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Seven people with Western New York ties became governor. Does No. 8 await?

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Not many people give Andrew Cuomo much chance of surviving his current troubles. And if he is headed soon for the dustbin of New York’s political history, then Hamburg’s own Kathy Courtney Hochul moves into the governor’s mansion.

She would be the 57th governor of New York and, as frequently mentioned, the first woman.

Of the previous 56 governors going back to 1777 – New York State had a constitution and governor before the United States had a constitution and president – most have come from New York City and the Hudson Valley. But seven had ties or roots in Western New York.

Here is a look at them:

John Young

Pardoned farmers who led rebellion

1847-1848 (terms were either two or three years from 1777 to 1938)

Young was born in Vermont in 1802, and his family moved to Conesus in Livingston County soon after. Young was self-taught, and he was a teacher and lawyer in Geneseo before entering politics.

Originally a Jacksonian Democrat, he later became a Whig (precursor to today’s Republican Party) and was elected to Congress and the State Assembly.

Young was elected governor in 1846, and during his two-year term, he advocated for expansion of the Erie Canal and oversaw establishment of the State Court of Appeals.

After hundreds of farmers in the Hudson Valley rebelled against land rents there in the Anti-Rent War, two were sentenced to death and several imprisoned. Young commuted sentences and pardoned the farmers.

Washington Hunt

A Whig who backed Lincoln opponents


Born in Greene County in 1811, Hunt moved in 1828 to Lockport where he studied law and opened a practice in 1835.

He was a judge, congressman and state comptroller before being elected governor.

Although he was defeated in a reelection bid, he remained active in national politics and was a supporter of Millard Fillmore.

And though a Whig, he became aligned with the Democratic Party, backing Stephen Douglas and George McClellan for president against Abraham Lincoln, and later was an ally of Andrew Johnson.

When he died in 1867, he was buried in the Glenwood Cemetery in Lockport. His former home at 363 Market St. is in Lockport’s Lowertown Historic District.

Myron H. Clark

He signed Prohibition Law for New York


Clark was born in Naples, Ontario County, in 1806.

He served as a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, president of Canandaigua Village and county sheriff before being elected governor in the closest election in New York State history.

Clark was deeply involved in the Temperance movement and as governor tried to bring prohibition to New York, even signing a prohibition law. But the state Court of Appeals struck down that law.

When he ran for reelection on the Prohibition Ticket, he finished third.

Reuben Fenton

A Democrat who formed Republican Party


Fenton may very well be the most influential governor from Western New York.

He was born near Frewsburg in Chautauqua County, the son of a farmer-teacher.

A colonel in the local militia, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841.

Fenton started his political career as a Democrat and was elected Carroll Town supervisor. He later was elected to Congress five times, and while in Congress, he helped form the Republican Party.

“In 1864, he received the greatest compliment and vote of confidence when President Lincoln picked Fenton as the candidate for governor of New York, ‘the most important state in the Union’,” according to the Jamestown Post-Journal.

Fenton was elected governor in 1864 and reelected in 1866.

As veterans returned home from the Civil War, he helped them and their families get pensions and other benefits. Thus he became known as “the Soldier’s Friend.”

He also signed the charter for Cornell University, worked to set up six schools to train teachers and established free public schools.

Fenton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1869.

He died in 1885 and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Jamestown.

Fenton’s former home in Jamestown is now the Fenton History Center. Fenton Hall at SUNY Fredonia is named for him.

Grover Cleveland

He was on Tammany Hall’s enemies list


This man needs no introduction.

As former Buffalo mayor, Erie County sheriff and U.S. president, he left his mark and name on many local institutions.

But here are a couple of things you might not have known:

His first name was Stephen – Stephen Grover Cleveland.

And as a Buffalo lawyer in 1866, he defended some participants in the Fenian Raids, those Civil War veterans who attacked British forts in Canada in hopes of driving the British from Ireland. Working pro bono, he was successful.

During Cleveland’s one term as New York’s governor, he earned a reputation for opposing excessive spending and fighting corruption. He also found an ally in the State Assembly in Theodore Roosevelt.

Though a Democrat, Cleveland was often at odds with the New York City Democratic Tammany Hall crowd.

Boss John Kelly had opposed Cleveland's nomination as governor, and the dislike grew after Cleveland stopped Tammany Hall nominees and legislation passed as a result of their dealmaking.

Theodore Roosevelt and reform Republicans allied with Cleveland to pass several laws aimed at reforming municipal governments.

Cleveland’s anti-corruption image as governor of New York helped him nail down his election as president in 1884 over the Republicans’ scandal-plagued candidate, James Blaine.

Frank Higgins

Poor health plagued his administration


Higgins was born in Rushford, Allegany County, but he is closely associated with Olean, where his father owned a chain of grocery stores.

Higgins entered politics as a Republican with election to the State Senate in 1894.

His political star rose quickly, as he was elected lieutenant governor in 1902 and then governor in 1904.

But Higgins was in poor health for most of his administration, and he died just six weeks after leaving office.

“His health was not robust when he was nominated for Governor in 1904, and it is but chronicling the truth to say that the campaign taxed him greatly,” the New York Times reported in his obituary. “Following his election, he was able to rest up, and for a time he felt better than in months. On assuming office, however, the cares of the Governorship wore on him and each month increased the pressure."

Buffalo native Eugene Speicher painted his official portrait as governor.

Horace White

He was an 86-day fill-in

Oct. 6, 1910 - Dec. 31, 1910.

Horace White is worth mentioning because he was governor of New York and because he was born in Buffalo.

But he was governor for just 86 days, rising from lieutenant governor to the top office when Charles Evans Hughes left to take a seat on the United States Supreme Court.

And though he was born in Buffalo, he called Syracuse his home.


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