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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
Hon. Henry S. De Forest

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[This information is from pp. 161-162 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

Portrait of Hon. Henry S. De Forest

Portrait: Hon. Henry S. De Forest

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Hon. Henry S. De Forest, ex-Mayor of Schenectady and an extensive real estate dealer, was born in this city, February 16, 1847, son of O. L. and Sarah (Vedder) De Forest.

His great-grandfather De Forest and his grandfather De Forest, both of whom were named Jacob, were lifelong residents of Schenectady County. Jacob De Forest, second, was a well-to-do farmer and the father of a large family of children, one of them a son Jacob, who became a prosperous farmer, and another Martin, who acquired wealth in mercantile pursuits, and was a man of prominence in this section of the State.

O. L. [Obadiah Lansing] De Forest, born in this county in 1806, son of the second Jacob, was a cooper by trade, and followed that business in this city successfully for a number of years, or until his death, which occurred in 1859. He served as Sheriff of Schenectady County and also as a Deputy.

His wife, Sarah, was a daughter of Nicholas Vedder, of Schenectady County, whose ancestors were among the early Dutch settlers in the Mohawk valley. Seven children were born of their union, namely: Anna, who died young; Rebecca, wife of Stephen D. Gates, of this city; Jacob, a furniture dealer, who served as Sheriff one term, and died in 1894, aged about sixty-two years, leaving a widow and five children; Ella, who married Christopher Van Slyck, and died in 1894, leaving two children; Frank V., Assistant Chief of Police; Henry S., the subject of this sketch; and Lansing, a farmer in the town of Glenville, this county. The mother, Mrs. Sarah Vedder De Forest, died in 1867, aged fifty-nine years. Henry S. De Forest attended the Union School, and completed his studies with a commercial course at Eastman's Business College, Poughkeepsie. Entering the employ of his brother-in-law, Christopher Van Slyck, a broom manufacturer, as clerk and book-keeper, he was later admitted to partnership; and after the dissolution of that firm, in 1878, he became extensively engaged in the cultivation of broom corn, which he carried on successfully for eight years. When a young man he displayed a decided preference for the real estate business, and his first land purchase consisted of two lots for which he paid one hundred dollars each. About the year 1886 he turned his attention exclusively to city property, his transactions in which during the last twelve years have amounted to two million dollars. He organized the syndicates which erected the Edison Hotel, at a cost of one hundred and eighty-five thousand dollars, and the Van Curler Opera House, completed in 1893 at a cost of one hundred and two thousand dollars, of which he is the largest individual owner. Previous to the business depression of 1893, and since 1897, he has erected many hundreds of buildings for residence and business purposes. He has laid out several thoroughfares, including Foster Avenue, named in honor of Professor John Foster, of Union College; Summit and East Avenues; and Terrace Place. These localities have been protected against the encroachments of the liquor traffic largely through his instrumentality, and his excellent judgment in regard to the real estate interests of the city has proved exceedingly beneficial to property holders. He is one of the largest owners of the Metropolitan Asphalt Pavement Company, which was organized in 1895, and which has paved the principal streets of this city in a most satisfactory manner. He is considered to-day the most extensive real estate dealer and owner in Schenectady. He is also the largest owner in the Schenectady Daily Gazette, the leading newspaper in the city.

Politically, he is a Democrat. He served as City Recorder four years and as Mayor for the same length of time, and deserves much credit for giving the city a sound and progressive administration. He was active in securing the erection of the new brick railway station, and an entirely new sewer system was among the number of public improvements completed during his term of office.

On September 6, 1876, Mr. De Forest married Lucy E. Van Epps, of this city, daughter of the late Harmon Van Epps. They have two daughters, namely: Beulah, a recent graduate of Lasell Seminary; and Pearl, aged eleven years.

Mr. De Forest is a director of the Schenectady State Bank. He is a Master Mason and a trustee of the Young Men's Christian Association. His business office is located at 420 and his residence at 436 State Street. As noted above, his influence and judgment have long been prominent factors in shaping the course of public improvements in this city. The fact that he began business without capital will enable those readers of the Review who have hitherto been unfamiliar with his early business life to better appreciate his untiring energy and perseverance.

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