Willard McKinstry Honored Part 2

The Fredonia Censor Wednesday Feb 1 1899

This is the second part of the Newspaper transcriptions honoring Willard McKinstry. You can read the first entry here.

Willard McKinstry 1842-1899

Willard McKinstry 1842-1899

Death of Willard McKinstry

Senior Editor of the Censor 57 Years

Mr. McKinstry had been feeble for some time past but seemed no worse than usual recently, in fact he was in better strength and spirits than he had been at times. New Year’s Day he attended the Presbyterian Church, and he took occasional rides to Dunkirk on the electric cars up to two weeks ago. He began to fail in strength Thursday, Jan.19, and did not respond to the remedies for weak action of the heart. Still he seemed to hold his own till 48 hours before he died, and all hope was not abandoned until that morning, Thursday, Jan. 26. His sons were telegraphed for but they could not get here in time. He was unconscious, and sank peacefully to his final sleep about 11 a. m.

With one of Mr. McKinstry’s advanced years and feeble condition, every illness is alarming, but he had rallied from far more serious conditions. It seemed as though the machinery of his strong frame had finally worn out, and no artificial aid could longer keep it in motion. He was prepared to go, and had long expressed a desire to be released from his spells of suffering, yet the sudden ending was a shock to his family and friends. They can only give thanks that he had no final suffering, and that he was spared to them so long. His was a long life of usefulness and honor, and the general expressions from all over the State of sympathy and respect, have been a great consolation to those who were dearesr to him. Some of these expressions, and farther reflections on Mr. McKinstry’s life and character, will be found elsewhere in this paper. His personal history was well written in the Buffalo Express of last Friday, and the history of Chautaugua County, published in 1894, and edited by Hon. Obed Edson of Sinclairville, also has a concise biographical sketch. From the two we copy the following:

Willard McKinstry was born in Chicopee Mass., May 9, 1815. His great-great grandfather, Roger McKinstry, emigrated from Scotland to Ireland about 1669. Mr. McKinstry’s great grandfather, John McKinstry, was born in Ireland in 1677, graduated at Edinburgh University in 1712, emigrated to America in 1718, became a Congregational clergyman first in Sutton, Mass., then at Ellington, Conn. His grandfather, John McKinstry, was born at Sutton in 1723, was graduated from Yale College in 1746, and was the first pastor of the Second Congregational parish of Springfield from 1752, and labored with that church until his death in 1813. Perseus McKinstry, son of John of Springfield, was born at Chicopee in 1772, married Grace Williams in 1803, was a tanner at Plainfield, then a farmer at Chicopee, and died in 1829. They had eleven children, of whom Willard was the seventh. Nine grew to maturity; only one now survives-the youngest, Hon. A. Winthrop McKinstry, formerly associcated his brother in publishing the Censor, now publisher of the Faribault (Minn.) Republican.

In 1842 he brought the Fredonia Censor, the oldest publication in Chautauqua County, having been founded in 1821 by the late H. C. Frisbee. Mr. McKinstry was connected with this publication almost to the last, being a frequent visitor at the office up to a short time ago.

In 1843 Mr. McKinstry married Maria A. Durlin of Fredonia, who died in 1882. They had four children, of whom three are still living. Louis, the oldest, is the present proprietor and editor of the Fredonia Censor, Willard D. is editor and one of the proprietors of the Watertown Times. Anna is the wife of Prof. Myron T. Dana, vice-principal of the Fredonia State Normal School, with whom he lived at the time of his death. In 1887 Mr. McKinstry married Marian A Baker of Achley, Ia., who died in less than a year. He was a member of the Congregational Church of Northampton from 1832 till 1847, when he joined the First Presbyterian Church of Fredonia, of which he had been a member ever since.

Willard McKinstry’s character was formed in that industry, frugality, integrity, patriotism and piety for which New England was noted 75 years ago. There was much work, little play, some schooling, and the small farm furnished a frugal support for the large family until he was fourteen, when his father died. Then Willard worked out two summers, attending school winters. In 1832 he became an apprentice in the office of the Northampton, Mass., Courier. He journeyed to Northampton, 14 miles on foot, carrying all his effects in a handkerchief; his wages was $30 the first year, $35 the second, $40 the third and $50 the fourth. That knowledge of public affairs and of the English language which made him such a clear and vigorous writer was chiefly acquired by careful study and extensive reading during his apprenticeship, and services as a journeyman printer in New York, Hartford, Springfield and Mayville. In Springfield he worked three years for G. and C. Merriam, publishers of Webster’s dictionary, and in Mayville he worked on the Sentinel for his cousin, Benjamin Brockway, with whom he was a fellow apprentice in Northampton. Mr. Brockway finally moved to Watertown, where he became proprietor of the Times, and died a few years ago honored by all. A third apprentice with those two boys was Mr. L.L. Prat, formerly publisher of the Fredonia Advertiser, and now, aged 80, an assistant on the Watertown Times.

At the time of his death Willard McKinstry, was the oldest editor in New York State. The condition of Chautauqua County, when he first came here, is best told in his own words, in the following selection from the preface if his “Editorial Miscellanies and Letters” published in 1895:

“More than two generations have passed since the Fredonia Censor was founded by the late H. C. Frisbee in 1821. Not a single original subscriber is now living. Probably those who remain whose names were on the subscription list when I commenced 52 years ago would number less than a score.

“When the Censor was established in 1821 a large portion of the people in this county lived in log houses, located in clearings in the wilderness. When I came to the county in 1839, it is safe to say that more than half the land was mortgaged to Holland Land Company, and the remainder had but recently been purchased by William H. Seward and two partners.

“I came to Fredonia the village was the largest in the county and contained only 1,200 to 1,500 population. The road to the nearest village, Dunkirk, was a considerable part of the way through the woods and made passable in spring and fall through the swamp intervening by a corduroy road.

“But one railroad existed within 300 miles of us, and that of a most primitive kind, laid with flat bar rails on longitudinal timbers. There were no friction matches here then and the embers of the huge back log were buried in the ashes to preserve the fire overnight. No ocean steamer had then crossed the Atlantic and some four weeks were required to cross from Europe to America.

“Then the boundaries of the United States were on the east side of Mississippi, except Missouri, which was made a State the year the Censor was established, and even when I commenced publishing the Censor, the enterprising pioneers living west of the Mississippi River, excepts those in Missouri, had their papers directed to the territories.

“Then not a telegraph had conveyed information to the newspaper or individual and the mails by stage coaches was the most expeditious method of communication between friends or doing business.”

Mr. McKinstry was a Whig in politics and cast his first vote for Henry Clay and had been a staunch Republican since the organization of that party. He served as postmaster in Fredonia for eight years, being first appointed by President Lincoln in 1863. There are few public improvements in and about Fredonia in which he had not been interested in the last 60 years.

He was one of the original trustees of the Forest Hill Cemetery, one of the original Stockholders of the Dunkirk and Fredonia Street Railroad Company, of which he was president for many years, and was one of the most active citizens in placing the State Normal School here. He was a member of the first local board of Managers of the Normal School. During part of the Civil War , he was a representative of the U.S> Christian Commission with the Army of the Potomac before Petersburg, where he shared the hardships of the soldiers, helped care for the wounded in time of battle, and made himself useful in every way possible to the soldiers of his division. He was a charter member of Fredonia Grange, No. 1, which was the first Grange established in what has since become the great order of the Patrons of Husbandry. He was a Ruling Elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Fredonia, for forty-five years.

 

I will continue the transcription of the second half of the scrapbook page posted in my next blog post.

Thank Pamela Morey Okolita Sherrill for sharing your ancestor’s scrapbook of News articles honoring Willard McKinstry , the newspaperman, life.

 

Links:

The Fredonia Censor 1842-1932

Corduroy Roads

McKinstry-Lawyer Family

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