Biography of William Eaton Babcock

Babcock, William Eaton. Mention is made of this family in the earliest history of New England. Tradition and national record have handed down a knowledge of James Babcock, the founder of the family in the United States. He was born in Essex, England, about 1580, was one of the Pilgrims, and in 1620 removed with his family to Leyden, Holland, to emigrate with that body to America. He embarked in the ship Anne early in 1623, arriving in Plymouth, Mass., in July, where he lived the remainder of his life. He had four children. John. the second son, removed with a number of others, in 1648, into that part of Rhode Island now called Westerly, where the company made a settlement, and where he lived until his death, July 19, 1719, aged over 100 years. He left ten children, whose descendants in 1860 numbered over 5,000. (1) John was the first magistrate chosen in Westerly and held that office for many years. He owned nearly all of Westerly and a part of South Kingston, and much of this land is now in possession of his descendants, having been in the family over two hundred years. Many of the members of the Babcock family took an active part in the French and Revolutionary wars. Henry, born in 1733, was a colonel in the British service; he commanded a regiment in the French war and was wounded at the battle of Ticonderoga; during the Revolutionary war he was a general in the State troops of Rhode Island and distinguished himself on many occasions. Oliver, another member of the family, was a captain in the Revolutionary war; he was at the siege of Fort Washington on the Hudson, and was so indignant at the surrender of that post by the colonel in command that he broke his sword across a cannon, declaring that it should never be yielded to the British. Reuben Babcock, another member of the family, born at Voluntown, Conn., March 2, 1758 (grandfather of the subject of this sketch), also served as private and sergeant in the Revolutionary war; he was the youngest of a family of seven, whose parents were married in 1733; in. 1789 he married Hannah Hendricks and settled in Petersburg, Rensselaer county, N. Y. where he resided until 1796, when he moved to Poestenkill in the same county; there he bought a farm on which he lived the rest of his life, dying February 24, 1849, aged ninety-one years. Reuben, jr., was the oldest of a family of six; he was born in Petersburg, October 24, 1789; early in 1809 he was a sergeant in the militia, in 1811 he was made a lieutenant, and in February, 1812, at the age of twenty-two, he was made a captain. In June following the war of 1812 was declared, and in January, 1813, he was appointed brevet captain for the purpose of raising a uniformed rifle company; in this he was successful, and received a commission as captain thereof in March, 1814; in July following his company stood a draft, and not being among the number drawn he volunteered to go asa substitute, acting as first lieutenant and serving until the close of hostilities. About 1860 he received a warrant for 160 acres of land and money to pay for clothing used in the service. Thus, at the age of twenty-four, with one brevet he held four commissions. In 1810 he married Susanna M. Gould, of English parentage, who was born in Woodstock, Conn., May 10, 1790. They were the parents of twelve children; two died in infancy and ten lived past middle age. Their names were Eliza, Cynthia, Harry, Samantha, William E., Lucy, Mary, Amanda M., Sarah and Charles. The family moved to Troy, N. Y., early in 1831, and in the fall of 1833 moved to Pembroke, Genesee county, N. Y. He bought a farm and also carried on the business of builder until he was appointed postmaster at East Pembroke in 1853, which office he held for over eight years, and though a strong Democrat he was one of the first to buy a flag and unfurl it at the breaking out of the Civil war. He was several times elected to town offices. He died February 15, 1877, aged eighty-seven years and nearly four months. Susanna M. (Gould) Babcock, his wife, was seventh in a family of twelve children, eleven of whom were the parents of 101 children, and about 1840-50 ten of those families lived in the town of Pembroke. She was of a retiring disposition; her great industry and perseverance were marked in caring for her large family; she early joined the Baptist church and taught her children to attend church regularly, and before they left the parental home nearly all of them were members or became members soon after. Her death occurred on August 30, 1860, at the age of seventy years, three months and twenty days. William Eaton Babcock was born in Poestenkill, N. Y., November 27, 1818. At the age of thirteen hehad studied only Webster's Spelling Book and taken a six weeks' course in Murray's Grammar. At that age he began daily work, and for two seasons he was a member of a gang of thirty men in Troy. At the age of fifteen he moved with the family to Pembroke, where, during the first three months of his residence, he "finished" his education by taking a course in arithmetic and reading in a backwoods school house, but with a most excellent teacher, whose wages were $14 per mouth and board himself. From fifteen to twenty-one he worked with his father at catpentering and farming; at his majority he continued as a contractor and builder for several years; among the contracts he executed were the Rural Seminary, hotel, Baptist church, flouring mill and stores, and many private residences and other buildings. During this time he was carrying on the business of making flour barrels, giving employment to from five to ten men for several years. In 1858 he originated and carried on with success the business of manufacturing shingles and barrel headings; this continued five years, shipping many cars each year to eastern markets, and now, forty years after, the business is still profitable. During this time he was also engaged in bridge building; among others of lesser note he built four across the Tonawanda for the towns of Pembroke and Batavia. two being of ninety feet, one of one hundred feet, single span, and one of one hundred and thirty-five feet, two spans. In 1879 he became proprietor of the East Pembroke custom an& merchant flouring mill. In 1882 he rebuilt the building, substituting a frame for the stone wall of which it was originally built. In 1889 he put in an entire new set of roller process flour machinery, of fifty barrels daily capacity, taking entire charge of remodeling and doing the work except wherein the head miller assisted. In March, 1892, he exchanged the mill for a farm, and since then has devoted his attention to farming; in earlier years he had owned and held interests in several farms. Mr. Babcock has several times been elected to town offices. With all whom he has employed and in all the contracts he has executed, no controversy has arisen; and in the public work, after the price was agreed upon, no writings were required. He makes no pretensions in literature, but has written articles upon publie and business matters, which have appeared in Chicago, Buffalo and New York publications and local papers, many of them being without name or hint as to authorship. He was a Democrat, but has been a Republican since the organization of that party.

(1) Albert Wells, New York city.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Genesee County, New York
Edited by: F. W. Beers
J.W. Vose & Co., Publishers, Syracuse, N. Y. 1890



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