Niagara County

1897 Biography - Otis Hathaway

Hathaway, Otis, was born December 2, 1788, in Farmington, Ontario county, N. Y. He came to Lockport in the early spring of 1821, bringing his family on the following year. He was one of the earliest settlers of the place, coming when it was almost a wilderness, and with his uncles, Jared and Darius Comstock, and their associate, Seymour Seovell, owning at one time nearly all that portion of the village lying east of the Transit and upon the Mountain Ridge. He was one of the land proprietors, who in 1821 met and gave the village its name. Mr. Hathaway was the first to employ a surveyor to lay out his lands in village lots, Mr. Jesse P. Haines drawing up the map in 1821. That same year saw the erection of the first stores of the place, three in number. In one of these Otis Hathaway was interested; one of the Comstocks and himself putting up a frame building in which the post-office was located from 1821 to 1829; it was burned in the big fire of 1854. The following incident as well as being amusing will tend to show the energy and determination of some of those early settlers. About the time the village was started in 1821, there was a little contest as to where the court house and other county buildings should be located, Lewiston and Lockport being the most prominent rivals. Lewiston claimed the buildings as being the largest and oldest village in the county, and the courts having always been held there, they did not like to give them up. Lockport asserted the right as being nearer the geographical center and from the location of the canals and locks, as likely to be the business and commercial center. The Lewistonians had the advantage of possessing a newspaper by which they could send out their side of the question all over the county. Hearing the printer was not very well supported, some of the citizens met and appointed a committee consisting of Dr. Isaac Smith and Otis Hathaway to go to Lewiston and purchase the paper, press and printer. They left one afternoon with two lumber wagons, reaching Lewiston just after dark. They found the printer, bought the press and engaged the printer to go back with them. The press must have been a small affair, for they packed it, the printer, his family and household goods into the two wagons and were back in Lockport before morning of the next day. That noon saw a paper out on their side with fiery convincing articles and blazing with exclamation points. They sent some copies over to Lewiston that night, which was the first intimation some of the inhabitants had that they were minus a paper. Among other buildings which Otis Hathaway built, were the first mill and the American Hotel. The mill was erected in 1824, the material being taken from the surroundings forests. It was completed in twenty-two days. The occasion was made one of great celebration, as before that time the farmers were obliged to go to Niagara Falls or Rochester to have their wheat and corn ground. The American was built some time later. He began and nearly completed it, but owing to financial disasters was obliged to leave it for others to finish. His first home was a log cabin a little east of the Gulf. After that he lived in a frame dwelling, where the old Union School now stands. In the year 1836 he built the stone house on the corner of Charles and Chestnut streets, which was his home during the remainder of his life. It is still in the possession of his granddaughter, Mrs. Sellick, and is one of the oldest houses in the city, the walls being of unusual thickness. Mr. Hathaway died September 23, 1847.

Contributed 2017 by Lisa Slaski from Landmarks of Niagara County, New York, by William Pool, D. Mason & Co., Syracuse, NY, 1897

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