Biography of Edmund A. Graham
Oneida County, NY Biographies





Edmund A. Graham, born in October, 1802, in New York city, of Scotch and Huguenot descent, passed the first five or six years of his life in the me tropolis. Then his family removed to Newburgh, where he had the benefit of instruction in the village academy until he was twelve years old, afterward for about two years mingling farm work with attendance at school. At the age of fifteen years he went to Ogdensburg to be under the care of his uncle, Louis Hasbrouck, a lawyer who was also postmaster. The nephew was put to work on the mails and soon took full charge of them, reading law as his leisure would permit, and by his industry in due season he was admitted to the bar and entered upon practice. He found no difficulty in building up a profitable business from clients in New York, Albany and Troy as well as at home. He was made the attorney of the Bank of Ogdensburg, of which he was a director, and also agent for David B. Ogden to manage and sell tracts of land in the town of Oswegatchie. For four years he was clerk for the village of Ogdensburg. In 1830 Mr. Graham was one of the projectors and a director of the company which ran the first line of American steamers on the St. Lawrence and the lakes, that was for a long time maintained afterward in no small part by Utica capitalists like Alfred Munson, Samuel Farwell, John Butterfield and Henry Barnard, whom he enlisted with himself. It is a tradition that the first steamer of the line was built from his designs.

In 1835 he married Miss Cornelia Cooper, only daughter of Judge Apollos Cooper, of Utica, and, on the death of the judge in 1839 he removed here to manage the large estate to which local growth was adding value an estate which extended from the Mohawk to Cornelia street and from Genesee street quite a distance westward, and which he laid out in streets and lots. This task he combined with his law practice, and for half a century Mr. Graham was an active factor in the community.

The present generation can hardly appreciate the services rendered by Mr. Graham and his associates, who in 1845 entered upon an investigation of the feasibility of introducing manufactures by steam into the city. The lack of water power was recognized and the statutes then forbade corporations with a larger capital than one hundred thousand dollars, while the use of steam required larger investments. The population of the city had fallen from twelve thousand to ten thousand and the increase of manufactures was relied upon to turn the tide. At a public meeting Spencer Kellogg, Andrew S. Pond and Ed. mund A. Graham were appointed a committee to visit New England and report upon the relative cost and advantages of steam and water for manufactures. Their report started both the cotton and woolen factories within the city. Mr. Pond favored the organization of a company for woolen manufacture, and the steam woolen mills were built. Mr. Graham and Mr. Kellogg recommended investments in cotton manufacture in preference, and the Utica steam cotton mills have for more than six decades confirmed the wisdom of their choice. In order to permit the use of capital to the amount necessary and to get rid of full personal liability on the part of the stockholders, Mr. Graham drafted what became the general manufacturing law of 1848 but hard labor at Albany during two sessions was necessary to secure its passage. The chief work of raising the capital for the cotton mills was done by Alfred Munson. T. S. Faxton, S. D. Childs and Mr. Graham, and they met with many difficulties before success was assured. When the company was organized Mr. Mum son was chosen president and Mr. Graham secretary as well as director. Upon the latter fell the task of drawing the contracts and making many of the pur. chases. He continued to give close attention to the mills, became one of the largest stockholders and for many years up to his death was president of the company.

Of the original movement in behalf of the Black River and Utica Railroad he was one of the most zealous and influential promoters. His acquaintance with northern New York enabled him to see the need for the road and to render important services in its behalf. The struggle between Rome and Utica for the northern alliance constitutes an interesting chapter of local history, in which a compromise was offered by our neighbor that the railroad project be abandoned by both parties. Mr. Graham devoted much time to the enterprise and subscribed five thousand dollars to the stock, which was lost. He was attorney and counsel for the original company up to the foreclosure of the mortgage, as he was also a director in that, and he held the same positions until 1884 in the corporation which bought in the property. For a considerable period he was vice president of the Utica and Black River Railroad Company and acted as president for three or four seasons while Mr. Thorn was abroad. For a number of years Mr. Graham owned and conducted in Sauquoit the mifi for the manufacture of white paper previously belonging to Savage & Moore, but the introduction of wood pulp brought about changes which closed fhat establishment.

The number of positions of trust to which he was called was many, and he was faithful in them all. He was one of a committee to prepare amendments to the city charter and at his instance a provision to make aldermen personally liable for excessive expenditure was enacted. As one of the commissioners to acquire the site and build the city hail he served with three other citizens. In 1847 he was chosen a director of the Oneida Bank and survived every one of his associates of that time. From 1853 to 1872 he was one of the managers of the State Lunatic Asylum in this city and gave to the institution a great deal of care and attention. In the Utica Gaslight Company he was long a director and for some time its vice president.

He was one of the organizers of Grace church, a vestryman and a church warden. As chairman of the committee appointed for the purpose he superintended the enlargement of the older edifice and was one of the building committee for the erection of the present building. At a later period he was one of the vestry of the mother church, Trinity. He was often a delegate to the diocesan convention.

As a lawyer he exhibited the qualities which marked him as a man. Well grounded in the principles of his profession, he was careful in his preparation, accurate and persistent in his work. He was concerned in some great litigations. In the long contested Bradstreet cases, which involved a large amount of property, Mr. Graham was the attorney who studied out the law and dug out the facts and was instrumental in carrying the cases to a successful termination. His business was largely in chancery, in the equity side of the supreme courts, at general term and the court of appeals, more than at the circuit and before juries, and his railroad cases were important and numerous. Politically he started as a democrat and had clear and strong convictions, but since his clerical service in early manhood he was but once a candidate for office. After the Charleston convention of 1860 he left the party and became an ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln and of the war for the Union.

The record of such a life is its own best commentary. Of unquestioned integrity, an excellent neighbor, a faithful friend, a useful and enterprising citizen, diligent in business, honoring all the obligations of religion, unostentatious and patriotic, he needs no eulogy in a community where for half a century he lived a quiet and exemplary life. He passed away in January, 1889, while the demise of his wife occurred in July, 1898. Mrs. Louise G. Schantz is their oniy surviving child.

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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