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Below is a family biography included in Book of Biographies: Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens, Cortland County, New York published by Biographical Publishing Company in 1898.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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CAPTAIN J. CLAYTON ATWATER, a sterling and prominent citizen of Cortland County, residing in the village of Homer, is a son of Hon. Joseph and Lucy (Brown) Atwater. He was born in the town of Scott, Cortland County, on March 8, 1837, and is a descendant of the sixth generation from David Atwater, who in company with his brother, Joshua, emigrated from England in the early colonial times, settling at New Haven, Conn. The two brothers figured very prominently in the early history of the country north of Long Island Sound, and prospered up to the best limit of those days. According to tradition the family of Joshua Atwater became extinct in the male line, so that his brother David became the progenitor of all the Atwaters in America. In the division of the land among the two Atwaters and their fellow colonists, David was assigned a strip in what was called the “Neck,” a section that lay between the Mill and Quinnipiac Rivers. There it is believed he located and resided until his death, October 5, 1692. He married and reared eleven children, among whom was David, Jr., in the lineal ancestry of our subject. He came on earth July 13, 1650, at New Haven, and lived out a life that extended to January 10, 1736. He followed farming, and it is supposed that he resided on and worked a part of the original allotment. His son Joshua was born January 29, 1687, and wedded Ann Bradley, November 22, 1721. He in turn cultivated land on the ancestral estate, and died January 29, 1773. David, his son, and great-grandfather of the subject of this history, began life September 15, 1723. In manhood he located at Cedar Hills, and became the husband of Elizabeth Bassett, whom he wedded November 26, 1746. David was the father of twelve children, and of them Joshua, born May 13, 1753, was grandfather of our subject. David Atwater died at an early age, and his widow became the wife of Abiah Cooper.

Joshua Atwater, our subject’s grandfather, was twice wedded, first to Betsey Goodyear, January 20, 1778, and after her demise to Esther Hull. The first wife bore him eight children, and the second two. Joseph, a son of the last marriage, was the father of Captain J. C. Atwater, our subject. Joshua Atwater came from Connecticut into New York State, and settled at Homer, where he followed all his days the arduous labors of the pioneer and died July 31, 1814. Joseph Atwater, his son, was born in the town of Homer, August 31, 1813, and resided there throughout his life, with the exception of a few years spent in Scott township. He departed life March 8, 1874. He was a man of education and refined tastes. Trained in the early district and subscription schools and in the Homer Academy, he at eighteen years of age became a teacher, and followed the profession for upwards of forty years, Cortland County being in the main the scene of his labors and his success. Possessed of that natural tact and aptitude, which is so essential to the correct imparting of knowledge, he attained a reputation for thorough and excellent work, that made him a foremost member of his calling in Central New York. Joseph Atwater was likewise a worker in the Whig party, of which he was one of the original members in Cortland.

He was a great admirer and an earnest supporter of Henry Clay, that peer of patriots. When the Republican party took the field in 1856, he cast his fortunes with the movement, and none were more interested in the new party’s success and welfare than he. Many places of honor and trust came to Mr. Atwater, in all of which stations he performed his duty faithfully and well. His district sent him to Albany as a member of the lower house of the State Legislature in 1857 and 1858. He was superintendent of schools for the county at the time the law was changed, and the duties of that position placed in the hands of a school commissioner. Mr. Atwater also served his town on the board of supervisors and was for many years a justice of the peace. In all his relations — professional, social or political — Mr. Atwater was ever held in the highest esteem. Honest, straightforward and upright, he was looked up to by all as a valuable teacher, a trustworthy adviser, and a progressive, loyal fellow-citizen. Joseph Atwater was united in marriage April 9, 1834, with Lucy Brown, who bore him four daughters and one son. The children were by name: Lucy Aurelia, born February 2, 1835; Captain J. C., our subject: M. Antoinette, born January 30, 1843; H. Ursula, born September 29, 1845; and Nellie, born November 24, 1854. Lucy Aurelia became the wile of Seymour Z. Minor of Skaneateles, N. Y. Antoinette wedded John W. Frederick, but died October 7, 1879; Ursula married first Dwight D. Clark, and after his death became the wife of Lyman Fosmer of Homer. Nellie died in infancy.

Captain J. Clayton Atwater, the subject of our sketch, obtained his mental training in the district schools and at the Cortland (now Homer) Academy. Following in the footsteps of his beloved father, he at eighteen years of age began teaching, and followed it with a large measure of success for twenty-five years. In 1862, he put on the blue uniform, enlisting in Co. D, 157th Reg. N. Y. Vol. Inf., and went away to the war. He served until hostilities came to a close because of the glorious victories of the Union, and received his honorable discharge July 1, 1865. Mr. Atwater’s war record was an active and admirable one. Besides being in an innumerable number of skirmishes, he took part in the terrible battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. In the latter engagement, he was wounded and taken prisoner, July 2, 1863. Two days later, however, the enemy being repulsed, he was returned to his company.

After the war was brought to a successful close, Mr. Atwater returned home, much broken in health. To regain his former vigor, he worked at farming for a time, and also spent a little while in a store. His former profession called him, however, so he went to teaching again, and continued until 1872. In that year he embarked in the drug and stationery business at Homer with William A. Kellogg for a partner. Fifteen years later, he bought out Mr. Kellogg’s interest, and took his son, Fred C., into partnership, under the style of J. C. Atwater & Son. The following year, he sold his share of the business to William H. Foster, and it was continued as Atwater & Foster until 1896. Mr. Atwater’s retirement from the firm in 1888 was on account of failing health; he has since devoted his time to looking after a farm of 112 acres, situated about three miles west from Homer. This place he conducts more for the sake of having something to busy himself with than for any reasons of a pecuniary nature.

Mr. Atwater takes a lively interest in various enterprises for the improvement of the village and county. He is a director and vice-president of the First National Bank of Homer; was a director until recently of the Fisher Manufacturing Co.; and was one of the organizers of the Empire State Improvement Co. This latter company purchased lands in the vicinity of the city of Syracuse, and laid them out into lots, which they put upon the market. Mr. Atwater, naturally, is a Republican, and he takes a very pronounced interest in that party’s success. He has never been an aspirant for office. For fifteen years he was a member of the board of education of Homer, and has always taken an advanced position in educational matters. Fraternal affairs claim his attention, for he is a comrade and past commander in Willoughby Babcock Post, No. 105, G. A. R., and is a past master of Homer Lodge, No. 352, F. & A. M. November 7, 1860, Captain Atwater and Miss L. Euretta Babcock were happily united in marriage, and to them has since been born one son, Fred C., who is at present writing a representative of the Fraser Tablet Triturate Manufacturing Co. of New York City, and is the president of the village of Homer.

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This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in Book of Biographies: Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens, Cortland County, New York published in 1898. 

View additional Cortland County, New York family biographies here: Cortland County, New York Biographies

View a map of 1897 Cortland County, New York here: Cortland County, New York Map

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