Biography of Captain James S. Abeel
Oneida County, NY Biographies





For more than a half century the name of Captain James S. Abeel was on the list of the United States soldiers and army officers, and at the time of his death he was the oldest commissioned army officer in the country. He held to the highest ideals in his relation to the service and he displayed, too, those social qualities which made him popular with officers and men and those who met him in social relations. Family records indicate that the first representative of the name in America was Christopher James Abeel, who was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1621, and sailed from his native land to the new world in 1657. He settled first at Fort Orange, now Albany, New York, where he engaged in trade for the Dutch & West Indies Company. He was the father of Johannes Abeel who served as the second mayor of the city of Albany and for several years was city reporter. He was the father of David Abed, who was a merchant and for some time was assessor of New York city. James Abeel, the son of David, espoused the cause of the colonies during the Revolutionary war and did active duty with the American army throughout the struggle for independence, becoming deputy quartermaster on the staff of General Washington under General Greene.

John N. Abeel, son of James Abeel and the father of Captain J. S. Abed, of this review, was born in New York city in 1769, and was graduated from Princeton College in 1787. In early manhood he read law and subsequently studied theology. He became a tutor at Princeton College and devoted his attention to teaching until licensed to preach in 1793, when he allied himself with the Reformed Dutch church of New York city, continuing his ministry there until his death, which occurred in 1812. He was widely recognized as an eminent divine and in 1804 Harvard College conferred upon him the D. D. degree. In the same year he was associated with eleven others in founding the New York Historical Society. He was married, January 29, 1794, to Miss Mary Stille, who died January 13, 1826.

Captain James Abeel, son of the Rev. John N. and Mary Abeel, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 15, 1795, and pursued his education in the grammar and select schools of New York city under Arthur Stansbury and John Borland. Upon the death of his father in 1812 he entered the counting house of Robert Lenox and soon afterward joined the United States army and was assigned to duty on the Niagara frontier, being thus engaged during the war of 1812. On the 3d of May, 1813, he was commissioned as third lieutenant and on the 20th of February, 1815, received from President James Madison a commission which made him first lieutenant of the Twenty third Regiment of Infantry, to rank from October 1, 1814, at which time he and General J. A. Dix were the youngest officers of the army. Lieutenant Abeel was present at the battle of Fort Erie and the capture of Fort George, and was wounded at the battle of Lundy's Lane. Following cessation of hostilities in 1815 he was retained as second lieutenant with brevet of first lieutenant, and was transferred to the Fourth Artillery April 20, 1818. Subsequently he was made first lieutenant of artillery, his commission signed by President Monroe bearing date, July 10, 1820. On the 1st of September, 1829, he was brevetted captain for ten years' faithful service in one grade by President Jackson. During that period he was stationed at Newport, Rhode Island, Portland, Maine, New York city and Old Point Comfort. In April, 1828, he was placed in command of the arsenal at Rome, where he remained until December 31, 1834, when he resigned. At that time he had been ordered to report to his regiment and proceed to Florida, but his health and the care of his family forced him to quit the army.

On severing his military relations Captain Abeel turned his attention to agricultural pursuits near Trenton Falls, until the 6th of January, 1838, when upon the recommendation of Generals Scott, Wood, and Worth, he was appointed military storekeeper to succeed Captain Samuel Perkins, deceased, in charge of the Rome arsenal, his commission of May 30, 1844, being signed by President Tyler. He occupied the office until May 17, 1853, when he turned over the arsenal to D. B. Sackett for a recruiting station. Captain Abeel was afterward in command of the Detroit United States Arsenal at Dearborn, Michigan, until April 8, 1863, when he returned to Rome and had charge of the arsenal here as military storekeeper until February 16, 1870, when he was placed on the retired list. Save for the brief period devoted to farming he spent fifty seven years in the military service of his country and at the time of his death, in December, 1871, was the oldest commissioned officer in the United States army.

Captain Abeel was of the highest type of soldier and official, never neglectful of any duty and always most loyal to the cause which he espoused. He was likewise an accomplished musician, his talent in that direction enabling him to add to the pleasure of friends in home and social circles. His military bearing and fine physique made him a man of imposing appearance and he was at all times a typical gentleman of the old school. He was very particular concerning the dress and habits of himself and those around him and punctuality was one of his marked characteristics. Wherever he went and by all who knew him he was held in the highest esteem, commanding the respect and confidence of his fellowmen by reason of sterling traits of character.

On the 16th of November, 1826, Captain Abeel was married in New York city to Miss Mary Powell Seymour, a daughter of William and Elizabeth (Powell) Seymour, of Newburgh, New York. Her death occurred December 28, 1898. There were seven children in the family: John Neilson and William Seymour, now deceased; Isabelle; Thomas Powell and Alfred, who have also passed away; Augusta, the wife of Colonel F. H. Parker, U. S. A., of Rome; and James M., deceased.

Of this family Thomas P. Abeel was born August 21, 1833, at the old arsenal building, his father, Captain Abeel, being then storekeeper. His death occurred September 9, 1903, so that he was seventy years of age at the time of his demise. His education was acquired in the public schools and when twenty one years of age he went to Albany, where he studied and became familiar with railroad business in connection with the house of E. Corning & Company. Subsequently he removed to Jacksonville, Florida, and at the time of the Civil war was located at New Orleans. Because of the fact that he was a northerner his property was confiscated by the southerners and he was obliged to take an oath not to fight with the Federal troops. To appease the citizens he joined the Crescent City Regiment, made up of New Orleans men, but when the regiment was ordered to Corinth he withdrew. He remained in that city until it was captured by General Butler, when he was set free. After the war he made his way northward to the Pennsylvania oil fields and in 1872 removed to Texas, where he became interested in banking, railroads and ice plants. He also for a number of years conducted a large hardware business in the south. He was prominently connected with the principal commercial and industrial interests of Waco and prospered in his investments there, winning a handsome fortune For about twenty years his brother Alfred was associated in business with him, and though living in Texas for thirty years Thomas P. Abed. always considered Rome as his home and had the keenest affection for his many friends here.

The younger daughter of the family of Captain James Abeel was Miss Augusta, who married Colonel Frank Parker, who served throughout the war of the Rebellion and was an army officer all his life. He died at the Allegheny arsenal, February 22, 1897. Mrs. Parker has one son, John Mason Parker, an attorney of Owego, New York.

From:
History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912


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