Biography of Horace White Peaslee


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Pages  296 & 297


      Horace White Peaslee was born on the 4th of November, 1807, in the town of New Lebanon, Columbia Co., N. Y.  His paternal ancestors were English, while those on his mother's side were a mixture of English and Irish.  The former emigrated to this country at an early time, Ebenezer Peaslee, his grandfather, settling at Quaker Hill, in Dutchess Co., N. Y., and two brothers, who came over with him, settling in the vicinity of Boston.  One of them was killed at the battle of Bunker Hill.  Mr. Peaslee's maternal grandmother was a Buell.  At an early period of the settlement of the country one of her brothers was captured and killed by the Indians, [p. 297] whose barbarous mode of execution consisted in filling his body with pine-knots, and by that means burning him to death.

     Jephthah Peaslee, the father of Horace White Peaslee, was the first of the family who settled in Columbia county.  He was born in Dutchess county, and removed thence to Chatham, at what date we are not informed.  He married for his first wife Lois Weed, by whom he had nine children, all born in the town of Chatham.  Of this large family Orra, now residing at Medina, Orleans Co., eighty-six years of age, is the only surviving member.

     Mr. Peaslee married for his second wife Anna Patrick, and by this marriage had ten children, several of whom died young.  William, Robert, and Horace W. are all of this family now living.

     Horace W. Peaslee was reared on a farm till seventeen years of age, and became thoroughly versed in every department of practical agriculture.  From a boy he was characterized by great energy and thoroughness in whatever he undertook, and his advantages of early education, though limited to the common schools, were well improved.  At the age of ten he began to work out for a living, doing such service as boys of that age could perform.  From his natural force and activity of temperament, he was able to do a man's work long before he had arrived at a man's age and estate.  Part of the time during his boyhood he worked nights and mornings for his board while attending school, and when at home assisted his father, who was a hatter by occupation.

     At the age of seventeen he went to learn the trade of millwright, and soon becoming a machinist, entered into partnership with Samuel Hanna in a foundry and machine-shop at Valatie, Columbia Co., N. Y., and continued in that business, under the firm-name of Hanna & Peaslee, till 1843.  The firm then purchased the Malden Bridge property, at Malden Bridge, Chatham, Columbia Co., consisting at that time of an old cabinet-shop and a grist and saw-mill.  They tore down the grist-mill and cabinet-shop, and in 1845-46 built the present paper-mill, a brick structure, three stories in height, thirty-eight by sixty-eight feet, to which other buildings have been added, to wit, a boiler-house, office, etc., twenty-six by forty-six feet, and two stories high; a scale-house and tool-room, twenty-six by thirty feet; engine-shop, for repairs, thirty by forty feet; and bleach-house, forty by forty feet in dimensions.  All these buildings are covered with slate roofs except the blacksmith-shop, which is roofed with gravel.  Connected with the paper-mill by an arch of masonry under the road, there is on the opposite side a machine-room for making paper, the main building of which is thirty-six by ninety feet, having a linter on each end, one of which is twenty-two by thirty-four feet, and the other twenty-six by thirty-six feet, the main building being roofed with slate and the linters with tin.

     The Kinderhook creek here, which forms the water-power, has been improved by a costly dam extending its entire width, and the banks made permanently secure by solid walls of masonry which have cost many thousand dollars.  The premises about the house are terraced up from similar substantial stone walls.  Altogether, the premises of Mr. Peaslee, including his mills and residence, separated by a fine iron bridge spanning the stream just below the beautiful and unbroken sheet of water, which rolls over the whole length of the dam like a flashing crystal cylinder, to the constant murmur of its own music, have been fitted up and put in the present state of improvement at great expense.

     In the fall of 1846, Mr. Peaslee commenced the manufacture of paper in company with Samuel Hanna, and the firm so continued till 1857, when Mr. Hanna sold his interest to James Benson, his nephew.  The firm then became Peaslee & Benson, which it remained till October, 1860, when Mr. Peaslee bought out Mr. Benson, and has since remained sole proprietor.  Since the commencement of these operations the business has been more than doubled.  The present average product of the mills is about twenty tons of wrapping-paper and boards per week.

     Mr. Peaslee is one of the most thorough-going business men in the State.  His losses have been heavy at one time and another, but his energy and spirit have always been equal to such emergencies, and he has risen from his disasters with fresh courage, only to assert more vigorously his indomitable energy and that irrepressible persistence and enterprise for which he is noted.  In addition to his manufacturing business he is carrying on a large farm of three hundred and fifty acres, all under his own personal supervision, together with the multitudinous calls upon his time and attention in business in the affairs of the neighborhood.  He still finds time to be courteous and obliging to all callers, and is liberal and public-spirited towards all enterprises for the general welfare, a patron of charities, schools, and churches.  He takes great pleasure in seeing everything improved and brought up to a high standard, and the thought and energy of his active mind and will are constantly brought into requisition to conserve and advance the various interest with which he is concerned.  Few men, especially at his present age, have such an aptitude for business and work, and such powers of endurance, both mental and physical.

     Mr. Peaslee was married in January, 1832, to Ann Carpenter, daughter of Dexter Carpenter, of Brainard's Bridge, Rensselaer Co., N. Y.  Her grandfather, Oliver Carpenter, came from Rhode Island and settled at Brainard's Bridge among the pioneers of that locality.  He married Joanna Ballou, a descendant of Hosea Ballou, of Boston, the noted Universalist preacher, and had a family of eight children,--two sons and six daughters.  He followed the pursuit of an agriculturist, in which he attained considerable wealth.  He died in 1845, aged ninety-four years.  His wife die in 1832.

     Dexter Carpenter was born in 1774, in Rhode Island.  He married Drusilla Kelley, in the year 1800, and had twelve children,--seven sons and five daughters,--five of whom are living at this writing [1878], and reside in the State of New York.

     Mrs. Peaslee is connected with a large and highly-respected family, and is highly esteemed for her own personal attainments and character by a large circle of friends and acquaintances.