S. Ellsworth was the quintessential Penn Yan merchant-businessman. He was
born in Vermont in 1790 and arrived in Penn Yan in 1819, at the age of 29.
His mother was Sabra Stewart, and he came here with her brothers Samuel
S. and George D. Stewart. He served as their clerk -- they were among the
earliest successful storekeepers in the village -- and when they left for
Gorham after some years he purchased their stock and set up shop for himself
on the so-called "Stewart corner," which is where the store was
located, the south corner of Main and Elm Streets.
He was known as an
active and forward-looking businessman, and was associated with building
up the various stage lines leading from and through Penn Yan (in company
with John Magee and Joseph Fellows of Bath, and W.W. McCay and A.M. Adsit
of Hammondsport, among others), and later the building and operation of
the steamboat Keuka, the first on the lake. He was in partnership
with Spencer Booth of Branchport in establishing the lumbering and farm
support businesses that flourished there in the mid-19th century.
He served as Milo town
supervisor, county judge and member of the Assembly, and in so doing gave
the Democratic party a running start in the community (this was of course
long before the anti-slavery and temperance issues turned Yates County into
the most Republican in the state). In 1844 he was elected to Congress in
a district that included Tompkins and Chemung counties. The session was
largely concerned with the admission of Texas just before the Mexican War.
He suggested in conference that new states ought to be admitted under the
same conditions set up by Thomas Jefferson for the "Old Northwest,"
to which so many local people had emigrated, by the Northwest Ordinance
of 1784; which forbade slavery in the territories and in the new states.
This suggestion was promoted with great force by Rep. David Wilmot of Pennsylvania,
after whom the famous "Wilmot Proviso" was named.
Ellsworth married in
1834 to Elizabeth Henry, the widow of Abraham P. Vosburgh. Her mother, Mary
Hilliard Henry, died in Penn Yan in 1843 at the age of 84, the widow of
Robert R. Henry, a surgeon from New Jersey during the Revolution. Ellsworth
himself died in 1863, and his widow in 1873. They had twin sons and a daughter,
only one of whom lived to marry, Samuel Stewart Ellsworth Jr., born in 1839.
The younger Ellsworth,
usually called by his middle name of Stewart, read law but never entered
the profession, instead managing his father's estate. He too was a Democrat,
but by his day the party was in a hopeless minority. He belonged to the
Douglass wing of the party, the so-called "War Democrats" and
was much-sought-after as a pro-Union speaker. He was very much involved
in the early railroad era, served more than 20 years as trustee of Hamilton
College, his alma mater, and was the first patron of the Ellsworth Hose
Company when it was formed in October, 1871, a month after his own house
at 213 Main Street burned.
He married in 1866
the widowed only daughter of Hon. John Magee of Watkins, Mrs. Hebe Magee
Parker. The couple had two children, Duncan Steuart and John Magee Ellsworth,
both of whom graduated from Yale. Hebe Ellsworth died in Paris in 1880 when
her boys were both very young; Stewart Ellsworth died in Penn Yan in 1892.