Biography of Hon. John Raines

Hon John Raines, eldest child of Rev. John and Mary (Remington) Raines, was born in Canandaigua, Ontario county, New York, May 6, 1840, and died December 16, 1909. His early education was received in the public schools, and he then became a student at the Albany Law School. from which institution he was graduated. For a short time he taught school, then established himself in the practice of his profession in Geneva. He abandoned this toward the end of 1861 in order to raise a company of volunteers for the war, and was commissioned captain of Company G, Eighty-fifth New York Regiment. He served in the Army of the Potomac and in North Carolina until July, 1863, then returned to Geneva, and resumed his legal practice. In 1867 he removed to Canandaigua, where he opened a law and insurance office. It was during his continued residence in Canandaigua that his eminent public career commenced. As a member of the Republican party he was elected to the assembly in 1880, and his discernment, shrewdness and wisdom as a public leader were immediately recognized. In 1883 he was again the candidate of his party for election to the assembly, his opponent being Hon. Frank Rice, who had been nominated to succeed himself, and Mr. Raines was defeated. In the following year he defeated the Democratic candidate, Hon. Nathan Oaks. Mr. Raines was elected as representative of the old Twenty-eighth district in the state senate in 1885, was re-elected in 1887, was representative in Congress from the Twentyninth district in 1889, remaining there until 1893, when, the state having been reapportioned, he retired from his district in favor of Hon. Sereno E. Payne. A special election was held December 20, 1894, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Hon. Charles T. Saxton, who had been elected lieutenant-governor, and Mr. Raines was again elected to the state senate, carrying every election district in this county. to 1895 he represented the Forty-second district, being elected against a strong and bitter opposing force whose candidate was Hon. J. Henry Metcalf. From 1898 Mr. Raines was the unanimously renominated candidate of his party, and each term won the election, although in each case his opponents were the strongest men of the Democratic party. His development as a notable leader and an orator of high rank was speedy and constant. The efforts to secure a new ballot law had been thrown into confusion by the differences which existed between the Democratic governor and the Republican Legislature, and in 1895, when Mr. Raines returned to the state senate, he formulated and introduced the blanket ballot bill, which was made a law at the same session, is in use up to the present time with slight amendments, and which has been recognized as the most efficient measure for obtaining a fair election and an unimpeachable count. In 1896 he introduced the law known as the liquor tax bill, and his eloquent pleas for its adoption and masterly management of the forces necessary to secure its passage, resulted in its being placed upon the statute book. This important law, having thousands of opponents in the liquor dealers, large and small, throughout the state, was the cause of his being held up to public ridicule in every conceivable manner, and the downfall of Republican state control was predicted for the near future, but it was not long before the measure was completely vindicated and its wisdom and its feasibility proven. Senator Raines was the originator of many other important laws, among which may be mentioned the unification act, which wiped out all antagonism between the various educational systems in use in the state and made the new system harmonious and efficient. He was a prime factor in formulating and passing laws controlling banking, insurance, highways, race track gambling, and many others. His work was particularly effective in the committee room, where he allowed no time to be wasted in useless controversies over minor points, and thus interfere with important affairs. His acquaintance with parliamentary procedure was remarkable, and hard work, indefatigable energy and a desire to serve the public to the fullest extent of his powers had given him a mastery of state affairs which his associates freely and openly recognized. He was in succession the trusted confidant and efficient lieutenant of a number of governors of the state, including Morton, Roosevelt, Odell, Higgins and Hughes, although he opposed the latter in the Kelsey matter and the direct primaries question. It may be taken for granted that, had his life been spared, he would have been the medium to reconcile the views of party leaders regarding the necessary legislation for primary reform. His length of service as a member of the state senate is the longest on record, and the number of times he has by successive elections been president of that body has never been surpassed, the office taking rank next to that of lieutenant-governor of the state; he was the first president of the senate to be elected by the unanimous vote of that body. Senator Raines had been identified with the Republican party from early manhood, and his support was staunch and never-failing. The highest offices in the state were within his reach yet, feeling that be could be of most service to the greatest number as a member of the senate, he never aspired to higher state office. As an alternate delegate at large he represented the state in several national conventions, and for many years he was at the head of the Ontario cot my delegation to the Republican state conventions. He frequently acted as chairman of important committees at these gatherings, and his influence was always a beneficial and decisive one. While Senator Raines was considered by some as old-fashioned and too conservative in his ideas as a politician, the modern ideas and progressive laws he originated amply disprove this opinion. In supreme moments of activity, when matters came to a crisis, he was never excited, surprised or disconcerted, but simply aroused to cool and intrepid action. Few men studied more closely the public questions of the hour, and his mind was well stored with information on all topics. He deemed no sacrifice too great to advance the cause on which he was engaged, and his perfect mastery of the subject enabled him to handle it with the greatest ease. His undoubted devotion to the interests of his voters gained and retained for him their unswerving faith in his ability. Senator Raines was one of the most bitterly criticised members of the senate, yet even his opponents entertained the highest respect for his force of character and the sincerity and purity of his motives. Although his career was not entirely free from mistakes, he was the first to recognize them, and to rectify them wherever this was possible. He was closely identified with every movement which tended to the betterment of his village and county, especially those matters pertaining to public education. October 13, 1874, he was elected clerk of old School District No. i i and, with the exception of one year, served until the formation of the Union School District in 1887. He was the most prominent factor in organizing this movement, and served as president of the board of education from 1887 until his death. Under his regime the Union School building, the primary buildings and the Academy building were erected. He was a most loving husband and father, as is clearly evinced in his devotion to his wife, who was an invalid for a number of years, and in the affection shown toward his children and grandchildren. He was a true friend, faithful to the convictions of duty, and with a sympathetic heart and an open hand. His charities were far-reaching but unostentatious.

Senator Raines- married, at Geneva, 1862, Catherine A. Wheeler, who died in Canandaigua in 1879. Children: 1. John, of whom further. 2. Edith, remarried Dr. W. E. Sylvester, who is a member of the State Board of Alienists, and resides in New York City. 3. Grace, married W. H. Welch, supervisor of the Northern Central Railway at Canandaigua. 4. Charles T., who fills a responsible position in the office of the New York State Comptroller. 5. Kate, married J. H. Kessler, a well known civil engineer, who resides in Philadelphia. 6. George R., see elsewhere.



Ontario County NY,

Milliken, Charles F. The History of Ontario County, New York, and Its People Lewis Historical Publishing Co., New York. 1911.

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