Saturday, May 30, 2015

Monroe Augustus Potwin: Mathematics Professor and House Painter (52 Ancestors #18)

Monroe Augustus Potwin was an interesting man. Born Aug 28, 1837 in Ellington, NY, he was the youngest living child born to Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin A. Potwine. (Yes, the name was spelled with an 'e', not sure why it was dropped by Monroe's generation.) There were 12 children born to the couple, three died at birth.

Dr. Potwine died when Monroe was just 14 years old. When the Civil War broke out Monroe was left to care for the family home and his mother and sisters while his three older brothers went off to fight.

Monroe must have had a fine education as he was a Professor of Mathematics and Latin at the Ellington Academy in Ellington NY, where he met his future wife, one of his students Ella Augusta Burt. The couple was married on New Years Day 1866. Monroe was 28 and Ella a mere 15.

The couple remained in New York for three more years, then headed West, to Adams Co, Iowa with two small children in tow. Their first born daughter died along the way.

Settling in Corning, Monroe took up the trade of "House Decorating", or house painter. He was also one of the first teachers at the Rawson School and a charter member of the local Presbyterian Church, the organization of which was made in his home. Monroe was superintendent of sunday school for the church for many years. During the course of his life he remained heavily involved with his church community, sitting on the board of directors, leading the choir, teaching Sunday School. It was said he had an excellent singing voice.

Three more children were born to the couple. In 1885 their first born son died by drowning, he was 12 years old.

When Monroe's wife Ella died in 1902 after a long bout with cancer it was said "her loss was a very severe blow to Mr. Potwin". He subsequently went about  making a home for himself and his young son Cyrus, 10, and threw himself into his house painting business.

Later, Monroe took his youngest son Cyrus under his wing and the pair formed Messrs. Potwin and Son - a much sought after house painting team. The outfit was so highly regarded that a 1914 article in a Corning newspaper quoting: "A fine example is being set in the community by H. F. Fleming, who has just had his house painted by Potwin and Son. Someone is to be congratulated on having chosen a very tasteful color scheme, and the house is now even more attractive than ever. When one can paint in a community for 45 years, it certainly looks as though his work were appreciated."

Monroe died August 25, 1917 and was buried along side his wife in the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Corning. At his funeral the officiating minister spoke advisedly when he said that the memory of such a life was the most valuable heritage the father could leave to his children. Mr. Potwin had the respect and esteem of the people for his exemplary life.

Note: Monroe's obituary was erroneously printed with his middle name first and has thereby caused myriad mistaken identities around the web in many public family trees. His name as listed here is correct. 

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