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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
John Joseph Town

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 144-147 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of John Joseph Town

Portrait: John Joseph Town

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John Joseph Town has represented the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Coal Company as sales agent at Utica since appointed to that position on the 1st of May, 1905. His birth occurred in Syracuse, Onondaga county, New York, on the 22d of March, 1849, his parents being Sylvester R. and Mary (Savage) Town, both of whom departed this life in the year 1888. In the acquirement of an education John J. Town attended the public schools of Syracuse and Oswego to the age of fifteen years. In July, 1864, a few months after putting aside his textbooks, he enlisted for service in the Union army as a member of Company D, One Hundred and Eighty-fourth New York Volunteers, of which his father was captain. He was honorably discharged at City Point, near Richmond, Virginia, in June, 1865. Subsequently he took advantage of the offer of his uncle, Richard Savage, to join him in the retail lumber trade at Syracuse and was thus active in business for nine years. On the expiration of that period he formed a partnership with a friend and for two years was engaged in the retail and wholesale tobacco business in Syracuse as senior member of the firm of Town & Ostrander. When this relationship was severed Mr. Town went to New Mexico, in which state he was identified with sheep raising interests as a member of the firm of Town & Wilber for a period of nine years. After disposing of his interest to his partner he returned to the Empire state in 1884, settled in Utica and accepted the position of resident manager for Holden & Son in the coal business, this firm being sales agents for the Delaware, Iackawanna & Western Railroad Company. "Scranton" coal, mined by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company, first came to Utica by rail on the completion of the Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley Railroad in 1865. This railroad is now under lease in perpetuity to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. Prior to the completion of the Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley Railroad, Scranton coal was transported by the old Chenango canal, in small boats carrying about seventy tons, from Binghamton to Utica. In contrast to this volume tonnage some of the modern steel gondolas of the present-day type have a capacity of seventy to eighty gross tons. Utica has continued to be the distributing point for local consumption and for points beyond, north, to the St. Lawrence river and intermediate points, and east and west to stations on the New York Central and West Shore Railroads. Coal was also distributed in cargo lots containing from two to two hundred and fifty gross tons, by the Erie canal during its existence, to yards having no rail connection to all points between Buffalo, Oswego to Albany and Troy.

Harrison Gilmore, a pioneer coal man, was the first agent at Utica. He was succeeded by Charles McKinney and McKinney & Albright, who in turn were succeeded by Albright & Pratt. On the 1st of January, 1885, Holden & Son of Syracuse, New York, were appointed sales agents and John J. Town came to Utica from Syracuse as resident manager, so serving until appointed sales agent on the 1st of May, 1905. He is still acting in this capacity (1924).

The year 1909 witnessed the incorporation of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Coal Company, which took over the entire product of the Glenn-Alden Coal Company, amounting to between eight and nine million tons per annum. Mr. Town handles the whole of the Mohawk Valley coal distribution, which amounts to over a half million tons per year. He covers all points north of Utica on the Adirondack, Ontario, Mohawk and Black River divisions of the New York Central Railroad, sending coal for each of these sections.

In early manhood Mr. Town was united in marriage to Miss Anna Mason McCarthy, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Toole) McCarthy of Syracuse, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Town became the parents of two children, Dennis Hendrick and Mary Genevieve, but the latter died at the age of five years.

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