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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Corning

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[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 770-774 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.]

The family of Corning trace their genealogy far back in English history. Formerly spelled De Cornu, a name originally French, meaning "the horn of a hunter," the founder of the name being a famous hunter. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the De Cornus, with many ancient families, were compelled to leave France and sought refuge, some in Holland, some in England. The branch that settled in England dropped the Du and called themselves Cornus, which by each transition became Corning. This is proved by many things, the strongest being the horn of the hunter counterchanged on the shield, divided per fess, or, and gules, with the motto, "Crede Cornu," as their arms, thus proving a common descent. Some of the Corning family entered ardently into the support of Cromwell, and after the return of the monarchy one of the family, most conspicuous, was compelled to flee to America and settled near Boston, Massachusetts.

(I) The earliest Corning of which official record can be found is Ensign Samuel Corning, born 1616, who was admitted a freeman of Beverly, Massachusetts, in 1641, and was one of the founders of the church in Beverly in 1667. He was one of those chosen to "make a rate," May 15, 1665. This seems to have been the first choice of what has since been termed "Selectmen," although the town was not incorporated until 1668. Among those chosen as above was "Ensign Corning," in 1667, and among those chosen to procure wood for Mr. (probably Rev.) Hale was "Ensign Corning," in 1668. "Samuel Corning Senior was one of the selectmen and on a special committee to treat and to settle with Wenham the boundary line," June 2, 1670;. "Samuel Corning is chosen to keep an ordinary," March 6, 1671, Richard Brackenbury and Samuel Corning "have leave to make a seat at the north end of the pulpit"; 1671, Ensign Corning chosen selectman; also in 1675; in 1676 "collector of rate"; 1678, committee on boundaries; in 1679 Samuel Corning senior had "20 trees for building and fencing." He died before March 11, 1694-95, when Samuel Corning (2), Nathaniel Hayward, senior, and his wife Elizabeth, and Nathaniel Stone, senior, and his wife Remember, divided the lands of their late father, "Ensign Samuel Corning, senior, deceased," whose widow was Elizabeth. These three, Samuel (2), Elizabeth and Remember, were probably all the children he had, all, at least, who survived him.

(II) Samuel (2), only son of Samuel (1) and Elizabeth Corning, died May 11, 1714, aged seventy-three years. He married Hannah, daughter of John Bacheldor, who died February 17, 1718, aged seventy-two years. They had four sons who survived them:

  1. Samuel, born June 1, 1670;
  2. John, 1676;
  3. Joseph, see forward;
  4. Daniel, September 17, 1686.

(III) Joseph, son of Samuel (2) and Hannah (Bacheldor) Corning, was born November 19, 1679, died in Preston, Connecticut, 1718. He was the first of the family to remove from Beverly, Massachusetts, to Preston, Connecticut. He married Rebeckah Woodbury, January 17, 1702-03. Children:

  1. Hannah;
  2. Joseph, born May 22, 1707;
  3. Josiah, 1709, died 1760;
  4. Martha;
  5. Nehemiah, see forward.

(IV) Nehemiah, son of Joseph and Rebeckah (Woodbury) Corning, was born April 25, 1717, died October 7, 1797. He married (first) November 14, 1745, Mary (Ricards) Pride, widow of Abner Pride. Children:

  1. Joseph, born October 7, 1746; was a soldier of the revolution; was captured by the British, confined on the Jersey prison ship in New York harbor, where he probably died, as he was never heard from afterward.
  2. Benjamin, born 1748, died 1827.
  3. Amos, born 1751, died 1753. 4. Amos, born December 25, 1754. He married (second) Freeborn or Freelove Bliss (the Bliss genealogy gives her name Freelove), a descendant of Thomas Bliss, of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, who came to America in 1636 from England. Children:
    1. Mary;
    2. Uriah, born 1758;
    3. Amos;
    4. Bliss, see forward;
    5. Cyrus.

(V) Bliss, son of Nehemiah and Freeborn or Freelove (Bliss) Corning, was born at Preston, Connecticut, October 20, 1763. He was a farmer. He was born in the stormy times preceding the revolution. The scene of Concord and Lexington stirred in him the deepest patriotic ardor, and although too young to join his countrymen at the beginning, before the struggle was over he was a soldier in the Continental army. He was in receipt of a revolutionary pension down to the time of his death. Not long after his marriage he removed to Norwich, Connecticut. He married Lucinda Smith, of Preston, Connecticut, born 1755, died 1840. Children:

  1. Nathan, May 20, 1788;
  2. Elisha, 1790, died 1857;
  3. Clarissa;
  4. Erastus, see forward;
  5. Alexander, 1796;
  6. Edwin, 1798;
  7. Richard, 1800, died 1852;
  8. Eliza;
  9. Hannah;
  10. Mary Ann;
  11. John H., born 1809, died 1869.

(VI) Hon, Erastus, son of Bliss and Lucinda (Smith) Corning, was born at Norwich, Connecticut, December 14, 1794, died April 8, 1872. His education, so far as actual school attendance means education, was finished when he was thirteen years of age. In 1807 he left Norwich and entered a hardware store in Troy, New York, with his uncle, Benjamin Smith, a merchant and prominent Democrat of that city. Mr. Smith took a deep interest in the lad and at his death, some years later, bequeathed him the bulk of his estate in Troy. In March, 1814, Mr. Corning left Troy for a larger field of operations and located at Albany, New York, where he entered the hardware and iron firm of John Spencer & Company, at that time one of the principal mercantile houses of Albany. In 1816 he became a partner and member of the firm, a position exactly fitted to his ambitions and business ability. The firm later became Erastus Corning & Company, growing to be one of the largest and most prosperous concerns of the city or even state. In addition to the store they owned and operated nail and iron works, rolling mills, etc., situated near Troy, New York, known as the Albany Iron Works. Mr. Corning became well known outside his own line of business, and many responsible positions in the financial world were filled by him during his active business life. In 1833 he was elected vice-president of the New York State Bank, but resigned in 1834 on the organization of the Albany City Bank, of which he was chosen president, a position he filled for many years. He became one of the great railroad officials also. In 1833, on the organization of the Utica and Schenectady Railroad, he was elected its president, remaining at the head of that company until 1853, when it was merged into what is now the New York Central Railroad Company. On the first election of directors of the New York Central, he was elected president of the company, and held that important and responsible post for eleven years. The foundation for the present greatness of the Central was laid during the administration of Mr. Corning, whose strict integrity, incessant industry, broad and practical business experience, rendered him a most valuable head for that great corporation that has been such an important factor in the development and prosperity of northern and central New York, as well as adjacent states. The St. Marie's Falls Ship Canal, connecting Lake Superior with the lower lakes, was constructed by a company of which he was president. He was also a director of the Michigan Central, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroads, and filled various other positions of trust in corporations, associations and companies not mentioned. He continued active in business to an excessive degree, but finally was obliged to go abroad for his health, yielding to the only power that ever overcame him, April 8, 1872.

His political sentiments, which he never changed, were Jeffersonian Democratic. He both honored and was honored by his party. In 1828 he was elected alderman of Albany. He was mayor of that city three years, 1834-37. In 1833 he was chosen by the legislature one of the regents of the New York State University, and subsequently vice-chancellor of the board, serving on the board for thirty-nine years. In 1842 he was elected a member of the state senate, serving with distinction for four years for the Third Senatorial District. He was delegate to the Democratic National Convention, held in Baltimore in 1848-52. At the latter he was president of the New York delegation. In 1856 he was elected a representative in congress from the Fourteenth Congressional District, serving from December 7, 1857, to March 4, 1859. He was appointed by the speaker to the committees on claims and on naval affairs. In 1861 he was again elected to congress, serving on ways and means committee, was re-elected the following term, thus serving in the thirty-fifth, thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth congresses. The last two were held during the strenuous times of the civil war and are known as the "War congresses." In 1861 he was a delegate to the peace convention. With other eminent members of that body, he was in favor of making honorable concessions to the south, but when another policy prevailed he gave his means, his influence and his every exertion to the task of preserving the Union. "The Union now and forever, one and inseparable," guided him in his congressional career. He saw the constitution and the law vindicated, and "rejoiced that the heart of the Nation beat and throbbed in a united body politic."

Mr. Corning married, March 10, 1819, Harriet Weld, of Roxbury, Massachusetts, born July 31, 1794. The Weld family of Massachusetts is one of the old and eminent families of that state, tracing their genealogy far back in English history. She was a woman of culture and intelligence, a fitting companion for such a man as Erastus Corning. Children:

  1. Benjamin Smith, born January 1, 1820, died September 18, 1821.
  2. John Spencer, November 20, 1823, died February 25, 1833.
  3. Erastus, see forward.
  4. Joseph Weld, March 8, 1829, died August 14, 1830.
  5. Edwin W., September 4, 1836.

Hon. Erastus Corning's moral and intellectual qualities were in harmony; his principles commanded the respect and confidence of legislative, commercial and business circles in which he moved. In private life he gained affection and esteem. He was modest, claimed no merit, assumed no undue importance, accomplished his purpose not so much by reason of his great wealth as by his strength, manliness and probity of character. His career should prove an inspiration to youth, showing as it does what can be accomplished by a farmer's boy of only common school education, but of high ideals and untiring industry.

(VII) Erastus (2), son of Erastus (1) and Harriet (Weld) Corning, was born at Albany, New York, June 16, 1827, died August 31, 1897. He was educated in Greenbush, College Hill, Poughkeepsie, and Union College, Schenectady, New York. On leaving college he entered a vast business school, under the tutorship of his father. He was brought into close companionship with the most noted financiers, manufacturers, legislators and statesmen. Associations of such a nature must prove valuable. These favorable circumstances, aided by his own exertions and energy, soon placed him in the front rank of manufacturers and financiers, in which he displayed the useful characteristics which marked the career of his distinguished father, whose great satisfaction it was that he had a son who, when he was past the period of activity, would take his place and successfully carry forward his great designs and business prospects. He succeeded to the presidency of the Albany Iron Works, a concern of magnitude. It is interesting to know that the plates, bars and rivets used in building Ericsson's first "Monitor," that we may say saved our nation, were made at the Albany Iron Works, orders for other work being refused in order to hasten the "Monitor's" construction. He was president of the Albany City National Bank, the Albany City Savings Institution, the Albany Rural Cemetery Association, director of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, president of the Fort Orange Club, and interested in a score of enterprises not noted. He had a beautiful farm two miles south of Albany, and gave considerable attention to agriculture and the raising of blooded stock, South Downs, Jerseys, and Herefords, with extra stables for his numerous horses. Perhaps his leading characteristic was his love for flowers. Possessing ample means to gratify his fine taste, he achieved a success as a floriculturist — almost without a rival; the choicest floral productions of the world were to be found in his conservatories. In the cultivation of orchids he was singularly successful. He had the best collection of Phaloenopsis in the world, acknowledging, indeed, but one rival, Lee, of England. He took the deepest interest in the erection of All Saints' Cathedral (Episcopal), donating valuable lands for the site in Albany. Not only in this, but in numerous instances was his public spirit and generosity displayed toward churches, schools and public improvement. He inherited the sterling Democratic principles of his father, yet never sought official preferment, although easily within his reach. His only official positions were presidential elector in 1884 and alderman from his ward in Albany. He was "reluctant to abandon his business for the uncertain and often unsatisfactory honors of the political arena."

Mr. Corning married, in 1850, Gertrude Tibbits, by whom he had a son, Erastus, see forward. Mrs. Corning died in 1869. He married (second) in 1873, Mary, daughter of Amasa J. Parker, of Albany, lawyer, circuit judge, vice-chancellor, justice of the supreme court, member of the state legislature, regent,of the University, Democratic member of the Twenty-fifth congress, candidate of that party for governor of New York in 1866, and a man of deep learning and cultivated literary tastes. His wife was Harriet Langdon (Roberts) Parker, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Judge Parker traced his descent to families distinguished in the early history of New England. His features are preserved, carved in stone on one of the capitals of the grand staircase in the state capitol. Children of Erastus and Mary (Parker) Corning:

  1. Parker, see forward;
  2. Harriet Weld, born February 22, 1876, married F. W. Rawle;
  3. Edwin, see forward.

(VIII) Erastus (3), son of Erastus (2) and Gertrude (Tibbits) Corning, was born in Albany, New York, May 26, 1851, died April 8, 1893. He was a student at St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire, but did not remain to complete his course. He was finely educated under a private tutor with whom he spent several years in Europe, giving especial study to the finer arts and languages. He inherited all the virile qualities of the Corning blood, but a serious illness in youth left him with an impaired constitution, which was a handicap, effectually preventing his engaging actively in the great Corning enterprises. His fine mind was then turned to the gentler, quieter pursuits of life. He lived in the world of art and nature, taking special delight in the Corning conservatories, which he did a great deal to develop and make famous. He was ever partial to the pursuits of the farmer, although never so engaged. For a short time he was connected with the Corning Iron Works, but broke down and was ever after an invalid. He traveled much in search of health, spent several summers in Canada and winters in California, fishing and hunting. He was a most lovable man, and with his host of friends, his books, pictures, flowers and out-door life, sought compensation for the health and active life denied him. In his younger days he was an enthusiastic member of the Albany Burgess Corps, which was at that time associated with the best of Albany's citizens. He was eminently qualified mentally to take rank with the best of Albany's captains of industry and keenly felt the lack of physical equipment that held him to a life of inactivity, but he fought life's battle manfully, and left behind a cherished memory. He married Grace Fitz-Randolph Schenck, daughter of Rev. Dr. Schenck, of Brooklyn, New York. She bore him two children:

  1. Erastus, see forward.
  2. Gertrude Tibbits, born October 13, 1887, died May 26, 1897.

Mrs. Corning married (second) Dr. Samuel B. Ward, of Albany, New York.

(IX) Erastus (4), only son of Erastus (3) and Grace Fitz-Randolph (Schenck) Corning, was born in Albany, New York, October 22, 1879. His early education was obtained at the Albany Boys' Academy. He prepared for college at St. Marks' School, Southboro, Massachusetts, where he was graduated in 1899. He entered the academic department of Yale University, graduating in 1903. Deciding upon the profession of medicine, he entered Albany Medical College, graduating M. D., class of 1907. He spent one year as resident physician in Albany hospital, and has since been established in private practice in Albany. He is a member of the State and County Medical societies, and the Albany clubs, University and Country. He married, May 17, 1906, Edith Harlan Child, of Washington, D. C., daughter of Frank Linus Child, of Boston, and granddaughter of Justice Harlan, of the United States supreme court. Children:

  1. Edith, born January 15, 1907.
  2. Gertrude Tibbits, born July 31, 1908.

(VIII) Parker, son of Erastus (2) and Mary (Parker) Corning, was born in Albany, New York, January 22, 1874. He was educated at the Albany Boys' Academy, St. Paul's School, at Concord, New Hampshire, where he prepared for college, graduating in 1891. He entered Yale university, from which he was graduated A. B., class of 1895. He at once entered upon an active business career, emulating the example of his illustrious grandfather, and scarcely less conspicuous father. With James W. Cox, he organized the Albany Felt Company for the manufacture of papermakers' felts. He is vice-president and treasurer of the company. Other business enterprises claim his attention and talents. He is a director of the New York State National Bank and of the City Safe Deposit Company, and trustee of the Mechanics' and Farmers' Savings Bank, Albany City Homeopathic Hospital and of the Rural Cemetery Association. Mr. Corning seeks relaxation at the Fort Orange Club, Albany, of which he is a trustee, or at the Albany Country Club, to which he belongs. His "out-of-town" club is the Graduate of New Haven, Connecticut.

(VIII) Edwin, youngest son of Erastus (2) and Mary (Parker) Corning, was born in Albany, New York, September 30, 1883. He was educated at Albany Boys' Academy and at Groton, Massachusetts, preparatory to his admission to Yale University, where he was graduated, class of 1906. He is engaged in business as secretary and treasurer of the Ludlum Steel and Spring Company, of Watervliet. He married Louise, daughter of James Allen and Ellen (Blackmar) Maxwell. Child, Erastus, born October 7, 1909.

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