Submitted by PHGS member, Pam Davis



     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 interests.

     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 itself.

     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.

*The above information was obtained from the History of Cattaraugus County, New York by L. H. EVERTS, 1879.

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