HON. JOHN W. STEBBINS
Herkimer County, N.Y.
Contributed by BetteJo Hall-Caldwell
Hon. John W. Stebbins
Ilion Citizen, Thursday, February, 15,1906
Honored Son of Herkimer County, Who Was Born At Farmer Settlement.
King Pierce Writes Sketch of Mr. Stebbins' Life-
Was District School Teacher at Osborn Hill-
A Graduate of Union College -
Postmaster at Rochester, Member of Assembly, Judge of Probate Court. Presidential Elector -
Had held Every Office in the Lodge of Odd Fellows -
Was a Spell Binder for Henry Clay.
We are indebted to the Citizen's esteemed representative at Minott for
the following write up of a prominent man who first saw the light of day in our county:
"The subject of our sketch this week is the late Hon. John Wesley
Stebbins, who was born in Farmer Settlement near Countryman Station,
five miles north of Herkimer, October 22, 1819. He was the youngest of
the two sons born to Rev. John and Achsah Fairbanks Stebbins. He
attended the district school and when but 16 years of age taught school
one winter at Osborn Hill; everyone of the scholars had been his
playmates for years, and a royal good time was had. He was graduated
from Union College, Schenectady, in 1846. He was elected Principal of
Macedon Academy in Wayne county, N.Y., remaining there three years. He
was married in 1849, while principal at Macedon, to Miss Louise J.
Osband, daughter of Hon. Durfee Osband of that place. He entered the
practice of law in 1851 at Rochester, where he remained until his death
at the age of 86 Years. He never sought or asked for an office of any
kind. He was a Sabbath school superintendent for twenty years, Bible
class teacher 15 years, member of the state legislature one term 1855,
during which he prepared, submitted and secured the passage of the
prohibitory law and took a prominent part in the election of William H.
Seward as United State senator, was judge of probate court four years,
presidential elector at Lincoln's second election 1864, postmaster of
Rochester from 1865 to 1869.
In addition to drafts on his time by calls from both church and state,
he was called to devote considerable time to secret benevolent
organizations, having passed through all the subordinate offices prior
to serving in the last and highest position "Grand Sire" of the great
order of Odd Fellows, which order has spread around the globe, numbering
between one and two million members. He was the author of a Half Century
History of the female branch of Odd Fellowship, the Rebekahs, which book
will be mailed to any one on receipt of price by J. Ward Stebbins, 14
Oxford street, Rochester, N.Y.
Judge Stebbins was a Whig in politics and later a prominent member of
the "Know Something's" which was the nucleus of theRrepublican party. In
the campaign of '44 he was one of the spell binders for Henry Clay. The
writer remembers hearing him and County Clerk Wooster, who were for high
protective tariff pitted against Judge Geo. W. Smith and another, whose
name is not recalled, Justice John Farmer was chairman of the meeting.
Rev. Lorenzo D. Stebbins, brother of Judge Stebbins, was born 1817. He
spent his youth in the "Settlement." He is remembered by the older
inhabitants as a lively youth, but "blood will tell" and contrary to the
fears of some, he took a more serious turn and became a Methodist
minister, ranking among the foremost. He graduated from Middletown
College, Conn. Joined the Black River Conference in 1843 at the age of
26. While stationed at Rome, N.Y., he was elected principal of an
academy at Charlotteville, Schoharie county, where he remained several
years until called to the principalship of Fairfield Academy.
1855 he took a transfer from the Black River Conference to the Troy
Conference. When he left Fairfield Academy he was stationed at Hudson
street church, Albany; afterward at Troy, Burlington, Vt., and other
places until he was superannuated, owing to a throat difficulty. He died
suddenly from hemorrhage of the throat, at the age of 52 years. His wife
was Miss Maria Cole of Fairfield. She died some years ago. They had no descendants.
Rev. John Stebbins, born 1779, and wife, Achsah Fairbanks, were married
1803 in Jefferson county, N.Y.. They both came from Massachusetts with
their parents, when young. After the war of 1812 they removed to
Herkimer county, and bought 50 acres of land on the west side of West
Canada Creek creek next north of Henry Ellison's. As a preacher he was
noted for his zeal and earnestness; his stalwart form, his powerful
voice, accompanied by his appropriate gestures seldom failed to impress
his hearers. He died in 1827, and a marble slab marks his grave in the
cemetery near Countryman's with the following quaint inscription;
Rev. John Stebbins,
A Respectable preacher in the
Methodist Episcopal Church.
Who departed this life in the full
assurance of a better.
Died February 10,1827.
Aged 48 years.
After his death Mrs. Stebbins who was a business woman, bought the
adjoining farm of Joseph Kelley which she conducted successfully a
number of years, making a home for her sons. About 1835 she married Rev.
Eleazer Whipple of the Black River Conference. She was his co-laborer
for more than twenty years of his ministerial life. He died Feb. 19,1856. She died Dec. 16,1868.
The Stebbins farm is now owned by the daughters of the late Peter
Countryman. When the Countryman cheese factory was built the Stebbins
home was moved across the road and occupied by the cheesemaker's family.
Judge Stebbins used to spend a part of his vacations, while in college,
in the old neighborhood. The writer frequently saw him there in the
early '40's. He wrote October 2, 1901; "Your letter revived old
recollections that have slumbered for years but can never be effaced. I
hope once more to revisit the scenes of my youth. The 22d of this month
I shall be 82 years old. It does not seem possible, strong, healthy,
hardy, hearty, working hard at my profession. I feel like a youth of 50."
At the time of his death, July 30,1905, he was working upon one of the
largest legal cases of his entire career. His wife died in 1899. Two
children were born to them, Sarah Louise, the eldest, died at the age of
eleven years. J. Ward Stebbins was born the 16th of February 1857 and
was educated in the schools at Rochester. He was engaged some eight
years from 1881 on accounts, statements and books of different
characters of mercantile transactions and for two or three years was
manager of a partner's half interest in a large wholesale and retail
mercantile firm in Rochester, having charge exclusively of all cash,
banking, collections, book, etc. He is unmarried living the honorable
life which so pleased his parents.