The Art of William Henry Yates

Known professionally as W. H. Yates, William Henry Yates Magulipin was born in Schenectady in 1845 and came to Auburn at the age of 17. 

He enlisted in the 124th Infantry known as “The Orange Blossoms” during the Civil War and saw action in about twelve battles. It is supposed that during the war, he knew one of the commanders, Kennedy, and that he might have studied under either Charles Loring Elliott or Sanford Thayer, both artists from Cayuga County. Many of Yate’s early paintings were of Civil War scenes. 

Yates graduated from the Bryant Stratton Business College where he excelled in penmanship and etching. He held exhibitions in this area, Little Falls and Schenectady and in one or two towns in Connecticut. He was considered a draftsman of unusual ability by his contemporaries. 

He assisted local sculptor and owner of the Robinson Monument Co., Walter G. Robinson with the design and modeling of the W. H. Seward monument in place today in the park at the corner of South and William Streets. 

Yates was also a fine teacher and earned his living in this manner. Among his students were Minnie E. Rankin, Charles Rising and Harry Sunter, some of whom became successful in the art field. He gave free lessons to those who could not afford them and encouraged many budding artists. Yates enjoyed painting water scenes and built a steam yacht which he used in the summers to take groups of artists out to sketch and paint on the lakes and canals in the area. He became a great influence on Frank Barney, who grew up in Union Springs while Yates was living there. Barney would later become known for his landscapes of outdoor scenes around the Finger Lakes. 

Yates died in 1934 in Union Springs at the age of ninety. His daughter, Vernie Yates Magulipin wrote that her father called himself a “painter” but considered George L. Clough, another well-known Cayuga County artist, a real “artist.”

New York Central Railroad, 1883 (Collection of the Cayuga Museum)

In 1838, Auburn-area investors financed a  link from Syracuse to Auburn of the system that evolved into the New York Central Railroad, with the purpose of connecting the successful industries of Auburn to the Erie Canal. The New York Central Railroad was established in 1853 by consolidating several existing railroad companies. The expanded railroad system connected east coast cities like New York City and Boston with Chicago and St. Louis in the midwest.

Explore this Painting in More Detail!

The Woolen Mill (Collection of the Cayuga Museum)

This painting portrays the dam on the Owasco Outlet near the Auburn Woolen Mill Factory complex. Immediately to the right of the mill of the brick superintendent’s house, a Scottish-style manor built for Samuel Laurie in 1871. This house and the accompanying white frame carriage house are still visible landmarks in Auburn today. 

The Auburn Woolen Mill tower was the original home of the ram weathervane. The ram was moved to the Nye-Wait Company when the Auburn Woolen Mill buildings were torn down in the 1940s. The massive weathervane is now installed in the roof of the Carriage House of the Cayuga Museum. 

Ram Weather Vane, Carriage House Theater (Photo Credits: Chris Molloy)
Ram Weather Vane, Carriage House Theater (Photo Credits: Chris Molloy)

The idea for the Auburn Woolen Mill was conceived in 1844 by a group of Auburn investors who felt a wool industry in Auburn would provide a market for area farmers and jobs for local workers. The Mill struggled to get off the ground until Samuel Laurie was induced to move to Auburn and take over the company. Under Laurie’s management, the Auburn Woolen Company became a successful enterprise. As an incentive for Laurie to move to Auburn, the stockholders spent $7,000 to build the “Auburn Castle” for him and his family. It was designed by Nelson Hamblin, who also worked on the Faatz-Crofut Home for the Elderly and the State St. Armory, to look like a Scottish Castle as a tribute to Laurie’s country of birth. Laurie lived in the Castle until his death in 1895. The house then served as the living quarters of several more Mill superintendents before being sold to the Pastushan family.