Hon. Levi Chandler Ball
Hon. Levi Chandler Ball

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


BALL - Hoosick Falls, May 8, 1875, Hon. Levi Chandler Ball, aged sixty-six years, two months, and eleven days.

On Saturday last, at fifteen minutes of seven o'clock, this long suffering but patient son of genius, morality, and Christian faith breathed his last breath, just two weeks, lacking but an hour, from the death of his most estimable wife.

Mr. Ball was born in Wilmington, Vt., Feb. 23, 1809. His father was a farmer, and the son, together with several brothers, was bred to the same occupation.

In his early youth were made manifest the many characteristics which make the man of genius, of power, and of great influence among his fellow-men. Born and reared at the base of the Green Mountain, which skirted the western horizon, it was his great pleasure in youth to lie upon the little grass-plat at his father's door and gaze upon the dark green foliage of the mountain, watch the mist as it crept in fantastic wreaths along its sides, lingered a moment upon its summit, and floated away into the blue depths of ether. The river, too, as it rushed along the rocky bed, filled his mind with ideas of grandeur and power, and its voice in the stillness of evening was listened to with feelings of wonder and awe.

These early scenes and associations fitted his mind to admire the grand, sublime, and magnificent in nature and art, and enjoy exceedingly mountain scenery, thunder, lightning, tempests, vast prospects, and all that is awful, omnipotent, and infinite. Here it was his mind became imbued with those lofty sentiments everywhere visible in his writings.

But his play-day season was of short duration, for his childhood was marked by much sickness peculiar to youth, together with an unusual number of accidents, which confined him to the house, enfeebled his constitution, and kept him from school till he was nine years old. But having received much attention from his sister, he was enabled, when entering school, to take and keep the first place in his class.

The district schools at that time and vicinity, however, were unable to give instructions the bare rudiments of a common English education, so at the age of twelve years, when his school days were ended, he had added very little to his previous stock of knowledge. At this age he was obliged to forego the pleasures and advantages of school life for the drudgery of farm life, but his leisure hours, which only came with the setting of the sun, were spent in the pursuit of knowledge.

At the age of sixteen he left home to seek employment whereby he might be enabled to assist his father pecuniarily, as the farm would barely support the family at home. After collecting his little wardrobe into a small wooden trunk, he got a teamster to take it upon his load and he started on foot for the city of Troy. On his way there he stopped at the village of Hoosick Falls to visit some relatives, among whom was Mr. Seth Parsons. Learning that young Ball was in search of employment, he sent him with recommendations to a merchant in Rensselaerville, named Mulford, in whose store he acted as clerk for one year, receiving but thirty-six dollars for his year's services, and holding his labor at a higher value, he left Rensselaerville for the city of Albany, with just enough money to carry him there, having previously expended his whole year's earnings for necessary clothing.

On reaching Albany he stopped at the Eagle Tavern, where he remained a few weeks in the employ of the landlord. Here it was he learned of the illness of his brother Origin and neglect of the home farm,, so he returned and resumed the plow and hoe, and labored hard to procure the necessaries of life for the family.

In the winter of that year he taught a district school in Whittingham, Vt., and in the spring went into the woods and made twelve hundred pounds of maple sugar.

The following summer he labored on the farm, but in the fall of 1828 he started for New Orleans, where were two of his brothers, Russell and Erastus, engaged in prosperous business. Fife dollars was the extent of his finances at starting, together with a few half-worn clothes, and what he had not on his back were contained in a little wooden trunk, which a teamster conveyed to Troy, young Ball following on foot. After two days he reached Troy, and took deck passage on the steamboat 'Swiftsure' for New York, for which he paid twenty-five cents, living meantime on a loaf of bread, which he bought at a small stall at the foot of Ferry Street.

Arrived at New York, he immediately went among the shipping to see if he could obtain a passage to New Orleans. His object was to work his passage to New Orleans on some ship, but, in his zeal to reach his destination, he had forgotten that he was a green country boy, with nautical abilities so poor that he could not tell a brig from a ship; who supposed the 'Royal Halyard' might be a member of the reigning family of France or England, and the "log-book' a treatise on forest-trees; who did not know whether the 'main truck' was drawn by one horse or two; but he soon found himself undeceived, and, amid the jokes of the sailors and jeers of the dock boys, began to cast about for any other means by which to accomplish his designs. Passing along South Street, a small brig, which he had not seen before, attracted his attention, and on a board fastened to some of the ropes he saw, to his great delight, 'For New Orleans To-morrow.' It was the brig "Amanda,' George Gibbs, captain.

While he was making known his wants to Captain Gibbs, he observed another gentleman in the office closely watching him. This man was Chester Holmes, a merchant of New Orleans, who thereupon informed young Ball that he knew his brother in New Orleans very well, and that he (Holmes) would willingly pay his passage to New Orleans, knowing that the brother (Russell) would refund the money on their arrival. And thus fortune put out her hand to lead the youth to wealth and renown. On the 8th of October, 1828, he landed in the Crescent City. Assisted by his brother, he engaged in mercantile business. In those days New Orleans was the generous mother of speedy fortunes for enterprising Yankee boys; it was the best place in the United States (and probably in the whole world) to make money quickly. Young Chandler Ball was enterprising, and was remarkably lucky. At the end of two years he made considerable money and was well established in business, when on the 12th of November, 1830, his brother Russell suddenly died, leaving an immense fortune. This sad event, as the deceased remarks in a journal written by his own hand, defeated 'the dearest wish of my life, - a regular, systematic course of English studies at college.'

The estate of Russell Ball was inventoried at $100,000 over and above all debts, which was left by will to his parents, brothers, and sisters. Owing to a false claim set up by a Boston firm against the estate, it could not be divided among the heirs till the litigation was ended; so his cousin, Johathan Ball, his brother, Erastus Ball, and himself entered into partnership, under the firm name of J. Gall & Co., and continued the business of ship-chandler at the same place.

In the summer of 1831, and while in business in New Orleans, Mr. Ball paid a visit to his parents and friends in Wilmington, Vt., stopping at Hoosick Falls on his way home, and taking with him his second cousin, Marcia Ann Parsons. Here for two weeks they were in each other's society almost constantly. Mutual love and attachment was the natural result, and a betrothal was entered into, to be fulfilled at the expiration of three years.

In October he returned to New Orleans, and remained there till 1833. In July of that year he sold out his interest in the business to his cousin, Jonathan Ball, and leaving New Orleans took up his residence at Hoosick Falls.

The 21st day of July he commenced building a dwelling house on a lot of ground containing 40 acres, purchased of Esek Bussey, lying in the northeasterly part of the village, adjoining the residence of Seth Parsons. The house was of brick, 50 by 34 feet, two stories, with two wings, each 31 by 24 feet.

Sept. 26, 1833, he was married to Marcia Ann Parsons. His 40 acres of land cost $3000 and his house $7000. In addition to this there was owing to him from Jonathan Ball $35,000, making in all $45,000, which he supposed himself to be worth at that time. Jonathan Ball died, however, before any payment was made, and the executors representing the estate as insolvent, a lawsuit was commenced, which was decided in Mr. Ball's favor after six years, and the money paid over to his counsel, Isaac T. Preston, who failed with all the money in his hands, except about $6000, which he had remitted.

Soon after Mr. Bill built his residence here he turned his attention to fancy farming and blooded-stock raising. He imported the most celebrated breeds of farm stock, at a time when but little attention was paid by even wealthy farmers to the improvement of their stock, and some of the best blood of sheep an cattle in this vicinity sprang from his herds.

Amid the elegant surroundings of his home, Mr. Ball studied laboriously for many years, read philosophy and science, and skilled himself in English composition, until his addresses were models of pure English. If he was a Lucullus in his tastes, he was also somewhat of a Cato in his temperament, and it is not to be wondered at, perhaps, if during this time he became somewhat soured toward mankind, for neither his generosity nor his learning was then rightly appreciated in the village for which he had done so much. After the judge had been off with the army, and had associated more closely with his fellow-men, he was much more social, and his manner lost all of its asceticism. When he would let people know him they seldom failed to like him. Some additional facts of his history will be of interest. In 1836 he was elected one of the trustees of the village, and in 1838 president of the board, which office he held for many years. In December, 1835, he was elected a captain in the militia; in April, 1836, justice of the peace; in May, 1840, was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas; in September, 1840, elected colonel of the 78th Regiment; in May, 1842, brigadier-general 8th Brigade; in 1848, elected member of the Iowa Historical and Genealogical Institute; in July, 1849, received the honorary degree of A. M. from Union College; 1837-39, was a director in the Troy City Bank; Nov. 20, 1849, elected a director of the Troy and Boston Railroad; in 1850, elected president of the Rensselaer County Agricultural Society; in 1854 re-elected a director of the Troy and Boston Railroad, and held the office until he went o the war in 1861; in 1858 and 1859 president of the Rensselaer county Agricultural Society; Nov. 6, 1860, elected member of Assembly; in 1860, received honorary degree of A. M. from Williams College; in 1861 he left for the seat of war as quartermaster of the 125th Regiment (Col. Geo. L. Willard commanding); was afterwards for several years a paymaster in the United States army, where he paid out upwards of $4,000,000, to the entire satisfaction of the government and all parties concerned, and has now in frame a certificate from the paymaster's department showing that his accounts with the government were correct to a single cent, notwithstanding the fact of his having paid off the army while under fire of the enemy on many occasions, besides the continual risks he ran of being robbed or killed for the money he had in his possession.

On Feb. 24, 1867, he was baptized in St. Mark's Church at Hoosick Falls (Episcopal) by the Rev. George H. Nichols, the rector, was confirmed by Bishop Potter in 1868, and became a communicant the same year. In whatever work in which he has been engaged, he has always been found faithful to trust. He was undoubtedly the most scholarly man this county has ever produced. His addresses before the Agricultural Society were always filled with sound, practical sense, abounding in information on all subjects of interest to the association, and showing thorough familiarity with the latest and best thoughts on agricultural and mechanical subject. In April 1861, he addressed the citizens of Troy at the theatre. It was the first war-meeting held in the city. Henry J. Raymond, then editor of The New York Times, and Mr. Wm. A. Beach also addressed the meeting, and it was quite generally admitted that Judge Ball's address was the ablest and most impressive of all of them. Since his retirement from the army, in 1865, he has been connected during part of the time with the Wood Mower and Reaper Company.

A son and daughter survive him: Mr. L. Burke Ball and Mrs. Charles A. Cheney, both of Hoosick Falls. Another daughter, of great promise (Kate), died about fourteen years ago, on approaching womanhood. He leaves a handsome estate, diminished greatly, no doubt, from its original bulk, by acts of liberality, and, what is best of all, he leaves an honored name, long to be remembered in this county.

Since his removal to Hoosick Falls in the year 1833, and for a period of forty-two years to the day he died, Mr. Ball evinced an untiring interest in the moral welfare and material advancement of our village. Directly or indirectly to him are due nearly all substantial improvements, from the largest to the smallest. Coming here with a fortune considered ample in those days, he adopted this as his home, and began to assist in beautifying and improving everything around him. First he purchased land and erected a magnificent home, and laid out grounds which, though private, were publicly ornamental and beautifying, and consequently beneficial to the village. He also closed a public highway leading from High Street, between his property and that of Seth Parsons, easterly to the road running parallel, and opened in its stead Classic Street, upon which he built Ball Academy, a large brick structure, which has proved so useful and ornamental to our village. The large square at the junction of High and Classic Streets he gave to the village. He also purchased that square of land upon which now stands Wood's block, and which then extended within about ten feet of the Phoenix Hotel, as it is now built, leaving but a path between. After widening the street to its present width, and extending it up to his own property, he deeded it to the village, and sold the remainder of the lot at a greatly reduced figure. He then bought the property upon which now stands the Phoenix Hotel and built that brick structure, which was truly grand for its day. To the indomitable energy and perseverance of Mr. Ball is owing the early completion of the Troy and Boston Railroad through this village. The village has many improvements, other than those mentioned, which are the handiwork of Mr. Ball, and will live in the memory of the people long after his mortal remains have turned back to clay from which they were formed.

The funeral of Mr. Ball took place at the Protestant Episcopal Church, at eleven o'clock on Tuesday, May 11th. Friends of the family met at his late residence for prayers at ten o'clock. The funeral serviced were conducted by the Rev. George H. Nichols, rector of St. Mark's Church, the sermon being an eloquent and powerful as well as loving tribute to departed greatness. The Seth Parsons Steamer company attended the funeral. The church was densely crowded by deceased's friends and relatives, who gathered there to pay their last tribute to the departed.

Send comments or suggestions to:
Debby Masterson

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