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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Norman Berton Alter

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 613-614 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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There are few men connected with the educational profession in the Mohawk valley who are so widely and favorably known as Norman Berton Alter of Nelliston, the county superintendent of schools for Montgomery county since 1911. Mr. Alter's teaching experience, covering approximately thirty years, began in the spring of 1895, when as a young man of eighteen he entered upon the duties of schoolmaster at Hessville on March 23d. He taught there during the following summer and in the school year of 1895-96, going from his first school to Randall for the 1896-97 and the 1897-98 terms. Returning to Hessville he taught there from 1898 to 1900, was in the city of Amsterdam the ensuing two school years and thence went to Fort Hunter, where he taught from 1902 to January 1, 1912. At the election of August 17, 1911, Mr. Alter was chosen to fill the office of district superintendent of schools and assumed the duties and responsibilities of that office on the first of the following year. Mr. Alter's work as an educator has not only met the expectations of the local school boards and the citizenry of the communities where he has taught, but it has attracted the favorable attention of men and women in the profession all over the state. He first came to the fore in educational circles in 1904, when his colleagues elected him president of the County Teachers' Association, an office that he held for that term and again from 1912 to 1915. After he became district superintendent his interests naturally centered in the administrative side of the school question. His work in Montgomery county has been constructive and progressive to a marked degree, so much so that Mr. Alter has come to be recognized as a leader among the district superintendents of the state. In 1911 he was elected president of the Eastern Association of District Superintendents and in 1922 was still further honored by the election to the presidency of the State Association of District Superintendents.

Mr. Alter is one of the men Montgomery county is proud to claim as her own. Born in the town of Minden, February 27, 1877, he is the son of James H. and Margaret E. (Gault) Alter. Through his father he is descended from Antoni and Walpurga Alter, who came to this country from the Palatinate some time in the middle of the eighteenth century, the exact date being unknown. Their three children were born in America: Jacob was born in Johnstown, New York, April 10, 1754; Johan Conrad was born in Stone Arabia, February 22, 1756; and Baltus was born in that same place in 1758, the day and month not known. As the mother of this little family died when they were little, the children were scattered among families who were willing to share their homes with them. Jacob went to live with a family by the name of Sanders, in the town of Minden. A young man in the early twenties when the colonies declared their independence of Great Britain, he took an active part in the Revolution, enlisting for short periods, as was the almost universal custom in those days. In 1776 he joined the militia and served under Captains Henry and Jacob Diefendorf, taking part in the battle of Oriskany. After that battle he served in the militia at various times under Captains Abraham Copeman, George Countryman and Captain Smith, and Colonels Campbell, Clyde, and Willett. In 1781 he served in the levies under Captain Garit Putnam in Colonel Willett's regiment and again in the following year he served in the same regiment for eight months as a member of Captain Abner French's company of levies. At the conclusion of this term of service he reenlisted in Captain Peter Tearce's company and Willett's regiment and was with them at the battles of Johnstown and Turlock, remaining in the army until the end of the war. On February 1, 1791, Jacob Alter was married to Anna Jordan, the oldest daughter of George Jordan, a veteran of the Revolution. Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Alter became the parents of the following children: Jacob, Jr., Caterina, Nancy, Daniel, George, Solomon, Abraham and Maria. Jacob Alter received a pension for his military services under the act of June 7, 1832, and died March 13, 1836, at a ripe old age. His wife preceded him in death, passing away, December 2, 1830. The line descended through Solomon Alter, born March 8, 1807, who was married to Catherine Uttermarks on October 19, 1834. His wife died shortly after their marriage, and in 1838 he married a second time, Lany Snyder, daughter of William and Maria Snyder, becoming his wife. Their three children were: Lucinda, James H., and Norman. James H. Alter was born in the town of Minden, on March 21, 1845. He married Margaret E. Gault, a native of Cherry Valley, whose birth occurred February 27, 1848, and their son, Norman Berton Alter, is the subject of this review. Mrs. Alter likewise came from one of the pre-Revolutionary families of this section. She was a direct descendant of William Gault, one of the original settlers of Cherry Valley, whose family, together with many others, suffered greatly during the Revolution.

Norman Berton Alter was married in Randall, on the 11th of August, 1897, to Miss Marion Saline Garber, daughter of Martin and Lena (Reindardt) Garber, who were born in Alsace, France. Her father was an orderly sergeant in Company I, One Hundred and Fifteenth Regiment of New York Volunteers, during the Civil war. Mr. and Mrs. Alter have two daughters: Marion L., born June 21, 1900; and Ruth M., born July 10, 1908.

In civic affairs Mr. Alter has ever shown a commendable interest and a willingness to bear the full responsibilities of citizenship, even to holding offices at a considerable personal sacrifice when called upon to do so. He was president of the village of Nelliston from March, 1920, until March, 1922, and was again called upon to fill this position in the spring of 1923, since when he has been continuously in that office. At a special election held in July, 1922, Mr. Alter was chosen village trustee and sat on the village board from then until he became president for the second time the following spring. His political affiliations are with the democratic party and no supporter of the principles of Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson is more loyal and earnest than he, but Mr. Alter is no blind partisan and he ever considers himself a citizen first and a democrat second. In 1917 he became president of the Montgomery county committee on public health, a body whose work is of far-reaching importance to the general welfare, and has held that office continuously up to date, with the exception of a part of the year 1920. On the 1st of November, 1900, Mr. Alter was initiated into the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and two years later served as Noble Grand of Veddersburgh Lodge, No. 812, I. O. O. F. He became a charter member of Fort Hunter Lodge, No. 637, in 1910, and while a member of that lodge held the office of district deputy grand master of the second district of the Odd Fellows of Montgomery county. His affiliations are now with Otsquago Lodge, No. 507, I. O. O. F.; in addition to which he belongs to Fort Plain Lodge. No. 433. A. F. & A. M.

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