Harvey J. King
Harvey J. King

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880. Many thanks to Bob McConihe for typing this biography.

HARVEY J. KING, now one of the senior members of the bar of Rensselaer County, was born at Jonesville, Saratoga Co., N. Y., July 16, 1824, and was the youngest son of Roger and Christina King. The family came originally from Uxborough, County of Devonshire, England, from which place his ancestor, William King, came about the year 1660 with his two sons, James and William, to New England, and settled first at Ipswich, Mass. The last named son went afterwards to Virginia, where he became the progenitor of a numerous family.

James King, the elder, in 1670, married Elizabeth Emerson. He was one of the grantees and original proprietors of "a township of land situate in the valley of the Quounecticut," then called Stony Brook, but afterwards named Suffield, under a grant from the General Court of Massachusetts, made in 1670. He removed to Suffield in 1678, where, for the next century and a half, he and his descendants were prominent in position and influence. He died May 13, 1722.

His son, Joseph King, who was born May 10, 1689, and died March 6, 1756, took an active part in public affairs for much of his lifetime. Eliphalet King, son of Joseph, who was born in 1743, and died in 1821, held a commission as lieutenant in the Colonial militia during the troublous time which preceded the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and afterwards a like commission in the Continental army, signed by John Hancock as President of Congress, both of which commissions are preserved in
the family.

Roger King, the oldest son of the last named, was born at Suffield, Jan. 16, 1771, and in 1794 came with his wife (a niece of Gideon Granger, postmaster general in President Jefferson's cabinet) to Troy, then a small but thriving village, where he lived until 1820, when, in consequence of the great fire which in that year destroyed the best part of the city and seemed an almost fatal blow to its prosperity, he removed to Jonesville, where he resided until his death, in 1855. His maternal great-grandfather was graduated at Harvard College in 1707, and became the first settled pastor at Suffield in 1710, a relation which continued during a long and useful life.

Harvey J. King was prepared for college at Jonesville Academy, then a very flourishing institution under the care of Prof. Hiram A. Wilson, where in 1844 he completed an extended and thorough course of preparatory studies. He was graduated at Union College in 1848 with two college honors, ranking among the very first of a class ninety-eight in number, seventy-nine of whom won the degree of A.B. In 1851 he received the degree of A.M. Immediately upon leaving college he came to Troy to complete his law studies, in which he had already made considerable progress, and thenceforth to make that city his home.

For over two years he was a student in the office of Judge Gould and Hon. Job S. Olin, and, having been admitted to the bar, he commenced the practice of law in 1850. In that year Hon. John D. Willard, the senior member of the firm of Willard & Raymond, who for many years had controlled a very large professional business, retired from practice, and Mr. King at the same time became a partner with Mr. Raymond, a connection which at once introduced him into a large and responsible law practice. In 1853, Mr. Raymond also retired, and in September of that year Mr. King formed a partnership with the late John A. Millard, which continued until the death of that gentleman, in 1869. During all those years the business of his firm was very extensive and important. In 1854, Mr. King was appointed city attorney, which office he filled for a full term in a manner alike creditable to himself and satisfactory to the corporation and citizens.

In 1867, the United States bankruptcy law having been enacted, he was by Chief Justice Chase appointed register in bankruptcy for the Congressional district embracing Rensselaer and Washington Counties, and held that responsible position for the ensuing twelve years, and until the repeal of the law.

In 1871 he was elected a trustee of Union College, and at the expiration of his first term was re-elected, and served for a second term of four years. He had previously for several years been president of the Union College Alumni Association of Troy and its vicinity, and always an active friend of the college. In 1875 he was elected an honorary member of the Alumni Association of Williams College.

n 1865 he was elected a trustee of the Troy Orphan Asylum, which office he still holds, and has given much time and effort to promoting the interests of that institution, the oldest and one of the most valuable charities in the city. He has also for a still longer period been a member of the board of trustees of the Troy Academy.

Being originally a Whig in politics, and a pronounced anti-slavery man, he was from the outset ardently attached to the Seward wing of the party, and early became an active and a zealous participant in the political movements of the city and county, often representing his district in the State conventions. For many years he was in intimate relation with Hon. Thurlow Weed, the sagacious political leader, and also enjoyed the personal friendship of Governor Seward, never faltering in his fidelity to the ideas and principles of that great champion of human freedom. When the dissolution of the Whig party became imminent, by reason of the irreconcilable division on the subject of slavery, he was chairman of the city central committee, and was one of three prominent members of the party in Troy who published the call for a mass meeting of all its members who were in favor of "free speech, free soil, and free men," for the purpose of reorganizing as "Republicans."

The meeting was held and the new organization promptly effected. From that time for seventeen years he was one of the most active members of the Republican central committee of Rensselaer County, and for a time also a member of the State central committee and on its executive committee. Mr. King has frequently declined solicitations to accept office, but his activity in political organization, and his familiar acquaintance with eminent men have given him a somewhat extensive political influence.

At the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1861 he was among the foremost in the matter of procuring enlistments and filling the local regiments, and until the close of the war in every way manifested his earnest desire for the triumph of the cause of freedom and his deep sympathy for its noble defenders in the field. As a consequence of his undeviating course, when the "Draft Riots" occurred in 1863 his house was one of those designated in advance for destruction by the mob which sacked the office of the Troy Daily Times, and destroyed the furniture and nearly demolished the residence of Hon. Martin I. Townsend, who was his near neighbor. Notice of their design had been given to Mr. King several hours previously, both as a menace from enemies and as a kindly warning from others who knew and desired to thwart their plans, and his family was consequently sent out of the city for safety; but Mr. King, with large numbers of other loyal citizens, remained on the ground. The late arrival of a military force on the scene caused the mob to scatter before their designs could be accomplished.

During the last two years of the war he spent much of his time and labored devotedly as chairman of the Troy branch of the United States Christian Commission, an organization embracing large numbers of the best and most liberal citizens of Troy and its vicinity, who not only gave freely in money and supplies, but also their personal services in camps and hospitals, for the relief and comfort of sick and wounded soldiers.

Though not born in Troy, Mr. King is very closely identified with the city, his father having resided in it for twenty-six years, and he himself for the last thirty-one years and upward. He married, in 1851, Ellen B. L. Bayeux, a granddaughter and one of the only four surviving grandchildren of Jacob D. Vanderheyden, the "Patroon" of Troy, and once the owner of its present site, as is more fully shown elsewhere in this volume. He has two children living, a son, Edwin A. King, who is now a law student in his office, and a daughter.

Mr. King is now the senior member of the law firm of King & Rhodes, his partner being LaMott W. Rhodes.

Mr. King has been for many years one of the most prominent, active, and public-spirited citizens of Troy. As a lawyer he has always held an excellent rank and commanded a large patronage. His legal learning, his sound judgment, and his long and varied experience, have peculiarly fitted him as an advisor, and his services as a counselor have always been in especial request. More from accident and early business relations than from original inclination, his life has been mainly passed as a counselor rather than as an advocate; but it is probable that otherwise his fine scholarship, clear powers of statement, and persuasive address would have given him a credible rank as an advocate.

The judicial cast of his mind was fitly recognized in his appointment to the responsible position of register in bankruptcy, the duties of which highly-important office he has so long discharged to entire public acceptance. Mr. King's love of learning and devotion to the cause of public education have always been remarkable, and have been publicly recognized and rewarded, as is evident from the foregoing review.

In the midst of a most busy professional life and of exacting public duties, he has always found time for personal culture, and has added to his excellent youthful education the wisdom and graces of an extensive reading. In short, Mr. King's career has been that of a wise and unostentatious citizen, to whom, in recognition of his capacities and virtues, many honors have come unsought, and who, without self-seeking, has thus exerted an extensive and beneficent influence in the affairs of the city, the county, and the State.

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