Hamilton Smith Preston
By Karen Cuccinello
Hamilton S. or H.S. Preston was a farmer, Civil War Veteran, Sheriff, merchant and the original owner of the Westholm boarding house. He was born May 6, 1839 in Roxbury, NY to Ezekiel and Cornelia L. (Smith) Preston. He had three siblings: Eliza, Otis and Jonas. His grandfather David Smith, who was age 86 when living with his family in the 1855 Roxbury census, was born in Scotland and had been in the USA 60 years.
H.S. Preston enlisted in the 144th Infantry Company H on August 27, 1862 in Roxbury and was discharged from Company G May 12, 1864. The NYS Civil War Muster Roll abstract states he was 1st Sergt. for promotion to 2nd Lieut. and the Register of Men who served in Civil War states he was a 1st Lieutenant. His description from the muster roll was: eyes gray, hair dark, complexion fair and 5’8” tall. His father, who died August 20, 1879, was also a military man as he listed as Major Ezekiel Preston in his obituary. I believe he was an Aide-de-Camp in the NYS Militia.
Wedding bells rang at some point between the 1865 Roxbury census, where he is living with his parents, and the 1870 Delhi census, where he is head-of-household with his wife Mary E. and five railroad laborer boarders. They probably got married 1867-68 as on April 27, 1870, their one year, one month and 23-day old daughter Maggie/Margaret died. The History of the More Family states the date was November 14, 1866 but I noticed a couple of discrepancies with other dates so I am not 100% sure this date is correct, but it is certainly in the ball park. His bride was born July 1848 or 49 to Joseph H. and Margaret Barner of Davenport, NY. The Preston’s had two daughter that lived to adulthood Cornelia/Nealie L. (Mrs. William R. Beckley & Mrs. Kling) born March 24,1871 and Maud/Maude (Mrs. Charles Clark) born February 12, 1874. Another daughter Hattie died in 1887 age 10.
From 1867-1870 Hamilton was the Delaware County Sheriff so that is probably why he was living in Delhi. When they were looking for someone to run as sheriff they wanted to have a good soldier fill the position. I suspect he ran as a Republican because in 1872 he was the Harpersfield delegate to the Republican Convention. While in Delhi he was also paid $27 as Janitor of the County Board, in 1869.
In April 1871 he went into partnership with C.W. Gibbs in Stamford, in the hardware business and in 1880 he rented his store and sold the goods to Henry C. Lawrence of Halcottsville. In 1881 he and Samuel I. Brown hired a building recently occupied by N. Cue and established a meat market.
He was a member of the John A. Logan Post #477 (formed in 1888) Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and attended the Grand Encampment at Buffalo in 1892. Also in 1892 his daughter Maud went to the New Paltz Normal School.
October 1889 (Windham Journal)- A. Jenkins, of Roxbury, has the contract to build a summer boarding house for H. S. Preston, the building will cost $5,000. This was named the Westholm.
Hamilton was the proprietor of his hotel for only about three years as he died May 27, 1893. Six months after his death, Mary, his wife, secured a pension of $17 per month for his Civil war service.
Mary ran the Westholm until her death in February of 1904. About five months before her death she underwent an operation for the removal of a cancer, but the operation failed to arrest the disease. Her daughter Cornelia, who was widowed with a four-year-old child in 1901, continued the operation of the Westholm until 1911 when Walter Burnett of Middleburgh leased it.
In 1902 Cornelia and Maude filed against the US Court of Claims for back pay for their father. The girls were represented by Pennebaker & Jones and the government was represented by James A. Tanner. They claimed that during his last two months of service he was acting 1st Lieutenant and deserved $104.05 more pay. According to a March 26, 1914 article in the Hudson Register the girls lost the case.
The family is buried in the Stamford Cemetery, except Maude who is in the East Palmyra Cemetery, and I could not find Cornelia’s resting place.