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DR. WILLIAM FREDERICK SCORESBY. The Scoresby family is one of note in England. The name of Scoresby, under various orthographic modifications, but in direct line from the subject of this sketch, has been traced back as far as the fourteenth century.
Walter de Scoreby enjoyed the distinction of "Bayliffe of York" in the year 1312; again, Nicholas de Scoreby represented that ancient city in the Parliament of Edward III.; while Thomas Scorosby occupied the civic chair in the same city in 1463.
The immediate progenitors of the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, however, moved in the humbler walks of life, none rising higher than the profession of clergymen.
Capt. William Scoresby, the grandfather of Dr. William F. Scoresby, was born, in Cropton, England, in 1760. At the age of nineteen he apprenticed himself as a seaman, and ten years later was in command of a Greenland whale-ship, in which capacity he made thirty voyages to the Arctic seas. He gained great celebrity, not only in his legitimate calling, but more especially through the importance of his explorations and discoveries in those regions. He became an authority on all matters connected with Arctic navigation, and his observations and conclusions on this subject were of great service to the cause of science. He had also a genius for invention, and made and suggested many improvements in connection with his professional occupation. He retired from the seas with a handsome fortune in 1823, spending the remainder of his days in Whitby, where he took an active part in the improvement of the town and harbor. He also wrote and published several essays on sanitary reform, and the improvement of harbors for the safety of vessels while in port. He died in 1828, leaving his family in comparative affluence.
Capt. William Scoresby’s son, Rev. William Scoresby, D.D., took up his father’s profession, and for many years was engaged in the whaling business. During this period he was carrying on a series of investigations regarding the laws of magnetism, and communicating the results to the scientific world in papers of great value. Retiring from the sea, he entered the church, and rose to eminence as a divine. Meantime, he pursued his inquiries into scientific subjects, and became one of the leading savans of his day. He visited Australia as a member of the scientific commission ordered by the English government. He was a member of the Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London, of the Institute of France, and of the American Institute, Philadelphia. He visited this country twice, once in 1844, and again in 1847-48. His death occurred in 1857.
Capt. William Scoresby’s daughter Mary married Mr. John Clark, of Whitby, England, who was largely engaged in the iron trade. Upon his death, in 1834, Mrs. Clark succeeded to the management of his business, and until the period of her death, March, 1876, her mining operations were among the heaviest in England, and were conducted under her sole direction.
Another daughter of Capt. William Scoresby, Arabella, married Capt. Thomas Jackson, a shipping merchant of Whitby. Mrs. Jackson is the mother of the late Prof. R.E. Scoresby Jackson, of the University of Edinburgh, whose brilliant talents gave promise of great distinction. After writing and publishing several scientific works, he died at Edinburgh, in January, 1866, his death being regarded as a great public loss. He married the only daughter of Sir William Johnson, ex-Lord Mayor of Edinburgh.
Capt. William Scoresby’s son Thomas, the father of Dr. William F. Scoresby, was born in York, England, in 1804. He made several voyages with his father and his brother William to the Arctic seas, as second officer. Daring these voyages he made surveys of the east coast of Greenland, from the notes of which the "Scoresby History of the Arctic Region" was compiled. In the intervals between these voyages he studied medicine, and took his degree at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Edinburgh, in 1825. The same year he married Louisa, only daughter of Capt. George Richardson, of London, a lady of superior culture and rare graces of mind and character. Mrs. Scoresby was born in London in 1804, and died at Ellenville, Feb. 19, 1875. Dr. Thomas Scoresby practiced medicine at Whitby and Doncaster until 1834, when his associations and extravagant manner of living led him to seek a home in America, where he hoped to save what remained of his inherited fortune. He wisely settled a portion of his money in England, affording him a small income for life, before his departure for America,—a provision that proved a great blessing to himself and family in after-years, for, after arriving in this country and settling at Port Jervis, he formed the acquaintance of a certain Mr. Bragg, an Englishman, engaged as a tanner in Sullivan County. Bragg induced him to remove to Fallsburg, near his place of business, and ultimately persuaded him to interest himself in the tanning business, of which he had no knowledge. This enterprise resulted disastrously, and, in 1840, Dr. Scoresby removed to Ellenville and began the practice of medicine. He died at Ellenville, in March, 1866. Dr. Scoresby was a man of liberal culture, and excelled in some of the branches of medicine. Among the profession his counsel was sought, and the poor ever found in him a friend.
Dr. Thomas Scoresby had five children,—three sons and two daughters,—three of whom were born in England and two in America. William Frederick, next to the youngest, with two widowed sisters, occupy the old family residence at Ellenville. Thomas, the oldest, is a Kansas farmer. Horatio, the youngest, lives at Ellenville, on the farm adjoining the Scoresby homestead.
Dr. William Frederick Scoresby was born at Fallsburg, Sullivan Co., Jan. 2, 1840. He received an academic education, chiefly at Ellenville, under the tuition of the late Prof. S.A. Law Post. He then studied medicine and surgery under his father’s direction and that of Dr. George Edwards, of New York City, and graduated at the medical department of Columbia College, New York City, in 1864. In 1865 he began the practice of his profession in connection with his father at Ellenville. Previous to this he received an offer from Dr. Edwards to locate in partnership with him in New York City, but a sense of duty constrained him to decline, his father’s failing health and the influence of family ties proving more powerful than the impulses of ambition. Dr. Scoresby early manifested an enthusiasm, aptitude, and skill in his profession that, in a larger sphere, could scarcely have failed to carry him to a high rank. Even in the restricted field of a country practice his success was large and flattering.
Jan. 29, 1867, he was married to Lillie, daughter of Capt. John Ernhout, of Sandburg, Sullivan Co., a young lady of much beauty and grace of person, whose education had been conducted under supervision of her uncle, Prof. John F. Stoddard, and completed at the Willard Seminary, Troy, N.Y. She died Sept. 17, 1867, a few months after her marriage, an event that proved a severe blow to her husband.
Dr. Scoresby continued to advance rapidly in reputation, and soon was recognized as the leading physician of his section. His counsel was sought throughout a wide neighborhood, and his energy and devoted sacrifice of himself to the interests of his profession enabled him to fill the extraordinary demands made upon his skill and advice. Especially as a surgeon he achieved a high local reputation, and his services were widely sought throughout the surrounding country in all delicate and severe operations.
He possessed other popular qualities. Public-spirited and liberal, he was not of a nature to be an idle spectator of public affairs. Spite of considerable natural independence of character and a personal pride and impetuosity tending at times to brusqueness, his usefulness and honesty were fully recognized, and he became one of the most popular young men of his section.
His first public office was that of health physician of Ellenville in the spring of 1866. In the spring of 1869 he was elected a member of the board of trustees of Ellenville, which office he held most of the time up to 1879, when he resigned on account of ill health. He was president of the village one year. As a trustee he was an advocate of village improvements, and was identified with the construction of water-works, the flagging of the village sidewalks, etc. Early in his professional career he became a member of the Ulster County Medical Society. He has also served as medical examiner for a number of life-insurance companies.
Up to 1872, Dr. Scoresby’s political sympathies had identified him with the Republican party. Joining in the Liberal bolt of that year, however, he was chosen a delegate to the Liberal State Convention at Syracuse, and his name appeared among the list of vice-presidents of that body. He was subsequently nominated as a candidate for State senator by the Liberal Senatorial Convention for the Fourteenth District, comprising the counties of Ulster and Greene. The nomination was promptly indorsed and adopted by the Democratic Senatorial Convention. The call was unexpected by Dr. Scoresby, and he decided to decline the nomination, and so declared in consultation with his intimate friends. This decision was changed in a manner and through a motive characteristic of the man. On the heels of his decision to decline came the overwhelming Grant victories in Pennsylvania and Ohio. To his friends it was an added argument why he should not run; to himself it formed a conclusive reason why he should accept, which he did promptly, feeling that to retire in the face of gloom and disaster would be misconstrued as cowardice. Although advised by leading party supporters that his defeat was inevitable by two thousand majority at least, and that it was idle for him to attempt a canvass, he entered into the fight with indomitable spirit and resolution. His faith was not in vain, for, spite of the disastrous termination of the campaign, both locally and in the State and nation, his own election was secured. As a member of the Senate of 1872-73 he made an honorable record, and his vote on more than one occasion decided adversely the political schemes of the majority. In 1877 he was unanimously tendered the Democratic nomination for supervisor of his town, and was elected by a large majority. He was again unanimously nominated the following spring, and chosen by an increased majority. As a member of the boards of 1877-78, Dr. Scoresby was a leading spirit of the majority, and his influence was fully recognized. He was a delegate to the Democratic State Convention at Albany in the fall of 1878, and acted as one of the secretaries of the convention.
His health in the mean time had begun to decline, owing to the effects of blood-poisoning of his system through professional services of a peculiarly dangerous and self-sacrificing character, aggravated by arduous labors and a severe accident which kept him confined many weeks with a crushed leg. Spite of his condition, however, he was again called upon to receive his party nomination for supervisor, urged upon him notwithstanding his expressed objection. Accepting it in view of local party reasons, although confined to his home and unable to conduct the canvass, he was defeated only by a close poll.
May 24, 1877, Dr. Scoresby was married a second time, to Grace A., daughter of Warren G. Rayner, a retired New York merchant and stock operator, of Bloomfield, N.J., a young lady of most graceful and pleasing person and character, and well calculated to adorn the social and domestic sphere in which she is called to move.
Both in professional and public life Dr. Scoresby’s career has been successful and honorable. He has never practiced the arts of flattery or conciliation to gain advancement. His faults have been the faults of an aggressive, ardent, and vigorous temperament. His field has been that of action, and his popularity and reputation are based upon services and sacrifices of a practical kind that speak louder than words or outward professions of his real qualities of heart and mind. He has traveled quite extensively, having made four trips across the Atlantic. He has visited all the principal towns and cities of England and Scotland, where his family connections afforded him superior opportunities of enjoying and observing the best society. On his last trip he visited the Continent, in company with his sister, Mrs. Sherman, an accomplished lady then residing in England, but at present making her home in Ellenville.
Personally, Dr. Scoresby is noted for a liberal style of living, easy and frank manners, ardent and generous nature, and thorough activity. He is an admirer of fine horses, and his stable and equipages have been second to none in Ulster County.
The fine old homestead that constitutes the Scoresby residence at Ellenville is one of the landmarks of the village. It is a family home; his sisters, Mrs. Eastgate and Mrs. Sherman, sharing in the duties of dispensing its refined hospitalities.
Still a young man, Dr. Scoresby’s career may be said to have just opened when it was cut short by the failure of his health. No more useful man of his years has arisen in his section, and, should his health permit, the future is not without opportunities that will add to his record.