Location: Albany New York

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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Biography of Andrew Sloan Draper

ANDREW SLOAN DRAPER ONE of the foremost men in the promotion of the cause of education in our country to day, is the Hon. Andrew S. Draper, the present Superintendent of Public Instruction of the state of New York. His career is especially note-worthy and interesting as affording encouragement and inspiration to the youth of our land, who are seeking higher educational advantages. Born at Westford, Otsego County, N. Y., on the 21st of June, 1848, the first seven years of his life were passed under watchful parental care, at his native place. The first school he attended was in the primitive cross-roads red school-house. In 1855 his parents removed to Albany, soon after which he was sent to the district schools of this city – a city which was to become his permanent residence. Winning a prize scholarship in the Albany Academy, when about fifteen years old, he became a pupil in that institution, from which after a thorough course of instruction he graduated in the summer of 1866. From his youth up he was of studious habits and active life. After graduation at the academy he taught in that institution and others for four years, during which time he also read law, and in the fall of 1870 he entered the Albany law school, from which excellent institution he was graduated in the summer of 1871, being...

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Biography of Melvil Dewey

MELVIL DEWEY AMONG the noted librarians of our country who have shown great efficiency, untiring devotion and unusual progressiveness in their calling, stands in the front rank Melvil Dewey, director of the state library and secretary of the University of the State of New York. Born December 10, 1851, in the rural village of Adams Center, Jefferson county, New York, he is the youngest son of Joel and Eliza Green Dewey. His love of books – a love which has never forsaken him – began as soon as he was able to read. His greatest delight was to be among books, arranging and classifying them to suit his juvenile ideas. He loved also to call them his own. Like Dr. Isaac Watts when a child, he would say when money was given to him: “A book, a book; buy a book.” When, in 1864, the present edition of Webster’s unabridged dictionary came out, this incipient librarian went ten miles to the book store in Watertown, and brought home the coveted volume for which he paid $12 of his own childish savings, the largest coin of which was a five-cent piece. In 1865, when the collegiate institute was opened at Adams, three miles away, our boy was, of course, there as a pupil on the day of opening, and in 1867 he was one of the last students to leave...

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Biography of Elliot Danforth

ELLIOT DANFORTH AMONG the notable men connected with the service of the state in an official relation, is the Hon. Elliot Danforth, state treasurer. Born at Middleburg, Schoharie County, N. Y., on the 6th of March, 1850, he spent his earliest years amidst the rural scenes of his native place, and under the care of loving parents. He is the youngest son of Judge Peter S. Danforth of Middleburg, who was born on the 19th of June, 1816, in the village of Middleburg, and who in his declining life is enjoying the happy consciousness of having served his country faithfully in civil, educational and religious matters. He was fitted for college at the Kinderhook academy, N. Y., where he won a prize for proficiency in the classics when only fourteen years old. In 1837 he was graduated from Union college, under the presidency of Dr. Eliphalet Nott, who was then in the zenith of his fame and usefulness as an educator. He studied law in the office of the Hon. Robert McClellan, at that time member of congress from Schoharie county; and also in the office of Marcus T. Reynolds of Albany, one of the most eminent lawyers of this city. He formed a partnership with Judge Lyman Sanford of Schoharie, which existed for fourteen years. Among the offices he has held are those of district attorney for Schoharie...

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Biography of Edgar Cotrell

EDGAR COTRELL AN Albanian, widely and favorably known as a representative man, who has contributed largely toward the development of a special industry in our city, is Edgar Cotrell of the firm of Cotrell & Leonard, extensive wholesale and retail dealers in furs and kindred goods. It is always interesting to trace the ancestry and personal career of any one whom, by earnest, persevering and honorable efforts, has obtained marked and permanent success in some useful calling or profession in life. In the subject of the present sketch we have an illustration of some of the more striking characteristics of New England men and their descendants. He is a son of the late Joshua G. Cotrell, a native of Massachusetts, who was born in 1804, and who, in 1836, married Cornelia, daughter of Dr. Jabez Wilkinson. Joshua G. Cotrell was a man of great pluck, enterprise and high character, who at the age of twenty-two came to Albany and established, on a small scale, the business which is now so largely and successfully carried on by his son Edgar and the Messrs. Leonard. His death, which occurred in 1878, was deeply lamented, while his name is still highly cherished by many of our citizens. The grandfather of Edgar Cotrell, on his father’s side, was Oliver Cotrell, of Hancock, Berkshire County, Mass., who married Mary, daughter of Nathaniel Gardner, a...

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Biography of Frederick Cook

FREDERICK COOK A MAN who has reflected great honor upon American institutions, is the Hon. Frederick Cook, ex-secretary of state of New York. He is a striking representative of the best type of a German citizen whose leading traits of character have been fully developed upon American soil. He was born on the 2nd of December, 1833, at Wildbad, Germany, a noted watering place in the famous Black Forest district. His father was a contractor, a man who intended to have given his son Frederick the advantages of a thorough collegiate course. The boy was placed at the best school in the neighborhood, and his youthful years were earnestly devoted to the elementary branches of learning. The industrious young student was increasing rapidly in knowledge from year to year, with the brightest prospects before him, when suddenly a dark cloud overshadowed his opening literary career and dashed to the ground his hopes of obtaining a complete collegiate education. When he had reached his twelfth year, his excellent father, who had taken so deep an interest in the instruction of his promising son, died, leaving a family of eight children. By this irreparable loss the happy home was broken up and the children scattered abroad. Without a father’s watchful care, Frederick was left at this tender age almost entirely to his own resources. But with a brave heart and an...

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Biography of William L. Learned

WILLIAM L. LEARNED AN ALBANY jurist whose long and interesting career has reflected no little credit upon himself as well as upon the city of his adoption, is the Hon. William Law Learned, of the supreme court. He was born on the 24th of July, 1821, at New London, Connecticut, and is the son of Ebenezer Learned and Lydia Coit, his second wife. His ancestry is of English origin. His ancestors emigrated to this country at an early day, and settled in Charlestown, Mass. The first admission to the First church of Charlestown was that of his ancestor, William Learned, in 1632. Both his grandfathers, Amasa Learned and Joshua Coit, were men of excellent character, learning and ability in their day; and both of them were members of congress about the beginning of the present century. The father of the present judge was for many years a practicing lawyer, and later in life became a cashier in one of the state banks of Connecticut. He was a man of sound and excellent judgment, and of the purest integrity. At an early age he was graduated from Yale College, and after teaching school for a few years he entered in the practice of his profession at New London. In the pleasant town of New London, William L. Learned spent his earliest years, under the careful and tender instruction of intelligent...

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Biography of George W. Kirchwey

GEORGE W. KIRCHWEY AMONG the younger members of the Albany bar, whose attainments, not only in his special profession, but also in the wide range of general literature, have already gained for him distinction and honor, is George W. Kirchwey, of the law firm of Eaton & Kirchwey, and dean of the Albany Law School. Born on the 3d day of July, 1855, in the city of Detroit, Mich., he is the oldest child of honored parents who are still living in our midst. He was reared in an atmosphere of ideas, and does not remember the time when he did not have a book in his hands. He would have been a dull boy if he had not been something of a philosopher even in childhood. But he was not a dull boy and he made good use of the advantages which were thus afforded him. Home education in Detroit was followed by regular instruction in the schools of Chicago, to which city Mr. Kirchwey removed with his family soon after the outbreak of the civil war, in 1862. Nine years later, in the fall of 1871, the family removed to Albany, which has proved to be its permanent home. After arriving in Albany George spent a year in one of the public schools and then entered the high school, where he received his preparation for college. He...

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Biography of William H. Keeler

WILLIAM H. KEELER IN THE development of a particular branch of industry in Albany one of the most striking and successful examples is presented in the career of William H. Keeler, the founder of the well known and popular oyster-house of this city. While many other Albanians have attained distinction in literature, science and art, or secured the emoluments belonging to some of the learned professions or the laurels of the successful politician, it has been his chief aim in life to cultivate and master an important branch of physical science which will always be popular while the world exists; and that is the art of properly preparing delicious food for the hungry. He is, therefore, a representative Albanian, standing at the head of the caterers of the day, whose name is familiar as a household word to our citizens as well as to thousands all over the land, and who has supplied more of the wants of ” the inner man ” than almost any one else in the same line of business. From an humble origin and small beginning, like many of the successful men of our time in different vocations and professions, he has steadily advanced to the front rank of restaurateurs and hotel-keepers of the land. The career of such a man is notable from the fact that it shows a large amount of executive...

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