Press-Republican

Columns

May 1, 2013

Some famous people born in North Country

It’s no secret that I’m from Franklin County and I love my hometown of Westville. Malone is high on my list of favorite places, too.

Secretly, I’ve always been a little jealous of how wonderfully Clinton County and Plattsburgh, in particular, have promoted their history. The Battle of Plattsburgh, museums and reenactments are wonderful, living historical textbooks, and we need them.

As president of the Westville Historical Organization (yes, that’s the WHO), I have uncovered some very surprising history about the people who lived in my hometown, in Malone and in Franklin County, and I’m here to brag.

In recent years, much celebration has been given to the fact that William Almon Wheeler was born in Malone and served as vice president to Rutherford B. Hayes. This quiet, generous and noble man is buried at Morningside Cemetery in Malone, along with his wife and family.

Many other men from Franklin County made their mark on the political world. Serving in Congress was William Hogan, 22nd Congress (1831), who purchased Township 1, including Bombay and Hogansburg; James B. Spencer, 25th Congress (1837), Fort Covington; and Sidney Lawrence, 30th Congress (1847). Actually, William A. Wheeler got his start in Washington, D.C., at the 37th Congress, 1861, and again in consecutive Congress from 1869 to 1877. Quite impressive, wouldn’t you say?

I have been on the trail of lesser-known men, though, and the list is just as impressive.

Maurice D. O’Connell was born in Constable in 1839, attended Franklin Academy and taught school. During the Civil War, O’Connell worked in the Washington, D.C., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and studied law at Columbia University. In 1869, he moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa, was district attorney for the Eleventh Judicial District and was appointed solicitor of the treasury in 1897. He died in 1922 in Washington, D.C., from injuries sustained in a streetcar accident and is buried in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

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