Judge Jacob Houghton – Bicentennial Biography No. 17

Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.

Judge Jacob Houghton (portrait from Young's History of Chautauqua County

Judge Jacob Houghton was born in Bolton, Mass in 1777.  His father, Simon Houghton, was for many years a member of the Massachusetts Legislature. As a young man, Jacob went to Vermont, taught school, was clerk in a store, and then removed with his employer to Troy, New York. There he studied law for three years with David Jones, and was admitted to practice in all the courts of the state. He was married, Jan. 28, 1806, at Wallingford, Vt. to Lydia Douglass, daughter of Capt Daniel Douglass, of the army of the Revolution.

In June 1811 he came to Mayville and began the construction of a home. White the home was being built, Houghton stetted on the north side of Cattaraugus Creek. There he practiced his profession and traded with the Indians.

In 1812, he moved to what was the called Canadaway, and built a house, which remained in his family for many years afterward. It’s said that Houghton is the individual responsible for suggesting the name of Canadaway be changed to “Fredonia.”

Houghton attended the first court held in Chautauqua County in June, 1811. In March 1813 he became a judge of the court of common pleas. He was for two terms Supreme Court commissioner and held the office of justice of the peace for four years. Houghton also held other offices including Supervisor’s Clerk (1816) and was also for some time postmaster at Fredonia (1813).

Houghton also served as chairman of the regional anti-war movement “Friends of Liberty, Peace, and Commerce” during the War of 1812. He also defended Joseph Damon, who was charged with murder and sentenced to death. It was the last public execution in Chautauqua County.

Houghton had 7 sons and 2 daughters, including Douglass Houghton, who eventually became a the first state geologist of Michigan. Judge Houghton died July 30, 1861, at the age of 85.

Ref: Young’s History of Chautauqua County

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– J. Sample

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