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James R. Vance, sole proprietor of the J. R. Vance Iron Works, of Geneva, and the inventor of a number of patented devices in the boiler making industry, is a fine example of what may be accomplished by unaided effort and a never-ceasing ambition. His grandfather, John Vance, was a Methodist minister in Scotland, and as his father died when he was a very young lad, he was thrown upon his own resources, which developed the sterling qualities with which he was liberally endowed.
James R. Vance was born in Scotland, April 4, 1849. His school instruction was limited, as he was obliged to go to work in earnest at the early age of ten years. He supplemented his deficiencies in education by means of night lessons and ardent home study, and occupied all his spare moments, which were few, in this laudable manner. At this tender age he found employment in the coal mines until he was sixteen years of age, when he emigrated to America, landing in New York City, and going from thence to Pennsylvania. He commenced to learn the trade of boiler making and since that time has been actively connected with that field of industry. He came to Geneva, New York, in 1876, and obtained the position of superintendent of the New York Central Iron Works Company, which he held for twenty-seven years. In 1897 he established a plant of his own, under the name of the Vance Boiler Works. His plant is now (1910) known as the J. 1. Vance Iron Works, and he is the sole proprietor and manager, as above stated. They manufacture all kinds of boilers, smoke stacks, sheet iron, etc. He is the inventor of a number of patents, among them being: “The Vance Tube Cutter, ” which was the first successful tool invented for that purpose; and the “Vance Steam and Hot Water Boiler.” He is an earnest worker in the interests of the Republican party and has filled a number of public offices. He has served as trustee of the town of Geneva for a number of terms; was alderman for some time; and served as president of the board of health. During the last-named term of office he was the means of warding off a smallpox epidemic from Geneva, by his prompt and vigorous measures. A railroad car, bound from Ithaca to Geneva, had on board a theatrical troupe of fourteen persons, all of whom had been exposed to infection from smallpox. He ordered them to be placed on board of a steamboat, which he caused to be anchored out in Seneca lake and quarantined, and kept them there for about one month. One of the passengers died, and the others recovered, but there was no case of the dreaded disease in Geneva. He was honored with the appointment as a special delegate to the funeral of the late judge Folger. McDowell, the well-known composer, is one of his cousins. Mr. Vance is a member of the Blue Lodge, Commandery, and Damascus Temple, all of the Masonic fraternity, and of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He was a delegate from Ontario county to the state convention at Saratoga, that nominated Theodore Roosevelt for governor.
Mr. Vance married, in 1872, at Fredonia, Chautauqua county, New York, Adela Schultz, born in Waterloo, Seneca county, New York, 1850. Children: Frederick M., horn in 1873; Mary A., born in 1875, married George Flint, at present coroner of Geneva; Robert R., born in 1881; Mabel J., born in 1887, married Earl Dobbin, of Geneva.