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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Myron Wilbur Van Auken

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 152-159 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Portraits | Illustrations | Maps

Portrait of Myron Wilbur Van Auken

Portrait: Myron Wilbur Van Auken

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Myron Wilbur Van Auken is a distinguished attorney of Utica who has followed his profession in this city for nearly a half century, making a specialty of corporation law. Moreover, as general counsel of the Commercial Travelers Mutual Accident Association of America for the past thirty-eight years, he has become recognized as one of the leading insurance attorneys of the United States. His birth occurred in the town of Ira, Cayuga county, New York, on the 6th of June, 1852, his parents being Moses and Eliza Ann Van Auken of that place.

Among the early families of Ulster county, or "Esopus", as it was more generally called in early days, that of Van Aken is conspicuous, especially from the long line of its descendants now widely scattered. In Holland the family name is traced back fifteen hundred years, to the fourth century, when John Van Aken, the founder of the ancient city of "Aachen", now generally known as Aix-la-Chapelle, located in Germany between the Rhine and Meuse rivers, on the border of Holland. In this country the name is first recorded at Fort Orange (now Albany) in 1652, in which year Jan Koster Van Aaken, as his name was written for him, appears as a trader and purchaser of real estate on Broadway, State and James streets, and was made a magistrate in 1663, although he could not write his name except by his "mark" — two triangles crossing each other. His descendants are not known, though possibly Levi, Henry and John, whose names appear on the military rolls of the Revolution in Albany regiments, may have been; but certainly he was not the forebear of Peter Van Aken, who came from Holland and settled in the Esopus country as early as 1656.

The family tradition is that Peter Van Aken settled two miles south of Rondout, where he built the stone house which was a mark for the guns of Vaughn's expedition up the Hudson in October, 1777. Some cannon balls are preserved in the family as souvenirs of this event.

Peter Van Aken and Weyntje Marren, according to the Kingston Reformed Dutch church baptismal records, had several children, among them being a son, Marinus Van Aken.

Marinus Van Aken, who is said to have been born about 1660, married Peternella DuPree of New York city, who was of French Huguenot parentage. According to the records of the Kingston Reformed church, they had nine children baptized, the eighth of whom, Abraham, was baptized October 29, 1699.

Abraham Van Aken married Jannetje De Witt, baptized at Kingston on July 13, 1701, daughter of Jan De Witt and Wyntje Kierstede. They had several children, all baptized at Kingston, among them a son Daniel, baptized February 2, 1735. The baptisms of Abraham's children are also recorded at the Machackemeck church, Deerpark, Orange county.

There is in existence a deed dated April 23, 1730, by which Samuel Green conveyed to Solomon Davis, William Koole (or Cole) of Ulster county, and Abraham Van Auken of Mahockameck, Orange county, seven hundred and eighty-three acres of land in the present county of Hunterdon, West Jersey, for the sum of two hundred pounds current silver money. It appears in the deed that Samuel Green purchased the land from the Indians. These lands were at the south end of what was known at that time as the Mine Road, originally an Indian path from the Esopus country to the Delaware river. The Dutch account of the fine lands on the Delaware river induced many good citizens from Ulster county to purchase and locate in that section. Among those who early settled there were the De Witts, Schoonmakers, Beviers, Cuddybacks, Kuykendals, Swartouts, Van Aukens and many other families. This district, long known as Minisink Precinct, extended along the Delaware river from Carpenter's Point to the lower end of the Great Minisink Island. It was claimed by both New York and New Jersey, and was finally assigned to the latter in 1766. In this precinct Abraham Van Auken was assessed in 1739, and also his son Isaac. Later Abraham Van Auken was justice of the peace.

In the records kept by Rev. J. C. Freynmoet is the entry: "Daniel Van Aken, young man, born at Machackemeck and dwelling there, and Leah Kittel, young woman, born at Wawarsink and dwelling in Menissinck, were married December 13, 1753." Daniel and Leah Van Aken had fifteen children, all of whom were married and had families living near the vicinity of their birth. Among these were Jeremiah, a school teacher of Minisink, who was killed by the Indians under Brant at the time of the Neversink massacre in 1779; Daniel Nathaniel, who was a farmer of Wantage; Elijah, born October 23, 1759; Absalom; Isaiah; Jeremiah (II); Leah; and Rachel. Elijah was wounded at the time his brother Jeremiah was killed, their mother escaping by concealing herself in a ditch.

Jeremiah, son of Daniel and Leah Van Aken, was born in the town of Minisink, January 25, 1778, and died at Ira, Cayuga county, New York, on the 17th of March, 1848. He married Mary Westfall, who was born on February 22, 1778, and died at Ira on December 13, 1831. Their children, all of whom were born in Minisink, were: Benjamin; Thomas; Daniel; Rachel, who married James Gumaer of Skaneateles, Onondaga county, New York, and died at Cato, New York; Angeline, who married Peter Loyster of Niles, Cayuga county; Leah, who married Smith O. Ferris of Cayuga county; Mary, who married Lewis Lockwood of Niles, Cayuga county; and Moses.

Moses Van Auken, son of Jeremiah Van Auken, was born on the 6th of August, 1806, and died at Cato, New York, on the 3d of September, 1881. He married Mary Ann Dennis, who was born July 12, 1811, and died on November 29, 1877. They were the parents of seven children: Lewis Morgan, James Harvey, Mary Angelina, Juliette, Thomas, Charles Mortimer and Myron Wilbur.

Myron W. Van Auken, youngest son of Moses and Eliza Ann (Dennis) Van Auken, began his education in a country "district" school and subsequently entered Union Academy at Red Creek, Wayne county, New York. He still has in his possession the certificate of academic scholarship given him by the Red Creek Union Academy, which reads as follows: "This is to certify that Myron W. Van Auken is a member of Red Creek Union Academy, and that at an examination held this day, he has been found to have attained the proficiency required by the ordinance of the regents of the university to entitle him to be classed as an academic scholar in any academy, subject to the visitation of the regents. W. A. Brownell, Principal. David W. Allen, S. S. Quivey, D. C. Washburn, Committee. Dated December 8, 1865." This examination was the first regent examination held in the state of New York. Mr. Van Auken next became a student in the Fairfield Seminary at Fairfield, New York, from which he was graduated in June, 1869, when he won by competition a free scholarship in Cornell University, where he pursued a four-year classical course and from which he was graduated in June, 1873, the degree of Bachelor of Arts being at that time conferred upon him. His professional training was pursued in the Albany Law School, from which institution he was graduated with the degree of LL. B. in 1875.

It was on the 14th of June, 1875, that Mr. Van Auken came to Utica, where he has remained an active representative of the legal profession throughout the intervening period of almost a half century. He has specialized in corporation law and none is better informed concerning the statutes and law relating to the formation, regulation and conduct of corporations. He has membership in both the Oneida County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. In addition to his professional activity Mr. Van Auken is a director and an officer in numerous corporations. Since 1886 he has been general counsel of the Commercial Travelers Mutual Accident Association of America, which is the largest personal accident assessment insurance company in the world, having a membership of over two hundred thousand. Mr. Van Auken is recognized as the dean of general counsels of mutual accident insurance companies throughout the United States, and he is now the president of the General Counsels Association of Accident and Health Companies of the United States and Canada. He is also vice president of the International Association of Accident and Surety Underwriters. Mr. Van Auken is the author of a book entitled "The Ready Reference Digest of Accident and Health Insurance Law", which is a helpful and dependable collation of what the courts have declared to be the rights and obligations of the respective parties to insurance contracts.

In politics Mr. Van Auken is a republican and twice held the office of corporation counsel of Utica. He was once the nominee of his party for district attorney but he has confined himself closely to the duties of his profession. He was for several years the financial secretary of the Utica Citizens Corps. He organized the Corn Hill Building and Loan Association and assisted in the promotion and organization of many business corporations now in successful operation in Utica. During his long residence in Utica he has taken an active part in every movement to further the city's interests. He is an able, fluent speaker and a convincing writer. His speeches and writings abound with wit, satire and sarcasm. An extract from a political speech, made many years ago, which has been repeatedly quoted in the local press, describes a candidate for office as follows: "A patriot without a country; a partisan without a party; an elector without a ticket; a voter by assumption; and a taxpayer by marriage." In the great war with Germany he took the side of his country with the vigor, zeal and earnestness of his ardent, patriotic nature. He delivered more than a hundred patriotic addresses and contributed many articles on the war to newspapers and magazines.

Mr. Van Auken is affiliated with Faxton Lodge, No. 697, F. & A. M. In 1888 he was appointed a member of a committee of nine by the grand master of Masons of the state of New York to select a site for a home for indigent Masons, their wives, widows and orphans. Through his efforts and influence, after an exciting competition with other cities and after a prolonged contest, Utica was chosen and upon the site selected the Masonic Home was erected, with its separate buildings for children. This is today the largest charity of its kind in the world, and Mr. Van Auken has every reason to be proud of his part in its establishment. He is a member of the League of Masonic Clubs, Utica Lodge of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the City Club, the Utica Golf and Country Club, the University Club of Utica, the Automobile Club of Utica, the Cornell Club of New York, the Casualty and Surety Club of New York and the Casualty Underwriters Club of New York city. He likewise belongs to the Republican Club of Utica. He has ever been actuated by a spirit of progress, and the sterling traits of character which he has displayed throughout his life have gained for him the warm regard and high esteem of his fellow townsmen.

On the 12th of July, 1876, Mr. Van Auken was united in marriage to Miss Carrie M. Rice, daughter of Hon. Eleazer C. Rice of Fairfield, New York, who represented Herkimer county in the general assembly. Mr. and Mrs. Van Auken became the parents of three children: Sadie, who died in infancy; Wilbur Rice, of whom more extended mention is made below; and Clarence M., to whom further reference is made hereafter. The wife and mother departed this life in March, 1904.

Portrait of Wilbur Rice Van Auken

Portrait: Wilbur Rice Van Auken

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Wilbur Rice Van Auken was born in Utica, New York, on the 13th of March, 1882, and was educated in Utica Academy. In September, 1899, he entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, whence he was graduated as a member of the class of 1903. He was continuously on duty, sea and shore, until the entrance of the United States into the World war in 1917, when he was placed in the Department of Ordnance under Admiral Earl, being in charge of directo-firing and the optical division of the department. In 1918 he was sent on detached service to the allied fleets, in the role of an "observer", and at the signing of the armistice was attached to the battleship New York in the North Sea. He saw service at Vera Cruz when that city was taken by the United States naval forces, and was engaged in duty elsewhere in Mexican waters. In 1912 he published his textbook, "Spotting", which is used by all United States naval instructors. In 1922 he completed a revision, published in two volumes, which includes the knowledge gained during the four years of warfare from 1914 until 1918. He has attained the rank of commander and is at the present time (1924) in command of the U. S. S. Aroostook, the mother ship of the naval aviation service of the Pacific fleet. In 1910 Commander Van Auken married Pauline Thompson of Louisville, Kentucky, daughter of Colonel William Thompson, treasurer of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Commander and Mrs. Van Auken are the parents of a daughter, Rosalie, born March 13, 1915, at Annapolis, Maryland.

Clarence M. Van Auken was born in Utica, New York, on the 27th of December, 1883. He completed public school studies in Utica, but his health forbade a college education. He resides in Fairfield, New York, his mother's girlhood home. He was married to Ida M. Jackson, daughter of Daniel M. and Alice (Pickert) Jackson of Fairfield, New York.

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