A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Charles S. Abbott (Panama & Jamestown), Porter and Ralph Sheldon (Jamestown), Milton Fenner (Stockton, Jamestown & Fredonia), Shane Conlan (Frewsburg) and William Maddox (Jamestown). Originally airing on local radio stations April 25 – April 29, 2011.
No. 76 – Charles S. Abbott
Charles Stuart Abbott, only child of Edwin Elisha and Mary (Sanderson) Abbott, was born in Panama on December 11, 1858. Shortly after his birth his parents moved to New York City where he was educated in the public schools, and the famous Flushing Institute on Long Island. He had planned to attend Columbia University, but instead left his schooling to help his father with finances.
Abbott worked in various employments to help make ends meet, including serving as captain of the Chautauqua Lake steamer Waukegan. In addition, Abbott studied law at Warren, Pa., and was later business manager of The Countryside, a weekly educational and agricultural journal. During a return to New York City, he was associated with the Allen Brothers advertising agency, which was afterward removed to Jamestown. On Feb. 4, 1880 Abbott married Pauline Allen of Jamestown and the couple had two children.
Abbott’s independent business career began in 1889 when he partnered with Jamestown businessman Porter Sheldon in the manufacture of photographic paper. It was the first successful attempt at making photography paper in the United States. They later formed the American Aristotype Company, with Sheldon as president and Abbott as secretary and treasurer. This business rapidly developed into one of the leading of its type in the nation, and was one of Jamestown’s principal industries. In 1899 the General Aristo Company was formed, embracing a number of other similar concerns, and which were afterward consolidated as the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, of which Abbott served as vice-president. During his time with Eastman Kodak Abbott spent two years in Europe promoting the company with great success.
Abbott was also president of the Seed Dry Plate Company of St. Louis, Missouri, and a director of the Chautauqua County Trust Company. In all his business relations he was eminently successful, and he was held in high estimation for abilities of a high order, and unflinching integrity, and was recognized as a prime leader among those whose energy and enterprise gave Jamestown its nation-wide fame as an industrial city.
No. 77 – Porter and Ralph Sheldon
Porter Sheldon was born September 29, 1831 in Victor, N.Y. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1854 in Batavia, N.Y. Afteward he started a practice in Randolph, N.Y. In 1857 Sheldon moved to Rockford, Ill. and continued to study law. He served as member of the Illinois constitutional convention in 1861. In Aug. 1862, while living in Illinois, Porter’s son, Ralph C. Sheldon, was born.
Following the Civil War, Sheldon came to Jamestown and continued his law practice. He became a well-known and well-respected member of the community, and was voted into the 41st Congress on March 4, 1869 on the Republican ticket. He served for only one term and was unable to secure renomination in 1870.
After failing to return to congress, Sheldon returned to his law profession, while also pursuing other business affairs. Among them was the establishment of the American Aristotype Co. with Charles Abbott. He retird in 1899 when the company was sold to the General Aristo Company.
Ralph Sheldon was also a successful businessman in the area. He served as treasurer of the General Aristo Company until 1901, when the Eastman Kodak Company acquired the stock. Eventually, the business here was moved in its entirety to Rochester. The plants in Jamestown were razed, and last one in 1964 to make room for the Fenton Park Nursing Home.
Following the acquisition, Ralph Sheldon became a banker, civic leader, and owner of Jamestown Newspaper Corporation.
Porter Sheldon died on August 15, 1908. Ralph Sheldon passed in 1948. The Sheldon names remains prominent in Jamestown thanks to the generous grants from the Sheldon Foundation, which was created from the Sheldon family estate.
No. 78 – Milton Fenner
Milton M. Fenner was in South Stockton on July 28, 1837 to Christopher and Lucinda (Fross) Fenner. Milton was only 13 years old when his father died and he spent the next several years working as a farmer. He eventually was able to attend college, attending Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. He then entered a medical college at Cincinnati, Ohio, and obtained the degree of Doctor of Medicine, on May 22, 1860.
Dr. Fenner began practicing medicine in Flint, Michigan, but on July 12, 1861 following the outbreak of the Civil War, he gave up his newly established practice to enlist as a private in Company A, Eighth Michigan Regiment. He was appointed Hospital Steward for the regiment and war correspondent for two of the leading state papers. He received several promotions, eventually becoming First Lieutenant and assisted in the fall of Fort Wagner, South Carolina in July 1863. He was commissioned an Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy and in September 1863, was on board the union flagship in the naval night attack to retake Fort Sumter.
In the spring of 1864 discovered an opportunity to practice medicine in Jamestown. So inclined to live near the area he was born, he resigned his commission from the military and began practicing medicine in the city until 1869, when he moved to Fredonia.
While in Fredonia, Dr. Fenner continued his practice while also establishing his People’s Dispensary of Medicine and Surgery. He gained great popularity throughout the U.S. with the sales of his medicinal tonic Fenner’s Golden Relief which was said to be a cure-all liquid.
In 1870 the United States Government appointed Fenner Examining Surgeon. He also was involved in various medical societies and community projects, including the Dunkirk and Fredonia Electric Railroad. He also held several public offices, including Supervisor of the Town of Pomfret and State Assemblyman.
Dr. Fenner married upon June 5, 1866 Miss Georgia Grandin, daughter of Daniel H. Grandin, an extensive woolen manufacturer of Jamestown. She died September 5, 1881. In April, 1883, he married Miss Florence E. Bondeson of Jamestown, who survived him with their one son, Milton Fenner, Jr. Dr. Fenton died on March 14, 1905 in Fredonia.
No. 79 – Shane Conlan
Shane Patrick Conlan was born on March 4, 1964 in Olean, N.Y. to Dan and Kay Conlan. At the age of 2, Conlan moved with his family from Salamanca to Frewsburg. It was growing up in the small town of Frewsburg that Conlon first made a name for himself as talented athlete, excelling in various youth sports. He was scouted for his ability in both baseball and football.
In the spring of 1982, Conlan signed a football scholarship to Penn State. He was “redshirted” in 1982 so he didn’t play until the 1983 season, when he tallied 27 tackles, two sacks and an interception as an outside linebacker. In 1984, Conlan made 77 tackles to lead the Nittany Lions. In addition, 15 of those stops were a team-high for losses. By his junior season (1985), Conlon was named First Team All-American by the Newspaper Enterprise Association and Second Team by The Football News. He was also selected as the defensive Most Valuable Player in the Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma.
During his senior year, Conlon helped Penn State win the national championship with a thrilling 14-10 win over previously unbeaten Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Conlon was named defensive MVP of the game after making two interceptions. He was a consensus First Team All-American status and Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he was the best linebacker in the school’s history
In the 1987 NFL Draft, Conlan was selected eighth overall by the Buffalo Bills. In his rookie season he collect 114 tackles and he was named NFL Rookie of the Year. In 1988 Conlan was selected First Team All-Pro by several groups, including The Sporting News and the Pro Football Writers of America. Additionally, he was named to his first Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Conlan was named to two more pro-bowls in 1989 and 1990 – the latter season culminating with Super Bowl XXV, where the Bills lost to the New York Giants 20 to 19. Conlan led the team with 13 tackles in the game. He appeared in two more Super Bowls with the Bills before being traded to St. Louis following the 1992 campaign. He finished his NFL career following the 1995 season.
Throughout his career Conlan was heavily involved with charity, donating both time and money to various causes. He was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, and he was recently named No. 27 amongst the Top 50 Buffalo Bills of all Time by Buffalo Rumblings, a Buffalo sports website.
No. 80 – William Maddox
William Maddoxwas born in 1854 in Pennsylvania, the son of an English immigrant. As a young businessman, Maddox had invited a machine that was able to produce a fine wooden table top at a reasonable cost. Before this, table tops were all hand-finished, which required a great amount of time. His machine drastically reduced production time and cost, making his products far more affordable compared to his competitors.
Using his machine, Maddox came to Jamestown and soon started the Maddox Table Company, in 1898. Under the founder’s stewardship, the company was one of the first furniture manufacturers in the United States to trademark its poducts. Maddox was also an excellent promoter. In the company’s first year, he sent one of his showmen on an international tour to demonstrate his products, ensuring his tables would be known throughout the word.
In 1919 the Maddox family sold its table making business to the Shearman Brothers Lounge Company. In 1978 the company was again sold to the Crawford Furniture Manufacturing Company. It ceased operation around 1985.
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.
- J. Sample