William Babcock                   


abcock was a quintessential New England businessman, closely identified with commercial development at the "head of the street" in the earliest years of the village's growth. He died in 1838, just as the "foot of the street" became the clear victor in the long-simmering rivalry.

He was born and raised in Westmoreland, Cheshire County, N.H., and came to Penn Yan in 1813. He may have arrived with the Tuell brothers, who came from the same part of New Hampshire with their sister Mary, whom he married. The couple had three children: William Jr., Amos C., and Mary. The two boys went to Canton, Illinois, where both became merchants and the younger at least, a prominent Republican politician.

Their father wrote an interesting will, in that he made no attempt to dispose of his property, but attested that his elder son William should receive a share equal to that which he would have been entitled to, had he been born in wedlock. Presumably William Sr. and Mary anticipated their marriage, but had no qualms about making this public statement.

The first piece of land Babcock acquired after his arrival was the lot at the northeast corner of the Main and Head Street intersection, where he built a residence and store. Soon afterward he acquired nearly all the street frontage of Morris F. Sheppard's large property on the east side of the street. This was only the start; the list of properties he bought and sold during the quarter of a century he lived in Penn Yan would (and does) fill several pages in the land record indexes.

He was known for the number of people who started in business working for him: Eli Sheldon, Lewis Himrod, C.P. Babcock, Amasa Tuell, Benjamin Tyler, Enos S. Remer, Edgar Sheldon, E.J. Fowle, Amos Babcock and Coleman Weare, among others. He was appointed County Treasurer by the first Board of Supervisors, and in 1830 was elected to Congress.

In October of 1838, soon after his return from a trip to New England, he came down with a case of typhoid fever, and died nine days later, despite the best medical attention the village could provide. He was universally praised in the local papers after his death for his generosity and benevolence, though none of them mentioned his tough unsentimental views on debt and business. He was renowned for his honesty, his judgment and his good practical advice.

He is buried at City Hill with his mother and two sisters, his wife and his daughter and her husband.


Babcock was associated with:

Land plots:

  His own plots 1-3


   351 Main Street
   349 Main Street
   345 Main Street
   341 Main Street
   337 Main Street
   333 Main Street
   331 Main Street
   329 Main Street
   327 Main Street