The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia


PRENTISS, John Holmes, Col. - Cooperstown

The name of PRENTICE is an old and honored one in England 
as well as in America. In England the name is traced back to 
Thomas Prentiss, in 1318, and in our own country to Valentine 
PRENTICE, who came over with the "Apostle" ELLIOTT in 1631.
Colonel Samuel PRENTISS, grandfather of Colonel John H., 
was in the Revolutionary army and commanded a regiment during 
the war. He was a muscular man, weighed over two hundred 
pounds, and was six feet in height. As a commander he was stern, 
fearless, and brave, as a civilian greatly beloved and esteemed, and 
as a husband and father kind and affectionate. A writer says, "Since 
the days of Samuel P., Sr., of Stonington, there has been no time 
but some of his descendants have held office, civil or military down 
to the present time. Colonel Samuel Prentice spelled his name 
PRENTICE, as did his son, Dr. Samuel P., until some of the sons 
arrived at the age of manhood, when, at their suggestion, the name 
was changed to PRENTISS, and has been so continued to the 
present time by all of his family."
Dr. Samuel Prentiss, father of Colonel John H., was born in 
Stonington, Conn., in 1759. He married Lucretia HOLMES, 
daughter of Captain John H., a large and wealthy farmer. He died 
in Northfield, Mass., in 1818. Lincoln's "History of Worcester" says, 
"Dr. Samuel Prentiss, a man of talents and eminent in his profession, 
came from Stonington, Conn., to Worcester in 1783. He was 
secretary of a medical society in Worcester in 1785. He removed 
to Keene, N.H., in about 1786, and from thence to Saratoga, N.Y. 
Dr. P. received a good academical education, and studied medicine 
with Dr. Philip Turner, of Norwich, Conn., one of the best American 
surgeons of the age in which he lived. Dr. Prentiss entered the 
army quite young as military waiter to his father, Colonel Samuel P., 
and soon after returned to civil life. After studying medicine and 
surgery he engaged in the army as assistant surgeon, where he 
acquired a great deal of practical knowledge of his profession. At 
the close of the war he married, and soon removed to Worcester, 
Mass., where he resided several years. About the time of Shay's 
rebellion he removed to Northfield, Mass., and was zealous and 
active on the side of the government. His practice of surgery was 
very extensive, and for many years he was the principal operator 
in that country, his rides extending to the west of Massachusetts, 
and into the states of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Colonel John Holmes Prentiss, the subject of this sketch, was 
the third son of Dr. Samuel and Lucretia Prentiss, born in Worcester, 
Mass., in 1785.
After serving a regular apprenticeship as a printer, he removed 
to Cooperstown, N.Y., Oct. 8, 1808, and there established a weekly 
political newspaper, the Freeman's Journal, favoring the Democratic 
party, and which he continued successfully over forty years, until 
he sold out his interest, Jan. 20, 1849, having during all this time, 
except while in congress, given his personal attention in the printing-
office to the mechanical department, and also being sole editor of 
the paper and attending to the financial department. The paper had 
a large circulation, and its political character exercised an influence 
in the county of Otsego which made it one of the strongest Democratic 
counties in the State of New York. Governor Clinton conferred on 
him a commission as colonel in the militia, and appointed him 
division inspector; this he resigned under Governor Yates.
At the age of thirty-six he retired from the newspaper business, 
after a continuous service of more than forty years in that laborious 
profession. Many young men of eminence in the profession served 
their time in his office, one of whom was Colonel Wm. L. Stone, 
deceased, editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser, and of 
high repute also as an author.
Colonel Prentiss married first, on January 18, 1815, Catherine 
Cox MORRIS, youngest daughter of General Jacob Morris, of 
Butternuts, Otsego Co., N.Y. General Morris' father was one of 
the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Mrs. Pentiss died 
June 28, 1818. Ten years after, Colonel Prentiss married Urilla 
SHANKLAND, daughter of Thomas Shankland, Edq., of Cooperstown, June 3,
1828. Colonel Prentiss' family consisted of six children, viz.: two
daughters by his first wife, Mary Martha and Catherine Lucreteia, and by
his second wife two sons and two daughters, Alexander S., John H.,
Rachel A., and Charlotte D., the following of whom survive: Catherine
L., now Mrs. John C. DODGE, of Boston, Mass.; John H., residing in
Chicago, Ill.; and Charlotte D., now Mrs. BROWNING, and residing in
Colonel Prentiss was a man of untiring industry in his business, 
and as an editor he always maintained a prominent position. He 
represented this district in congress during the four years of Mr. 
Van Buren's administration, having been re-elected on the expiration 
of his first term. He was a useful member, of sound, practical views, 
who served his constituency in an acceptable manner.
For more than half a century Colonel Prentiss was a resident of 
Otsego, and during that time he had much to do with shaping its 
more important affairs. In all public matters affecting the welfare or 
interest of the county he was much consulted and was generally an 
active participant. Decided and clear in his views, energetic and 
resolute in his action, with a great deal of natural strength of
character and firmness of purpose, he was well suited to public life,
and admirably calculated to stem the opposition which a man of 
prominence is almost certain to meet. His interest in public affairs 
was maintained during his life. 
In personal appearance Colonel Prentiss was distinguished and 
fine-looking, - perhaps no man of his age in the State more so. His 
last appearance in public life, from which he had kept aloof for 
several years, was as a delegate to the Democratic State convention. 
which was held in Albany on Feb. 1, 1861. In that body of 
distinguished and able men, of which he was one of the vice-
presidents, he attracted much attention, and the question was 
frequently asked by delegates and others in attendance, referring 
to Colonel Prentiss, "Who is that large, fine-looking old gentleman, 
with white, flowing hair?" He was vice-president and afterwards 
president of the Bank of Cooperstown, and discharged his duties 
to the satisfaction of all. His was a long and active career; and 
although he lived past the scriptural age of threescore and ten he 
retained to the last much of his youthful vigor and ambition. He 
died June 26, 1861.

Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, page 285


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