A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Henry Frisbee (Fredonia), Adolphus Fletcher (Jamestown), Samuel S. Whallon (Mayville), Clavin Rice (Westfield) and Julien T. Williams (Dunkirk). Originally broadcast on local radio stations June 13 – June 17, 2011.
No. 111 – Henry C. Frisbee
Henry C. Frisbee was born in Essex Co., N. Y., in March, 1801. He came to Fredonia in 1817, with the rest of his family. But when his father died just a few months after arriving, the entire family returned east, except for 17 year-old Henry who stayed behind.
Having some knowledge of type-setting, Frisbee began working in the printing office of James Hull, publisher of the Chautauqua Gazette. After about two years, he attended school and worked evening to pay his board. After six months he returned to Hull, but was informed that his services were no longer needed. Young Henry felt this was unfair, and he worked to start a paper in opposition to the Chautauqua Gazette. In March 1821, he purchased a printing press and type in Buffalo and brought it to Fredonia. The first number of his paper, the New York Censor — afterwards changed to Fredonia Censor — was issued February 8, 1822. For 17 years Frisbee worked on the paper both as compositor and editor. In 1838 it was taken over by E. Winchester, and was published by him two years, and by R. Cunningham one year. In 1841, the Censor was bought by Willard McKinstry.
In addition to his work with the newspaper, Frisbee was also engaged in the book-selling and book-binding business. When Fredonia was incorporated in 1829, Frisbee was elected village clerk. He was also chosen by the people of the county to represent them in the legislature of 1845. He died November 9, 1873 at the age of 72.
No. 112 – Adolphus Fletcher
Adolphus Fletcher was born in Croydon, N. H., on Sept. 3, 1796 but his early years were spent in Massachusetts. There, Fletcher served as an apprentice for the Massachusetts Spy, established by Isaiah Thomas prior to the American Revolution. As a young adult, Fletcher married Sarah Stow, of Worcester, Mass.
In 1818, Fletcher accompanied his father’s family to Ashville. where an elder brother and a sister had already settled. Fletcher was engaged at farming, keeping tavern and a store. At the request of friends at Jamestown, he moved there in 1824 and established the Jamestown Journal, which began printing in 1826.
Fletcher published the Journal for about 20 years, and then sold out to his son – John W. Fletcher. He subsequently became proprietor of the Northern Citizen, a paper that grew out of the free-soil movement in 1848. He afterwards transferred the press and materials to the gentlemen who started the Chautauqua Democrat, and became interested in its publication, but took no part in its editorial management.
For the remainder of his life, Fletcher assisted with various other publications as well, but he will always be remembered as the founder of Jamestown’s oldest newspaper – The Jamestown Journal. It merged with the Jamestown Evening Journal in 1941 to become the Jamestown Post-Journal.
No. 113 – Samuel S. Whallon
Samuel S. Whallon was born in Washington Co., N. Y., on April 20, 1804. At the age of eight, he came with his parents to Mayville, where would remain the rest of his life.
Whallon took advantage of the education provided by the early schools of the time. Combined with good sense and correct principles, he commenced an active career as a young adult and attained a high and an honorable position.
In 1834, Whallon partnered with two other men to establish the Mayville Sentinel, a newspaper that is still printed today. About year after it’s establishment, it was sold.
Whallon took up several offices in the Town of Chautauqua from a young age onward. He also commenced his mercantile career as a clerk, became a partner, and at length sole owner of the establishment in which he first engaged.
No. 114 – Martin Rice
Martin Rice was born in 1827 in St. Lawrence Co., N.Y., the son of Calvin Rice. He came to Chautauqua County in 1832 with his family, who settled in Westfield on Westfield Hill. Rice received a local education and went on to become a well-known attorney in the area.
In 1855, Rice helped to establish the Westfield Republican, the first republican newspaper in the country. It commenced about the time of the national convention at Pittsburgh, in that year, at which meeting measures were taken which resulted in the organization of the party. The first issue was printed on April 25, 1855 and was funded with the support of George W. Patterson, William H. Seward, Alvin Plumb and Austin Smith. Rice also served as editor. The circulation was about 1,000 copies.
Among the events covered by Rice during his 18-year tenure as editor of the Westfield Republican was the 1861 visit to Westfield by president-elect Abraham Lincoln. It was during this visit that Lincoln met Grace Bedell and Rice was the one who provided the detailed write-up in the Westfield Republican.
No. 115 – Julien T. Williams
Dr. Julien T. Williams was born in Dunkirk on Nov. 15, 1828, the son of Dr. Ezra Williams – who arrived in the area from Oneida County in 1822. Williams was brought up in the area and was well educated, eventually receiving a law degree and becoming a practicing attorney.
In addition to his legal profession, Williams also served for several terms in the State Assembly and was considered a close friend of Governor Rueben Fenton, Roscoe Conkling and many others of that time. Williams was also active in the Dunkirk Community, serving on the board of education for many years.
In 1882, Williams entered the publishing business and established the Dunkirk Evening Observer, which went into print on Dec. 4, 1882. He continued to serve as Editor-in-chief of the paper up until shortly before his death on April 10, 1905.
After his death, Williams son, Henry Kirk Williams, took over as president of the Dunkirk Printing Company. The company not only continued to print the Observer, but also the Semi-weekly Grape Belt newspaper.
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