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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
Hon. Stephen L. Mayham

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[This information is from pp. 125-127 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.]

Portrait of Hon. Stephen L. Mayham

Portrait: Hon. Stephen L. Mayham

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Hon. Stephen L. Mayham, of Schoharie, former Presiding Justice of the Supreme Court, General Term, Third Department, and an ex-member of Congress, was born in Blenheim, N. Y., October 8, 1826, son of John and Betsey (Ferguson) Mayham. He represents the third generation of the family founded by his grandfather, Henry Mayham, who emigrated from Ireland in 1790.

Acquiring a tract of four hundred acres of wild land, which embraced the site now occupied by West Troy, N. Y., and the Watervliet Arsenal, Henry Mayham cleared a portion for agricultural purposes and sold the remainder. He died at the age of ninety-three. His wife's family name was Welch.

John Mayham, son of Henry, was a native of West Troy. Locating in Blenheim when a young man, he spent the rest of his life as a prosperous farmer, his death occurring at the age of sixty-five years. He took an active interest in political and religious matters, without aspiring to office, although he consented to serve as Supervisor, and faithfully performed the duties of that office for several terms. He was highly respected by the entire community. His intellectual attainments enabled him as a public speaker forcibly to discuss the important issues of the day. He married Betsey Ferguson, daughter of John Ferguson. Her father was a native of Scotland. Coming to this country, he settled at Pine Plains and later removed to Delaware County, where he died at an advanced age. John Mayham and his wife were the parents of twelve children, eleven of whom, seven sons and four daughters, grew to maturity. Five sons became professional men. Thomas Mayham, M. D., is now Mayor of Fond du Lac, Wis.; another son, who was a physician, died in that State; a third was County Judge of Fond du Lac, and is no longer living; Stephen L. is the subject of this sketch; and the youngest son, Banks, who became a noted lawyer in Southern Illinois, died suddenly at Murphysboro, Ill. The mother lived to be sixty years old.

Stephen L. Mayham grew to manhood in Blenheim. As a youth he assisted in cultivating the home farm when not pursuing his studies, and a local biographer has fittingly said that his education was acquired with a book in one hand and a plough-handle in the other. At the age of eighteen he started in life as a district school teacher. Two years later he entered the law office of Samuel Jackson, who at that time was located in Gilboa, and afterward became Justice of the Supreme Court for the Fourth Judicial District. His legal preparations were completed in the office of Love & Freer, Ithaca, N. Y.; and after his admission to the bar, in 1848, he began the practice of his profession in Blenheim. His ability as counsellor and attorney rapidly asserted itself, with the result that he soon found himself in control of a large general law business. His many qualifications, not the least among which was his personal popularity, made him especially eligible to public office; and he was not long permitted by his fellow-townsmen to devote his whole time to his private affairs.

He served as Superintendent of Schools two years and as Supervisor three years; was elected District Attorney in 1859 by a large majority, and held office two years. In the fall of 1862 he was elected to the Assembly. In 1866 he accepted as a forlorn hope the Democratic nomination for State Senator from the Fifteenth District, comprising the counties of Schenectady, Schoharie, and Delaware; and, although realizing his expected defeat, he had the satisfaction of reducing the Republican majority. In 1868 he was elected to the Forty-first Congress in the Congressional district comprising Albany and Schoharie Counties, and in 1878 was elected Representative to the Forty-fifth Congress from the Thirteenth District, including the counties of Schoharie, Greene, and Ulster. During his first term he served upon the Committees on Private Land Claims and the Expenditures of the State and Post-office Departments. In the Forty-fifth Congress he was assigned to the Committees on the District of Columbia and State Department Expenditures, and was chairman of the Subcommittee on Ways and Means. His committee work in both sessions was laborious and efficient, and his record in the national House of Representatives was irreproachable. In 1883 he was elected County Judge and Surrogate of Schoharie County, a position which he held until appointed by Governor Hill to a seat upon the Supreme Bench; and in November, 1887, the people ratified the Governor's choice by electing him for a full term. His decisions, which are carefully conceived, have been in perfect accord with legal requirements and generally sustained by the Court of Appeals.

Since 1862 the Judge has resided in Schoharie. He was president of the Board of Public Education for eight years, and was the first president of the Schoharie Valley Railroad Company. Judge Mayham's scholarly attainments and ability as a public speaker have added much to his popularity, which extends far beyond the limits of his own county. Since his retirement from the bench he has been associated with his son Claude at Schoharie in the active practice of his profession, and is often called upon to act as referee in important cases, his judicial experience having eminently qualified him for such position.

Judge Mayham married Julia Martin, a grand-daughter of General Freegift Patchin, who served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Mrs. Mayham died in 1895, aged sixty-four years. She was the mother of three sons, F. Matt, Don S., Claude B., and one daughter, Ida L., who is now the wife of George Manschaffer, of this town. F. Matt Mayham was a prominent lawyer. He died in Schoharie in 1889, aged thirty-nine years. Don S. Mayham studied law with his father; and, after serving for a time as clerk of the Surrogate Court, he entered the Albany Law School, from which he was graduated in 1888. He was admitted to the bar the same year, and practised with his elder brother until the latter's decease, when he entered into partnership with his younger brother. He was a Democrat in politics, and served as clerk of the State Senate in 1892. He married Mary B. Borst, daughter of Thomas Borst and granddaughter of Ralph Brewster, a prominent lawyer of this locality in his day. Dying in June, 1896, at the age of thirty-three years, Don S. Mayham left one son, Stephen L. Mayham, second. Claude B. Mayham was born in Schoharie in 1868. His early education was completed at the Schoharie Academy, where he taught for two years, and began the study of law with his brother. He was graduated from Columbia College in the class of 1891, with the degrees of Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Philosophy, and was associated with Don S. Mayham until 1896. For a short time he was in partnership with Lyman S. Holmes, of Cobleskill, in Schoharie. While in college he was an all-round athlete and captain of the baseball team. He was also president of the leading literary society and a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity, and he sang in the Glee Club. He takes a leading part in the literary and musical matters in Schoharie, and is one of the most popular young men in town.

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