Hoosick Township Historical Society

Newsletter - Feb 2004

Editor: Phil Leonard
Museum Curator: Charles Filkins
Louis Miller Museum (518) 686-4682

Chester A. Arthur 21st President - The Hoosick Connection

Chester Arthur lived in the Hoosick area around the 1850s. His father was a Baptist minister and pastor of the Hoosick Baptist Church. The family lived on Hill Road and the home is still being used.

He was born on October 25, 1830 in Fairfield, Vermont. Years later a book was written untitled “How a British Subject Became President of the United States”. This book claimed he was actually born in Canada but took the birthday of a brother that died as an infant and was born in the United States. The book claimed that when he received the nomination for vice president he simply appropriated the birthday of his dead brother.

In an interview in 1932, Julia Plant, a lifelong friend of the Arthur family, stated that Chester Arthur lived on the Hill Road when he was in his early twenties and was attending Union College. The family lived five years in Hoosick and Arthur came home often by stagecoach. He studied to be a teacher and lawyer. His sister Mary Arthur McElroy, also a Hoosick resident, acted as his official White House hostess. Information in biographies and on the Internet fail to mention President Arthur’s connection with Hoosick. Locally it is said he taught at the Old Stone School House but the literature only states that he became schoolmaster in North Pownal after college in 1849. He went back to Union College and received his Master’s degree in 1851 and in 1853, at age 23, joined the law firm of Culver and Parker in New York City as a clerk. Chester Arthur can be found listed in the 1850 census of Hoosick.

In 1880, during the Republican National Convention, he was selected as the running mate of James Garfield. The assassination of President Garfield in July, 1881, elevated him to the Presidency. Since he had been the second choice of Garfield many in the country thought that he would be an ineffectual leader. “During his administration he supported the Pendleton law for civil service reform; vetoed the act prohibiting Chinese immigration for 20 years; supported the Tariff Act of 1883 and Edmunds law prohibiting polygamy in the territories. Three transcontinental railways were completed his term. He spent only three years, 166 days as the President. He was unable to get the nomination of his party in 1884.

By the end of his term in office Chester Arthur had become a widely admired president. Publisher Alexander McClure wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted, and no one ever retired....more generally respected.” He died of a heart ailment in New York City on November 18, 1886 at the age of 56. He was buried with other members of his family in the Albany Rural Cemetery, Albany, New York.

Comments made in 1957

  • “I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, its going to be impossible to buy a weeks groceries for $20.00.”
  • “Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?”
  • “I’m afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying damn in “Gone With The Wind”, it seems every new movie has either hell or damn in it,”
  • “Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn’t surprise me if someday that they will be making more than the President.”
  • “No one can afford to be sick any more, $35.00 a day in the hospital is too rich for my blood.”
  • ”If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.”
  • “I’m just afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.”

    Local tombstones listed in “Stories on Stone”

    A book which contains 750 epitaphs from gravestones in all 50 states contains one from the local Maple Grove Cemetery and one from the Old Walloomsac Cemetery.

    The picture is in the old part of Maple Grove Cemetery and the epitaph reads:

    Dau. Of Gibson & Elizabeth Sprague
    died Jan. 11, 1816: aged
    9 years 4 months & 3 days

    She was stolen from the grave
    by Roderick B. Close & dissected
    at Dr. P. M. Armstrong’s office
    in Hoosick N.Y. from which place
    her mutilated remains were
    obtained & deposited here.
    Her body dissected by fiendish Men
    Her bones anatomized,
    Her soul we trust has risen to God
    Where few Physicians rise.

    Roderick B. Close was reported to be a student and Dr. Armstrong had an office in the old Pine Antiques Store now used by Ron Siefert at the four corners. In 1995, World Productions for Illinois were in town to photography the stone for a documentary called “Death in America”.

    The other epitaphs was on the stone dated 1845 to Peleg Sweet and his wife Desier, both buried in the same grave at the Old Walloomsac Cemetery (This cemetery is located on Cottrell Road) which reads as follows:
    There is a calm for those who weep,
    A rest for weary pilgrims found,
    They softly lie and sweetly Sleep’
    Low in the ground.

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