Biography of Nelson P. Aken


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Pages  250 & 251


        Nelson P. Aken, a son of James and Amanda Aken, was born in the town of Claverack, Columbia Co., N. Y., in the year 1839.  After leaving the district school he was placed, at an early age, at Spencertown Academy, where he remained several terms, and was subsequently entered at Fort Plain Seminary, where he completed all the education he ever acquired at [p. 251] any institution of learning.  The design of his parents was to give him a liberal education, but unexpected losses arising from a great depression in the woolen business, in which his father was then embarked, rendered it inexpedient, if not impossible, to do so.  He had, however, made good use of the opportunities already afforded him, and became proficient in several branches of study, especially that of chemistry, which he turned to excellent use in his subsequent business enterprises.  After leaving Fort Plain Seminary he entered a knitting-mill, in which his father was then a partner, and subsequently was employed in and had charge of the knitting department in various mills at Cohoes, Troy, Sand Lake, and elsewhere, to which branch of the business he devoted himself until the winter of 1862.  During these eight years he had become master of his business, and his aptitude for mechanics, which seems to have been almost intuitive, had displayed itself in many ingenious devices.  In 1862 he located at Philmont, where he commenced manufacturing knit under-clothing, and from a very humble beginning, with a small mill and one set of machinery, has gradually arisen a business of very large proportions.  His present mills are very fine and imposing structures, built of brick, and of four and five stories respectively; the one recently erected being in size one hundred and ten by two hundred twenty-four feet, and in every department, in all its appointments, appliances, and equipments, being beyond all question the model mill of the State.  Both mills are operated by steam and water-power conjointly or separately, as occasion requires; the former being furnished by powerful "Corliss" engines, and the latter by the latest improved turbine wheels.  There are in operation at the present time twenty-seven complete sets of knitting-machinery, giving employment to three hundred operatives, about one-half of whom are females.  Six additional sets are now being placed in position, and when in operation the whole number of operatives will be about four hundred, and the product of the mills will be five hundred dozen shirts and drawers per day.