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.
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.