History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, 1887

Stearns Family - LATEN LEGG STEARNS Biography

Prominent among the energetic, far-seeing and successful business men of Williamsport, Lycoming county, Pennsylvania, is Laten L. Stearns, whose life history most happily illustrates what may be, attained by perseverance in carrying out an honest purpose. Integrity, activity and energy have been the chief characteristics in his success, and his connection with various business enterprises and industries has been of decided advantage to this section of the state, promoting its material welfare in no uncertain manner. He was born in Hopkinton, Middlesex county, Massachusetts, April 3, 1823. He comes of good old revolutionary stock, his great-grandfather on the maternal side having fought for the independence of the colonies. Charles Stearns, the founder of the American branch of the family, the date of whose birth is unknown, married Hannah , who died June 30, 1651. He married (second), June 22, 1654, Rebecca Gibson, daughter of John and Rebecca Gibson, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their children were : 1, Samuel, born June 2, 1656, in Watertown, Massachusetts; 2, Shubael, September 20, 1655, in Cambridge, Massachusetts; 3, John, January 24, 1657, in Cambridge, Massachusetts; 4, Isaac, born 1658; 5, Charles, Jr., was slain in the King's service prior to 1695; 6, Rebecca, born 1661, married, January 25, 1693, Thomas Traine, born in 1653, son of John and Margaret (Dix) Traine, of Watertown, Massachusetts. She was admitted to full covenant August 15, 1698, and died September 23, 1746, aged eighty-five years. He was fined ten shillings by the Court, April 17, 1674, " for selling strong water." He died January 23, 1739, an aged man. Their children were : Benoni, born and died in November, 1693; Rebecca, born in April and died in May of the year 1696; Deborah, born December 16, 1698, died May 25, 1718; and Rebecca, born December 1, 1701, married, December 17, 1726, Deacon John Bright, who died January 24, 1754; she died in 1736. There was no issue of this marriage. 7, Martha, became the wife of a Mr. Hutchinson.

John Stearns, born January 24, 1657, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a son of Charles and Rebecca (Gibson) Stearns, was a housewright by trade. He married (first) in 1681, Judith Lawrence, born May 12, 1660, daughter of George and Elizabeth (Crispe) Lawrence. He married (second), April 2, 1713, Mary Norcross, born July 10, 1663, daughter of Richard and Mary (Brooks) Norcross, of Watertown, Massachusetts. The birth of one child, Rebecca, probably the eldest, was recorded in Watertown, but he resided within the limits of Lexington, Massachusetts. His eldest five children were baptized June 22, 1690, by the Rev. John Bailey, of Watertown. The next seven were baptized] by the Rev. Mr. Angier, May 11, 1710, of the West or Second church of Watertown, who also baptized the thirteenth child, February 28, 1703. The births of the youngest two are recorded in Lexington, Massachusetts, where he died February 22, 1722. The names of his children are as follows : Rebecca, born March 21, 1683; Judith; Sarah; George and Benjamin, twins; John, Jr.; Thomas; Daniel; Isaac; Mary; Elizabeth; Abigail, who became the wife of Jonas Harrington, issue, ten children; and Charles, who followed the occupation of cord wainer in the city of Boston, Massachusetts.

George Stearns, born in 1688, son of John and Judith (Lawrence) Stearns, of Lexington, Massachusetts, married, October 23, 1712, Hannah Sanderson, born May 31, 1689, daughter of Deacon Jonathan and Abia (Bartlett) Sanderson, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They settled in the west precinct of Waltham. He died June 26, 1760, and his widow passed away May 21, 1770. Their children were as follows Abigail, who became the wife of Samuel Pierce, of Waltham, June 3, 1739, and nine children were the issue of this union; Jonathan, born December 26, 1713; Judith, who became the wife of Jonathan Hammond, and mother of three children; David; Hannah, who became the wife of John Hagar, January 14, 1746, and six children were born to them; Lydia, who became the wife of Samuel Fuller, October 9, 1746; John, unmarried; and Daniel, unmarried.

Jonathan Stearns, son of George and Hannah (Sanderson) Stearns, of Waltham, Massachusetts, was born December 26, 1713. He married, February 27, 1736, Beulah Chadwick, born October 14, 1719, a daughter of Ebenezer and Abigail (Grant) Chadwick, of Weston, Massachusetts. They settled in Milford, same state, where he purchased a farm of sixty-seven acres, the deed thereof being dated a few days prior to his marriage. Later, from time to time, he added to his estate as shown by numerous deeds on record. He was a man of enterprise and thrift, and his wife was an efficient help-mate. He died in the latter part of the year 1758, before the birth of his last child. His widow became the wife of James Battle, of Hollis, New Hampshire, May 8, 1766; she died March 31, 1804, after a short illness, in the eighty-fifth year of her age. The following named children were born to Jonathan and Beulah Stearns : Jonathan, Jr., born August 26, 1737, died in infancy; Beulah, who became the wife of Major Zebediah Dewey, and they were the parents of nine children; George, born April 16, 1741; Lydia, born February 27, 1743, became the wife of Ichabod Marshall, and mother of fourteen children; Ebenezer, born January 26, 1745; Abigail, born March 8, 1747; Lieutenant David, born February 24, 1749; Captain John, born April 30, 1751; Mary, born February 6, 1753, became the wife of Nahum Clark, of Hollis, New Hampshire, July 9, 1772; Hannah, born January 30, 1755, became the wife of Deacon Edmund Bowker, a soldier in the revolutionary war, and five children were the issue; Abraham, born April 2, 1757; and Jonathan, born January 10, 1759 (posthumous).

Jonathan Stearns, youngest son of Jonathan and Beulah (Chadwick) Stearns, of Milford, Massachusetts, was born January 10, 1759. He was a soldier in the revolutionary war, and at one time escaped from a British man of war in a leaky boat with a. companion named Corbitt, one rowing the boat while the other bailed water with his shoe. On May 1, 1783, he married Hannah Thayer, daughter of Colonel Ichabod and Polly Thayer. Their children were: Mary, born February 8, 1784, became the wife of Zebulon Hooker, April 22, 1804, and thirteen children were born to them; David, born November 12, 1785, married Lydia Bowker; Beulah, born February 26, 1787, became the wife of Jedutham Bullin, and mother of seven children; by her second husband, Dr. Clark, she became the mother of two children; Alexander, born April 12, 1789, married Sarah Brownell, and one child was born to them; Mary Ann became the wife of S. Austin Vaut, and their family consisted of two sons; Alanson, born January 1, 1790, died March 1, 1796; Jotham, born August 20, 1791; Jonathan, born May 31, 1793;.:1 Emmeline, born April 15, 1795, married Jane Crooks, and three children were born to them; John, born May 30, 1797; Hannah, born June 15, 1799, became the wife of Luther Bridges, and mother of ten children; Charlotte, born September 15, 1801, became the wife of Edward Pond, and eight children were born to them; Alanson, born May 12, 1803. Jonathan Stearns, father of these children, died at his home in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, January 3, 1804.

John Stearns, son of Jonathan and Hannah (Thayer) Stearns, was born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, May 30, 1797. He was a farmer by occupation, conducting his operations in the town of Speedsville, New York. He married, March 27, 1822, Abigail Legg, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, born May 8, 1803, died December 8, 1839. He married for his second wife, Caroline Muir, who was born November 27, 1813, at Candor, New York. He was the father of four children, two by his first wife and two by his second. Laten Legg, born April 3, 1823, at Hopkinton, Massachusetts, mentioned at length hereinafter; Elizabeth, born September 7, 1836, at Speedsville, New York, became the wife of Solomon K. Blackman, a farmer of Speedsville, January 1, 1857; their children were: John K., born September 15, 1858; and Charles L., born December 5, 1861; California, born January 26, 1844, at Speedsville, New York, became the wife of Judson Blackman, a broker of Bloomington, Illinois, December 19, 1867, no issue; Hannah, born May 17, 1849, at Speedsville, New York, became the wife of Wilmer S. Boyer, of Townsendville, New York, December 23, 1868, no issue. The father of these children died at his home in Speedsville, New York, February 22, 1879.

Laten Legg Stearns, son of John and Abigail (Legg) Stearns, was reared in the town of Speedsville, New York, whither his parents removed when he was three years of age. He obtained a practical education in the public schools adjacent to his home and at an academy in Groton, New York, completing his studies at the age of sixteen. The following three years he was engaged in teaching school in New York state, and at the expiration of this period of time spent one year on his father's farm. In 1844 he purchased a farm in New York state, which he cultivated and on which he resided for several years. In 1850 he came to Lycoming county, Pennsylvania, and at once embarked upon his first mercantile venture, becoming associated with his brother-in-law, L. N. Muir, in the conduct of a general store at Jersey Shore, where they carried a large stock of goods, including drugs and chemicals. In 1861, when the country became involved in civil war, he entered the Union army as a sutler for the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, serving in that capacity for four years, and subsequently held the same position in General Gregg's brigade. After the close of the war he opened the first northern stock of goods at Lynchburg, Virginia, remaining there for a period of six months. He then came to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and in the fall of 1865 opened a general store, the stock composed of dry goods and groceries, formerly conducted by Richmond & Van Fleet, at the corner of Market and Third streets, Williamsport, which he conducted most successfully until October, 1889, a period of almost twenty-five years.

In 1885 he admitted his three sons to partnership, and two years later they purchased the building, which has since been known as the Stearns block, which was remodelled and fitted up for their extensive business. Some idea of the extent of their business may be had when it is stated that the first year after their removal to the present location the business increased over one hundred thousand dollars. They conduct their business in a very systematic and methodical manner, their books being marvels of ingenuity and accuracy. The firm conducts business under the style of L. L. Stearns & Sons. Mr. Stearns has not confined his attention solely to mercantile pursuits, but has become interested in a number of manufacturing concerns. He is one of the charter members of the Demorest Sewing Machine Company, the National Furniture Company, and the Lycoming Opera House Company. He is an honored member of the Ross Club, of which his sons are charter members. He is a firm advocate of the principles of Republicanism, and by his ballot has supported the candidates and measures of that party. Mr. Stearns is quite proud of the fact that he never worked for anyone but his father and himself, and to his own well directed efforts and good management is due his success in life.

On his removal to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Mr. Stearns and his family floated down the river on a raft in consequence of the roads being impassable by reason of the great freshet of that year. All of their household goods were piled upon the raft, and the family occupied the little shanty that always formed a part on the river floats of those days. This was a very novel and interesting experience for them, and one to which they often refer.

On September 17, 1844, Mr. Stearns was married to Sarah Catherine Muir, of Speedsville, New York, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Haines) Muir, who were also the parents of six other children, namely : Caroline, wife of John Stearns, and mother of two children Calphena and Hannah Stearns; Edmundson, who married Hannah Nelson, and their children are : Robert and Caroline Muir; George, who married Delia Taft, and their children are: Emily, Hannah and Harry Muir; Lucius, who married Amanda Martin, and two children were born to them: Jane E. and Robert Muir; Elizabeth, unmarried; and Marion, wife of George Humphrey. Five children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Stearns, as follows:

1. Delphine Elizabeth, born August 30, 1846, at Speedsville, New York, became the wife of James Sanderson Lawson, a banker of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, October 23, 1873; their children are : William Colingen, born September 8, 1874; Katherine Stearns, born April 9, 1877; and James S., Jr., born February 19, 1881. The mother of these children died in 1904.

2. Jonathan Augustus, born April 12, 1848, in Speedsville, New York, married, November 1, 1873, Sarah Lyon, of Williamsport; he died in 1902, leaving one child, Thomas Lyon, unmarried.

3. Emily Abigail, born February 23, 1850, at Speedsville, New York, became the wife of Anthony G. Lyon, of Philadelphia, November 7, 1872; he died June 5, 1890, leaving one son, Laten Stearns Lyon.

4. George Livingstone, born November 1, 1853, unmarried.

5. Charles Robert, born March 24, 1856, at Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, married in 1884, Jane Hays, and their children are: Rachel Hays, born September 6, 1885; Catharine, born March 14, 1888; Emilie Lyon, born June 22, 1889; John Walker, born November 15, 1895, died February 6, 1897; Martha Jane, born March 21, 1897; George Livingstone, born January 12, 1899; Delphene Elizabeth, born February 24, 1900; and Joan Hays, born November 14, 1902. Mr. Stearns and his family attend the First Presbyterian church of Williamsport.

Source: Genealogical and Personal History of Lycoming County, John W. Jordan, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1906.

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