Biography of Philip D. Riley


Riley, Philip D., Holland, was born in Litchfield, Conn., April 24, 1810, and was the youngest but one of a family of six sons, three of whom are still living. His father, James Riley, was born in New Jersey, his mother, Anna Osborn, in Connecticut, and were both of New England Puritan stock. The family while living in Litchfield was a regular attendant, and the mother a member, of Dr. Lyman Beecher's church. In 1818 the family moved to the town of Sheldon, then a part of Genesee county, making the entire journey in a covered emigrant wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen. Having bought a farm, the father built a log house and settled down to farming, which he pursued for four or five years, when the mother died and the family was broken up, the father returning to New Jersey. Philip remained in Sheldon six years, living with a neighbor for whom he worked on a farm, attending the district school in the winter. He then went to the town of Aurora, Erie county, where his older brother, Aaron, was engaged in trade in a general country store in what is now the village of East Aurora, where for several terms he attended an academic or high school, paving his way and clothing himself by doing chores and clerking in a store for Hon. Joseph Howard, a man then prominent in business and political circles of Erie county, under a written contract by which "the party of the second part shall receive $50 a year and doctor's bill to the amount of $5." At the completion of this contract Philip applied to the Board of School Commissioners for a license to teach school, passed an examination and received a certificate signed by a future president of the United States, Millard Fillmore, he being one of the examining board. Mr. Riley has preserved this certificate with great care as one of his choicest possessions. After four months' term of "keeping school" he laid aside the ferule and resumed his clerkship with Mr. Howard, in which position he remained until 1832, when he went to the village of Holland to open and conduct a store as partner of Mr. Howard. Within a year he bought out Mr. Howard's interest in the business and for upwards of twenty years thereafter he carried on the business alone, besides engaging largely in farming, growing wool and dealing in cattle and horses and other live stock. In 1852-3 he retired from trade and his other more active business and gave his whole time to the care and management of his large landed and monetary interests. In 1835 he married Miss Elsie Peck. daughter of Capt. Thomas and. Sarah Deming Peck of Lima, Livingston county, N. Y., who is still living. They had one child, a son, who died several years ago. Mr. Riley was appointed sergeant-major in the 174th Regt. and afterwards promoted by the governor to adjutant, which office he held to the close of the Patriot War. He was formerly a Whig but subsequently allied himself with the Democratic party, with which he has acted continuously to the present day, always voting a "straight ticket." Although never a politician, he always took and still takes a lively interest in the political questions of the day; was the party candidate for several State offices and for several years in succession rep.resented the town of Holland on the Board of Supervisors. He aided largely by his influence and means the projection and completion of the B., N. Y. & P. Railroad, in which at one time he was an extensive stockholder; was instrumental in establishing the Bank of Holland, in which he holds a large amount of stock, and also contributed liberally to the establishment of other local business and manufacturing enterprises. He never speculated. By his industry, energy and economy he has accumulated an ample fortune, owning now about 1,500 acres of land, together with stocks, State and National bonds and other securities.

Our County and its people
A descriptive work on Erie County, New York
Edited by: Truman C. White
The Boston History Company, Publishes 1898


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