Submitted by PHGS member, Pam Davis
Was born at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sept. 15, 1816.
His ancestry are numbered among the Napiers who have figured quite
conspicuously in the history of Great Britain for several centuries past.
His father was James Napier, who was born I the town of Huntly,
Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and his mother Rachel (Michael) Napier, who was born in
the adjoining parish of Gartly. They
emigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the year 1816, and after remaining there
twelve years returned, with their family to Scotland.
In 1834, John and an elder brother, William, again crossed the ocean, and
landing in Halifax, removed to Windsor, where they remained about one year.
They then went to New York, and soon afterwards to Quincy, Mass., where
John was apprenticed to the stone-cutter’s trade, at which he served three
years, and at the expiration of that time was a first-class journeyman.
He removed to Virginia, and
worked at his trade on the James River Canal, and from there embarked for
Scotland with his brother John in the fall of 1838. In the following spring they returned to America, accompanied
by their parents, whom they brought out and subsequently cared for.
They resumed work at their trade on the Erie Canal, and in 1840, arrived
at Hinsdale. While there he (John)
visited Machias, and took the contract to erect the stone house for Samuel
Butler, in which he now resides. In
1844 he went to Buffalo and after working there a brief period he removed to New
London, Conn., and worked at Mill Stone Point, six miles from New London.
After three months’ service he was promoted foreman over the
stone-cutters, having sixty journeymen under him, and from that time to the
present has always been engaged either as superintendent on public works, or
contracting for the same.
On the 13th of April 1845, he married Miss Emeline T. Beebe,
who was born at Waterford, New London Co., Conn., Dec. 16, 1827.
They have had six children born to them, --one son and five daughters,
--of whom two daughters and one son survive.
Margaret, born Feb. 1 1846, married George L. Napier, April 13, 1875;
Mary Isabella, born Sept. 19, 1848; Griselda, born May 27, 1851, died Jan. 18,
1863; Lovinia, born Dec. 22, 1856, died in infancy; Sara Jane born April 27,
1860, died July 28, 1863; James Allen, born March 23, 1862, resides with his
In the winter of 1846 he left Connecticut and went to Lawrence, Mass.,
and was employed as foreman over stone-cutters in the construction of a damn
across the Merrimac, and in the erection of manufacturing buildings.
In the summer of 1848 was engaged on the Portage Aqueduct across the
Genesee River, at Portageville. From
that time until 1857 he was a contractor in connection with his brothers,
William, James, and George, on the Genesee Valley and Erie Canal, in the
construction of masonry. In 1857
and 1858 himself and the brothers mentioned above, and their brother-in-law,
Charles Brodie, were engaged in the building of the stone-work on the bridge
spanning the Mississippi River at St Paul.
In 1860 he became superintendent of the construction of the new enlarged
lock on the Louisville and Portland Canal, at Louisville, Ky., and was thus
engaged until 1864. The succeeding
two years he was employed in the superintendency of masonry on the Louisville
and Nashville Railroad. A part of
the year 1866 he was occupied with his brothers in the erection of the Ten
Broeck Free Academy at Franklinville. In
1867 he obtained the contract to get the stone from the Nauvoo, Ill., quarries,
the same as used in the building of the Mormon Temple, and for building the
post-office and custom-house at Springfield, Ill.
In 1868 they erected the county poor-house in the town of Machias.
In July of he same year he went to Springfield, Ill., and became
superintendent over the construction of the stone-work of the State Capitol, and
thus continued until December 1876. In
1869 he was engaged as superintendent of the Grafton Stone Quarries engaged as
superintendent of the Grafton Stone Quarries on the Mississippi, forty miles
above St. Louis, for the building of the St. Louis Bridge and Water-Works.
While there he had from two hundred and fifty to three hundred men under
his supervision. In the mean time
he and his brothers built the masonry, trestleing, and piling on the Buffalo,
New York and Philadelphia Railroad from Machias to Emporium, a distance of about
sixty miles. In the summer and fall
of 1878 they built the Springville and Sardinia Railroad (narrow-gauge).
In addition to the above, Mr. Napier and his brothers, and Charles and
Robert Brodie, were engaged in building the Wabash and other streams on the New
Albany and Salem, and Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroads.
Mr. Napier has been a man of indomitable energy and untiring industry.
For more than forty years he has been actively engaged in superintending
the construction of public works and various other enterprises, many of which,
among others the Harlem High Bridge and the State Capitol at Springfield, Ill.,
remain as monuments to his mechanical skill.
He is a Republican in politics, but never had time to accept political
preferment. His ambition has been
in the line of his trade and in the perfection of his knowledge of constructive
art. His various contracts have
been honestly managed, and completed according to the terms of his agreements.
He is generally considered a man of irreproachable personal integrity, a
kind husband, father, and friend, and a good citizen in every sense of that
above information was obtained from the History of Cattaraugus County, New York
by L. H. EVERTS, 1879.
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