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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
John M. Conover

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[This information is from pp. 117-118 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 M. Conover, a descendant of an old Dutch family of repute and a representative farmer of Duanesburg, Schenectady County, N. Y., was born in Glen, Montgomery County, this State, December 26, 1839, son of George W. and Sarah M. (Radley) Conover. The father was born in Florida, N. Y., in 1812, and the mother was born in the same town in 1818. The name was originally Van Couwenhoven, aid was shortened to its present form prior to the birth of the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch. Its bearers were prominent among the early Dutch families, and contemporaneous with the Van Rensselaers, Van Beekmans, and other Knickerbockers. The immigrant progenitor was one Wolfret Garretson Van Couwenhoven, who came from Amersfoort, in the province of Utrecht, in 1630, and settled in Rensselaerwyck. He was employed by the Van Rensselaers as superintendent of farms for six years; and in June, 1636, he with others purchased a large tract of land at the western end of Long Island. His sons were: Gerrit, Jacob, Derrick, Peter, and John.

Cornelius V. Couwenhoven, the great-great-grandfather of Mr. Conover of Duanesburg, was born in 1710, and died in 1804. He had seven children; namely, John, William, Peter, Jacob, Jane, Abraham, and Isaac, the great-grandfather. Isaac Conover was born February 11, 1759. He served as a soldier in the Continental army during the Revolutionary War, and died September 21, 1845, leaving several children, among others Marcus, the grandfather, who was born in New Jersey, October 11, 1786. Marcus Conover was an early settler in Florida, N. Y., where he engaged in farming, and was a leading resident of that town. His last days were spent in Illinois, and he died in June, 1844. He married Sarah L. Schuyler, who was born February 19, 1794, and died in June, 1845.

George W. Conover, son of Marcus, was reared in Florida, N. Y., and received his business training as clerk for his uncle, John J. Schuyler. Later he was admitted to partnership, and for several years the firm carried on a general store in Amsterdam, N. Y. Relinquishing business on account of failing health, he took a protracted journey by team with Funis [Tunis?] I. Van Derveer, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, passing through Chicago when it was but a village, and driving as far West as the Mississippi River. He returned to his native State in the same manner, much benefitted in health, and, resuming mercantile business in Auriesville, Montgomery County, he remained there until 1850. Selling his store, he invested in real estate both in this State and the West, and, purchasing in 1859 the farm in Duanesburg, which his son now owns, he devoted the rest of his active period to agricultural pursuits. In politics he originally acted with the Whigs, and with the majority of that element he went into the ranks of the Republican party at its formation. George W. Conover died in 1894. On March 13, 1839, he married Sarah M. Radley, daughter of John P. and Anna (Clayton) Radley, of Florida, N. Y. Her grandfather, Philip Radley, was an early settler in that town, and he lived to reach a good old age. The Radley farm was inherited by John P. Radley, who occupied it until his death, which occurred November 27, 1862, his wife having died March 22, 1855. Mrs. Sarah Conover is still living, and resides at the homestead near the Scotch church. She reared but one son, John M., the subject of this sketch.

John M. Conover was reared and educated in Glen. At the age of twenty-one he became associated with his father in carrying on the home farm, and after his father's death the farm fell to his possession. It is one of the best pieces of agricultural property in the neighborhood. He grows all kinds of grain, cuts a large quantity of hay annually, raises some excellent cattle and horses, and displays good judgment in all his undertakings. His residence and outbuildings are exceedingly desirable.

On October 5, 1864, Mr. Conover married for his first wife Anna B. Van Vechten, who was born in Florida, N. Y., December 6, 1845. She died March 12, 1884, leaving three children, namely: Archie R., born September 23, 1866; Mabel, born May 13, 1874; and Edna, born May 20, 1877. Archie R. Conover, who was graduated from Union College in 1889, is now a lawyer in Amsterdam. He married Jessie Dougall, and has one daughter, Marion. Mabel is the wife of the Rev. F. W. McKee, pastor of the historic Scotch (or United Presbyterian) Church, Florida, N. Y.; and Edna is unmarried. On March 25, 1890, Mr. Conover married for his second wife Mary E. Smeallie, who was born in Princetown, N. Y., February 19, 1846, daughter of John and Jane (Milmine) Smeallie, the former of whom was a native of that place. Both parents were born in 1816.

Politically, Mr. Conover is a Republican. He has inherited many of the sterling characteristics of his race, whose thrifty and industrious habits made possible the development of the vast resources and wealth for which the Empire State has long been noted, and he has every reason to be proud of his origin. He is a member of the United Presbyterian Church of Florida, N. Y.

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