The History of Gloversville

 

    The growth of Gloversville presents a phenomenon in village-building.  From a hamlet of a dozen houses in 1830; remote from all important channels of communication, with no advantage of location but the water-power afforded by a small stream, it has outgrown neighboring villages that were old when it was only fairly started; and almost at its doors in some directions the forest is now giving way before its rapid expansion.  And this mainly by the almost accidental development of a peculiar industry, which now draws its materials from every quarter of the globe, and sends its product abroad well nigh as widely, giving support to most of the inhabitants of the village, and a name to their enterprising town.

    The earliest settlements from which the village has grown were made about the close of the last century, at the eastern and western extremities of the corporation as now bounded, namely about the four corners northeast of Prospect Hill Cemetery, and in the vicinity of McNab's Mills.  At the latter location settled, as enumerated by Mr. Horace Sprague in 1857:  "James Lord, a magistrate and a person of some note; Job Heacock, ancestor of the Heacocks of Kingsboro; Jehial Griswold; Benjamin Crosset, a loyalist of the Revolution, Robert, Charles and John Wilson, brothers, with whom lived their mother, the widow Wilson, and their grandmother, the widow Greig, whose eldest son, Captain Greig, was an officer in the American army, whose capture by the Indians, as narrated in the story of 'The Faithful American Dog', was familiar to every school-boy thirty years ago; Thomas Mann, father of William and John Mann, afterward favorably known in the community; Asa Jones, grandfather of Col. Harvey Jones; Rev. John Lindley, minister of the church at Kingsboro Center; Samuel Giles and William C. Mills."

At the eastern settlement Daniel Bedford kept a store and a tavern.  The principal residents at this point were two families of Throops; one that of Rev. George Throop, whose adopted son, George B., was afterward the father Governor Enos T. Throop; and the other that of Col. Josiah Throop, whose son, William, was the Baptist preacher at West Kingsboro.  Between these hill-and-valley hamlets but two houses then represented the large village of the present day.  One of them, occupied by William Ward, sen., stood just west of the spot now covered by the Congregational church.  Mr. Ward, Samuel Giles, William C. Mills and James Burr, with their immediate descendants, are spoken as the founders of Gloversville.

    The oldest dwelling now standing in the village is believed to be the brick house on Main street, near Day & Steele's mill.  It was built prior to 1800 by John Mathews; sold by him to S. Livingston, and by him to Joab Phelps.  It passed into the hands of E. Hulbert, the present owner, May 1, 1835.

    James Burr, born December 12, 1779 in West Hartford, Connecticut, moved to Fulton county with his father four years later.  In 1810 he established in what is now Gloversville the first glove manufactory in the village.  His further contributions to this branch of business are mentioned in connection with its full history given elsewhere.  On establishing himself in Gloversville, he built a brick house where the Alvord House now stands.  Here he lived until 1836, when he moved into a hotel called the Temperance House, built for him by his son, H. L. Burr, in the previous year.  This building, a wooden structure, was the first hotel in the village.  It stood on the west side of Main street, near Fulton, and was kept by Mr. Burr as a public house about twelve years.  It was mentioned by Mr. Sprague in 1857, as then standing "opposite the old Baptist church."  James Burr had seven children, Caroline, Horatio L., James H., William H., Selina, Francis and David M.  The last three died on "the old place?".  Horatio L. Burr, born in 1810, manufactured gloves from 1836 to 1842, and from 1846 to 1856, managing a blacksmith shop in the intervening years.  In 1857 he built the first planing mill in the country.  He also made the first block of plank similar to those now used for cutting gloves, and the first buffalo coat made in the country.

    At the beginning of this century there is said to have been a tavern kept by Horace Burr, opposite the northeast corner of Prospect Hill Cemetery.  It ceased to be kept as a public house about 1807.

    At a very early date, William C. Mills built  grist and fulling mills, near where the Alvord House now stands.  The grist-mill, indeed, is said to have been the first in this section of the country, though there is a tradition of one built previously by J. Mathews.  Both would doubtless have been much later than that of Sir William Johnson, near Johnson Hall.  The mill property of William C. Mills passed into the hands of his son, Philo, about 1800.  The latter was killed in 1835 by the overturning upon him of a loaded sleigh with which he was traveling to Schenectady.  The grist-mill then came into the possession of his son, Sidney, who sold it to Frederick Steele.

    Simon S. Sill opened the first store in Gloversville in 1828, in a small building nearly opposite the site of the Alvord House.  In 1829, Henry Churchill went into the mercantile business, which he continued about thirty years.  In 1839 there were still but two stores in the village, and in the autumn of that year one of them, kept by J. K. Sexton, was burned.

    In 1828 D. S. Tarr removed from Boston to Gloversville, and opened the cabinet shop in the village.  He continued the business there and at Kingsboro about twenty years.

    The hamlet from which Gloversville has grown seems to have borne no name before 1816.  In that year Jonathan Sedgwick proposed that it be called Stump City.  The name is said to have commended itself immediately to the villagers' sense of the fitness of things and was adopted.  The site of the growing village may be supposed to have bristled with pine stumps, after the manner of the hills on its present southern border.  If so, the appropriateness of the name will not be questioned, whatever may be said of its beauty.  In the latter respect, improvement seems to have been thought possible, and when a post-office was established, and Henry Churchill appointed postmaster, in 1828, the present name was adopted at his suggestion, seconded by Jennison Giles.  Gloversville thus presents the singular case of a village twice named from its most striking characteristic, glove-making having already been sufficiently developed in 1828 to dictate the name then chosen.

    For many years the place gave no promise of its recent rapid growth.  It probably deserved no name before its first christening in 1816, for in 1830 it had only fourteen houses, and but two were added in the two years.  Progress in building then became more rapid.  The village was incorporated in 1851.  In 1855, and the next two years, one hundred and fourteen dwellings were put up, raising the number in the village to about five hundred, with some three thousand inhabitants.  The Mills (now the Mason) house was built in 1856-6, and its erection is spoken of by Mr. Sprague as "an era in the building operations of the village".  The establishment cost $65,000.  It was heated by steam and lighted by gas, furnishing the latter also for the illumination of the churches, business places, and some dwellings.  Samuel S. Mills was the proprietor.

    The land - twenty acres - occupied by the appropriately named Prospect Hill Cemetery, was purchased for its purpose in 1855 at a cost of $1,000.  The first burial upon it was that of Lewis Meade.  In this cemetery is buried Othniel Gorton, a veteran of 1812, who settled near Kingsboro in 1819 as a watch and clock maker.  For more than twenty years before his death, in 1872 (aged 77), he lived in Gloversville.  Another veteran of 1812, James Whittaker, was still living in 1877, in his 86th year, with his son, E. V. Whittaker, in Fremont street.

    When Mr. Horace Sprague wrote of Gloversville, in 1857, the business places comprised of four dry goods, three clothing, three grocery, three "flour", one drug, one jewelry, and two "fancy" stores; two stove and tinware shops; two lawyers' and three physicians' offices.  That gentleman also made the following interesting reference to the relative prices of real estate in the village at several dates:

    "All the land lying north of Fulton and west  of Bleecker streets, and all lying between Main, Fulton and Water streets and owned by Wm. T. Mills, was sold in 1825 to Samuel Giles for $500.  Wm. Ward, sen., owned, previous to the year 1808, all the land east of Bleecker and north of Fulton streets, and all south of Fulton street from nearly opposite the Congregational church to the eastern limits of the village.  That portion called the Hardy place, including all west of Main to Bleecker street and north of Fulton street, was sold in year 1820 for $500;  all the remaining lands of Wm. Ward, sen., owned by Dea. Abraham Ward, were sold in 1833 for $800.  Thirty acres lying south of Fulton and east of Main streets, owned by Jennison Giles, were sold to Jennison G. Ward in 1836, for $1,800.  Their present value would reach $5,000.

    The population of the village is not far from 4,000.  Officers in 1877:  President, H .Z. Kasson; clerk, A. Wetherwax; treasurer, John R. Warman; collector, P. F. Everest; street commissioner, J. R. Cadman;  trustees, H. Z. Kasson, P. Van Wart, Geo. W. Nickloy, Daniel Lasher, J. Sunderlin, A. D. Simmons, C. McDougal, L. F. Marshall and J. H. Johnson; assessors, A. Bruce, E. C. Burton and W. Case.

Source:  "History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, N.Y." (New York: F. W. Beers & Co., 1878), pg 201-202.

 


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