Biography of Mrs. Sally McKinstry


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Pages  216 & 218


      Mrs. Sally McKinstry, deceased, wife of the late Hon. Robert McKinstry, was the daughter of Abner Hammond, a successful merchant of Hudson, N. Y., in which city she was born in the year 1798.  She was known nearly all her life as a devoted patron of charity, especially in connection with the Hudson Orphan Asylum, an institution which she founded, and with which she was connected as chief directress from its establishment up to the time of her death.  Although this institution was the great work of her life, and that which will longest commemorate her devotion to the welfare of the poor helpless whom she sought to [p. 217] benefit, yet she was from a much earlier period eminently devoted to charity, and was constantly meditating or carrying out some scheme of active benevolence by which she endeavored to ameliorate the conditions of the needy and suffering around her.  She was prompted to this by the natural benevolence of her character, as well as from the fact that she had no children of her own to occupy her time and attention.  Her thoughts naturally turned to the poor and neglected children on the streets and in the by-ways of the city, and to systematize her methods for benefiting this class, she conceived the idea of an orphan and relief asylum.

     No sooner had the idea taken shape in her mind than it absorbed and controlled her entire energies, becoming her one paramount idea and ruling passion till the work was completed.  She had not the means of her own to establish such an institution, but she possessed in a remarkable degree the power of earnestness and persuasion by which she could enlist the co-operation of wealthy and influential parties, and thus secure the success of her undertaking.

     With a foresight and sagacity superior to most women of her day, and with a perseverance which insured success where others would have failed, she went to work to realize her cherished object.  Securing rooms, she gathered a number of poor children and took care of them herself personally for some time.  She then secured the co-operation of her father, Mr. Hammond, who gave a suitable site for an asylum building.  She solicited men of means to aid in the enterprise; she canvassed from house to house, from office to office, in the city; she sought out information, wrote articles on the subject, brought reports before public meetings and committees; in short, she never alter in her endeavors until her efforts were crowned with success, and the asylum was erected and its permanent continuance provided for.

     In all this she had been the head and manager of the enterprise, and when the asylum was fairly established she became by general consent the chief directress of the institution, an office which she held, and the duties of which she discharged, with singular capacity and devotion during the rest of her life.

     She had great foresight, perseverance, and executive ability, and these qualities, united with the earnest benevolence of her nature and her power to enlist the sympathies of others in her work, made her as eminently fitted for the difficult and responsible duties of her station as any woman of her age.  The name of "Aunt Sally McKinstry," as she was popularly called by those who met or saw her everywhere, as a sort of ubiquitous presence or incarnation of the spirit of charity, as she went about the city seeking out the poor and needy, and soliciting means for their relief, will long be remembered as a household word by the citizens of Hudson; and by how many who have gone out from the institution benefited by her labors of love will it be repeated with reverence and affection!

     Mrs. McKinstry died very suddenly, on Sunday Morning, June 22, 1862, at the age of sixty-four years.  We copy the following obituary from the Hudson Register of a day or two subsequent to that date:

     "Mrs. McKinstry probably enjoyed a larger circle of friends and acquaintances than any other lady in the county.  The wide range of her benevolence, the avidity with which she sought out the needy in every walk of life, and her activity in every good cause, rendered her name almost a [p. 218] household word throughout the county, and wide is the circle who mourn her loss.

     "None were too poor to receive her care,--none too high to do her homage.

     "Such generous spirits cannot well be spared from a selfish world.  But she has gone to receive her great reward.  We trust there are many left behind who will emulate her noble example."