HON. JOHN STRYKER
In the early history of New Amsterdam the name of Stryker appears somewhat conspicuously in connection with numerous offices of trust and responsibility. It is found in the lists of high sheriffs, and in government councils as well as in business and commercial enterprises, and invariably commanded wide respect and confidence. Originally of Holland Dutch etymology, Van Strycker, it came in time to be Americanized and contracted into Stryker, the form under which several generations have flourished and prospered. Very early in the settlement of New Amsterdam Jan and Jacobus Gerritson Strycker, Dutch burghers, obtained a grant of land on Manhattan Island, and from them descends the families bearing the name in this country at the present time. The line from Jan (1) is Pieter Strycker (2), Jan Strycker (3) Pieter Strycker (4), John Stryker (5), Daniel Perrine Stryker (6), and John Stryker (7), the subject of this memoir. October 25, 1673, Jan Strycker (3) was chosen captain of a company that was raised in the town of Midwout (Flushing) to respond to the call for troops issued by Governor Stuyvesant to resist the encroachments of the British. In 1773 John Stryker (5) was commissioned captain of a troop of light horse cavalry in Somerset County, N. U., and when the Revolutionary war broke out he offered his services to his native State. He fought with his company all though the Revolution. In 1863 his lineal descendant, John Stryker, jr., became a captain of the New York State volunteers in the war of the Rebellion. Daniel Perrine Stryker (6), a merchant in New York City, married Harriet Pierson and had three sons and two daughters, of whom the last two and one son died young. Those who attained maturity were John (7) and Rev. Isaac Pierson Stryker. The latter is a retired Presbyterian clergyman residing in New Jersey and the father of Melancthon Woolsey Stryker, president of Hamilton College.
Hon. John Stryker (7) was born in Orange, N. J., December 7, 1808. His father died a few years later and at the age of seven his mother brought him to Whitesboro, Oneida County, N.Y., where he received his education in the local academy. He began active life as a clerk for William G. Tracy, a leading merchant of Whitesboro, but soon developed decided inclinations for a professional career. He read law with Thomas R. Gold and later in the office of Storrs & White, and was admitted to the Oneida Common Pleas in 1829, before he had reached his majority. In the same year he came to Rome, N. Y., and formed a copartnership with Allanso Bennett. Subsequently he was associated in the practice of law with Hon Henry A. Foster, Calvert Comstock, Charles Tracy, B. J. Beach, George H. Lynch, and others. In 1835 he was elected member of assembly. In 1837 he was appointed surrogate of the county and held that office ten consecutive years, or until the constitution of 1846 made it elective. In 1847 he discontinued the practice of law, in which he had been very successful, and thenceforward devoted his attention to building up railroads and other important enterprises. He was one of the original movers in the Utica and Syracuse railroad project, was the first attorney for the company, was one of its directors until the lines were consolidated and was largely instrumental in securing its location through Rome and in defeating the attempt to locate it through the southern part of the county. Afterward he was closely identified with many railway lines, including the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana, the Terre Haute and Alton, and others, pushing them to completion and placing the corporations upon a sound-working basis. He was engaged extensively in railroad operations until the fall of 18678, when he suffered a stroke of paralysis. He died at his home in Rome on April 30, 1885.
Mr. Stryker was a shrewd businessman and investor, one of the foremost railroad financiers of his time, and intimately associated with such noted men as Samuel J. Tilden, Erastus Corning, Dean Richmond, and others in railway projects. His counsel and advice were regarded as reliable; his word was as good as his bond. A man of great business capacity and of unswerving integrity he retained through life the respect and confidence of every one who knew him. He was heavily interested in numerous local corporations and landed investments, and being public spirited and enterprising always took a just pride in the prosperity of the city. He was one of the founders of the Rome Locomotive Works, one of the incorporators and a director of the Merchants Iron Mill, a director in the Rome Iron Works, and one of the originators and for some time president of the Rome Gas Light Company. He was a director in several banks and for many years officiated a president of the old Bank of Rome. He was one of the founders of the Deaf Mute Institute of Rome, and was especially active and influential in securing the Black River Canal in and in changing the course of the Eric Canal for the benefit of the city.
In politics Mr. Stryker was a life-long Democrat, and during many years enjoyed a wide and intimate acquaintance among all the noted politicians of the United States, and especially among such men as James K. Polk, Gov. William L. Marcy, Governor Seymour, Governor Bouck, Edwin Croswell, Silas Wright, and other equally prominent statesmen of the country. He was remarkable familiar with political history. His shrewd management as a leading politician was manifest far and near, especially in the county of Oneida, where he practically controlled his party’s operations. He was long the center of the famous “Rome Regency”, which represented the principal Democratic influence in his section in its time. But he did not seek office; he preferred to manage politics and direct his party’s movements, for which he had a natural taste and ability and in which he was eminently successful. He probably attended more district, county, state and national conventions than any other man of his day in New York. He was a delegate to twelve state and four national conventions and for ten years was a leading member of the Democratic State Committee. In 1867 he ran for Congress against the late A. H. Bailey and was defeated in a Republican stronghold by a very small majority.
Mr. Stryker was a great reader, and was at all times thoroughly posted, and possessed a wonderfully retentive memory, especially in political affairs. Genial, kind, and generous by nature he was a liberal benefactor to all religious, charitable, and educations objects, and for twenty years was one of the wardens of Zion Episcopal Church of Rome. He was the architect of his own fortune and wisely employed it for the advancement of his city. His family homestead, which he erected about 1839, occupies the northeast corner of the historic site of Fort Stanwix and stands wholly or partly on the site of the old blockhouse.
In 1839 Mr. Stryker married Miss Frances Elizabeth Hubbard, daughter of Hon. Thomas Hill Hubbard, of Utica. (Mr. Hubbard was the fist surrogate in 1809, of Madison County, deputy attorney-general of the district comprising the counties of Oneida, Otsego, Chenango, Herkimer and Lewis in 1816-18, district attorney of Madison county in 1818-21, member of congress six years, and presidential elector in 1812, 1844, and 1852) She died April 17, 1891, aged seventy-five years. Their children were John, deceased; Phebe of Rome; Harriet P., wife of Edward H. Butler, a banker and ex-state treasurer of Detroit, Mich.; Grace wife of Rev. E. Bayard Smith, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church of Troy, N. Y.; and Thomas Hubbard Stryker of Rome.