By James H. Smith


Part Three


The mercantile and commercial interests of Poughkeepsie have, during the present century, been of considerable magnitude and importance. Previous to the construction of railroads, although its population was small, it was the natural center of business for a large extent of country; and since that epoch, though its mercantile business has been restricted very nearly to the natural demands of its own citizens and the country immediately contiguous, the large and rapid increase in its population has maintained the volume of trade.

The earliest merchants of whom we have seen any mention, were Timothy LOW and Henry FILKINS, both of whom were engaged in business here as early as 1735. FILKINS was Sheriff of the county from 1743 to 1748, and represented it in the Colonial Assembly from 1752 to 1758. John I. VAN KLEECK was trading here in 1773; and Beekman LIVINGSTON and Archibald STEWART, during the Revolutionary period. Each of the latter two kept a general assortment of dry goods, groceries, drugs and hardware. LIVINGSTON's store was located on the corner of Market and Cannon streets, on the Park House site, and STEWART's adjoining the Dutch Reformed church, which occupied the site of the Poughkeepsie Hotel. STEWART soon after removed to New Jersey, and, notwithstanding his loyalist proclivities here, was a delegate from that State to the Continental Congress in 1784 and 1785, to fill a temporary vacancy.

John S. FREER, a descendant of the FREER family, who were among the first settlers in this vicinity, were engaged in mercantile business here about the begining of the century, and continued till about 1828. His store was two or three doors a west of BOWNE's carpet store, on the site of the building which was occupied for a number of years by the Eagle office, and subsequently in that building, which was erected by him about 1820. He was a single man, and resided here till his death, which occurred several years after he closed out his business.

Within the first decade of the present century fully a score of persons were engaged in mercantile business here. Andrew J. BILLINGS, who was then quite a celebrated man, was located here in 1797. He was the first watchmaker and jeweler in Poughkeepsie. Elijah MORGAN came to Poughkeepsie in that year and served an apprenticeship with BILLINGS. Mr. MORGAN was a native of Westchester county, whence his father of the same name removed to and settled in East Fishkill about the close of the Revolutionary war, becoming by his intelligent industry, one of the first farmers in that town. The younger MORGAN commenced business as a jeweller on his own account about 1805, in a building which stood on the south-east corner of Main and Liberty streets; continuing till 1855, within two years of his death, which occurred April 27, 1857, at the age of seventy-four years. His son, William S. MORGAN, was associated with him in 1835 and '36. The latter year, May 12th, Poughkeepsie was visited by a fire, the most disasterous it has suffered before or since. Some fifteen stores, mostly wooden buildings, were destroyed. They extended from the old Eagle building, (312 and 314 Main street,) to near Academy street, a block of wooden buildings then occupying the corner of Main and Academy streets, but since torn down, escaping the fire. The block which escaped the fire was the property of Leonard DAVIS, one of the pioneer merchants, and the buildings which have been erected on its site are still owned by his heirs.

In 1836, William S. MORGAN commenced the erection, on the site of the smouldering ruins, of the store 322 Main street, now occupied by Hiram S. WILTSIE. This step was taken by Mr. MORGAN against the advice of his friends, who predicted that he would never do any business there, as the business of the village then lay mostly towards the river; but, singularly, that store is now the very center of the business part of the city. In April, 1837, Mr. MORGAN opened the store, commencing business on his own account. He continued to occupy it till April, 1881, when he sold to William B. CARPENTER, who rents to Mr. WILTSIE, the present occupant. Mr. MORGAN at the close of a very active and successful business career, is living in retirement in Poughkeepsie, enjoying the respect and confidence of his associates in business and the citizens generally.

Charles and William LIVINGSTON purchased of Peter R. MASON the land east of Mr. MORGAN's store, to the DAVIS block, the eastern limits of the fire, and erected at the same time the building occupying that site, but subsequently sold the stores to other parties. West of Mr. MORGAN's store, in the fire district, other stores were built by Jacob ROWE, William FROST and Capt. William BROAS, the latter adjoining the Eagle office, while a fourth party built the store now occupied by John W. CANDEE, with dry goods. These buildings, covering the entire district ravaged by the fire, were erected at the same time, and patterned after a then famous block in Philadelphia, the distinguishing characteristics being circular windows and hollow iron columns. These peculiarities presented a novel and attractive appearance but have since given way to the flat windows now in vogue.

Joseph and Caleb MORGAN, brothers of Elijah, were contemporary with him, and occupied a store opposite on the west corner of Main and Liberty streets. They dissolved May 5, 1818. Joseph died many years ago, but Caleb survived and resided here till a recent period.

Thomas W. TALLMADGE came here from Connecticut about 1805 and was an extensive dealer in stoves till about 1840. He was a highly respected citizen and successful merchant. For twenty-three years he was President of the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank, retaining that position till his death, August 11, 1856, at the age of seventy-five years. His widow survived him till about a year since, and died here aged over ninety years.

Jesse OAKLEY & Son as appears from the Political Barometer of July 1, 1806, (*From the Poughkeepsie Eagle, August 12, 1876.) "were among the heavy merchants of this place" at that time. "They kept dry goods, groceries, cloth and kersey-meres, wines, Jamaica spirits, tea, puffs and tippets, pickled cod, dye-woods, etc. John FIELD was also a prominent merchant, and David BROOKS and Benjamin MUNGER. * * * Elisha BROWN carried on the sole-leather and hide business and slaughtered cattle. * * * Samuel MYERS was a repacker of pork and beef, as was also Thomas BAYEUX. Nathan MYERS kept a dry goods and grocery store, and an iron mongery. Charles H. DUNSCOMBE kept a dry goods and grocery store. James TRIVETT kept a dry goods, grocery and shoes. All took produce in payment for goods. John EVERETT was also a dealer in dry goods, groceries, hardware and crockery. HAYT & FULLER kept glass, oil and paints. * * * VAN KLEECK & MANNERY were dealers in dye-wood, cam-wood, copperas and press-papers. David GLADD kept a grocery. Peter R. MAISON kept a dry goods store and sold 'woman's straw hats, feathers and plumes.' Valentine BAKER kept a dry goods store in Market street. G. H. CUNNINGHAM kept a seed store. George PARKER advertised 'PARKER's Mills' flour, plaster, wheat, etc."

Jesse OAKLEY was a Member of Assembly from this county, from 1794 to 1797. John FIELD was a Deputy to the Provincial Congress from Dutchess in 1776. David BROOKS was born in 1736; entered the Army in 1776, as a Lieutenant in the Pennsylvania line; was captured at Fort Washington, and remained a prisoner for two years. Upon being exchanged he was appointed Assistant Clothier-General at headquarters--an office of responibility, which he so filled as to secure the friendship of Washington. After the close of the war he removed to New York and subsequently to this county, both of which he represented in the Assembly, the former in 1788, and the latter from 1794 to 1796, and again in 1810. He was a Representative in Congress from 1797 to 1799; County Judge of this county from 1795 to 1807; and was appointed Clerk of this county June 5, 1807; again Feb. 9, 1810; and again Feb. 23, 1813. He was one of the Comissioners who made the first treaty with the Seneca Indians, on the site of the city of Utica. He died at his home, where he was universally esteemed, in August, 1838. (*Lanman's Dictionary of Congress, 53.) Elisha BROWN represented Putnam County in the Assembly in 1820 and '21.

Paraclete POTTER, who was a native of this county, established himself in business here as publisher and book-seller in 1806. He was likewise, a journalist, publishing the Poughkeepsie Journal. He was an exemplary journalist; for "with talent and taste combined rare judgment and candor and the most unswerving morality." He once asserted that he "never as a rule admitted into the Journal a paragraph that he would be ashamed to read to [his] wife and daughters." His store was located next to the corner of Main and Garden streets, and was afterward known as WILSON's book store. It was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1870, and was, at that time, said to be the oldest business establishment in Poughkeepsie where the same kind of trade had been carried on continuously. No place in Poughkeepsie, except the court house, had so many interesting associations connected with local celebrities in politics, the liberal professions and literature as that modest little store. The brick building which now occupies its site was errected in 1871.

William WILSON, who succeeded Paraclete POTTER in the book store and bindery, was a native of Crieff, a Scotch village at the foot of the Grampian Hills. His childhood was passed in poverty, and he never entered a school as pupil, but received his scholastic and religious training from his mother, a high-spirited Scotchwoman, who was left a widow when he was five years old. In early life he was apprenticed to a cloth dealer in Glasgow. He sedulously devoted his spare moments to reading and studying and the cultivation of his taste for music, and acquired some distinction both in literature and music. He successfully became contributor and assistant editor of the Dundee Review and sole editor of the Dundee Literary Olio. Through the kindly offices of FIELDBURG, a Danish author, he formed the acquaintance of the literati of Edinburgh. He enjoyed the warm friendship of Mrs. GRANT, of Laggan, the author of Memoirs of an American Lady, and formed an intimate acquaintance with Robert and William CHAMBERS. In 1833, he emigrated to America, and in the summer of that year engaged in the business above referred to, which he continued till his death, August 25, 1860. He contributed many poems to American and British periodicals, but seldom over his own name. His chosen signatures were "Alpin" and "Allan GRANT." Some of these appear in a collection of Scottish poetry published at Glasgow in 1844. At his death, he left quite a large collection of his poems, in manuscript, from which a selection, made and arranged by an intimate friend, was published by his eldest son. He also left in manuscript, an unfinished work on the Poets and Poetry of Scotland, which was afterwards edited by his son, James Grant WILSON, and published by HARPER and BROTHERS. Mr. WILSON not only possessed literary talent, but he evinced an earnest desire to elevate the moral and intellectual standard of the people, an end to which his circulating library contibuted in no small degree.

Dr. Elias TRIVETT was engaged in the drug business in Poughkeepsie as early as 1807, and did an extensive business for a great many years, continuing till within a short time of his death, which occurred April 12, 1866, in his seventy-eighth year. Latterly he was associated with his son Robert, under the name of E. TRIVETT & Son, the latter of whom died about 1865. Dr. TRIVETT's successors are WOOD & TITTAMER, who represent the most prominent and by far the oldest establishment of the kind in the city.

Benjamin HERRICK was the first prominent merchant in Poughkeepsie, says James BROWNE, who was for many years one of its leading men and merchants, as he is now one of its most honored citizens. Mr HERRICK was a native of North East, in which town his parents were early settlers. He came to Poughkeepsie from that town about 1810 or '12, and did business in the building now occupied by WOOD & TITTAMER as a drug store.

James BROWNE, who was born in East Fishkill, Dec. 25, 1798, came to Poughkeepsie in 1814 and engaged as a clerk in the hardware store of Albert COX, which was kept where the TAYLOR House now stands, in the old CARMAN House, which was torn down in 1878. In March 1816, he engaged as clerk with Nathan CONKLIN, who had served an apprenticeship with Benjamin HERRICK, and then kept a country store where the Messrs. TROWBRIDGE are located. (*For a brief account of the business and social career of Mr. BROWNE we would refer to his biography at the close of the history of our city of Poughkeepsie.)

Edmund MORRIS came here from Danbury, Conn., in the year 1811, and was engaged in the shoe trade for some years. He was afterwards engaged in farming, and was very successful, acquiring a handsome property by transactions in real estate.

Abraham C. STORM, who died Dec. 22, 1863, aged eighty-four years, was a member of the firm STORM & WILSON, who were doing business in the city during the war of 1812.

Thomas S. HOPKINS was an active and enterprising business here in the early part of the century. In 1812, as appears from the Republican Herald of July first of that year, he had no less than three stores.

Major Isaac T. DOUGHTY was engaged in the book and stationery business in Poughkeepsie in 1819, being located under the office of the Dutchess Observer.

John M. CABLE, who was born in Poughkeepsie, April 8, 1800, was engaged in the shoe business in this city from 1822 to 1865.

George VAN KLEECK, says our informant, was probably the most prominent merchant in his day in Poughkeepsie. He was born in Poughkeepsie of a highly respectable family, July 4, 1803. His father was Teunis VAN KLEECK, the pioneer hatter of Poughkeepsie. The house in which he was born was a little frame structure which stood on the site of Levi ARNOLD's foundry on Main street, and its eaves were so low that he could touch them with the tips of his fingers. He died at his residence on Cannon street in Poughkeepsie soon after his retirement from active business, Oct. 17, 1878. He was Director and Vice-President of the Bank of Poughkeepsie.

John B. FORBUS died here Oct. 28, 1865, aged seventy-eight. John ADRIANCE was for over half a century closely identified with the interests of Poughkeepsie. He died in April, 1873. "He was a gentleman of generous impulses, with ever a kind word and helping hand for the struggeling needy. We seldom find one going to his rest and leaving behind him fewer enemies, or more sincere, earnest friends. His many noble acts of kindness will be gratefully referred to in the years to come." (*The Sunday Courier, of Poughkeepsie, April 20, 1873.)

David B. LENT and Stephen H. BOGARDUS were early merchants in Poughkeepsie. David B. LENT was the pioneer harness maker, and became a prominent man. He was born May 1, 1788, and died June 20, 1869. Stephen H. BOGARDUS learned the saddlery trade of Mr. LENT, and has been for a great many years engaged in it. He is among the oldest business houses in the city. He is the only one who was doing business here in 1836, still engaged in it.

John I. INNIS, who was born in Poughkeepsie in 1832, was a brother of Hon. George INNIS, and was for some years a prominent merchant here.

James H. MILLS, grocer, John H. DOBBS, merchant tailor, John McLAIN, grocer, ELSWORTH & DUDLEY, hardware dealers, CARPENTER Bros., grocers, and L. CARPENTER's sons, grocers, are among the older of the present mercantile establishments in Poughkeepsie; while HAYT & LINDLEY, merchant tailors, Wm. R. FARRINGTON, dealer in crockery, Walter VAN KLEECK, dealer in dry goods, John W. CANDEE, LUCKEY, PLATT & Co., John Parker HEATH, dry goods dealers, Charles BOWNE, daeler in carpets, Charles DATES, dealer in dry goods, VAN KLEECK, the hatter, together with those named as among the older establishments, are among the most prominent merchants now doing business in Poughkeepsie.

Typed and submitted by Janice Sanford

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