Dr. Alexander Rousseau
Henry and Alexander

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

HENRY AND DR. ALEXANDER ROUSSEAU. In every community will be found individuals who, though none the less concerned in its welfare and fully alive to the best interests of its citizens, yet, avoiding public life and its offices, are content to remain in the walks of private life and by their quiet perseverance and industry exemplify the true citizen. Our record, especially as it relates to the city of Troy, would be incomplete without reference in this class of individuals, prominent among whom we recall the names of the Rousseau brothers, and especially that of Achille J. Rousseau, whose father was among the very earliest settlers of Troy. Nicholas Rousseau, the grandfather of Mr. Rousseau, was born in France, and came to this country in the year 1793, landing at Baltimore, Md. He soon after removed to Philadelphia, where he entered into the dry-goods business, and where he died in the year 1798. Nicholas Rousseau was the father of seven sons, among whom was Alexander, the father of Achille J. Rousseau. Alexander Rousseau was born in Bordeaux, France, May 7, 1766. He was educated as a physician, and practiced in Paris. He emigrated to the United States in 1786, and landed at Philadelphia. About four years after, he made his way up the Hudson River as far as Troy, which was then only beginning to shape itself for a village, and where, satisfied with the advantages of its location and the prospects of its future growth and prosperity, he decided to settle, and commenced the practice of his profession in the year 1790. Here he formed the acquaintance of Mary Frear, who was then living in an old Dutch dwelling, on the corner of Third and Albany Streets, now Broadway, and whom he married in 1793. He built for himself a frame dwelling, on the east side of Third Street, between the then Elbow and Albany Streets, now Fulton and Broadway, which, with the Frear dwelling on the corner below, constituted all the dwellings on the block. Besides his village practice, Dr. Rousseau attended to calls from the country for a circuit of six or eight miles, making his visits on horseback, with his saddle-bags carefully deposited on the back of his faithful horse "Charlie,'' attended by his little dog "Pink."

In those days it was the custom among the farmers to pay their physician by donation-parties, making two general visits each year, known as the Corn and Wood Bees. After harvest, word would be passed from one to the other in the country that the "doctor's dinner" would be ready on a fixed day, and a general invitation was extended to all to come and have a good time. About ten o'clock on the appointed day the doctor's front and rear gates would be thrown open, and soon the wagons would begin to arrive loaded with a supply of corn, pumpkins, apples, and herbs, which were deposited in the yard. After a bountiful dinner these farmers among whom we recall the names of the Coonradts, Coopers, Derricks, Van Alstines, McChesneys, Devits, Hayners, Swartwouts, Yateses, Winnys, Garnwicks, Fowlers, Van der Heydens, Adamses, and Deusenburys gathered in groups for converse and conviviality for an hour or more, when all would start for home again as happy as a good dinner and good liquor could make them. This visit was repeated in winter after the first good sleighing. Good and happy days, pleasant to be recalled. Dr. Rousseau, like his father, was the father of seven sons, the first of whom died when but little more than a year old, ---prominent among the remaining six of whom we may mention Mr. Henry Rousseau, early identified with the manufacture of hats and caps in this City, and who enjoyed an extended reputation on the subject and study of conchology. All of these sons were connected with the early history of Troy. Dr. Rousseau died March 2, 1812, after which the oldest of the remaining sons, Achille J. Rousseau, who was then but sixteen years old, having been born Feb. 3, 1796, became the main support of his widowed mother and five younger brothers. At this time he was in the employ of Derick J. & John G. van der Heyden, but left them soon after the death of his father to enter the grocery-store of Adam Keeling. Subsequently he became a clerk for Francis Yvonnett, and afterwards was employed by Messrs. E. Warren & Bros., in which firm he afterwards became a partner in the wholesale grocery business, the firm changing to E. Warren, Bros. & Co. By the entrance of Albert and Henry Richards into the business the firm afterwards changed to Rousseau, Richards & Warren; Rousseau, Richards & Co.; Rousseau & Warren; and finally, Mr. Henry Nazro purchasing the others' interest, the firm became Rousseau & Nazro, carrying on a large business at No. 217 River Street. Mr. John P. Nazro also had an interest at one time under the name of Rousseau, Nazro & Co.

Mr. Rousseau retired from active business about 1850, with a competency, to look after his timber lands in Canada, and iron interests in Essex Co., N. Y., in which he was very largely concerned. So thoroughly convinced was he of the future value of the iron-ore property of Northern New York that he did not hesitate to invest his means liberally in the purchase of large ore tracts, and the result, though he was not permitted to reap its benefits, more than proved the wisdom and sagacity of his investments. Ever kind to a fault, he was always ready to extend a helping hand to those in trouble, and when the panic of 1857 swept with its wild destruction and general suspension through the land, Mr. Rousseau was unexpectedly called upon to raise large sums of money to meet obligations he had incurred for others. The sacrifice this necessitated resulted finally and sadly in his being obliged to part with his entire estate, which but a few years afterwards became, and is still worth to its owners, many millions of dollars.

In manner Mr. Rousseau was gentle, courteous, and un-pretending, yet firm in carrying out his plans and purposes. A successful career of over thirty years, unquestioned for its integrity and fair dealing, marked his life as a merchant. Though often urged to allow his name to be used for various elective offices be always refused, having no ambition for public life. He was, however, always ready to unite with his fellow-citizens in the promotion of public enterprises, and in co-operation for the aid of benevolent institutions. His name was synonymous with charity, and it was his rule, rigidly followed out, never to turn away from his door an applicant for aid without giving some assistance, preferring that nine unworthy ones should receive his alms rather than risk refusing one worthy of his charity. He was a life-long member of the board of managers of the Orphan Asylum, and his counsel very largely directed its management. Be was an active member of the Episcopal Church, contributing liberally for its support, and for other church work. Be was a Freemason of extended reputation, having filled with great acceptance the offices of Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter, as well as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.

He was a devoted and indulgent husband and father, a sympathizing and zealous friend and citizen. His financial embarrassments, with the loss of his wife a few years before, united to break down his constitution, and he passed away March 26, 1858, universally mourned.

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