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Biographies C-D

Duke, William

The name Duke carries in itself the evidence of noble origin, as it takes us back to the invasion and conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy, and shows it to be of knightly Norman French origin. The handing down in the family for so many generations of the given name William may tell of close connection with William the Conqueror. This first Norman king of England divided the lands of England among his dukes and knights and they became the aristocracy of that country. We have not access to the English records by which to trace William Duke of Allegany back to the Conquest, but search among them cannot fail to show the family line. This family perhaps descends through a younger branch for some generations. Landed proprietors we know them to have been as late as 1836, for there is preserved in the family a bill rendered February 23d of that year by John Dunnicliff, Esq., for numerous legal services concerning landed property in Derbyshire, belonging to William Duke the American emigrant, some parcels of which were advertised for sale in the Derby Mercury and Reporter.

William Duke, the emigrant, was born in Derbyshire, Eng., in August, 1796, and died in Scio, N. Y., Dec. 7, 1847. His brothers and sisters were John, Mary (Mrs. Joseph Parker) and Ann (Mrs. Charles Brentnal), all of Derby. He married Elizabeth Cockayne, born March 1, 1808, died Oct. 17, 1888. Their children, all born in America, were William, born April 26, 1830; John, April 14, 1832; Thomas (dec.). March 4, 1834; Joseph (dec.), April 23, 1836; Ann P. (Mrs. Alonzo Crowner), Jan. 31, 1838; Charles, born Jan. 11. 1840; Mary K (Mrs. A. J. Applebee). Feb. 28, 1842; Violet (Mrs. Henry Fitzsimmons), Sept 23,1844; Emmer D. (Mrs. Lucius Norton) June 8, 1847.  Mr. Duke conducted in England the making of handmade lace, a business presumably handed down from his father, but the introduction of lacemaking machines caused the ruin of the hand industry about 1820.

Mr. Duke not long after came to America, again returned to England, and between 1825 and 1830 made his home in Binghamton. The report of the fine lumbering facilities of Southern Allegany brought him to Scio in 1838. where the pine timber was plenty and luxuriant. He located on Knight’s Creek where he owned and operated a sawmill. At his death his oldest son, William, became the head, not only of this American family but also the head of the line, and today he is the oldest male member of both the English and American families. He inherited the helpful English characteristics of persistent industry, untiring energy and frank honesty and at once assumed the care of the family and the management of the business. As his brothers grew older they displayed the same traits of character and all worked in harmony to advance their mutual interests, always however considering their elder brother as their counselor and guide. During all the many and large business operations which they successfully transacted together in a long period of years there was never a jarring word or unpleasant thought connected with their intercourse. William’s strict integrity, business capacity, and straightforward way of doing things inspired confidence in the minds of business men of means and they were ready to aid both him and his brothers. That confidence was never betrayed, and it has been truly said that “A Duke remembers the other man’s side of the contract as well as his own.”

For more than half a century William Duke has been connected with the lumber manufacture of southern Allegany and for many years the Dukes were the leading operators. During this period William Duke has been constantly identified with the material interests of the county and a leading factor in the development of not only this section but of portions of Pennsylvania. Under his observation many towns have been wholly built up and. his name is intimately connected with many of them. When he first knew this section much of it was a dense forest of pine, oak and hemlock. That its almost impenetrable shades have given way to sun­light has been in no small measure due to the unflagging industry and the indomitable perseverance of William Duke, his brothers and their associates.

Commencing in 1848 with the small watermill on Knight’s Creek, their business rapidly expanded until their operations required many mills and em­ployed many workmen. It is well to note in passing that Mr. Duke shipped the first carload of lumber sent to New York on the Erie railroad from Allegany county. Mr. Duke married. Jan. 1, 1855, Samantha K, daughter of George and Maria (Smith) Blackman.* They lived in Scio until 1882, when they made a permanent residence in Wellsville. Mr. Duke possesses positive character, independent thought and close reasoning powers, does not follow the lead of any one, but is original and must satisfy himself that his course is right. He is strong and loyal in his friendships and occupies a high place in public esteem.

Thoroughly honest himself, he opposes everything like hypocrisy, prevarication and deceit. He has been a diligent and persistent worker in his chosen sphere. and has met with a good reward, finan­cially and otherwise. Mr. and Mrs. William Duke have six children. 1st, Emmer K (Mrs. H. M Browning) of Wellsville. Her children are William W., Bessie S., Horace, Amy and Fanny. 2d, William, of Wellsville, an ex­tensive operator in the Ohio oil field. He married Carrie S. Black, and has children William, Ella M., C. Martin and Victoria. 3d, Ella M. (Mrs. H. A. Higbie) of Wellsville. Her children are Onnolee, Anita and Greta. 4th. Grant, an extensive oil operator, the energetic and popular centennial presi­dent of Wellsville village, married Anna B. Taylor. His children are Helen, Joseph and James. 5th, Oak, also of Wellsville, an operator in oil, lumber, etc., married Florence Elwell. 6th, Rebea S. (Mrs. W. T. Gridley) resides in Syracuse.

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