Biography of The Hand Family


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Pages 314 & 315


       The great-grandfather of the present representatives of the Hand family of New Lebanon, Hon. Samuel Hand, was in many respects one of the most remarkable men among the pioneers of this section of the country. He left records by which the genealogy of the family can be traced back several hundred years. They came from England and settled on Long Island about 1640. The first ancestor who came to this country returned to England to his portion of some property which he was heir there, and was murdered on his return voyage to Long Island. He left two sons as his survivors, and from them sprang the family by the name of Hand on this continent. The name of one of these was Joseph Hand, who was father of a son by the same name, who was father of Stephen Hand, who also had a son named Joseph, who was the father of Samuel Hand, of whose life this sketch is chiefly a partial record. He was born in old Guilford Conn., in 1736, his father, Joseph Hand, having removed there from Long Island. When he was about seventeen years of age he was pressed into the English service, and became a soldier in the old French war. He served through four campaigns, and was with general Wolfe at the taking of Quebec. While in the service he had saved sufficient money to enable him to make a purchase of wild lands in what is now New Canaan, supposed then to be in the State of Massachusetts; but the establishment of the boundary line proved it to be in the State of New York, and covered by one of those numerous patents by which lands had been granted by the crown of England. He therefore lost his title, and was left penniless. But he was a man fruitful in resources and expedients. Possessing a natural mechanical genius,--a trait still prominent in some of his descendants,--and by the aid of a little knowledge of house-carpentering, he obtained employment one season in the navy-yard as ship-carpenter or to aid in the construction of vessels. Such was his close observation and readiness of resources that, by noting down in his memorandum-book the steps taken in the construction of a vessel, he was able the next year to build a small sloop for himself, which he used for years to great profit in coasting and fishing, and afterwards sold to two men in Fairfield, Conn. So successful had been his brief experience in ship-building that he was hired to build a brig in Fairfield, but some circumstance induced him to try the land again instead of the sea; and before the month of November had expired in which the brig was finished, he purchased, in the town of Hancock, Mass., one hundred and fifty-five acres of wild land, upon which he removed with his family the last day of April, 1767. His career in this wilderness was quite as remarkable as his former experience had been. He remained here twenty years lacking one month, and cleared and cultivated two hundred and fifty acres of that heavily-timbered land, making himself a home, and an influence which extended beyond the borders of the State, and was recognized both at the capital in Boston and Albany. For thirteen consecutive years he represented his portion of the old Bay State in the Legislature at Boston, was justice of the peace, and the principal man in the settlement where he resided. As an illustration of his personal influence it may here be stated that, by a petition written by him to Governor George Clinton, of New York, he procured the reprieve of Caleb T. Gardner, tried and condemned to be hung for knowingly passing counterfeit money, after repeated efforts by the ablest counsel had failed to secure his pardon. The facts concerning this are [p. 315] well known, and a copy of the original petition, with other interesting papers, is in the possession of Franklin Hand, of Lebanon Springs.

In 1787 he purchased the farm which constitutes the homestead of Franklin Hand, of one Gideon King, who had first occupied and improved it, erecting upon it a saw-mill, etc. King had become involved in debt, a portion of which he owed to Mr. Hand for two hundred bushels of wheat which he had purchased of him. That debt was the moving cause which brought Samuel Hand to New Lebanon, and made his numerous and influential descendants citizens of New York instead of Massachusetts. King was obliged to allow his place to be sold by the sheriff, and Mr. Hand appealed to purchase it. After repeated urgent solicitations, and the inducement to save the debt which King owed him, he consented that they might bid it in for him at the sale, and he would pay the price which it brought. He thus became the owner of the estate, upon which he removed from Hancock with his family in the winter of 1787, and resided here until the time of his death, which occurred May 24, 1829, at the age of ninety-three years. The wealth of Mr. Hand at this time was unknown, and it was generally supposed that he had considerable money buried on the premises. About 1812 he had caused a family vault to be built, in which he had buried his father, Joseph Hand, who died Sept. 18, 1798, in the ninety-seventh year of his age, being the first person interred therein. Mr. Handís remains rest in the family vault.

     Samuel Hand, Jr., the son and successor of Hon. Samuel Hand, was born in Fairfield, Conn., Dec. 14, 1765, and removed with his parents first to Hancock, Mass., and thence to New Lebanon, at the dates above given, settling on the farm now occupied by Horatio B. Hand and his mother, Mrs. H. E. Hand, widow of the late Horatio N. Hand, where he spent the remainder of his days in the pursuit of agriculture.

     Ira Hand, the father of Franklin and the late Samuel Hand, was born on the above place, May 31, 1799. On the death of his grandfather he removed to the place which had been willed to him--now occupied by Franklin Hand--at Lebanon Springs. He married Martha Rose, daughter of John Rose, of Stephentown, Rensselaer Co., N. Y., April 4, 1824, and reared seven children, - six sons and one daughter. He was a prominent man in his town, serving as justice of the peace twenty years, and subsequently for four or five years as a member of the board of supervisors, over which body he several times presided, and was chairman of the committee on equalization in 1853. In his family, in the social circle, and in his neighborhood and town he was a man of marked character and influence, shedding everywhere the genial light of his intelligence, the bracing energy of his integrity, and the warmth of his friendship and affection. Few men have been more highly esteemed and respected then he. He departed this life suddenly on the 15th of October, 1864, in the sixty-sixth year of his age. Mrs. Hand, who was a lady of more than ordinary intelligence and character, died Feb. 11, 1872, aged sixty-nine years.

     Franklin Hand, the present worthy representative of the family, was born on his grandfatherís farm, in the west part of New Lebanon, June 20, 1825, and was removed to his present home by his father, in June, 1829, being then about four years of age. His advantages for education were such as the common schools of that day afforded, to which was added the inestimable blessing of intelligent and high-minded parents, whose influence in his intellectual development and the moral training of his childhood and youth, cannot be too highly estimated. Under these influences he was reared till twenty-one years of age, when his father, to encourage his independence and self-direction, employed him two years to work on the farm.

     In 1846 his father bought the place known as Spencer farm, on which, in 1849, he placed Franklin and his brother Frederick, giving each of them a further opportunity to manage for themselves. Franklin was married to his first wife, Lucy Jane Green, of Cayuga county, on the 27th of February, 1850. She died April, 1852. He married for his second wife, Sept. 8, 1858, Mary M. Spaulding, daughter of John Spaulding, of Cayuga county. Two children have blessed this union, viz., Minnie Amanda and Olive Rose Hand.

In the spring of 1864, at the instance of his father, Mr. Hand removed from the Spencer farm to the old house of his grandfather, which has been in the possession of the family for almost a century. In the settlement of the estate, upon the decease of his father, the homestead came into his possession. Valuable on account of its traditions and associations, Mr. Hand has aimed to render it not less so in the modern improvements which he has made upon it. The inheritor of a large estate, he has expanded liberally of its income in its improvement and decoration, and has one of the most desirable homes in this section of the State. Highly esteemed for his intelligence, moral worth, and energy of character, he has twice represented his town in the board of supervisors; the second time, in 1878, he was elected without opposition.