Warren County Historical Society Presents …

The Digital Version “REWIND”

May 15, 2018

 

 

     This Rewind article was provided to us by Wayne Wright, Glens Falls City Historian.  The original transcript can be found in the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.  ‘The Old Glens Falls Club’ met periodically and members shared their ‘research.’

     In this work we learn about Colonel A. W. Morgan, a well respected, upstanding member of the community.  In addition to his dealings in local real estate, the Colonel was a trustee in many organizations, including the Glens Falls Academy and Glens Falls Village; Director of Glens Falls Insurance and the Glens Falls Bank; Commissioner of Highways, Supervisor and Assessor, among other positions.

      This was originally written by an A. W. Miller, who we find out is the grandson of the colonel.  According to the author, colonel Morgan’s house was, “…one of the most attractive homes in Glens Falls.”

 

The Colonel Morgan House

A.W. Miller

Presented at The Old Glens Falls Club

January 8, 1945

 

 

            The Morgan House on the northeast corner of Maple and Pearl Streets is so called because Col. A. W. Morgan built it and lived in it from about 1840 until about 1873.  Subsequent owners were Martin Coffin, Emmett T. Johnson, C. Albert Hovey, William D. Maxim and Harry S. Britt.

 

The Original House

            The original house was a good illustration of the type built during the Greek Revival period of American architecture. The aim of the better builders of that time was to imitate a Greek Temple. The most noticeable feature was the portico. The Morgan House, for example, had a portico which projected from the main house. The pediment was supported by four tall square pillars, about 12 inches wide. Directly behind these pillars, and against the house, were four pilasters of the same width and height as the pillars. The front door was on the left, just as it is today. On the right of this were two regular windows with sliding sash, twelve panes of glass to a window. On the second floor were three windows like those on the first floor, and directly above the door and two windows. The siding on the front was laid flush, which was the fashion, to imitate a smooth wall of stone or cement. On the left of the house was a small porch, pretty much as it is today, and beyond that were two projections. One of these I understand was a bedroom or dining room, the other was a shed. The yard was filled with elm and maple trees. The sidewalk was in the same position as now. The white wooden picket fence, with large square posts about every twelve feet, marked the boundaries of the lot. Between the sidewalk and curb stood a substantial stone horse block and a street gas lamp. All this is clear from a picture of the place, with Col. Morgan and family on the front porch, taken probably about 1870. The proud possessor of this picture is Mr. A.W. Morgan, 46 Horicon Ave., the grandson of the colonel.

            Inside was a long, narrow hall, with a straight staircase, which had a lovely ribbon stair rail of cherry. On the right were two parlors opening into one another, extending along the east side of the house. A door at the back of the hall led to the small room, either a dining room or a downstairs bedroom. Beyond that, with an outside door, was a shed which led to the kitchen in the rear of the two parlors. Upstairs there were three main bedrooms and two very small rooms connecting with the stairs from the kitchen. The walls of the house are very substantial, about 8 inches thick, with the spaces between the stud filled with brick.

Who was Colonel Morgan?

            Obviously, this place was one of the most attractive homes in Glens Falls. It is but natural that we inquire about the people who lived here. In this connection, the present Mr. Morgan has been of decided help to me.

            The colonel’s father, Solomon Morgan, died at Grand Isle, Vt. in 1812, age 41. He was a lawyer and a Yale graduate, according to Smith’s History of Warren County. Solomon’s wife was Hannah Willoughby. They had two children, one of whom was a Williams College graduate. The other who was born at St. Albans, Vt. Jan. 9, 1799, and named Alonzo Willoughby, later became Col. A.W. Morgan. Smith states that young Alonzo came to Glens Falls in 1813. Hyde’s History of Glens Falls (p. 296) says that he came with his parents, but only his mother was alive at that time. Where the widow and her son lived here is not known. It may have been with Henry Spencer, justice of Peace, proprietor of the Glen House, about across Glen Street from the Finch Pruyn office building, since Smith says that the boy served his apprenticeship in the harness making trade under Judge Spencer. Whether he went to school in Glens Falls is unknown.

The Cold Year

            The year 1816 is known as the Cold Year because freezing weather occurred in every month of the year. Snow fell in June. Crops could not mature. A reporter after interviewing the colonel probably about 1870, states (Hyde, p. 297) “Mr. Morgan relates that after the war (1812-15) closed there was a great depression in all kinds of business, money was very scarce, and merchants everywhere failed. The next year, 1816, came on the cold summer, and with it a failure of crops, which added greatly to the suffering. He speaks of his living one whole year on rye bread and sweetened water; and says the neighbors clubbed together, raised all the money they could get, and started Mr. Varney off to Greenwich, Washington County, for a load of rye, for which he paid twenty shillings a bushel. On his return, he was met in Sandy Hill by Charles Baker, who claimed that the people there were starving and he must unload. This he did and took the money and started again for Greenwich for another load. When he arrived at Glens Falls he found the people well high famished. Corn was also brought from Greenfield, for which two dollars and a half was paid per bushel.”

            When the colonel was 20 years old his mother died (1819). This event must have left the young man entirely on his own.

            Glens Falls during the 1820’s must have been a discouraging place. Judge Hay stated to Dr. Holden that the nearby timber was cut and the sawmills were about through. Small sawmills were following the receding tide of forests into the Oneida, Lake George, Warrensburg, Horicon, etc., but Glens Falls was dead. The canal and river driving were not dreamed of yet. However, people did come here to shop when they could. Roads were bad. The only horse power, except for the water wheel, was really furnished by the horse. Horses were in demand for all traveling and hauling, as well as in all the lumber camps in the north. So, young Mr. Morgan plied his trade from 1820-35 and apparently made money at it. In 1827 the local business directory in the Glens Falls “Observer” lists him as “Saddlers and Harness Makers” A.W. Morgan and Sheldon Benedict, 2 doors south of the Glens Falls Hotel. This place, according to the late Mr. Boyd, was at 94 Glen Street, next door south of the Brown Stone Bank. The Glens Falls Hotel stood where the Rockwell Hotel is now. In 1829 Morgan withdrew from the partnership and started a harness shop at the south corner of Glen and Park. (Messenger 3/26/29). In 1835 he built a new shop next door south. (Messenger 7/1/35). Before 1828 Governor Dewitt Clinton appointed him Colonel of the Northern New York Regiment. (Smith, p. 677).

            In 1825 or 1826 Alonzo Morgan married Emma Warren of Warrensburg. She was then 22 years old, and he was 26. In the next year, he made his first purchase of real estate in Glens Falls. Roughly it contained 11 acres running from the corner of Glen and Park to the foot of the hill, west to the ravine, north to the Clark Silk Mills, taking in part of the east side of Elm Street and all of the west. (Hyde, p. 296). Price $800.

            On this property, he built a house for his bride. It stood where the Post Star Building now stands. On the 1851 Map of Glens Falls, pillars are designated for this building just as they are for the Berry house next south. Apparently, this house was built in the Greek Revival style also. The Morgans lived here till about 1840, when he moved to his new Maple Street home. His former house was sold to A. N. Cheney, who was still living there when it was destroyed by the great fire of 1864.

Property Development

            The colonel did not let his land lie idle. In Dr. Holden’s papers are some interesting items on streets, which indicate what was happening to this part of the town:

“Park Street – laid out March 28, 1826, to intersection with South Street. Alonzo Morgan and Roger Haviland giving all the land for this purpose.”

“Elm Street – from Park to West – laid out June 3, 1830 – the lands being given by Wm. Hay, Alpheus Hawley and heirs of John L. Curtenius.”

In other words, Morgan now had “lots for sale” facing on new streets. In 1826 the town had elected him Overseer of the Poor, in 1827 Town Assessor, and in 1834 Supervisor of the Town of Queensbury. By 1835 he had almost abandoned the harness business.  E. H. Newton lists him in a directory for that year as, “Saddler, farmer, speculator.” The Feeder Canal had been opened in 1830, and Glens Falls was now booming. New people were moving in and they wanted lots for building homes.

Rope Walk

            Another product which had a ready sale to lumbermen and canalers was rope. Mr. Morgan decided not only to sell it, but to make it, as appears from the following announcement in the Messenger for Jan. 22, 1829. “Rope Walk recently erected in this village by Messrs.  Alonzo W. Morgan, George Stanford and N. Sheldon is completed and in operation.” The location was behind the old Glens Falls Academy on Warren Street.

Community Service

            Apparently, he had an interest in the intellectual development of the community as well as its business betterment, for in 1835 we find that he was active in the formation of the first public library. The organization meeting, according to James Holden, was held in the Session House, which stood where Englander’s and Merkel and Gelman’s stores are now located. The colonel was elected president and D. H. Cowles librarian. About 300 books were bought and kept in Rogers and Cowles Store, south corner of Glen and Park Streets. The library was sustained by memberships of $1 each, yearly dues of 25 cents and fines.

            Early in January 1835 Glens Falls suddenly became aware of the danger of fire. The N. Nunn & Co. Marble Hill, between the bridge and the dam, burned. A meeting was called at the Glens Falls Hotel with John A. Ferris chairman, and passed various resolutions, one of which was:

            “Resolved that J. L. Curtenius, A. W. Morgan and Abram Wing be a committee to superintend the making of a reservoir for a supply of water to extinguish fires.” (G.F. Messenger and Advertiser, Jan. 8, 1835)

            The same paper for Jan. 16, 1835 has this announcement:

            “A meeting of the subscribers for making a “Village Well” is requested at Rogers and Brown Hotel this evening to choose a committee to superintend its construction.” This is the first indication of a movement for building a water supply. (Smith, p. 471)

Further Real Estate

            By 1840 Morgan, now 41 years of age, having done pretty well in real estate, decided to launch forth in a big way. According to a newspaper account (Hyde, p.296) he and Sheldon Benedict, his former partner in the harness business, purchased 42 acres of land fronting on Warren Street, lying between Center St. and Mrs. Robertson’s Easterly line, extending north as far as the Dix property, for which they paid $1600. I am inclined to believe that this purchase should have an earlier date, but I have not had opportunity to check it by the deed. Also, it is probable that this purchase constituted the old Jabez Kendrick farm which is mentioned as being in this location in two deeds dated respectively 1812 (Parsons) and 1827 (Numan-Carter), but this, too, needs to be checked at Lake George before it is accepted as a fact.

            The same account says that the colonel with Judge Geer and Judge Barber in 1844 purchased 20 acres fronting on Warren Street, commencing at Mrs. Robertson’s easterly line, running easterly to Oak, including one tier of lots on the east side of Oak St., thence northerly to the upper end of Walnut Street, paying for the same $1300.

            Smith’s History of Warren County (p. 677) states that in 1840 Mr. Morgan bought 200 acres on the Country Club Road. This farm probably extended from the Country Club Road to the Bay Road, because on the 1858 Map of Queensbury he is shown as the owner of what used to be known as the Howard Farm. Some time later he apparently bought the farm which used to be known as the Bayle chicken farm on the Country Club Road, (now the James D. Griffen house), as a place for his son James. A. W. Morgan is listed as the owner on the 1875 map.

            According to Dr. Holden’s notes Maple Street from Ridge to A. W. Morgan’s house was laid out March 19, 1839; and Maple Street to Oak Street were laid out Feb. 28, 1844. Subsequently Cherry Street was laid out. During the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s a good many Irish families came here to work in the quarries, lime kilns and lumber yards. May of them found homes in one of the streets opened up by Col. Morgan on the east end of the village.

            Before Center Street was laid out and accepted as a street is was known as the “Lane to Col. Morgan’s farm.”

            Let us turn now from real estate to some of the other activities of Mr. Morgan.

Glens Falls Academy Trustee

            Dr. Fennell in his History of the Glens Falls Academy states that on Feb. 24, 1841 a meeting of interested parties was called at the Glens Falls Hotel (Rockwell Hotel site) to consider the advisability of organizing the Academy. “The following trustees were elected:

William Caldwell, Halsey Rogers, John J. Harris, Hiram Barber, John R. Thurman, Walter Geer, Jr., Alonzo W. Morgan, Russell M. Little, Elmore Platt, Billy J. Clark, Johnathan W. Freeman, George Sanford, Bethuel Peck, Julius H. Rice, Henry Ferguson, Enoch H. Rosecrans, Alfred Fisher and George G. Hawley.” Here was certainly a list of the most important men in the village at that time. “The building committee, with power to select the site, to make all contracts and put up the building were Alonzo W. Morgan, Walter Geer, Jr. and Johnathan W. Freeman. The Warren Street lot which was chosen was apparently part of the land bought in 1840 by Morgan and Benedict. According to Dr. Holden “the back portion of the lot, previously occupied as a rope walk for the spinning and preparation of rope, yarn, and hemp cordage, was donated by Col. Morgan. From it the trustees subsequently sold several lots realizing upwards from $500.” Also in November of 1841 the colonel was put on the Visiting Committee consisting of seven men, three of whom were ministers of the gospel.

Bridge Building Commission

            “In Feb. 1841, the County of Warren was loaned $2500 by act of Legislature out of the Common School Fund, to build a bridge over the Hudson at Glens Falls. A. W. Morgan, Daniel Roberts and George G. Hawley, of Queensbury, were appointed Commissioners under the act.” (Smith, p 430) This obviously was the beginning of the old covered bridge which lasted until 1890.

Village Trustee and President

            The Village of Glens Falls was incorporated in 1839. Two years later Col. Morgan was honored by being elected one of the trustees. He was elected on three other occasions, – 1848, 1854, 1870. In 1854 he was chosen President of the Board of Trustees. In addition to these honors, Mr. Morgan was elected to offices of various types with marked frequency. From 1826 until 1870 he held the positions of Supervisor, Town Assessor, Overseer of the Poor, Commissioner of Highways, Inspector of Elections, Village Assessor, Fire Warden and Presidential elector, at one time or another; some for as many as eight terms.

 

Fire of ’64

            The fire of ’64 burned practically all of the stores and many residences of the village. Many people were made destitute. Relief to the extent of several thousands of dollars came from Troy, Albany and other places. “To make equitable distribution among the sufferers the following committee of five was appointed: Col. A. W. Morgan, Jerome Lapham, Stephen S. Goodman, Walter A. Faxon and Enoch H. Rosecrans.” (Phoenix Ed. G. F. Messenger)

Banker

            Mr. Morgan did his banking at the Glens Falls Bank (now the Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Co.) which was organized in 1851.  He became a director in 1856 and I believe was continued in that capacity till his death in 1889.

President of the “Old and Tried”

            The records of the Glens Falls Insurance Company show that the colonel was one of the early directors of the Dividend Mutual Insurance Co.  In 1859 he was put in charge of selecting a lot, and was one of the three directors on the building committee.  The lot selected for the company’s first building was the one now occupied by the Y.M.C.A.  When the first office building was erected two men bid on the contract.  Evidently the wrong man was the low bidder as both bids were rejected and the matter referred to Col. Morgan with the result that at this time the right man was evidently low bidder and awarded the contract.  He served as President of the Glens Falls Insurance Com. For two years, 1864-1865 being the first two years after its reorganization into a Stock Company.  (Tales of the “Old and Tried.)  On January 9, 1866, the Insurance Co. passed the following resolution:

Resolved, that the Directors of the Glens Falls Insurance Co. in parting with Col. Alonzo W. Morgan as President of the Company desire to express their high appreciation of his excellence as a man and his superior qualifications as the presiding officer of this Board – that the Company is largely indebted for its present prosperous condition to the sound judgement and prudent counsels of Col. Morgan.  The sectary. Is hereby instructed to furnish Col Morgan with a copy of this resolution.   A. Newton Locke, Secty.

Bear Garden

            In the early 1870’s the Col. Seems to have slowed down considerably from the leader of community affairs, for we find him in the “Bear Garden.”  This was the name applied to John Kenworthy’s store, and to Cronkhite’s store, because here were the retreats of some old men who had been eminently successful in their day, but now resisted all change and consistently “growled” at all public improvements.  The Bear Garden actively opposed the organization of a public water system, on spite of the disaster of 1864.  But in this case the wishes of the Bear Garden did not prevail.

Retirement

            On March 23, 1870, Alonzo Morgan’s wife died and three years later he closed out the last of his real estate in Glens Falls to Martin Coffin (Hyde, p. 296).  He then moved out to his farm on the Country Club Road and spent the rest of his days with his son James.  He died May 29, 1889, age 90.

            Col. And Mrs. Morgan had four children, James, farmer and Civil War veteran, Elizabeth, Anna and Alonzo Willoughby.  Alonzo Willoughby, who was office manager for Darwin Sherman, passed the name along to his son (now Secretary and Comptroller of the Glens Falls Insurance Company) and he, in turn gave the name to one of his sons.  This youngest Alonzo Willoughby Morgan, usually known as Bill, is at present a Captain in the Army Air Forces on the Western Front, where he flies a P-47.  He holds the Air Medal with 20 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one cluster.  He has completed over a hundred missions and recently received a personal citation from his Commanding Officer.  He is the fourth in direct decent to have this honored name of Alonzo Willoughby Morgan.

Remembered by Old Residents

            Col. Morgan is remembered by several old residents in Glens Falls as being quite tall, at least six feet, as possessing strong opinions, an irascible temper during his later days, and being capable of using rather definite and picturesque language on his adversaries.  He attended the Presbyterian Church and in 1850 was elected trustee of the church, but declined.  Without question, he was one of the most important business men of his community throughout a period of more than forty years.

Second Owner of the “Old Morgan House”

            After Col. Morgan retired, Martin Coffin, another real estate man, was the owner and occupant of the Morgan House for a few years, from 1873 to the early 1880’s.  Then he sold to Emmett Johnson, and moved himself into his house on Pearl Street.

            Martin Coffin opened up Pearl Street, and built and owned most of the houses on the east side of the street.  He had also developed a large tract of land bounded by Ridge and Bay Streets, between Washington and Grand Streets.  Mr. Boyd once said that no man had done more to establish Glens Falls as a residential City.

Emmett T. Johnson, the 3rd Owner

            Emmett T. Johnson, the 3rd owner and occupant, was the cashier of the First National Bank for 42 years, 1865-1907, a record exceeded, I believe, by only one man, William A. Wait, cashier for the Brown Stone Bank for 42 years, 1862-1905.  After Mr. Johnson’s death in 1907 his widow and daughter Lena, the widow of Frederick K. Locke, resided there for many years.

            The house was altered considerably by the Johnsons.  The four pillars and the pediment were removed from the front.  The porch was rebuilt with posts in style at the time.  Two bay windows, one in the front and one on the east side, were added to the parlors.  The small projection on the west was removed and a dining room wing was built.  These, and other alterations, made the place more comfortable, but destroyed the Greek Temple appearance of the original house.

Fourth Owner

             In 1921, the house was purchased from the Johnson estate by C. Albert Hovey, who lived there until 1937.  Mr. Hovey put electricity through the house and added two bathrooms upstairs.

Fifth Owner

            The fifth owner was William D. Maxim, who lived there from 1937 to 1944.  Mrs. Maxim was much interested in the house and its history.  What remodeling they did was kept in the early tradition.  The two parlors were turned into one long room, the bay window in the farther one was made into a French door opening onto a stone terrace.  The moldings around this doorway were carefully hand carved to match the originals.

           Early in 1944 the house was bought by Harry S. Britt and in 1956 Thor Lundgren purchased it.  In 1946 the home was transferred to Mabel Lundgren and in 1991 to Bruce and Andrew Lundgren.  In 2001 the current owner (2017) Attorney William Montgomery purchased the home.

            Thus, we see that the old house, which had beauty and dignity when it was built in 1840, has been the home of several families.  Each has apparently loved it, and added to its comfortableness.  It has now not only the charm of mellow age, but also that of pleasant livableness.

Original transcript of this document found in the files at the Crandall Public Library Folklife Center.  It was retyped and information added by the Glens Falls City Historians Office in February of 2017.

 

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