Peter Cominges Brashear
City of Troy

This biography is from Troy and Rensselaer County, New York, Volume III, by Rutherford Hayner, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., New York and Chicago, 1925. It was submitted by Debby Masterson.

PETER COMINGES BRASHEAR—As president of the Fort Orange Paper Company, Peter Cominges Brashear is at the head of one of the largest paper board and folding box manufactories in the world. Better still, he is at the head of a concern which is built upon a "golden rule" policy of progress, and is shaping its course along the lines of cooperation and a square deal for both employees and public. Mr. Brashear is a descendant of the old French family of De Brassier. The earliest record of this family is found in "Nobiliaire Universel," published by M. Le Vicomte De Magny, in 1856. At the beginning of twenty-two pages of genealogy, crests and ducal crowns, the writer says: "The house of Brassier, whose nobility of ancient extraction reverts incontestably to the 14th Century, has its origin in the province of Champagne, whence it spread itself successively into Provence, Rouergue, Lorraine and Germany, where many of its members enjoy up to this time high positions."

In 1658 Benois Brassier and his brother, Robert B., Jr., emigrated to Maryland; and from there they moved to Virginia. Their descendants are clearly traced to Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where they intermarried with the family of Thomas Brown, founder of that city. From Brownsville, Pennsylvania, came the famous Pittsburgh astronomer, Dr. John A. Brashear. Just before the Revolutionary War, William Richard, and Maurice Brashear moved from Brownsville, Pennsylvania, to the falls of the Ohio river, and assisted in building the first fort at that point and in laying out the present city of Louisville, Kentucky. These three brothers appear to have engaged in all of the fighting that was going on about that time. Captain Richard Brashear commanded a company under Colonel George Rogers Clark on his famous march to Vincennes. William and Maurice also fought in the Revolutionary War.

To escape the malaria of the lowlands, William Brashear, the great-great grandfather of Mr. Brashear, "took up" a thousand acres of land about forty miles south of Louisville, near the present town of Bardstown, in Nelson County, and built there the first fort in that locality. This land adjoined that of Colonel Boone. William Brashear was killed by the Indians, and his son, Joseph, at an early age assumed the responsibilities of the family. Joseph as a boy was captured by the Indians, and the story of his escape would out-thrill a dime novel. Joseph married Elizabeth Cominges, who was a descendant of the house of De Cominges, and, quoting again from "Nobiliaire Universel": "Cominges, an old section of country situated at the foot of the Pyrenees which had, since the 9th century, its hereditary counts and sovereigns." One of the seven children springing from this marriage was Peter Cominges Brashear, born in 1801.

Joseph Brashear left Nelson County, went to Breckenridge County, Kentucky, and "took up" a large tract of land on Sinking creek, four miles south of what was later known as Stephensport, where he built a series of log houses for residence, negro quarters, stables, and so forth, and circling the whole was a race track. Joseph was a student as well as a pioneer and Indian fighter. He had the first library in that section of the country. Before courts of law were established, the pioneer settlers would travel for miles to consult him and settle their disputes.

At the age of sixteen, Peter, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth (Cominges) Brashear, in a quarrel with his stepmother ran away from home on a fine horse of his own and with a silver quarter in his pocket. He voyaged down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, became enamored of the life, made money, and came back to Stephensport, Breckenridge County, where he bought a large tract of land and began freighting from that port to New Orleans. The freighting then, before the advent of steamboats, was done by flatboat. These boats were built of hand-hewn logs put together with wooden pins. The cargoes consisted largely of lime, hoop poles, potatoes, corn, and other farm products. The boats floated down the rivers with the current and were brought by cordelling,—that is, by walking along the shore and pulling them up by a tow line, or by hitching the tow line to a tree or rock and winding up by a hand windlass on the bow of the boat. It took six months to make a round trip. These flatboats had to travel in fleets numbering from six to twelve, for two reasons: first, to insure a sufficient number of men to man the boats one at a time past the difficult places; second, to protect the gold brought home. At Cave-in-the-Rock, Illinois, was a famous nest of robbers who waylaid the returning voyagers, and it depended upon which side was the strongest as to whether the men or gold or boats returned home. Peter Cominges Brashear made a map of the soundings of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Stephensport to New Orleans. He followed farming and boating throughout his life and was very successful. He was born in 1801 and died in 1867.

Joseph D. Brashear, son of Peter Cominges and Mehitable (Cox) Brashear, now deceased, was born in Stephensport in 1842 and died in Louisville in 1909. After receiving his education in the private schools of Owensboro and Louisville, he married Anna Mary Scott, and to them were born two children: Peter Cominges Brashear, the subject of this sketch; and a daughter, Gense Brashear. Mr. Brashear's mother is still living, and resides with her daughter at Louisville, Kentucky. Joseph David Brashear engaged in the tobacco business at Cloverport and Owensboro and had extensive mining interests in Colorado and New Mexico. He was one of the pioneers who founded Leadville, Colorado.

Peter Cominges Brashear, son of Joseph David and Anna Mary (Scott) Brashear, was born in Stephensport, Kentucky, January 20, 1867. He received his early education under private tutors and in the public schools, and then matriculated in Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana, and took a B. S. course with the class of 1888. Upon completion of his college course he entered the employ of the First National Bank of Owensboro, Kentucky, and that connection he maintained for a period of eight years. At the end of that time he severed his connection with the bank and entered Federal employ in the internal revenue service at Owensboro, where he remained for four years. His next position was with the Provident Savings and Life Insurance Company of New York City, which concern he served as auditor for ten years.

Fourteen years ago he became identified with the Fort Orange Paper Company of Castleton-on-Hudson, New York, as vice-president and treasurer, and in 191 7 he was elected president of the company. The Fort Orange Paper Company, a full account of the history of which appears herewith, represents the most modern methods both in theory and practice, and is one of the representative manufacturing concerns which is demonstrating the practicability of the golden rule principle in business. In addition to his responsibilities as chief executive of one of the most progressive paper manufacturing industries in the world, Mr. Brashear is also president of the Castleton Building, Savings and Loan Association, of Castleton, and a member of the board of directors of the Paper Industries Exchange of Chicago and New York City.

He has always been ready to contribute his share to the advancement of the public welfare. At the time of the Spanish-American War in 1898 he enlisted and was promoted to a regimental staff office and commissioned first lieutenant and quartermaster of the 4th Kentucky Infantry, U. S. V. During the period of the participation of the United States in the World War he served as chairman of the Liberty Loan Committee for Schodack, Rensselaer County, and took an active part in all of the various "drives." Fraternally he is affiliated with Sunnyside Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, of Castleton, New York, as master Mason; with Sigma Chi college fraternity; and with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He is also a member of the Fort Orange Club and Albany Country Club, of Albany, New York. His religious interest is with St. Peter's Episcopal Church of Albany, of which he is an attendant and pew holder.

At Lexington, Kentucky, June 8, 1904, Peter Cominges Brashear married Rida Cronley Payne, daughter of Walter Scott and Maria (Ingels) Payne. "Town Topics," the New York City publication, says of this marriage in its issue of April 28, 1904:

Miss Rida Cronley Payne, of Lexington, has just become engaged to Peter Cominges Brashear, to the delight of Smart Society generally in the Blue Grass Capital. Miss Payne is the daughter of Walter Scott Payne, a wealthy landowner and member of one of Kentucky's oldest and most influential families. Since her coming out ball, she has been a belle; is beautiful, amiable and accomplished; and has travelled extensively. There have been many suitors for her hand, and her selection is a progressive young business man highly esteemed. The wedding will be a handsome society event at "Maplewood," the country home of the bride, on June 8th.

Mrs. Brashear was born at Ingelside, near Lexington, Kentucky. This is one of the noted estates of the Blue Grass region and the hereditary seat of the family of Mr. Brashear's mother.

Mr. and Mrs. Brashear are the parents of one daughter, Gense (2nd), who was born in New York City, March 2, 1907, and received her education in the Emma Willard School of Troy, New York; in St. Agnes' School, Albany, New York; and in Miss Porter's School at Farmington, Connecticut. Their home is the "Pointed Firs." This beautiful estate is situated on a hill overlooking the Hudson river at Castleton-on-Hudson, New York. Their town house is No. 6 Elk street, Albany, New York.

FORT ORANGE PAPER COMPANY, Castleton-on-Hudson—In all the economic world of to-day there is no more potent factor than the manufacturing concerns which, organized for the accomplishment of a definite purpose, shaped and developed by the needs of the special line of production in which they are engaged, and continuously influenced by the ideals of their founders, owners and managers, as well as by public opinion, have become marvelously effective engines of achievement. They are also wonderfully effective training and developing schools, and the publicist who would rightly read the present trend of the times and accurately predict concerning the possibilities of the future must keep his eye upon the great "schools of organization and cooperation," which are directly influencing, for good or for ill, more individuals than are our schools and our churches combined.

Just above Castleton-on-Hudson and back from the river, in a picturesque valley is located one of the steadily increasing number of manufacturing concerns of the country which recognize the responsibilities of power. There is the home of the Fort Orange Paper Company, one of the largest manufacturers of paper board and folding boxes in the country, and there the "golden rule" policy of progress and a "square deal" bring to both owners and employees a full measure of success. The original paper mill was erected in 1858 by Charles Van Benthuysen, who successfully operated it until July, 1881, at which time the concern was incorporated under the name of the Fort Orange Paper Company. Its original product was print paper, but a few years after its establishment it was converted into a plant for the production of government postal cards, in which capacity it received contracts from the post office department for a long period. Some years ago, when the folding paper box came into existence and the demand for better grades of cardboard increased, the company engaged in this line of production and began the manufacture of box boards. At this time the great volume of foodstuffs handled by merchants and consumed by the people was wrapped by the grocer in brown paper or handled in the poke, or paper bag. These methods were wasteful of both time and material, and were also often unsanitary. As ideals of better sanitation spread among the people and the better ideals of efficiency began to influence the methods of manufacturers and merchants, the carton began to come into use, and as the demand increased, the Fort Orange Paper Company opened a box factory which included a large printing plant. This has been so developed that at the present time the company produces folding paper boxes, including every process of manufacture, from the making of the paper and the printing ink and plates to the final decorations of the finished article. The idea of the carton has produced a revolution in packing, and while food stuflfs have probably the greatest use for this method of packing, it is also true that the range of articles packed in these receptacles runs from tacks to ladies' gowns. It is true that every store in the land handles from thousands to millions of carton-packed products every year. When the fact is taken into consideration that twenty-five years ago these convenient little receptacles were unknown, the rapidgrowth of this branch of the manufacturing industry becomes clear. One of the greatest values of this method of packing is its advertising feature. What the carton contains is advertised on the shelves of the merchants and m the home of the consumer, and it still serves as an advertising medium even when it is consigned to the waste basket or while it is on its final journey in the junk man's cart. The "last word" in efficiency is found in the folding carton which is shipped "knockeddown" or flat. This is a great saving of time and expense in transportation, the capacity of a single railroad car being sufficient for a half million of sugar cartons of the two-pound size.

Unless one becomes familiar with all the processes of the manufacture, he can have little idea of the amount of work entailed in the production of this simple little article of every day use. From the felling of the tree in the forest to the operations of the pulp mill, where the wood is converted into a fibrous mass known as wood pulp, thence to the paper mills, where the wood pulp is converted into paper board, then to the printing presses, the die cutting and creasing machines, the gluing and packing machines, and finally to the shipping room from which it is sent to the manufacturer of the article that it is to contain—all these processes require skilled labor and the aid of many marvelous machines in order that the finished article may be turned out well made, attractive in appearance and in large numbers.

While men are employed exclusively in the Fort Orange paper mill, women operate many of the machines in the box factory and feed the great cylinder presses, some of which print the boxes in colors, cut out the blank and crease the box for proper folding, all at one time. The final operation is the folding and gluing of the box. This is accomplished on what is known as the automatic glue machine. A battery of these, operated entirely by girls, turns out a constant stream of finished boxes counted and neatly piled, at the rate of more than two million a day.

The Fort Orange Paper Company's plant is ideally located for its line of manufacture. Back in a hollow formed by a stream, which is the mill's water supply, are the buildings surrounded by trees and lawns, making it a delightful spot in summer as well as sheltered in the winter. The working conditions in general are truly modern. Precautions are taken not only to safeguard the health of the employees but to make the plant a place where work is a pleasure. The company, in the belief that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," encourages sports at every opportunity. The main activities along this line are baseball, on the company diamond, and bowling, on Albany alleys. A schedule is planned for the winter and summer seasons, including both interdepartmental games and contests with neighboring teams. These features arouse keen interest among players and spectators, and their popularity has increased with each returning season.

A well-appointed rest room, with a matron nurse in charge, is provided for the girls, who are allowed to work for short periods only, so that they do not become over-fatigued. The women employees of thebox factory dress in a uniform of khaki, designed for comfort and convenience. This is also a safeguard against accident. Some of the girls have come to Fort Orange from various parts of the country, and to accommodate those who wish to live in Castleton, a girls' club house and dormitory, supervised by a house mother, is maintained in the town. The equipment of this club is attractive and complete, with excellent culinary arrangements, comfortable rooms, shower and tub baths. The living room is especially inviting, with a large open fire place, pool table, player piano, victrola, and various other modern furnishings which contribute to the comfort and pleasure of the girls. All of these features, combined with excellent management, make the Fopaco Girls' Club a most attractive abode.

In 1910 the company established an informal training school for young men who want to learn the business. Graduates have been welcomed from such Eastern colleges as Amherst and Rutgers, and Southern institutions like Centre, and the University of Kentucky. Technical courses, especially paper making at the University of Syracuse, have also furnished excellent recruits for important openings in the organization. An unusually inviting and home-like club house has been equipped for the unmarried men, where a wholesome community life is enjoyed.

As the road from Castleton to Rensselaer and Albany is an excellent one, many of the employees living in these cities prefer to make the trip each day, and for their convenience, the company operates several large auto busses, furnishing free transportation to both men and women from out of town. Another unique feature is the private railroad operated by the company between the plant and the town. A special train makes frequent trips to take employees to and from the plant.

Good food is conceded to be a necessary requisite in efficient production, and the Fort Orange Paper Company has given special attention to this important feature. Their restaurant, established in 1918, is run on the self-service plan. Light meals can be had at modest prices, or a regular "man-sized" dinner is served at noon for the price of twenty-five cents, and although the cost is much more than this, the company considers its loss a good investment in the added production from well-fed employees. If you want a sample of beating the high cost of food, drop in at the Fort Orange Restaurant when you are in Castleton, and try a home-cooked dinner for a quarter. Visitors are always welcome.

The present capitalization of the company is 10,000 shares of no par value common stock, and 5,000 shares of authorized preferred stock, 2,000 shares of which have been issued and are outstanding. The present officers of the company are: Peter C. Brashear, president, a sketch of whom precedes; W. Gordon Latham, vice-president; Robert S. Harris, secretary; and William T. Sawyer, treasurer. The plant and executive offices of the Fort Orange Paper Company are located at Castleton-on-Hud.son, New York, and branch offices are located at No. 200 Fifth Avenue. New York City; No. 6 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts; and No. 1201 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

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