Biography of Walter Bicker Camp


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Camp, Walter Bicker —George Camp, father of the subject of this sketch, was born in the historic town of Glastonbury. Conn., August 8, 1790, and came to Sackets Harbor in the winter of 1816—17, where he established the first printing press and issued the first newspaper. “The Sackett’s Harbor Gazette.” In 1814 he married Elizabeth Hitchcock, formerly of Connecticut. then of Utica, N. Y. Walter B. Camp was born at Sackets Harbor, N. Y., October 1, 1822; he received an academic education in his own county and has always resided in Sackets Harbor, through its various changes until this date, 1897, being interested and identified with its progress and prosperity and always ready to help those who are worthy of such assistance. Mr. Camp has always been loyal to his native place and it has been his ruling passion that it may advance into importance, such as its natural surroundings seem to justify. The commercial and military spirit in this locality was so happily combined and each of foremost importance that Mr. Camp imbibed its influence with the younger generation that stamped the earlier civil and military history of the village, and he has not ceased in his endeavors to save as far as possible the prestige of this historic locality. To that end all the enterprises that were calculated for its elevation obtained a large share of his time and means. The construction of the first railway, which extended from Sackets Harbor to Pierrepont Manor, enlisted his earnest endeavors, hoping for the completion and successful accomplishment of an enterprise that would retain the commercial importance hitherto enjoyed at the port of Sackets Harbor. About the sum of $400000 was spent in its construction by the enterprising citizens of this town, Henderson and Ellisburg, to which Mr. Camp was no small contributor and acted in the capacity of custodian and local director for two years before it became extinct, affected largely by unfriendly influences of the officials of the railway with which it made connections. That portion of his means realized from the sale of the above railway was donated by Col. Camp to the Presbyterian church society, as a perpetual fund for the purchase of books for the Sunday school library and for repairs of the church edifice. When the war of the Rebellion broke out, Col. Camp was chosen by Gov. Morgan to manage the direction of the military depot to be opened at Madison Barracks, Sackets Harbor, N. Y., and appointed him to that command with the rank of colonel, October 17, 1861. Co]. Camp considered the appointment not only complimentary, but almost obligatory because unsolicited. He entered at once upon his duties and in twenty-four hours one company had been enrolled into the service and in eighteen days the 94th Infantry, N. Y. Vols., had perfected its organization and moved from camp March 14, 1863, reaching Albany the following day. Col. Camp went with them to the capital; Gov. Morgan called upon the colonel the same day and complimented him, saying “be was proud of the 94th Regiment, that it had given him little or no trouble during its organization, was composed of splendid material, was in magnificent form and discipline, had been recruited and maintained at $20,000 less expense than any like regiment in the State, and instead of losing nearly thirty men, had a gain of two upon leaving camp.” This depot now being established, it became the active center for enlistments and organization of volunteer regiments during the war. The 10th H. A., N. Y. Vols., was at once organized and Col. Camp was appointed the town of Hounsfield war committee, and with Senator Bell of Brownsville, took the quotas of that town and Hounsfield and formed the company commanded by Capt. H. O. Gilmore. After the war Gen. Sherman was disposed to abolish the post here, there being no railway for the effective transportation of troops. To meet this objection measures were taken at once to extend the Utica and Black River Railway to Sackets Harbor. Col. Camp was untiring in his efforts to prevent the removal of this military station, and to secure the completion of the road, meetings were held in the towns on the contemplated route, and with the hearty co-operation of the enterprising citizens secured the completion of the road in 1873. During the occupancy of the barracks by Gen. Ayers, the north half of the officers’ quarters was burned; Gen, Sherman wasopposed to any outlay, but with the valuable influeuce of Congressman Bagley, Col. Camp succeeded in securing an appropriation of $25,000 to rebuild the quarters. Unfavorable influences continued to operate for years, until Gen. Grant was seen by Col. Camp, with whom for a long time he had retained an intimate acquaintance; with his proffered and valuable services in presenting to Gen. Sherman the desirability of retaining the military station here, there came a marked change and from that time Madison Barracks has received the attention from the government that its important position demands. Upon the arrival here of Gen. Sherman with the 12th U. S. Infantry, under the command of Gen. Wilcox, he expressed himself captivated with the location. Since then Madison Barracks have been progressing, first under Gen. Wilcox, and other commanders, and now in 1897 is one of the most complete in reservations in the service. In this matter Col. Camp has been a thorough friend of the institution, and considers himself fortunate in having the acquaintance in the army and navy of many of its illustrious characters that have figured in the former and more recent history of our wars, being related to Admiral Foote and Commodore Hitchcock on his mother’s side, and upon his father’s side looks back to that most conspicuous member, Jonathan Hale, who sacrificed his life upon the altar of his country at Jamaica Plains, Boston, 1776. The descendants of the Hale family have left the footprints in the path of honor in deeds of patriotism and valor, at which he himself has contributed an honorable share, at which he has reason to look upon with a degree of satisfaction upon his own part in the role of honor; of services honestly and conscientiously rendered to the nation, to the State and his native town and village. In May, 1885, he was unanimously elected with thetitle and associate member of the military service institution of Governor’s Island, of which the late Gen. Hancock was president. Col. Camp continued the business his father had established after he disposed of the newspaper business in 1821, from 1850 until 1884. In the meantime Col. Camp traveled extensively upon the continent of Europe and far and wide over his native country bounded by the different oceans. In 1844 the family came into possession of the mansion and grounds formerly owned and occupied by Commodore Melancton T. Woolsey, aud although never married the colonel has entertained for many years with a refined and generous hospitality. In 1879 he completed the erection of a chapel which was presented as a Christmas gift to the Presbyterian society, with which he has been identified from infancy and for which he has retained an affectionate attachment. In this connection we cheerfully give space to his liberality in money, time, and supervision of construction of the tower of the Presbyterian church for the reception of a chime of nine bells given by Mrs. Marietta Pickering Hay of Tarrytown, to this historic village, as a living memorial of her father, Captain Augustus Pickering, who commanded the first vessel that ever entered the port of Chicago. He also was deeply interested in the Jefferson County Historical Society, of which he was the first vice-president. In 1885 he succeeded in securing as executor of the estate of the late Elisha Camp from the heirs, as a gift to the Jefferson County Historical Society and the village of Sackets Harbor, the old battle ground of several acres fronting on Black River Bay, where the first battle was fought between the Americans and British in the war of 1812—15 (earth works can be seen even to this day), which was dedicated with imposing ceremonies under the auspices of the 12th Infantry, U. S. A., G. A. R. organization, village authorities and representatives of Jefferson county and Oneida county, historical societies and gentlemen of this and neighboring counties of the State and Canada. He was elected president of the society in January, 1893. Colonel Camp has given much time to the study of aboriginal history of the county of Jefferson, upon which subject lie has written some valuable papers and has secured a choice selection of relics that characterize the race that occupied this locality and were extinct at the time of the advent of the white race to their shores, and which too has brought him in friendly relationship with the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, D. C., and other historical societies, which brought him in contact with many distinguished men of like tastes. Colonel Camp has an inherent talent for music; in visiting his delightful home we find it supplied with the accessories to give it expression. With one favorite instrument, however, he is better known in refined circles where he finds enjoyment in the concord of sweet sounds. A motto in the family is the following: “Whatever we possess is doubly valuable when we are so happy to share it with others.” It is pleasant to contemplate generous deeds so that when the donors pass away coming generations will arise and call them blessed.

Our County and it's people
A descriptive work on Jefferson County, New York
Edited by: Edgar C. Emerson
The Boston History Co., Publishers 1898

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