Book tells of Cyrus Durey’s remarkable life
A descendant of a Fulton County political leader and businessman has used manuscripts written by his ancestor to publish a book called “Frontiersmen of the Adirondacks: Economic Development in Early North America.”
Cyrus Durey was the uncle of publisher John Agno’s grandfather. Durey’s manuscripts on local history were passed down to Agno, a Gloversville native who now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Born in Caroga in 1864, Durey was among the first graduates of Johnstown Academy in 1880. He taught school and operated a grocery store in Gloversville for a time. Eventually he went into the lumber business started by his father, Joseph Durey. At its peak, the Durey Land and Lumber Company employed 100 people in Canada Lake.
Agno wrote, “Durey’s vision was to sell off lots around many lakes in the area and harvest the timber from the surrounding mountains.”
Durey was called the “recognized leader of the Republican Party in Fulton County” when he died of heart trouble in 1933, two months after the 1932 elections. Boss Durey, as he was called by some, was credited with keeping Fulton County in the Republican ranks despite the Democratic landslide that elected Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Durey began his public life in 1889 and 1890 as supervisor of Caroga, a town that previously was Democratic. In 1898 Durey was appointed postmaster of Johnstown. He served on the Republican state committee and was a delegate to Republican national conventions.
Durey was elected to two terms in Congress. Losing a re-election bid in 1910 to Theron Akin from Montgomery County, Durey was appointed collector of internal revenue in Albany by President William Howard Taft in 1911. Durey left the job in 1914 during Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s administration. When Republican Warren Harding took the White House, Harding appointed Durey to the internal revenue post again in 1921 and Durey worked there until his death. He divided his time between an Albany apartment and his home on Pine Lake.
Durey, who never married, was known for having an excellent personal library at his Fulton County home. His mother, Anna, lived with him until her death in 1926. Durey was buried in North Bush Cemetery near Johnstown.
In his manuscripts, Durey provided information on historical figures including Nicholas Stoner. Stoner was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and a legendary trader and trapper. According to Agno, Durey was related to Stoner.
Durey wrote that Stoner lived in Caroga when he died in 1851 but was buried in Johnstown, “To give everyone the opportunity to pay their last respects to one of the last surviving soldiers of the Revolutionary War.”
Durey was known for advocating for the current spelling of Caroga, opposing the idea that the Mohawk word should be spelled Garoga.
Durey recalled meeting U.S. Sen. Isaac Peckham Christiancy from Michigan in 1875 when Durey was 11 years old. Christiancy had returned to visit Fulton County, where he had lived as a young man.
Durey wrote that Christiancy “Was six feet or more in height, thin, erect and almost angular, blue eyed and with an indoor complexion.”
Durey urged Christiancy to write down memories of his youth, which the older man did. Christiancy was born in a log cabin in what became Caroga in 1812. Both his grandfathers had been Revolutionary War soldiers. He left New York in 1833 and became a lawyer, judge and politician in Michigan. He was one of the founders of the Republican Party in that state. He died in 1890.
Paperback and electronic copies of “Frontiersmen of the Adirondacks” are available online and Agno is arranging distribution with local bookstores.
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 346-6657.