Spring 1997

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Class of 1997

Steuben County Hall of Fame

Charles Corwin, Joshua Mersereau, John Niles

The Steuben County Hall of Fame is sponsored
by the Steuben County Board of Legislators

Charles Corwin

Charles Corwin was born August 27, 1883, in East Orange, New Jersey. His parents, Francis N. W. and Edith Condit Corwin soon recognized his fondness for music. Charles began singing in his family's Episcopal church when he was 8 years old. At 20 he was organist and choirmaster at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in East Orange.

Charles married Ena Hampton in 1908. She was a choir soloist in East Orange. With their young son William, they moved to Corning in 1914, where in addition to playing the organ and directing the choir at Corning's Christ Church, Mr. Corwin taught piano, organ and voice.

In 1922 he became music director for the Corning Southside public schools and taught music at Corning Free Academy. There he organized an orchestra, a band, a glee club, and even a ukelele club. Charles Corwin fostered whatever flair for music he discovered in his students. And Mrs. Corwin, in addition to homemaking, sang as a choir soloist and directed quartets at several Corning churches.

The Corwins originated the Musical Art Society in 1914 with 50 vocalists from Corning churches and 20 local players in its orchestra. Charles was its director. When the Corning Branch of the Civic Concert Society began in 1928, Ena Corwin was elected president. Eventually this group became the Corning - Painted Post Civic Music Association which brought many famous performers and orchestras to the city.

In 1933 Charles Corwin started the Corning and Painted Post Civic Orchestra. Its first performance was February 25, 1934, with 41 local musicians. They were led Mr. Corwin. Some years later that organization became the Corning Philharmonic Society. Charles Corwin conducted his last concert May 4, 1953. He survived several strokes, but died on February 26, 1954.

Joshua Mersereau

Joshua Mersereau was born June 8, 1759, on Staten Island, New York. He was the fourth Joshua Mersereau in line. The Mersereau family owned an inn and operated businesses on Staten Island and a stage line between New York and Philadelphia. Early in the Revolution they turned over their ships and stage coaches to the American cause. Joshua and his family worked together to report enemy activity to General Washington.

In December of 1776, Washington asked the Mersereaus to bring boats from the Jersey shore of the Delaware River across to the Pennsylvania side. On Christmas Day the Americans crossed the river, surprised and captured 1000 Hessians at Trenton. The success of the raid rallied American spirits.

Joshua took part in this action and other engagements. After the Yorktown surrender, he was captured and held for awhile on a prison ship.

When the Mersereaus returned to Staten Island and found their properties destroyed, they moved first to Tioga County, New York, then to Unadilla, and finally to Union where Joshua's father died in 1804.

Joshua and his brother John went to Guilford, Chenango County, in 1788, where Joshua set up the first sawmill. There he married Dinah Garritson. Their son Joshua moved to Erwin, Steuben County, and purchased 11,520 acres. An inn he built in Erwin Center is today a residence in the same location, but now in Presho, within the town of Lindley.

Dinah died in Guilford Center in 1822 after 13 births. In 1840, Joshua, 81, moved to Steuben County to spend his last years with his children. He died January 20, 1857, at 97 years, 7 months, and 12 days. At least 8 of his children came to live along the Tioga River; 5 are buried in Presho, and others are nearby. Joshua's brother John had moved earlier with his family to Erwin and he died there in 1841.

John Niles

John Niles was born December 31, 1775, in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of Nathan Niles and Dorcas Beckwith. His early schooling was from his older half brother Elisha. John entered Yale when he was 17, in 1793, and graduated in 1797. John remained in New Haven for theology study with Timothy Dwight, and on 23 October, 1798, was licensed to preach by the New Haven West Association.

Niles was offered the Congregational Church in Durham, but Dr. Dwight urged him to teach at the new Hamilton Oneida Academy that Samuel Kirkland was building at Paris, near Clinton, New York, and John accepted that offer. John Niles had met Hannah Elliott in her home at Killingworth, Connecticut. She was the daughter of George Elliott and Hannah Ely of Lyme.

Hannah and John were married May 13, 1799, and rode to Clinton. After two years running the academy, John was nearly exhausted and they returned to Killingworth for his recuperation. In 1803 they rode off again, this time with baby George to Prattsburgh.

There John established a farm, preached, and organized in 1804 the first church in Steuben County. In 1808 they moved to Bath and John founded an independent religious society, the first church in Bath. It then became a Congregational Church and in 1811 a Presbyterian Church. John Niles also helped start Presbyterian churches in Almond and Angelica and one in Painted Post, which now continues in Corning.

On a trip to Angelica to install a new minister, he became very sick. Three weeks later in Bath on September 13, 1812, John Niles died when he was only 36 years old. He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Bath.

Hannah returned to Killingworth with their three children: George Elliott Niles, Saloma, and Marianne. Hannah died at her family home in 1819.

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