Biography of Stephen F. Curtiss

Curtiss, Stephen F., was born in the town of Le Roy, N. Y., September 6, 1824, a son of Azor and Catherine (Fowler) Curtiss, who were natives of Vermont and Connecticut respectively. His mother was a daughter of Thomas Fowler, and sister of Dr. Stephen, who emigrated to Little Sandusky, Ohio, about 1814. His brother's wife was a cousin of Gen. Robert E. Lee. This branch of the family all went to Ohio. Azor Curtiss came to Genesee county, N. Y., in 1812, settling just east of the village of Le Roy, near the old Ganson Hotel. Here he purchased a tract of land and put up a blacksmith shop, where he carried on business for several years, then moved to Stafford, but returned to Le Roy two years later and opened a furnace. He ran this for a couple of years, across the road from the old Ganson House, and then started two furnaces, one of which was on the site of the Episcopal church and the other on the site of John Maloney's grocery store; he also started one at Richville. He carried on this business for a number of years and finally sold out and lived retired until his death, which occurred about 1888. He was inspector of elections for a number of years, was quite prominent in his day and a man who had the respect of all who knew him; he was a prominent Mason, was high priest of his chapter for a time, and a Scottish rite Mason; he was here during the famous Morgan excitement. He was the father of eleven children by his first wife and eight by his second; four of the former and four of the latter are living. Stephen F. Curtiss was raised on a farm, educated in the district schools and worked for his father in the furnaces until nineteen years of age, first as an employee, working his way through the different positions until he had charge of the factory, turning out twenty parlor stoves and ten cook stoves daily. He continued this business until the factory was sold, when he went on the road selling stoves. He later went to Canada. making a set of patterns which he took with him, and had his stoves made there to save duty. He remained in Canada eighteen months, where he was very successful. He then bought a farm five miles from Le Roy in the town of Bergen, and farmed it twelve years, when he returned to Le Roy and purchased a store and was engaged in dealing in barley, oats, corn, wool and all kinds of produce and agricultural implements and bought and packed pork every fall. He also owned and conducted a lumber yard for over twenty-five years, doing an immense business. In 1889 he sold out and has since been retired from active business, having accumulated a competency, and is now living to enjoy the fruits of his industry. Mr. Curtiss held the office of justice of the peace eleven years in Bergen and eight years in Le Roy. He purchased a farm of 136½ acres in Le Roy, which be now ]ooks after. The Curtiss family is well known in Genesee county and Mr. Curtiss has long been identified as one, of the most substantial and worthy citizens of the town of Le Roy. He was made a Mason in November, 1846, in the old round house temple at Le Roy. and is the oldest living Mason in Western New York; he was acting master of his lodge, has been high priest of his chapter for thirteen years and has held all the subordinate offices in both lodge and chapter, and every year of his office has made an address, which has been copied in the minute book of his chapter and in newspapers; he has been very active in both Blue Lodge and Chapter and is one of the best known Masons in Western New York. We copy here a part of his address, delivered to Le Roy Chapter No. 183, December 7, 1896, paying tribute to two of his most devoted comrades and brothers: "Early in our Masonic career we were taught that the cradle and the coffin stand in juxtaposition to each other, and that the moment we begin to live that moment we begin to die. Although during the past year the dread messenger has not frequently called for those who were members of our chapter and prominent in our councils, yet remembering that he regards neither age, talent, or condition, that he enters the palatial residence as well as the humble home, and in every instance takes those whom we love and honor, let us offer a fraternal tribute to the memory of our companions who have laid aside the tools of their operative labors and have gone to their reward. Companion George A. Rathbun joined Le Roy Chapter July 20, 1866, and died September 28, 1896. He was born in Le Roy and when a young man moved with his father's family to Ridgeway, Pa., where he devoted himself to his profession, that of law. He was highly esteemed and was elected to various offices of trust by his friends. His friendships were constant; his devotion to Masonry was sincere, and his loss a severe one to the fraternity and especially to Le Roy Chapter. Companion William Huvck joined Le Roy Chapter February 3, 1865, and on the 3d day of August, 1896, we heard the inevitable tidings that one more companion had passed to the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns. The first feeling is one of sadness, a pang of personal loss: we start unconsciously when gathered in our accustomed places, we look for his familiar face, we wait patiently with the faint hope that he, always punctual, may for this nightat least, be detained for a short time. Companions, many times have I entered this hall happy and cheerful, eager for the hearty hand shake and words of welcome which I invariably received, and now see only the vacant seat and miss the familiar face. The sad realization comes, no matter how well we have been prepared, like a sudden shock. Here it is that we have met together for many happy hours; here it is that our lives have been slowly welded together in one beautiful mould as it were; and here it is that we must recognize the loss of our departed companion, and here it is that the bonds of union should strengthen our love for each other, sanctified by that deeper love for his that is gone. Having known Companion Huyck from boyhood and always on familiar terms, and traveled miles together, always enjoying each other's confidences and secrets, I probably knew him better than any other man; and I can truthfully say that no honester man or more sincere Mason ever crossed the threshold to the door of our chapter. I cannot say and I will not say, that he is dead; he is just away, with a cheery smile and a wave of hand, he has wandered into an unknown land, and left us dreaming how very fair it needs must be since he lingers there. Now, companions, as I retire from this high and honorable office to again to take my place in the rank and file of the craft, I feel it my duty to express to you an abiding sense of profound gratitude for the honor that you conferred upon me and the many courtesies and your hearty cooperation. You as officers and companions have in keeping the morality and character of your chapter. You should see to it that none but good men and true are permitted to pass the outer courts of the sanctuary, and when they having conceived a high and exalted opinion of our ancient and time honored fraternity are permitted to pass through our forms and ceremonies, you are hereby charged not to permit the ceremonies or any part thereof to be marred with levity or anything that would cause offense to the most fastidious; but on the contrary, to exemplify your work in the most solemn and impressive manner and prove to the candidate that the object of Masonry is to elevate man, not to degrade him, but make him think better of himself, his neighbor, his family and his God. Then will he have a higher and more exalted opinion of Masonry, be an esteemed friend and worthy companion. With the exception of the church, there is probably no institution on earth that so surely and constantly accompanies the progress of industry and civilization as that of Masonry; wherever its seats are established there is the greater assurance of just and equitable government, business honor and personal integrity, and of domestic virtue and general happiness. With what honest pride and sincere satisfaction must these observations fill the breasts of all true and zealous craftsmen; for wherever it is established social enjoyment and commercial safety can be regarded as secure in the largest sense that is possible to human nature. Let us always, therefore, by moral deportment, manly dignity and prudent zeal, earnestly devote our best energies to its maintenance and advancement, then will we be better fitted for that house not made with hands eternal in the Heavens. Let us as we start for our homes go out of this chapter fully determined to redouble our assiduity in the cause of cap itular Masonry, taking with us the pick of renewed zeal, the crow of a uniform work and the spade of united effort; then will we be fully prepared to remove the rubbish lying about our chapter and then our brethren of the symbolic degrees, seeing our increasing activity, will hasten to become Royal Arch Masons and assist in the great and glorious work of rebuilding our mystic temple without the hope of fee or reward. Then, and then only, can we justly claim the noble name of Mason; then, and then only, can we appropriate to ourselves the proud title of a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. Now, companions, as you go home to your dwellings, bearing my gratitude for your good behavior in your journey through life, let all hearts be swelling with hopes of distinction and prospects of pleasure." On April 23, 1846, Mr. Curtiss married Sallie Stevens; they have one daughter living, L. Josephine, who is not married and lives with her father; and two grandchildren, daughters of Elsie C. Curtiss Lewis; their names are Virginia M. Lewis and Louisa Josephine Lewis, one aged sixteen and the other eleven, and they are living at home with their father, Alva W. Lewis.

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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