Chance meeting sparks artistic family reunion

An interest in genealogy and a chance encounter in church led Carl and Jan DeRiseis to Warren.

Jan is the great-granddaughter of William Abraham Greaves, who was a prolific painter in the 19th century. Her husband Carl said he became interested in genealogy in 1996, and began using a computer to assist in his searches, a tool he said he never wanted in his office.

They live in Marco Island, Fla., and Jan said about four years ago during church services, the pastor asked visitors to stand up and identify themselves. When Steve and Betty Horsley said they were from Warren, they caught the attention of the DeRiseises, and set in motion a chain of events which would lead them to Warren.

During a tour of the society’s headquarters, Carl said that Greaves produced over one thousand paintings, and that they have a collection of about 105. “We are looking to expand that,” he said.

Born in 1847, Greaves was educated in and was a graduate of the public schools of Watertown, N.Y., and became an instructor at age 14. He was instructed in art by the well-known artist Thomas LeClair, and he was a student at the Cooper Institute in New York City. He lived for several years at Utica, N.Y., and moved to Warren in 1873, where he lived until his death in 1900.

A replica of his portrait of Rock Wilcox, Mountain Man of Yankee Bush, is hanging on the second floor of the Warren Public Library, and the Warren County Historical Society has about 16 of his paintings as well as some of his photography.

Following tours of the society, the courthouse and the library, the DeRiseises went to see more of Greaves works at the Fenton History Center in Jamestown, N.Y., including a portrait of James Prendergast.

His studio was located at 420 Water St. in Warren.