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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 468-472 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

This family was originally from France, where the name was Frère. They were Huguenots, and suffered the persecutions that drove so many Frenchmen from their native land into exile. The Frères went to England, where the spelling of the name was changed to Frear; others of the family fled to Holland, where the name became Freer. The family was founded in the United States by Joseph Frear, grandfather of William H. Frear, of Troy, New York. Through intermarriage his family traces descent from the earliest settlers of Long Island, New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, through the Roe, Overton, Davis, Bradley, Presby, Wright and Wadsworth families.

(I) Joseph Frear was born in England, April 2, 1777, died in Binghamton, New York, January 3, 1851. He came to America, settling in Quebec, Canada, in 1814, where he pursued his trade of contracting ship joiner. He was [of] a deep and devout Christian nature. He joined the church when but a lad and began religious work very early. In Quebec he was a Christian worker among the sailors of the water front, helped to establish the first Sunday-school and a place of meeting over which was raised the first Bethel flag ever seen in the harbor. He removed after a time to New York City, where he joined the Broome Street Dutch Reformed Church, becoming deacon and elder. He later removed to Ellenville, Ulster county, New York, where he was active in the church, serving as elder several years. In 1849 he removed to Binghamton, New York, where he united with the Congregational Church. His religious life covered a period of half a century of honorable Christian endeavor, and his performance outran his profession. He was honored and respected wherever he was known. Not the least of his virtues was his patient self-denial for the betterment of his family. He married, in England, Eleanor Lee, who died at Binghamton, New York, April 17, 1851, aged seventy-two years, two months, sixteen days.

(II) William, son of Joseph Frear, was born at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, August 1, 1816, died in Troy, New York, February 15, 1882. He was quite young when his parents settled in Quebec, where his boyhood was spent and education received. From Quebec he went to New York City. In 1839 he removed to Ellenville, Ulster county, New York, where he engaged in trade. In a short time he transferred his home and business to West Coxsackie, New York, where he continued for forty years an honored citizen. He closed his long and useful life a resident of Troy, New York. He was a man of high principle,strict integrity and great industry and energy. He joined the Stanton Street Baptist Church, New York City, when sixteen years of age, and was a faithful member of that denomination also during the early years of his residence at Coxsackie. Later he joined the First Dutch Reformed Church, Upper Coxsackie, which he served as deacon, elder and superintendent of Sabbath school many years. He was a member of Ark Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, and also of the lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Coxsackie. During his latter years in Troy he was a member of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. He always supported the Republican party. His remarkably cheerful disposition made him the friend of old and young. He married, September 3, 1839, Deborah Ann Davis, daughter of Anselm Davis and Abigail Overton, born July 24, 1819, at Coram, Long Island, died in Troy, New York, May 5, 1898. Children:

  1. William H., of further mention.
  2. Mary Emma, born June 19, 1843, died March 31, 1850.
  3. Anna Minerva, born September 6, 1846, died October 12, 1883.
  4. George, born September 15, 1849, died March 2, 1850.
  5. Mary Emma (2), born April 13, 1851, died September 10, 1852.
  6. Isabella Dorothy.
  7. Edwin Augustus, married Eliza Eddy Haskell, October 23, 1895; children:
    1. Augusta Haskell, born September 11, 1897;
    2. Titus Eddy, December 26, 1898.
  8. Martha Bessac, married Professor Charles Wellman Parks, April 14, 1887.

(III) William Henry, son of William and Deborah Ann (Davis) Frear, was born in West Coxsackie, New York, March 29, 1841. He was educated in the public school of District No. 6, of which his father was a trustee, and at Coxsackie Academy. His ambition at that time was for a professional career of either law or architecture, but in 1857 during a school vacation, he clerked for a while in the store of Barnet Gay to fill a temporary vacancy. Here he found his true vocation, and from that little Upper Coxsackie store he advanced rapidly yet surely to his proud position of "Troy's leading merchant." He remained with Mr. Gay two years, then was with John Flagg & Co., dry goods merchants of Troy, for six years. This was his last subordinate position. He had saved a small capital which, added to that of Sylvanus Haverly, his partner, stocked and furnished a small dry goods store at No. 322 River street, Troy, where as Haverly & Frear they opened for business March 9, 1865. His share of the capital, $2,000, was obtained by his savings and the aid of his father, mother and wife, all of whom had faith in the young man. The enterprise was successful; the industry, self-denial and application of the partners compelled success. In 1868 they admitted, or rather consolidated with John Flagg, Mr. Frear's former employer; and removed their business to the store, Nos. 3-4 Cannon Place, in Washington Square, opening April 9, 1868, as Flagg, Haverly & Frear, the latter as manager. January 2, 1869, Mr. Haverly withdrew, leaving the firm of Flagg & Frear. October 27, 1869, Mr. Frear purchased all other interests in the firm and for twenty-five years was the sole owner and manager. It was during this period that his peculiar talents had full sway, and the commercial instinct now fully aroused, developed into a passion or force that carried all before it, and made the name of Frear known far and near as the synonym for enterprise, originality and square dealing. He superintended all important details of his business, was buyer and advertiser, and in the early years salesman and often bookkeeper. He introduced modern advertising, and was the first merchant to insert a full page "ad." in a Troy newspaper; introduced the delivery system in his part of New York state; employed advertising methods far in advance of contemporaries, even in the largest cities, some of them startling in their originality; established a mail-order department; adopted the cash system of making purchases; added department after department until fifty-three different stores were under one roof; in fact, the great store throbbed and thrilled with the resistless energy of its untiring master. He adopted as his store motto, "Par negotiis ne que supra" (Equal to his business, but not above it), and this expresses the man. There never has been a moment when, although every nerve and muscle were strained to almost the breaking point, he was not equal to the business, and his grip firm on its important details, but "not above it," applies equally well. Not for him was the leather chair and the mahogany desk, but the thick of the fray; yet when the golden flood of prosperity came none knew better than he how to enjoy it. His life is one of the wonders of the commercial world, yet, while he is proud of the name he has carved for himself among America's great merchants, he does not ascribe it to anything but good hard business sense put into circulation, personal attention, fair dealing and a thorough knowledge of his business. He has the largest store and the largest business in Troy, constantly employs over four hundred people, and has preserved photographs of nearly all his present and former employees, as well as copies of all his advertisements. After twenty-five years under his own name and management, he admitted his brother, Edwin A. Frear, and his eldest son, Charles W., to the firm, which became, May 24, 1894, William H. Frear & Company. On December 2, 1899, Mr, Frear's second son, William B., was admitted to partnership in the firm, making a very valuable addition to the managing force, but the sign, "Frear's Troy Cash Bazaar," still remains, and the business, greater than ever, goes on under the same skillful direction.

In addition to developing a business of incalculable benefit to Troy, Mr. Frear has borne his full share of the city's improvement. He is known as a very large real estate owner, probably the largest in the city. He has bought and improved store, hotel and residence city property, and added a suburban mansion to the beauties of the residential section. He was quick to respond to the call of humanity when the Burdett building burned in February, 1896, with destructive loss of life and property, and as treasurer and chief almoner of the Relief Fund, he gave a great deal of time and money to the work. When his own store was partially destroyed by fire in December, 1893, he resumed trade on the fourth day thereafter, under a temporary roof, and handled his usual Christmas trade. As a staunch Republican, he has often responded to the demands of his party, although having no desire for public office. He was a member of the Troy Centennial Committee of one hundred in 1889, the Citizens' Association of 1892, and of the Committee of Public Safety in 1894. He served on the staff of Brigadier-General Alonzo Alden with rank of captain, and is an associate member of Griswold Post, G. A. R. He has many outside business interests, being a director of the Security Trust Company, a trustee of the Young Men's Christian Association, trustee of the Samaritan Hospital; and was for many years a trustee of the Second Presbyterian Church, the Troy Young Women's Association, a director of the Citizens' Steamboat Company, member of the committee for Old Home Week, Troy, 1908, and member of the committee of Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909; member of Troy Republican Club and Chamber of Commerce. He was one of the largest contributors to the building funds of Rensselaer Inn and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was treasurer of the Citizens' Relief Fund, Spanish-American war, and one of thirty citizens who founded the permanent home of the Fresh Air Fund at Grafton.

His restless energy in his more active years was strikingly displayed while on his summer vacations. A volume, titled Five Weeks in Europe, A Photographic Memorandum, is the joint work of his pen and camera, and is the record of one of his vacations. Appended to each photograph is an appropriate extract from his letters home, descriptive of the scene depicted. During later years Mr. Frear has given himself more time and opportunity to satisfy the artistic side of his nature, which, had he not gone into business, would perhaps have led him into the world of art as a producer, instead of a patron. He is a connoisseur in oil paintings, and has a large and costly collection of the masters in his Troy home. Among his treasured mementos of great men and events is the table used by the Japanese and Russian commissioners at Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire, as they deliberated the terms of the treaty of peace between their respective nations. The treaty was drawn up and signed on the table, which -was purchased and presented to Mr. Frear by his sister. His library, paintings and surroundings bespeak the cultured, artistic gentleman, who now able to satisfy all his finer impulses is devoting himself to the beautiful and sentimental with the same interest and same methods that half a century ago he attacked life's problems from the standpoint of an enthusiastic youth. A retrospective view over his fifty years of active business life cannot fail to bring him both satisfaction and pride.

Mr. Frear married at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, October 27, 1863, Martha Frances Wright, born in Lanesboro, Massachusetts, daughter of Charles Wright, of Pownal, Vermont, and Martha M. Bradley, of Lanesboro, Massachusetts, a descendant of early colonial settlers. Mrs. Frear has been a wise counsellor and faithful supporter all through the years of business strife, and shares with her husband the satisfaction that comes after a well-earned victory. She is a member of the Episcopal church, Daughters of the American Revolution, Troy Girls' Club, Women's Improvement League, Friends of the Sisterhood of St. Paul's Church, Women's Auxiliary Young Men's Christian Association, is a member of the Women's Auxiliary of the Troy Hospital, and one of the managers of the Episcopal Church Home. She is hospitable and social in disposition, and is charitable and benevolent to the institutions that are worthy. Children, all born in Troy, New York:

  1. Charles Wright, educated in the public schools, Mount Anthony Seminary, Bennington, Vermont, and graduated from the classical department of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, in the class of 1889, where during the course he was leader of the orchestra. Afterward took a special course in the junior year at Williams College. He was admitted to the firm of William H. Frear & Company, May 24, 1894. He was a volunteer in the Spanish-American war. He was a private in Company A, Second New York State Infantry, and was transferred to the 203rd Regiment, and warranted as sergeant-major August 4, 1898, subsequently promoted to second lieutenant, Company E, same regiment. He was commissioned battalion adjutant with the rank of first lieutenant, in the Second Regiment, New York State National Guard, April 20, 1899. He is a director of the National City Bank; member of the Army and Navy Club of New York City; member of M. D. Russell Post, Spanish-American War Veterans; Sons of the Revolution; Troy Club; Chamber of Commerce of Troy; Pafraets Dael and the Laureate Boat Clubs. He married, June 28, 1910, Mary E. Gurney, of Greenfield, Massachusetts.
  2. William Bradley Frear was educated in the public schools of Troy and finished the grammar school course at School No. 5, being the first in his class. He was fourth in a class of ninety in entrance examination for admission to the Troy high school, June 18, 1887. Upon graduation therefrom, June 30, 1891, he was second in the class, securing the classical honor and delivering the salutatory address. He was also a student at the Troy Business College night school. He entered Williams College the following fall, graduating in June, 1895, with the degree of B. A. During these four years, in addition to the regular routine of study, he was prominently identified with the best interests of the college. He was a member of the track and the class athletic teams; president of the Dramatic Association, and leader of the college choir and quartette. He was with the Glee Club on its well-remembered trip to St. Louis in 1894, and was director of the music for the College Centennial in 1893. He has long been favorably known in musical circles as a cornetist. He was admitted to the firm of William H. Frear & Company, December 2, 1899. He has the inventive quality, and holds United States Patent 34,825, granted July 23, 1901. He was captain of Arba Read Fire Company in 1901, filling the office satisfactorily in every respect, and had full charge of the company's famous trip to the Buffalo exposition. He is a director of the Security Trust Company; was the first president of the Alumni Association of the Troy high school; a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Commercial Travelers' Association, Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association, Troy Golf Club, Troy Vocal Society, Troy Club, Williams College Alumni Association, Zeta Psi Fraternity, and Sons of the Revolution. He is a member and trustee of the Second Presbyterian Church, of Troy, New York. He married Edna Russell Jayne, of Brooklyn, New York, February 1, 1905. Children:
    1. Carolyn Russell, born December 5, 1905;
    2. Frances Wright, November 8, 1907;
    3. Edna Jayne, March 23, 1910.
  3. Edwin Henry Frear, educated in city schools, Troy Academy, Preparatory School at Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and Troy Business College. He is a member of the Second Presbyterian Church, Troy, New York, of the Island Golf Club, Rensselaer County Republican Club, Troy Young Men's Christian Association, and is now with William H. Frear & Company.

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