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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
John S. Cary

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[This information is from pp. 157-158 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

John S. Cary, a well-known resident of Braman, in the town of Cobleskill, and proprietor of one of the oldest mills in this section of the county, was born in Schoharie, in a house on the road to Howes Cave, on July 19, 1827, son of Samuel and Mercy (Swan) Cary.

His father, who was born in Stonington, Conn., was brought up in Sprakers Basin, Montgomery County, N. Y., on a farm. He also worked somewhat during boyhood at rafting on the Mohawk River, but eventually came to the farm of George Lawyer in Schoharie Court House, and during the remainder of his life was engaged in farm labor, either there or on other farms in this county, working on shares. His wife, Mercy, was the daughter of a pioneer of Knox, Albany County, who built the first mill in that region. He was a stanch patriot in Revolutionary times, and was in active service in the army throughout the war, being eleven times wounded. His wife lived to the surprising age of one hundred and three years. On her one hundred and third birthday she rode twenty miles on horseback, but the exertion was too much for her, and she died from its effects. Mrs. Mercy Cary was the youngest of quite a large family of children. Of her own children, seven in number, John S. was the youngest, and is now the only one living.

Mr. John S. Cary spent his early years at Barnerville, where he attended the public schools. After leaving school he was engaged for a time in selling dry goods and small wares along the canal, but later settled in Orleans County, where he worked for six months in a wagon-building shop. At the end of that time he came to Barnerville, and opened a wagon-maker's shop in company with Henderson Pollock. After working there for some time he hired a shop near by, and carried on wagon-making and painting and some cabinet work. Going then to Schoharie, he worked at carriage-building in the winter and at painting in the summer for a few years, and then began working as a millwright along Cobleskill Creek and the Schoharie River Valley. He built a large number of grist and saw mills, and invented a water-wheel of which he afterward constructed and put in place about two hundred in this and adjoining counties. In 1875 he came to his present mill. This he had repaired during his early millwright work, it having been built by his wife's grandfather, Peter Lowmeyers in 1790. A part of the original structure is in use yet, and is in well-preserved condition. The mill has two stories and a half. The lower floor is devoted to custom and merchant work, principally to the manufacture of rye and buckwheat flour, which is marketed in New York and in other States. There are three mill-runs, besides a "pony stone." The second floor is devoted to purifying and storing the grain, while the top floor is used for scouring and cleaning grain and for storage. This is one of the oldest mills in the section, as well as one of the largest run by water power. Mr. Cary has now been connected with milling interests for nearly half a century, probably longer than any other man now living in this region.

On the last day of January, 1849, Mr. Cary was united in marriage with Phoebe Gordon, a native of Carlisle and daughter of John Gordon, a farmer of that town, who died at the age of sixty years. Mrs. Cary was one of a family of ten children, and has herself been the mother of eight, of whom five are living. These are: Alice, Andrew, Laura, Rosalie, and Walter. The three deceased are: Harriet, who died at the age of nine years of diphtheria; Retta, who died at the age of eighteen months; and Lyman H., who died at the age of six months. Alice, who married Henry Holmes McDonald, a carpenter and contractor of bridges, has three children — Frank, John P., and Rhoda. Andrew married Cynderilla Severson, and has four children — Hattie, Foster, Daisy, and Florence. The son, Foster, is a painter and decorator in Cobleskill. Laura married Thomas Chickering, a merchant of Lawyersville. Rosalie, who married Judd Bassett, a farmer, has one child, Ralph C. Walter Cary, an engineer, married Jennie Merchant, and has two sons — Olin and Emery P.

Mr. Cary is Republican in politics. He takes a warm interest in all public matters, but has never cared to hold public office. He is a member of the Masonic lodge at Cobleskill, of De Witt Council at Albany, and of John L. Lewis Chapter at Cobleskill. He built the house in which he now resides, and two others near by which are rented to tenants; also one with a store adjoining, and owns more houses than any other man in town. In religious views Mr. Cary is a Methodist. He is connected with the Methodist church here, has been steward in the society for many years, and an active worker in the Sunday-school. Mrs. Cary likewise has been a member of the church since her early girlhood. Mr. Cary is a progressive man. He has been keenly alive to every plan promulgated for the improvement of the town, and has kept his own property in unexcelled condition. Down at the mill he has built a large wall eleven feet high, containing boulders weighing a ton, to keep the water from overflowing. His other real estate property also shows that it is constantly looked out for and never allowed to lack repairs.

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