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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
Hon. Austin Andrew Yates

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[This information is from pp. 8-12 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. Austin Andrew Yates

Portrait: Hon. Austin Andrew Yates

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Hon. Austin Andrew Yates, one of the leading attorneys of Schenectady, served with the rank of Captain in the Civil War, and as Major of the Second Battalion, New York Infantry, was on duty with his command in various camps during the Spanish War, but, is better known by the title of Judge, having been elected to that office in 1873.

He was born in Schenectady on March 24, 1836, son of the Rev. John Austin and Henrietta Maria (Cobb) Yates. The original ancestor in America was Joseph Yates, an Englishman, who emigrated in 1664 and settled in Albany. Christopher Yates, son of Joseph, and the next in this line, had a son Joseph, who was born in Albany, and settled in Glenville, N.Y., where he carried on a large plantation bordering upon the river, and owned a number of slaves.

Christopher Yates, second, son of Joseph, second, and great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was one of the well-to-do residents of Schenectady in his day. While serving as a Lieutenant in the Provincial army, he was wounded at the siege of Ticonderoga in the French War. He served as a Captain under Sir William Johnson in the engagement at Fort Niagara, and received from King George III. a land grant of nine thousand acres. His term of service as member of the first Provincial Congress expired just six days prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Entering the Continental army as a Colonel, he served as Assistant Department Quartermaster under General Philip Schuyler, and participated in the battle of Saratoga. He reared five sons, each of whom performed some notable achievement. Joseph C. Yates, the eldest son, was one of the founders of Union College and Governor of New York, 1823-25; John B. served as Colonel of a cavalry regiment in the War of 1812, was member of Congress from Madison County, and built the Welland Canal; Henry was a State Senator from Albany; Christopher was the founder of St. George's Lodge, F. & A. M., Schenectady; and Andrew, Judge Yates's grandfather, known as the Rev. Andrew Yates, D. D., was one of the first professors at Union College.

Dr. Yates was a man of superior intellectual endowments, and was well versed in ancient and modern languages, including Holland Dutch. His professorship at Union College was productive of much benefit to that institution while in its infancy. His whole life was one of useful activity. Laboring diligently to increase the facilities for religious worship, he built thirteen churches, mostly missions of the Reformed denomination, all of which are still standing and are in a flourishing condition. He inherited considerable wealth from his father's estate. For his first wife he married Mary Austin, who was of English Puritan stock, and was a relative of the founder of Austin, Tex. Of this union there were two sons — John Austin and Andrew F. His second wife, who was formerly a Miss Hooker, of Hartford, Conn., became the mother of three children — Mary Austin, James, and Anna E. Andrew Yates also reared John Dominis, who became the consort of the Queen of the Sandwich Islands. Dr. Yates died in 1844, and his widow survived him some ten years.

The Rev. John Austin Yates, his eldest son, was born within the precincts of Union College, Schenectady, in 1801. After graduating from that institution he spent some time in Europe studying the modern languages, and spoke French and German fluently. He was afterward a tutor at Union College for some years, or until called to the pastorate of a Reformed church in Jersey City. As a pulpit orator he acquired a wide reputation. The memorable cholera epidemic of 1849 numbered him among its many victims; and his death, which occurred in Schenectady on August 26 of that year, when he was but forty-eight years old, was sincerely lamented in other localities as well as the vicinity of Union College.

In 1829 he married Henrietta Maria Cobb, an adopted daughter of his uncle, Colonel John B. Yates. He was the father of five children, namely: Henrietta Cobb, who died in infancy; Mary Austin, who married John Watkins, and died in Columbia, S. C., in 1853, leaving a family, of whom John D. and Grace S. Watkins are now living; John B., second, who served as Colonel of the First Michigan Engineers under General Sherman during the Civil War, was later a division engineer on the Erie Canal, and is now in the government service at Grosse Point, Mich.; Austin A., the subject of this sketch; and the late Captain Arthur Reed Yates, United States Navy. Captain Yates was graduated from the Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1857, and was thus senior to Schley and Sampson. He was for some time a naval attache in Japan. He served upon Admiral Farragut's staff during the Civil War, and received that officer's hearty commendation in recognition of his gallant conduct at the battle of Mobile Bay. He died at Portsmouth, N. H., November 4, 1892, on the eve of promotion to the rank of Commodore. The mother died in March, 1842, aged thirty-one.

Austin Andrew Yates's birth took place while his father was an instructor at Union College, and he was the second representative of the family born within its limits. He attended the public schools until entering the Schenectady Lyceum for his preparatory course, which was completed when he was but thirteen years old; and in September, 1849, he began his classical studies at Union. Leaving college in 1850, he spent two years in Western Massachusetts, where he continued his studies under the tutorship of David M. Kimball, and, passing a successful examination for the junior class, he completed the course and was graduated from Union College in 1854. He read law in the office of the late Judge Potter, and was admitted to the bar in 1857, when twenty-one years old. During the first few years of his practice he devoted a part of his time to newspaper work, first as editor of the Schenectady Daily Times and later of the Evening Star.

Enlisting in Company H, One Hundred and Thirty-fourth Regiment, New York Volunteers, during the Civil War, he was promoted from the rank of Lieutenant to that of Captain. He was in the reserve force during the battle of Fredericksburg, and at Chancellorsville he received such severe injury to his eyes as to necessitate his discharge for disability. Re-enlisting as Captain of Company F, Fourteenth Regiment, United States Veteran Reserve Corps, he participated in some engagements near Washington, and on the occasion of a sudden attack made by the enemy under General Jubal A. Early, he assisted President Lincoln, who happened to be present, from the field. In November, 1863, he was sent with three companies to suppress a riot among the miners in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Among the various official duties of his command after the close of hostilities was that of the execution of Mrs. Surratt and the other conspirators, which is one of the most unpleasant recollections of his military service. He was brevetted Major in 1865, and appointed Judge Advocate under Joseph Holt, Judge Advocate General, and after his discharge from the army in 1866 he resumed his law practice in Schenectady.

Politically, Judge Yates is a Republican. In 1867 he was unsuccessful as a candidate for the Assembly, owing to a factional discord in the party. He was elected District Attorney in 1868, re-elected in 1871, and in 1873 was elected judge by a large majority. He was a candidate for the State Senate in 1885, but lacked ten votes of being elected. In 1887 he was successful in his candidacy for the Assembly, and was re-elected in 1888. Upon the expiration of his term as Judge he once more returned to his practice, and is now conducting a profitable general law business.

On December 18, 1865, Judge Yates was joined in marriage with Josephine de Vendell, daughter of John I. Yates. They have one daughter, Henrietta C.

In September, 1880, Judge Yates was commissioned Captain of the Thirty-sixth Separate Company, National Guard, State of New York, and later he was commander of the Fifteenth Battalion. In May, 1898, as Major of the Second Battalion, New York Infantry, he led his command to the field in the Spanish War, and served in camps on this side of the water at Hempstead, Lytle, Chickamauga, Tampa, Fernandina, and Camp Harden. He retired in October, having served through all the camps and service which have been the cause of such caustic criticism; and, though his regiment lost thirty-one by death, he brought home every one of his four hundred and thirty-six men alive.

Judge Yates was president of the National Guard's Association in 1890, and for a number of years Commander of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic. He is a Master Mason, as were many of his ancestors, including his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

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