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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Fred J. Sisson

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 625-626 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Fred J. Sisson, a practicing attorney at law of Utica and member of the firm of Merrill, Sisson & Hanagan, is a native of Otsego county, New York, and was born in Wells Bridge, on March 31, 1879. His parents are Elbert A. and Emily (Yorke) Sisson of Wells Bridge, both of them descendants of early Colonial settlers in New England and members of those hardy families of English origin that did so much to form the character of our nation during the impressionable days of the Colonial and post-Revolutionary eras. The Sisson family dates back in America to the year 1639, when Richard Sisson, an Englishman, founded the family in Rhode Island. The Yorkes were among the early settlers of Connecticut and later joined the pioneers in central New York. Fred J. Sisson's great-great-grandfathers on each side of the family were soldiers in the Revolutionary war.

Fred J. Sisson graduated from the high school in Unadilla, New York, and is an alumnus of Hamilton College, class of 1904, where he obtained his A. B. degree. After leaving college he first entered the teaching profession, becoming principal of the high school in Vernon, Oneida county, from 1904 to 1907. While he was thus engaged his interest was attracted to the study of law and, having decided eventually to take up that profession, in 1907 he resigned his position in the schools of Vernon to read law in the office of Jerome S. Seacord, an attorney of Unadilla. The opening of the school year of 1908-1909 found him back in Vernon, however, in the principal's office. During the ensuing two years he continued his legal reading in the office of Merchant B. Hall of Vernon after his day's school work was done and in his vacations. In 1910 Mr. Sisson definitely gave up his teaching, coming to Utica where he studied law with Fred B. Adams. He was admitted to the bar in the following year.

As soon as he had become a full-fledged lawyer Mr. Sisson formed a partnership with Mr. Adams, which was continued until the end of 1913. In 1914 the firm of Senior & Sisson was organized with Abraham G. Senior as senior partner and Mr. Sisson as the junior partner. After three years of association in legal practice these two men dissolved partnership, Mr. Sisson at that time — January 1, 1917 — joining M. William Bray to form the firm of Sisson & Bray. Mr. Bray, who is mentioned at length elsewhere in this work, is one of the able attorneys of Utica and the partnership was one of unusual strength and mutual benefit. A change occurred in the firm when, on January 1, 1920, August Merrill was admitted, the name being changed to that of Merrill, Sisson & Bray. Mr. Bray withdrew the following August and was succeeded by Ezra Hanagan, who is today the third member of the firm of Merrill, Sisson & Hanagan. A large and important practice is enjoyed by the firm, which has justly won an enviable reputation for its legal ability, high integrity and painstaking regard for the interests of its clients. In addition to his general law practice Mr. Sisson is corporation counsel for the North American Credit Corporation of Utica, a director of the Central New York Mortgage Company of Albany and a director in the Central New York Title & Guarantee Company, also of Albany.

In this section of the state Mr. Sisson is perhaps as well known for his political activities as for his work as a lawyer. His first public office was that of attorney for the sheriff's office of Oneida county, which he held in 1912. Two years later he served very ably as corporation counsel for the city of Utica, thereby adding to his reputation as a keen lawyer and a public servant of high integrity. As democratic candidate for representative from the thirty-third congressional district, comprising Oneida and Herkimer counties, in 1922, he made a remarkable record and one that far surpassed the hopes of his political friends and admirers. His district is normally republican, so much so that the candidates of that party are practically assured of election when they have won their own party nomination. In spite of this great handicap Mr. Sisson rolled up the largest number of votes ever polled for a democrat from the district, being second to Governor Smith in the election. His republican opponent won the seat in congress by the narrow margin of one thousand, three hundred and fifty votes. No higher testimony could be offered of the esteem in which Mr. Sisson is held by his fellow citizens. By his straightforward administration of the public offices that have been entrusted to him, he has lived up to Grover Cleveland's famous motto, "A public office is a public trust", and like that great president has earned the admiration and political support of high-minded citizens, regardless of their party affiliations.

Mr. Sisson is a Mason, belonging to Sconondah Lodge, No. 814, A. F. & A. M.; a member of the Democratic Association, the University Club and a number of sportsmen's clubs, the latter indicating the trend of his recreational interests. In connection with his profession he is, of course, a member of the New York State and Oneida County Bar Associations.

On July 13, 1912, Mr. Sisson was united in marriage to Miss Grace McCormick, daughter of Michael J. and Mary McCormick of Canton, St. Lawrence county, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Sisson have five children: Marian Emily, Anne McCormick, Elbert Richard, Margaret and John McCormick Sisson.

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