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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Black

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[This information is from Vol. IV, pp. 1736-1737 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

Frank Sweet Black, ex-governor of the state of New York, was born at Livingston, York county, Maine, March 8, 1853. He was one of a family of eleven children who were reared on a rocky farm with a fractious soil that did not respond liberally to the farmer's efforts. At the age of eleven his parents removed to Alfred, Maine, where he attended the school now known as Limerick Academy, going from there to Lebanon Academy. He was a poor boy and his school days were frequently interrupted by the need of earning money. He taught school to earn enough to continue his course at Lebanon, where he organized a debating society and was one of the chief debaters. With some money gained in teaching and some obtained from his father (which later was repaid from his first earnings) he entered Dartmouth College in 1875. He was not well prepared, but by hard work made good the studies in which he was deficient. As before, he taught school to pay his expenses; one year he taught school at Cape Cod. In his junior year he could only attend his classes eleven weeks of the session. While a senior he taught in Provincetown, Cape Cod, where he met Lois B. Hamlin, who on Thanksgiving Day, 1879, became his wife. Despite all his handicaps, Mr. Black was one of the honor men on Commencement Day, had been the editor of two college periodicals and had twice been chosen a prize speaker. His success in teaching brought him the high endorsement of the college faculty, and on graduation day he had the choice of three principalships offered him. But the law, not teaching, was his goal, and all the offers were refused. He joined forces with a fellow student, Henry W. Smith, of Troy, and together they established headquarters at Rome, New York, and began the sale of pictures, the craze at that particular time being chromos. While so engaged, he became acquainted with W. M. Ireland, editor of the Johnstown, Fulton county, Journal, and librarian of the state senate at Albany, who was in need of a competent man to take charge of the Journal. Mr. Black accepted this position, and he was soon hard at work on both editorial and local pages of the Journal. The great struggle was then on between the national giants, Blaine and Conkling. Being from Maine he warmly supported the man from Maine, overlooking the fact that Mr. Ireland was a political follower of Conkling. This led to a rupture and Mr. Black resigned. While engaged in editorial work he had begun the study of law with Wells, Dudley & Keck, of Fulton county. He now removed to Troy, New York, where he continued his legal study with Robertson & Foster, working in the meantime as reporter on the Troy Whig, in the office of the registry department of the Troy postoffice, and in the service of various legal papers. He soon became managing clerk in the office of Robertson & Foster, and had the distinction of operating the first typewriter ever used in Troy. He earned a part of his expense money by copying papers, becoming exceedingly expert on the machine. In 1879, four years after his graduation, he was admitted to the bar. He accepted an offer of a partnership and became junior member of the law firm of Smith, Wellington & Black, continuing for one year, then went into business for himself, and opened offices in the Young building in Troy. He went into debt for law books, but when he had them, read and knew them. He worked hard, thoroughly prepared his cases and each year showed an increase in practice and income. In a few years he became known as a leader of the Rensselaer county bar and had his choice of cases. He always avoided criminal cases, but there were few civil cases of importance in the county in which he was not offered a retainer on one side or the other. His law library was one of the best in Troy, and every book in it gave signs of usage. In one month, August, 1893, there came to Mr. Black's legal care, the largest business that ever came to a law office in Troy in the same time. The passing into receivership of the Troy Steel & Iron Company, and of the Gilbert Car Company, was an indication of his high standing in the legal fraternity. He was always a Republican in conviction, in experience and in service. He was a campaign speaker for the Republican county committee in 1888 and 1892. Becoming aware of the election frauds in Troy, he drew up bills for presentation to the legislature to make these frauds impossible. An exciting election followed, at which a Republican watcher, named Robert Ross, was murdered by a man named "Bat" Shea. Mr. Black organized a committee of public safety, to secure the punishment of the murderer, whoever he might be, and accomplished his object. Shea, after trial, was convicted and electrocuted. Mr. Black then continued his efforts to reform the election laws and secured the passage of the O'Connor Inspector Act. As a natural result of his political activity in the fall of 1894, he was nominated and elected to congress. In the house he served on committees, Pacific railroad and private land claims. In 1896 he was renominated, but there was a greater office before him. He had been a delegate to the Republican National Convention that nominated McKinley, and had made a brilliant speech, when New York City ratified the nomination. His capacity for public work of a high order had become known when his name was presented by Rensselaer and Columbia counties at the state convention held at Saratoga as a candidate for governor, his speedy nomination over several strong candidates following. He made a series of strong speeches in the campaign that followed, and had the gratification of being elected by the largest plurality ever given a Republican candidate for governor, 212,992. He was sworn into office January 1, 1897. He gave the state a strong administration, which was specially marked by the completion of the state capitol, which had been in course of construction so many years. The governor took hold of this problem in his usual thorough, vigorous manner, and the capitol was finished. After retiring from office he returned to the practice of law, in which he has since added to his fame. He married, as stated, Lois Hamlin, daughter of Dr. Hamlin, of Provincetown, Massachusetts.

He has one child, Arthur, who was fifteen years of age when his father was elected governor of New York state. Few men can look back over their lives with greater satisfaction than Frank Sweet Black, who, by sheer force of character, rose from a lowly position to the highest.

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