Walter A. Wood
Walter A. Wood was born in Mason, New Hampshire on October 23, 1815. His father was a wagon and plow manufacturer. At age one the family moved to Rensselaerville, New York. During his early years, he worked in his father’s shop. At age twenty-one (1836), he moved to Hoosick Falls where he worked as a blacksmith for Parsons & Wilder. He was a blacksmith by trade and became an excellent machinist. After four years he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to work as a carriage maker. (1840)
In 1842, he moved back to Hoosick Falls and married Bessie Parsons, daughter of Seth Parsons. Seth Parsons had been his employer from 1836-1840. He and John White operated a small foundry and machine shop under the name of White and Wood. In 1852, he became interested in a reaper patented by John Manny of Illinois. He purchased shop rights for the New York territory. He divided the purchased territory with Chandler Ball and J. Russell Parsons. Wood represented the western part of the state. The other two represented the eastern part of the state. They both started the manufacturing of the reaper in separate shops. In 1860, the Ball and Parsons Reaper Company burned to the ground. Russell Parsons went to work for Wood.
Walter A. Wood purchased the Tremont Cotton Factory in 1855 to increase the production of the reaper. In 1852, he built two reapers and by 1858-59 he was producing 5,000 per year. In 1860, the plant was destroyed by fire. He immediately constructed a new plant. In July 1857, the Wood Reaper won first prize by the Syracuse Agricultural Society. In 1861, he patented the “chain rake reaper” that was so unique that it caught the attention of farmers all over the world. A mower was added as well as improvements on all the machines manufactured. By 1865, his reapers and mowers were so successful that financial people became interested in the Wood Company. In 1866, the company was organized as a stock company and called the “Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaper Machine Company.” Walter A. Wood was President, William Tibbets, Vice President and Willard Gay, Treasurer.
The second large fire destroyed much of the Wood factory in 1870. They used the Caledonia Mill Building while the factory was being rebuilt. The output of the factory was about 8,000 units during this time. By 1890 the output had increased to approximately 90,000 units. During this time, the reapers and mowers won medals all over the world. (1862: Medal of Merit in England; 1867: Iron and Gold medal in Paris; 1873: medal in Vienna) The factory grew continuously and employment grew as Hoosick Falls prospered with the successful plant.
His wife Bessie died. They had one child, Lynn P. Wood. In 1868, he married Elizabeth Warren Nicholls and had two children. A boy named Walter, Jr and a girl named Julia. The following is provided by David W Babington Aug, 2007: His second wife’s name was Elizabeth Warren Nicholls (spelled commonly now as Nichols), daughter of George Huntington Nicholls (1818, Stratford, CT – 1902, Hoosick Falls, NY) and Julia Louisa Phelps (1818, New York, NY – 1892, Hoosick Falls, NY). Elizabeth Warren Nicholls (Wood) was born 24 Apr 1845 in Hartford, NY. The date of the Walter A Wood marriage to Elizabeth Warren Nicholls was 2 Sep 1868 at the St. Mark’s Church in Hoosick Falls. I am not sure when Elizabeth Warren Nicholls (Wood) died, but she could have died in Hoosick Falls.
In 1873, they built a large mansion modeled after an English castle. Beautiful gardens were located toward the rear and extended to a large pond. The entrance to the mansion had a large metal fence that surrounded the front, which is now the Woods Park without the fence. They owned more than 1,000 acres that extended into East Hoosick. They operated a large farm.
Walter A. Wood started the First National Bank of Hoosick Falls. He was elected to the House of Representatives in the 46th and 47th Troy district. (1878-1882) He was President of the Board of Education, as well as President of the Village. He was a vestryman at St. Marks Church and was a generous giver to all denominations.
Mr. Wood came down with pneumonia and died in 1892 at the age of 77. The factory was shut down and all works lined the streets as his funeral processional passed toward burial. He is buried in the old Maple Grove Cemetery at the back part of the Cemetery
The prosperity Walter A. Wood brought to Hoosick Falls can be summed up by a quote from the Rensselear County Standard dated November, 1878:
“Without him, Hoosick Falls would not have been, as it is today, the most prosperous village in the American Continent.”
Compiled by Philip Leonard, November 1999.
The remaining information on this page is from “History of Rensselaer Co., New York,” by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.
[Walter A. Wood Mowing- and Reaping-Machine Manufactory], was born in Mason, N. H., Oct. 23, 1815, and came to Hoosick Falls in 1836. He was a blacksmith by trade and worked at that business for Seth Parsons, who was engaged in manufacturing. He married a daughter of his employer, a sister of T. Russell Parsons and David B. Parsons, who have been in late years associated with Mr. Wood’s manufacturing operations. A few years later, Mr. Wood became interested in the subject of mowing- and reaping-machines, which were then beginning to attract the attention of the country. He made some improvements upon the Manny mower and reaper, which he was manufacturing to a limited extent. He gave to the subject much close thought, and while making machines in accordance with another man’s patent, he was all the time reducing his own ideas into practical shape. In 1853 he obtained a patent for the mower that has ever since born his name. In 1854 he commenced in a small way the manufacture of his machines, continuing to increase his works as the demand increased. In 1866 a company was formed, or which Mr. Wood was made president, J. Russell Parsons vice-president, Willard Gay treasurer, and A. C. Gear secretary. The company has ever been on the alert to introduce new improvements, and the steady and increasing demand for their machines is solid proof of their success. From 1853 to 1879 the number of machines manufactured aggregated to 302,092. This record is unequaled in the history of mowing-machines.
Mr. Wood has been rewarded not only by the great financial success which has resulted from his inventions and his manufacturing establishments, but by prizes, medals, and honors such as have been won by few men. In 1837 he received the grand gold medal of the United States National Agricultural Society; in 1862, the International Exhibition medal, London, England; in 1867, the grand gold medal, first prize at the Paris Exposition (also the Cross of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor); in 1873, the grand diploma of honor, the highest award of the commission, and the only one given for reaping- and mowing-machines at the Vienna Exhibition, supplemented by the Knight’s Cross of the Imperial Order of Francis Joseph; in 1874, the first prize, gold medal, at Bremen, Germany, International Exhibition, June 1874; in 1876, four medals and four diplomas, awarded at the Philadelphia International Exhibition, being the highest honor conferred by the Centennial Commission; in 1878, two gold medals and an object of art, awarded at the Paris International Exhibition; also the Cross of Officer of the Legion of Honor, the highest honor that could be conferred.
During the year 1878, in competitive trials, Wood’s mower, reaper, and self-binding harvester, in addition to the gold medals and honors from the Paris International Exhibition, before referred to, took first prizes at Rome, Italy, and at fifty-four of the principal cities of England, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Australia, Cape of Good Hope, Victoria, New Zealand, New South Wales, etc. From 1873 to 1877, inclusive, in 366 field-trials, these machines gained over 279 first prizes, including 88 gold medals, 64 silver medals, 8 bronze medals, 13 diplomas, 5 silver cups, and over 800 pounds in money. Such are the honors paid to one of Hoosick’s manufacturers of world-wide renown.
Levi Chandler Ball
Chandler Ball was a leading influence in the growth of Hoosick Falls during the mid-eighteen hundreds. He, like his Father-in-law Seth Parsons, can be credited for many of the advancements of the Hoosick Falls Village.
Chandler Ball was born in Wilmington, Vermont in 1809. His father was a farmer in this rural area and Chandler and his brothers all worked on the farm. He was not well in his early life and didn’t enter school until the age of nine. It was a country school with only a few basic subjects. At the age of 12, he left school. During the day he worked hard on the farm, but in the evening he read and pursued knowledge. The farm could not support the family. At the age of 16, Chandler left for the Troy area to find employment. (1825) He left Wilmington on foot and decided to stop in Hoosick Falls to visit relatives, especially his cousin Seth Parsons. Mr. Parsons helped him find a job in Rensselaerville as a clerk in a merchant shop owned by a Mr. Mulford. While in Hoosick Falls, he became acquainted with Marcia Parsons and she made a big impression on the boy.
After a year as clerk, earning $36 for the year, he decided to go into Albany to find better employment. In a few weeks, he learned of the illness of his brother and walked back to Wilmington to keep the farm operating for his parents. In the fall of 1828, he decided to go to New Orleans where two of his brothers, Russell and Eratus, were running prosperous businesses.
He left with $5 and some worn clothing. Arriving in Troy, he took the steamboat for New York for 25 cents. In New York, he tried to find work on a boat to New Orleans. While looking for work, a gentleman named Chester Holmes (a merchant from New Orleans) offered to pay his way knowing Russell Ball would reimburse the cost. He advanced him the $45 it cost for the trip. It was October 1828 when he arrived in New Orleans.
With the help of his brothers, he built a business as a merchant. New Orleans at this time was a bustling place where an enterprising individual could do well in business. Chandler Ball was hard working and extremely lucky. At the end of two years, he had established a prosperous business and made considerable money. His brother Russell died suddenly and his estate was worth approximately $100,000. The estate became involved in litigation and took years to be settled. Chandler and his other brother formed a partnership and continued the business at the same location.
In the summer of 1831, he traveled back to this area to visit his parents and friends in Wilmington, Vermont. He stopped in Hoosick Falls and spent two weeks visiting with Marcia Parsons. They became engaged to be married in three years.
He returned to New Orleans and remained there until 1833. He sold his interest in the business to Jonathan Ball and left for Hoosick Falls to set up residence. Arrived in Hoosick Falls in July of 1833, he purchased 40 acres from Esec Bussey adjacent to Seth Parsons’ land in the northeasterly part of the village. He immediately started the building of a brick home, 50×34 feet, two stories high, with two wings 31×24 feet. On September 26, 1833, he married Marcia Parsons.
The home still exists on the corner of Parsons Ave and High Street between the St. Mary’s schools. His first business venture after arriving in Hoosick Falls was in the field of farming. “He imported the most celebrated breeds of farm stock, at a time when little attention was paid by even the wealthy farmers to the improvement of their stock.” Soon many of the herds of sheep and cattle were improved from his stock.
In 1837, he built the Phoenix Hotel, which was located at the site of the present Key Bank parking lot. This hotel was one of the finest in the area and brought visitors to Hoosick Falls. At the same time, he built Classic Street and donated the large square at the corner of High and Classic Street to the village. Chandler Ball bought the land where the Wood Block stands and used some of the land to connect Classic Street with John Street. He deeded the street to the village and sold the remaining land at a reduced price.
Joseph Dorr was born in Lynne, Connecticut on July 15, 1760. At age 18 he came to the Hoosick area and found employment in the mill of Stephen Kellogg, situated on the White Creek river. He soon established fulling and carding-works in connection with the mill. The dictionary defines full “to shrink and thicken cloth (especially of wool) with moisture, heat, and pressure” Card is defined as “a machine with rollers covered with wire teeth, used to brush, clean, and straighten (fibers of wool, cotton, etc.) In preparation for spinning”
Mr. Dorr became acquainted with Issac Bull, a farmer whose land was next to the mill. He fell in love with Sarah Bull and they were married in 1778. In 1784 they moved to Hoosick Falls where he leased a farm of 280 acres from Barnardus Bratt, the Patroon of Hoosick. This land included all the water power on the north side of the river. He immediately established an extensive carding, fulling and cloth dressing works. A sawmill, flax-mill and distillery soon followed. Under his leadership Hoosick Falls soon became a place of considerable business importance.
Hoosick Falls in 1784 had only three or four families. He built a log cabin which stood near where Mechanic street crosses the Troy & Boston track today. He left this dwelling for a comfortable frame house at the west end of the Wood foundry. In 1813, he built a brick house on the north bank of the river, above the falls. It was the first brick house in the village.
Joseph Dorr in the following years was so well respected that he held nearly every civil office in the town, and was appointed by the Governor, a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Rensselaer County. He was elected Colonel of the regiment which was called up to protect the northern frontier from the British during the War of 1812. The victory at Plattsburg reached the troops in Whitehall and the regiment returned home.
Joseph Dorr was for many years the principal business man in the village, employing a large number of workmen. He had great rapport with his workers since he treated them with respect and friendship. He was very successful and used his wealth to help education and the church. He was the largest contributor to the erection and support of the first, and for thirty years the only meeting house in the village. He took an interest in the concerns of the village and supported the needy and destitute. In 1832, some strangers with cholera where prevented from entering the village due to fear of the disease. Col. Dorr put them up on his farm outside the village until they became better. He looked after the health, safety and morals of the juveniles of the village. Many called him “Pappa Dorr.”
Colonel Dorr died suddenly in 1833 and is buried in the old church yard. Charles Dorr was the earliest businessman of Hoosick Falls and started the growth of this area.
The Dorrs had four children, three boys and a girl. Josephus, his youngest boy, born in 1799, married Marcia Ball of Wilmington, Vermont. They lived in the homestead and he ran the manufacturing and farms of the family until 1854, when they moved to Rockford, Ill. to spend the later part of their -life with a daughter. Milton, his second son, died in 1830. His son Seneca lived in the village and die at age 86. His daughter Hannah died young.
Mr. Seth Parsons moved to Hoosick Falls in 1807 from East Hampton, Long Island. For the next thirty-six years he was “the leader in every movement for the betterment of the village and its people.”
Before arriving in Hoosick Falls, he had apprenticed and had become a master of several trades. These included cabinet maker, carpenter and millwright. He was knowledgeable of practical and theoretical mechanics. He was extremely interested in improving machinery and was naturally inventive.
He purchased three acres from John Potter on the west side of Main Street, on which he built his home. For the next five or six years he worked in his field of expertise. In 1811, he attempted to form a manufacturing company. He tried to make this a stock company but could not raise the interest of investors and fell short of the capital needed.
In 1812, he married Sally Ball of Wilmington, Vermont. They had eight children, five daughters and three sons. The last child was born in 1835. Their first child, Marcia married Levi Chandler Ball in 1833. Chandler Ball later became a very important individual in the growth of Hoosick Falls. Another daughter Betsy married Walter A. Wood.
During the War of 1812, the embargo and non-intercourse act, prevented the import of woolen goods. The need for domestic manufacturing of these products became clear. In 1814, Seth Parsons and his brother Hial purchased the shop and water power on the north side of the river, formally the wagon shop of John Manchester. Before buying the new site, Seth Parsons worked on improving the cloth shearing machine. He secured a patent for this type of machine and began manufacturing them. The design of his machine was so good that it remained in use for more than 75 years and became known as one of the best machine on the market.
This business was important not only as a profitable enterprise but also because it brought to the community a superior class of machinists and inventors. These people created the prosperous conditions in Hoosick Falls during the later part of the 1800s. Since men learned their trade at that time primarily by apprenticing, the Parsons plant attracted talented young men who wanted to apprentice. Many men moved from the area after apprenticing at the Parsons Manufacturing plant to become successful in other parts of the country. Mr. Parsons was highly respected by these men and “gratefully acknowledged the advantage derived from his instruction, and fatherly care.”
In 1814, Mr. Parsons was appointed as justice of the peace and commissioner of deeds by the Governor. He performed these duties for more than ten years in a manner that gave him the respect of the people in the community.
Up to 1822, the closest post office was at Hoosick Corners where the Hill Road now meets Route Seven. The Albany-Boston stage route stopped at Wilcox’s at Hoosick Corners. The Government consented to establish a post office on the condition that no charge could be made for carrying the mail and no compensation paid for a postmaster. The whole expense for the office was paid for by Mr. Parsons for 10 to 12 years. He located the office in his shop and appointed David Ball his deputy. Andrew Parsons, a ten-year-old boy, was sworn in as post boy and made the 3-mile trip to Hoosick Corners on foot to get the depository of letters. It was not a bag but an upright case 20in x 18in x 91/2in.
Through the efforts of Seth Parsons, the Village was incorporated in 1827. He was elected the first Village President. At this time there were about 200 residents( 96 children) with 36 buildings and a valuation of $96,370.
Seth Parson’s factory was in business until 1885. It furnished stable employment for the village. Seth Parsons died in 1845 and the business was continued by his partner Lyman Wilder. His work on behalf of the village was carried on by his son-in-law, L. Chandler Ball. Hoosick Falls is indebted to this community leader.
Seth Parsons son, James Russell, became a partner of Chandler Ball in the manufacturing of reapers and mowers in 1852. He later worked in management at the Walter A. Wood Company. He owned a large amount of property East of High Street. Seth Parsons original house, on Main Street, was moved to the second ward to make room for a home built by the Rev. George H. Nichols, Rector of St. Marks Church. Rev. Nichols home was across from St. Marks Church.
Compiled by Philip Leonard, November, 1999 4
Charles A. Cheney
Charles A. Cheney, benefactor of the Cheney Library and one of the most prominent entrepreneurs of early Hoosick Falls, was born on June 13, 1835 in Jamaica, Vermont and was son of Nathaniel Cheney. After being trained in the bookkeeping trade, he found employment with the firm of Thayer, Hawks, and Wilcox who operated a general merchandise store in Hoosick Falls on the comer of Main and John Streets in a brick building later known as Dougherty’s, and accordingly moved to the Village. The firm dissolved in 1860 as Charles Hawks established an unrelated business in New York City and John Wilcox accepted a position with Walter A. Wood Company. Adin Thayer entered into a partnership with Truman Wallace continuing with the merchandising business moving to the North side of Classic Street in a building later to be known as the Quackenbush Block or Abel and Brown’s store. Mr. Chaney remained as bookkeeper until the commencement of the Civil War in 1861. At that time, Cheney was courting Miss Mary Frances Ball, daughter of one of the leading personages of Hoosick Falls, Judge Levi Chandler Ball and his wife, Marcia Ann (Parsons) Ball, daughter of Seth Parsons. Judge Ball was a Paymaster in the U.S. Army located in Washington, D.C. and with patriotic fervor running rampant at the time Cheney decided to serve his country and became a clerk in the Paymaster’s office and moved to Washington.
On October 21, 1862, Mr. Cheney married Mary Frances Ball who returned to reside with him in Washington and within the next two years they had a child who unfortunately died in infancy, although it was a commonplace occurrence in those days. After the Civil War ended in 1865 and his services in the Paymaster’s office were no longer necessary, the Cheneys returned to Hoosick Falls and he immediately found employment as a bookkeeper at the flourishing Walter A. Wood Company. During the next several years and after the birth of son, Albert Nathaniel in 1866, the intelligent, ambitious and politically connected Charles A. Cheney advanced to Head Bookkeeper, Chief Auditor, and finally a Director of Walter A. Wood Company during Walter A. Wood‘s waning years. In addition, he served as Wood’s confidential personal accountant and was named an executor of Wood’s estate after Wood’s death in 1892. He also became Treasurer of School District# 1, Hoosick, a position that was to last forty years. (District # 1, Hoosick, was the Hoosick Falls school district.)
In 1880, the First National Bank was chartered in Hoosick Falls. Supplemental to his duties at Walter A. Wood Company, Cheney was elected Vice President. This initiated his participation in the banking industry that he was to experience for the remainder of his life. In 1884, in association with his banking interests, he established the Cheney Block on the site of the Phoenix Hotel built by his father-in-law and presently the location of the Key Bank parking lot. During this period, he became President of the Maple Grove Cemetery; Treasurer of the Hoosick Falls Branch of the Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society; officer of the Rensselaer County Republican Society; member of the Board of Directors of several local and county clubs including the Hoosick Historical Society; His religious affiliation was with the First Baptist Church of Hoosick Falls where he was a Trustee, organist, and Superintendent of the Sunday School.
In 1886, tragedy struck the Cheney family when Albert N. Cheney, age twenty, the only remaining sibling, died of an undetermined cause while a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. This event profoundly affected the Cheney family as Mary Frances (Ball) Cheney subsequently elapsed into a severe state of depression that lasted until her death at the age of 59 on September 1, 1900 at their residence on Abbott Street in the Village of Hoosick Falls. Their home is currently the residence of Dr. Phillip Martinez.
In 1901, Cheney became significantly involved in the organization of the Peoples National Bank. In 1905 he succeeded John R. Quackenbush as president. He was also a Director of the Permanent Savings and Loan Association of which he became Vice President in January 1907. In 1906, he petitioned the State of New York Education Department for a Charter for a Village of Hoosick Falls Library that was officially opened on February 19, 1907. The Library was located on the second floor of the Municipal Building and Cheney was Treasurer and a Trustee of the Library Association.
On October 26, 1912, while still in excellent health for his age of 77, Charles A. Cheney was involved in an automobile accident on a Saturday evening at approximately 7:30 P.M. He was walking diagonally across Main Street between John and Classic Streets from Gillespie’s store on the east side of Main Street toward Ely’s store holding an umbrella during a driving rainstorm when he was struck by an automobile owned by Hoosick Falls resident Danforth Geer and operated by Williams College student Phillip Haywood who was visiting passenger and fellow Williams College student John J. Gillette. Mr. Haywood stated that they were going downtown on an errand and that they had just turned a comer heading south on Main Street and going slowly as he was unfamiliar with the locale. Mr. Cheney walked directly in front of the vehicle and Haywood stated he immediate sounded the horn and had the vehicle lights on but it was too late and the impact threw Cheney to the ground.
Mr. Cheney was immediately taken to the office of Dr. John T. Cahill, but at his insistence was taken to his home on Abbott Street. He was examined by Dr. Cahill and his personal physician, Dr. Putnam. It was determined that he had sustained various contusions, a concussion, scalp laceration, and a fractured rib causing internal injuries. Immediately after the accident, Haywood was taken to the police station and cited for violating unspecified New York State “automobile” laws. He appeared before Justice of the Peace Moon on the Tuesday following the accident but all charges were dropped when Moon and Coroner Hutton decided that no inquest was necessary as Haywood’s version of what had occurred was corroborated by independent witnesses.
Actually, Mr. Cheney’s condition became optimistic and he appeared to be recovering. However, he had a relapse the Monday following the accident when the internal injuries hemorrhaged. He went into shock and he succumbed to his injuries Tuesday morning October 29, 1912 and was pronounced dead by a specialist from Troy, Dr. Hudson. He was survived by a brother, George A. Cheney of Townsend, Vermont, and several nephews. In his will, which was dated on February 1, 1912 or eight months before his death, Cheney made provisions that bequeathed significant funds for the establishment of a new Village Library that is still in existence. His total estate was $200,000-250,000 and his largest single bequest was $50,000 for the construction of a Library. The new Library was officially opened in 1923.
– Ray LaFlamme
Capt. David Matthews
DAVID MATHEWS, THE MAN WHO BUILT THE STATE LINE HOUSE
By Corinne Eldred
On a vintage postcard postmarked 8/28/1916, there is a photo of an old brick house with the caption, “STATE LINE HOUSE, ERECTED IN 1783, HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. STANDS IN TWO STATES, THREE COUNTIES, AND FOUR TOWNS.” Nearly every written account of the old structure makes this false statement. It is true one part of the foundation stands in the town of Hoosick, NY (Rensselaer County), and the other in the town of Shaftsbury, VT (Bennington County). No part of the house stands in the town of Bennington, VT or White Creek, NY. It’s almost half a mile from the White Creek, Washington County line.
Therefore, it is accurate to say that the house stands in TWO states, TWO counties and TWO towns. Why would the builder do this? Was it accidental or intentional?
As far as being erected in 1783…well, because there were no building laws in those days, there is no definite record of the date when the brick house was actually built, or who built it. It is presumed that Captain David Mathews, a militia man who fought in the Revolution was the original proprietor, though no solid proof is available. In spite of this, we can glean some insight into Capt. Mathews’ life, his family and his house from century old letters of correspondence written by his descendents and held in a file at the Bennington Museum.
Mathews was born in Merrimac, NH, March 2, 1747, the son of James
and Mary Mathews. He died March 29, 1811. He always rode spirited
horses and carried a gold-headed cane. One day he was thrown from his
horse, was injured and died in a few days, in the 65th year of his age. He is
buried in a small churchyard cemetery (Sweet Cemetery on Cottrell Rd)
about a mile from his house where a Methodist Church once stood, the
outline of the building still visible. His resting place is quite prominent. It’s a
tomb waist high laid up in brick covered with a marble slab. His mother
Mary, who died in 1809 at the State Line House at age 93, is buried there
David, the tall grandfather is said to have stood 6 ft. 4 in. in his stockings. He married Lucy Fay, daughter of Captain Benjamin Fay of Marlboro, MA in 1773, who was also the niece of Captain Stephen Fay, proprietor of
the Catamount Tavern in Old Bennington. Together they had twelve children, of whom eight survived
Before moving into the brick house, David Mathews and his family lived in a humble frame dwelling on a farm he owned in South Shaftsbury, referred to in the letters as “the red house.” It seems he owned quite a bit of property
including some where the Revolution was fought. Mathews formed a company of soldiers who were in his employ (tenants), took charge of them and offered his services to the commanding officer. He was accepted, thus becoming captain. It was here on that fateful day in August of 1777 when the unfortunate German officer, Lt. Col. Friedrich Baum, was mortally wounded and carried into David Mathews’s house, the nearest residence to the battlefield, where he died within 48 hours. A monument marks the site. Lucy was said to have nursed and fed the wounded, American and British alike, making “soups and gruels.”
During the last half of the 1700’s there was much feuding and conflicting claims among the New York province (Bennington was part of Albany County then) and the colonies of New Hampshire and Massachusetts
over land grants. Even after the battle of Bennington, as it is known, Vermont remained an independent republic for 14 years before joining the Union in 1791. Perhaps Mathews built at this location to make a political
Mary Ann Mathews Shedd, granddaughter of David and Lucy was born in the State Line House in 1802. She was in her old age when she shared this story: There were three stories and attic in back. Lower story had two
rooms in front, used as kitchen and an empty room and was part way under ground, and in back of the two was one dark room called the “bee room” as grandfather talked of keeping bees in it. Broad steps went up from
ground to piazza and had large round pillars each side of the steps and again at the corners, with a balustrade. Columns and all went up three stories and ended in a pointed roof, and in that point was a plate with David
So when did he build the stately brick house? Perhaps it took a period of time. One letter states, teams were going between the house and battlefield during its progress bearing the wounded thither. However, it is unclear
whether “during the progress,” relates to the brick house or the battle.
In 1930, John Spargo wrote a somewhat controversial little book entitled, The True Story of Capt. David Mathews and His State Line House. He believed the house was built between 1800 and 1805. He also set out to
prove that David Mathews was not a Tory, but a Patriot. True. If he had been a Tory, his land would have been confiscated. As it was, he received a militia grant for his Revolutionary service, 150 acres in the town of Solon,
Cortland County, and a lot in Seneca County, which he left to his only son, John.
John also inherited the State Line House from his father and later sold it to a Methodist Community. He divorced his wife, Polly Green and went to Truxton, Cortland County, NY, leaving his mother and his daughter,
Lucy Merrill to live in a couple of rooms at the State Line House. The Methodists had only partially paid for it.
He later went back to the House, sold it again and moved to Truxton. For awhile, Lucy Fay Mathews and her divorced daughter-in-law lived with Mary Ann Mathews Shedd, John’s daughter. Lucy died in Lysander, a
place north of Syracuse in 1839 at the home of another daughter.
The State Line House has changed hands may times over the years. It was used as a home, a hotel, a restaurant, even a tavern. In 1938, the building emerged unscathed from a fire that destroyed a cow and hay
barn on the property. Later on, in the sixties, baby boomers will remember it as the “Five Flys,” a classy nightclub where bell bottoms swept the dance floor as young adults rocked to the blaring music and multicolored flashing stage lights. Go-Go Girls were included. If those old brick walls could speak, what a tale they would spin.
Warren Montgomery, first of three major magnates of the hotel industry of New York City to not only have the unusual distinctions of having their origins in a small village such as Hoosick Falls but also to maintain very active lifetime connections with the village, was actually born under humble circumstances in the north country town of Johnsburg, New York to Thomas and Margaret Kays Montgomery on April 28, 1866. The Montgomery family including brother Robert and sisters Cora and Margaret moved to North Pownal, Vermont in 1872 and finally to Clay Hill in Hoosick Falls six years later. Although he did not have any formal education which was not uncommon during that period, Montgomery possessed native intelligence and was an ambitious youth who secured employment in the capacity of timekeeper in his early teens at the Mechanic Street plant of Walter A. Wood Company where he remained until 1896 gaining invaluable experience. During his tenure in Hoosick Falls, his military affiliations consisted of membership in the reserve type organizations Thirty Second Separate Company and Old Guard of Company M. At age thirty, Montgomery, through business connections, seized the opportunity to accept an entry level management position at the financially handicapped Bretton Hall Hotel where, through dogged determination and long hours, he rapidly rose to the position of Manager and eventually turned the Hotel into a successful and profitable enterprise. The Bretton Hall chapter in his life was followed in 1903 by an investment that resulted in an ownership share and management position in the Seymour Hotel on West Forty Fifth Street, a location that became the destination of many Hoosick Falls residents while visiting New York City. After several years of successfully securing his position with the Seymour, and while retaining his ownership share, Mr. Montgomery was appointed General Manager of the prestigious and exclusive Barclay Hotel on Park Avenue. This is where his career had come to a pinnacle as, during this period of his life, his services were in such demand that he was also connected in an executive capacity with the Towers Hotel in Yonkers and the Clifton and Esplanade Hotels in New York. After several years of undertaking this whirlwind performance, in the middle of 1934 Montgomery briefly returned to active participation with the Seymour where he remained until his retirement at the end of 1934 when he returned to Hoosick Falls. Throughout his long and illustrious career in New York City, Montgomery never lost contact with his hometown and was recognized as the official “host” by many Hoosick Falls residents visiting New York City and he returned to Hoosick Falls for most of his vacations. Mr. Montgomery was also known for his generosity towards the Hoosick community and, in addition to other benefices, he assisted in financing college education for several young men from the Village. Montgomery never married
Anticipating his retirement, in 1930 Montgomery purchased the Hobby Hill farm on the Hill road in the Town of Hoosick and his social endeavors included being a member of Van Rensselaer Lodge # 400; B.P.O. Elks Lodge # 178 of Hoosick Falls; the Kiwanis Club and many organizations of hotel men. He maintained his religious affiliation as an active member of the Methodist Church for many years of his life. In 1936, he purchased the Carroll property in North Hoosick that included Devil’s Den and the village pool known as White Creek. The property was renamed Everready farm after his good friend Frank A. Ready, a Hoosick Falls native who was Montgomery’s protégée, having entered the New York City hotel industry through Montgomery’s considerable influence and as a result of his significant accomplishments is the subject of a later biographical sketch.
Montgomery was “ever ready” to receive a bevy of friends and associates at his expansive farm which included not only the top echelon of the hotel business but also employees of the Seymour of any position level who savored a trip to the country during and after the Great Depression that was otherwise beyond their fiscal reach. In the fall of1938, Montgomery commenced his one and only foray into political office seeking as a lifetime member of the Republican party when he was elected Hoosick Town Councilman by a substantial margin.
Unfortunately, and almost simultaneously, he was stricken with an undetermined illness that prevented him from attending but a few Town Board meetings and rendered his service ineffective. The illness lingered tenaciously and Warren Montgomery passed away at his beloved Everready farm in September 1940. He was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery and his sisters, Cora Gill of Hoosick Falls, and Margaret Parkins of Pittston, Pennsylvania survived him and it should be noted that his protégée and friend Frank A. Ready was a bearer at the funeral.
by Raymond LaFlamme
William F. Carey
William F. Carey rose from being a poor boy in Hoosick Falls to become a millionaire and industrial leader in the United States and throughout the world. Born the son of William and Catherine Ryan Carey on September 14, 1878, the Careys lived on River Road where his father was a stone mason and raised pigs.
Carey’s work building the original electric car tracks to Bennington when he was 16 is believed to have inspired his interest in railroad construction. In 1894, with little money in his pocket, Carey left for Colorado to become a mule skinner in railroad construction camps. He was earning thirty cents per hour when he met Ocean K. Dailey, a college professor from Nebraska. They were married on October 29, 1904.
Six weeks later, they left for the Panama Canal Zone where Carey was a general superintendent while his wife became a teacher in the first American School in the Canal Zone. In 1906, the Careys returned to the United States where he went into business as a railroad contractor. He started building sections of track linking Northwestern United States with Canada. Although he never received an engineering degree, Carey led a company that ran railroad and bridge construction projects throughout the country. he turned to canals as well as other construction projects.
During the Great Depression, Carey turned to strip coal mining in Pennsylvania and recouped resources left in the area. By now he had become well known among the most influential men of the country. One of these men was Tex Rickard, the famed sports promoter. They worked together to construct a new Madison Square Garden in New York City. Carey’s construction company also built the Boston Gardens
On May 27, 1936, Mayor Fiorella H. LaGuardia of New York, appointed William F. Carey Commissioner of Sanitation for the City of New York, a position he held for 10 years. He was promised a free hand to reorganize the department, and he had many disagreements with various civic and community groups but still accomplished his mission by boosting the morale of the workers, and developing enhanced street cleaning procedures.
Mr. Carey was director and head of many several corporations during his lifetimes. He died on his ranch in Indio, California on February 23, 1951.
Cleveland E. Dodge Jr. was born in New York City on March 7, 1922. He graduated from Princeton University in 1943 with a B.S.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering. After serving as commanding officer of a motor torpedo boat during World War II, Dodge joined the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York.
In 1951, while searching for a company that could manufacture wire for guided missiles that could withstand high temperatures, Dodge came across the Warren Wire Company of Pownal, Vermont. He created a Teflon coated wire suitable for use in high-temperature applications and went on to invent other applications for Teflon coated wires.
Dodge soon realized that Teflon coatings had enormous potential, and he founded Dodge Fibers Corporation, in Hoosick Falls in 1955. Dodge and his research team developed numerous applications, and within a few years they were one of the leaders of the industry and orders were pouring in from the large aerospace companies.
The original plant was located on Lower John Street where they developed a large range of products. Several divisions sprouted up with associated production plants that worked with fluorocarbons and laminates.
In 1962, the Dodge Machine and Tool Company was started to produce machinery used in the insulation of wire and cable and machinery for printing on packaging and with the printing on and decorating of packages. The workforce grew considerably and had plants in Rhode Island and was associated with factories in France, England, and Japan.
Dodge Industries was sold to Oak Electronetics Inc. in 1967. Though Dodge expected to remain in control of his own division after the sale, he was soon squeezed out by management people in Oak’s headquarters in Illinois. When Oak divested Dodge’s machine tool operation, he left Oak and took over Dodge Machine Company, which produced safety equipment used by window washers on high-rise buildings.
Dodge provided jobs for many people in this area over the course of the last 45 years. He was largely responsible for the economic rebirth of the Village of Hoosick Falls from the 1950s into the 1980s. Dodge died of cancer in 2007.
The Miller Family
Sometime between 1907 and 1910 Hyman Miller, his wife Bessie, and three children arrived in Hoosick Falls, NY from Lithuania. The children names were Rose, Dora and Louis. In 1910 Hyman opened a saloon on Railroad Avenue where they lived. Soon after they also opened a small grocery on 66 Mechanic street. Over the next several years, the children grew up to manage the family business. The location of the market would also change over time. In 1924 Hyman and Bessie Miller purchased the sizeable home at 166 Main Street from Charles and Lucy Getty.
On December 7, 1939 the Millers opened a market which was considered a great advance in food merchandising. It included, according to a local paper, “an array of merchandise that would do justice to a very large food market in a metropolitan district. Tons upon tons of the very finest foodstuffs have been placed on display.” The Millers invested thousands of dollars in this store, demonstrating their confidence in Hoosick Falls.
The Miller family was community minded. Local organizations could depend on them to provide discounts on food for banquets and dinners. Donations were made to all drives and if a group needed something they could depend on Louis to call on friends in the Capital region for assistance.
In March of 1973 the Millers closed the store and retired to Florida. This ended over 60 years serving the public in the grocery business.
The store was sold to Rensselaer County and became the Senior Citizen Center and the center for local county offices. In the fall of 1981, the family donated their home at 166 Main Street to the Hoosick Township Historical Society. The museum was named in honor of Louis Miller, who died in 1980. The Millers always financially supported the local museum named after their brother. They gave a generous donation to the Hoosick Falls Health Center during its expansion drive. They kept in touch with Edith Beaumont and helped with ideas and money needed to turn the home into a museum.
Edith Craig Reynolds
Edith Craig Reynolds was born in Walworth, England on December 9, 1875. She was educated in London and at Edinburgh University and travelled the world at a young age giving orations to eager crowds.
In 1900, she married the Rev. Aeneas Craig of the Established Church of Scotland. They had two children that died at ages of 2 and 12. The Rev. Craig died in 1922. In 1924, Mrs. Edith Craig came to the United States to speak at a meeting of the Northern Baptist Convention. She remained in the United States and became the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ellenburg Depot near Plattsburgh. In 1925, she became the Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Hoosick, New York. She was the first fully ordained woman minister in the State of New York. She was the first woman to preside as Chaplin to the New York State Legislature.
In 1928, Craig was married to Marcus T. Reynolds, a successful businessman. She retired from the active ministry shortly thereafter. They spent their winters in St. Petersburg, Florida where Mrs. Reynolds filled in at many churches in the area. Mr. Reynolds passed away in 1957.
Reynolds became a benefactor for many organizations in the local area. Over 25 Hoosick organizations received financial aid from Mrs. Reynolds. The Rescue Squad, the North Hoosick Fire Department, the Little League Field, VFW, and the Health Center were just a few that were supported by Mrs. Reynolds. In 1965 she gave a large sum of money to make the Community Pool a reality. The next year she gave funds toward building the skating rink with the major funds coming from a New York State grant.
Upon Reynolds’s death on September 3, 1971 a fund was set up by her estate to provide four-year scholarships to students from Rensselaer County. Rev. Reynolds also set up the Reynolds Foundation which gives funds to local organizations yearly.
Delmer Runkel was born in Boght, Albany County on March 3, 1856. He went to school in Troy and graduated from Troy Business School. In 1872, he became secretary to William Gay, cashier of the National State Bank of Troy. Gay was also treasurer of the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company of Hoosick Falls.
In 1885, Runkle was hired as head of the collection department at the Wood Factory. The next year he moved to Hoosick Falls and worked in this department until May 1901. After this, Runkle organized the Peoples National Bank. He was the cashier and a director until 1912. After the death of the president, Charles Cheney, Runkle was named president and served until 1929. The bank entered a new era of progress under Runkle’s guidance. Many individuals from the surrounding area started doing business in Hoosick Falls, expanding commerce in the community.
In 1931, Runkle became president of the National City Bank of Troy and left Hoosick Falls to be closer to his work. He stayed on as chairman of the board of Peoples Bank, and in 1932, helped guide the merger of the Peoples Bank with the First National Bank in Hoosick Falls.
Runkle was connected with and took an active part in virtually every business and civic interest in the village of Hoosick Falls. At the time he left the village he was president and trustee of the Permanent Savings and Loan and was one of the organizers of that institution. He was president and trustee of the Cheney Library, the Hoosick Falls Cemetery Association, and an elder in the First Presbyterian Church. He was also a trustee of the local school board for 20 years.
Dr. S.A. Skinner
Dr. Smith Austin (S.A.) Skinner, son of Smith Skinner and Rhoda Heaton, was born on March 15, 1824 in Thetforth, VT. His upbringing and education was heavily influenced toward the field of medicine under the tutelage of his maternal grandfather, Dr. Solomon Heaton. Skinner was related to the Quaker nature poet John Greenleaf Whittier [1807- 1892] of Massachusetts through Skinner’s maternal grandmother Rhoda Whittier, who was the poet’s aunt. There is no documentation indicating the two ever met.
Skinner studied medicine with his paternal uncle, Dr. Jonathan Skinner in Brownington, VT, for several years. In November 1850, Skinner married Catherine Hinman Blake of Salem, Vt., daughter of Samuel Blake and granddaughter of Judge Timothy Hinman, who an officer during the Revolutionary War who was with General George Washington at Valley Forge. Skinner then enrolled in the University of Vermont, graduating in 1854. Skinner remained in Vermont for the next ten years where he established a private practice in Bristol. In 1863, Vermont Governor Holbrook appointed him as one of the medical examiners of Vermont to examine men enrolled in the militia who applied for exemption from military duty for medical reasons.
In 1864, Skinner moved with his family to Hoosick Falls. For many years he was one of the most prominent and successful physicians and surgeons throughout Rensselaer County, and the leading practitioner in Hoosick Falls. In addition to being a charter member of the New York State Medical Association, Dr. Skinner became a member of the Rensselaer County Medical Society in 1878. He was also President of the Union Medical Society for several years and a member of the American Medical Association.
Skinner became involved in the civic medical concerns of the early Hoosick Falls community and worked with Judge Levi Chandler Ball in forming the first Board of Health in Hoosick Falls and also was the village’s first Health Officer, remaining in that position for eight years. He was instrumental in having the first water and sewage systems established in Hoosick Falls. Dr. Skinner successfully lobbied for the construction of the first street lights in the village.
Skinner was also a consummate utilitarian and inventor in the field of medicine and otherwise. He loved to tinker with surgical instruments, splints, and equipment, and earned some patents. He also wrote many papers and monographs on various medical subjects during his expansive career, focusing on, among other topics, diphtheria and diphtheritic pneumonia. Skinner also became interested in ballistics, especially rifles and ammunition, writing articles extensively for SHOOTING AND FISHING magazine.
Not much is known about Skinner’s death other than it was “sudden” on August 15, 1905 at his home in Hoosick Falls.
Capt. Frank Stevens
Captain Frank L. Stevens was born on October 28, 1864 to Marcia and Samuel S. Stevens, one of the founders of the Stevens and Thompson Paper Companies of Walloomsac, North Hoosick, and Greenwich. Frank attended the Peekskill Military Academy and graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1884 as a mechanical engineer and practical machinist. That same year he became a charter member of the 32nd Separate Company of the New York National Guard, the first unit in the local armory. Stevens became a First Lieutenant in 1885 and promoted to captain in 1893. He retired from the National Guard in 1901 after serving in the Spanish-American War.
Stevens went to work in his father’s mill and learned the business, becoming president of the firm in 1913. He remained in this position until 1935 when he became chairman of the board. During that time, he also served as Postmaster of North Hoosick and was active in Republican politics. In 1904, he was elected a State Assemblymen for one term.
Stevens was also involved in banking, serving as director of the First National Bank. After the death of bank president Ira J. Wood, Stevens acted as head until it consolidated with Peoples National Bank. For several years, Stevens was a Director of the Federal Reserve Bank, Second District.
Stevens was a member of the Rensselaer County Historical Society and president of the Hoosick Falls Historical Society. He was an authority on the early history of Rensselaer County and the Revolutionary War, and he owned many pieces of memorabilia of this era. In the 1920s, he started a campaign to gain state recognition for the Bennington Battlefield in Walloomsac, New York. The Battlefield was dedicated on August 16, 1927 with Gov. Alfred E. Smith in attendance. Stevens was appointed President of the Bennington Battlefield Park Commission.
Stevens died on May 19, 1941.
William David Thomas
William David Thomas was born in Middle Granville on March 22, 1880, the son of David and Mary McKenzie Thomas. He attended the public schools and graduated from the Middle Granville High School. Mr. Thomas went to Union College and the Albany School of Pharmacy. He graduated in 1904 and accepted a job in Hoosick Falls as a pharmacist working for George A. Ross. He later went into partnership with C.F.W. Smith and ran the pharmacy by himself starting in 1920 under the name of Thomas Pharmacy.
Thomas was interested in civic affairs and became involved in politics. He became a Republican Committeeman for the First District of the Town of Hoosick, and he was always at the local polls during elections. In 1917, Thomas ran for Town Clerk and served four two-year terms. When a vacancy occurred in the State Assembly in 1925, Mr. Thomas was appointed to the seat. In 1927 he ran for county treasurer and served for two three-year terms until 1933. In 1927, he was elected County Chairman of the Republican Party and held this position for seven years. He became a member of Congress through a special election, having the distinction of being the only pharmacist in the 73rd Congress. Thomas was reelected to the 74th Congress and served from January 30, 1934 until his death on May 17, 1936.
Flags on the Capitol flew at half-staff in Thomas’s honor. His body was sent home by train and lay in state at his home on Classic Street. His funeral was held at the Presbyterian Church on Church Street, Hoosick Falls. A delegation from Congress attended. All business in the village and town ceased during the funeral. Thomas was buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery. Tributes to the late congressman arrived from all over the country.
Mr. Thomas was married on July 24, 1907 to Carolyn Haffner of Brooklyn, New York. It was Mrs. Thomas who persuaded Grandma Moses to display her paintings in public for the first time at the Thomas Pharmacy.
Harry Weir was born in Cambridge, New York in 1886 and lived most of his life in North Hoosick. Weir was an active civic and business leader, long associated with the Noble and Wood Machine Company. He started as a foundry foreman, was named secretary of the company in 1918, and later served as treasurer, president, and general manager. After his retirement in 1960, he was named chairman of the board.
Weir organized and was principal officer of the People’s Gas and Oil Company, which served as agent for Texaco in Rensselaer and Washington Counties and parts of Vermont. He was also on the advisory board of the National Commercial Bank and Trust Company as well as on the executive committee of its predecessor, the Peoples First National Bank. He was a director and president of the Permanent Savings and Loan Association and chairman of the board at the time of his death. Weir was also a director of the Mary McClellan Hospital, treasurer of the former Presbyterian Church, and a trustee of the First United Church following the merger of the churches.
Weir was chairman of the board and contributed generously to the Town of Hoosick Youth Center, which utilized the former Presbyterian Church building. He was an active member and Vice President of the Hoosick Falls Committee for Industry that brought Nancy Shoe Company to town. He was a member of Kiwanis and belonged to the Elks for more than fifty years. He was treasurer of the Hoosick Falls Cemetery Association and belonged to Van Rensselaer Lodge F&AM.
Upon his death in 1963, Weir left many bequests to local organizations and individuals. The remaining money was set up as a trust fund to be given out in the Town of Hoosick area. In 1965, funds from his trust made it possible to complete the public pool.
Walter A. Wood III
Walter Abbott Wood III was born in Hoosick Falls, New York on December 23, 1907, the son of Walter A. Wood, Jr. and Dorothy Wood Eustis, the founder of the “Seeing Eye” dog program. He was the grandson of Walter A. Wood, the founder of the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Co. of Hoosick Falls.
Wood graduated from Fay School in Southboro, Mass., attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., and the Institute Bellerive in Switzerland. He was a member of the first graduating class of the American Geographical Society’s School of Surveying in New York City in 1932. He studied for four years at the Federal Polytechnic in Zurich, Switzerland. While attending the school he became a world-respected alpinist with many major ascents in the Alps of France and Switzerland. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Alaska in 1955.
Wood trained at an early age in Arctic survival and mountaineering and took part in more than 100 ascents on four continents, scaling the Rockies, the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalayas.
Wood’s first expedition in 1929 took him on a mapping mission in the Himalayas on the Kashmir Tibet border. His destinations in the 1930s included Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, and Greenland. In 1937, he led ascents of Shiva Temple and Wotan’s Throne for a scientific survey of those Arizona mesas.
There were narrow escapes and personal tragedy too. He and his son Peter were marooned on Malaspina Glacier at Mount Hubbard in 1951 when their supply plane failed to show up. On this plane was Wood’s wife, his daughter Valerie, and a veteran Alaska bush pilot. After being rescued the father and son joined the search for the missing aircraft, but it was never found.
Commissioned as an officer in the Army Specialist Corps in World War II, Wood took on various cold weather assignments in Alaska, Canada and the Aleutian chain. He trained mountain troops and a commando unit in winter warfare and was discharged in 1947 at the rank of colonel.
In his long association with the American Geographical Society, he worked as director of its exploration and field research division and served as president from 1957 to 1967. The society named him a councilor emeritus in 1992. He was president of the Explorers Club in New York from 1967 to 1971.
Wood remarried in 1976 to the former Renee Menassa. He died in West Palm Beach, FL on May 19, 1993. His funeral with full military honors was held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Hoosick Falls. He is buried at the Maple Grove Cemetery.
Nathaniel Shipman “Natty Bumppo”
From the Otsego Farmer, July 19, 1912
This is the story in substance of the original of Cooper’s “Natty Bumppo” as it was written by the Hon. L. Chandler Ball of Hoosick Falls, N. Y.· some sixty years ago. It is furnished The Otsego Farmer by James A. Beckett, Esq., of that place. Of course it must be taken into consideration that it was written to prove the claim of Nathaniel Shipman to recognition as the original Natty, while it has been accepted hereabouts as a well-established theory that David Shipman was the genuine claimant. The article does throw considerable light upon questions that have arisen in the minds of those who have given the subject consideration and will be read with interest by any such, no matter upon which side they may have a leaning. As Mr. Beckett says, there was only one man who could have settled the difficulty and his body lies these many years in Christ churchyard.
Nathaniel Shipman, a noted hunter and trapper, came to the Walloomsac valley at the close of the last French and Indian War, or about the year 1760. It is said that in the interval before that war he was with a detachment of soldiers sent to build a stockade which was located near the mouth of the Walloomsac River for the protection of the few settlers on and near the old war trail of the French and Indians, whose atrocities in this section are a matter of history.
Shipman married and made his home in the Walloomsac valley, in what is now the northeastern part of the town of Hoosick. He was a noted hunter and trapper, and was the friend of the Mohican Indians who remained in this district, and was treated by them with great respect and confidence. They hunted and lived together, and had fought side by side in the last French and Indian war. In this way Shipman became noted as a scout and Indian fighter, and was the trusted servant and friend of a distinguished British officer, for whom he always retained a most sincere affection.
When the war of the Revolution broke out, his loyalty to his friend (the British officer) made him hesitate to join the American army, and his apparent indifference to the patriot cause subjected him to the suspicion of being a Tory. Later, when the invasion of Burgoyne became imminent, and the feeling against Tories ran high, Shipman was attacked by his neighbors, tarred and feathered, and driven out of the place where he then lived, and all trace of him was lost.
Nothing is known of Nathaniel Shipman’s family, except that his daughter, Patience Shipman, born October 14, 1762, was married in 1796 to John Ryan, of the town of Hoosick. John Ryan was one of the most prominent and influential men of this section in his day. He came to this section when a mere boy, as the agent of the heirs of Jacobus Van Courtland, one of the four original grantees of the Hoosick patent. He was a man of the highest integrity, and was all his life one of the most trusted and best-liked men in the town. Besides holding nearly all the minor offices in the town, he was supervisor nine years, he was a member of the convention to amend the constitution of the State in 1801, and he served as a member of Assembly in 1803-6. He was the first in this district to be elected as a Republican, as the anti-Federal party was then known.
While in Albany in 1803, he became acquainted with Judge Cooper of Cooperstown, who related to him many of his trials and adventures in settling his large landed estate in Otsego county. Judge Cooper also told Mr. Ryan about an aged white man, who in company with a Mohican Indian lived in a hut or cave near Otsego lake. This white man was represented as a famous hunter, and a warrior of some celebrity in the French and Indian wars, a man of quaint speech and simple habits and, like his Indian companion, a true son of the forest. Judge Cooper constantly referred to the eccentric habits of the old hunter, and made his quaint sayings the subject of his daily conversation with his friends and acquaintances to such an extent, that when Mr. Ryan returned to his home at the close of the session, he related to his family the stories which Judge Cooper had told him of the old hunter of Otsego lake and his quaint sayings and doings.
Mrs. Ryan at once declared her belief that the old hunter whom he described to her was her father, who had been missing for twenty-six years. At the earnest solicitation of his wife, Mr. Ryan went to Cooperstown, making the journey of several days on horseback to see the old hunter, and thus relieve his wife’s anxiety. On reaching the cabin of the hunter he found the confirmation of his wife’s belief, for the white hunter described by Judge Cooper proved to be his wife’s father, Nathaniel Shipman.
When urged by Ryan, Shipman returned with him to Hoosick, and was made known to their friends, and cared for as long as he could be induced to stay, but his old habits were strong and the next spring he wandered off and again made his home in the forest. On the approach of winter, he was found- in a cave on the east side of the Green mountains. Being well supplied with food for the winter, he refused to return with the friends who discovered his camp, but promised to return later. The next year he returned, and lived with the Ryan family until his death in 1809. He was buried in the Ryan lot in the village burying ground, by the side of an uncle of Mr. Ryan named Jacobs, who was the first person buried there, and in the course of time his son-in-law and daughter were buried beside him.
The story of how Nathaniel Shipman was found at Otsego lake, and his restoration of his family after an absence of twenty-six years, through the agency of Judge William Cooper, was known to the people of this vicinity a score of years before the publication of “The Pioneers” by Cooper, and therefore long before the character of Leatherstocking was created, and for that reason, as well as from the high character and standing of those through whom it has come down to us, it should have far more weight with unprejudiced minds than the unsupported assertion of interested persons, no matter how often repeated.
It is evident from Cooper’s “Chronicles of Cooperstown” published in 1838, that he had some Shipman in mind when he created the character of Leatherstocking, as in it he speaks of “Shipman the Leatherstocking of the region.” The story of Nathaniel Shipman places him as the Shipman who was nearest to the Cooper family during the time that the author was at home, especially during his boyhood days when he was most likely to be impressed by the personality which he afterwards made famous in the character of “Natty Bumppo.” That Nathaniel Shipman such a man is shown by letter written long after his death by Dr. Benjamin Walworth, younger brother of Chancellor Reuben Hyde Walworth, whose family resided here for more than twenty years from 1795. He said, “I knew him in some of the last years of his life, that is, I knew him as youngsters know a facetious, jovial old man who prefers the company of young people to the company of old age. Be was generally known as Grandfather Shipman, and was always full of fun and frolic, and the young people were always pleased to have him with them. He spent the last years of his life with his son-in-law, John Ryan of Hoosick, until his death somewhere about the year 1809.”
Nathaniel Shipman’s life more nearly resembles the life of “Natty Bumppo” than does the life of David Shipman. Nathaniel was a hunter and a wanderer, whose early life was spent among the Indians, and as a scout and Indian fighter with the British soldiers, while David was a farmer whose life was spent with his family, with whom hunting was a pastime. Nathaniel served as a scout and guide in the last two French and Indian wars, and David, who was probably born in 1740 at the earliest, was only four years old when Nathaniel was serving in the war about which the Deerslayer was written. And again, Nathaniel was driven from his home in the Walloomsac valley because he would not join the American army in 1777, while David has left an honorable record as a soldier in that army in the Revolution. And last, was not the author led to name his character “Natty” because Nathaniel Shipman was the Shipman who filled his mind when he wrote “The Pioneers.”
After reading the life of J. Fenimore Cooper it appears that his life was so ordered that there was not much chance of his coming in close or continued contact with David Shipman after Nathaniel left Cooperstown. Mr. Cooper entered Yale College in 1802, the year before Nathaniel left Otsego lake. He left college in 1806, and went to sea, where he got his training for the navy. On his return in 1807 he was commissioned in the navy, and served until 1811, when he married Miss De Lancey and went to live at Angevine, the Westchester estate of Mrs. Cooper’s family, where his first novels, “Precaution” and ‘”The Spy,” were written in 1820 and 1821, so that it is extremely doubtful if he spent much time in the Cooperstown home from the time of Nathaniel’s departure until after David’s death in 1813.
It is claimed for David Shipman that he too furnished game, etc., for the Cooper family. This may well be true, because he lived in this vicinity about ten years after Nathaniel came to Hoosick with Mr. Ryan.
Soon after the publication of “The Pioneers,” Azariah Eddy, a son of one of the wealthiest residents of Hoosick Falls, being in New York City, was shown by a friend a copy of that work which he had received, and on the fly leaf was written the names of the principal characters and their-originals, and opposite the name of Leatherstocking was written the name “Nathaniel Shipman.”
Mr. Eddy was employed by Mr. Ryan to file and arrange his papers and letters both of a public and private nature, and in this confidential employment learned much of Mr. Ryan’s personal history, especially that part connected with Mr. Shipman, and being interested in the story and knowing something of Shipman, he purchased a copy of “The Pioneers,” and on his return read portions of it to Mr. Ryan, who listened with great interest to the description of Leatherstocking, and his exploits, until at some point in the story he started to his feet and exclaimed, “That is Father Shipman.”
It is not often that two persons of the same name are claimants for such an honor. In personal appearance :they were enough alike to be brothers, and there will always remain in our minds the impression that they were members of the same family, though there is no evidence of the fact. The prominence given to the claims of David Shipman as compared with the claims of Nathaniel, is explained by the fact that David was the ancestor of a numerous family who remained in that vicinity and did not know of the existence of Nathaniel Shipman except perhaps a dim tradition of a wandering elder brother who never married; while Nathaniel’s family became extinct with the death in 1842 of Mrs. Patience Shipman Ryan, and there was no one who had a distinct personal interest in keeping the claims of Nathaniel before the public. It may be true that David and Nathaniel were not known to each other, but we deem it more than a mere coincidence that the name Patience, apparently originating with Nathaniel’s daughter, has been preserved among the descendants of David Shipman.
When Judge Ball wrote the story of Nathaniel Shipman, he asked Doctor Walworth, then of Fredonia, N.Y., and Azariah Eddy, Esq., then of Lyons, Iowa, who was the executor of Mr. Ryan’s estate, and others to give him their recollections of the matter, they having been residents of the town when Nathaniel. returned, and from the result of this correspondence he felt confident that Mrs. Ryan was not mistaken when she believed that her father was the original of the hero of the Leatherstocking Tales.
After all, in the final analysis of a matter of this kind, in the absence of any declaration by the author, we must depend largely if not entirely upon circumstances to guide us, because the only person who could have decided positively who was the original of Leatherstocking, sleeps his last sleep amid the scenes which his magic pen revealed to the world with so much charm and beauty. And in the absence of any such declaration, we believe that the story enacted a score of years before Cooper revealed the beauties of “Glimmerglass” to an admiring world, warrant our belief that Nathaniel Shipman, whose remains lie in an unmarked grave in our old village churchyard, was the original of Natty Bumppo who for nearly a century has been known as Leatherstocking.
Anna Mary Robertson was born on September 7, 1860, on a farm in Greenwich – New York, one of a family of 10 children. At the age of 27, she married Thomas Salmon Moses, and the couple established themselves on a farm in Virginia. The Moses family spent nearly two decades in Virginia, during which time Anna Mary gave birth to 10 children, five of whom died in infancy. At this time she was called Mother Moses.
In 1905, the couple returned to New York and settled in Eagle Bridge, not far from Anna Mary’s birthplace. In 1927, her husband Thomas died and Anna continued to farm with the help of her youngest son until advancing age and bouts of arthritis forced her to reduce her comittment to everyday farm chores and she never really retired. In 1936 she went to live in Bennington for a couple of years to take care of her daughters children after her daughter Anna had died. When her son-inlaw remarried she moved back to the farm in Eagle Bridge and took up pretty much where she had left off.
Often, during her younger days as a wife and mother, Moses had been creative in her home using housepaint, for example, to decorate a fireboard – and her earliest works used embroidery, rather than paint. Her embroidered pictures were much admired by friends and relatives, so when arthritis made it painful to wield a needle, her sister suggested that it might be easier to paint. It was this pivotal suggestion that spurred Grandma Moses’ painting career in her late 70s.
Grandma Moses is usually characterized as a “Primitive” artist. For Moses, her early influences were the bucolic scenes published by Currier & Ives, and items that she was able to collect, such as greeting cards, calendar illustrations and cutouts from magazines and newspapers.
Moses first gained broader recognition when an amateur art collector, Louis J. Caldor, saw her works in a Hoosick Falls, NY, drugstore window. He not only purchased all of the works on display but, in 1939, convinced the Museum of Modern Art to include Moses in a members-only show of contemporary folk painting. The following year, Caldor met independent gallery-owner Otto Kallir, who agreed to mount a one-woman exhibition in New York at his Galerie St. Etienne. Moses first show, “What a Farmwife Painted,” opened on October 9, 1940, to favorable reviews. Charmed equally by her down-home personality, her biography and her paintings, the postwar mass-media became transfixed by the artist, and she eventually developed an enormous international following. During the next two decades, her works were publicized by Gimbel’s Department Store, printed on greeting cards, calendars, etc., and she was even honored by President Truman in 1949.
Moses became the subject of numerous “firsts” in the advent of electronic news media, such as live-remote radio and television transmissions. In 1950, a documentary film on the artist, narrated by Archibald MacLeish, was nominated for an Academy Award, and two years later Lillian Gish portrayed her in a live television dramatization. In 1955, Edward R. Murrow interviewed Grandma Moses on CBS’s “See It Now,” one of the few television programs at the time to use color. In spite of the fact that she rarely left her farm in upstate New York, Grandma Moses was in the national and international spotlight.
When Grandma Moses died on December 13, 1961, at the age of 101, she had been a regular news feature for more than two decades and she had completed more than 1,600 works of art. Grandma Moses is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Hoosick Falls, NY.
Grandma Moses first came to public attention in 1940, at the age of 80, as part of a general burst of appreciation for self-taught art. However, as interest declined for dozens of other artists who were discovered more or less simultaneously, Moses went on to even wider renown – featured on the covers of TIME and LIFE magazines, in the then-infant medium of television, in film, in best-selling books and on millions of greeting cards.
It was after her 1940 solo exhibition, What a Farm Wife Painted, that the “Grandma” tag was added (presumably she didn’t mind, as she qualified in real life). Living to the ripe old age of 101, she became a “household name,” saw her work reproduced countless times in a variety of media and continued to paint to the end. Ever the thrifty farmer, she never did quite reconcile herself with the sums of money people were willing to pay for her originals.
Harriet Hoctor, famous ballet dancer, was born in Hoosick Falls, New York on September 25, 1905. She was the daughter of Timothy and Elizabeth Kearney Hoctor. Her father was a monument engraver. The family lived at 148 Church Street, Hoosick Falls. Harriet was one of four children. She had two brothers, John and Frank, and a sister Eloise. John was the golf pro at the Hoosick Falls Country Club for a while.
She started dancing at a young age and appeared in local minstrel shows that were put on in the area. She appeared in the annual Walter A. Wood Company Minstrels to benefit the Hoosac Chapter American Red Cross, held on May 13 and 14, 1918, at age 13. The program for this show is found in the Louis Miller Museum.
At age 12, her aunt Annie Kearney took Harriet to New York City to study dance. Annie Kearney would act as her chaperone as she traveled the country in vaudeville. She played in famous vaudeville theaters like the Palace, the Roxy and the Paramount in New York City as well as the Hippodrome in London. Harriet shared billing with such performers as Jack Benny, George Jessel, Bill Robinson and George and Gracie Allen. She studied ballet with famous teachers in the United States and London.
In 1920, Harriet had her Broadway debut in the chorus of the Jerome Kern musical “Sally.” Her ballet roles included “Topsy and Eva” 1924‑26, “A La Carte” in 1927, “The Three Musketeers” in 1927, “Show Girl” in 1929, and “Simple Simon” in 1930. In the 1920s she won consistent praise from Brooks Atkinson, then the theater critic for the New York Times. He said she “is like a willow wand in the spring,” and that she had an ability to evoke, “stirring surrealist images” through her dancing.
In 1931‑32 she appeared in London. She danced in “Dying Swan” at Rockefeller Center in 1932. She went on to dance in the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1936 she danced in the movie “The Great Ziegfeld,” and in 1937 danced in the movie, “Shall We Dance,” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
In the beginning of the 40’s she danced and choreographed revues for Bill Rose’s Night Club “The Diamond Horseshoe.” In 1945, she started a Ballet School in Boston, which she ran and taught full time until 1974. Resumes of a number of more recent ballerinas state that they studied under Harriet Hoctor. The school was known around the world.
In an interview in 1930, she said, “People thought I was meant to be a dancer when I was a child because I could take my hair ribbons off with my feet.” She was double-jointed and was able to dance on her toes as she arched her back until her long hair touched the floor. She was able to travel the length of the stage in this position. When she danced in the Ziegfeld Follies in Boston, the newspapers gave her rave reviews. For example: Boston Traveler: “Harriet Hoctor, who appears much too seldom, has one memorable opportunity to display her exquisite grace in “Night Flight.” Boston Post: “Harriet Hoctor, the lovely ballerina, was lovely as ever and effective as always; Boston Globe: “Miss Hoctor’s best moment is when she holds the stage by herself in the impressionistic dance called ‘Night Flight.’”
She danced into the late 40’s and taught at her ballet school in Boston until 1974 when she retired. She moved to Lorton, VA and died in Virginia on June 11, 1977. Her body was brought back to Hoosick Falls and she is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Will J. Kennedy
Will J. Kennedy was born in Hoosick Falls on December 6, 1872 to John and Mary Meany Kennedy. He was educated in the public schools of the village. They lived in the “brown row” on Main Street, the site of the present post office.
Kennedy went to work at an early age as a barber’s assistant and also at the Walter A. Wood company. He was also a talented singer and dancer, and performed his first show at age 17 in Cortland, New York. During the early 1900’s, he played with many of the top acts in vaudeville and burlesque. He was lead-comedian with the Behman Burlesque Show from 1910 – 1915.
Kennedy’s On the Bench characterization of a small town constable and judge won acclaim throughout the country and was imitated by many other performers. He was one of the actors that started the so called “country rube act” which played to the stereotype that city dwellers had of rural people. Kennedy remained loyal to his hometown and returned home each year to spend summers in Hoosick Falls.
When World War I broke out, Kennedy was the first American entertainer to volunteer his services to entertain the troops. With other top actors, he toured the battlefields and encampments until the end of the war. After the war ended, he played the vaudeville circuit from New York’s Broadway to San Francisco in his own act called Pinch Me. He appeared on the playbills as Fred Allen, Milton Berle, and many other major vaudevillians. In the 30s, as the tastes of people changed and movies started to become popular, Kennedy retired and returned to Hoosick Falls.
When defense activities stepped up before World War II, Kennedy went to work at the Colasta Company. He worked there until the end of the war without missing a day. His health declined but he felt well enough to go back to Colasta as personnel director.
In March 1948, Kennedy was hospitalized due to a chronic heart ailment. He was released, but two weeks later he returned to the Health Center and died on April 8, 1948 at the age of 76.
Harry Van Surdam
Harry Van Surdam was born on September 28, 1881, the son of Henderson S. Van Surdam and the former Frances Leonard. His father worked at the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company as a traffic clerk in the main office and was also a musician. He started the summer band concerts in Wood Park and the present bandstand is named for Harry’s father.
Harry learned to play the clarinet and piano and was in his father’s band at age 12. He graduated from the Hoosick Falls High School in 1898 and continued playing music for the next two years. He decided to attend Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut in September 1901. He became interested in football and became captain of the freshman team. Harry played varsity football for the next three years as quarterback at 138 pounds. In 1904, he was named to the sub All-American team and in 1905 was named the Walter Camp All-American Quarterback.
Upon graduation, Harry became coach of the football team at Marietta College in Ohio where he “devised one of the first legal forward pass plays ever used by a college team,” according to a 1966 Oklahoma Daily article.
Harry went on to become coach of the University of the South and then El Paso Military Institute. The institute was forced to close in 1910, and Harry led spearheaded a campaign to save the school and turn it over to the state of Texas. It later became the University of Texas at El Paso.
When World War I broke out, Harry was past draft age but became a balloon observer. In 1923, he took an orchestra around the world playing on boats and at famous hotels. In 1926, he married Beulah, a daughter of the owners on the Munson Ocean Lines.
Harry officiated football for more than 40 years, and he was a regular at the Cotton Bowl and Sugar Bowl. He was a 52-year member of the Football Coaches Association.
Among Harry’s many honors was the Helms award for completing 70 years of activity in football. He helped organize the Touchdown Clubs of New York and Washington. In 1972, he was placed in the National Football Hall of Fame. For 30 years he wrote a sports column for the Hoosick Falls Standard Press called “Traveling Sports Reporter.” On September 28, 1981, the community honored Harry with a parade and concert in Wood Park. On May 20, 1982, a plaque was mounted on the band stand in the Wood’s Park to celebrate his 100th birthday. Harry Van Surdam died eight days later.
Seeing Eye’s Dorothy Leib Harrison Wood Eustis
Dorothy Harrison was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 30, 1886 into an old Philadelphia family. Her father, Charles Curtis Harrison, owned a prosperous sugar refining company. Dorothy was the youngest of six children. She was educated at private schools in Philadelphia and Eastbourne, England. In 1906, at the age of 20, she married Walter Abbot Wood, Jr. and moved to Hoosick Falls, New York. Walter was considerably older than Dorothy.
Walter A. Wood, Jr. was a New York State Senator and owned the Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company. They lived on the Wood Estate and had two sons, Walter ill in 1907 and Harrison in 1914. Mrs. Wood took an active interest in the Wood Fann by working with the selective breeding of cattle to increase milk production.
Wood died in 1915, and two years later Dorothy moved to Radnor, Pennsylvania. There she married George Eustis of Aiken
Mr. Eustis’s stepfather was celebrated concert pianist, Josef Hofmann. Mr. Hofmann owned a large chalet on Mt. Pelerin, overlooking Vevey, Switzerland. Dorothy proposed to rent the chalet and planned to establish a breeding and training kennel at the chalet. In 1923, she moved with her husband, her two children and her German Shepherd, Hans to Switzerland. She named her new kennel Fortunate Fields. Elliott S. Humphrey, who was born in Saratoga Springs, came to the kennels to work with them on the selective breeding of dogs.
They developed a strain of German shepherd of great intelligence, loyalty and an excellent disposition. The dogs from their kennel were soon used by the Swiss army and city police departments in Europe. In 1927, the Eustises learned of a school in Germany that trained dogs to help blind soldiers. Dorothy wrote an article about the German school for the Saturday Evening Post. Morris Frank, a blind man from Nashville, Tennessee read the article and contacted them about the program.
In 1928, Frank traveled to Switzerland to receive Buddy, a specially trained dog, and learned how to work with him. When he returned to Nashville, Frank and Buddy received much publicity. Other blind individuals made inquiries into getting a dog. In 1929, Dorothy Eustis returned to the United States, established the Seeing Eye, a training school for dogs and owners in Nashville. In 1932, the school settled permanently in Whippany, New Jersey. Buddy, the first seeing eye dog died on May 24, 1938 and was reported on in the New York Times.
Dorothy Eustis remained president of the Seeing Eye until 1940. Most of her money went into the organization. Because of her management of investing her fortune wisely, the organization has required no fund raising since 1958. “From the beginning she restricted the sale of her guide dogs to individuals of sufficient maturity, strength, ambition, and financial means to benefit from the freedom that a guide dog made possible.”
Dorothy died in New York City on September 8, 1946. Over 1,300 guide dogs were supplied to the blind during her life time.