Moss Kent (1766-1838)

Moss Kent (1766-1838)
Moss Kent Jr. was born April 3, 1766 in Kent's Parish on the upper Croton in the precinct of Fredericksburgh in the state of New York. Moss had an older brother and a younger sister. James, his brother, eventually became the Chancellor of New York State. Both James and Moss became lawyers following their father in that profession. Moss had an education which included both Greek and Latin classics. In 1786 Moss went to Poughkeepsie to live with his brother and continue his education. For three years he acted as a clerk in his brother's law practice while studying the law. Although he was not considered a model student he was admitted to the bar in 1789. Soon after this Kent moved to Canajoharie where he joined relatives, the Kanes, in running a store. In 1792 he moved to Springfield, in Otsego County, built a home and opened a store and a pearl ashery in partnership with the Kanes. This store became the center of trade for the area although Kent did experience some financial trouble. Kent practiced law in Cooperstown, and became involved in local politics. From 1794 until 1804 he served as surrogate for Otsego County. He also served as State Senator for the area from 1799 to 1803. Kent involved himself in the community, in 1795 he contributed $25 toward the building of an academy in Cooperstown. Moss Kent was very close to the Cooper family. He not only served as William Cooper's agent but he also "admired" his daughter Hannah Cooper. William's son James Fenimore Cooper signed his first extant letter James K. Cooper, the K standing for Kent. Sometime between September of 1792 and November of 1795 Kent moved to Cooperstown and bought property on Second Street, which is now Main Street. In 1805 Kent left the Cooperstown area for the Town of Champion in Jefferson County, which at that time was part of Oneida County. He practiced law and involved himself in politics once again. From 1810 to 1818 he served as the Jefferson Counties first judge. He also represented the area in the State Assembly (1807 and 1810) and served two terms as United States Congressman from 1813 to 1817. During much of the period between 1814 to 1823 Kent lived in Albany serving as the register for his brother's court of Chancery. It was in Albany in August of 1823 that his portrait was painted by Samuel F. B. Morse. After 1823 Kent returned to Jefferson County and continued his law practice until his death on May 30,1838. The painting of Moss Kent is oil on canvas measuring 30' x 25'. It is one of several paintings Morse did of prominent New Yorkers for $25 each. It is not known what became of the painting between 1838 and 1917, but in 1917 the painting was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in the "Early American Paintings" show. The owner was listed as Frank W. Bagley. In 1932 the painting was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in their Samuel Morse show. The owner was listed as Mrs. William Stone. Mrs. Stone whose husband was a descendant of Moss Kent loaned the painting to Harvard University in 1933. In 1938 the MacBeth Gallery purchased the painting from Mrs. Stone. In 1939 Stephen Clark purchased the painting. By David R. Meschutt, Cooperstown Graduate Program.
Physical dimensions: 
height 37.5 in ; width 32.25 in