William James (1771-1832)

William James, of Albany, New York

He was born into comfortable enough circumstances in Ireland one mile east of Bailieborough, Co. Cavan, and came to America in 1789. He worked at a dry goods store in Albany before setting up on his own account in 1795. His business grew and not before long he had a chain of dry goods stores plus a shipping company, salt company and tobacco factory, becoming known as "William of Albany". Having made the basis of his fortune in business, he turned to land speculation and soon held the mortgage for Union College and owned almost the entirety of the City of Syracuse which he'd purchased for $30,000. He was an early promoter of the Erie Canal and was one of its chief financiers. He left a fortune of $1.2 million, at which time he was reputedly (though almost certainly among many others who claimed the same title) the second richest man in the State if New York, behind only John Jacob Astor. He lived at 70 North Pearl Street, Albany, and James Street in Albany is named in his honor. He had thirteen children and is the grandfather of the novelist Henry James and the Philosopher, William James.