Bicentennial Biographies No. 196 – 200

A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Horace Greeley (Clymer), George W. Patterson (Westfield), Richard T. Ely (Ripley), Aaron Hall (Charlotte, Westfield and Jamestown) and Obed Edson (Sinclairville). Originally broadcast on local radio stations Oct. 10 – Oct. 14, 2011.

No. 196 – Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley (1811 – 1872)

Horace Greeley was one of the most well known journalists and reformers in 19th Century America, and while he never lived in Chautauqua County, he spent enough time and in the Town of Clymer to warrant being mentioned in our bicentennial biography list.

Greeley was born Feb. 3, 1811 in New Hampshire, the son son of poor farmers Zaccheus and Mary Greeley. When he was a teenager, his parents moved to Wayne Township, Pa., about a mile south of the village of Clymer. Horace, however, did not come to the area with his parents and instead stayed behind to serve as a newspaper apprentice in Vermont.

When Horace was about 15 years old, he made his first trip to Northwestern Pennsylvania to visit his parents, traveling some of the way on foot. Upon his arrival in Clymer in 1826, there were only 4 or 5 houses. He returned for another visit in 1831, this time attempting to stay with his parents and help on their farm. This only lasted about five months before he realized he did not have the physical fortitude to live a pioneers life, and he soon found work in nearby Erie with the Erie Gazette newspaper.

In the summer of 1831, Greeley moved to New York City to work as a journalist. He eventually found work at the New York Tribune, the country’s most influential newspaper. From the 1840s to the 1870s Greeley served as editor and was considered the greatest editor of his day. He used his position to promote the Whig and Republican parties, as well as opposition to slavery and a host of reforms ranging from vegetarianism to socialism.

Greeley would return to visit his parents on a semi-regular basis, and during those visits he often spent time in Clymer talking with the local residents, discussing various issues facing the country. He even used his influence to initiate a demand for pumpkin flower from Clymer, N.Y. – making for several prosperous seasons for pumpkin growers in southwestern Chautauqua County. Greeley also owned property in Clymer and even purchased a cemetery plot for his family. When his mother and father died in the 1860s, they were buried in Clymer Village Cemetery.

Crusading against the corruption of Ulysses S. Grant‘s Republican administration, Greeley was the new Liberal Republican Party’s candidate in the 1872 U.S. presidential election. His last trip to Clymer came in September of that year while campaigning for president. Despite having the additional support of the Democratic Party, he lost in a landslide. He died shortly after the election on Nov. 29, 1872 at the age of 61.

No. 197 – George W. Patterson

George W. Patterson was born on Nov. 11, 1799 in Londonderry, N.H. to Thomas and Elizabeth (Wallace) Patterson. He was the youngest of twelve children, eleven of whom lived to mature age. Patterson received a common school and an academic education in his native town. At the age of 18 he taught school in New Hampshire for three months before moving to Livingston, Co., N.Y. with his older brother.

George W. Patterson (1799 – 1879)

Patterson and his brother ran a successful business dealing with manufacture and sale of fanning mills. In Feb., 1825, he married Hannah Dickey and continued to operate his business and farm. In addition, Patterson was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1832, 1833, and from 1835 to 1840 – the last two years he was speaker of the house.

In May 1941, Patterson was asked to come to Westfield and take over as Land Agent for the Holland Land Company. While in Westfield, he was elected as a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1846. In 1848 he was elected lieutenant-governor, on the ticket with Hon. Hamilton Fish, who was elected governor. He was also chairman of the harbor commission at New York from 1855 to 1857.

Later in life, after stepping away from state politics, Patterson served as Westfield Town Supervisor and president of the board of education. He was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions of 1856 and 1860, and was elected as a Republican to the Forty-fifth United States Congress, serving from March 4, 1877 to March 3, 1879. He died on Oct. 15, 1879 in Westfield and was buried at Westfield Cemetery.

Patterson’s daughter, Hannah, recognized the need for a public library for the citizens of Westfield and following her death on May 12, 1894, she willed enough funding to establish the Patterson Library, dedicated to the memory of her mother and father.

No. 198 – Richard T. Ely

Richard Theodore Ely was born April 13, 1854, in Ripley, the eldest of three children of Ezra Sterling Ely and the former Harriet Gardner Mason. He received his early education in the public schools of Ripley and later attended the state Normal School at Fredonia. At the age of 18, he entered Dartmouth College. One year later he was transferred to Columbia University, from which he graduated in 1876.

Richard T. Ely (1854 – 1943)

After three years of graduate study abroad Ely received his degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In 1881 he was appointed to the chair of Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University. In 1892, he went to the University of Wisconsin to serve as Director of the School of Economics, Political Science and History. He stayed at the school until 1925 – although in 1894 an unsuccessful attempt was made to depose him from his chair at Wisconsin for purportedly teaching socialistic doctrines.

Although regarded as a radical by his detractors on the political right, Ely was in fact opposed to socialism. However, he strongly favored competition over monopoly or state ownership, with regulation to “secure its benefits” and “mitigate its evils.” He also supported labor unions and opposed child labor. He was close to the Social Gospel movement, emphasizing that the Gospel of Christ applied to society as a whole and was not merely individualistic; he worked hard to convince churches to advocate on behalf of workers.

Ely edited Macmillan’s Citizen’s Library of Economics, Politics, and Sociology and its Social Science textbook series, Crowell’s Library of Economics and Politics, and was a frequent contributor to periodical literature, both scientific and popular.

In 1925, Ely moved to Northwestern University in Chicago, where he accepted a position as professor of Economics. He remained at Northwestern until his retirement in 1933. He died in Old Lyme, Connecticut on October 4, 1943.

The American Economic Association instituted the annual “Richard T. Ely Lecture” in 1960 in his memory, which, unlike the Association’s other honors, is also open to non-American economists.

No. 199 – Aaron Hall

Aaron Hall was born in Otsego County on March 9, 1830 to Jacob and Eliza Woodburn Hall. In June of that year, his family came to Chautauqua County to live in a log cabin in the Town of Charlotte built by Aaron Hall’s grandfather, David Woodburn. Hall was raised in the area and at the age of 24, he married Martha E. Parkhurst of Chautauqua. In 1855 he and his wife moved to Westfield and took up work as a builder.

Aaron Hall (1830 – 1911)

While Hall was considered an able builder, it was his skill as an architect that would help steer him through the remainder of his life. He first gained notoriety while living in Westfield, where he designed several homes and buildings, including the Westfield Presbyterian Church. When this was destroyed by fire, he planned and rebuilt the church, which still stands today.

In 1860 Hall came to Jamestown and was soon recognized far and near as an architect of unusual talent and ability. His most famous and well-known work is Governor Reuben Fenton’s mansion, which was built in 1863 and occupied by Fenton and his family up to the time of his death in 1884. Today it still stands, serving as a museum and the home of the Fenton Historical Society.

Hall also was responsible for many of the downtown buildings and landmarks that were built during Jamestown’s boom years during the late 19th and early 20th century. His work included the original City Hall building, the Sherman house, the Prendergast building, the New Gifford building, the Wellman buildings several local churches, along with many notable mansions and residences that still stand today. He also did considerable architectural work in Randolph, Olean and Warren, Pa.

In addition to work as an architect, Hall held the office of Ellicott Highway Commissioner for 12 years and in 1882 and 1883 he was a Jamestown village board member. He was also long-time Mason.

Hall died in April 4, 1911 at the age of 81. More about Aaron Hall

No. 200 – Obed Edson

Obed Edson (1832 – 1919)

Obed Edson was born February 18, 1832 in Sinclairville. His father was the Hon. John M. Edson – a native of Madison county who came with the family of Samuel Sinclair to settle Sinclairville in 1810.

Edson obtained a good education at the common schools in Sinclairville and at the Fredonia Academy. In 1851 he commenced the study of law at Sinclairville, and in 1853 attended the Albany Law University. He was admitted to the bar April 8, 1853 and returned to Sinclairville to practice law.

Edson also had experience as a surveyor and a civil engineer also, having assisted in the survey of several railroads in New York and Pennsylvania.

At the age of 22, Edson was elected for two years as Superintendent of the Common Schools and in 1856 was chosen Justice of the Peace. He also served as Justice of Sessions of the county and town Supervisor. In 1874 he was elected to the New York State Assembly, despite being a democrat in a heavily-favored republican district.

As a member of the state legislature, he worked diligently on writing a law allowing for the establishment of incorporated community libraries outside of large cities. Under his act, many libraries were created throughout New York State.

Obed Edson also devoted considerable and invaluable attention to local historical research, including the history of the Chautauqua Region prior to being settled in the early 19th century. He contributed to several local history books, including Young’s “History of Chautauqua County, N.Y.” and “Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Chautauqua County.” Edson died Nov. 22, 1919 at the age of 87.

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 or contact your local historical society.

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