William Morrison Oliver                   


William Oliver was an identical twin to his brother Dr. Andrew Oliver, so perhaps one picture will do for both. See the portrait of Andrew on his own page.

They were born in 1791 in Londonderry, N.H., and William came directly to Penn Yan from the family home in Springfield, Otsego County, where their father had gone to accept a job as pastor of the Associate Reform Church there. William's arrival is said to have been in 1818, at the same time as Dr. John Hatmaker of Milo; this is the year the first deed to his property at 158 Main Street was made. Though apparently he only bought the land to become eligible as a freeholder for public office, he probably built the house soon afterwards. It is known to have been there after about 1825.

He began the study of law in Springfield, under the direction of Judge Morse in Cherry Valley and was admitted to the bar about 1812. He arrived in Penn Yan a year after his brother and gained a solid reputation.

He was Yates County's first First Judge, appointed in 1823. He served until 1828 and then from 1838 until 1844, presiding over the Court of Common Pleas, at first in Asa Cole's tavern at the Main and Head Street crossroads, and later in both the first Court House (built in 1824 and burned in 1834) and the second one (built in 1835 and still standing today). He also served 4 years in the State Senate, beginning in 1836, and was chosen President of the Senate (Lieutenant Governor) in 1838, and then served two years in Congress, 1841-1843.

In 1833 he helped start the Yates County Bank, (the first time local citizens could bank in their own town; in those days all paper money was printed by local banks), and he was cashier when the bank failed in 1857 at the height of the Panic of that year. No one ever held him responsible for the bank's failure, but he felt it quite keenly and made a new residence outside Penn Yan, on a farm on what is now called Oliver Road in the town of Torrey.

William Oliver married first to Eleanor Young (back in Otsego County, in 1811) and had three children:

  • Andrew Oliver, 1816-1889, a prominent lawyer; he married Catharine Hazard. Andrew Oliver was admitted to the bar in 1838, became Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1843 and served until 1847; he was elected to Congress twice, serving from 1853-1857, and then again served as County Judge and Surrogate from 1872-1877. He wrote out his own papers, and had very nearly illegible handwriting; but he was apparently a very well-respected judge.
  • James Oliver, 1818-1820.
  • John Morrison Oliver, 1828-1872; he married Joanna Wagener (who after his death married William S. Briggs as his third wife) and became a Major General during the Civil War. He died in Washington, D.C., where the President had summoned him to serve as an associate justice of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Eleanor Young Oliver died in 1834 and William remarried, to Harriet Maria Seelye. They had four children:

  • James Morse Oliver, 1839-1863; he became a physician and served as a surgeon in the Civil War, dying suddenly at Fort Richmond on Staten Island.
  • William Seelye Oliver, born in 1842.
  • Harriet Oliver, born in 1845; she married Charles P. Boswell.
  • Henry Oliver, born in 1847.

    All members of the family who died in Penn Yan, and a number of those who did not, are buried in Lake View Cemetery in the village.



William M. Oliver was associated with:

Land plots:

William M. Oliver plot


158 Main Street


204 Main Street
168 Main Street
160 Main Street

131 Main Street