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John T. Andrews was born on March 9, 1842 in Reading, New York. He attended Alfred University and Union College, from which he graduated in 1864. In August 1864 he enlisted in Company D of the 179th Regiment of the New York Volunteers and served until June 23, 1865. In 1866 he married Arvilla Raplee. Andrews worked in the furniture and undertaking business in Dundee, New York, studied law in Penn Yan, New York with B.W. Franklin, and was admitted to the bar in 1870. In 1873 he began manufacturing paper. In 1881 he was elected to the Assembly from Yates County, and from 1890-1894 he was postmaster at Penn Yan.