Thursday, August 25, 2011

William Shute Tompkins - Biographical Information


More than two centuries and a half ago, in the year 1640, three brothers, Abraham, Joseph and John, came from England to America, braving the dangers incident to ocean voyages in those days when primitive methods of navigation were in vogue. One of the brothers was the father of Governor Daniel D. Tompkins, of New York. Abraham, the great-great-grandfather of our subject, located in Massachusetts, and had ason, also named Abraham, who was born in the town of Greenburg, Westchester county. New York. He became the owner of a large tract of land here, and at his death was buried in the cemetery at White Plains. He was loyal to the crown.

John Tompkins, his son, and the grandfather of our subject, was born in New York city and throughout his business career engaged in contracting and building. His political support was given the Whig party. He married Thama Shute, and they became parents of Abraham, William Shute and Mary Jones. The mother died, after which the father was married again, to Kathrine Yule, the children of the second union being John and Catherine, the latter the wife of Colonel Weeds, who is still living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Abraham Tompkins, the great-grandfather, was a very zealous church man of the Methodist Episcopal faith. He died in Westchester county and was laid to rest in White Plains.

William Shute Tompkins, father of our subject, was born August 22, 1812, in Sullivan street. New York city, and obtained his education in the


public schools there. He learned the trade of cracker manufacturing and afterward that of cabinet-making. Later he added to the latter trade the conducting of furniture stores in different parts of the city, and at one time the celebrated W. M. Tweed, of political fame, was in his employ. Subsequently he engaged in the manufacture of drums at No. 69 Wall street, and soon took the leadership in that line. He became especially famous for the superior quality of his drums, some of which sold for as much as five hundred dollars. He had the monopoly on high-grade bass and tenor drums and made the first orchestra drum used in this country. He also took up the study of music and was able to play almost any kind of wind instrument.

In his youth it was a fondly cherished dream that he might some day become the leader of a fine band, and that dream was ultimately realized. He was chosen the leader of the old New York Band and was one of the most celebrated musical directors of the country.

His place of business became known as " The College," and was the most popular rendezvous for the musical fraternity of the city. For several years he led P. T. Barnum's band, and after his removal to Yonkers he organized the Yonkers Cornet Band.

He also engaged in the manufacture of drums in the city until within a short time prior to his death.

In his political views he was first a Whig and afterward a Republican. He took an active interest in public affairs, served as a member of the Irving Hose Company, and socially was connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

William Shute Tompkins married Martha A. Hatfield and to them were born six children: Gilbert H., who was born March 11, 1812; William E.; Frances H., wife of John H. Tremper; Mary A., wife of J. Henry Andrews, a wealthy builder of New York city and commodore of the New Rochelle Yacht Club; Abraham H.: and Mercy M., wife of Captain J. A. Sartorious, of the United States Armory of New York city. The mother of these children died in 1855, and Mr. Tompkins afterward married Louisa Walls, of Westchester county. They had two children: Vivian S., a graduate of the University of New York, who is now taking a post-graduate course preparatory to practicing medicine; and Martha. The father died in November, 1884, and by his side in the Sparta burying-ground [Scarborough, part of southern Ossining, New York, along Route 9] rests his wife, who died in 1855.

Of the maternal ancestry of Abraham H. Tompkins we have the following account. Gilbert Hatfield, the great-grandfather of our subject, had a son, Gilbert, who was born in New York city, but became a gentleman farmer at Scarboro, in the town of Ossining, Westchester county. He traced his descent back to Arthur Hatfield, who crossed the Atlantic to America and purchased lands at North Castle, in October, 1763. The old homestead, which is still standing, and which is called the Mansion House, was erected


in 1795 and was used as an inn during the war of the Revolution. The barn, on account of its superiority over others of that day, was significantly styled "None Such." The farm comprised five hundred acres of land, and was one of the best in that section of the country. The owner, Arthur Hatfield, went to Nova Scotia, where he was appointed a firstlieutenant in the English army in 1744.

Gilbert Hatfield, the great-grandfather of our subject, married and had five children: William, John, Anna Townsend, ThamaSearles and Phoebe Tompkins, one of whose sons, Gilbert, married Martha Williams, who was of Holland Dutch extraction and held valid claims to the Holland throne but relinquished all such on coming to America. Her father, Arthur Williams, was born May 27, 1740, and on emigrating from Holland to America located in the town of Ossining, Westchester county.

He was very wealthy. He held a lieutenant's commission in the British army and was sent to Nova Scotia to drill Englishsoldiers. When twenty-two years of age he married a lady of eighteen, the wedding taking place in 1762. He died in the town of Ossining, in 1819, and his wife passed away in 1821. Their daughter, Martha Williams, became the wife of Gilbert Hatfield, and one of their daughters, Martha A., married William Shute Tompkins, father of our subject. The children of Gilbert and Martha (Williams) Hatfield, were Tamna Ann, Arthur, John and Martha A. Their father was the owner of a farm in the town of Sparta, and also on Sullivan street, New York city, but selling the latter property he removed to Sing Sing [about a mile north of the Sparta Cemetery], this state.

Abraham H. Tompkins, whose name introduces this sketch, was born in Bleecker street, New York city, January 2, 1844, moved to Sing Sing when seven years of age, then moved to Yonkers, at the age of ten, and has lived here ever since. He was engaged in music until the war, when he enlisted at Newburg, New York, as drum major of the One Hundred and Sixty-eighth Regiment of New York Volunteers, being discharged at Newburg, October 31, 1863, at the expiration of his term of service. He was the youngest drum major in the war. He participated in the skirmish at Fort Magruder: in June, 1863, the engagements at Yorktown and Greenwich settlements.

In July the regiment was attacked by General Mosby, who after a short struggle was repulsed. Twenty of his men were captured, while the Union loss was only five. The regiment then left Yorktown to join the Army of the Potomac, and reached Gettysburg, July 6, 1863. In August, the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps were consolidated as the Twentieth Corps and sent to Georgetown, Alabama, whence the One Hundred and Sixty-eighth New York went to Newburg and was mustered out. From twenty to thirty-five years of age he was considered one of the best snare drummers in the world, if not the best.

Upon returning from the war Mr. Tompkins engaged in the butchering


business, continuing in that line until 1896, when a horse falling upon him injured him so seriously that he was obliged to withdraw, and has since practically lived retired. He was a reliable, enterprising business man who won the public confidence and received a liberal patronage. He has always taken a zealous and active interest in everything pertaining to the welfare of the city, and is now serving as alderman from the fifth ward, to which position he was first elected in 1892. By re-election he is now serving his fourth term and as an alderman he has been aggressive and enterprising, always favoring improvement and reform. The erection of the public drinking fountains of Yonkers is credited to him, also the widening of the aqueduct arch; he is a strong advocate of public parks, and always advocated the equalization of water rates. In politics he has always been aRepublican, and belongs to the Lincoln Legion, a political organization, and the Young Men's Republican Club.

Mr. Tompkins is a charter member and one of the organizers of Retching Post, No. 60, G.A.R., which is now the fifteenth post on the roll. He was chairman of the memorial committee, G.A.R., May 30, 1895, and he has filled all of its offices, and is now serving his second term as commander.

He was chosen delegate to the state encampment at Syracuse in 1899. He is also a member of the Westchester County Association of Grand Army Posts, and was a member of Company H, Seventeenth Regiment, and afterward the Third Regiment of the state militia. Subsequently this became the Sixteenth Battalion, and of both he served as drum major. It is now known as the Fourth Separate Company, and Mr. Tompkins is still connected therewith,having for twenty years been a member of the state militia. He is a valued member of the Patriotic Order Sons of America, formerly belonged to the Knights of Pythias fraternity and also the United American Mechanics, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and was the department commander.

He served as aide on the staff of Charles Freeman and Jack Adams, and as aide-de-camp on the staff of Thomas Lawler, commander in chief. He took an early interest in the movement toward securing the Yonkers soldiers' monument, and served as chairman of the committee from Retching Post, No. 60, G.A.R.; on the entertainment committee at the unveiling ceremonies.Also he is a member of the Veteran Association of the national guard, S.N.G. In religion he is a member of the Methodist church.

On the 7th of April, 1867, Mr. Tompkins married Miss Eliza L. Nuskey, a daughter of Captain Alfred Nuskey, captain of the Lockwood Guards. Her mother bore the maiden name of Susan Tillottson and was a daughter of Rachel Lambert, whose father, William Lambert, belonged to a prominent old Knickerbocker family, and served for seven years as a sergeant in the American Revolution. He was married October 11, 1790, to Elizabeth Cypher.


who was born April 21, 1761, and was of Scotch descent. They were very aristocratic people and possessed considerable wealth, living in very luxurious style for those days. They were also very charitable, and generous in their giving. Their daughter, Rachel, was born October 3, 1790, and married William Tillottson, by whom she had the following children: Susanna, Lavinia, James, Catherine, Nancy, Benjamin and Nathaniel. Mr. Tillottson died October 6, 1865, and his wife in January, 1874. He had served in the operations along Lake Ontario in the war of 1812, was taken prisoner and sent to Boston, where he was exchanged after peace was declared. His daughter, Susan, was born April 2, 1816, and married Alfred Nuskey, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in August, 181 5. Their children were Mrs. Catherine Knapp; Clorinda W.; Mrs. Rachel Ward; Eliza; Abraham H. T.; Emma,deceased; and Granville. The mother of these children died December 15, 1888, but Mr. Nuskey is still living at the age of eighty-four years. He makes his home in Sing Sing, New York, where for many years he served as foreman of the Brand nith Mills. He is a very zealous member of the Methodist Episcopal church, is a local preacher of that denomination and is very popular in church circles. His life has been well spent and 'all esteem him highly for his sterling worth. His daughter, now Mrs. Tompkins, was born June 22, 1848. By the marriage of our subject and his wife have been born three children: Gertrude I.; William N., who married Miss Jennie Stainsby, of Brooklyn, and resides in Yonkers with his wife and daughter, Gertrude E. ; and Abraham H., Jr. The family is one of prominence in the community and its members occupy social positions of distinction.

Biographical Sketch of Westchester County, Illustrated, Vol. II, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, Cornell University Library.

P.R. Winn, Drummaker

An article by W. Lee Vinson, author and publisher of and . For Lee's story about ...