William Hay .


"Though I look old, yet am I strong and lusty,

For in my youth I never did apply

Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood;

Nor did I with unbashful forehead woo

The means of weakness and debility;

Therefore my age is a lusty winter,

Frosty, but kindly."



WILLIAM HAY {For the greater portion of this sketch the author is indebted to the History of the Town of Queensberry , by Dr. A.W. Holden of Glen's Falls. This work, which is most exhaustive in reference to the subject of which it treats, should be in the library of every scholar in the United States. Too much praise cannot be awarded to it.} - a loved and revered resident of Saratoga Springs - was of Scotch extraction, his ancestors having been among the earliest of that hardy band of Scotch adventurers who hewed them out a home in the wilderness, on the eastern confines of Charlotte County, about a century ago. {Charlotte County at that time included the present counties of Albany, Saratoga, Washington, and Warren.} He was a blood relation of the late Henry Hay of Ticonderoga, and of Colonel Udney Hay, who held important relations to the American army of the Revolution. He was born in the year 1790, in Cambridge, Washington County, N.Y., and his early training was in the straight and narrow ways of Scotch Presbyterianism. About the beginning of the present century, his father, William Hay, came to Glen's Falls, where he embarked in the lumber business, and erected a store - the first building put up on the site, now (1875) occupied by Pearsell & Coolidge as a clothing store. For a time he carried on an extensive trade, but he was ultimately unsuccessful, and the property passed into the hands of John A. Ferris and others. Amid these reverses, however, the son struggled nobly on unaided in the acquirement of an education - his advantages being of the scantiest, both as regards quality and opportunity. In 1808 he was pursuing the study of the law in the office of Henry O. Martindale, near the site of "Vermillia's Block," in Glen's Falls. In 1812 he opened an office for the practice of his profession in Caldwell, at the head of Lake George.

Always intensely patriotic, when the War of 1812 came, he left his office, and, doffing the gown for the sword, he marched, as lieutenant commanding, at the head of a rifle company (raised in a great measure through his efforts) to Plattsburg, but did not reach the place in time to participate in that celebrated action, which contributed so largely to the final success of the American arms in the second great struggle with England. He was also one of the volunteers in the unfortunate expedition to Carthagena, pending which he spent a winter in Philadelphia, where he became practically familiar with and an adept in the printer's art. In 1819, he became the proprietor and publisher of the Warren Patriot , the first and only newspaper ever published at Lake George. About the same time, also, he delivered at a Fourth-of-July celebration at Caldwell a poem to the people dwelling in the vicinity of Hadley Falls and in Warren County. This was published, and was remarkable - especially at that early period - for its enunciation of those broad principles of human rights and liberties which, forty years later, became the corner-stone of the Republican party. In 1822 he removed to Glen's Falls and resumed the practice of law, and in 1827 was elected to the Assembly from Warren County. A doggerel verse, modelled after "Mother Goose," and which commemorates the spirit of that campaign, runs as follows:


"In Warren County lived a Fox , *

And he was wondrous wise;

He ran against a load of Hay ,

And scratched out both his eyes.



"The Quakermen were marshalled out,

All headed by John A.,

With long-tailed coats and broad-brimmed hats,

A-fighting Billy Hay."


* Norman Fox, his opponent, who was thrice elected to the Assembly, viz., 1819, 1820, 1830. Afterwards he became a Baptist minister at Ballston, N.Y. See note to Chapter XVIII .

John A. Ferris, the father of Hon. Orange Ferris, and at this time postmaster of the village.


Soon after his return from the Legislature he issued a thin duodecimo volume of poetry, entitled Isabel Davalos, the Maid of Seville . In the spring of 1837 he removed to Ballston, at the same time retaining a branch office in the village of Glen's Falls. In 1840 he transferred his residence to Saratoga Springs, where he remained up to the time of his decease. Of several published works of his, the one which has attained the widest circulation is A History of Temperance in Saratoga County .

Of Judge Hay, personally, I am enabled to speak confidently, having been honored by an acquaintance with him of many years. He was a man of singularly temperate habits - so much so, indeed, as to have been accused by his political opponents of fanaticism. He was a person of firm convictions, very decided, if a necessity arose; in his expression of them; possessing also a remarkable love of truth, he was, like Dr. Steel, an intense hater of shams. Indeed, this latter trait was oftentimes the cause of his losing wealthy clients, since his plain speaking regarding the justice of their claims was, in many instances, extremely unpalatable. In his treatment, however, of those who won his respect by sterling qualities of character, no one could be more tender and sympathetic. His intercourse with youth, especially, was ever marked by a peculiarly courteous and genial manner. His benevolence and kindness of heart were great; and yet so unobtrusively were his acts of kindness performed that, in this world at least, it will never be known how many people he has assisted both by practical advice and by substantial pecuniary benefits. {I have in my mind now two instances: one, who having been elected lieutenant in the late war, and having nothing wherewith to purchase a sword or an outfit, was enabled to go with his company to the seat of war by the private liberality of Judge Hay, who supplied, at some inconvenience to himself; the entire outfit; the other, a poor woman, to whom he gave the entire proceeds of one of his works - having, indeed, written it with that specific object.} Far, moreover, from possessing that narrow professional jealousy which too frequently mars an otherwise excellent character, he was ever willing to give advice to his brothers of the bar, and allow them to gather largely of the rich stores of his experience. He was likewise, as Dr. Holden truly says: "A man of extensive reading and vast erudition; not a little tenacious of his opinions and views, some of which bordered upon eccentricity. But few of the sterner sex ever possessed more delicate sensibilities, keener perceptions, or more rapid intuitions. In the latter decades of his life he became a bold and fearless advocate of temperance. His delight and recreation, however, were drawn through the flowery, though not thornless paths of poetry and romance. His memory was something extraordinary, his industry in research indefatigable, and his mind was stored with the choicest cullings from the wide fields of literature and belles-lettres . In American history he was a standard authority, to whom it was safe to refer at a moment's warning, and in the matter of local history his mind was an exhaustless treasury."

He was also, in the true sense of the term, a green old age . Although more than eighty years of age at the time of his death, his most intimate associates could not have detected that fact by any failure either in his mental or physical powers. His death, which occurred on the evening of Sunday, the 12 th of February, 1870, while attending service at the Baptist church in Saratoga Springs, was sudden. Like a shock of corn fully ripe, but with no signs of decay, he was cut down by the Reaper. Even up to the day of his death, he was engaged upon, and had nearly completed, his historical novel - the incidents of which were founded upon the campaign of General Burgoyne.

While practising law at Caldwell, and early in the winter of 1816-17, Judge Hay was married to a daughter of Stephen Paine of Northumberland, Saratoga County, N.Y., by whom he had eight children, five of whom yet survive. {Of his two daughters, one is the wife of Hon. Judge Bockes, of Saratoga Springs, and the other is the wife of Hon. James B. McKean, late Chief-Justice of Utah Territory.}

"Peace to the memory of a man of worth,

A man of letters and of manners to.

. . . . . Was honored, loved, and wept,

By more than one."



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