Notable People

Cortland County's story is not complete without mentioning some of the notable personalities whose lives and careers have had state and national impact.

Presidency of Abraham Lincoln Association


Four local men were associated with the presidency of Abraham Lincoln:
  • Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900) was a Homer farm boy who became a prolific portraitist and lived six months at the White House while painting an historic commemorative of Lincoln presenting his cabinet with a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. He later wrote a book about this experience.
  • Homer native William O. Stoddard (1835-1925), while editor of the Central Illinois Gazette, suggested Lincoln for president. Later he was appointed Lincoln's third secretary during the Civil War years. Among his books for adults and children, he wrote Life of Lincoln.
  • Another Homerite, Eli DeVoe (1809-1874), a secret service agent, foiled a pre - inauguration plot to assassinate Lincoln in 1861. He was actively involved in rounding-up the perpetrators of the fatal attack on the president.
  • Dwight Ross Locke (1833-1888) of Virgil, popularly known as Petroleum V. Nasby, a political satirist, is remembered for his ability to make Lincoln laugh even during the dreary days of the Civil War.

Cortland County Hall of Fame


In any Cortland County Hall of Fame, many others from the 19th and 20th centuries can be included:
  • Amelia Jenks Bloomer - Amelia Jenks Bloomer not only revolutionized women's apparel but also took one of the first steps in proclaiming and fighting for women's right to vote. Feeling that long skirts were hazardous as well as dust-collecting, Amelia designed an outfit consisting of a very tight bodice, cinched in at the waist with a full-gathered skirt over many petticoats which stood out like a bell. The skirt was cut off at the knees and a baggy pair of trousers underneath reached to the ankles. This manner of dress slowly gained in popularity, although the style eventually went back to long skirts. Amelia was a bold supporter of women's rights, and published a women's rights publication in Seneca Falls called The Lily.
  • John McGraw - Baseball Hall of Famer who was born in Truxton.
  • Elkanah Watson - A friend of Washington, John Adams, and Franklin, Elkanah Watson left his imprint on Cortland County, on New York State and on the young United States
  • Elmer A. Sperry - Inventor of the Gyroscopic Compass, now the world-renowned Sperry-Rand Corporation.
  • Nathan Miller - Governor of NYS from 1920-1922; defeated Alfred E Smith, who then defeated Miller.
  • Alton B. Parker - An educator from Cortland County and Democratic presidential candidate in 1904 who lost to Theodore Roosevelt. The Alton B. Parker School has been named in his honor.
  • Catherine Bertini - Director of the United Nations food distribution.
  • Major General Levi R. Chase - U.S. Air Force ace in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
  • Ronny James Dio - Heavy-metal recording musician.
  • David Feinstein - Toured extensively with "The Rods" in the 80s opening for major acts (such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest) all over the globe
  • Colonel Arnold Gabriel - Director of the U.S. Air Force Band.
  • Samuel Hatheway - Militia general, jurist, member U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Jere R. Wickwire - Painter, mainly of portraits.
  • Andrew Dickson White - First president of Cornell University; ambassador to Germany.
  • Drs. Henry and Samuel Jessup - Founders of the American College of Beirut, Lebanon.
  • Daniel S Lamont (1851-1905) - McGraw native who was a journalist, politician and cabinet officer. The private secretary to President Grover Cleveland, Lamont went on to be Cleveland's Secretary of War in his second administration.
  • David Hannum (1823-1892) - Homer native Hannum was a horse trader, financial investor in the notorious Cardiff Giant, and well-known for his witticisms. In 1898, David Harum was published posthumously by Edward Noyes Westcott, and was one of the biggest sellers of its day.
  • New York Central College (1848-1860) - A revolutionary institution, the college accepted any race, religion, color and gender and was supported by leading abolitionists and suffragists of the day. It was groundbreaking in being the first college to have a black professor teach at a predominantly white school, mathematician Charles Reason.
  • Underground Railroad - By following the North Star, fugitive slaves took a dangerous journey to freedom in Canada. Many places in Cortland County were stations on this road to freedom, which roughly followed a line from the Tioughnioga River up from Binghamton to Syracuse.
  • Judge Morse E. Ames (1888-1981) served as county judge and surrogate judge to children's court from 1942-1958. Born in DeRuyter, NY, Ames graduated from the Syracuse College of Law in 1911. Judge Ames emphasized the importance of a strong family unit in a child's life by advocating family counseling. He also fought in the 1950s to upgrade the county probation office from one overworked probation officer to an additional officer who would supervise the youth caseload and act in the best interest of the child. His legal career spanned nearly 70 years.
Cortland County has contributed leaders to all walks of life and continues as a county proud of its history.

Produced by the Cortland County Historian in conjunction with the Cortland County Historical Society - 1995