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Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published by Chapman Publishing Co., in 1895.  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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WILLIAM A. BICKFORD, who is perhaps one of the best known citizens of the west end of Seneca County, is at present living at Border City, a new town at the northeast end of Seneca Lake, and joining the eastern corporation line of Geneva. He bears a wide reputation as the inventor of the Niagara Force Pump, the Solid-Comfort Lawn Swing, the Child’s Delight, and Jacob’s Ladder. They are manufactured by the Border City Manufacturing Company, of which Mr. Bickford is Manager, Secretary and Treasurer. He is a native of Vermont, and was born at Troy, September 10, 1858. His parents were Thomas and Juda (Kimball) Bickford, natives of the province of Quebec, Canada, where they met and were married. Soon after that event we find them living in the Green Mountain State, where the father was engaged in farming.

Mrs. Juda Bickford departed this life in Vermont, leaving William A., who was her only child. The father was again married, and in 1866 removed to Albert Lea, Minn. After some time spent there the family took up their abode in Minneapolis. Up to that time our subject had very limited opportunities for attending school, but after moving to Minneapolis he was sent to the public schools there in the winter and during the summer months worked in a sawmill. This continued until he reached the age of seventeen, when he was apprenticed to learn the machinist’s trade, working in the shops of Walker Brothers, manufacturers of wood- working machinery. He remained with this company two years and a-half, receiving for his first year’s work $20 per month. The second year his wages were raised $2.50 per month, and to $24 the remaining six months. Before the usual time allowed an apprentice had expired. Walker Brothers sold out their business and removed to Philadelphia. Young Bickford then finished his trade in another shop, and was soon working for $1.50 per day.

When only twenty years of age our subject went to Owatonna, Minn., and organized the firm of E. L. Paddock & Co., to do general machine work and repairing. It was just getting a good start when it was burned out, this event occurring on Mr. Bickford’s twenty-first birthday. At that time he lost all his tools, clothing and school books, which he kept in the shop. He then returned to Minneapolis, and before noon on the day of his arrival had secured a position in the same shop where he had learned his trade, receiving $2.50 per day. After working for this firm for about six months, he entered into a partnership with a Mr. Foster in that city and opened an agricultural-implement store, the firm name being Bickford & Foster. This connection existed for two years, and it was during that time that Mr. Bickford invented the Niagara Double-Acting, Non-Freezing Force Pump, getting out his first patent, however, in Canada. Selling out his interest in the implement business in Minneapolis to his partner, he made his home in the Dominion. He sold his patent right to the Farm and Dairy Manufacturing Company, of Brantford, for $3,000, and was given the position of mechanical superintendent of this company, with a salary of $1,000 per year. He remained with the firm for about two years, during which time he was married, at Brantford, November 14, 1882, to Miss Isabella Morris, who was born in that place January 1, 1861. She was the daughter of William and Isabella (Hyde) Morris, natives, respectively, of England and Ireland.

At the expiration of the time above mentioned, Mr. Bickford removed to Moncton, New Brunswick, to take charge of an establishment there which was engaged in the manufacture of his pumps. He was there about a year and a-half, but the venture not proving a successful one, he resigned his position and went to Prescott, Ontario, where he organized a company to manufacture the force pumps. Soon selling his interest to other parties, however, he again came to the States, locating at Ogdensburg, N. Y., where he organized the Border City Manufacturing Company. About this time he had his pumps patented in the United States, and January, 1889, the company was ready for business. In 1891 Mr. Bickford came to his present location, where he has since manufactured his own articles. Border City now contains many buildings, but his factory was the first building erected.

The Niagara Force Pumps are acknowledged by all who have used and examined them to be the best and most serviceable pumps in the market for raising water, washing carriages, sprinkling lawns, extinguishing fires, etc. They are guaranteed to pump a barrel of water per minute from a well of ordinary depth, or force a stream from fifty to one hundred feet from the nozzle of any reasonable length of hose. This pump has been on the market for the past seven years and has been thoroughly tested and strengthened in all its weak points, and is to-day the most complete general-purpose pump ever sold in the United States or Canada. It never freezes, never needs priming, is double acting and durable.

Mr. Bickford is also the inventor and manufacturer of the Solid-Comfort Lawn Swing, which is a very comfortable and artistic piece of lawn furniture. It embraces and combines the hammock, the easy and reclining chair, the settee, the swing and the lawn tent, and it excels them all. He also has for sale the Child’s Delight, a swing for the nursery.

Jacob’s Ladder, another of Mr. Bickford’s inventions, is one of the most complete articles ever used by carpenters, roofers, paper-hangers, house-decorators, painters, merchants, farmers and mechanics of all kinds. It is manufactured and owned exclusively by the Border City Manufacturing Company, of which our subject is one of the largest stockholders. They do a business of $20,000 per year, and the product of their factory is shipped to all points in the United States.

Our subject is a Democrat in politics, and cast his first Presidential vote in 1884 for Grover Cleveland. He is very popular in his community and was elected by adherents of both political parties to the office of Justice of the Peace in 1893. Socially he is a Mason of high standing, belonging to Geneva Chapter, and became a member of the organization while at Brantford, Canada, being initiated in Doric Lodge No. 121. He is likewise a member of the Royal Arcanum, and has been sent as the representative of this order to its state convention, which met at Syracuse in April, 1895.

To Mr. and Mrs. Bickford there were granted three sons: Charles A., born at Moncton, New Brunswick, in 1884; Reginald, whose birth occurred at Brantford, Canada, in 1886; and Harold Morris, born in 1893. The latter died in July, 1894, when about six months old.

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This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published in 1895. 

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

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

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