The Famous Swan Boat,
Written and contributed by Gordon Cornell, Broadalbin Historian.
Slightly more than two years ago, Pauline Anderson suggested it might be appropriate to "clear the air" as to what is fact and what might be fiction in regards to the Husted family of Brooklyn and Broadalbin. This has been a much bigger task than one might suspect and is without guarantee.
In the meantime, I have been fortunate enough to make contact with Jocelyn Pannett, the great-granddaughter of Colonel William Husted. This Husted descendant has supplied me with a wealth of information and it is my intent to use both my information and that from Joyce Pannett.
In copies of the Broadalbin Herald, we note that the Colonel Husted and F. S. Littlejohn families were occupying the S. B. Thompson residence on Maple Street by June of 1883. We also note that a triangular park will be constructed around the liberty pole in the center of town. It further states "by common accord, perhaps it will hereafter be known as Husted Park, in view of the liberality of Mrs. Colonel Husted and relatives in making contribution toward its construction."
The July 20, 1883, issue of the Broadalbin Herald informs us that the residence and grounds occupied by the Husted and Littlejohn families "are being ornamented and improved in accordance with the taste of their occupants."
By August of 1885, "Colonel William Husted with his usual and well-known spirit of public enterprise, has attempted to secure a portion of the old island with a view of making a public park. " The June 25, 1886 issue states that "improvements continue on Maple Street. The latest is a very handsome stone wall in front of Colonel Husted's west-side property."
The June 16, 1887 Broadalbin Herald informs us of the death of Seymour LeGrand Husted, on the 14th in Brooklyn at age 77. He was the father of Colonel Husted, Kitty Husted and others. As best I can determine, Seymour never resided in Broadalbin. However, his widow spent many visits there with her daughter Kitty.
Then in the August 5, 1887 issue, we read that "Colonel Husted has erected a large windmill on his premises for irrigating purposes."
When the April 20, 1888 Herald "hit the streets", it carried the following news: "work is progressing rapidly on the new Episcopal Chapel on Maple Street. From the present appearances it will be a small but highly attractive place of worship...."
While not proven, it is believed that it was in 1889 Miss M. K. (Kitty) Husted had her "summer cottage" built, having it designed by the noted architect Stanford White. This was the same man who became involved in a love triangle with Harry Thaw and received world wide publicity.
The July 31, 1890, Herald brought the citizens the sad news that Colonel William Husted, while here at his summer residence in Broadalbin, accidentally shot himself on Thursday last and died almost instantly. Mr. Husted was very wealthy, being largely interested in street railroads in Brooklyn. Colonel Husted had not been too well of late, and there were those who thought he might have fired the fatal shot with intent.
The funeral services for Colonel Husted were celebrated in the Church of the Holy Trinity on Clinton Street, Brooklyn, by Bishop Littlejohn. Colonel Husted was buried in the prestigious Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn beside other family members.
Mr. Husted's will lists his son, Herbert Seymour Husted, and his wife, L. Jennie Husted (1). It further mentions that if Mrs. Husted should die without a will, her money was to be divided among her sisters, Alida L. Littlejohn and Florence L. Littlejohn; her brother Fitzhugh Littlejohn and her father Frederick I. Littlejohn.
The mother of Colonel Husted died February 23, 1901, and was laid to rest next to her husband in Green Wood Cemetery.
Going back to an earlier comment, we do know that the Husted family did buy Chambers Island and had the area developed into a beautiful man-made lake surrounded by a path and many weeping willow trees. A wonderful array of boats and canoes was placed on the lake and they added to the beauty of the area. Of greatest significance was the Swan Boat, which was often photographed due to its uniqueness.
About 1890 the Husted family installed the swinging bridge (suspension bridge) to cross the Kennyetto Creek at the dam for the mill pond. This was not only a thing of beauty and interest, but it shortened significantly the distance from Maple, Thompson and Union Streets to the knitting mill, the railroad depot and other businesses and homes in that area.
While the passing of Colonel Husted was a great loss to the family as well as community, it did not deter the remaining family members from providing improvements within our community. In June 1891 a free reading room was established for use by all. Due to lack of proper respect for the books and equipment, the library was closed after a few years.
It was during the 1890's that the Husteds purchased the old American Hotel (American House) and had it razed so as to widen the intersection and also remove an old unkempt structure.
The Husted family, and in particular, Miss Kitty, were strong supporters of bringing the railroad to Broadalbin and assisting with it financially, And why not, they were a well known Brooklyn rapid transit and street railroad family! The beautiful and ornate railroad station that graced our village from about 1895 to about 1912 was provided by Miss Kitty. Miss Kitty was honored for her support by the privilege of driving the last spike, after which she, some of her friends, Dr. H. C. Finch and Mr. Wallace Cleveland, received a ride to Gloversville on the first train.
A newspaper clipping dated October 22, 1896, gives extensive information and detail relative to a political demonstration held in Broadalbin and attended by more than 1,000 voters from Gloversville and Johnstown. A special train for the occasion left Johnstown shortly after 7 o'clock with 400 persons aboard. It stopped in Gloversville where a crowd of over 600 people were waiting. Cars were provided for all, and with only a slight delay, the long train of 16 heavily loaded coaches hauled by 2 locomotives sped its way toward Broadalbin. A long and lengthy parade made its way throughout the village streets where homes were decorated with lanterns, flags and bunting. At the summer home of the Husted family, the decorations surpassed all the others in beauty and fanciful design. The effect of Chinese lanterns hung in great profusion about the residence and spacious lawn, together with bright bunting and flags, was greatly augmented, as the companies marched and counter-marched, by the continuous burning of red and green fire. The companies also gave exhibition drills in front of the residence, and the members of the Husted family were heartily cheered for their patriotic display. The parade then made its way to the front of the Earl Hotel where speakers were waiting to deliver their addresses.
The Italian Gardens was another beautification project of the Husteds with Miss Kitty taking a major role. While it was their formal garden, it was open to the public for several years, but in time was closed to the populace due to the abuse and disregard shown.
For many years the Husted family maintained their own greenhouse. This provided plants for their gardens and a warm winter place to store the palms that graced their driveway in the summer months. The coming of World War I created a coal shortage, and the greenhouse was shut down, never to be run again. The contents of the greenhouse were donated to Cornell University as it contained a valuable collection of rare plants from all parts of the world.
Miss Kitty maintained a "Tallyho" in Broadalbin. It was drawn by four horses, had a uniformed driver in front, a footman in the rear, and a bugler to sound their approach at intersections. It is said that the bugle could be heard for quite some distance, and that the residents would run out to the street to see Miss Kitty pass by.
She continued to spend summers at her Broadalbin "cottage" on Husted Terrace through the 1921 season. Maple Street was known as Husted Terrace at that time. In Manhattan, she resided at 930 Park Avenue and was the youngest daughter of Seymour L. and Mary J. Husted. Born March 21, 1848, she died May 6, 1922, of heart disease. She was interred on the family burial plot in Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.
Miss Kitty seems to be the family member who is remembered most frequently by the Broadalbin citizens. One might suspect that this is due to her high profile lifestyle as well as the fact that she spent 32 more summers in Broadalbin than did the Colonel.
Her obituary, as found in the Morning Herald, May 11, 1922, lists several items of interest. Mention was made that she contributed generously to the local churches as well as to other worthwhile causes.
The grief felt by the citizens of Broadalbin was demonstrated, according to the Morning Herald for Wednesday, May 10, 1922, by the ringing of the church bells throughout the village, starting at 2:30 o'clock and continuing for 10 minutes. Her death brought to a close a period of about 40 years in which the Husted family played a vital role in our community. Colonel Husted was a prominent figure in the earlier "Husted Days" in Broadalbin, and Margaret Katherine (Miss Kitty) saw to it that the tradition continued for decades.
It is indeed sad to note so little remains of all the wonderful things that the Husted family did for our village.
(1) She later called herself Lillias Jane.
Special recognition is given to Joycelyn Pannett for her critique of this article.
Copyright ©2002 Gordon Cornell, Jeanette Shiel
All Rights Reserved.
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