Obadiah German
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
In office
January 6, 1819 – June 30, 1819
Preceded byDavid Woods
Succeeded byJohn C. Spencer
United States Senator
from New York
In office
March 4, 1809 – March 3, 1815
Preceded bySamuel L. Mitchill
Succeeded byNathan Sanford
Member of the New York State Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born(1766-04-22)April 22, 1766
Amenia, New York
DiedSeptember 24, 1842(1842-09-24) (aged 76)
Norwich, Chenango County, New York
Resting placeNorth Norwich Cemetery, North Norwich, New York
Political partyDemocratic-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. He was most notable for his service as a U.S. Senator from New York (1809-1815) and Speaker of the New York State Assembly in 1819.


He was born on April 22, 1766 in Amenia, New York.[1] He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1792, and commenced practice in Norwich.[1] A Democratic-Republican, he was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1798 to 1799, 1804 to 1805, and 1807 to 1809.[1]

In 1809, he was elected a U.S. Senator from New York.[1] He served one term, March 4, 1809 to March 3, 1815 and was not a candidate for reelection.[1] 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.[2] In 1812, German was one of the founding trustees of Hamilton College.[3] He was First Judge of the Chenango County Court from 1814 to 1819.[1] 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 to the state Public Works Commission in 1817.[4] German returned to the Assembly in 1819 as a member of the Clintonian faction of the Democratic-Republican Party and was chosen to serve as Speaker.[2] Afterwards he resumed the practice of law. German became a Whig when that party was organized.[1]

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


German had seven children with his first wife, Mary Ann Lewis, known as Ann, who died in 1829.[5]

Lewis German (d. 1819) was a lieutenant in the United States Navy and a veteran of the War of 1812.[6]
Albert was an innkeeper in Norwich before moving to Ohio.[5]
Walter, who succeeded his father in the family's Norwich mercantile business.[5] He served as a militia captain during the War of 1812[8] and became insolvent after his business failed in 1820.[9]
Julia, who was the wife of Stephen Anderson of Norwich, and later resided in Wisconsin.[5]
Maria (d. 1876), who was the wife of Reverend George Harmon and resided in Wisconsin and Ohio.[10]

After the death of his first wife he married Mary Ann Knight, a woman much younger than he.[5] They had two children, Frederick and George.[7] 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 $70,000 estate (about $1.7 million in 2014).[11] She took up residence in Syracuse and became a public charge after being found "in a state of great destitution", her efforts at earning a living through painting and "fancy work" having failed.[11] Her claim to be German's widow was not believed in Syracuse until it was confirmed after her death.[11]


The town of German, New York is named after him.[12]

Attempts to locate portrait

German is one of approximately 50 former senators for whom the U.S. Senate's photo historian has no likeness on file.[13] Attempts to locate one have proved unsuccessful.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 2005. p. 1112. ISBN 978-0-1607-3176-1 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Willis Fletcher; Smith, Ray B. (1922). Political and Governmental History of the State of New York. I. Syracuse, NY: The Syracuse Press. p. 415 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Hamilton College (December 1, 1917). "Minutes of the First Meeting of the Trustees of Hamilton College". Hamilton Literary Magazine. Utica, NY: L. C. Childs & Son. p. 90 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Werner, Edgar A. (1888). Civil List and Constitutional History of the Colony and State of New York (2 ed.). Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Co. p. 182 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b c d e Smith, James H. (1880). History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York. II. Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co. p. 407 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Died: Lieut. Lewis German". Long-Island Star. Brooklyn, NY. April 28, 1819. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ a b c "Chenango County: Will of Obadiah German of Norwich". Wikitree.com. Interesting.com, Inc. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  8. ^ "Notice of Benjamin Loomis of Atlas, Michigan". Morning Express. Buffalo, NY. April 27, 1855. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Insolvents Advertising for the Benefit of the Act in this State". The Evening Post. New York, NY. May 27, 1820. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Methodist Episcopal Church (1876). "Memorial: Mrs. Maria Harmon". Minutes of the Ninth Session of the Annual New York Conference. Ithaca, NY: Andrus, McChain & Co. p. 74 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ a b c "Death of the Widow of a Former U.S. Senator". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, PA. Syracuse Journal. p. 8 – via GenealogyBank.com.
  12. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 136.
  13. ^ a b "Senators Not Represented in Senate Historical Office Photo Collection".



Further reading

U.S. 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