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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Charles Bailey

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 514-519 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of Charles Bailey

Portrait: Charles Bailey

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The Mohawk valley sustained the loss of one of its most venerable and highly respected citizens in the death of Charles Bailey, the president of the Bailey Knitting Mills, Incorporated, of Fort Plain. He took up his abode in Little Falls in the year 1857 and was in the ninety-fifth year of his age when he departed this life at his home there, on the 12th of October, 1924. He was born in Yorkshire, England, on the 9th of March, 1830, his parents being Thomas and Susie (Castle) Bailey, who were also natives of Yorkshire, the former born in 1805 and the latter about 1804. Mrs. Susie (Castle) Bailey, who passed away in Yorkshire, England, in October, 1840, was a daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (Steel) Castle, the former a cloth manufacturer of that country. The paternal grandparents of Charles Bailey were John and Elizabeth (Vickerman) Bailey of England, the former a boot and shoemaker. Their son, Thomas Bailey, the father of Charles Bailey, followed the same trade and passed away at Hanging Heaton, Yorkshire, England, in 1872. Charles Bailey of this review was a direct descendant of the waif Joseph Bailey, mentioned below, who was left behind by the Scotch army as they were driven out of England during the last Scotch invasion in 1745. The said waif was the son of a Scotch officer by the name of Bailey. These facts are substantiated by church records dating from 1747 and by land leases taken out by Joseph Bailey in 1771 from Lord Saville, as shown in the record of the Saville estate. The land is still owned and occupied by the descendants of Joseph Bailey, the waif.

The ancestral record as written by Charles Bailey is as follows:

"In the year 1745, Charles James Edward Stuart, known as the Young Pretender, landed in Scotland in July with seven followers, while a French force of fifteen thousand men stood ready to cross to England at the first favorable moment; but as so often before in English history, the winds fought for England, driving the French transports ashore and compelling a delay until fresh ones could be provided. Meanwhile the Pretender, being impatient to invade England, rallied to his standard ten thousand Scotchmen, mostly Highlanders, and captured Edinburgh, thus securing a supply of arms. Then he invaded England by Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire, arriving at Preston on the 27th of November, at Wigan on the 28th of November, and at Manchester on the 29th of November. Leaving Manchester on the 1st of December, he arrived at Derby on the following day and upon being advised that three armies were approaching to intercept him, he decided to retreat, which he did on December 6th, arriving at Ashbourne on the 7th, at Leek on the 8th, at Macclesfield on the 9th, at Manchester on the 10th, at Wigan on the 11th and at Preston on the 13th. Marshall Wade, who was at Ferry Bridge in Yorkshire, eleven miles from Wakefield, was ordered to cut off their retreat and make all speed into Lancashire to intercept them. He reached Wakefield on the 10th of December, which shows that a portion of the retreating army or army followers were scattered into Yorkshire. Large numbers of the wives and some of the sweethearts of the soldiers accompanied the invading army. Among these scattering ones was a woman who passed over Hanging Heaton Hill and who on account of being sorely pressed by Marshall Wade's soldiers, and also on account of her condition, was forced to abandon her baby boy at this point. The child, wrapped up in her shawl and other wearing apparel, was found at 'Hill Top Well' and was taken to the Poor House until he was able to work, when he was apprenticed to a farmer who owned the farm upon which 'Hill Top Well' is located. Said well is in existence at this writing. When the boy had grown to young manhood, his mother came from Scotland to see if she could find the child she had left. After some inquiry she discovered him in a field, plowing upon the very farm on which she had been obliged to leave him as an infant. She tried to induce him to return with her to Scotland, but he refused to go. She then gave him his name — Joseph Beeley — but owing to the fact that the name Beeley was at that time spelled Bailey in Yorkshire, the latter spelling has been used to the present time. Josph Bailey had nine children, seven sons and two daughters: Benjamin, who was christened June 28, 1772; John, christened June 5, 1774; George, christened November 24, 1775; William, christened October 12, 1777; Joseph, christened May 31, 1780; David, christened February 12, 1782; John, christened April 11, 1784, who was the seventh son and who was the grandfather of Charles Bailey; Elizabeth, christened October 4, 1786; and Sarah, christened February 4, 1788. Charles Bailey lived with his grandfather, John Bailey, for several years and remembers him well. The following inscription appears on the tombstone of Joseph Bailey in Dewsbury churchyard:

'Joseph Bailey, Coardwainer, died September 7th, 1817.'

The records of burials in the Paris church at Dewsbury give the date of burial as being September 10, 1817, which would make him at least seventy-two years of age. Following are the names and the dates of baptism of the children of John Bailey, the grandfather of Charles Bailey: Mary, March 11, 1804; Thomas, father of Charles Bailey, November 27, 1806; Charles, September 23, 1807; Jabez, May 26, 1809; Eliza, June 23, 1811; John, April 25, 1813; and Jabez, June 30, 1815. The above are all the members of the family of John Bailey that appear upon the baptismal register as recorded in Dewsbury church records, but there were four other children who were baptized elsewhere, namely: Ann, Robert, Mark and Jane.

"The children of Thomas Bailey, father of Charles Bailey, were five in number, as follows: Charles, born March 9, 1830; Emma, born May 1, 1832; Ellen, born March 21, 1834; Job and Thomas, both of whom died in infancy.

"Mrs. Elizabeth Bailey, wife of Joseph Bailey, the great-grandfather of Charles Bailey, was born in 1752 and had reached the age of eighty-six years when called to her final rest on the 4th of July, 1838. John Bailey, the grandfather of Charles Bailey, was born April 11, 1784, and passed away on July 27, 1859, when seventy-five years of age. Thomas Bailey, the father of Charles Bailey, was born on the 27th of November, 1806, and died in 1872. Charles Bailey, born on the 9th of March, 1830, has two sons: Squire, whose natal day was June 8, 1854; and Thomas, whose birth occurred October 2, 1857.

"There is still in possession of the Bailey family a copy of the lease taken out by Joseph Bailey, the original, who leased some land from Lord Saville's estate, which consisted of a cottage and croft at Heaton Common End, which was in the year 1771, at one pound a year rental, and this very cottage is now occupied by Alfred Bailey, a direct descendant of the original Joseph Bailey, and is known as 'Ivy Cottage'. On October 28, 1812, Joseph Bailey, the original lessee, consented that his son, John Bailey, should have a portion of land twenty-three by twenty-two yards to build on at three pounds a year rental, same to be deducted from the rent of said Joseph Bailey during Lord Saville's pleasure. In searching out the history of the family Charles Bailey has been impressed with two facts. The first is that they are of Scotch descent and `Highlanders', and secondly, as the Stuarts were Roman Catholic, their forefathers might have been of that faith, but the army was composed of both Roman Catholics and Protestants."

Charles Bailey was afforded but limited educational opportunities in youth, attending a free school taught on Sundays by volunteer teachers who instructed their pupils only how to read, write and spell. By observation and experience in later years, however, he augmented his knowledge until he became a well informed man on many subjects. In 1839, when a lad of nine, he began working in a mill at "piecing" and was thus employed until thirteen years of age, after which he served as a hand loom weaver until he had attained the age of twenty-two. He then became manager of a small manufacturing plant and was given charge of another before his emigration to the United States in 1857. It was on the 2d of February of that year that he left England with his wife and two children, Squire and Emma, the latter of whom died while the family was crossing the ocean. The voyage was made in a fifteen-ton sailing vessel named the Cornelia Laurence, which reached New York on the 19th of March, 1857, and about six o'clock in the afternoon of the following day Mr. Bailey arrived with his family at Little Falls, this state. His first employment was setting up Jacquard looms in the stone mill of John Stitt, while later he became a spinner in the Saxony Mills, which were conducted by S. B. Stitt, brother of John Stitt. In 1860 he went to Fly Creek, Otsego county, New York, where he organized a band, which he drilled for about two years, to play during the campaign and prior to the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. In 1862 he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Jeremiah Mitchell, with whom he engaged in the business of buying woolen army rags and making shoddy. The firm also shipped army rags to England. At the end of a year Messrs. Bailey and Mitchell removed to Oriskany, Oneida county, New York, where they devoted their attention to the manufacture of stocking yarn and knit goods until their plant was destroyed by fire in 1865. They then returned to Little Falls, where they engaged in the manufacture of shoddy until 1871, when they built the first portion of what later became the plant of the Little Falls Knitting Company, Incorporated. This was the first knitting mill in Herkimer county and Mr. Bailey remained its manager until November, 1899. In the following January, in association with his sons, Squire and Thomas, he purchased a knitting mill at Fort Plain and organized the Bailey Knitting Mills. Until his death Charles Bailey was at the head of the business, which was incorporated in 1905 and became an enterprise of extensive and profitable proportions, owing to the excellent executive ability, sound judgment and ripe experience of the man in control. From the tender age of nine years he made his own way in the world and each step in his career was a forward one. His example is one well worthy of emulation and his record is proof of the fact that success and an honored name are within the possibility of attainment by all who have the will to dare and to do.

Mr. Bailey was twice married. On the 15th of July, 1852, at Batley, England, he wedded Miss Ellen Senior, who was born in England in 1831, her parents being Squire and Fannie (Hall) Senior. Charles and Ellen (Senior) Bailey became the parents of six children: Squire and Thomas, who were associated with their father in business; Susie, Charles and Emma, all of whom are deceased; and one who died in infancy. The wife and mother passed away in Little Falls, New York, on March 20, 1860. On the 12th of February, 1862, at Fly Creek, New York, Mr. Bailey was again married, his second union being with Annie S. Brooks, who was born on January 15, 1840, of the marriage of Abram C. and Cynthia (Manchester) Brooks. To Charles and Annie S. (Brooks) Bailey five children were born, as follows: Jennie, the wife of George W. Boyle of Little Falls; Emma Lincoln, who is the wife of Charles L. Clackner of Ilion; Nellie A., the wife of Charles E. Ebner of Utica; and Charles and Sam, both of whom died in childhood. Mrs. Annie S. (Brooks) Bailey departed this life in Little Falls on the 3d of April, 1922.

Mr. Bailey was a stanch republican in politics who made a commendable record as village trustee of Little Falls in 1869 and as school commissioner in 1889. Fraternally he was identified with Little Falls Lodge No. 181, F. & A. M., and with Little Falls Lodge No. 42, B. P. O. E., while his religious faith was indicated by his membership in Emanuel Episcopal church of Little Falls, of which he was a senior warden. He was an enthusiastic baseball fan and was also very fond of travel, having gone abroad a number of times. Charles Bailey was a man of resolute purpose and marked strength of character and his individual qualities were such as gained for him warm and enduring regard.

The following editorial appeared under date of October 13, 1924:

"The career of a pioneer in the industrial development of the Mohawk Valley ended when Charles Bailey died yesterday in Little Falls. For more than a generation his name had been known from Oriskany to Fort Plain. The mills with which he was identified had small beginnings but since the Civil war period they had developed into important units of the valley's industrial assets. Born in England, Mr. Bailey came to the United States as did many another young man, ambitious to take advantage of the opportunities here. That was in 1857. Because he had been a weaver, he was interested in textiles. It was in 1863 that he established his first knitting mill at Oriskany. When that burned he built a knitting mill at Little Falls, which was the first between Cohoes and Utica, and is now a part of the Gilbert plant. Subsequently he began operations at Fort Plain, where with his sons he was active for a number of years. Mr. Bailey's attention was not devoted to business to the exclusion of other interests. He took a helpful part in community affairs and his advice and cooperation were frequently sought in all such endeavors. In his later years he liked to travel and was so keen an observer that his impressions of the places he visited were heard with pleasure. His career might well be made an example of enterprise and high ideals and now that it has ended he will be remembered for the useful part he had in affairs of the Mohawk Valley."

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