Biography of Moses Y. Tilden


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Pages  317 & 318


     Moses Y. Tilden was born in New Lebanon, Nov. 14, 1811, and died there Sept. 9, 1876.  His life was uneventful.  Save in its relations to his younger brother, Samuel, it had not extraordinary points of contact with the outer world.  Yet it was a happily-rounded, worthy life, full of all acts, behavior, and "household charities" that become a good son, affectionate brother, and faithful husband, nor deficient in any service due from the intelligent, public-spirited citizen.  The varied knowledge of his manhood had its basis in an early love of study, cultivated by a good English education at the Lenox Academy, under Mr. Hotchkin, a noted teacher of that day in Berkshire.  He married Lucy F. Campbell when he had reached the age of thirty-two, and their home, which became the resort of young and old, was brightened in his later years by the presence and love of an adopted daughter.  He was senior partner of Tilden & Company, the pharmaceutists, whose extensive works are elsewhere described; but after their prosperity was assured he laid aside active business, and occupied himself with the less exacting cares of stock-raising, for which he had a great fancy, and for which the fertile valleys and hill-sides of New Lebanon afford sufficient temptation.  Indeed, like Webster in his dying day, when he had his cattle brought up the lawn to the porch, so the sight of his own soft-eyed Jerseys was solicited, and was grateful to his failing vision, when the final hour was near.

     As the elder member of the Tilden family, he maintained during a long and honored life the political principles and traditions which were like an atmosphere in his father's house.  He inherited, also, or prolonged, that something indefinable of personal influence or weight of character which had made his father the oracle of the vicinage, as it made him a foremost and respected citizen.  The republic itself has received its best stamp of perpetuity from men like these, who sincerely loved their country and its institutions of freedom, who were not seekers of office, but if in office looked upon themselves as merely chosen servants of the people. He was identified, of course, with the largest enterprises in his locality, and his aid or advice were sought in any new path struck out by the energies of his fellow-citizens, and in every shifting phase or serious extremity of public affairs.  At the local and State conventions of his party he was often a delegate, and always a sagacious counselor.  There, too, his cautious, watchful diligence and unforced sagacity of counsel made his place good and his remembrance cherished among the disinterested and upright of both political parties.

     Yet, neither in all these circumstances of his career, nor in the competence he gradually accumulated, nor in the habitual benevolence and cordial hospitalities with which it was administered, nor in the gentle manners and kind speech which were so fit an index of his pure and capacious heart, can a biographer and friend find all the lineaments of the portrait which he would fain trace for a memorial.  Nor do these alone explain why one or two thousands thronged form Pittsfield, Albany, Chatham, and Kinderhook, along with his neighbors of New Lebanon and the Shaker village, to do honor to his memory and replace his ashes in their native carth.  The reverend gentleman who stood beside his bier went nearer to the heart of the matter when he found his text in the gospel of Luke and the character of Joseph of Arimathea, "a counselor, a good man, and a just."  For the quality of his goodness was this, that it was without ostentation or profession; it had the grace of a genuine humility; in that which concerned the public it was without a sinister or self-seeking thought; in that which concerned individuals it was just to the far, and to the near was governed by the golden rule,--precept matchless in the religious of all ages.  He died avowing a personal faith in the incarnate, crucified, arisen, atoning, interceding Saviour, the "Lord both of the dead and living."