Biography of Willaim W. Taggart


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WILLAM W. TAGGART, who for a period of forty years has been closely associated with many of the best industrial enterprises of Jefferson county, and the founder of several of them, was born in Le Ray, December 28, 1825. His grandfather was Joseph Taggart, a pioneer in the Black River country, who came to the region with his family during the early years of the century. Henry Taggart, son of the pioneer, married with Julina Dighton, daughter of John Dighton, an early settler in Pamelia. In Henry Taggart’s family were eight children, among whom William was the fourth. His father died when William was about twelve years old, and the latter, after attaining his fifteenth year, practically made his own way in life. His early education was acquired in the common schools and the academies at Evans’ Mills, Gouverneur and Watertown. In 1846 he entered Wesleyan University, at Middletown, Conn., and was graduated in 1849. He then went west and remained a few years, but determining to enter professional life, he returned home and studied law in the office of Mullin & Merwin. He was admitted to practice in 1856, and soon afterward began professional work at Terre Haute, Ind., where he lived, except for a short time spent in ‘Watertown, a little less than two years.

About this time circumstances at home required his return to the East, and he again took up his abode on the old farm in Le Ray, from which town in 1859 he was elected to the Assembly, serving during the legislative session of 1860. In the following year, on December 19, Mr. Taggart was married with Susan S. Lee, daughter of Daniel Lee, who was a prominent man and public official of the county seat. After marriage Mr. Taggart began law practice in Watertown in the office of David M. Bennett, but in 1863 the latter was elected surrogate, and two years later Mr. Taggart became special surrogate, succeeding Judge Sawyer, resigned. In the fall of 1867 he was elected surrogate of the county, and served in that capacity two terms, one of four and one of six years.

During this period of professional work, both in the office and on the bench of the Surrogate’s Court, Mr. Taggart became eligible to still higher positions of trust in political affairs, but circumstances, aided perhaps by personal inclination, drew him away from the office and turned his energies in another direction. In 1866 a company was organized for the manufacture of manila paper, the first enterprise of its kind on the river. The leading spirits of the undertaking were George West, Lewis Palmer, Byron B. and William W. Taggart. The industry was established and put into successful operation, but after a short time Mr. West sold out to his associates and a Mr. Davis, by whom the business was continued about five years, when Byron B. and William W. Taggart became sole proprietors, thus originating the flrm of ‘Faggart Brothers, which was afterward So conspicuously and prominently identified with many of the most extensive and successful manufacturing enterprises in the Black River region until the death of Byron B. Taggart, January 20, 1897.

In all their various enterprises, under whatever name or form of organization, these brothers worked in perfect harmony in a common interest, Byron (to use his brother’s own language) taking a leading and conspicuous part. In 1886, for business convenience, the old firm of Taggart Brothers was converted into a stock company, under the style of Taggart Brothers Company, and at the same time Henry W. Taggart and George C. Sherman (son and son-in-law of W. W. Taggart) were taken into the concern. This arrangement of the business enabled William W. Taggart to indulge himself in the pleasures and benefits of travel, both at home and abroad. Indeed, since 1878 Mr. Taggart has been an extensive traveler, visiting at different times all the countries of Europe, including a journey to the North Cape. He has traveled all northern Africa from Morocco to Egypt, including a trip up the Nile to the first cataract. His travels in his own country have embraced all the States and principal cities of the Union, and the Province of Canada, including also a trip to Alaska, to Mexico and to Cuba. He enjoys the pleasant distinction of having encirc1ed the globe, the journey having been leisurely made, occupying nearly a year, and including visits to all the oriental countries along the route of travel—Japan, China, the English Straits settlement, Ceylon and India; and on his return visiting Constantinople, Greece and Sicily.

In addition to the partnership enterprises previously mentioned Mr. Taggart has been connected with other business undertakings, which have contributed in a good degree to the distinction Watertown enjoys in being the most important industrial city in northern New York. In organizing the Taggart Paper Company, a successful enterprise at Felt’s Mills, he took a leading part. Indeed, no worthy enterprise has been suggested to promote the welfare of the city and county in which he has not been in some manner interested, and in all his professional and business career no public or private charity ever appealed to him in vain. For many years he was a director of the National Union Bank, and is now its president. He is also President of the Watertown Savings Bank, the Taggart Paper Company and the Taggart Brothers Company, succeeding to these positions on the death of his brother, B. B. Taggart,

Mr. Taggart began business life with small means, and his enterprise and sagacity have been rewarded with a financial fabric of large proportions. In politics he was originally a Whig, but later an earnest Republican.

Mr. Taggart’s domestic life, with the exception of the loss of his wife, who died August 20, 1866, has been entirely pleasant. His children, with whom he divides his time at home, are Alice L., wife of George C. Sherman, and Henry W. Taggart, secretary, treasurer and general manager of the Taggart Brothers Company. For thirty years Mr. Taggart has been a member of the Presbyterian church.

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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