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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
James S. Staley

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[This information is from pp. 129-130 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.]

James S. Staley, a prosperous farmer of Sharon Springs, was born in Florida, N. Y., March 20, 1825, son of Henry I. and Sarah B. (McDonald) Staley. His maternal ancestors were Irish Protestants, and his mother came to America when she was four years old. The Staleys are of Dutch origin, and the name was originally spelled Stael. The first Stael, or Staley, in America, settled in Florida, when that section of the State was mostly a wilderness, and he resided there for the rest of his life. His wife's people, who came from Germany to New Jersey, sold her for a sum sufficient to pay for their passage over, and he worked to purchase her freedom.

Jacob Staley, James S. Staley's grandfather, was a lifelong resident of Florida, and followed general farming during his active years. He had a family of six children, including Henry, Valentine, Oliver, Betsey, and two other daughters. Betsey became Mrs. Blood. Valentine and Henry succeeded to the ownership of the homestead, which contained about two hundred acres. Valentine afterward moved to Genesee, N. Y. Both the grandparents and great-grandparents were members of the Dutch Reformed church.

Henry I. Staley, James S. Staley's father, was reared at the homestead in Florida. Purchasing his brother's interest, he cultivated the property for a number of years. Selling to his brother-in-law, Mr. Blood, and coming to Sharon Springs in 1833, he bought the J. Cady farm of one hundred and fifty acres, which he occupied until his death. He was a well-known stock-raiser, owned good horses, and was noted as an excellent judge of these animals. In politics he was a Democrat. Henry I. Staley died in 1870. He was the father of ten children; namely, Jacob, Valentine, Fanny, Ann Eliza, William H., John, James S., Robert, Sarah, and Alexander. Fanny, William H., John, Robert, and Sarah are no longer living. Valentine resides at Sharon Springs; Alexander occupies the homestead; Ann Eliza is the widow of William Othman, late of Cobleskill, N. Y.; and Sarah was the wife of Peter Spraker.

James S. Staley was fitted for college at the Ames Academy, but was prevented from pursuing a classical course by an accident which seriously affected his eyesight. He was however, enabled to turn his attention to educational pursuits, and after teaching in the district schools of this locality for twelve years he went to New York City, where for four years he had full charge of Leake and Watts Orphans' School, having the aid of three assistants. That position he was forced to resign in order to undergo treatment for his eyes. Having spent nine months under the care of a skilful specialist, he returned to Sharon Springs. He continued to teach school until 1858, when he purchased the Hunt farm, which contains about ninety acres and was formerly a part of his brother Valentine's property. He was at one time quite extensively engaged in raising hops, but now devotes his attention to general and dairy farming and fruit-growing. He acquired considerable prominence in public affairs during his younger days, serving as Superintendent of Schools three years, Commissioner of Highways two terms, Railroad Commissioner three years, and Supervisor one year.

Mr. Staley married Ann E. Hodge, of the town of Canajoharie, daughter of Isaac G. Hodge. Her father was formerly a well-known figure in public affairs, and a leading member of the Methodist church, which he helped to organize. His family consisted of four sons and seven daughters. The daughters were all graduated from the Ames Academy and qualified to teach. Mrs. Staley taught school for some years before marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Staley have one son, George E. He married Minnie Snyder, daughter of Nathan Snyder, and has two children — Earl and May.

Mr. Staley belonged to a lodge of Odd Fellows that disbanded many years ago, and he has never joined another. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, in which he has served as steward, class leader, and in other capacities. He is now a trustee, and superintendent of the Sunday-school, and a well-known worker in the cause of religion, temperance, and morality.

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