William H. Young
City of Troy

Information on this page is from "History of Rensselaer Co., New York," by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

WILLIAM H. YOUNG. The subject of this sketch was born in the city of Troy, N. Y., on the 3d day of November, 1817. His father, James Young, was born in Norwich, Conn., Jan. 7, 1782, and came to Troy in October, 1796, when he was fourteen years of age, and was apprenticed to his cousin, Col. Nathaniel Adams, who was the leading gold- and silversmith of the village at that time.

In 1804 he revisited his native place, and for one year he worked at his trade with Abel Brewster, returning to Troy in April, 1805, and serving as journeyman with Col. Adams until the year 1809.

In that year, he, together with a fellow-apprentice, purchased the establishment and continued the business under the firm-name of Young & Bell, which was successful for a time, when Mr. Bell, who proved to be an unprofitable partner, left after a brief career. From that time until the year 1837, Mr. Young carried on the business in his own name, interrupted only by the great fire of 1820, when his stock and tools were entirely destroyed, but was soon again established in business at No. 165 River Street, in a wooden building erected by Mr. Samuel Gale for two tenants,--for Zephaniah Filer, in the tailoring business, on the south, the north part being occupied by Mr. Young, silversmith. In 1837, Mr. Young was obliged to relinquish his business from impaired eyesight, and died at Troy, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, Oct. 26, 1865. His mother, May Gardiner, was the daughter of Job B. Gardiner, was born April 7, 1797, at Rensselaerville, Albany Co., and was married to Mr. Young on the 1st day of February, 1817, by the Rev. Elijah Chichester, of the Methodist Episcopal Church. At the time of the death of Mrs. Young, which occurred on the 19th day of April, 1874, she was the oldest member of the State Street Methodist Church of this city, her name appearing upon the records as such on the 10th of July, 1816, when in her nineteenth year.

At the age of fourteen, Wm. H. Young, having received only such education as the high-school of that day afforded, entered the employment of Robert Wasson, a retail dry-goods house at No. 253 River Street (now the north part of Bondett, Smith & Co.'s store), where he remained until the spring of 1833, when he was offered a position as under-clerk in the wholesale dry-goods house of G. & C. Dauchey, No. 255 River Street, which he accepted, and on the 28th of April, of that year, he entered upon the duties of his clerkship. In the winter of 1834 his employers permitted him to attend school, and he entered the "Troy Practical School," Charles H. Anthony principal, located at the time on the southwest corner of State and Fourth Streets, knows as the Yellow School House, where he remained two quarters, and at the same time was required to attend the opening and closing of the store, and such errands as were required of him between school hours. In the spring of 1842, after nine years' clerkship with G. & C. Dauchy, an opportunity offered of entering the book and stationery business, whose proprietor (Zephaniah Clark) wished to relinquish, on account of ill health, and he, together with an old schoolmate,--Charles P. Hartt,--purchased the stock and fixtures of L. Clark, at the store No. 216 River Street, and entered upon mercantile life as one of the principals of the firm of Young & Hart.

In the spring of 1851 his partner, Charles P. Hartt, received the appointment of cashier of the Commercial Bank of Burlington, Vt., which office he accepted, and entered upon his duties in the month of April of that year, Mr. Young purchasing his interest in the bookstore, and continuing it in his own name until the spring of 1860, when he admitted into partnership Benj. D. Benson, who had been in his employ for nearly nine years, under the firm-name of Young & Benson. In the spring of 1866 the firm dissolved, B. D. Benson retiring.

From 1866, Mr. Young continued the business alone, until the month of March, 1869, when he associated with him Frederick Blake, who had been in his employ as confidential clerk for a time, under the firm-name of Wm. H. Young & Blake. In the month of March, 1875, Mr. Blake withdrew from the firm, and Mr. Young again assumed the management of the business, and at the present writing (November, 1879) is actively engaged in its details. Mr. Young has been honored with a number of important positions, one of which was that of president of the Troy Young Men's Association, to which he was elected at the election of officers in the month of December, 1853, after having served a term each, as third, second, and first vice-president, successively.

In 1848 he was elected a member of the old board of school commissioners, and on the formation of the new board by a special law, enacted by the State in 1849, was elected by the common council commissioner to represent the Second Ward (with John T. McConn as associated commissioner), which position he filled for eleven years, representing the Second ten years, and one year the Eighth Ward in that body.

In February, 1850, he was elected treasurer of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which position he has held for nearly thirty years, and still retains; he has seen the Institution in it's various phases of want and prosperity, until it has reached its present eminent position, second to none in this country.

In January, 1868, he was elected a director of the Mutual National Bank of this city, and is at this time one of its officers. He is also a director in the Troy and Albia Horse Railroad Company, which position he has maintained since the year 1871.

In the year 1864, Mr. Young erected the brownstone-front building in which is the store now occupied by him at Nos. 8 and 9 First Street, the time occupied in its erection being precisely six months from the demolition of the old buildings to the day it was opened for business.

In the spring of 1871 the building No. 214 River Street was erected by him, and the two buildings--now virtually one on the main floor, fronting on both First and River Streets--are devoted to the business for which they were designed; and in the latter building, occupied as it is by an extensive printing-office and bindery, he is enabled to publish and issue books from and under one roof. The most important of those which have been issued by him are the "History of Troy," an octavo volume of four hundred pages, compiled by A. J. Weise, and "Northern New York and the Adirondack Wilderness," an octavo volume of three hundred and sixteen pages, by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, compiler of this, the "History of Rensselaer County."

In the erection of the two buildings referred to, Mr. Young caused two leaden boxes to be placed in the corner-stones in the walls designed for the purpose, in which were placed articles and papers of the day, of which he has preserved itemized descriptions for future reference.

It will be seen that Wm. H. Young has occupied the premises new in his possession for the past thirty-seven years, although not a vestige of the buildings as originally tenanted by him are standing, having been replaced by the new and elegant structures now covering the old landmark.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

Go Back to Rensselaer Co. Biographies
Go Back to Home Page