Obadiah German

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Obadiah German
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
In office
January 6, 1819 – June 30, 1819
Preceded by David Woods
Succeeded by John C. Spencer
United States Senator from New York
In office
March 4, 1809 – March 3, 1815
Preceded by Samuel L. Mitchill
Succeeded by Nathan Sanford
Member of the New York State Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born (1766-04-22)April 22, 1766
Amenia, New York
Died September 24, 1842(1842-09-24) (aged 76)
Norwich, Chenango County, New York
Resting place Riverside Cemetery, New Berlin, New York
Nationality American
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Ann Lewis (d. 1829)
Mary Ann Knight (d. 1861)

Obadiah German (April 22, 1766 – September 24, 1842) was an American lawyer and politician.[1]


He was born on April 22, 1766 in Amenia, New York. He was admitted to the bar in 1792, and commenced practice in Norwich. He was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1798-99, from 1804 to 1805, from 1807 to 1809.[1]

In 1809, he was elected a U.S. Senator from New York, and served from March 4, 1809, to March 3, 1815. German was known as a critic of the lack of military preparations made in advance of the War of 1812, and voted against the declaration of war. In 1812, German was one of the founding trustees of Hamilton College. He was First Judge of the Chenango County Court from 1814 to 1819. He was also a State militia officer, eventually becoming a major general.[1]

Supporting DeWitt Clinton's Erie Canal project, German took part in planning and overseeing its construction after being appointed State Commissioner of Public Works in 1817. German returned to the Assembly in 1819 and, as a member of the Clintonian faction of the Democratic-Republican Party was chosen Speaker. Afterwards he resumed the practice of law. German became a Whig when that party was organized.

He died on September 24, 1842 in Norwich, New York. He was buried at the Riverside Cemetery in North Norwich, New York.[1]


Obadiah German was married twice. He had five children with his first wife, Mary Ann Lewis, known as Ann, who died in 1829.

After the death of his first wife he married Mary Ann Knight, a woman much younger than he. They had three children, and by some accounts the marriage was not a happy one, with Mary Ann Knight and the children living in Syracuse while Obadiah German continued to reside in Norwich.


Obadiah German's widow Mary Ann Knight claimed to have been defrauded by her brother (some accounts say German's brother) of German's estate, worth $70,000 (about $1.7 million in 2014). She took up residence in Syracuse, and became a public charge, her efforts at earning at living through painting and "fancy work" having failed. Her claim to be the widow of Sen. German was not believed in Syracuse until it was confirmed after her death "in a state of great destitution," according to the Syracuse Journal.[2]


The town of German, New York is named after him.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d "Obadiah German". United States Congress. Retrieved 2012-10-10. German, Obadiah, a Senator from New York; born in Amenia, Dutchess County, N.Y., April 22, 1766; attended the district schools; studied law; admitted to the bar in 1792 and commenced practice in Norwich, N.Y.; member, State assembly 1798, 1804-1805, 1807-1809; elected as a Democratic Republican to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1809, to March 3, 1815; judge of Chenango County 1815-1819; appointed commissioner of public works in 1817; member, State assembly 1819, and served as speaker; affiliated with the Whig Party on its organization; died in Norwich, N.Y., September 24, 1842; interment in North Norwich Cemetery (formerly Riverside Cemetery), North Norwich, N.Y. 
  2. ^ "DEATH OF THE WIDOW OF A FORMER U.S. SENATOR. -- A woman named Mrs. Mary Ann German died in a state of great destitution in our city yesterday morning, and is to be buried at the public expense this afternoon. Mrs. G. has lived here for several years, and is well known to many of our citizens. She endeavored, for a while after she came here, to get a living by making and selling 'Grecian paintings,' and other fancy work, but was unable to do so, and at last became a city charge. Mrs. German related a strange story of her life. She represented that she was the widow of a former United States Senator from this State, and that at his death an estate valued at over $70,000 was taken from her on a fraudulent claim preferred by his brother. This story, and other statements made by her, were not credited, because unsupported by other evidence than her word, and the manner in which they were told and embellished. She was evidently a woman of education, and possessed traces of personal beauty in her younger days. She was the recipient of many favors from those who became acquainted with her. Her age was nearly or quite 70 years. We learn to-day that it is a fact that the deceased was the widow of Obadiah German, who resided at Norwich, Chenango County, and represented New-York in the United States Senate from 1809 to 1815. --Syracuse Journal." New-York Daily Tribune, January 11, 1861, p. 3.
  3. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 136. 

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Further reading[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Samuel L. Mitchill
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York
Served alongside: John Smith, Rufus King
Succeeded by
Nathan Sanford
Political offices
Preceded by
David Woods
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
John C. Spencer