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Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published by Chapman Publishing Co., in 1895.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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ALEXANDER RORRISON has been very successful in all his ventures in life, and is now living retired. He has made farming his vocation, and now makes his home on a lot conveniently located one mile east of Seneca Falls. Mr. Rorrison was born in what is now South Waterloo, in the town of Fayette, May 3, 1823, to James and Mary W. (Cairns) Rorrison.

The parents of our subject were both born in Center County, Pa., and the father was ten years of age at the time his parents came to this state, the journey hither being undertaken in the year 1798. Grandfather Alexander Rorrison was the first to make his home in this section, choosing for his farm a tract of land one mile west of where the County Farm is now located. He was born April 22, 1763, in Scotland, whence he was brought to this country when a small boy by his parents, James and Peggy (Charters) Rorrison. Their home in their native land was located near Castle Douglas, the residence of the Black Douglas, of Scottish fame. The great-grandparents were married December 23, 1756, and to them were born four children who grew to mature years, viz.: Jane, William, Mary and Alexander, the latter of whom was the grandfather of our subject. James Rorrison came to America, it is presumed, soon after the Revolutionary War. He landed at Philadelphia, Pa., and soon afterward located in Center County, that state.

Mary Cairns, the mother of our subject, was one in a large family born to her parents, and as her father died when she was quite young, she was taken into the home of a cousin, and passed her girlhood days in the neighborhood of Bald Eagle Mountains. Her widowed mother had purchased a farm in the town of Fayette, this county, which adjoined the estate of our subject’s grandfather. James Rorrison, Jr., however, did not meet her until going back to Center County one winter to attend school. His education had been very much neglected while a boy, and about this time a good opportunity presenting itself to attend school, he took advantage of it. The following spring when he returned to his parents’ home he was accompanied by Miss Mary Cairns, who rode on horseback from Center County, Pa., to her mother’s farm in the town of Fayette, having as a guide the gentleman who afterward became her husband. She was born November 25, 1793.

In the grandparents’ family were twelve children, of whom James was the eldest. The others were named respectively Jane, Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth, John, Alexander, Nancy, David, Peter, Nancy and Alexander. The parents of our subject had born to them seven children, only two of whom lived to become heads of families: Alexander, of this history, and Robert Bruce. The latter has been three times married, and is at present living at Gaines Station, Mich.

When the Rorrison family came to this section, the town of Fayette was in its primitive wildness. As James was the eldest son, he had to bear the brunt of the work in helping to clear the place and support the family. Game abounded plentifully in those early days, and he became an expert shot. He later became a member of the Fayette Riflemen, and in 1812 his company, commanded by Captain Ireland, volunteered to go to Canada. A number of the company were captured on the Niagara frontier, but as James Rorrison was acting in the capacity of steward, his duties kept him on the American side, where he was comparatively safe. During the campaign of 1814 his company went to Ft. Erie, which they helped to defend. For his services during this time Mr. Rorrison was given a grant of land in Arkansas.

The father of our subject was a man of great natural ability, and for several years served as Constable and Deputy Sheriff. In the year 1827 he was elected Sheriff of the county, and the year following his acceptance of the office he was obliged to hang a man by the name of Chapman, who had been convicted of murder. He filled the offices of Supervisor and Justice of the Peace to the entire satisfaction of all concerned, and on one occasion was the candidate of the Whig party for the General Assembly. His county was always largely Democratic, notwithstanding which fact he was elected by a majority of twenty-six votes when running for Sheriff. His opponent at that time was John D. Coe, a prominent citizen.

James Rorrison, Jr., remained with his father until twenty-eight years of age, when he was married, and afterward operated a sawmill in South Waterloo. Before his marriage his father had had considerable trouble in establishing a clear title to his land, and at last decided that the best way to do was to pay for it the second time. James thought it his duty to aid him in this resolve, and whenever he was able made payments on the place, until it was at last free from all encumbrance. He was very successful in his undertakings, and eventually purchased the old Cairns Farm from the heirs of the estate. Here he made his home until his decease, March 3, 1872. He had been twice married, his first union being with our subject’s mother, who died October 8, 1858. He was afterward married to Mrs. Rachel (Beal) Hopkins, who departed this life November 24, 1862.

The subject of this sketch was reared to a life of industry. He employed every leisure moment in study, and when fifteen years of age went to Seneca Falls and was enrolled as a pupil in the schools of that village. He afterward carried on his studies for a time at Waterloo, and after attaining his twenty-second year, taught two terms of winter school. . For all the work which he performed on the farm after becoming of age he was given wages by his father, and in this manner obtained the wherewithal to travel about considerably through this state and Pennsylvania. In this way he met for the first time relatives who were residents of the Keystone State.

Mr. Rorrison was married, February 24, 1848, to Miss Mary J. Fancher, of the town of Junius, by whom he became the father of nine children, all of whom are living with one exception. Arthur is now living in Denver, Colo. He has been all through the Northwestern States and Territories, and owns a large ranch in the state of Washington. Clarissa M., a professional nurse, is a graduate of Hahnemann Medical College of Rochester, N. Y. Edward married Miss Maggie Yost, and has a position in the post office department at Washington, D. C. Mary W. is the wife of William T. Beach, a farmer of the town of Seneca Falls. Sarah B. married L. Foster Crowell, also a farmer of that locality. Herbert Alexander is living in Denver, Colo. Helen L., who received some training as a nurse, is the twin of Fred G. and is at home. Jane F. is deceased.

At his father’s death our subject inherited one-half of the estate, and shortly after purchased his brothers’ interest in the farm, paying therefor $140 per acre. He made his home there until 1888, when he disposed of it by sale, and took possession of his present home. He has been at all times interested in educational matters, and has given each of his children every advantage for becoming well informed. His first Presidential vote was cast in 1844, for Henry Clay, and in 1856 he voted for John C. Fremont. He was State Census-taker in 1855, and although not being an office-seeker himself, has used his influence in support of other good men whom he wished to fill some responsible and trustworthy office. He has been a member of the Presbyterian Church since 1849, serving his congregation seven years as Deacon, and ten years as Elder.

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This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published in 1895. 

View additional Seneca County, New York family biographies here: Seneca County, New York Biographies

View a map of 1897 Seneca County, New York here: Seneca County, New York Map

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