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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Nicholas Jeremiah DeGraff

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 704-705 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Nicholas Jeremiah DeGraff, a veteran of the Civil war with an officer's commission, a substantial farmer and landowner of Montgomery county, and a former shoe merchant now living retired in Amsterdam, where he has resided for the past half century and more, is a member of one of the old families of the Mohawk valley and of sterling Dutch Colonial and Revolutionary descent. One of his ancestors, Nicholas DeGraff, was a hero of the earlier French and Indian war and lost his life in the battle of Glenville [i. e., Beukendaal] during that long and bloody struggle, in July, 1748. A later Nicholas DeGraff, of this same line, was a participant in the battle of Oriskany, here in the Mohawk valley, August 6, 1777, and the DeGraffs ever since have been honorably represented hereabout. Nicholas J. DeGraff, who has his name in honor of his distinguished ancestors of that name, was born in the village of Amsterdam on June 9, 1842, and is therefore now well past eighty years of age. The home in which he first saw the light of day is one of the landmarks of "ye olden time" hereabout and is still standing near the Central depot. His father, Emanuel DeGraff, was born in that same home and there established his home after his marriage to Maria Mynderse of Guilderland Center in Albany county, this state. To that union were born five children, the subject of this sketch (the third in order of birth) having had three brothers, John T., Myndert M. and Emanuel E., and a sister, Elizabeth. Mingled with the blood of this old Dutch family is a strain of the French Huguenot stock. Emanuel DeGraff was a substantial farmer and landowner and in his generation was one of the best known men in his section.

Reared on the home farm, Nicholas Jeremiah DeGraff received his local schooling in the schools of his home neighborhood and then completed these studies in the Amsterdam Academy, from which institution he was graduated. When the Civil war broke out he was nineteen years of age and was engaged as an aid to his father on the home farm. In the next year, on July 23, 1862, he enlisted his services in behalf of the cause of the Union, enlisting at Amsterdam for the three-years service, and was attached to Company D of the One Hundred and Fifteenth Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, and was mustered in as first sergeant of that company on the following July 30. On February 19, 1863, Mr. DeGraff was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant and on October 8, 1864, for meritorious service on the field was raised to the rank of first lieutenant and later served as acting adjutant. He was mustered out at Raleigh, North Carolina, July 17, 1865, the war then being over, and upon his return to Albany was breveted major for gallant and meritorious conduct. Mr. DeGraff participated in quite a number of the important engagements and battles of the war and at Chester Station, Virginia, May 7, 1864, was wounded in action.

Upon the completion of his military service Major DeGraff resumed the paths of peace, returned home, and in association with his brother, John Teller DeGraff, bought the old homestead farm at Amsterdam. In the fall of 1868 he married and established his home there and on that place continued actively engaged in farming until his retirement from the farm in 1873, and removal to Amsterdam, where he became engaged in the shoe business, having a store at No. 29 East Main street. Mr. DeGraff continued thus actively engaged in the mercantile business at Amsterdam until 1900, when he disposed of his mercantile interests and has since been living practically retired, although he is still more or less engaged in the sale of builder's supplies, a line which he has maintained for some years. Mr. DeGraff is an active member of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic. He has long taken a particularly warm interest in local historical research and is a charter member of the Montgomery County Historical Society. He is a republican and is a member of the Presbyterian church, for many years a deacon of his local congregation.

It was on October 15, 1868, that Nicholas J. DeGraff was united in marriage to Miss Debbie Young of Tribes Hill, the third daughter of Luther and Nancy Young. Mr. and Mrs. DeGraff have two children: A son, Herbert E., born on June 12, 1871; and a daughter, Laura Y., born April 17, 1877, who married William P. Bennett and is now living in Toronto, Canada. Herbert E. DeGraff is with the Warren Featherbone Company of St. Louis, Missouri, where he resides.

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