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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
William Henry Decker

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[This information is from pp. 189-191 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

William Henry Decker, Survisor of the town of Gilboa, Schoharie County, N. Y., and by occupation a dairyman and fruit-grower, was born in Gilboa on November 12, 1846. His parents were Jacob and Betsy Ann (Shew) Decker, and his paternal grandfather was Tunis Decker, whose immigrant progenitor was one of a colony of Dutch emigrants who settled in Deckertown, N. J., and Columbia County, New York.

Tunis Decker was born in 1765 in Columbia County, and lived there for some time. He came eventually to Gilboa, and purchased a tract of three hundred acres, part of which estate is where his grandson William now resides. Although ostensibly a farmer, he was a man of varied talents, and could turn his hand to almost any kind of work. He came here in 1833, and died some twenty years later, in his eighty-ninth year. His remains were the first to be carried into the Shew Hollow Methodist church for funeral services. No other place seemed so fitting as the church for which he had worked and sacrificed, and to whose interests he was so thoroughly devoted. His wife, whom he had married shortly after the Revolution, survived him some years, dying at the age of eighty-eight. Of their family of twelve children three died in infancy. The nine that continued life's journey were Cornelia, Jacob and Sophia (twins), Polly, Catherine, Susan, Eliza, Cornelius, and George. Eliza Decker died on Long Island of yellow fever. Tall stature was a family characteristic. The three sons became farmers, and each upon settling in life for himself was given a hundred acres of land from the paternal estate. Cornelius died in New London, Wis. He had three sons, only one of whom is living. This one and William Henry Decker are the only living male descendants of Tunis Decker bearing his name. George had two sons, but both are deceased.

Jacob Decker, who was born June 30, 1811, at Conesville, Schoharie County, N. Y., and died in Gilboa, N. Y., on Christmas Day, 1879, was a carpenter, and followed his trade for twenty-two years, being considered one of the most skilled workmen in these parts. He lived with his parents until his marriage, and then settled on the lot his father gave him, living first in the log house on the premises which became the birthplace of the subject of this sketch and most of his brothers and sisters. Later Jacob Decker built a large house. He was a Republican from the formation of the party, and a leader in all local affairs. He was deeply interested in the progress of the church, and was one of those who helped build the Methodist church edifice at Shew Hollow. He was class leader for fourteen years. Indeed, this family has been and still is noted for its liberal support of all religious organizations both in a moral and a financial way. Jacob Decker's wife, Betsy Ann, was a granddaughter, on her mother's side, of Captain Hagar, who won renown during the days of the Revolution by his valiant service in behalf of the colonists. His brother Joseph was shot during the war, and his father was carried a prisoner to Canada, and detained there until the end of the struggle. One of three pewter plates, the history of which is connected with the Revolution, is still preserved in Mr. Decker's family. They were thrown into a well by the wife of Captain Hagar just before the house was burned by Brant's Indians and Tories, and they were taken from the well at the close of the war. Mrs. Betsy Ann Decker died at eighty years of age, on March 12, 1894. She was the mother of the following-named children: Marietta; S. Amelia; Martha A.; Francelia; Rozella; Almira, who died at the age of six years; Helen, who died young; William H.; and two elder sons, who died young. Marietta married David Simonson, and resides in Hobart, N. Y. Amelia married Dr. R. Hubbell, of Jefferson, N. Y., and died in 1889. Francelia is the wife of William R. Ladd, of Bangor, Me. Rozella is the second wife of Dr. R. Hubbell, of Jefferson, N. Y.

William Henry Decker is a man of fine physique, and in his prime was known as the strongest and most active man in this section. He has been known to lift twelve hundred pounds dead weight. He early engaged in blacksmithing, for which he seemed so well adapted by nature, and in wood working and repairing. His motto was, "Do it right and you won't have to do it over again" and, as this sentiment found constant expression in all work that he did, he had no difficulty in securing the best trade in his line in this vicinity. But after twenty years of mechanical labor he was attacked by rheumatism, and it became necessary for him to make a change in this business. He therefore confined himself to farming on his two hundred and thirty-eight acres, devoting his attention chiefly to dairying and fruit-growing. His dairy of sixty milch cows is one of the largest in town, and is composed of excellent stock. He has about six hundred apple-trees. He is one of the five directors in the creamery company at South Gilboa, and previous to its incorporation was one of the committee that built the creamery and carried on the business. This creamery, which is one of the most expensive in this vicinity, cost, with buildings and equipment, seven thousand dollars.

Politically, Mr. Decker is a strong Republican. He has attended many conventions, and every year since he became a voter has taken an active part in election and nomination of officials. With the exception of one year, when he was sick, he has always been present at town elections. He has held the offices of Collector, Road Commissioner, Poormaster, Assessor, Constable, and, indeed, every office in the town except those of Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace. If he lives till the end of his present term he will have been Supervisor of his town five years. Every nomination has come to him unsolicited. While he was serving as Road Commissioner thirty bridges were repaired in one season, but expenses were kept at a minimum. In 1896 he was elected Supervisor for two years; in 1898 he was re-elected, for one year, as the unanimous choice of both parties; and in the early part of the present year, 1899, he was re-elected for two years. His opponent at his first election was Stephen Wildsey, who had been on the board twice before.

Mr. Decker has been twice married, his wives being sisters, daughters of Hiram Brown, of Dutch descent. Mr. Brown is living, but his wife died in April, 1896. They were the parents of two sons and three daughters, namely: Eliza; Reuben; Jacob, who resides in Gilboa; Addie; and Angie. Addie Brown, to whom Mr. Decker was married first, died in her thirty-fourth year, on November 21, 1889. She was the mother of five children, and is survived by three; namely, Lizzie E., Zanah, and Arthur B. Willie J. died at two years of age, on November 2, 1880; and Inza died at four years of age, on October 22, 1884. Mr. Decker's present wife was before marriage Angie Brown. Mr. Decker is a member of the Shew Hollow Methodist Episcopal Church. He has always been a temperate man in every way, using neither tobacco nor intoxicants of any kind. His genial temper and hearty good humor make him a general favorite, and his jovial laugh is a pleasant sound to hear.

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