Col. Robert P. Grant. - One of the most prominent figures in the financial and industrial life of Jefferson
County during the early days was Colonel Grant, who was founder and cashier for many years of the National Exchange
Bank of Clayton, and he was also president of the State Dairy Board of Trade. Colonel Grant was born at Neversink,
Sullivan County, N. Y., May 6, 1844.
The Grant family is of Scotch origin, and proof that its members still maintain the qualities of the ancestral
stock is attested by the career of Colonel Grant, whose attainment to prominence and success in life was due to
unflagging industry and indomitable resolution. Col. Robert P. Grant, namesake of his paternal grandfather, was
a second cousin of the illustrious Ulysses S. Grant. He was reared to a life of industry and acquired the fundamentals
of an education in the district schools, afterward managing to obtain two winter's tuition in the high school,
and this preparation, with his natural ability and subsequent attainments, proved an ample equipment for the duties
of a stirring and useful life.
After leaving school, Robert P. Grant was employed as clerk in a store at a wage of 25 cents a day, boarding himself.
It was later increased to 50 cents per day and by close economy Mr. Grant saved enough money to purchase some sheep,
adding to his flock from time to time as his increase would permit, until at the end of five years he sold out
and found himself in possession of a capital amounting to $500. He then learned the tanner's trade in which he
was employed in 1863, when he temporarily abandoned his work to respond to the call of his country. He enlisted
in Company 6, 92nd Regiment. When the rebel general moved up the Shenandoah Valley in the invasion of Pennsylvania
in 1864, Capt. Grant participated with his regiment in a movement to the state line. He displayed fine soldierly
qualities during his service, and in 1865 he was promoted to the colonelcy of the regiment, although he was its
youngest commissioned officer. After his return from military service, Col. Grant, with two others, purchased the
tannery in which he had served his apprenticeship, but a year later relinquished the business to engage in farming
and storekeeping in Neversink.
In 1869 he removed to Hawkersville, N. Y., where he conducted a store. In 1871 he went to Cameron County, Pa.,
where he bought the bark on a 10,000 acre tract, and also erected a tannery which he operated until 1874. In that
year he disposed of his holdings and with a capital of a few thousand dollars went to Fort Madison, Iowa, where
in association with State Senator Kent, he founded in 1875 the Farmers and Mechanics Bank. The business did not
satisfy and he sold his bank stock and came the following year to Clayton, N. Y., where with A. F. Barker he established
the Bank of Clayton, which four years later was reorganized under the same name and under the state banking system.
In 1884 Colonel Grant bought the bank interest and with 50 others organized the Exchange Bank, an institution which
under his direction gained success beyond all expectations and afforded opportunity for expansion. In 1897 he brought
about a reorganization with 120 stockholders, and January 1st following, he placed the bank under the national
banking system as The National Exchange Bank of Clayton, with a capital of $50,000 and a surplus at that time of
From the founding of the new bank until his death, Oct. 22, 1918, Col. Grant occupied the two-fold position of
cashier and general manager of the institution and was also one of its largest stockholders. He was a member of
the National Bankers Association. He enjoyed a wide acquaintance with state and national legislators, with whom
he consulted frequently with reference to financial and economic questions. He was also actively interested in
the industrial life of the community and state and was recognized as a leader in the bringing of dairying and its
interests to their present importance. About 1893 he became interested in cheese manufacturing, and was instrumental
in the building of several factories in this section. As president of the Watertown Produce Exchange he procured
the enactment of various constructive laws. In 1901 his long continued efforts resulted in the formation of the
State Dairy Board, of which he was elected President.
Colonel Grant was elected supervisor in 1901 but refused the election in 1902 at an entertainment given at Thousand
Island Park by Jefferson County to the State Board of Charities. Colonel Grant was chosen by the Board of Supervisors
to deliver an address of welcome to the visitors.
During his business career Colonel Grant also conducted a large and profitable insurance business at Clayton.
Colonel Grant was married on Sept. 14, 1870, to Miss Lettie C. Hayes, who is deceased. She was the daughter of
the late Daniel Hayes, of Hawkinsvile, N. Y. Colonel and Mrs. Grant's son is Robert D. Grant, who is executive
vice president of the First National Exchange Bank of Clayton.
Colonel Grant was affiliated with Clayton Lodge F. & A. M. No. 296; Clayton Chapter R. A. M. No. 301; Watertown
Commandery K. T. No. 11; Central City Consistory, 32nd degree; and Clayton Grange No. 647. He was a Republican
in politics. He also was treasurer of the Anglers of the St. Lawrence River, and president of the Thousand Island
The North Country
A History, Embracing
Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Oswego, Lewis
and Franklin Counties, New York.
By: Harry F. Landon
Historical Publishing Company
Indianopolis, Indiana 1932
Jefferson County, NY
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