02 July 2010

Simon Newcomb (1779-1870)

B.M. Newcomb wrote:

Simon Newcomb began his life's career in the stormy days of the Revolution, and the firm decision, stern integrity, and unostentatious dignity of those times seem to have been inherited by him, and were the prominent traits of his character through life. To attempt a sketch of Dr. Newcomb's history would be to write a volume, for he was prominently identified with professional, financial, political and religious life for more than seventy years.

During his infancy, his father moved to Pittsdown, Rensselaer County; he spent most of his days in that vicinity. The longest day of his life he counted as 11 April 1796, which is scarcely surprising, as he has commenced to teach a district school, although not quite seventeen! The school was in Millertown District, now North Pittstown. He spent the proceeds of his summer's labor the next winter for board and clothing while attending school. In the spring he returned to the same place and taught two years.

In February 1798, he listened to powerful discourses by the eccentric Lorenzo Dow and Timothy Dewey, and was so affected by them that he always attributed his attachment to the Christian faith to their evangelical labors. He joined the M.E. Church the following month, and remained an honored member of the church for the rest of his life.

In the spring of 1799 he set out on foot for Alford, Massachusetts. He was disappointed in his business anticipations, changed his plans, and began studying medicine with Dr. John Hurlbert, remaining one year. He studied subsequently with Drs. Nehemiah King, Ezekiel Baker, and David Doolittle, four years in all. He commenced practice in May 1802. Through professional skill, promptness, and an honest endeavor springing from conscientious convictions to do all the good possible, he arose to eminence in his profession and secured a competence for himself and his family.

After his marriage, he lived at Pittstown, a little village one mile northeast of Tomhannock. Through his influence, a minister was secured, a church organized, and a house of worship built.

He was the first postmaster of Tomhannock and at Prospect Hill, now Johnsonville, and held the office twenty-seven years. He was a justice of the peace for twelve years, supervisor three years, U.S. assessor two years. He was for many years school commissioner, trustee, overseer of poor, town clerk, commissioner of deeds, master in chancery, class leader, church trustee, merchant, and farmer. Although occupying numerous situations of trust in political life, he was never charged, even by his opponents, with a dereliction of his official duties.

In 1814, at the invasion of Plattsburgh, he volunteered under col. William Knickerbacker in the brigade company commanded by Gen. Gilbert Eddy.

The father of Dr. Newcomb's second wife was a wealthy and influential citizen of Pittstown. The year following his marriage, he sold his farm at Tomhannock and moved to Prospect Hill, where he purchased a farm and resided for ten years. Afterward he moved to the upper end of Schaghticoke, where he remained for eleven years; from there he returned to Tomhannock, where he lived until 1853, when he moved to Lansingburgh.

Dr. Newcomb had in his possession the family bible of his grandfather, Thomas Newcomb. It was printed in London in 1812 by the assignees of Thomas "Newcome" and Henry Hill, deceased. He also had his grandfather's old account book. His great-grandfather, Simon Newcomb, had one hundred and thrity-nine grandchildren bearing the name of Newcomb; Dr. Newcomb was the last survivor of this large number.

Dr. Newcomb's social qualities, even in advanced years, endeared him to the young as well as to the aged; and all who came in contact with him were made wiser and better by his genial and intelligent conversation. Ever true to his country, his bounty flowed to the deserving but destitute defenders of its liberties, and many cases might be cited of his patriotic devotion and practical benevolence extended to the wounded and suffering soldiers of the War of 1812.

The following extract is taken from an obituary notice which appeared in the New York Christian Advocate.

"In many respects Dr. Newcomb was a remarkable man. First, as to his great age. He lived to within eight years of a century, twenty-two years beyond the time allotted to man in the earthly pilgrimage. He was older than the nation, knew Washington, Franklin, and the elder Adams, and was familiar with the passing events of our national history, from the signing of the Declaration of Independence down to the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. He retained in a wonderful degree his mental faculties to the last, discussing the live issues of the day in Church and State with the fluency and sagacity of his earlier manhood.

"His Christian career was remarkable in its consistency as well as in its duration. For seventy-two years he sought to magnify that grace which called him into the service of his Divine Master."

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