Clayton, Jefferson, NY

Johnston & Coburn Biographies, Part I

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JOHN JOHNSTON

Among the prominent early settlers of Jefferson County is he whose name heads this brief sketch. He was born in the village of Watertown, September 11, 1816, and has since resided in the county. In 1830 he removed to Clayton from Cape Vincent, and has been a resident of the village from that time to the present. In the year 1846 he was appointed by Polk deputy collector of customs, and was removed in 1849 by reason of the change in the administration. He was again appointed under Pierce in 1853; and continued during that and the succeeding administration of Buchanan. In 1861 he was again removed, owing to the change of the political aspect. He was elected supervisor in 1867, and served consecutively until 1871; then an interval of one year, and he was again elected, and served from ’73 to ’76. In 1861-64 he served as justice of the peace. All of the above offices he filled to the satisfaction of the people. In 1874 he was the Democratic candidate for member of assembly, and received a very complimentary vote in his town, owing to the large regular Republican majority, he was defeated in the district. Mr. Johnston has always taken an active part in politics, and to no one man does the party in his town owe as much as to him. He is an indefatigable worker, a good organizer, and a man thoroughly posted in political economy. He is an honest and upright citizen, and one who generally enjoys the confidence of the community in which he has so long resided.

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HON. MERRILL COBURN

Was born in New Hampshire in 1792. He came to Jefferson County in 1816, and the following year was married to the estimable and amiable lady who survived him. About 1825 he was elected justice of the peace, and for many years after he was very generally known as "Squire Coburn," as he held that office, and often others, until he declined to serve any longer. In 1825, Mr. C. was engaged in the wool-carding and cloth-manufacturing business at Felt’s Mills. About 1840 he went to Chicago, where a member of his family was living. Here he took a large contract from the State of Illinois to build a section of canal. He was eminently successful in this, as he was in nearly all of his business undertakings. After the completion of the above contract he returned to Felt’s Mills, and embarked extensively in the lumbering business, and those who were burnt out in the fire of 1849 will remember the enterprise by him in supplying the timber and lumber in time to rebuild. Mr. Coburn was one of the first directors of the Union Bank, which was founded in 1853 by the late Henry Keep, and became its president on the registration of that gentleman. He was a prominent and valued director of the old Jefferson County Bank for sixteen years, and until he resigned and transferred his stock to his son, Wm. M. Coburn, who was unanimously elected to take his father’s place in the board of directors. In 1851 he was elected to the assembly, and won the respect of all the members by his clear and just expressions of opinion on public affairs. Mr. Coburn left three children to cherish, revere, and respect his memory, for if there ever was a good father, he was one. His eldest daughter married Charles Fallansbe, formerly of Watertown, but now of Chicago. His second daughter married Mr. Clancy, also of Chicago. These are in the enjoyment of financial and social prosperity. Of his son, Wm. M., we write more fully below. Mr. Coburn was eminently a frontier man, self-reliant, enterprising, and energetic. He was a faithful and loving husband, affectionate and indulgent parent, but firm in exacting obedience to his rule; a just and accommodating neighbor and citizen, ready and willing at all times to do right, never oppressive, but ever striving to give a helping hand where worthily needed. After a long, busy and useful life, in August, 1871, he departed this life, leaving behind him, in his character and works, the best assurances of a blissful hereafter. Merrill Coburn was born in New Hampshire.

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WILLIAM M. COBURN, son of the subject of the above sketch, was born at Felt’s Mills, January 26, 1825. And was brought up under strict rule of his worthy father; taught by example and precept to practice strict integrity, equal and exact justice to all men with whom he had dealings, untiring industry in bringing to a successful issue his undertakings, and great firmness in maintaining his convictions of right. As soon as he got through with his education he was admitted a partner with his father in the lumber business, with two mills, on at Felt’s Mills and opposite the Huntington mills, with which was connected a farm, which he carried on successfully for seven years. About 1860 he moved to Carthage, where he prosecuted the manufacture of lumber with great energy.

William M. Coburn was eminently public spirited. He readily entered into any public enterprise with his means, time, and talent that promised to advance the interest of the county. He took an active part in bringing the Carthage and Watertown Railroad to completion by being an active director in its affairs from the beginning. He was also one of the founders of the Empire State Insurance Company, and one of its directors; also, of the Black River Fire Insurance Company. He was a director of the Jefferson County national Bank, and also in the National Union Bank, in all of which positions he commanded respect. The place, however, where he shone brightest was in his home, with his amiable and congenial wife, and his interesting and promising children. He was here that his generous hospitality was enjoyed, and many there be who will long cherish the hours spent in his happy home. His philanthropy was a shining mark in his character, and the poor and needy will remember him with gratitude. Indeed, his memory will be generally revered; his name honored wherever known. (Jefferson County History, by L. H. Everts, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B.Young

Html by Debbie

December 26, 1999

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