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Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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of the Callan Road Improvement Company of Albany, and is a dealer in North
River blue stone. He is a man of sound judgment, of quick and accurate percep-
tion, of indomitable energy% and devotes to each of his various business enterprises
personal supervision. He has been uniformJy successful in business, is highly
esteemed and respected by all who know him. He is a charter member of Onesque-
thau Lodge No. 804, F. & A. M., of Coeymans, and as a citizen is public spirited,
progressive and influential.



ELXATHAN SWEET.

Elnatiian Sweet, ex-State engineer of the State of New York, represents the
sixth generation in each of which the name Elnathan has figured prominently. The
family dates back to the colonial period of Rhode Island where many of its members
distinguished themselves in civil, military, and commercial life. His great-great-
grandfather, Elnathan Sweet, removed to Dutchess county, N. Y., whence Elna-
than, a son of the latter, found his way about 1760 to Stephentown, Rensselaer
county, where he became an extensive farmer, and where Mr. Sweet's grandfather
and father, both named Elnathan and both farmers, were born. The latter was
born November 23, 1796, married Chloe Cole, and died in June, 1879. His wife's
death occurred in 1872, at the age of sixty-eight. He was a noted Baptist minister,
preaching mainly in Adams and Cheshire, Mass., and during the last twenty years
of his life in Stephentown, N. Y. He had four children, of whom the subject of this
sketch was the youngest.

Elnathan Sweet was born in Cheshire, Berkshire county, Mass., November 30,
1837, and received his preliminary education in the public and private schools of
Stephentown, N. Y., and Hancock, Mass. In 1859 he was graduated from Union
College, where he pursued a course of civil engineering. For about one year there-
after he was a deputy under Ward B. Burnett, surveyor-general of the State of Ne-
braska. Returning home he was married and at once engaged in civil engineering
as assistant on various railroad projects, with headquarters in Stephentown. In
1864 he went to Franklin, Pa., where he engaged in general engmeering, developing
oil wells, coal mines, etc., and where he remained until 1868, when he moved to Chi-
cago and prosecuted his profession. In 1869 he was appointed chief engineer of the
Rock Island and St. Louis RaiUvay (now the Rock Island & St. Louis division of the
C. B & O.), with headquarters in both Chicago and St. Louis. He built this line
two hundred and thirty miles in length in about twelve months, and in 1871, after
its completion, was also made superintendent. He held both positions until 1872,
and during the year 1871 was also consulting engineer of the Rockford Central and
the Cairo and St. Louis Railroads.

In 1872 he formed a partnership with James R. Y'oung, of Chicago, under the firm
name of E. Sweet, jr., & Co., and engaged in railroad construction, continuing until
1875. During that period they built most of the Northern Pacific Railway from the
Red River of the North, across Dakota, to the Missouri River several bridges in
Chicago, and a part of the tunnel at West Point, N. Y., for what is now the West
Shore Railroad. In 1875 he was appointed by Governor Tilden expert engineer for
the commission for investigating the abuses on the New York State canals and was
engaged in those complicated affairs until the spring of 1876, when he was appointed
division engineer, which position he held until the spring of 18s0. The work of the
Tilden commission was chiefly directed to the discovery of the abuses which had
become flagrant in the letting and in the carrying out of contracts for the various
engineering works involved in enlarging and improving the State canals. The pro-
fessional experience and accomplishments of Mr. Sweet enabled him to exerci.se a
salutary influence in directing this work in the most effective manner, and his labors
in formulating many of its important reports have contributed to the extensive and



53

permanent reforms which have since characterized this department of the State ad-
ministration.

Mr. Sweet resigned as division engineer of the canals in the spring of 1880 and
resumed the business of railroad construction with his former partner, James R.
Young, with offices in New York city. This partnership continued until 1883, their
business being principally the building of the New York, West Shore and Buffalo
Railroad for a distance of about fifty miles in Greene, Albany, and Orange counties,
finishing the West Point tunnel, and constructing a part of the New York, Susque-
hanna and Western Railroad from the Delaware River west. In 1883 he was nomi-
nated by the Democrats and elected State engineer, and in 1885 was re-elected to the
same office, serving in all four years. During Mr. Sweet's connection with the engi-
neering department of the State as division engineer and State engineer he made on
a large scale exhaustive experiments to determine the laws governing the resistance
of vessels propelled in narrow waterways, upon which the proper design and proba-
able capacity and economy of canals depend. A discussion of these experiments and
the laws of propulsion derived from them were published by him in the Transactions
of the American Society of Civil Engineers for 1819, and constitute the most impor-
tant contribution existing m this branch of engineering literature. He also during
that period thoroughly investigated the problem of connecting the great lakes with
the Hudson River by a ship canal. His paper on this subject, read before the
American Society of Civil Engineers in 1884, with the discussions upon it, published
in the Transactions of that Society for 1885, are of the highest authority on canal
questions.

As State engineer Mr. Sweet's efforts were strenuously exerted to restoring to the
engineering department of the State government the control of all engineering
questions and matters in which the State was concerned, many of which had
formerly been entrusted to irresponsible commissions or to other departments of the
State administrations; and it is largely due to his labors that the office of State en-
gineer now e.xercises most of the functions appropriate to the usefulness and dignity
of that constitutional office.

Since the expiration of his second term as State engineer on December 31, 1887,
Mr. Sweet has successfully followed his profession as a civil and consulting engi-
neer and also as president and trustee of the Hilton Bridge Construction Company.
In the prosecution of structural engineering he has introduced many improvements
in the design of movable bridges and bridges of long spans, the most notable per-
haps being the combination of the arch and the cantilever in the same structure
originated by him and first used in his design for the great bridge connecting Capi-
tol hill with Arbor hill in Albany, and which has since been extensively copied in
Europe and this country.

Mr. Sweet has lived in Albany since 1875, and is not only well known as an emi-
nent civil engineer, but has long been prominently identified with many of the city's
enterprises and efficiently active in promoting its welfare and advancement. He
was a trustee of the sinking fund and a member of the finance board of the city from
1889 to 1892, and in July, 1896, was reappointed to these positions. He was a mem-
ber of the water board from 1892 to 1894, and is a director in the Albany City Rail-
way. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the University
Club of New York, and the Fort Orange Club of Albany.



54

September 20, 1860, he was married to Marion Rose, daughter of Jonathan Rose,
of Stephentown, N. Y. They have had six children- Marion Rose, Marguerite,
Helen M., Elizabeth, Chloe, and Elnathan, jr., the latter bearing the name Elna-
than without break into the seventh generation of the Sweet family in America.



JAMES B. McKEE.

James B. McKee, the popular and genial postmaster of the city of Cohoes, has held
this important office since 1894. He was brought to this place when an infant by his
father, Hugh McKee, and has led an active and political life in local affairs. He
was one of the last village trustee before Cohoes was made a city in 1869. He is a
Democrat and served two years as alderman. In 1874 he was elected a member of
the School Board, serving four years, and in 1873 was appointed to the position of
foreman on the Erie Canal, which held until 1880. He was later appointed to the
same position on the canal and afterwards was superintendent of the canal for iive
years. Mr. McKee was born at West Troy in 1843. He was the son of a builder
and his business life was begun with his father as a carpenter after his education at
the Catholic Parochial School. He was ambitious to succeed in life and by perse-
vering efforts became contractor and builder. A notable event of his life was the
signing of the Father Matthew Temperance Pledge in 1850, a time of great excite-
ment, which pledge has been faithfully kept nearly half a century.



EDWARD B. CANTINE.

Edward B. C.anti.ne, agenc)' director for the Albany district of the New York
Life Insurance Company, is a son of Col. George A. and Marion J. (Cook) Cautine,
and was born in Rutland, Vt., August 4, 1860. He descends from a sturdy line of
French Huguenots of illustrious origin, his first American ancestor being Moses
Cantine, who fled from Bordeaux, France, to England, at the time of the revocation
of the Edict of Nantes, and afterward came to this country. He received, with
others, from Queen Anne, a large grant of land in what is now Ulster county, N. Y.,
where the family became prominent in civil, social, and military life, many of them
becoming associated with the political history of the State. Gen. John Cantine, a
son of Moses, was conspicuous as an officer and legislator during the Revolutionary
period, while Matthew Cantine was a member of the Provincial Congress in 1775,
1776, and 1777 and also a member of the first Council of Safety. The Civil List of
the State of New- York contains the names of several of the Cantine family who for
long periods filled positions as Congressmen, senators, assemblymen, judges, etc.
Moses I. Cantine, son of Gen. John Cantine, was for a time public printer of the
State of New York. He and Martin Van Buren married sisters, and his daughter,
Miss Christina Cantine, a niece of Van Buren's, presided at the White House dur-
ing the latter's administration as president. Many of the family enjoyed high social
distinction in this country and abroad. Col. George A. Cantine, father of Edward




liUWAKU Li. LANTINt.



55

B., is widely known throughout the country as a soldier, orator, and lecturer. He
served with distinction in the War of the Rebellion, being identified with the Tth Vt.
Vols., and subsequently in the Sequestration Department. He also served as assist-
ant quartermaster-general on the staff of Gen. Sylvester Dering and was later pro-
moted assistant inspector-general with the rank of colonel. After the war he settled
ill Rome, Oneida county, and finally in Newburgh, N. Y., where he now resides.

Edward B. Cahtine was educated in the public schools and academy of Rome,
N. Y., and finished at Cazenovia Seminary. He then entered the employ of the
wholesale grocery house of Alfred Ethridge & Co., of Rome, and contmued as trav-
eling salesman for nine years. In 1890 he came to Albany as manager of the Al-
bany office of the New York Life Insurance Company. In 1893, after the election
of John A. McCall as president of the company, Mr. Cantine was made agency
director, which position he still holds, having charge of the business in the counties
of Albany, Columbia, Greene, and Schoharie. He is one of the best known insur-
ance men in Eastern New York, and has directed the affairs of the New York Life
in this section with great credit and ability.

Mr. Cantine has also taken an active interest in the welfare of the Republican
party, which has honored him with several positions of responsibility. He has been
for three years clerk of the Board of Supervisors of Albany county and in 1892 rep-
resented the 13th ward of the city in the Common Council. In 1893 he was the un-
successful candidate for member of assembly from the Third assembly district, then
as now a stronghold of Democracy. He has been chairman of the executive com-
mittee of the Albany County Republican organization since 1895, and is also chair-
man of the General Republican Committee of the city of Albany. He is a promi-
nent Mason, being a member of Temple Lodge, No. 14, F. & A. M., Capital City
Chapter, No. 242, R. A. M., De Witt Clinton Council, No. 22, R. & S. M., Temple
Commandery, No. 2, K. T., and Cyprus Temple Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He
is also a member of the Elks, the Unconditional Republican and Capital City Clubs,
Albany County Wheelman, Y. M. C. A., and the Albany Club, of which he is a
member of the house committee. He is public spirited, enterprising, and progressive,
and takes a lively interest in all that concerns the welfare and advancement of the
community.



GEORGE I. AMSDELL.

George 1. Amshell is of English descent, and on his mother's side traces his an-
cestry to the Pilgrim band of the Mayflower. His father, William Amsdell, was
born in Cambridge, England, in 1T97. came to America in 1818, and in 1820 settled
in Albany, where he died in 1870. He was a brewer and maltster. His wife, Abi-
gail Millard, was born in New Paltz, Ulster county, N. Y., in 1803.

Mr. Amsdell was born in Kinderhook, N. Y., Septembers, 1827, and received his
education in the public schools of Albany and at boarding schools in Chatham and
Bloomingdale, N. Y. When fifteen years of age he entered the brewery of John
Taylor in Albany and later was employed in the brewery of Reed Brothers, of Troy.
In these two establishments he laid the foundations of a successful brewer and malt-



ster, which he supplemented by six years' experience — from 1845 to 1851 — in his
father's brewery in Guilderland, Albany county. In 1851 he formed a partnership
with his brother. Theodore M., under the firm name of Amsdell Brothers, and
started the nucleus of his present brewery on the end of the lot bounded by Jay,
Dove, and Lancaster streets in Albany. In 1856 they erected the present malt
house, which with the brewery, stables and storage buildings has frontages of 354
feet on Jay and Lancaster streets and 150 feet on Dove street, the main building
being five stories high. The capacity of the plant is about 360 barrels of ale daily
and 135,000 bushels of malt per annum. George L Amsdell personally superin-
tended the malt department and his brother acted as brewer until 1870, when their
business had increased to such extensive proportions that both thenceforward de-
voted their energies solely to the management of the concern. In October, 1892,
the firm was dissolved, George I. Amsdell becoming the sole proprietor, and in this
capacity he has since conducted with uniform success one of the oldest and largest
breweries and malt houses in the capital city, having also a large distributing depot
in New York, on Thirty-fourtb street, since 1883, which is in charge of his son,
George H.

Mr. .Amsdell has always been an ardent Democrat and was for four years alder-
man of the Ninth ward, but excepting this has steadfastly declined public office. He
is, however, actively identified with several important institutions of the city, being
one of the founders and a director of the Capital City Insurance Company, a trustee
of the Albany City Savings Institution, and a director and vice president of the
Albany City National Bank. He was a member of Co. B, Albany Continentals, and
later of the Tenth Regiment N. Y. N. G., serving altogether twelve years.

Mr. Amsdell has twice married. September, 1847, he married Miss Esther J.
White, of Albany, by whom he had six children, four sons and two daughters. In
August, 1875. he married Miss Dora C. Roraback, of Albany.



HOWARD N. FULLER.

HouARij N. Fri.LKR was born in New Baltimore. Greene county, N. Y.. October
29, 1853. His lineage is most honorable, notable and interesting. The blood of the
patriots and founders of our country flows unsullied through his veins. His ances-
tors, in both lines, made much of our nation's history, and contributed largely to the
permanent establishment of those essentia! principles of civil and religious liberty
upon which our government is founded and thereby secured to us the proud enjoy-
ment of their beneficences.

Mr. Fuller is the son of William Fuller and Lydia Allen Swezey. On the paternal
side he is a direct lineal descendant of Thomas Fuller, one of the immortal Mayflower
band of 1620, whose descendants achieved wide distinction in the realms of theology,
medicine and law. On the maternal side he is the great-great-grandson of Jonathan
Dickinson, the founder and first president of Princeton College, and through Jona-
than Dickinson's wife, his great-great-grandmother, Joanna Melyn, he is a lineal
descendant of Cornells Melyn, the powerful and humane patroon of Staten Island,
who resisted so effectually the selfish and unwarrantable tyrannies of Governors



57

Kieft and Stuyvesant. Jonathan Dickinson's father was Hezekiah Dickinson, born
l'"ebruary 37, 1636, and his grandfather was Nathaniel Dickinson, born in England
near the close of the sixteenth century. The lives and deeds of the Dickinsons are
inseparably interwoven with the colonial period of our republic. Many of them were
killed in the Indian warfares, but the progeny was numerous, and those who sur-
vived became distinguished in statecraft, literature, art and science. Gen. Horace
1 )ickinson, Hon. Daniel S. Dickinson, Hon, Don M. Dickinson, belong to the same line.
-Mr. Fuller is a great-grandnephew of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and Com-
modore Matthew Calbraith Perry, and is immediately related to the Bigelows, Bel-
iiKints, Sergeants (Phila.), Burnetts (N. J.), Runyons (N. J.), and Greens, (N. J.), one
nf whom, John C. Green, has made munificent gifts to Princeton College in memory
■ if his great-grandfather. Judith, the sister of Eastman Johnson, the celebrated artist,
is Mr. Fuller's great-aunt. Mr. Fuller's great-grandfathers, Josiah Wilson and John
Anderson, served in the Revolutionary war and in the war of 1812.

Mr. Fuller received his earliest education in the primary school of New Baltimore
and at the Coeymans Academy. When fifteen he entered Rutgers College Grammar
School at New Brunswick, N. J., with his brother Perry J., who is now a prominent
lawyer in New York city. A year later he matriculated at Rutgers College, and
after a regular course of four years was graduated from that institution in 1874.
While in college he acquired no little fayue in literary work. In 1873 he won the junior
Philoclean literary prize and in 1874 secured the senior prize for English composition.
He not only was a great lover of classical and English literature, but also of athletic
sports, and in 1873 was delegated to meet representatives of Yale, Harvard, Princeton,
Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, at New York, to make rules and regu-
lationsto govern collegiate football playing, and the rules then adopted still govern this
sport in American colleges. At college Mr. Fuller also exercised his poetical genius,
writing among other pieces a song entitled "On the Banks of the Old Raritan,"
which has ever since been the standard college song of old Rutgers, and in which
his name will live so long as the stones of that time-honored institution stand one
above another.

Returning from college Mr. Fuller began in 1875 the publication of the New Balti-
more Sun, which he continued about a year. In 1876 he came to Albany and with
his father and two brothers, under the firm name of William Fuller & Sons, engaged
in government contracting and dealing in building materials. While following
this business he also pursued for one year a course in both law and medicine, and
for another year thereafter, or until the death of its proprietor, managed and edited
the Greenbush Gazette. Since then he has been successfully engaged in business.

It is in the literary field, however, that he has won fame and honor. Acknowl-
edged as a clever writer, and possessing a genius unlimited in style and scope,
he is equally happy in serious and humorous composition. For two years he wrote
the column of witty paragraphs for the Yonkers Gazette and at the same time con-
tributed to the leading humorous periodicals of the country. Among his lyric
poems is that of "God Bless the Little Woman," the sentiments of which were
suggested by Mrs. Garfield's tender watchfulness over her husband after he had
fallen by the assassin's bullet. Afterward, in a personal note, she gracefully ex-
pressed her thanks to him for the song which had not only touched her own heart
but that of the nation. His touching tribute to the martyred president, " The Heart



of the Nation is Sad To-day." and his poem on the death of General Grant found
wide pubhcity and achieved for him added fame. He is also the author of " The
Dear Old Home," a popular sentimental song sung by Thatcher, Primrose & West's
minstrels, and the " Bi-Centennial Hymn," which was written by request of the
committee on arrangements and sung by thousands of school children and in the
city churches during the memorable celebration in Albany a few years ago. He has
also done considerable literary work of a serious and religious character. His
poetical efforts are mainly lyrical and pastoral, and reveal the true poetic instinct.
In all he displays a sympathetic impulse, a pure religious fervor, or an inspiring pat-
riotism. His versified and prose writings are characterized by that simple diction,
that pleasing imagery, that original thought and graceful style which appeal to the
hearts of his readers and inspire noble actions.

Mr. Fuller has always taken an active part in politics, and in nearly every cam-
paign since 1876 has addressed political meetings in behalf of the Republican ticket.
In 1885 he was elected alderman of the Eleventh ward and served a term of two
years, refusing a renomination. For three terms he was president of the Albany
Unconditional Republican Club, being at that time the only man re-elected to this
office during the club's permanent existence. He was one of the originators and chief
promoters of the National League of Republican Clubs, and in 1890 was his party's
candidate for mayor of the city. His successful opponent, the Hon. James H. Man-
ning, very gracefully appointed him commissioner of public instruction, which office
he held until forced to resign by the increased exactions of business occasioned by
the death of his father and his brother, De Witt A. , who were associated with him.
He is prominently connected with several social and literary organizations, is a Free
Mason, and a member of the Society of the Sons of the Revolution.



GEORGE HORNELL THACHER.

George Hok.nell Thacher, vice-president of the Albany City National Bank, and
one of the proprietors of the extensive car-wheel manufactory of the city, was born
in Albany on the 20th of November, 1851. He comes from a genuine New England
ancestry, many of whose members were influential and noted personages in the
history of the old Bay State. He is a son of the late Hon. George Hornell Thacher,
who was born in Hornellsville, Steuben county, N. Y., on the 4th of June, 1818, and
whose mother was a daughter of Judge Hornell of Hornellsville, after whom the
town is named. The elder Mr. Thacher married Ursula Jane Boyd, and they were
the parents of the Hon. John Boyd Thacher and George H. Thacher. Mr. Thacher's
ancestors, extending back in a direct line from his father, were Samuel Olney
Thacher, born February 9, 1789, who married Martha, daughter of the Hon. George
Hornell, 1814; Nathaniel Thacher, who was born in 1767, and who married Lydia
Place, of Gloucester, R. I., in 1787; Samuel Thacher, born at Middleboro, Mass., in
1717, who married Mrs. Sarah Kent in 17.58; Peter Thacher, of Middleboro, Mass.,
born in 1688, who married in 1711, Margaret Mary, daughter of Samuel Prince,
of Boston, a minister who was graduated from Harvard College in 1796; Peter
Thacher, born at Salem, Mass., in 1651, who married Theodora, daughter of Rev,




GEORGE H. THACHER.



59

John Oxen bridge, of Boston, who was also a graduate of Harvard College in 1671,
and a minister; and Rev. Thomas Thacher, born in England in 1620, married
Elizabeth Partridge, 1643, the original member of this branch of the Thacher family



Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 63 of 138)