Bradley was born at Northville in the town of Genoa, Cayuga County (then
Milton in Onondaga County), and came to Penn Yan as a young man in 1823,
soon after Yates County's formation. He was already a veteran merchant,
having become a clerk in his brother-in-law's store at the age of 12; and
came west with all his goods in a Conestoga wagon pulled by a team of five
horses, by way of the Cayuga Bridge and Geneva.
Penn Yan had then a
population of about 1000. Bradley rented a store that he also used as a
dwelling, on the site of 330 Main Street. After a year or so he bought William
Babcock's store on the northeast corner of the Head and Main Street intersections.
He bought more land
along Main Street closer to the foot of the street and built a number of
stores there, a few of which still remain. He was a very succesful businessman
in the young days of the village, but what he is mostly remembered for is
his twin ideals of temperance and the abolition of slavery.
Penn Yan was swept
by a religious revival in 1826, and out of that came a very strong local
Temperance movement. Bradley delivered an address on the Fourth of July,
1828, in the Presbyterian Meeting house (which then stood where 305 and
307 Main Street are today) that was so inspiring that it was published in
an extra edition of the Yates Rebublican. The same day the County's
first temperance society was formed, which became a very powerful polictical
Bradley was instrumental
in forming the Congregational Church in 1841 when the pastor and a majority
of the parishioners of the Presbyterian congregation seceded over the issue
of abolition. He was an intimate friend of several famous abolitionist activists
of the day, such as Gerritt Smith, James G. Birney, William Goodell and
others, some of whom came to Penn Yan to speak. His house was a well known
station on the Underground Railroad. And in 1846 he ran for Governor of
New York on the ballot of the Liberty Party.
In 1877, Cleveland
wrote in the Chronicle that "Mr. Bradley is an able man, and
when he talked he always had something to say."
At that time Bradley
had retired and was living with his son at Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson near
Tarrytown. He died there 16 December 1878 at the age of 84.
His wife was Rhoda
Ann Ogden, daughter of Captain David Ogden. She died 3 October 1880. The
couple had four children who survived them: