that place. Zerah was a bright, delicate child and the delight of his parents. But he had scarcely reached the age of four years before the grave closed over his father, a useful and respected citizen; and his mother was called upon to make renewed struggles in his behalf during the opening years of his life. His mother was Susan E., daughter of James B. Armstrong of Montague, one of the prominent citizens of Sussex County. She was an intelligent and very pious woman, and died on November 22, 1889, in the seventy-seventh year of her age, beloved and respected by a large circle of relatives and friends. As soon as he was old enough he was sent to the district school; but as he grew up he was obliged to...

Biography of Edward Wemple

EDWARD WEMPLE AMONG those who have graced the annals of our state in the wide, active and interesting fields of political service is the present efficient comptroller, Hon. Edward Wemple. He comes from an ancestry noted for their sturdy-characteristics, their devotion to principle, and their love of liberty. Away back in the history of Holland his forefathers lived and labored for the best interests of their country and humanity. But their enterprise was not confined to their own land. They sought other and wider regions for the advancement of the cause of civilization and human progress. Large numbers of them sought out this goodly land of ours, where they found ample room to develop material resources, where they went to work with strong hands and brave hearts to subdue the vast, old forests, to establish comfortable homes and to aid in the erection of a citadel of freedom as enduring as the everlasting hills. Nowhere is this more manifest in the rural portions of our country than in the Mohawk valley – the civilization, wealth and resources of which has been the result of their early, honest, manly efforts. And it may be remarked that the old Hollanders were the first to establish free schools in our land, and to introduce the noble sentiment that all men are born with free and equal rights. By reference to the genealogical records of the Wemples, it can be thus plainly seen that from the earliest periods in the settlement of this region of country, they have been identified with the interests of the Empire state, and have always been familiar with...

Biography of Albert Barnes Watkins

ALBERT BARNES WATKINS IN THE broad and varied interests of education, and as possessing intellectual powers admirably fitted for the practical application of knowledge to the wants of our young men and women engaged in the courses of study, no man in Albany has earned a more excellent reputation than Dr. Albert B. Watkins, of the University of the State of New York. His career, marked by a supreme love for knowledge, reveals in full light the earnest, persevering and successful workings of the true educator under many pressing difficulties. He was born on the 8th of July, 1838, in the beautiful village of Naples, N. Y., situated in the deep valley which extends southward from the head of Canandaigua lake, around which the charms of nature are so richly displayed, and where general intelligence, industry and thrift are prevailing characteristics. He is a descendant of Thomas Watkins, who was a resident of Boston, Mass., in 1650, and who probably came from Wales to Boston about the year 1635. He was made a freeman at Boston in 1660, and was a member of the artillery company there in 1666. The name of Watkins is of Welsh origin, and this branch of the family of which we write probably came from either Brecon or Montgomery, Wales. Nathan Watkins, the great-grandfather of the subject of our memoir, was one of the earliest settlers of Peru, Berkshire County, Mass. He was a man of remarkable courage as well as of strong religious convictions, who held several offices of trust in his new wilderness home, and in whose barn the religious meetings of...

Biography of Samuel Baldwin Ward

SAMUEL BALDWIN WARD THIS gentleman was born in the city of New York on the 8th of June, 1842. His ancestry is found to be English on both sides. His great grandfather was named Samuel Ward and was born August 27, 1724. He moved from the state of Virginia to Morristown, N. J., and there married Mary Shipman, dying there on the 15th of April, 1799. Of the mother of our subject the maiden name was Abby Dwight Partridge, and the birthplace was Hatfield, Mass. She was the daughter of a distinguished clergyman and descended through both parents from the best New England and old England stock. A son of the Samuel Ward referred to was named Silas Ward, who was born in Morris county, N. J., in 1767, and who died at an extremely advanced age in 1862. He was the grandfather of Samuel Baldwin Ward; and his wife, Phoebe Dod, a representative of a New Jersey family of distinguished literary and scientific attainments, was the grandmother of the Albany physician whom this sketch is taking into account. From the sturdiness and the culture of the persons thus indicated the character of the immediate progenitors of our subject can be inferred. His father was named Lebbeus Baldwin Ward, son of the Silas Ward already named, and he was born on the 7th of April, 1801, and died in the city of New York on the 15th of June, 1885. Dr. Ward, of Albany, is thus united with the best middle state revolutionary stock on his father’s side, and with the best Puritan Pilgrim blood that ran in the...

Biography of Samuel M. Van Santvoord

SAMUEL M. VAN SANTVOORD IN the exhibition of those qualities which go to form a popular and successful merchant and a true and useful citizen, we have a notable example in the career of Mr. Samuel M. Van Santvoord, who for the past twenty-seven years has been a prominent figure in Albany. He is a self-made man in the mercantile line, who has gained a most enviable reputation, reflecting honor upon himself and the useful occupation which he early chose for a life-long pursuit. From a humble origin, and amidst difficulties before which many a young heart would have quailed, he succeeded in laying a solid foundation as a business man, showing what opportunities our country affords to those who, well grounded in correct principles, set out in life’s pathway with a determination to rise in the world. Born in the city of Schenectady on the 2d of October, 1819, he is a descendant of the old Hollanders, many of whom came to this county long before the revolutionary era, in the interests of trade, religion and human progress, settling in dense forests, which, under their industrious hands, were finally turned into fruitful fields. Schenectady and the rich valley of the Mohawk were favorite places for the settlement of those sturdy old Dutch pioneers. Among these early settlers was the Van Santvoord family of Schenectady – a family noted in the old history of that place for many sterling qualities. Samuel M. Van Santvoord, the subject of this sketch, is a son of Zeger Van Santvoord, who was born on the 21st of June, 1783, and who died on...

Biography of Howard Van Rensselaer

HOWARD VAN RENSSELAER AMONG the rising young men of our city, one whose fine tastes, cultured manners, general and professional intelligence, have brought him into favorable notice among a large circle of friends, is Dr. Howard Van Rensselaer, of 94 Columbia street. He was born in Albany on the 26th of June, 1858, and spent his earliest years in the old Dutch city, in which his forefathers, many generations ago, took such a prominent part in its history and development, as well as in that of the surrounding country. Many an interesting and eventful page have they furnished for our municipal and county annals. But they have almost all passed away to the silent land, and new generations of various nationalities have come to take their place, showing the mutability of human affairs and the ever-occurring changes of life. As we have already in the sketch of William Bayard Van Rensselaer, the brother of our present subject, given a succinct account of the ancestry of the Van Rensselaer family, we need only refer the reader to that memoir for information on this point. Howard Van Rensselaer is a son of Bayard Van Rensselaer, a native Albanian, whose earthly career was closed in 1859, when the boy was but nine months old. Thus early deprived of a father’s watchful care and love he was tenderly nursed and reared by his mother, a woman of many virtues, whose maiden name was Laura Reynolds, daughter of the celebrated Marcus Tullius Reynolds, who in his day was one of the brightest stars in the legal profession in Albany. This estimable lady still lives...
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