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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
George Harland Page Stone

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 501-502 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Portraits | Illustrations | Maps

James Ledlie Hees, who has been identified with public utility corporations in central New York for nearly a third of a century, is the president of the Adirondack Power & Light Corporation and since 1897 has been at the head of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad Company, which maintains its general offices at Gloversville. For the past twenty-seven years Mr. Hees has also been prominent in financial circles as president of the National Mohawk River Bank of Fonda, which institution he entered as teller when a young man of twenty years. He was born at Palatine Bridge, Montgomery county, New York, on the 24th of January, 1862, his parents being Jacob and Frances (Spraker) Hees. His first paternal American ancestor was Johannes Hees, who came from Holland in 1766 and settled in the Mohawk valley, where members of the family held important positions in civic and political life, serving in the Revolutionary war and representing their districts in the legislature. Jacob Hees, son of Johannes and Eva (Copernoll) Hees and the great-grandfather of James Ledlie Hees, was a member of the New York legislature in 1819 and 1837 and of the constitutional convention of 1821. He wedded Elizabeth Lipe and their son, Abraham Hees, became a prominent attorney who served as master in chancery and as United States commissioner. Jacob Hees, son of Abraham and Maria (Smith) Hees and father of J. L. Hees of this review, was for many years an active business man in Fonda and prominently identified with church work. In the maternal line J. Ledlie Hees traces his descent from a Dutch ancestor Jost Spraker who was among the earliest pioneers of the Mohawk valley and who fought in Colonel Jacob Klock's regiment of Tryon county militia in the Revolutionary army.

James Ledlie Hees, who has passed his life in the region of these ancestral associations, prepared for a college course as a pupil in the institutes of Fort Plain and Pine Plains, New York, but at the age of eighteen accepted a position as cashier of the ship chandlery business of James D. Spraker and as assistant paymaster of the Starin Transportation Line in New York city. As a young man of twenty he entered the service of the National Mohawk River Bank at Fonda, New York, which had been founded by the Spraker family in 1856. He was appointed teller, later cashier and in 1897 succeeded his grandfather, Daniel Spraker, as president of that institution, of which he has remained at the head to the present time.

In 1892 Mr. Hees became interested in the syndicate organized for building the Cayadutta Electric Railroad in competition with the old Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville road, operated between those places. He was elected its treasurer, and upon its completion in 1893, the same syndicate acquired the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad, of which company Mr. Hees was elected treasurer, while since 1897 he has occupied the presidency. The roads under his management were consolidated, developed and extended to Amsterdam and Schenectady. In 1895 he purchased the horse car lines connecting Herkimer, Mohawk, Ilion and Frankfort, consolidated and electrified them, and subsequently sold the road, which had become very successful, to the New York State Railways Syndicate. Since the year 1892 he has been identified with the development of various other electric railroad, light and power corporations in central New York.

Mr. Hees' knowledge of local conditions throughout the valley and his study of its needs for greater industrial development led him to investigate the power sources in the Sacandaga and the East Creek water sheds. As a result of that investigation he formed a partnership with the late Hinsdill Parsons, then vice president of the General Electric Company, and in 1906 they acquired from Guy R. Beardslee the East Creek Electric Light & Power Company, which had its main office at St. Johnsville. Plans for a further water power development were immediately perfected, with the result that the Inghams Mills plant was erected and a double transmission line supported by steel towers, constructed, connecting the Inghams plant and the Tribes Hill power station. From this point energy was supplied to the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad Company and the Edison Electric Light and Power Company. In the year 1919, the latter, which up to that time had been owned by the railroad interests, was merged into the Mohawk Edison Company, Incorporated, as one of the early steps toward forming the Adirondack Power and Light Corporation. When in March, 1920, the Mohawk Edison Company, Incorporated, changed its name to Adirondack Power and Light Corporation, and a few months later it and the Adirondack Electric Power Company were united and became the present Adirondack Power and Light Corporation, Mr. Hees was chosen as its first president and still holds that office.

In politics Mr. Hees is a stanch republican. During the period from 1894 until 1899, when his brother-in-law, Hon. A. B. Colvin, was the incumbent in the position of state treasurer, Mr. Hees served as deputy state treasurer. He was elected delegate to the national republican convention from the thirtieth congressional district of New York in 1912 and for several years was state committeeman for Montgomery county. His name is on the membership rolls of the Metropolitan, New York Yacht, Republican, Calumet and the Automobile Club of America in New York city; the Sleepy Hollow Country Club of Scarborough, New York; and several social clubs in central New York.

On the 12th of October, 1887, Mr. Hees was married to Adela S. Moore of Detroit, Michigan, and they adopted a daughter, Elizabeth ("Betty") Hees. For his second wife Mr. Hees married Patricia Lucile Miller of Bridger, Montana, their wedding taking place on the 18th of January, 1919. He resides in New York city and Palm Beach, Florida, during the winter, and his summer home is "Heeswijk" at Sacandaga in the lower Adirondacks, at the terminus of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad.

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