Biographies of Oswego Co., N.Y.  


Source: "History of Oswego County, N. Y., 1789 – 1877, published by Everett & Ferriss, 1878.  Many thanks to Dianne Thomas who transcribed the following biographies. 


CHENEY AMES was born in Mexico, Oswego County, June 19, 1808 – one of the many sons of Leonard Ames, one of the pioneers of that county.  At the early age of thirteen he was apprenticed to a hatter, in Delphi, Onondaga county, and finished his apprenticeship in Cortland, New York.  But the business was distasteful to him, and, as his knowledge of the world increased, he longed to be identified with its progress, and turned his attention to reading and study, thereby gaining a prominence among his associates and acquaintances which he was able to hold from that time; and, as he advanced to manhood, he at once assumed its responsibilities, becoming a member and trustee of the Presbyterian church in the year 1830,  and was married in 1833 to Miss Emily North, of Otsego county.  In the spring of 1837 he removed to the then village of Oswego, and identified himself with the commercial interests of that place, where he still resides, and where his enterprise And public spirit have been turned to good account.  His  first act was to raise one thousand dollars to improve the rude highway from Scriba to Oswego; soon after he was called upon to present a petition to the legislature to repeal the charter of the old toll-bridge, and succeeded against strong opposition.  In 1847 his wife died, and his family was temporarily scattered.  Again his services were required in Albany in  securing  the city charter for Oswego, and while so engaged he learned that the land under water west of Fort Ontario had never been ceded to the United States, but still belonged to the State of New York.  He immediately made application that it be ceded to the city of Oswego, and it was granted, thereby securing to the city a valuable gift which they afterwards sold for a large sum.  Subsequently, in the struggle for legislative aid to enlarge the Oswego canal, he represented the interests of Oswego, watching and manipulating affairs very ably, proving more than a match for his determined and powerful opponents, who were seeking the same aid for the Erie canal to the exclusion of the Oswego.   He also engineered and directed the deepening and excavation of the main channel of the Oswego river in front of the line of elevation, thereby greatly benefiting the interests of commerce.  In 1854 he married his present wife, Miss Kate Brown, of Burlington, Vermont. 

In 1858 he was unanimously nominated and elected to the State senate, where he served his constituency ably and faithfully, occupying the responsible position of chairman of the committee of commerce and navigation. 

At the breaking out of the war, he was appointed a member of the war committee by Governor Morgan, and from that time until peace was declared he never flinched from the sternest duty.  He gave his oldest son to the cause he loved so well (and a nobler son never entered the service of the Union).  Entering the army at the opening of the war, he bore its hardships and shared its struggles until the end, when the Master called him to go up higher.  In 1864 Mr. Ames was again called to represent his district in the senate, serving a second time as chairman of the committee of commerce and navigation, and also on committees of minor importance.
While there he secured the charter for the Normal school, and from that time made it the special object of his care and attention until it was in successful operation, and now is rewarded by its reputation as one of the finest institutions of the kind in the country.  But it was thought incomplete without a boarding-house for its pupils.  The success of this object, too, devolved upon Mr. Ames, and he started the project as a stock company, taking the first five hundred dollars of the stock himself, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing the establishment in complete running order, - an ornament to the city and its founders.  When his legislative duties were at an end he turned his attention to manufacturing interests, first introducing the manufacture of water-lime and plaster, which has since largely increased; he then established the first knitting-factory, and that business, too, has since been quadrupled.  He imported the first logs from Canada for the lumber trade.  He was also first to move in the Syracuse and Binghamton railroad, in which he was largely interested until its completion.  The Rome and Oswego road he carried almost single-handed through all its trials and difficulties until it became a success.  The New York and Oswego Midland railroad he, with a few others, pushed through the entire line, but not without pecuniary disaster to all concerned.  He has recently been elected as postmaster of the city, and is also pursuing his commercial business.


Among the representative journalists of this county and State,  none stood higher in the general estimation of the public than did he whose name heads this brief narrative.  We have before us numerous sketches of his life and character, from which we glean the following:

Richard Oliphant was born in the city of London, on the 23rd of January, 1801.  He came to this country and took up residence in the then village of Auburn when he was twelve years of age.  He early evinced a love for the “art preservation of all arts,” which he regarded, with professional zeal, as the most ennobling occupation, down to the day of his death.  The first type he ever set was in 1810, when he commenced, like most boys in a printing-office, by setting up “pi” in Russell’s court, Drury lane, London.  The first regular composition he undertook was at Auburn, in 1814, under the instructions of Thurlow Weed.  In 1816 he commenced work for Skinner & Crosby, publishers of the Auburn Gazette.  In April, 1823, Mr. Oliphant set the first type that ever filled a “stick” in Syracuse.  This was for John Dunford, who started the Onondaga Gazette, the first paper published in Syracuse, and employed Mr. Oliphant as printer.  The latter did not remain long at Syracuse, for during the same year (1823) he started a paper at Auburn, of which he was editor and proprietor, called the Auburn Free Press.  This was a good-looking weekly for that day, nearly as large as the Commercial Times, and it was an enthusiastic supporter of John Quincy Adams.  In 1829, Mr. Oliphant sold the paper to his brother Henry, and in the month of November of that year, came to Oswego, where he continued to reside til his death.  In an address he delivered at a supper given on Franklin’s birthday, in 1860, he told how he came to visit Oswego.  He said: “As early as 1822, I made a hasty trip to this, then small, village, and at that time had almost as much idea of locating here as of planting a standard in the moon.  Though then passionately devoted to my calling, there were other passions and other attractions that drew me hither.  A certain young lady, who has since grown rather  matronly, had captivated my boyish affections.  I was in pursuit of her, and as she resided some few miles east of this, my peregrinations  took me through Oswego.”

These visits continued until 1826, when Mr. Oliphant was married to Miss Anna H. Jones, the lady he refers to in his Franklin supper address.  The nuptials were solemnized in a log house in the town of Scriba, and he added to the above, that “the humble domicile appeared as fine in his eyes as any that now grace the city,” and that  “ever since he had cherished a warm regard for log cabins.”

On the 17th of February, 1830, Mr. Oliphant issued the first number of the Oswego Free Press, which he continued to publish till April 14, 1834.  On the 2nd of January, 1837, the Oswego County Whig was started by A. Jones & Co., with Richard Oliphant as editor.

On the 9th of May Mr. Jones withdrew, and Oliphant & Ayer, formerly of the Herkimer County Journal, became proprietors.  At the close of the year Mr. Ayer withdrew, and Mr. Oliphant continued the paper until September 27, 1844, which was the last of his editorial labors.  After this time he devoted himself to the job-printing business, which he continued to within three or four years of his death, when his sons, J.H. and Richard J., relieved him of the cares of the office by becoming proprietors, although, down to the week before his death, he occasionally worked at the case, for which he used to say his “fingers had an itching.”  In 1818. Mr. Oliphant published the “Western Wanderer,” a neatly-printed volume; and in 1819, the Phoenix, a monthly paper, to which he was a regular contributor.  He also contributed to the “Oasis”, a very handsomely gotten up and finely-printed publication, issued in 1837.

Besides being a pungent paragraphist and good political writer, Mr. Oliphant possessed a fine poetic strain, and some of his poems, which we have seen and perused with pleasure, denote the innate beauties of his mind, while doing honor to his brilliant intellect and his vivid imagination.

In a sketch of this kind it is impossible to enter into the various acts of a long and busy life, and we therefore close with the following apt quotation from the correspondence of one who knew Mr. Oliphant well, and appreciated his worth heartlily:

“Among the printers who knew him he will be long remembered as one whose proof-sheet was free from all errors of the heart.  Peace the, to the memory of a brother TYPO, to whom death so suddenly put his final period.  The grim tyrant of the tomb seldom, if ever, embraced a husband, father, or friend, with kindlier qualities of our humanity, than he who has suddenly been taken away. The earth-clods of the cold and silent grave never covered a bosom in which beat a nobler, more generous, and truer heard, and he will long be missed with regret in the circles in which he moved.”

Mr. Oliphant took a deep interest in all matters pertaining to the moral and intellectual, as well as in the material, progress and development of Oswego.  Especially with regard to educational affairs is this true.  He lived to see the growth of the present excellent system of public instruction, and no one man did more to bring the schools up to their present high standard – which is not surpassed by any in the State – than did he.  For many years he was president of the board of education, and filled that office with marked ability and zeal.

At his death, which occurred March 8, 1862, Mr. Oliphant left a widow and five children, all of whom are living.  Of the latter, John H. and Richard J. are printers (the former conducting the business of his father), Sarah E. is the wife of George B. Powell, Martha A. the wife of D.M. Mead, the druggist, and R. Ameila resides with her mother.  These are all residents of Oswego. 


This gentleman was born in England, on the 26th day of October, 1832.  When but 5 years old he was brought by his father Mr. Edmund Paine, to Oswego, where the home of both has ever been.  As the youth grew up to manhood in the frontier village, by the side of the lake and the river, with the primeval forest no far distant, he showed a strong predilection for out-door sports, and at one time was considered one of the best marksmen in the place, winning some valuable trophies from numerous rivals.

In September 1854, he was married to Miss Hannah G. Stewart, of Granby, by whom he has had two children.

When the Rebeillion broke out, Mr. Paine, then twenty-nine years old, was one of the very first to respond to the call to arms; entering the service in April, 1861, as captain of Company B, Twenty-fourth New York Infantry.  He went to the seat of war with his regiment, but was disabled by a sunstroke, and resigned in September of the same year.

In June 1862, finding himself recovered, he again entered the army, this time as captain of Company A in the One Hundred and Sixth New York Infantry.  After serving through 1862 and 1863 (taking part in the battle of Martinsburg in the latter year), he entered with his regiment in the spring of 1864 into the great campaign of a year’s duration, which ended in the crushing out of the rebellion.  In a little over two months Captain Paine took part in the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Culpepper, Cold Harbor, Kelly’s Ford, Petersburg, Brandy Station, Laurel Hill, Summit Point, Weldon Railroad, Hanover Court-House, and Monocacy.  In the latter conflict he was severely wounded.  On the 12th of October following, he was discharged on account of his injuries.
No sooner were his wounds healed, however, than he was eager to engage once more  in the fray.  In March 1865, he entered the service for a third time, being commissioned as major of his last regiment, the One Hundred and Sixth.  As such, he took part in the closing scenes of the great war, being present at the capture of Petersburg and Richmond, at the battle of Sailor’s Creek, and at the surrender of General Lee.

It is needless to say that one who so persistently sought the battle-field whenever his physical condition permitted, did not flinch in the presence of the foe.  So strongly did his conduct impress his superior officers that on their recommendation, although he has been a major only a few weeks at the close of the conflict, he was brevetted lieutenant-colonel and colonel by the president of the United States for gallant and meritorious conduct throughout the war.  Colonel Paine was finally mustered out on July 3, 1865.

After his return Colonel Paine was elected in 1870 to represent the first and third wards of his city in the board of supervisors of Oswego County, and was re-elected in 1871, 1872, and 1873.  So many re-elections are pretty good evidence that his judgment as a civil officer equals his courage as a soldier. 


Has occupied a prominent place in the history of Oswego County.  He was born on the 28th of October 1801, at Richfield, in the county of Otsego, and State of New York – a town then quite obscure, but which as since become famous as one of the fashionable watering-places of the country.  His parents emigrated from New England at the close of the Revolutionary war to the then far west, and took up their abode in the wilds of Otsego county.  His early years were spent amid the hardships and privations of pioneer life.  The only aid he received in acquiring an education was from the scanty and precarious instruction of the district school.  His own energy and diligence did the rest.  But in the struggles against these adverse circumstances of his youth habits of industry and self-denial were formed, and a vigor of body and of mind and a strength  and firmness of character were developed, which distinguished him in after-years and enabled him to outstrip, in the race for the prizes of life, many of his contemporaries who had enjoyed the advantages of the academy and the college.

When about twenty-one years of age, Mr. Robinson commenced the study of the law in the office of the late Veeder Greene, at Brighton, and finished his legal clerkship in the office of the late Daniel Gott, at Pompey Hill, in the county of Onondaga.  William H. Shankland, afterwards justice of the supreme court for the sixth judicial district of New York, was his fellow-student in the office of Mr. Gott, and many lawyers who have attained distinction received their preparatory legal training about the same time at Pompey Hill.

In 1827, at the May term of the supreme court held in the city of New York, Mr. Robinson was admitted to practice as an attorney of that court, and in July following he opened a law-office in what is now the village of Mexico (then a small hamlet), in the county of Oswego. 

On the 12th of July, 1827, he was married to Miss Lucretia Greene, of Richfield, a daughter of Wardwell Greene, and the sister of his first instructor in the law.  Mrs. Robinson was born in February, 1802, in the county of Schoharie and State of New York.  Her father was a native of Rhode Island, and a relative of Major-General Nathaniel Greene of Revolutionary memory.  He was also a soldier in the war of the Revolution, was severely wounded in battle, and for many years received a pension from the United States government.

It should also be stated that both of the grandfathers of Mr. Robinson were citizen soldiers.  Both rendered active service in the so-called French war of 1755, and both, as captains of companies, shared in the efforts and perils of the American Revolution.

It might be expected that the descendants of such ancestors would not be deaf to the call of their country in her hour of danger.  Age has unfitted Mr. Robinson for the performance of military service in the late civil war, but his sympathies were with the government in all lawful efforts to suppress rebellion and maintain the union of the States, and his contributions to that end were freely given. 

His son, Colonel Wardwell G. Robinson, however, under a call of the president for more men, closed his law-office, took command of the One Hundred and Eighty-fourth Regiment of New York Volunteers, went to the front and continued in active service until his regiment was mustered out at the close of the war.

In the first year of Mr. Robinsons’s residence in Mexico he was elected to the office of justice of the peace, and, in the succeeding year, to that of town clerk.

In 1830 he was appointed by Governor Throop surrogate of Oswego County, and continued to discharge the duties of that office for eight years, having been re-appointed by Governor Marcy in 1834.

In the years 1834 and 1836 he represented the county in the assembly of the State; and in 1837, the county being entitled to two members of assembly, he was elected as one of them.

In the mean time his professional business had been increasing in extent and importance. He had been admitted to the highest grades of his profession in the State and Federal courts, and had attained a prominent position among the lawyers of central New York.

In 1841 he was appointed district attorney of the county, and held the office for two years.

In 1843 he was elected to represent the newly-formed district, comprising the counties of Oswego and Madison, in the Congress of the United States, and in the same year he was elected supervisor of the town of Mexico.

In 1847 he removed from Mexico to the then village, now city, of Oswego, where he has since resided.
In 1853 he was elected recorder of the city.  The police duties connected with that office being distasteful to him, he resigned it during the same year.

In 1855 he was for the fourth time elected to represent his district in the assembly of the State, and was chosen speaker of that body.

In 1858 he was appointed by President Buchanan collector of customs for the district of Oswego; and, after having discharged the responsible duties of that office acceptably to the government and to the public for two years, he resigned it, and has since held no official position, and has taken no active part in political affairs.

Mr. Robinson is now the oldest living member of the Oswego County bar.  For the last twenty years he as not been actively engaged in the duties of his profession, but for the thirty years preceding that period he was a constant attendant upon the courts, representing numerous and important interests.

As a general lawyer he stood high.  Those who sought advise at his chambers found him a wise and prudent counselor.  But his professional success was more especially due to the skill and ability which he evinced in the trial of causes at nisi prius.  His addresses to the jury, though quite devoid of rhetorical embellishments, were clear, forcible, and persuasive, and the earnestness with which they were delivered, united with the respect entertained for the speaker, made them very effective.

The numerous and important official positions held by Mr. Robinson, both by election and appointment, sufficiently attest the respect and confidence with which he has been regarded by his fellow-citizens; and when we consider that every trust committed to his care, whether public or private, has been intelligently, faithfully, and honestly discharged, and that he has been enabled to spend his declining years in dignified retirement, free from the cares and anxieties of business, and in the enjoyment of the undiminished confidence and respect of all who know him, we must pronounce his a useful and successful life.


died April 21, 1876, in the seventy-fourth year of her age. She was the mother of four children, - three sons and one daughter, - two of whom survive her. 

As a wife, mother, neighbor, and friend, she performed all her duties and obligations with a scrupulous regard to the right, and with a personal unselfishness rarely met with.  She sympathized with the poor and afflicted, and as far as in her power, relieved their wants.  She encouraged the weak, comforted the sorrowful and animated the weary.  Her religious belief was the result of a logical mind devoted to the acquisition of knowledge, and animated with a strong desire to solve the mysteries and problems of creation.  Her investigation and reflection led her to results at variance with her early religious impressions and opinions.  To do good was the religion of her mature years.  She believed in one Supreme Power undefinable and incomprehensible.  She not only believe that the universe was governed by unchangeable laws, but that physical and moral actions were subject to the same rule, - that every act, whether for good or evil, in unerringly visited by its appropriate consequences.  She believed in the progressive development of all animated nature from a lower to a higher condition, and that man and the spirit was the ultimate result of such development.  She believed in the immorality of the life of every animated thing, and that change was written upon all things, annihilation upon none.  She believed in the individual, conscious immortality of man; that the Creator has made no mistakes; and that man alone of all animated nature desires to live hereafter, and if that desire was not to be gratified it would not have been implanted in his breast.

So believing, Death was to her a welcome and kind messenger to relieve her from her material body which had served for her so many years and had performed the object of its organization.  For her Death threw open the door that she might enter upon a new state of eternally-continued progressive existence.

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