Our Country's Defenders

by Dr. Gilbert W. Hazeltine

 

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We had a much occupied building, which filled a space of about 20x30 feet on the southwest corner of Third street and Mechanic's alley. (Jamestown, Chautauqua Co., NY) It was a two-story building with a basement, painted white. This, together with WAITE's stone law office which stood directly west of it., disappeared about twenty-five years ago in the same way that so many of Jamestown's early buildings disappeared-in fire and smoke; the location of these and other early time buildings is now covered by the Sherman House. James HARRISON erected the building in 1828 for his watch repairing and jewelry establishment. 

In 1831 it came into the possession of WOOD & CURTIS as a boot and shoe store, and not long afterwards was used for LATHROP's hat shop. After Lathrop ceased business C. W. JACKSON used the lower rooms for gun repairing, and for finishing up house bells, and the basement as a bell foundry ; the upper rooms were used as a printing office, for the Under- current, the Liberty Star and the Jamestown Herald. After Jackson vacated the building, the lower story and basement were for a year or more used in a variety of ways, and by various persons. Finally the building was purchased by the Hon. Richard Pratt . MARVIN, and the occupancy of it fell to the lawyers. It became a sort of lawyers' headquarters for a time-an Inn of Court, as it would be termed in London.

Among the lawyers occupying this building at the same time was the Hon. Richard Pratt Marvin, who then was judge of the Supreme court and occupied the back rooms; Madison BURNELL, Capt James M BROWN, (afterwards COL James M. BROWN, killed at Fair Oaks,) John F. SMITH, (afterwards COL SMITH, killed at Fort Fisher) and others, and a number of law students. It was a busy place, and withal a patriotic place, at the breaking out of the late war. The Judge sent two sons to the country's defense-William MARVIN was a sacrifice upon that bloody altar, the other is the present Gen. Selden E. MARVIN of Albany. BURNELL became the celebrated home orator, urging the able bodied man to shoulder his musket and march forthwith to the front. Capt BROWN at the first alarm raised Jamestown's celebrated Co. B, and was among the first to report for action; he soon became Colonel of the 100th regiment of NY Infantry; the last he was ever seen, he stood on a stump on the battle field of Fair Oaks, waving his sword, forsaken by his men. As he was not mounted he probably was fatally wounded at that time. His body returned to mother earth on Virginia soil.

John F. SMITH , as soon as he could arrange his business, also raised a company and followed his partner BROWN to the field. He fell leading his men to the desperate charge of Fort Fisher. As he sat on the ground surrounded by his officers, he predicted that he would be killed that day. His body came back wrapped in his country' s flag, and rests in the peaceful shades of Lake View cemetery. COL John F. SMITH and his brother Capt Hiram N. SMITH, and the captain's two sons Milton and William, sleep side by side. Brave men! Such were the ones that Ellicott sent to her country's defense.

An act of heroism of Capt. Hiram SMITH should be recorded. After a battle (Williamsburg, I think) his son Milton who belonged to the same regiment, was not among those mustered after the battle. SMITH knew he was either killed or wounded. After midnight he went alone over that gloomy battle field, guided by the sickly light of the moon; he beheld the outstretched forms of the dead and heard moans and groans of the dying. Every few paces he halted and called, "MILTON, MILTON!" Finally his call was met by the feeble response of "Here I am father; I am shot, I cannot get up." He was fatally wounded. Smith took his wounded, dying son in his arms and conveyed him to the hospital, where he soon expired. It was at a time when leave of absence, and more especially transportation, were with great. difficulty to be procured. Capt. SMITH was furloughed for ten days to go home and bury his son. But there was no transportation. SMITH took letters from the Colonel and General, wrapped his dead son in his blanket, and went aboard a boat at Fortress Monroe. The living and the dead bunked together until they arrived at Baltimore, there a coffin was procured and the next day SMITH and his dead child were in Jamestown. His telegram had been received and everything was in readiness. The burial was the next morning, and the day after SMITH was on his way back to the Peninsula.

These are the bare facts.. Such were the men who defended us in the great war of the Rebellion. We would have the memory of this lowly building embalmed in the remembrance of every citizen as the headquarters of patriotism and love of country in Jamestown, in 1861. There the old man gave up his sons and younger men their homes, their wives and children, to become sacrifices on the altar of their country's needs
.

Dr Gilbert W Hazeltine,
History of Ellicott


Source:  Submitted by Dolores Davidson, 2002.