Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
COL. JOHN HOLMES PRENTISS
The name of Prentiss is an old and honored one in England as well as in America. In England the named is traced back to Thomas Prentiss, 1318, and in our own country to Valentine Prentice, who came over with the "Apostle" Elliott in 1631.
Colonel Samuel Prentiss, grandfather of Colonel John H., was in the Revolutionary army, and commanded a regiment during the war. He was a muscular man, weighed over two hundred pounds, and six feet in height. As a commander he was stern, fearless, and brave; as a civilian beloved and esteemed, and as a husband and father kind and affectionate. A writer says, "Since the days of Samuel E., Sr., of Stonington, there has been no time but some of his descendants have held office, civil and military down to the present time. Colonel Samuel Prentice spelled his name Prentice, as did his son, Dr. Samuel P., until some of the sons arrived at the age of manhood, when, at their suggestion, the name was changed to Prentiss, and has been so continued to the present time by all of his family.
Dr. Samuel Prentiss, father of Colonel John H., was born in Stonington, Conn., in 1759. He married Lucretia Holmes, daughter of Captain John H., a large and wealthy farmer. He died in Northfield, Mass., in 1818. Lincoln's "History of Worcester" says, "Dr. Samuel Prentiss, a man of talents and eminent in his profession, came from Stonington, Conn., to Worcester in 1983. He was secretary o a medical society in Worcester in 1785. He removed to Keene, N. H., in about 1786, and from thence to Saratoga, N. Y. Dr. P. received a good academical education, and studied medicine with Dr. Philip turner, of Norwich, Conn., one of the best American surgeons of the age in which he lived. Dr. Prentiss entered the army quite young as military waiter to his father, Colonel Samuel P., and soon after returned to civil life. After studying medicine and surgery he engaged in the Army as assistant surgeon, where he acquired a great deal of practical knowledge of his profession. At the close of the war he married, and soon removed to Worcester, Mass., where he resided several years. About the time of Shay's Rebellion he removed to Northfield, Mass., and was zealous and active on the side of the government. His practice of surgery was very extensive, and for many year he was the principal operator in that country, his rides extending into the west of Massachusetts, and far into the State of Vermont and New Hampshire."
Colonel John Holmes Prentiss, the subject of this sketch, was the third son of Dr, Samuel and Lucretia Prentiss, born in Worcester, Mass., in 1785.
After serving a regular apprenticeship as a printer, he removed to Cooperstown, N. Y., Oct. 8, 1808, and there established a weekly newspaper, the Freeman's Journal, favoring the Democratic party, and which he continued successfully over forty years, until he sold out his interest, Jan. 20, 1849, having during all this time, except while in congress, given his personal attention in the printing-office o the mechanical department, and also being sole editor of the paper and attending to the financial department. The paper had a large circulation, and its political character exercised an influence in the county of Otsego which made it one of the strongest Democratic counties in the State of New York. Governor Clinton conferred on him a commission as colonel in the militia, and appointed him division inspector; this he resigned under Governor Yates.
At the age of sixty-six he retired from the newspaper business, after a continuous service of more than forty years, in that laborious profession. Many your men of eminence in the profession served their time in his office, one of whom was colonel Wm. L. Stone, deceased, editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser. And of high repute also as an editor.
Colonel Prentiss married first, on January 18, 1815, Catherine Cox Morris, youngest daughter of General Jacob Morris, of Butternuts, Otsego Co., N. Y. General Morris' father was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Mrs. Prentiss died June 28, 1818. Ten years after, colonel Prentiss married Urilla Shankland, daughter of Thomas Shankland, Esq., of Cooperstown, June 3, 1828. Colonel Prentiss' family consisted of six children, viz.: two daughters by his first wife, Mary Martha and Catherine Lucretia, and by his second wife two sons and two daughters. Alexander S., John H., Rachel A., and Charlotte D., the following of whom survives, Catherine L., now Mrs. John C. Dodge, of Boston, Mass., John H., residing in Chicago, Ill., and Charlotte D., now Mrs. Browning, and residing in Cooperstown.
Colonel Prentiss was a man of untiring industry in his business, and as an editor he always maintained a prominent position. He represented this district in congress during the four years of Mr. Van Buren's administration, having been re-elected on the expiration of his first term. He was a useful member, of sound, practical views, who served his constituency in an acceptable manner.
For more than half a century Colonel Prentiss was a resident of Otsego, and during that time he had much to do in shaping its more important affairs. In all public matters affecting the welfare or interest of the county he was much consulted, and was generally an active participant. Decided and clear in his views, energetic and resolute in his actions, with a great deal of natural strength of character and firmness of purpose, he was well suited to public life, and admirably calculated to stem the opposition which a man of prominence is almost certain to meet. His interest in public affairs was maintained during his life.
In personal appearance colonel Prentiss was distinguished and fine looking,--perhaps no man of his age in the State more so. His last appearance in public life, from which he had kept aloof for several years, was as a delegate to the Democratic State convention, which was held in Albany on Feb. 1, 1861. In that body of distinguished and able men, of which he was one of the vice-presidents, he attracted much attention, and the question was frequently asked by delegates and other in attendance, referring to Colonel Prentiss, "Who is that large, fine-looking old gentleman, with white, flowing hair?" He was vice-president and afterwards president of the Bank of Cooperstown, and discharged his duties to the satisfaction of all. His was a long and active career; and although he lived past the Scriptural age of threescore and ten he retained to the last much of his youthful vigor and ambition. He died June 28, 1861.
The father of the subject of our sketch, Peter Barton, Sr., was born in Saratoga county, N. Y., in the year 1806, and removed to the town of Laurens, Otsego County, in 1831, where he resided until his death, which occurred
April 1, 1868, in the sixty-second year of his age. His wife, Harriet R. Wilson, was born in Rensselaer county, N. Y. , and was united in wedlock to the Peter Barton above mentioned in 1828.
Peter Barton, son of of the above, was born in the town of Laurens, Otsego County, N. Y., March 27, 1832. On Sept. 4, 1856, married Harriet F. Dunbar, daughter of Daniel Dunbar, of Laurens, who was one of the first settlers of the town. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Barton have been born three children,--Harry D., born Aug. 3, 1857; Kitty J., born July 24, 1861; and James P., born May 5, 1865.
In political faith Mr. Barton is an unswerving Democrat. He was elected sheriff of Otsego County in November, 1873. Mr. Barton is yet in the prime of life, and we may reasonably expect from his future years an honorable record of usefulness. He is not only a native, but has always been a resident, of Laurens. (The History of Otsego, NY, by Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)
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Transcribed by Holice B. Young
Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young
December 24, 1999