Biography of John D. Kernan
Oneida County, NY Biographies





Oneida county has nurtured many promising sons who have gained distinction in all the principle lines of modern activity, proving worthy representatives of the Empire state. John Devereux Kernan may be named as one whose example of well applied industry in a noble calling has encouraged hundreds of aspiring young men to renewed effort. He was born at Utdca, where he now lives, February 25, 1844, a son of Francis and Hannah (Devereux) Kernan, the mother being a daughter of Nicholas Devereux of Utica. Mr. Kernan, Sr., was a native of Tyrone, Schuyler county, New York, and was born January 14, 1816, a son of General William. and Rose (Stubbs) Kernan. He was graduated from Georgetown University, district of Columbia, in 1836 and in 1880 received from his alma mater the honorary title of LL.D. He studied law with Edward Quinn at Watkins, New York, and Hon. Joshua A. Spencer of Utica He was admitted to the bar in 1840 and became a partner of Judge Spencer, soon taking high rank in a profession for which he was eminently qualified. In 1860 he was elected upon the democratic ticket as a member of the state legislature and gained a reputation in that body as a powerful advocate of the Union, his war speeches possessing the spirit of true patriotism. In 1862 he was elected to congress, defeating Roscoe Conkling, and while in Washington in the critical times of the war, was frequently called in consultation by President Lincoln. However, there was a change of sentiment politically in his district and he was defeated for reelection by Mr. Conkling. He resumed the practice of law and for many years his services were in urgent demand in important cases. He was a delegate at large to the state constitutional convention in 1867-8 and was the candidate of the democratic and liberal parties for governor in 1872. Three years later he was elected to the United States senate and served until 1881. He filled the office of regent of the University of the State of New York for twenty two years, from 1870-1892. He was a man of great force of character, an outspoken champion of what he believed to be right irrespective of its effect upon himself, and a lifelong friend and protector of the oppressed. He was an active advocate of education and his voice and influence could always be counted upon to assist in the support of the law and in strengthening the bonds which unite the great body of the people in fidelity to the government. He died September 7, 1892, and it may truthfully be said that Oneida county has had few friends more faithful to her interests than Francis Kiernan.

John Devereux Kernan was graduated at Seton Hall College, South Orange, New Jersey, in June, 1863, which institution in 1896 conferred upon him the degree of LL.D. He studied law under his father and was admitted to the bar in 1865, practicing with marked iluccess as a member of the firm of F. & W. Kernan, later becoming identified with the firm of W. & J. D. Kernan. On the 1st of February, 1883, he was appointed by Governor Grover Cleveland as a member of the first state railroad commission, serving as chairman of the board until November 1, 1887, when he resigned to engage in the practice of his profession in New York city. Many regulations were instituted during his connection with the board which have proven of great benefit to the state. Since 1902 he has been a member of the firm of Kernan & Kiernan of Utica. He is a director of the Equitable Life Assurance Society and for many years served as president of the State Commerce Convention and as manager of the State Hospital at Utica. In the winter of 1911 his name was presented as a candidate for the United States senate in the long drawn out contest at Albany as a successor to Chauncey Depew and he was strongly supported for the office. He is still actively engaged in practice and owing to his long experience, his profound knowledge of law and his recognized standing, his judgment in difficult cases is largely sought and highly valued.

On the 1st of October, 1873, at New Castle, Pennsylvania, Mr. Kernan was united in marriage to Miss Kathleen Peebles and to this union six children were born, Frances K., Kathleen D., John D. Jr., Rosemary, Robert P. and Hubert D.

Mr. Kernan is a valued member of the Fort Schuyler Club of Utica and the Manhattan Club of New York city. He has been a lifelong supporter of the democratic party and a firm believer in its principles as expressive of the true basis upon which the republic rests. While his time has been mainly given to the duties of his profession he has never lost touch with literature and many of his happiest hours are spent in his library in communion with the master minds of all climes and all ages. Like his honored father he has an abiding faith in his country and its institutions and no man is more willing to make greater sacrifices to advance its interests. He is today one of the most respected citizens of Utica a position he has earned by a life of the strictest integrity and of service in behalf of others.

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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