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Washington County New York Biographies - Surnames W

Transcribed by Lynn Tooley

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Washington County New York Biographies - Surnames W, extracted from the Washington county, New York; its history to the close of the nineteenth century by Stone, William Leete, 1835-1908.

WAIT, Hon. A. Dallas Biography

Hon. A. Dallas Wait was born at Sandy Hill, Washington County, N. Y., September 1, 1822, and was educated in the common schools and the high school which flourished in that village for a number of years, under the superintendence of Messrs. Woodworth & Barnes. In 1838 he began the study of law in the office of Rockwell & Green, eminent lawyers of Brooklyn, N. Y., and at that time doing a large business in both that city and New York. He subsequently continued the study of law in the office of his father and also with James McCall at Sandy Hill, completing there the time required to be served as a student, before his examination for admittance to the bar.

He was duly licensed as an Attorney and Counselor of the Supreme Court and Solicitor in the Court of Chancery at the January term of the court held in the city of Albany in 1845. Hon. Joseph Potter and the late General Hughes were in the same class and admitted to practice at the same time.

On his admission to the bar Hon. A. Dallas Wait commenced the practice of law associated with his father, Hon. Luther Wait, at Sandy Hill, N. Y. Hon. Luther Wait had for many years before this time been a practicing lawyer at Sandy Hill, and so continued for many years afterward.

In the fall of 1846 Hon. A. Dallas Wait removed to Fort Edward and opened a law office there in company with the late John Parry under the firm name of Wait & Parry, and on the retirement of Mr. Parry from practice Mr. Wait continued with the late James L. Reynolds as a partner, the firm being Wait & Reynolds, until the death of Mr. Reynolds in 1876, since which date he has continued his practice at Fort Edward alone.

On December 11, 1855, Hon. A. Dallas Wait married Celina Barrow, daughter of the late Hiram Barrow of Cambridge, N. Y. They have had eight children, three of whom still survive, namly: Celina, wife of Richard A. Lowe, a merchant in England, Walter A. Wait, of the law firm of Bell & Wait, Glens Falls, N. Y., and Miss Bertha E. Wait, of Fort Edward, a graduate of Fort Edward Collegiate Institute.

Soon after his admission to the bar Hon. A. Dallas Wait was named by Governor Silas Wright and appointed an Examiner in Chancery and served in that office until the Court of Chancery was abolished.

He was first elected County Judge of Washington County in the fall of 1855 and subsequently was twice re-elected to the same office, serving in all three terms.

Even before his admission to the bar Judge Wait took an active interest in politics and in all the presidential campaigns commencing in 1844, and until and including 1884, addressed many meetings of the party to which he adhered. He was "a born Democrat," of old New Hampshire stock and followed that faith devotedly and enthusiastically until he joined the American or Know Nothing party in 1855. He acted with that party until its dissolution when he returned to the Democratic party under the leadership of Stephen A. Douglass.

On the breaking out of the Civil War Judge Wait at once took the side of the Union, holding that until the rebellion was subdued, it was the duty of all patriots, irrespective of party, to stand by the old flag and support the national administration.

At a union convention held in Argyle in 1861 Judge Wait was tendered and accepted the nomination of District Attorney of the county and was elected and served as such for two consecutive terms.

During the war, and ever since, Judge Wait has been a steadfast adherent of the Republican party and was a member of the State Committee and Executive Comittee thereof for several years during and after the war.

During his long professional life Judge Wait has been employed as attorney and counsel in many important suits in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals and has achieved a gratifying share of success, being well esteemed as a good lawyer both by the legal fraternity and the public at large. He has served much as Referee and in many important actions in the Supreme Court in different counties in the state. He has also held terms of court in the adjacent counties, especially Saratoga and Rensselaer, at different times upon special invitation to hold such terms and has always presided with great acceptability.

In all relations of public and private life Judge Wait has indicated a high reputation for integrity, industry, ability and devotion to duty in the performance of the WTjrk with which he has been charged officially or otherwise. He is President of the Board of Education of the village High vSchool and has served in that capacity for more than twenty years. He has been President of the village and is a director in and attorney for the First National Bank of Fort Edward and has held such connection with the bank since its organization.

Judge Wait is still vigorous both in body and mind and continues the active practice of law with no disposition to leave the field in which he has spent so many years of pleasure and profit, believing that the term of work for a man lasts during life if he has ability to do that work well and acceptably and during his long professional career he has won and retained the highest respect and confidence of his fellow men, not only because he is an able and accomplished lawyer, not only because on the bench he was a fair-minded and upright judge, but also because his whole life has been distinguished by honesty, honor and good citizenship.

WAIT, Hon. Luther Biography

Hon. Luther Wait was born at Fitz-William, New Hampshire, February 7, 1788. Receiving his preliminary education for college he took a four years course at Burlington University, Vermont, where he graduated with honor in 1811.

Whereupon, choosing the legal profession, and wishing to become a student in the office of some prominent lawyer in the State of New York, he was favored with an excellent letter of introduction and commendation from the Governor of Vermont (Governor Van Ness) to Roger Skinner, then an eminent lawyer residing at Sandy Hill, N. Y., and on the strength of such letter received a cordial welcome from Mr. Skinner and entered his office as a law student, and in due time was admitted to the bar as an attorney of the Supreme Court, and became a partner of the Hon. Henry C. Martindale (then a prominent lawyer residing at Sandy Hill) under the firm name of Martindale & Wait, which firm continued for some years. Among other students in their office, was Silas Wright, afterward United States Senator and Governor of the State.

Upon the dissolution of the firm of Martindale & Wait, Mr. Wait, having received the degree of Counsellor of the Supreme Court and Counsellor in the Court of Chancery, continued the practice of the law at Sandy Hill until his death, which occurred April 20, 1857.

Hon. Luther Wait was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Surrogate of the County, Master and Examiner in Chancery and for many years a Justice of the Peace, which office he held at the time of his death.

At a meeting of the bar of the county in his memory, held at Salem Circuit, appropriate eulogistic resolutions were adopted; the same being reported to the meeting by a committee, consisting of Judge Rosekrans, Gen. Martin Lee and Judge Luther J. Howe.

Judge Wait was much esteemed by his brother lawyers, as a good lawyer, a man remarkably industrious and devoted to the interests of his clients and as scrupulously honest and honorable in all his dealings.

Among the important suits with which he was connected was the Chancery suit of Rogers vs. Rogers in which he was solicitor for the plaintiff and which after a contest lasting seven years was finally decided in the Court of Errors in favor of the plaintiff. (The case is reported in Chancery in I Hopkins' Reports 515, I Paige R. I88, and in the Court of Errors III Wendell 503.) It is a leading case upon the important questions raised and decided therein.

Judge Wait was a prominent member of the Democratic party up to the time of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which repeal to him was inexcusable, and for which he joined the Republican party under Fremont, opposed to the extension of slavery, and was a member of that party when he died.

He left surviving him six sons and four daughters, viz: Lucian D., Laysel B., A. Dallas, Jerome, Sheridan and George Addison Wait, and Charlotte E., Milcena B., Susan E. and Aurelia Wait.

His son Lucian D. Wait learned the trade of a jeweler at Troy and went to Skaneateles to reside and remained there for many years and until his death.

Laysel B. Wait was educated as a lawyer and. on admission to the bar went to St. Paul, Minnesota, to practice law, associated with the law firm of Hallingshed & Becker of that place.

Not liking the practice of the law he engaged in mercantile business in that city and subsequently removed to California where he died.

Jerome Wait went to California in 1854 to engage in the mining business, and has ever since resided there, following that occupation.

Sheridan Wait, after his admission to the bar as a lawyer in 1853, in accord with the advice of Horace Greely to young men in the East to "Go West and Grow up with the Country,'" went first to Tennessee and remained there nearly two years, engaged principally as a teacher.

He then concluded that he would be better pleased to be located farter North, and therefore went to St. Louis, on his way to Illinois where he fortunately met and was introduced to Governor French (then Governor of Illinois) who happened to be at the time in that city. The Governor advised him to open a law office at Decatur, Ill., which the Governor said presented a good opening for a young enterprising lawyer. And the Governor very kindly gave him a letter of introduction to an influential friend of his at Decatur.

Mr. Wait, upon the suggestion of the Governor, opened a law office at Decatur, the county seat of Macon County, Illinois, and in a short time entered into partnership with the late Gov. Richard J. Oglesby, then a young lawyer who had recently come from Kentucky, his native state, and settled at Decatur to practice law. The firm of Oglesby & Wait were doing a large and profitable business until the commencement of the Civil War. When the first gun was fired on Fort Sumpter they closed their law office and both entered the Union Army, and when Colonel Oglesby was appointed to the command of a brigade, Mr. Wait was commissioned Assistant Adjutant General with the rank of Major. At the close of the war Major Wait returned to Decatur and resumed the practice of the law. In 1871 he removed to Chicago and engaged in the real estate business and continued his residence in that city until his death, 28th of July, 1879. At the time of his death he was President of the Chicago and Calumet Dock Company.

Major Wait in early life was a Democrat, an active and efficient member of that party, but never seeking or desiring official preferment, choosing rather to serve in the ranks as a private citizen. But just before the war he was elected Mayor of the city of Decatur on the Union ticket.

Upon his return from the war he joined the Republican party and became one of its most staunch and true supporters, and for six years was a prominent and much esteemed member of the Republican State Committee of Illinois.

He served one term as Canal Commissioner of that State.

after his death a meeting of the Macon County Bar was held and appropriate resolutions adopted in memory, as stated therein, of "Sheridan Wait, whose record was never sullied and who was a brave, true, gentle, kind man and a wise and honorable lawyer."

Major Wait was buried with military and civic honors in Greenwood Cemetery at Decatur, July 31st, 1879, the funeral being from the residence there, of his old partner and life-long friend Governor Oglesby.

George Addison Wait, the youngest son of Luther Wait, enlisted as a soldier in the 121st New York Regiment at Syracuse where that regiment was being organized.

A county bounty of $500 was being paid there to each soldier enlisting in that regiment. Before the regiment left for Washington the County Treasurer paid the soldiers such bounty. George Addison, on his name being called to receive the boiinty, directed the Treasurer to forward the amount ($500) due him to the Secretary of the United States Treasury as a mite donated by him to the United States Government for war purposes.

The County Treasurer accordingly forwarded the same, stating the circumstances, to Secretary Chase, who acknowledged its receipt in a letter, characterising the gift, under the circumstances as entirely unique, and praising in the highest terms the donor for displaying such a noble and unselfish spirit of patriotism, when joining the army, as a private soldier.

The 121st regiment was attached to the 6th United States Army Corps and this young man, as a private soldier (without missing a day of service in the field) was with that regiment at Fredricksburg, Gettysburg, and all the battles in which the 6th Corps took part up to and including the battle at Spottsylvania Court-House the nth of May, 1864, in which he was severely wounded, thereby losing his right arm, amputated close to the shoulder, the following day, by an army surgeon. He was forced in consequence to remain for months in hospital at Alexandria and Philadelphia. Being unable to do further service as a soldier, he was mustered out and honorably discharged. He was a remarkably exemplary and worthy young man in all his ways and habits. At the time of his death he was residing in New York city doing clerical work, (having acquired the ability to write well with his left hand) and was studying with a view of becoming a lawyer as soon as practicable.

WESTFALL, Hon. Dqaniel M. Biography

Hon. Daniel M. Westfall, one of the most prominent members of the bar of Washington County, was born at Lewisburgh, near Deckertown, in the township of Wantage, Sussex County, N. J., December II, 1830. His father was a farmer and he grew up amid rural surroundings and received his early education at the Lewisburgh District School and Deckertown Academy. At the early age of sixteen years he began teaching school in his native district and between teaching and attending the Deckertown Academy, he passed the time until the spring of 1852, when he entered Union College, in the third term as a sophomore. He made a specialty of the classical course and read Blackstone and Kent while in college. In the spring of 1854 he accepted a position as teacher in the Washington Academy at Cambridge, N. Y., of which John. H. Burtis was at that time principal. In July, 1854, he was graduated from Union College, taking the degree of A. B., and was admitted to the Society of Phi Beta Kappa, because of his high standing. In the fall of the same year he began to read law in the office of Judge Howe, at the same time continuing to teach three hours a day in the Washington Academy of which he was principal for the spring term of 1855.

He was admitted to the bar in January, 1856, and during a part of that year taught the languages and higher mathematics in the Academy at Greenwich, N. Y., and at the same time reading law in Judge Ingall's office.

In August, 1856, Hon. D. M. Westfall entered into partnership with Judge Howe, of Cambridge, N. Y., who died in August, 1857. He was one of the first incorporators of the Woodland Cemetery Association in 1856 and acted as secretary of the preliminary meeting of that organization, prepared its charter and title papers and was one of its Trustees and Secretary of its Board until he resigned, after many years of service. He was also, for a number of years, and until he resigned, one of the Trustees and Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Washington

Hon. D. M. Westfall had not been practicing law many years before he assumed his legitimate position as a leading member of the bar of Washington County, and from 1866 to 1873 he held the office of special Surrogate.

In politics Hon. D. M. Westfall has always been an ardent Republican whose voice and views are valued in the councils of his party.

He represented his district in the State Assembly in 1884 and again in 1886. While in the Legislature he did a large part of the work of the Judiciary Committee and in 1886 was the first Chairman of the First Revision Committee. His associates on that committee were Baker, Kruse, Sheehan and Cantor. During the years 1885 and 1886 Hon. D. M. Westfall was one of the Examining Committee of the Supreme Court, General Term, Third Department, and examined and certified Mrs. Stoneman, the first woman admitted to the legal profession in the State of New York. She was admitted under an amendment of the Code enacted after she was examined (Laws 1886, Chap. 425.)

During his professional practice Hon. D. M. Westfall has been the means of settling some important questions of law, evidence and practice; as notable instances we refer to the following cases: People vs. Shaw, 63 N. Y. 36; Wilkinson vs. First National Fire Insurance Company of Worcester, 72 N. Y. 499; Baucus vs. Barr, 45 Hun., 582, affirmed, 107 N. Y. 624; Hoag vs. Town of Greenwich, 133 N. Y. 152.

Hon. D. M. Westfall besides bestowing attention upon all legal matters entrusted to him also takes a lively interest in all public questions and especially in legal legislation and has been trustee of the Cambridge Valley National Bank since 1883.

On February 8, i860, Hon. D. M. Westfall married Susan M., daughter of Judge Luther J. Howe. Their children are Daniel M. Jr., and Bertha Grace.

Daniel Westfall, Jr., is a graduate of Union College and an attorney at law.

Hon. D. M. Westfall traces his ancestry upon his mother's side from Captain Westfall of the Continental Army and also from Peter Decker, the founder of Deckertown, whose wife was a daughter of Captain Westfall. His father was also a descendant of the same Westfall family.

WESTON, Hon. Roswell Biography

Hon. Roswell Weston, who served as First Judge of Washington County from 1825 to 1827, was a son of Zachariah Weston, a Revolutionary soldier, and was born February 24, 1774. He read law with Hon. John Woodsvvorth, of Troy, and was admitted to the bar and commenced practice at Fort Edward, but soon removed to Sandy Hill, where he remained until his death, which occurred August 18, 1861.

WHITMAN, Hon. J. M. Biography

Hon. J. M. Whitman — This noted lawyer and orator was born near Lockhaven, Clinton County, Pennsylvania, December 27, 1847 and received a thorough elementary education in the district schools of his native place. He then took up the study of law and pursued it for four years at Freeport, Ills., and Lockhaven, Pa., after which he took a course in the Albany Law School and was graduated from that institution May 10, 1869. In the same year he was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of his profession in his native place. In February 1872 he came to Sandy Hill and made it his permanent residence. He had not long been in Washington County before he began to take a prominent place in the bar of the county through his ability as a lawyer and his splendid gift of oratory, and soon he became noted as the most eloquent member of the Washington County bar, and one of its finest speakers.

Were it not that he is a Democrat in politics and, therefore, among the minority in this abnormally Republican County, his talents and adaptability for public life would undoubtedly have led him into politics, and he would have held high public offices. He was appointed County Judge by Governor Hill, November 10, 1886, and ably discharged the duties of that responsible office until December 31. 1887.

He has been a delegate to Democratic Conventions repeatedly. From the time he was admitted to the bar up to the present he has done a great deal of public speaking for the Democratic party. He stumped Pennsylvania in 1872 in the campaign in which Gen. John F. Hartranft was elected governor of that state and in 1876 he made many brilliant speeches for Samuel J. Tilden in his contest for the presidency. In 1880 he also took an active part in the presidential election and in 1884 he made over sixty speeches for Grover Cleveland. He also worked in the campaigns of 1888, 1892 and 1896.

In 1869 Judge Whitman married Mary H. Baldwin of Sandy Hill, and they have three sons, namely: Jesse S. Whitman. James M. Whitman, Jr., for nine years past a Topographer on the U. vS. Geographical Survey, and Richard Peale Whitman. Judge Whitman's parents were Erasmus and Sarah (Shuler) Whitman, both natives of Pennsylvania. His grandfather, Jonathan Whitman, was a native of the State of Delaware. His father's mother was a descendant from the Lindsey family, one of whom, his grandfather, was a patriot soldier in the Revolutionary War, and the gun he carried is still a cherished heirloom in the family. The family on both sides has been American for many generations, and the Whitmans were originally Irish and English and the Shulers Hollanders.

WILLARD, John Biography

John Willard. — Among the distinguished jurists who have been residents of Washington County during the past century, Hon. John Willard deserves a prominent place.

As a lawyer it was said of him by Chancellor Walworth: "It might truly be said of him, semper paratus, semper fidelis. As a judge no judicial officer ever discharged his official duties more uprightly or more faithfully."

He was born in Guilford, Conn., on the 20th of May, 1792, and was descended from two Puritan families, who founded Guilford in 1639.

He was graduated from Middlebury College in August, 181 3, and while at college was associated with the late Silas Wright and Hon. Samuel Nelson. He was admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court in 1817. and entered upon the practice of law in Salem, and soon attained, by his talents and industry, an enviable eminence in his profession.

He was appointed a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in February, 1833, and was Surrogate until, in 1836, on the elevation of Esek Cowen to the Supreme Court, he was appointed Circuit Judge and Vice Chancellor of the Fourth Judicial District, which position he occupied until the organization of the judiciary under the constitution of 1846, when he was elected one of the Justices of the Supreme Court, which latter office he held until 1854, and during the last year of his term of service was a member of the Court of Appeals.

In 1837 he removed to Saratoga Springs, which was his residence during the remainder of his life. He was the author of several legal treatises, which are valuable contributions to our jurisprudence.

As a politician he was attached to the Democratic party and decided in his political opinion, but on the breaking out of the rebellion he took strong grounds in favor of a united support to the government in its struggle.

In 1861 he was nominated by the Union convention for senator and subsequently endorsed by all other parties and elected without opposition. By his efforts the confusion in the laws respecting murder and the rights of married women was removed, and simple and sensible statutes passed in relation thereto.

As an advocate, a judge, a legislator, he was alike eminent and accomplished; and in his private life irreproachable and blameless. It has fallen to the lot of few men to acquire and leave behind them such an honorable and unsullied name.

He was married in 1829 at the Troy Female Seminary to Miss Eliza C. Smith and enjoyed during his life the respect and esteem of his aunt, Mrs. Emma Willard, the founder of the Troy Female Seminary and the pioneer in the cause of female education. He lived to bury his only child in 1853 and his estimable wife in 1859 and cut off thus from his family ties, his great heart turned with affection and solicitude to the welfare of his country. He died at his residence, Saratoga Springs, on the 31st day of August, 1862.

WILSON, David Biography

David Wilson went from Sandy Hill to Whitehall, became a Member of Assembly in 1852, and Clerk of that body in 1858. He was an author as well as a lawyer, and wrote the book, "Solomon Northup."

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