Submitted by PHGS member, Pam Davis
HON. HEMAN G. BUTTON
A history of Machias without a sketch of this
gentleman would be like “the play of Hamlet, with Hamlet left out.”
He is not only one of the oldest living settlers of the town (there is no
person now living who came to Machias earlier than Mr. Button, although two
others, Nathan and Chester Ashcraft, came in the same year), but during the many
years of his residence, he has been prominently identified with all its varied
Heman G. Button was born, May 1, 1816, in the town of Concord, Erie Co.,
N.Y., and from thence to Erie County, in the year 1815.
Two years later Heman came, with his parents into Machias.
Mr. Button’s father, who died when Heman was but sixteen years old, was
a farmer, but in moderate circumstances.
When the country in this section was an unbroken wilderness, his parents
were among the first who faced the primitive mode of living which attends
pioneer life in a new country. They
were hard-working people, whose wants were few, and their advantages not of the
broadest kind, but possessed of honest hearts and satisfied with their lot.
Although they were unable to give their son, Heman, any other educational
advantages than those he could acquire in a few terms spent at the district
schools of the neighborhood; the moral principals inculeated at home, and the
healthy, sinewy frame developed by manual labor in the years of his early
manhood spent on his father’s farm, were a better legacy than ‘broad acres
or golden store.” It was just the
schooling to turn out a self-reliant successful man.
March 4, 1838, he married Miss Jerusha Joslin of Machias, who died in
1856, leaving seven children,--Daniel W., Kingsley, Millard Fillmore, Naomi,
Alvira L., Adell, and Ida. All
except Kingsley and Ida are married. Nov.
26, 1856, he married Sara M. Hall, widow of the late Elisha Hall of this town. Her maiden name was Sarah Prescott, and she was born Dec. 11,
1832, in Sanbornton, Belknap Co., N.H., of which place her parents were natives.
Mr. Button early gained the esteem and confidence of his associates by
his unostentatious manners and manifest integrity; and on repeated occasions
have his townsmen elected him as their representative, and called him to fill
stations of honor and trust. In
1841 he was first elected school inspector, and has held that or other offices
almost continuously ever since, having held almost every office in the gift of
the people. For twenty-four years
he has served as a justice of the peace in the town of Machias, thereby
acquiring a very considerable legal knowledge.
He was county superintendent of the poor for several terms, and retired
from that office with unblemished reputation, after fourteen years’
incumbency. He served as justice of
sessions one term, and as a supervisor for his town in the years 1854 and 1866.
He is now a justice of the peace and notary public; on e of the loan
commissioners of the United States deposit fund; and railroad commissioner, for
Machias, of the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railroad.
In 1866 he was elected to the State Legislature, as a member from the
first district of Cattaraugus County. He
served on the Committee on Internal Affairs of Town and Counties, and (with two
of his colleagues) presented a minority report against the proposed amendment of
the metropolitan excise law, which was introduced in the interests of the
liquor-dealers. The Brooklyn Union
referred in very complimentary terms to the course taken by Mr. Button on
this question: “And the may
friends of the excise law, as it is will remember him and the other
representatives who had sufficient honor and courage to stand firm against the
many and strong inducements from the Liquor-Dealers’ Association.”
Mr. Button was formerly a Whig, but united with the Republican Party upon
its organization. He was a
strong supporter of the war against the efforts of treason, and in addition to
his influences and money, which he used without stint, he lent to the army and
the country two sons, who were a long time in the service, and who fought with
commendable heroism. Notwithstanding
the many times Mr. Button has been a candidate for the suffrages of his friends
and townsmen, he never was defeated at the polls, --a record that speaks for
There being no lawyer in the town, he is much employed in legal business,
in executing papers, and in the administration of estates very much of his time
of late years being thus engaged. The
late Judge Ten Broeck, the founder of the Ten Broeck Free Academy in
Franklinville, having unbounded confidence in Mr. Button’s practical sense and
integrity, before his death appointed him as one of its trustees.
Heman Button is an honest, upright man, a faithful public servant, and a
worthy citizen and neighbor.
above information was obtained from the History of Cattaraugus County, New York
by L. H. EVERTS, 1879.
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