Biography of De Alton Dwight
De Alton Dwight was born in Henderson, Jefferson County, September 25, 1825. He was the son of Dr. Pelatiah Dwight, who was born in Somers, Conn., January 14, 1785, and died in Adams, N. Y., December 12, 1882, aged nearly 98 years. His genealogy is traceable directly back through seven generations to John Dwight, the settler who came over from England in 1634 or 1635 and settled in Dedham, Mass. From him it is believed sprung all who bear that honored name in this country — a name traceable far back in English history. His mother, Azubah (Redway) Dwight, daughter of Preserved and Azubah Redway, was born in Galway, N. Y., August 25, 1792, was married in Adams, N. Y., July 9, 1822, and died in Henderson, April 6, 1871, aged 78 years. The family records show his ancestors to have been very long-lived; his father, Pelatiah, attaining the age of 98, his grandfather, Alpheus Dwight, 85, his grandmother, Phanna (Prentice) Dwight, 97, and his great grandmother, Dorothy (Sexton) Prentice, 99. The subject of this sketch engaged in his first business enterprise in 1847, with his brother-in-law, Dea. Horace Brown, in Henderson, where they carried on a lumbering business successfully together for five years. Having sold this he purchased another, in 1857, in Belleville, where he lived four years. He then moved to Adams, in 1861, and purchased a book store, just five days before the firing upon Fort Sumter. There was also connected with the store a news agency, where were sold, during the excitement of the war, as many as 200 daily papers to this small village of 1,400 inhabitants and the surrounding country, as evidence that Adams was not behind in eagerness for news from the front in those perilous times. Mr. Dwight still continues the same business. In 1842 he purchased a part of his grandfather Redway’s farm, which he still continues to own. In 1887 and 1888 he took a deep interest, in common with many others, in the material interests of the village of Adams, and gave liberally to various measures for their advancement. With others he formed the Adams Furniture and Manufacturing Company (limited), and was one of its first directors and president of the board. He also, with others, upon its completion, purchased the plant of the Adams Electric Light and Power Company (limited), and was the first president of the company. He was an incorporator of the Adams National Bank, and one of the directors during its existence, from January 1, 1883, until its dissolution, in 1889. He was also one of the founders of the Farmers National Bank of Adams, which commenced business July 8, 1889, and is now one of its directors.
Mr. Dwight’s connections with the educational interests of the county began in 1852, as a teacher of common schools, an occupation which he continued for four successive winters, during which time he was elected commissioner of the common schools of the town of Henderson. During his term of office he assisted in establishing the first teachers’ institute in the county, which was held at Watertown, October 9, 1854. In 1882, when the Hungerford Collegiate Institute of Adams was discontinued, he, with his devoted wife, purchased the Cooper House, and rented it to the newly-incorporated Adams Collegiate Institute, which organization afterwards bought the building. He was one of its first trustees, and after the removal to Albany of Dr. A. B. Watkins, the first president of its board of trustees, Mr. Dwight was elected to that honorable position, which he has held to the present time (1890).
The institute to which Gen. S. D. Hungerford gave so liberally of his time and money, and which, passing through various misfortunes, had finally been sold, was brought back in 1884 by Mr. and Mrs. Dwight, in cooperation with the trustees and citizens, and was offered to the Presbyterian denomination upon their giving it a suitable endowment to insure its becoming a permanent Christian school. This noble object has been the desire of their lives, and they fondly hope to see it accomplished.
When the Washingtonian temperance movement first swept over this county, in 1842 and ’43, Mr. Dwight became one of its ardent supporters, and has ever since been a persistent temperance worker. In Henderson he was secretary of the temperance society during its existence. In the spring of 1856 he was a charter member of the Good Templars Lodge in Adams, and one of its leading officers during its entire existence. He was also one of the founders of the Jefferson County Lodge of Good Templars, and held his full share of the offices, both as secretary and chief templar. During the “Reform Club” effort he was also fully identified with the cause. In the endeavor to carry and enforce the local option law he has been among its best supporters in the town, having lectured in nearly every school-house and church in Adams, and in many of the adjoining towns, laboring side by side with that devoted apostle of temperance, Rev. Silas W. Hatch.
June 4, 1854, Mr. Dwight was married to Catherine S., daughter of Dea. Amasa and Sarah (Hopkins) Brown, (daughter of Judge Jesse Hopkins, of Henderson) who has since been the sharer of his toils and the comfort of his life. She united with the Congregational Church at Smithville at the early age of 11 years. During her married life she has been connected with the same church with her husband, to which it has been her chief delight to give her best services and liberal gifts. The devotion and generosity extended to the institute in its time of need saved it and enabled it to maintain its high rank, and gave it its present sound financial standing free from debt. Mr. and Mrs. Dwight’s daughter, Ella M., married Charles H. Wardwell, an estimable young man of Adams, who carries on a successful business in growing seeds. They have two little sons, their eldest son, Dwight, having died during the summer of 1889.
Mr. Dwight united with the Odd Fellows Lodge in its early history, filling all its offices and sharing all its honors. But to the church of God his greatest efforts have been put forth. He indulged a hope in the Saviour at the early age of 17, and being of Puritan stock naturally gravitated to the Presbyterian Church. There being no such church in his native town he united with the one in Adams, and has since remained a member thereof except during his stay in Belleville, where he united with the Presbyterian Church and was elected a ruling elder, which office he has continued to fill in the church in Adams since May, 1867. The Sabbath-school has also received a large share of his attention, having filled the offices of teacher and superintendent during the most of the time since his connection with the church. Mr. and Mrs. Dwight have always been earnest and active promoters of the religious, educational, and social interests of the community, and now in the maturity of their lives their works do follow them. Their hearts are still warm with sympathy, and their purses open for every good cause.
Source: Child, Hamilton. Geographical gazetteer of Jefferson county, N.Y., 1685-1890, part one, p. 224-226. Syracuse, N.Y.: The Syracuse journal company, printers and binders. 1890.