A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, featuring Alvin Plumb (Jamestown), George Stoneman Sr. (Busti), General George Stoneman (Busti), Katherine Stoneman (Busti), and Mary Smith Lockwood (Hanover). Originally airing on local radio stations March 7 – March 11 2011.
No. 41 – Alvin Plumb
Alvin Plumb was born in Paris, N.Y. on Sept. 6, 1802. He came to Fredonia in 1816 with his elder brothers, Joseph Plumb and Ralph Plumb, who opened a store there. When he was about 24, He came to Jamestown and entered into general merchandising and the manufacture of pearl ashes.
He was an important member of the Jamestown community those early days. He was elected a village trustee upon the incorporation of Jamestown in 1827. For a time he also served as Postmaster. Later, he would be twice elected a member of the state assembly and was elected county clerk in 1843.
Plumb may be most noted in local history for building the first steamboat on Chautauqua Lake. A company was formed for this purpose and the side-wheel steamer known as Chautauqua commenced running from Mayville to Jamestown on July 4, 1828.
In 1830, Plumb went into the lumber business, moving to the “Jonathan Southland Farm,” between Jamestown and Kennedy, and erected mills near the mouth of Cassadaga Creek. He was married in 1835 to Mary Ann Davis of Westfield and together they had 5 children, although only three reached adulthood. Plumb moved to Westfield about 1845 and served as town supervisor on two separate occasions.
On Aug. 4, 1871, another steamboat, also named Chautauqua, was about to land at Mayville when her boiler exploded – killing eight people and severely wounding several others, including Plumb, who was crippled for the remainder of his life.He was a resident of Westfield until his death on May 13, 1877, age nearly 75.
No. 42 – George Stoneman
George Stoneman was born in Chenango County but came to the area of Busti during its early settlement. He lived near the waters of Chautauqua Lake and was a neighbor of Daniel Sherman, the first supervisor. For several years he was Justice of the Peace for Busti.
Stoneman is described as being somewhat eccentric. He built a sawmill just to the east of the present-day intersection of Routes 394 and 474, but there was no visible water power. Stoneman was often asked where he was going to get water, and he would say that he would haul it from the lake in corn baskets. But in actuality, Stoneman and a group of men constructed a race and for many years his mill would remain operational.
Another instance of Stoneman’s eccentricity could be found in a type of boat he had constructed. Stoneman constructed a horse-boat called “the Twins”, which was built upon two huge dug-out canoes. An immense horizontal wheel extended across the deck, upon which the horses traveled to power a shaft the spun a paddle wheel. His unique water vessel soon earned him the nickname of “Commodore Stoneman” from his neighbors and friends.
George Stoneman had two children who went on to make a name for themselves. His son, George Stoneman Jr., became a general of the United States army during the Civil War and later governor of California. Another son became a state senator out west. And one of the four daughters, Katherine Stoneman, went on to become the first woman lawyer in the State of New York.
No. 43 – Gen. George Stoneman
Stoneman studied at the Jamestown Academy and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1846. His roommate was future Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. His first assignment was with the 1st U.S. Dragoons, with which he served across the West and in California. After promotion to captain of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in March 1855, he served mainly in Texas until 1861.
At the start of the Civil War Stoneman was in command of Fort Brown, Texas and refused to surrender to confederate authorities. He escaped to the north with most of his command. In late 1862, Stoneman led the union Cavalry Corps and conducted raids into enemy territory, destroying supplies and gathering intelligence. However, he failed a key assignment to raid and disrupt the confederate army of Robert E. Lee during the Battle of Chancellorsville and the union army was defeated. Much of the blame was given to Stoneman and he sent to Washington.
General Stoneman soon returned to service, only to be captured by the enemy during the Atlanta Campaign, becoming the highest-ranking Union Prisoner of War. He was released after three months and continued service in the war, conducting various raids in Virginia and Tennessee. Following the defeat of the south, he was placed in charge of the occupation of Memphis, where riots broke out among the still rebellious citizens angry at the presence of black Federal soldiers. Stoneman was criticized for inaction and was investigated by a congressional committee, although he was exonerated.
Stoneman continued service in the Army until 1871 and then moved to California. He was a state railroad commissioner from 1876 to 1878. In 1882, he was elected governor of California as a Democrat and served a single four-year term. After his house was destroyed by fire, Stoneman was broken financially and in poor health. He returned to New York for medical treatment. He died in Buffalo on Sept. 5, 1894 following a stroke. His body was returned to Chautauqua County and buried in the Bentley Cemetery, Lakewood.
No. 44 – Katherine Stoneman
Katherine “Kate” Stoneman, a native of Busti, was the first woman admitted to practice law in New York. She was born in April 1841 on the Stoneman farm in Busti. She grew up on the farm but left for Albany in 1864 to attend the New York State Normal College, pursuing her ambition to graduate from a teacher’s college.
While a student in Albany, she worked as a copyist for the state reporter of the Court of Appeals. She graduated in 1866 and began a teaching career that spanned 40 years.
Her interest in studying law began when she was designated executrix of her great aunt’s estate. In 1882, she began a clerkship in the office of an Albany attorney. After three years of studying the law, Stoneman took the New York State Bar Examination in 1885, becoming the first woman to pass. But her application to join the bar was rejected because of her gender. She then launched a successful campaign to amend the Code of Civil Procedure to permit the admission of qualified applicants without regard to sex or race. On May 20, 1886, with the new legislation in hand, Stoneman reapplied for admission to the bar. It was accepted and she became New York’s first woman lawyer. Twelve years later, at age 57, Stoneman became the first woman graduate of Albany Law School.
In addition to her careers as a teacher and attorney, Stoneman also had an interest in women’s suffrage and helped to form the Woman’s Suffrage Society of Albany. In 1918, as a poll watcher in Albany city elections, Stoneman saw New York’s women vote for the first time.
Kate Stoneman died on May 19, 1925 at the age of 84. She is buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery.
No. 45 – Mary S. Lockwood
Mary Smith Lockwood was born in the area of Smith Mills in the Town of Hanover in 1831. She was the daughter of Henry Smith and Beulah Blodgett Smith and the granddaughter of Isaac Smith, the original settler from whose mill the sparse little community takes its name. She grew up in Smith Mills and became very interested in education. Once she became an adult she taught school in Brocton.
After her marriage to Henry Lockwood of Silver Creek, the couple eventually settled in Washington, D.C. where she became interested in some of the progressive movements of the time. She espoused the cause of women’s rights and was a close friend and adviser of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
As a newspaper contributor, Smith Lockwood wrote often on the subject of woman’s rights and began to subtly sow the seed which was germinating in her mind and which was one day to blossom in the founding of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1890. For this reason, she was known as the Pen Founder of the Organization. The first meeting was held in October 1890 in Mrs. Lockwood’s home.
Smith Lockwood would become a well-known Washington hostess and many of the Capital’s most distinguished persons, as well as international guests, were familiar figures in her home. She also found time to write two notable books – “Historic Homes of Washington” and “Hand Book of Ceramic Art.”
Mary Smith Lockwood died in 1922 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. A memorial boulder and plaque commemorating Smith Lockwood was placed at the four corners of Smith Mills in 1940 with several hundred people in attendance.
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