The history of the town of Adams and of Jefferson County would not be complete, nor should it be written, without prominent mention of James M. Cleveland, an old and nearly life-long resident of Adams. Mr. Cleveland was born in 1820, from a family early identified in the history of New England, and is a direct descendant of Moses Cleveland, who came from Suffolk County, England, in 1635, and settled in Woburn, Mass., as appears by the custom house lists and militia rolls at that date; and from said Moses Cleveland can be directly traced, as descendants, all persons bearing the Cleveland name in the Northern states. Mr. Cleveland was educated for and commenced life as a farmer, and up to 1851 was successful in his vocation, and by industry and foresight paying for and owning a fine property in the town of Adams. He was always a thinking man, not only devising schemes for his own advancement, but for the benefit of the agricultural community in which he lived. He was a prominent and valuable member of the agricultural societies of Jefferson County, and was always looked up to as a man of excellent judgment. In 1851 he conceived the idea and established at Adams the business of growing peas, beans, and other seeds for seed purposes for the domestic and foreign markets. This was the first business of the kind ever established in Northern New York, and proved of incalculable value to the farmers of his town and of Jefferson County, whose lands were so well adapted to the cultivation of such products, and furnished them a fine income from their farms, as hundreds can testify who have paid for homes out of this industry alone. Mr. Cleveland conducted this business from 1851 to 1877, when the business was removed to Cape Vincent, and subsequently to New York city. As long as Mr. Cleveland was interested in the business it was one of the finest enterprises in the state, and from which he retired with a competency. The farmers of this county will for years to come gratefully remember Mr. Cleveland for the advantages he furnished them, and the fair dealing which characterized his transactions with them. Few men, and certainly no other man in this section of the country, have been endowed with the love of the beautiful and taste for adornment of nature in an equal degree with Mr. Cleveland. His house and grounds where he resides are arranged with the finest idea of symmetry, aid a veritable paradise of flowers greets the eye of the visitor in their season, and his neighbors and friends delight in viewing his collections and asking his advice in laying out and beautifying their homes. The people of the village of Adams have fully appreciated this quality on the streets and improvements of different kinds affecting the public.
Mr. Cleveland has always borne an enviable reputation for honesty, integrity, and charity. He has been foremost in the advancement of all the interests which pertain to the best advantage of his village and the community in which he lives. All of the religious societies of Adams have in time of need met with liberal donations from him, and the cause of education has received substantial tokens of his liberality from the competence which he enjoys. The poor and needy have cause in every instance to thank him for kindly remembrance in their adversity, and on all occasions speak of him in terms of praise. In rounding out a life full of business activity Mr. Cleveland can rest assured that he is and will be gratefully remembered by his fellow citizens.
In politics Mr. Cleveland has always been a Democrat, and though not in any sense a politician, has always stood well in the councils of his party. In 1880 he was nominated for member of Assembly for the First Assembly District of Jefferson County; and though the district was hopelessly Republican, he made a very successful canvass and lead his ticket throughout the district, showing in an eminent degree his personal popularity. Though the general public attest to his worth, yet it is in his own village that he is most appreciated. Eight times have the citizens of Adams elected him to the presidency of the village, and each time by majorities that have made his election almost unanimous; showing their appreciation of his judgment and conservative actions in controlling their municipal affairs.
Mr. Cleveland is a man of culture and information, which has been acquired by contact with men and affairs, augmented by wide experience in travel and research. At various times in his life, on business and pleasure, he has visited nearly all the cities of note in his own country, and traveled through the South and on the Pacific coast, visiting all the places of interest, thus acquiring an inexhaustible store of knowledge upon topics connected with his country which it is a pleasure to hear him recount, enjoyed by his neighbors and friends.