Biography of James Aken


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Page 250


    James Aken was born in the year 1816 in the northern part of Ireland, near Coleraine, in the county of Antrim, being of the class known as Scotch-Irish.  He came with his father's family to the United States in the year 1824, and in the year 1828 they settled in what is now known as Philmont.  The place was then a mere hamlet of half a dozen dwelling-houses, a small woolen-mill, and a grist-mill.  The family were employed in the woolen-mill of James Philip & Co.  Mr. James Aken remained here until 1833, when he entered the service of A. & W. Van Hosen, woolen-manufacturers, at Stuyvesant Falls, Columbia county.  In 1835 he took charge of Huntington's factory for the manufacture of carpet-yarns, located near Claverack village, Columbia county, in which business he continued for five years.  In 1840 he entered the Tivoli woolen-mill at Albany, owned by the patroon, Van Rensselaer, where he remained until 1845, when he removed to Cohoes, where he took charge of the carding and spinning department in the knitting-mill of Egberts & Bailey, which was then the only establishment in the country for the manufacture of shirts and drawers of regular stitch by power machinery.  In 1847 he removed to Philmont, and entered into partnership with Geo. P. Philip in the manufacture of woolen goods, in a mill just erected on the newly-developed water-power at that place.  Here he remained about seven years, devoting himself entirely and energetically to the success of the business in which he had embarked; but a great depression in the woolen trade in the years 1853-54 occasioned very serious loss to the firm, and Mr. Aken withdrew and returned to Cohoes, where, in connection with Root & Parson, of Albany, they purchased a knitting-mill, and commenced the manufacture of shirts and drawers.  The business proved very lucrative, paying in about eight months nearly the entire cost of the mill.  Indeed, it was too lucrative for Mr. Aken to continue in it, and he as "persuaded" by the pressure of superior capital to sell out and relinquish his interest to his partners, whose importunity would not be denied.  In December of the same year he purchased a set of knitting machinery, and operated it at Albia and subsequently at Ida Hill, near Troy.  In 1857 he sold out and purchased an additional water-power, and erected a new mill, which he ran in connection with the old one.  Here Mr. Aken conducted business very successfully and profitably, and accumulated a handsome property.  He has experienced many of the ups and downs of life, and has tasted of enough adversity to entitle him to the calm enjoyment of his present prosperity.

     In 1829 Mr. Aken married Amanda Delia Britt, of Greene Co., N. Y.  Six children were born to them, of whom five are still living.