Levi Chandler Ball 1809-1875
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, 50x34 feet, two stories high, with two wings 31x24 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.
In 1842, Mr. Ball donated the land and money to build the Ball Academy on Classic Street. It was built of brick and was a substantial building. The New York State Board of Regents approved the institution on April 11, 1843. It was one of the first Academies in the State and people came from far away to attend. He remained active as a member of the Board of Trustees and the school flourished until 1863. At this time it fell on hard times due to death of backers and general lack of financial support. The school was given to School District Number 1 of the Town of Hoosick, a free union school. The school operated in the Village until 1961 when the new Central School was built on Route 22. It was an elementary school and was called the Classic Street School. This building was used as a school for 119 years.
In 1852, when Walter A. Wood bought the shop rights to a reaper patented by John Manny, L. Chandler Ball and Russell Parsons divided the territory with Mr. Wood. Mr. Wood started the manufacturing of this reaper as did Ball and Parsons. Ball and Parsons went out of business in 1858. The great fire of 1860 destroyed the Ball and Parsons’ factory. Parsons went to work for Walter A. Wood. By 1865 the business had grown and a stock company was formed, to be called the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company.
Chandler Ball was President of the village for 12 terms over the 36 years he lived in Hoosick Falls. Lists of his accomplishments were:
1835 Captain of the Militia
1836 Justice of the Peace
1837 Director of Troy City Bank
1840 Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
1840 Colonel 78th Regiment
1842 Brigadier General 8th Brigade
1849 Director of Troy and Boston Railroad
(He was responsible for bringing the railroad to the village)
1860 An elected member of the Assembly
At the age of 53, Chandler Ball left the Assembly to become a quartermaster of the 125th Regiment in the Civil War. He was taken a prisoner at the surrender of Harpers Ferry and after being exchanged, he became a paymaster in the United States Army. Over the next few years he paid out more than $4,000,000 even under enemy fire.
Mr. Ball had only three years of elementary education. He taught himself many subjects and spent many hours studying philosophy and science. He became skilled in English composition and became an outstanding orator. In 1849, he was given an honorary degree from Union College. In1860, he received an honorary degree from Williams College. In 1870's he wrote the Annals of Hoosick, which were published in the Rensselaer County Standard. In 1927-28 The Rensselaer County Standard reprinted the Annals.
Marcia Ball gave birth to three children. A daughter Kate died at age 14. Their son, L. Burke Ball served in the Civil War. Their daughter Mary married Charles Cheney, President of the People National Bank. The Cheneys left the money that was used to build the Cheney Library that is still used as the local library in Hoosick Falls.
Levi Chandler Ball died on May 8, 1875. Throughout his life he used his wealth to better the Village of Hoosick Falls. The Village of Hoosick Falls is indebted to this man who gave so much to benefit the community.
Compiled by Philip Leonard, November, 1999