y the time Myron Hamlin died in 1886 he had been for fifty years the County's leading merchant - in a time when merchants were the leaders of society and the community.

He was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, and arrived in Dundee (then Harpending's Corners) in 1830. He bought the store then on the southwest corner of Main and Union Streets and swiftly became known for his business drive and shrewdness. He had, essentially, no experience as a merchant; but was successful from the first.

It's notable that he is remembered as much for his zeal in the cause of reform as for his prominance in business: he had the first temperance store in Dundee, and became a leader in the anti-slavery cause.

In the 1830s it was still the custom for general stores to sell liquor. In 1839, of the nine stores in Dundee, eight of them sold whiskey, which had a very high markup and indeed provided such small stores their greatest profit. Hamlin not only refused to sell liquor in his store, but he kept big stacks of temperance tracts there, and with every package he made up, he included at least one of these.

At the same time, abolition of slavery was beginning to be what we would today call "a hot topic." Andrew Jackson, president from 1832 until 1840, had a near-miss on secession of South Carolina, ostensibly because of the tariff issue, but this was a thin veneer over the ugly reality that the Southern states' economy depended on traffic in human beings. In the North, it still took a brave man to counter slavery; abolition meetings were broken up, speakers pelted with eggs and publishing houses destroyed. A near-riot ensued when slave-catchers invaded the hamlet of Eddytown (now Lakemont) and caught up with a group of runaways.

C.H. Martin, in the chapter he wrote on Starkey and Dundee for Aldrich's 1892 history of the County, states that only four men stood up in the village at that time for abolition: Hamlin, the Rev. E.W. Martin, James Gifford and Alonzo DeWolf. "There was a wonderful amount of backbone in that quartette," Martin wrote admiringly, stating that Hamlin was particularly aggressive.

In 1836 Hamlin sold his entire business in Dundee to his brother, William B. Hamlin, and went to Buffalo, a place then booming on account of the new Erie Canal. Actually, he stayed there less than a year and in 1837 returned to Yates County, this time to Penn Yan, purchased a store from Anson Wyman, who ran a meat market there, changed its name to "The Metropolitan" and ran what many people considered the best store in Penn Yan until he died half a century later; his sons carried on after him, greatly enlarging the store and modernizing its facade. The building still stands at 126 Main Street.

 

 The Hamlins