Abel Merchant
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.

ABEL MERCHANT—To those who during the years of their active life have built up useful institutions and successful business organizations every community owes much. Among those of Rensselaer County who have contributed to the development of organizations which continue to grow and prosper long after the founders have left the scene of their labors is Abel Merchant, descendant of Revolutionary ancestry, who besides being one of the organizers of what is now the Mutual Insurance Association of Rensselaer and Columbia counties, was also one of the founders of the Nassau Free Library, and its only president to the timeof his death.

Abel Merchant, grandfather of the founder of Nassau Free Library, was a native of Connecticut. He served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and was one of the pioneers of Schodack, New York. He married and reared a family of children, among whom was Reuben, of further mention.

Reuben Merchant, son of Abel Merchant, purchased a farm near Schodack, New York, and was engaged in agricultural activities throughout his active career. He was one of the founders of Nassau Academy, in 1835, at which institution his sons and grandsons were prepared for college. He married Susannah Crum, and they became the parents of seven children, of whom the eldest was Abel, of further mention.

Abel Merchant, son of Reuben and Susannah (Crum) Merchant, was born in Schodack, New York, January 31, 1829, and died at the Merchant homestead, at Schodack, Rensselaer County, New York, May 3, 1916. He was the only one of seven children of his parents who lived to be over thirty years of age. After receiving a careful education in the public schools of his native district he became a student in Union College, from which he was graduated in 1849 with the honors of Phi Beta Kappa. He was also a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. During his long and active career he was not only identified with a successful business enterprise, but he also devoted much time and energy to projects for the advancement of the public welfare. He was one of the organizers of the Mutual Insurance Association of Nassau, Schodack and Chatham, now the Mutual Insurance Association of Rensselaer and Columbia counties, which he served as its first president from 1855 to 1866, and from that time until 1914 as its secretary and treasurer. He was but twenty-six years of age when he became president of that financial institution, and during the period of nearly sixty years of his connection with that organization he devoted the greater portion of his time and energy to the advancement of its interests and was one of the most important factors in its steady growth and continued prosperity. Practically the entire period of his active life was devoted to the interests of that organization and to-day it stands as a living, growing monument to the ability and devotion of Abel Merchant. Though much absorbed in the successful management of his business responsibilities Mr. Merchant was not one who failed to recognize his responsibilities to the public, and in 1881 he was one of the founders of the Nassau Free Library, which organization he served as president until the time of his death. He was also the organizer of the Nassau and Schodack Cemetery Association and for several years, until 1914, was its secretary and treasurer. Few citizens of his section of the county were more widely known and more highly esteemed than was he, and certainly none were more greatly loved by their personal friends and associates than was Abel Merchant. His death, on May 3, 1916, in the full maturity of a long and useful life, left a vacancy which was deeply felt by his family and his many intimate personal friends.

Abel Merchant married Clara Louisa Doty, on February 15, 1868, at Stephentown, New York, daughter of Joseph Sheldon and Palmyra (Tolls) Doty, and a direct descendant of Edward Doty of the "Mayflower." Mr. and Mrs. Merchant became the parents of five children: Clarinda, a graduate of Wellesley College; Henry Doty, who was graduated from Union College in 1893 with the Phi Beta Kappa honors, and later from the Albany Law School, and engaged in practice in New York City; Abel, Jr., graduated from Union College in 1897 with the Phi Beta Kappa honors, and from the Albany Law School, and later engaged in legal practice in New York City; John Crapo, graduated from Union College in 1898 with Phi Beta Kappa honors, later from the Albany Medical College, and engaged in practice at Pine Plains, New York; he is married and has two children: Cornelia, and John; and Reuben Sheldon, who died at the age of eight years.

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