Biography of Hon. Robert McKinstry


History of Columbia County, New York

By Captain Franklin Ellis

Published by Everts & Ensign

Philadelphia, PA



Opposite Page 216



The name of Mr. McKinstry was one of the best known among the early citizens of Hudson.  His memory will be cherished by thousands, but most of all by those who participated in his charities.  Born in Columbia county, he came to Hudson while a boy, and engaged as clerk for Mr. Abner Hammond, whose daughter Sally he afterwards married.  He engaged in business for himself during the early years of his manhood, and through a long course of active business life was distinguished for his sterling integrity of character.

     During all those years of incessant application to business, Mr. McKinstry occupied the official positions of mayor of the city of Hudson, treasurer of Columbia county, and member of Assembly.  For a number of years, he was director and vice-president of the Farmers' National Bank, and by his sound financial advice added to its success as a banking institution.  The varied public duties were performed with that assiduity for which he was so justly distinguished.

     Mr. McKinstry was a gentleman of the old school,---plain and unostentatious in his dress and deportment, exact to a nicety in his business habits and transactions.   He acquired the confidence of all with whom he came in contact, hating everything like hypocrisy or pretension.  He would sometimes express his aversion with deserving severity when such qualities came in collision with him, yet he was habitually genial, and at times humorous.  He was emphatically an industrious man, never idling away his time in foolish or vain pursuits or conversation.  When mayor of the city, many years ago, he could sometimes be seen with his hoe in his hand superintending the repairing of the streets.  Whatever he had to do he did with his might, and did well.  He held various other offices in the city and county, and in all of them conducted the business intrusted to his care with exactness and with entire satisfaction to the community.  Previous to his death he had been an office-bearer in the Universalist church of Hudson since 1817.  We make the following extract from the sermon preached on the occasion of his funeral by Rev. Charles W. Tomlinson, pastor of the church of which he was a member:

     "He came to this city a lad with no wordly means, entering a general merchant store as clerk; and he so commended himself by his probity and industry as to receive the hand of his employer's daughter at the alter of marriage,---a union which was cemented more closely in heart as the years moved on, and occasions of hospitality and charity gave them opportunity to learn more perfectly the kindredness of their spirits.

     " "He may govern others who first governs himself.'  That adage has been well exemplified in the life of our departed friend.  Himself of unimpeachable integrity, the young men who from time to time were placed under his training as clerks have generally themselves risen to the most honored rank among the business men of the city.  By their lives, as by their lips, they rise up now to call him blessed.

     "His habits of industry, early formed, never deserted him; and even the past summer, with all his weight of years, found him usefully and often charitably laboring in morning hours when others were yet wrapped in sleep.  The competence which his attention to business had won for him never tempted him to shirk the just law, 'if any will not work, neither shall he eat.'  To young men his whole life speaks in rebuke of idle and profligate habits,---in encouragement of honest labor and faithful employment of time. . .

     "In hospitality, in kindness to the poor, in self-forgetfulness when he could serve others, in deeds of mercy, in service to every cause of right and humanity, our now departed father 'fought a good fight.'  The helpless found in him a helper the friendless a friend, the orphan a parent. While his companion lived he cheerfully seconded her untiring zeal for the poor, their house being the resort of all who were in any distress, and in the now more than eight years since her departure, it has been his evident pleasure to carry out whatever plans of beneficence they had jointly devised.  Here with us to-day are the orphan recipients of that charity which they unitedly founded, and which under his fostering care, since her departure, has grown up to be such an honor to the city. . . .

     "At the earliest meetings of this Universalist Society, the records show that he served as clerk, and was placed on various committees.  In 1818 his name appears in place of one of he retiring trustees, and from that time until his death there was but a single year that he was not an active member of the board. . . .

    "When this church edifice was in course of construction, though he was then so feeble in body as oftimes to need special attentions on reaching his home, he exercised personal supervision of he entire work."

     Though having reached the ripe old age of seventy-six, he retained his mental vigor to the last.  He departed this life on the 28th of October, 1870.