Thomas Coleman
Thomas Coleman

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

THOMAS COLEMAN was born June 16, 1808, in the town of Barnstable, Barnstable Co., Mass., of an English ancestry that was among the earliest settlers of Plymouth colony. His father, Nathaniel Coleman, was also born in the same town, and was engaged throughout his life in arduous seafaring pursuits, mostly in the coasting trade. The father died in 1848, at the age of sixty-eight years.

Mr. Coleman's opportunities of acquiring an education in early life were limited to attendance upon the common district school of his native town, during the winter months only, until he was sixteen years of age. In 1824 he became a clerk in a store at New Bedford, Mass., in which position he remained until 1827, when he removed to Troy, N. Y., where he has since resided. In 1832 he formed a copartnership with Cornelius Schuyler in the oil, paint, and dye-stuff trade, and retained that connection until 1837, when he abandoned it to engage later in the wholesale lumber business. From 1840 to 1866, Mr. Coleman was prominently and successfully identified with this mercantile interest, which he conducted in West Troy. From 1852 to 1863 he was a director of the Bank of Troy, resigning therefrom to assume the presidency of the First National Bank of Troy, of which institution he was one of the founders. He still maintains this relation with the bank. and is widely and justly known as an honorable, sagacious, and prudent banker. He is also president of the Star Knitting Company, an extensive manufacturing enterprise at Cohoes. In 1856 he was made one of the board of governors of the Marshall Infirmary, and upon the death of Hon. Jonas C. Heartt was elected president of the institution.

Although his life has been one of incessant business activity, he has not remained a silent observer of events, or of the growth and prosperity of the city, but has borne a conspicuous part in all works intended to promote the causes of morality, religion and education, to further the interests of society, and to advance the sway of law and the prevalence of order.

He was one of the organizers and early friends of the Young Men's Association of Troy; served on its executive committee for several years, and was its president in 1844. Upon attaining his majority, in 1829, Mr. Coleman attached himself to the National Republican organization, and went with his party into the ranks of the Whigs. When the American party was formed he joined that organization, although not a member of its secret orders, and subsequently connected himself with the Republican party, of which he has long remained an honored and a useful member. In 1857, Mr. Coleman was elected alderman of the Third Ward of the city of Troy, and served his constituents and the city generally most faithfully for four years.

In 1858, by a union of the American and Republican parties, he was chosen to represent the city in the Assembly of the State, and was re-elected the following year. In the Assembly of 1859 he served on the committee on banks, and was chairman of the select committee that reported the bill, which subsequently passed and still remains on the statute book, revising and reenacting all the laws relating to the Onondaga Salt Springs. In the Assembly of 1860 he again served as chairman of the committee on banks. When the Capitol police district was formed, in 1865, he was appointed by Governor Fenton a member of the board of commissioners, and served as such and also as treasurer of the board until the law creating the district was repealed. He was also a commissioner of the Rensselaer police force. In 1872. Mr. Coleman was chosen a Presidential elector of the State, and cast the vote of the Twelfth Senatorial and Congressional District, composed of the counties of Rensselaer and Washington, for Gen. Grant. In 1875 he was nominated by acclamation by the Republicans of the above district for the office of State senator, and was elected by a large majority. Throughout the term he performed efficient service as chairman of the committee on banks, public buildings, and grievances, and as a member of the committee on commerce and navigation.

Mr. Coleman conducted the investigation which the Senate directed to be made into the charges preferred by the Governor against the Hon. D. W. C. Ellis, superintendent of the banking department; and it was largely due to the care, deliberation, and judgment with which the inquiry was directed, and its entire freedom from all partisan or personal bias, that the removal of that official was effected by the nearly unanimous vote of the Senate.

Mr. Coleman declined a re-election to the Senate upon the expiration of his term. In January, 1839, he was united in marriage to Miss Catharine Jane Richards, daughter of Lewis Richards, a merchant of Troy. He is a member of the Unitarian Church, and one of its most liberal supporters.

Mr. Coleman possesses a strong and vigorous mind, with integrity ty of purpose and great firmness of character. He has discharged the duties of important public trusts with conceded ability and conscientious fidelity. As a citizen he enjoys the universal confidence and respect of the community. He has always acted upon the policy that whatever is worth doing at all should he done thoroughly and well. Without pretension as a speaker or writer, few men are able to present reasons and arguments more forcibly or tersely. In every work committed to his hands, in public or private life, Mr. Coleman has labored with diligence perseverance, and efficiency, and wholesome practical results testify to the value of his services.

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