James C. Pomeroy was the man the street was named after, and he was very difficult to track down! Luckily for me, our old friend A.D. Blodgett had saved a very nice obituary written by Horatio Ballard. (If you don’t know who Horatio is, we will get around to him someday. He will be fun to write about!) I combed through files and books as well as maps and census records and more. There is a folder of Pomeroy-related mortgages and more in another old friend’s papers—Hiram Crandall (Crandall Street). I even encountered Fitz Boynton (Fitz Avenue/West Main Street) in the file! Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together.
Pomeroy came to Cortland in 1838 and went into the dry goods business with William Elder. Elder and Pomeroy offered dry goods, groceries, and hardware in exchange for produce of all kinds. They also sold and made shoes, and they were looking for hides, hemlock bark (presumably for tanning), and pelts for which they advertised that they would pay cash and top dollar.
J.C. Pomeroy was married to Olive M. (maiden name unknown), and they had three children: James M., Louisa M., and Fred. They belonged to the Presbyterian Church. Later in life, Louisa and Fred donated a desk to the Presbyterian Church in honor of their parents. (I have someone trying to find the desk!) In the 1876 atlas, the estate of J.C. Pomeroy is located on the corner of Church and Court Streets, right across from where the Cortland Free Library is today. James died in 1875 and Olive followed in 1876. James died without a will (although he had been ill for four years), and his affairs were left to Olive and to Horace P. Goodrich. William P. Randall and Mahlon D. Murphy were appointed as appraisers to estimate and appraise the estate to settle it. The 1870 census listed Pomeroy’s personal estate at $10,000 and his real estate holdings at $25,000, so he was a wealthy man. I was unable to find James and Olive in cemeteries in Cortland County when I used Find-a-Grave.
In addition to his business, James was active in the community. He was one of the directors of the National Bank of Cortland when it was organized in 1869. He was one of the members of the first fire company in the village of Cortland. Education was important to Pomeroy, and he was one of the founders of the Cortlandville Academy and a trustee until it merged with the Normal School. He was well-read and an informed citizen who “wielded a powerful influence in the county and district.” In his obituary, it was noted that Pomeroy was a Brigade Inspector for several years and had the title of Major. This could have been in relation to the state militia. In 1849, he was elected sheriff after which he received an appointment of Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of New York. He was also involved in the Ithaca and Cortland Railroad. He used his influence and means in the community to support things he was invested in like the academy and his church. Horatio Ballard said of him that he was bright, intelligent, energetic, and “glowing with public spirit.”
While reviewing the census of 1850, I noticed several other people listed in the Pomeroy home. This made me quite curious, so I dug a little deeper and found that several of the people had crimes listed with their names. Four said manslaughter, two said burglary, and one was “keep for debt.” As the sheriff in 1849-1851, my guess is that the prisoners might have been living in the sheriff’s household. There was also a young Irish woman living in the household. Perhaps a domestic or cook for the prison? Incidentally, last week I attended the Virgil Historical Society’s meeting where Virgil Historian Marsha Powell gave a presentation about an 1899 murder in Virgil. That prompted us to haul out the Murder binder back at CCHS. During the perusal of the pages of the binder, I came across a story about a murder in 1850. Well, lo and behold, brothers Nathan and Alanson Johnson were the brothers involved in that case, and they were listed in James C. Pomeroy’s household in the 1850 census!
This street was a challenge, but it was fun to chase down the scattered information and bring J.C. Pomeroy back to life for a moment. One of the things I’m finding is that many of the namesakes of our streets in Cortland were connected to one another through their businesses, marriages, friendships, and organizations. I’m finding that I’m becoming familiar with the names of these long-dead people and that has helped me to look at additional resources that might not have been apparent months ago when I started covering the streets. This street in particular was one I have started and stopped several times because of the lack of information readily available. However, with the passage of some time and encountering other resources, this street and this man really came into focus. Perseverance! ~Tabitha