Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
January 15, 2016
The Glens Falls Club, originally formed as the Glens Falls Athletic Club was a social organization that at one time occupied the top floor of the Elks building, the building which Scoville Jewelers recently vacated. The group was organized in Crandall building, located at the southwest corner where South Street meets Glens Falls. Members of the group prepared ‘papers’ to be read in front of the group. The City Historian has some of these ‘papers’ which were transcribed from the collection of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
The following paper was read at a meeting of the Old Glens Falls Club, February 1940 and comes from the files of the Glens Falls City Historian. It is an interesting account of a man and his family who were at one time important in the City of Glens Falls history. The family lived at the corner of Warren and Center Streets. Platt Street is named for Elmore Platt, an early real estate investor in the city. Elmore is buried in Bay Street Cemetery. The paper was presented by Frederick G. Bascomb, a descendant of Elmore Platt.
Plot 9 Lot 28
Elmore born 1797 – died 1880
Betsey born 1805 – died 1878
It is probably about one hundred and fourteen years to a day that Elmore Platt made his first appearance in Glens Falls, for February 25, 1826 is the date of a deed from William McDonald and wife to “Elmore Platt, of the town of New Milford, County of Litchfield and State of Connecticut” conveying one hundred and fifty acres of land in the town of Queensbury for a consideration of $3,500. Elmore Platt gave back a mortgage for the full amount of the purchase price, payable “$1750 on the first day of June next, and $1750 on the first day of May next”. On that day, May 1, 1826, the mortgage was discharged of record in the county clerk’s office at Lake George. This was Elmore Platt’s first real estate transaction in Queensbury and I think it was significant. First, because for the remaining 54 years of his life he was to be an inveterate investor in Glens Falls real estate. Secondly, because the payment of the whole amount of the mortgage before interest began running indicated his thrifty character. Thrift I take to have been one of his principal traits – a characteristic that he shared in common with many of the early citizens of Glens Falls.
From that time on until July 26, 1880, when Elmore Platt died at the age of 83, in the brick house in which he then lived at Warren and Center Streets, and which is still standing, though partially remodeled, he had few occasions for borrowing on mortgages. But he loaned on many. In the index of mortgagees at Lake George I find his name 36 times, his wife’s 5 times, his children’s 11 times. In the index of mortgagors, the name Elmore Platt occurs but four times, including the first mortgage given to William McDonald February 25, 1826 and paid in full on May first of the same year.
Besides loaning his money on the security of Glens Falls real estate, Elmore Platt was owner of a considerable amount of the same kind of property. Today he would be called property poor, but in those happier times real estate paid a return. We can trace something of his increase in worldly prosperity by noting his acquisitions of real property. Where he acquired the first $3500 with which he paid off William McDonald on May 1, 1826, I do not know. We can be fairly certain that he did not save it out of the earnings of his farm which he had bought only on the 25th day of February before. This was apparently a productive farm, but it hardly yielded $3500 in a little more than two months. I imagine that Elmore Platt, after obtaining his deed from William McDonald, may have gone back to New Milford to obtain the money to pay for it. At any rate, he had not been working his Queensbury farm more than six years before he had saved a sufficient sum to put out at interest.
In 1832 we find his first mortgage recorded. But it was not until he had spent seventeen years tilling the soil that he began to branch out in earnest as an investor in real estate. Apparently he had some prevision of the future growth of Glens Falls for he favored village property instead of farm property, and of village property he had some preference for Warren Street. One of his deeds conveyed one acre “in the village called Goodspeedville”, but most of the others covered premises that might be found within a convenient radius of the Glens Falls Hotel, which was a landmark often mentioned in his deeds.
Elmore Platt’s farm, purchased from William McDonald in 1826, adjoined the Geer farm on Warren Street, or as it was then described, “the highway leading from the Glens Falls Hotel to Sandy Hill.” The farm consisted of two parcels, one a hundred acre parcel out of Lots 22 and 23 of the first division of the town of Queensbury; the other fifty acres described as part of Lots 7, 8, and 9 of the second division “as said lots were divided between William and Benjamin Wing, surveyed by Henry Matthews, Esquire.”
In 1864 Elmore Platt and his wife conveyed the greater part of this farm to their son Harvey and at that time, or within two years after, they retired to their new home at the corner of Center and Warren Streets, which Elmore Platt bought of Stevens Carpenter in 1866 for $3000. I have not had time to race the subsequent history of the Platt farm to see when it first began to be broken up into building lots. But without consulting the book of deeds in the County Clerk’s office, we know that Platt Street was laid out many years ago and the growing population of Glens Falls resorted for habitations to what were once the lonely fields and pastures of Elmore Platt’s farm. McDonald Street, Platt Street and Geer Street running parallel with one another, and northerly from Warren Street, and in the order named, are memorials to these early Warren Street farmers.
The Platt farmhouse was spared from final extinction until only a few years ago when it was pulled down. It stood just next to the Stevens storage building that now stands on the north side of Warren Street. Profane hands fell upon the house long before it was leveled to earth. I remember when I was a boy it was occupied by a family of foreigners who eked out their living by conducting a saloon in my great grandfather’s front parlor. I hasten to add that the property at that time had long since passed out of the hands of my family. I remember my mother telling that Meredith B. Little said to her, “What would your grandfather Platt say if he could see that lager beer sign on the front of his house where we used to hold Methodist class meetings?”
In the days when Mr. Little was an ardent spiritualist, my mother used to recall the times she visited her grandfather Elmore Platt and knew Mr. Little as a Methodist exhorter. Seven years after buying his farm Elmore Platt bought of James Palmeter for $380 a lot in Great Lot 29 “on the road leading from Glens Falls to Sandy Hill” and described as the same house and lot “occupied by David Baldwin and family and formerly by James Palmeter.”
The next property in which he invested was apparently on Park Street, for the deed contains an exception of “William Hay’s brick office.”
A year later Elmore Platt was the highest bidder at a sheriff’s sale of a lot “opposite Gardner’s Tan Yard on the west side of the highway leading from Glens Falls to Lake George,” and sixteen dollars, the record reads, was the highest sum bidden therefore.
The year after that Orlin Mead of Albany conveyed to Elmore Platt for eleven hundred dollars a lot “on the highway leading from the Glens Falls Hotel to Sandy Hill, being the lot on which a wooden building now stands which is occupied by L. G. and W. H. McDonald as a store.”
Two years later Elmore Platt became the owner of a lot bounded “west along the highway leading from the Baptist church to William McDonald’s.” This was in 1847 and as the original conveyance of the Baptist church property on Maple street was a few years previous we are justified in concluding that this lot was on what is now Maple Street.
Subsequent conveyances into Elmore Platt describe premises on Private Street, Walnut Street, Elm Street, Mechanic Street, Franklin Street, School Street and in 1861 he added to his holdings on lower Warren Street by buying six and a half acres from Caleb Reynolds, described as bounded south by the Geer farm.
A deed from Otis L. Baldwin, Elmore Platt’s son-in-law, conveyed “Lot No. 17 in a map of a tract of land heretofore purchased of Ira A. Paddock, by Alonzo W. Morgan, Walter Geer and Hiram Barber which is recorded in the office of the town clerk of the town of Queensbury.” That was in 1856. Thus early was the village being subdivided by real estate speculators.
In 1855 Elmore Platt began thinking of another tract of land, the one which he would one day claim as his final resting place. He then purchased a lot in the Bay Street Cemetery for $14.56 from the trustees of the village of Glens Falls, and there he lies buried.
I have thus dwelt on the “corporeal hereditaments” of Elmore Platt because it seems to me that this bare record points a moral. We cannot say that he came here a poor boy, because certainly he had as much as three thousand and five hundred dollars with which to pay off William McDonald on the day the mortgage was to being bearing interest. His grandfather, Epenetus Platt, is described in Connecticut chronicles as a wealthy man. Epenetus had eight children, and Elmore’s father, also Epenetus, had five, so that whatever family fortune there was must have been divided into several parts by the time that Elmore received his inheritance. So he probably did not have much more than enough to buy his hundred and fifty acres when he came to Queensbury. He was then 29 years of ago.
Within four years he was married and four children came within eight years. But within only a few years of his original purchase Elmore Platt was launched upon this career of a real estate investor that I have described and after forty years of farming, he was able to retire to the village to spend the last fourteen years of his life collecting his rents and his interest, and beating a well-worn path from his brick house at the corner of Center Street to the Methodist church just one block away, of which he was one of the most devoted members.
Here we have the true type of the first citizens of Glens Falls: industrious, prosperous, pious. Such were the men who found and took advantage of the opportunities that this country and this town offered in the Nineteenth Century.
Aside from being a farmer, a money-lender, a landlord and a good Methodist, Elmore Platt did not greatly diversify his interests. His name appears once or twice in Holden’s lists of town officers as a highway commissioner, but beyond that he does not seem to have been engaged in the public service or in politics. He must have been one who “minded his own business” as we say. I think he was a rather quiet man, but one of fixed and firm opinions. I have heard that he was much incensed at the introduction of musical instruments into the Methodist church. His portrait, which together with a portrait of his wife, is in the possession of my brother, Judge Bascom of Fort Edward, shows a slender man of pleasant eyes and features, with black Burnside whiskers.
I know little more of him, except these two items, both of which are likewise in connection with his worldly possessions, and one of them is mixed with Methodism: He was one of the early stockholders in the Glens Falls Insurance company and also one of the subscribers to the stock issue that built Dr. King’s Fort Edward Collegiate Institute. The dividend paying features of these two investments were in inverse ratio to one another. But Elmore Platt found a way to enjoy some return from his Institute stock. He arranged with Dr. King that his granddaughter, my mother, was to attend the Institute, tuition free.
How Elmore Platt happened to settle in Glens Falls, I do not know. His family lived in Connecticut for five generations when he wended his way thither. Perhaps he had heard of Glens Falls through some acquaintance with the family of Peter Peck who came here from New Milford in 1786, forty years before Elmore Platt came. Elmore Platt married Betsey Peck, daughter of Reuben Peck and granddaughter of Peter Peck. Their first born, Myron Platt, was my grandfather. They had three other children, Sarah, born in 1834, Harriet in 1836 and Harvey in 1838.
Myron Platt had his father’s ambition to make money but was not blessed with same success. He seems to have been of rather speculative, visionary turn of mind. He attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the days when it was something of a military school. We used to have a tintype of him in his uniform. He continued to live in Glens Falls as a young man and we find his name in Holden as an inspector of elections. But somehow or other he had, I think, gone into some business at Ticonderoga, where I imagine he met his future wife, who came from Shoreham, Vermont, across Lake Champlain from Ticonderoga.
They were married about 1855 or 1856 and set up housekeeping in Glens Falls, where my mother, their first born, came into the world in 1857. They soon moved to Shoreham where they occupied a farm on the shore of Lake Champlain. The farm embraced Hand’s Cove, from which Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys set out to take Fort Ticonderoga. Myron Platt was for many years one of those functionaries of Vermont known as “side-judge”. He died in 1897. Twelve of his direct descendants are now alive, four living still in Glens Falls, two in California, one in St. Louis, Missouri and five in Fort Edward.
Sarah Platt, second child of Elmore Platt and Betsey Peck, was a well known resident of Glens Falls fifty years ago. She was a maiden lady to the end of her days and inherited the family homestead at Center and Warren Streets, where she died in 1895. She also inherited Elmore Platt’s strong Methodist convictions and was a leading member of that church as long as she lived. The late Charles E. Bullard told me that she was his Sunday school teacher. She is still remembered with profound admiration and respect by some of the older residents of this city. Another of her Sunday school pupils who speaks of her noble character and the influence of her example is Mr. Charles F. West of this city.
Sarah’s sister Harriet married Otis L. Baldwin, who lived on upper Ridge Street. Harriet died childless in 1870. By her will she gave a house and lot on Oak Street to her sister Sarah. On the old atlas of the village of Glens Falls you will find this place marked with the name of Sarah Platt.
Harvey Platt, youngest child of Elmore Platt, was undoubtedly a son after his father’s heart. He died rich. Apparently he carried on the Warren Street farm after his father had retired to the corner of Center Street; but later he moved to Philadelphia and there amassed a fortune as a manufacturer of paper boxes. He married a daughter of Alonzo Morgan. They had three children, Harvey, Alonzo and Bessie. Harvey and Alonzo as boys used to visit here in the summer time, calling on their aunt Sarah and an aunt on the Morgan side, a Mrs. Burton, who made her home with Mrs. Angell’s mother, Mrs. Vanderheyden.
Alonzo Platt and his brother Harvey both followed in their father’s footsteps as Philadelphia manufacturers. Alonzo prospered for a time but died in reduced circumstances about twenty years ago. Harvey had more of the ability of his father and grandfather to hang on to what he had. About twenty-five years ago he was President of the chamber of commerce of Philadelphia and the owner of a flourishing paper mill. He died a few years ago. Both he and his brother had sons and their sister also married but whether she had children I do not know. Unfortunately neither my brothers nor myself have kept in touch with this branch of the family for twenty years, and how Elmore Platt’s Philadelphia descendants are faring, I cannot say.
The Platt family, and I am speaking now not of the line from which I spring but of the family in general, has been one of the outstanding families of this country. Whether the Platts who are known to fame such as Tom Platt and Senator Platt of Connecticut, author of the famous Platt Amendment, or Zephaniah Platt, who gave his name to Plattsburgh, traced their ancestry to Richard Platt, the emigrant, who landed at New Haven in 1638 and from whom Elmore Platt descended, I do not know. But Richard was a distinguished man himself and may well have been the author of the more distinguished line of Platts. He was one of the settlers of Milford, Connecticut and one of the organizers of the first Milford church. He left an estate of six hundred pounds, which, I suppose, for the year 1684 in which he died compared favorably with Elmore Platt’s competency when he died in 1880, or with Harvey Platt’s half million at about 1900.
The name of Richard Platt and that of his wife will be found on the memorial bridge at Milford, erected in 1889.
In closing I shall read from an old letter written, I think, from the farmhouse of Elmore Platt on lower Warren Street. The letter bears no date but from its context, I believe it was written on the 31st day of August, 1857. My mother was born at Glens Falls August 22, 1857 and this letter was written to her maternal grandfather, Lorenzo Larrabee, who was anxiously awaiting news of the event on his farm in Vermont. The author of the letter was his second wife, my grandmother’s step-mother. The letter affords us a slight glimpse of Elmore Platt:
“I thought you would like to hear from Sarah (my mother’s mother) by this time again, she is very, very smart. Came out to breakfast this morning it being the ninth day. Dressed her babe for two mornings and thinks it is the prettiest child in the whole world. Says no bogus about it either. It won’t do for me to phrase it. She can’t hardly wait for Wednesday to come, she wants to see her father so, and have him see her baby and hopes to hear him praise it to. It is quite pretty looking, considering who its father and mother is. Now, Father, you must certainly come. Come Wednesday without fail for we shall all be dreadfully disappointed if you should not.
Now come without fail. Myron says he will meet you at Fort Edward Wednesday…Camp meeting convenes this week Tuesday at Sandy Hill. Mr. Platt does not believe in them so they are not any of them going. Mrs. Platt believes in letting every man rule his own house. They all seem to think a great deal of the baby but think it will look like the Larrabees. Mrs. Fobs says it has got great ears, it will be liberal like its Grandpa Larrabee.”
The latter part of this letter, addressed to an adopted daughter, I will read simply for the sake of its homely, old fashioned savor:
“Now, Esther, how do you get along. Are you tired of keeping house. I think of you after I go to bed nights for I have not had much time daytimes though I stand it very well though I long to get home to my own quiet home of which I think is better than Glens Falls…Now as for the pickles, I should think you have enough but if you should put down any more put them in the tub we had tripe in, as for the plums I hope they won’t be ripe until I get home, If they do, preserve them pound for pound. Put them in the pot you kept ice water in this summer. Esther, get Sophia to stay with you when Father comes down. Don’t stay alone. Fix him off nice…”
When Sarah Platt died in 1895 the Platt homestead was broken up and its contents have long since been dispersed over the face of the earth. I believe most of the furnishings were sold at that time. A few years ago Miss Richards, who sold antiques on Elm Street, had a silver tea caddy that she said belonged to Sarah Platt. Mrs. Daniel H. Robertson has presented me with Sarah Platt’s autograph book, called “The Jenny Lind Album”, kept when she attended the Troy Conference Academy at Poultney in 1853, and which somehow or other came into the hands of Mrs. Robertson. But the mementoes of this old Glens Falls family are few.
As I said, their farmhouse, after an ignominious old age as a lager beer saloon, has now been utterly obliterated. Their town house has been made into a paint and glass store. Their names are found only on their tombstones, in the church records and in the public offices. A street has been named for them, it is true, but how many know for whom the street was named? Not one of their name is left alive here. Of the descendants of Myron Platt whom I mentioned, not one bears the name of Platt. The only male descendants to perpetuate the name are the Philadelphia branch, living far away from the spot of their origin, alike forgotten and themselves forgetful of their own kinsmen.
Such is the fate of the human family. Only occasionally does a company like this take the trouble to summon these dim figures from the past, to discover in them the qualities that typify to us the days of our forefathers.
– Frederick G. Bascom
Retyped by Casey Cosey for the Glens Falls City Historian from a copy of this report on file at the Folk Life Center at Crandall Public Library in October of 2016.