O. H. Farnsworth
ONE OF LAST OF A GROUP OF MEN WHO TRAVELED THROUGH NORTHERN N.Y. A GENERATION AGO
Passes In Hospital
A native of Hermon and of the early families of that Town and Village, had a most interesting life and many interesting experiences.
Oliver H. Farnsworth, for more than forty years a resident of this village, who for a long period of years traveled through Northern New York representing a business house of Syracuse and later on another business concern of Ogdensburg: long known as a Masonic fraternity man, clubman, passed away at Potsdam Hospital Tuesday afternoon after several weeks’ illness, aged 85 years. His condition had been such for several days that the end was momentarily expected.
Funeral services were conducted at the Lawrence Funeral Chapel Thursday afternoon, the Rev. Dr. Richard Eddy Sykes, president emeritus of St. Lawrence University, officiating. The Masonic ritualistic service was also exemplified by members of the St. Lawrence Commandery. Burial will be made later in the spring at Hermon Memorial Cemetery.
Oliver Hedden Farnsworth was born in the town of Hermon on Oct. 16, 1854, coming from old families of the town of Hermon and later of Hermon village. The Farnsworth farm is still pointed out on the road that leads from the Hermon-Edwards Road off westward toward Ken’s Corners. He received his early education in the schools of Hermon and vicinity. When he was about twenty years of age he got the Western fever like many other young men and sought fortune and adventure in the Far West. This was in the seventies and the West was then Indian Country with Indian outbreaks a common and expected thing. He had plenty of excitement and adventure and sitting down in declining years he retold the stories of his experiences in the Far West which he had come to know at first hand.
He returned to Hermon in the early eighties and soon afterward on Oct. 24, 1883 was married to Miss Alice Kelley, daughter of the late James E. Kelley, long engaged in the manufacture of wagons in Hermon village. The Kelley Wagon Works was one of the main home industries of Hermon for many years.
For many years Mr. Farnsworth was engaged as a commercial traveler, representing a Syracuse grocery house, and traveled up and down Northern New York calling on the trade. He was the sort of man who got trade, secured and held customers. He was a good storyteller and always a man of his word, and he never let a customer down, so that orders were usually held for him.
During these years of travel, the latter part of which was for the St. Lawrence Grocery of Ogdensburg, he met many travelling men and was intimately acquainted with men like Omar P. Stearns of Winthrop. Farnsworth and Stearns were never happier than when they found themselves together on a winter night in a hotel in Colton, Edwards, Nicholville or wherever it was-They were men of each other’s hearts and theirs was a lasting friendship which was broken only by the death of the tall, loveable Stearns, several years ago.
Mr. and Mrs. Farnsworth, and an adopted daughter, Mary Beswick, the latter a daughter of the dead sister of Mrs. Farnsworth, Mrs. W. E. Beswick of Hermon, removed to Canton in 1899 and the home was up to the time of Mrs. Farnsworth’s death in 1929, on Jay Street, and though “Ol,” as he was generally called, retained the home to the close of his life, he had been for several years past living at the Club Restaurant apartments, Court Street.
After coming to Canton, Mr. Farnsworth continued on the road. He later, however, was engaged as a bookkeeper at the Spears mills on the Island, and was for some time bookkeeper for the Seaver Medicine Co. Many years ago he took a position in the First National Bank as a bookkeeper and remained there many years, latterly in the new bank building that was constructed in the twenties. He had known the late W. N. Beard from the boyhood of the latter and the two had been good friends for many years.
Mr. Farnsworth took a live interest in schools and other civic matters. He was a member of Canton School Board for many years and a member of the teachers’ hiring committee while on that Board. To this he gave the same conscientious attention that he gave to everything that he engaged in.
At one time only did he seek political office while a resident of Canton. He was a candidate for the office of supervisor of the town against the late Abram H. Wiggins. It was a hot campaign, and Farnsworth had to fight the political machine and the Town Board who were solidly for Wiggins. At his time he was engaged in the First National Bank. He turned to Wriley N. Beard, who was a former supervisor and who had a strong hand in town affairs, and asked him to place his name in nomination. Beard said, “I’d be glad to, but before I knew you were a candidate, I promised Mr. Wiggins.” This would have been disheartening to some, but “Ol” Farnsworth looked about and finally found Edgar G. Blankman, the mapman, who agreed to make the nomination, but as a sort of afterthought said, “But I’m going to vote for Wiggins.” “All right,” said Farnsworth, “I’m not thin skinned, put my name before the caucus and I’ll take a chance with even you a friend of Wiggins nominating me.”
The caucus was probably one of the biggest town caucuses ever held in the Town Hall. It looked pretty closed. Both papers had given Wiggins support, but Farnsworth rode the town and made bad in-roads on sections that were believed to be Wiggins ground. Blankman presented the name of Farnsworth and in doing so explained that he wasn’t going to vote for him, but was making the nomination as a matter of accommodation. Mr. Beard made the best speech in the caucus and it was believed that speech gave Wiggins the majority-a slim one of about fifty in a vote of around a thousand-These were not woman suffrage days.
Since Mr. Farnsworth’s retirement from the First National Bank he had not taken on other business.
He was in excellent health up to very recent years. He took an interest in motoring, in cars, always fancying a good one; he liked his home and when his wife passed it was a hard blow. He visited a brother, Theron N. Farnsworth, which he referred to as “Teen,” at Camden, N.Y. T.N. Farnsworth was four years his senior until up to the time of his death within very recent years in his eighties was in excellent health, mentally and physically. “Ol” visited at the home of his foster daughter, Mary Louise Kelly, Mrs. M. S. Kronheim, Vineland, N.J. and at the home of a brother and a nephew in Camden. The latter is engaged in a considerable printing business in which church envelopes and other printing novelties are manufactured and marketed.
He was a lifelong friend of the late Omar A. Hine, of Watertown, who passed within recent years well up in the nineties. The last time Mr. Hine visited Canton was the spring before his death when he attended Past Commanders’
Night at the Masonic Temple. A group picture was taken at that time, and one of these photographs has been displayed on the Commercial Advertiser wall since. In the front row of the group are found O.H. Farnsworth, Omar A. Hine, Dr. J.M. Payson and John H. Wade. In the back row appear Welby W, Haile, J. Fred Hammond and Dr. F.F. Williams. Two others appear in the picture. Of that group Hammond and Hine went some time ago, now Ol Farnsworth joins these friends and brothers.
Oliver Farnsworth was for all his mature years a member of the Masonic order. He joined the Blue Lodge in Hermon as a young man and retained membership in that lodge to the close of his life. He was a past commander of St. Lawrence Commandery, No. 28, Knights Templar. He knew the ritualistic work of Masonry as no other man. He was in demand to officiate in the ritualistic work at Masonic funerals and this work as exemplified by him was impressive, flawless, devout. He was usually sought for years to officiate at Masonic funerals were he available. He was for long years a member of Canton Club. He enjoyed a game of billiards, and he enjoyed nothing better than sitting down with friends or a friend and telling of the years that have rolled along since he shook the dust of Hermon from his shoes over sixty years ago. He leaves as one of the last of a line of interesting men of a generation, now about off the stage. Those privileged to know him-it was a privilege-found him genuine, loyal, once a friend, a friend always.
Mr. Farnsworth leaves no close relatives, other than a nephew, Almon Farnsworth of Camden, N.Y., an adopted daughter, Mrs. Mary Kronheim of Vineland, N.J., a niece, Mrs. Smith, wife of George Smith, prominent attorney of Schenectady; there are also three grandnephews and a sister-in-law, the latter Mrs. Maude Kelley Chaney, wife of Surrogate Ceylon G. Chaney of Canton.
REPRINTED from the "Commerical Advertiser", Canton, NY, April 9, 1940.
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