Rufus M. Townsend
City of Troy

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

RUFUS MARSH TOWNSEND was born Aug. 1, 1806 at Hancock, Berkshire Co., Mass. He was a son of Nathaniel Townsend and Cynthia [Marsh] Townsend. He was a grandson of Martin Townsend, who settled with his father, Martin Townsend, and wife in Hancock aforesaid, in 1765. His grandfather was then nine years old, and he came with his parents and his younger brother from Cornwall Bridge, in the state of Connecticut. This family had returned to Cornwall, and then moved to Hancock; most of the journey to Hancock was in the woods, and without roads or track. This family, consisting of father, mother and two sons, thus took up their abode and residence in the forest on the western border of what came to be the state of Massachusetts and led the advance in the settlement of this state. His grandfather, by the early death of his father, was left with his mother and little brother to confront and overcome the dangers and hardships of this wilderness, and, ultimately, the sorrows of the American Revolution. But the native mind and practical character possessed by him enabled him ultimately to become possessed of large wealth, and to be greatly respected and revered by the inhabitants of all the country around him.

His ancestors were among the early settlers in Watertown, a little out of Boston, and were emigrants from England, and they trace their blood to the Townsends in Norfolk, one of the eastern shires of England. This family resided in Rainham Castle, in Norfolk County, where Charles Townsend originated, and all of his name in England.

His grandfather had eighteen children and five wives; he had sixteen children by his first wife, and two by his second wife. He lies buried in his family burying-ground, a few rods from where his father and he had stopped and had taken up their home in the forest on arriving from Connecticut in 1765. His mother was Cynthia Marsh, a daughter of Rufus Marsh, of Hinsdale, Mass., and his wife, who was Mary Adams, cousin to John Quincy Adams; her mother was Mary Adams.

Nathaniel Townsend lived on the old homestead in Hancock until March 1816, when he moved with his family (wife and three sons: Rufus M. Townsend, Martin I. Townsend, and Randolph W. Townsend) to Williamstown, Mass., and near Williams College, where he lived until his death, the 27th of July 1840, aged eighty-four years. His mother died at her old home in Williamstown, 2d of April 1876, aged ninety-two years. He had only one sister, who died in 1829, twelve years old.

He and his two brothers fitted for Williams College in their father's house under private teachers. He graduated at said college in 1830, and then, after teaching one year a junior class, studied law in Troy, N. Y., three years with Hon. John P. Cushman and Hon. David L. Seymour; and at the end of three years he commenced the practice of law in Troy, where he has practiced ever since. There were at the Troy and Rensselaer County bar a number of eminent lawyers during all his early practice; there were Hon. John P. Cushman, Hiram P. Hunt, David Buel, Samuel G. Huntington, among many other very able lawyers. As a jury lawyer, Mr. Cushman stood at the head of the profession in the central part of this state. His tact, skill, and resources in the trial of a cause were almost unparalleled. He was one of the most able and sharp examiners of witnesses on a trial of his time; he was the prefection and ideal jury-lawyer of his time. From the office of John P. Cushman, he went into practice in Troy and has continued to practice to the present time.

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