Biography of John H. Overhiser


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Page 213


     Mr. Overhiser was born Jan. 4, 1813, in Dutchess Co., N. Y.  His father, George Overhiser, removed to Hillsdale, Columbia Co., when he was quite young.  Here he was brought up on a farm, and resided till 1835, when he removed to Cayuga county, where his father died.  In 1840 he returned to Hillsdale, where he spent five years in mercantile business.

     In 1842 he commenced his political career.  He was elected justice of the peace for the town of Hillsdale, and served in that capacity eight years.  He was four terms elected to the board of supervisors, and one year served as chairman of that body.  In 1850 he represented the Second Assembly district in the Legislature.  In 1867 he was elected sheriff of the county, and on the 30th of May, 1868 was required, by virtue of his office, to perform the most disagreeable duty of his life,---the execution of Joseph Brown, convicted of the murder of his own child.  It was the only case of capital punishment which had occurred in the county for fifty-one years.

     Previous to filling most of these official positions, and subsequent to his services in the Legislature, Mr. Overhiser was engaged in extensive forwarding and commission business on the New York and Harlem railroad.  He continued this business from 1852 to 1868, at which time he removed to Hudson.  He assisted in organizing the present police system of the city, and in 1873 was appointed by the mayor and common council police justice, the duties of which office he is still discharging.  He is an efficient and popular municipal officer.

     Mr. Overhiser has been three times married, his first and third wives being sisters, Emily and Eliza, daughters of Captain Isaac Downing, of Hillsdale.  He has reared three children, all by the first marriage, two of whom are now living.  The Downings are well-known citizens of Hillsdale, their ancestors having settled there many years before the Revolution, and the original estate being still in the possession of some of their descendants.