Hoosick Township Historical Society

GEORGE E. GREENE (1860 - 1943)

Attorney George E. Greene was the "dean of the legal profession in Rensselaer County" and a leader in many community and commercial activities in Hoosick Falls and the surrounding area for over sixty years. He was the son of John and Lodisa (Becker) Greene born in Cambridge, New York on July 23, 1860. He was educated in the public schools of Cambridge and then attended Washington Academy in Salem, New York. After his formal education, as was customary in that era, instead of going to law school he apprenticed in the Law Office of Daniel M. Westfall of Cambridge for several years. He was admitted to the New York State Bar Association in 1883.

On January 1, 1884, he entered the Law Office of Charles M. Stroud of Hoosick Falls. He moved to Hoosick Falls and soon after had a home constructed at 4 Abbott Street where he lived for the remainder of his life. After Mr. Stroud's death in February 1887, Mr. Greene expanded the law firm with increasing success employing an "arnanuensis" [a legal secretary] in addition to the stenographer who was already with the firm. Due to the increased volume, his brother, Herbert J. Greene, joined the firm as a lawyer in 1890.

The Hoosick Railway Company was chartered June 9, 1983 and started operations from Hoosick Falls to Walloomsac Friday June 13, 1894. A Bennington Electric Railroad Company was chartered in Vermont November 28, 1894. The first company was controlled by Bath, Maine, investors. The second never started construction. In 1897, Greene became the prime mover in the incorporation of the Bennington and Hoosick Valley Railway. He organized a syndicate of Hoosick Falls and Bennington investors who purchased the two earlier railroad charters and sought to merge them into the new company. The Vermont legislature approved the merger November 15, 1898. Meanwhile, the investors used the earlier Bennington Electric Railway Company charter to build from Bennington to Walloomsac. The Bennington to Hoosick Falls route opened July 1, 1898. Greene was President and General Manager of the Railway and his office handled all the legal duties pertaining to its operation. Other activities also centered in his office. His position as President became quite active as due to the nature of the railroad business at the time many emergencies arose.

One harrowing furor erupted before the turn of the century. An independent railroad contractor defaulted on significant debts in connection with the construction of the Chatham and New Lebanon Railroad between Chatham, New York and Bennington, Vermont. This default also had an effect on the finances of the Bennington and Hoosick Valley Railway Company and other rail systems in the area. Mr. Greene was retained as counsel for all the railways effected by the contractor's debt deficiencies. Despite threats to his personal safety synonymous with a "wild west thriller", he surreptitiously "borrowed" a railroad engine and personally process served litigation papers on the independent contractor company and its clients all along the line. This froze all the rolling stock in the contractor's company rendering the business inoperable. Soon after, the case settled to his clients' and the Bennington and Hoosick Valley Railway's benefit.

Early in his career, Mr. Greene traveled extensively throughout the country representing various clients' interests. During one such extended stay in Chicago he met Elizabeth Raycroft whom he eventually married.

His most significant lifetime business connection was fifty years with the Permanent Savings and Loan Association as attorney. He also served for many years as President of the Association. The offices of the Permanent Savings and Loan Association were located within his space of offices in the Wood Block of Hoosick Falls and hundreds of customers transacted business there each month. All legal activity connected with the Permanent Savings and Loan Association was handled by Greene.

For many years, he was a legal adviser to Walter A. Wood Company especially concentrating in that concern's international business.

In 1911, the Neighborhood House of Hoosick Falls was organized and chartered three years later. This organization started with a house on Eldridge Avenue, and then moved to a building on Hall Street donated by Mrs. Wood. Because of the post war influenza outbreak and other events, the mission of the organization changed from social work to medical care. In 1925, Mr. Greene did the legal work to obtain a new charter changing the Neighborhood House on Hall Street into the Hoosick Falls Health Center.

At various times during his career in Hoosick Falls Greene was elected Town and/or Village Attorney. He was a staunch member of the Republican Party. Although his services were solicited, he never sought any other public office.

He was an active participant throughout his life in civic organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and its precursor, the Board of Trade.

In addition to his activities in Hoosick Falls, and during the course of his long legal career, Mr. Greene was an attorney for many corporations and participated in many interesting and important court cases. As a legal representative of the General Electric Company of Schenectady, New York, he was the lead attorney in the protracted court battles to acquire the real estate and electric power rights that led to the construction of the dam and hydroelectric station in Johnsonville, New York. The task was complicated and involved years of negotiation involving riparian and other property rights and acquainted the Hoosick Falls attorney with many court jurisdictions and lawyers.

He became much in demand as a legal representative in Troy and other areas of Rensselaer County. He was a frequent attendant in the Surrogate Court in Troy as he became especially adept in estate probating.

His oratorical and organizing abilities associated with the Republican Party soon became almost as recognizable in Troy as Hoosick Falls. Also, during the First World

Ray LaFlamme
April 25, 2004