Biography of James Lawrence Alverson, LL. D.
FROM: History of Livingston County, New York
By James H. Smith
Assisted by Hume H. Cole
Published By D. Mason & Co. 1881


James Lawrence Alverson LL. D., was born in the town of Seneca, Ontario county, N. Y., Oct. 6, 1815. His father, Stephen Alverson, was the son of Uriah Alverson, who died in Cazenovia, N.Y., at the age of one hundred and two years, having lived an honored and useful life.

Stephen Alverson married Amy Smith, the daughter of David Smith, and to them were born ten children. After their marriage, they lived awhile in Utica, N. Y., where their eldest child, Richard, was born. They then removed to the residence of Mr. Smith in Seneca Falls, near Geneva, where their other children were born.

In 1818, Stephen Alverson removed to Perry, N. Y., which was then in the midst of a dense forest, and connected with neighboring places only by an Indian trail. Mr. Alverson was a pioneer, both at Seneca Falls and Perry. He and his family were
hardy and knew how to endure privation and toil. He and his wife were consistent Christians. She was distinguished for superior natural abilities, great discernment and practical wisdom.

Dr. Alverson was fortunate in having such parents, from whom he inherited a fine constitution, and under their training and example he was prepared for the noble and successful career he pursued. He remained with his parents on the farm in Perry till his eighteenth year when he became a student in Genesee Wesleyan Seminary. From his early childhood he manifested great love for study, and devoted all the time he could command, to reading. He was thoughtful and earnest in his inquiries, and his conduct was in every way becoming and exemplary. At the early age of eleven he became a member of the church. This course was then much more unusual than now. His mother regarded him as a Christian from the age of five years.

After completing his preparatory studies in the Seminary, he entered the Wesleyan University, at Middletown, Conn., from which he graduated with honor in 1838.

On the sixth of the following September he married Emily Bennett, the daughter of Jeremiah and Mary Bennett. She was descended from a hardy, pioneer family. Her grandfather, James Bennett, emigrated from Vermont to Genesee county when it was a wilderness, driving nine horses and a yoke of oxen the entire distance, over roads almost impassable. He was a good and influential man, and though a layman he established and conducted religious services in the community where he resided till the services of a clergyman could be obtained willing to share their hardships. Her parents were worthy people, highly respected and esteemed. Her father lived a life of strict integrity and usefulness, and her mother gave a noble example of cheerfulness, equanimity and self-deniaL

After his graduation, Dr. Alverson became the principal of an academy in Elmira, N. Y., and in 1841 a teacher in the Oneida Conference Seminary, now the Central New York Conference Seminary, located in Cazenovia, N. Y. In 1844 he became a teacher in Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, of which he became principal in 1847. From 1849, till his death, he was the Professor of Mathematics in Genesee College. In 1860 he received from his Alma Mater, Wesleyan University, the degree of LL. D., and at different times, from other sources, testimonials of the high respect in which he was held. He labored faithfully and earnestly in the discharge of his duties, and with increasing influence and fame. He held a high rank among the scholars and educators of the country. Having naturally a good constitution, his habits being regular, temperate and in every respect exemplary, he gave promise of a long life. Unfortunately he was led to make unusual exertions under unfavorable circumstances, and as a consequence he was violently seized by disease, and after a brief but very painful illness, he died, Sept. 12, 1864. His premature death caused a profound sensation, and cast a dark shadow of gloom over the literary institutions of Lima and the whole community. A large concourse of people, many coming from a distance, gathered at his funeral to show for him their respect and esteem. The sermon was preached by his intimate friend, Rev. Joseph Cummings, D. D., LL. D., President of the Wesleyan University, who as a former President of Genesee College, had been associated with him in his work in that institution and also in other difficult and very important works.

He died with a full and joyful assurance of the favor of the Redeemer, to whose service he had consecrated his life.

His Christian death was a fitting close to an honorable, useful, devoted life. Of him we may well say “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from henceforth: Yea! saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”

Dr. Alverson was a man of marked and varied abilities. His personal appearance was fine and indicative of true dignity and esthetic tastes. His habits and demeanor, even in minute things, were faultless. Whoever met him recognized him as a gentleman of refinement and culture. He had a lofty scorn of all that is low, mean and degrading. He was usually calm and had great self-control. Like all men of delicate feelings, he was retiring and reserved to all but intimate friends, hence he was often misunderstood, and termed cold and unfeeling; but when he was aroused by real distress and calamity to others, his flowing tears and strong emotions indicated a warm and noble heart. For years, with more than a woman’s tenderness and care, he cherished one bound to him by closest ties, who as an invalid was often helpless and endured much suffering, striving by personal attention to lessen her pain, disappointment and sorrow. He did not repine or become discouraged in adversity, but with cheerfulness used the good in the present and hoped for better fortune in the future.

He was cautious in forming his opinions but tenacious in retaining and firm in upholding them. He had great power over others, and great skill and tact in retaining his influence. As a citizen he favored all measures that were calculated to promote good order and improve the best interests of society. His personal efforts were untiring to secure these objects.

His life work was given to his profession as a teacher. For this he was well qualified by natural endowments and acquirements; and considering his methods and the results of his work he had few superiors.

His mental powers were harmoniously developed and their action was controlled by a sound judgment and the dictates of conscience. His life, passed in the quiet of scholarly and professional pursuits, presents no wonderful or startling incidents. Most well ordered and useful lives are of this character. They may not exhibit the brilliancy that attracts, but they are free from the errors
and indiscretions too often associated with genius. If there are no striking deeds that excite the admiration of friends, there are none that cause to them humiliation and shame while they give gladness and triumph to foes.

Dr. Alverson was not one of the multitude swayed by the will of the ambitious and selfish. He was an independent thinker and naturally a leader, exerting a powerful influence over others.

His work is not ended; his life is renewed in its transforming power over the lives of others. Though dead, he still speaks, and when his name shall no more be mentioned on earth it shall be remembered in Heaven.

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