Potter C. Burton
Contributed by Rene' Treffeisen

Potter C. Burton, who died at his home on Chestnut street, Oneonta, September 16, 1883, 
was born in Hopkinton, Washington Co., RI., September 11 1812. The parents of Mr.
Burton were Rhode Island people, who lived and died on a farm in their native State,
Mr. Burton having followed farming all his life. While they were of old Rhode Island
families they were of English ancestry, some of the members of their families having
served in the Revolutionary war. Potter C. Burton was brought up in his native county, and when a young man served three
years as an apprentice to the jeweler's trade. In 1834 he removed from Rhode Island
to Oneonta, NY.; he walked all the way, carrying with him a small tin box containing
all his earthly possessions, consisting of a set of tools used in repairing watches,
of which trade he was then a master. He located in the upper story of a hotel known
as the Angell House, on the corner of Main and Chestnut Streets. Being an adept at
his trade he soon manifested his ability as a skilled workman, which gave him a
reputation that in its turn brought him plenty of work. He was not only a good
workman but an intelligent and honest young man, such as new and growing towns always
desire, and are glad to encourage. The little room in the upper story of the hotel
soon became too small for his increasing trade, and he then moved into a small
building on Main Street. He soon found himself on the upward road to prosperity, and
was ever afterward, until his retirement from business, known as the leading jeweler
in the city on Oneonta. Being of a business turn of mind he acquired some valuable
property, and built a palatial residence at No. 25 Chestnut Street. This fine home
has, since his death, been the home of his widow. In 1874, after having been
constantly in business for forty-five years, he sold his stock of goods and all his
business interests to Clinton E. Ford, and retired from all active participation in
business. Throughout nearly all of his active career he was usually a very healthy
man, but was at length troubled with heart failure, which resulted in his death. He
was recognized by all as a good, upright, honest and kind-hearted citizen. He was a
Republican in politics, and in religion a member of the Baptist Church. Mr. Burton was married February 8, 1835, in Oneonta, to Miss Sophia Smith, who was born
in Sidney, Delaware Col, NY., January 9, 1816. She was reared in that place, and
educated there and at Franklin, in the same county. She removed to Oneonta when yet
a young woman. She is the daughter of Samuel and Lucy (Greenslit) Smith, both of
whom were born and reared near Bennington, Vt. They were both of good New England
stock, and after the birth of three of their children, set out for the West, making
the journey overland with teams. They settled down in the wilderness of Delaware
County. This was in the early part of the present century, when the county was very
new and when neighbors were few and far between. Indians and wild beasts filled the
woods, and the wolves were so bold as to follow the children to and from school.
Advantages of civilization were not worth noting. There were none. It was necessary
to travel many miles to market or to mill. Upon one occasion one of the sons of the
family, then only fourteen years old, was sent to mill at Unadilla, and before he
could return he was overtaken by night. While attempting to cross a hemlock swamp on
his horse he lost his way, and had to remain in the woods all night. It was not long
before he was scented by the wolves, which surrounded him. He climbed a tree for
safety, the wolves keeping him there until dawn. They then departed, and he was
enabled to get home, though badly frightened. He was made exceedingly welcome, as
his family was very anxious about him until his safe return. This was only one of
the many similar experiences of different members of this family in the wilds of
early Delaware County. Mr. Smith and wife, however, lived to make a good home on a
well-cultivated farm on Carr's Creek, at what is today known as Sidney Centre. Here
Mr. and Mrs. Smith spent their last years, dying on their own farm, the country
around them having become much improved. Mrs. Smith died when she was sixty-nine
years of age, and Mr. Smith when nearly ninety. They were of the early founders and
charter members of the Old School or Regular Baptist Church at Sidney Centre. Mr.
Smith was always known as "Captain" Smith, on account of his long connection with the
local militia. He was a leader of the town people, and was long prominent in local
affairs. Mrs. Burton was the only daughter of her parents, and the youngest but one of the family.
She has three brothers yet living of the eight sons who were born to her parents.
All of the eight lived to manhood and reared families of their own. The three
surviving are as follows: harry and Lewis, of Tioga County, Pa., both businessmen,
and Lyman B., retired and living in Binghamton, NY. Mrs. Burton is the mother of six
children, three of whom have died, viz: George F. died when five and a half years
old; Warren died in middle life in Corry, Pa., leaving his wife and two children; he
was a soldier in the war of the Rebellion, enlisting in November, 1861, and serving
through the war as a true and brave soldier, always on duty and not having a
furlough. He was a jeweler by trade; his sons are both jewelers, and live in
Oneonta. Mary E. was the wife of Dr. Church of Oneonta; she died, leaving no issue.
The three children living are: Lucy, wife of George H. Goodman, of Otego, NY., a
carriage manufacturer; Imogene, wife of Sylvester Ford, whose biographical sketch
appears elsewhere in this volume; and Julia S., wife of Thomas Gildersleeve, who
sketch also appears elsewhere in this work.
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