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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
De Witt C. Hurd

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 264, 267-268 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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De Witt C. Hurd, deceased, was known throughout the Mohawk valley as a captain of industry, occupying a prominent position in business circles of Utica as head of the wholesale house conducted under the name of The Hurd & Fitzgerald Shoe Company. He had attained the age of eighty-three years when summoned by death, passing away on the 19th of February, 1924, at Orlando, Florida, where he had gone to spend the winter months. A native of Montezuma, Cayuga county, New York, Mr. Hurd there spent the first thirteen years of his life. The family then removed to Kingston, Canada, where the father died. Shortly afterward De Witt C. Hurd was taken into the home of his uncle in Jefferson county, New York, where he did chores for his board and attended the Union Academy of Belleville. Subsequently he worked in several country stores, receiving his board and a small salary. In August, 1862, he enlisted for service in the Union army as a member of Company E, Tenth New York Heavy Artillery, with which regiment he remained until the close of hostilities. In May, 1865, Mr. Hurd was appointed quartermaster of his company, which joined the Army of the Potomac in the spring of 1864 and was under Sheridan in the Shenandoah valley. It participated in the fight at Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg. Mr. Hurd was about this time made sergeant major of his regiment and from then on he was almost continually under fire until Richmond was taken. He was likewise commissioned as second lieutenant but the close of the war prevented his muster. The company to which he belonged was mustered out at Sacketts Harbor in August, 1865. He maintained pleasant associations with his old army comrades as a member of Bacon Post, No. 53, G. A. R., always attended state and national encampments, was a member of the staff of different commanders, was junior vice department commander in 1907-08 and was the untiring president of the Oneida Veterans Association of the Grand Army of the Republic from 1902 to 1910. In the last named capacity he was instrumental in promoting harmonious relations among the veterans and in arranging meetings and reunions at which such prominent men as Colonel Frederick D. Grant, Admiral George Dewey, Vice President J. S. Sherman and others were honored guests. The Herkimer county veterans frequently united in these reunions. In 1910 Bacon Post presented his name for the position as department commander of the state of New York and he was elected to that office at the state encampment held at Syracuse in June of that year, thus receiving the highest state honor within the gift of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Mr. Hurd first became identified with the shoe business in 1867, as a traveling salesman for the firm of Case & Tallman of Utica, and later became a partner of E. A. Tallman. The firm of Tallman & Hurd was dissolved on the 16th of January, 1892, and in that year De Witt C. Hurd formed a partnership with M. J. Fitzgerald, who for many years represented the old firm as a traveling salesman. Mr. Hurd was the moving spirit in guiding the business of the Hurd & Fitzgerald Company over a long and increasingly successful career. As a jobber in shoes and rubber goods in New York and Pennsylvania he kept from ten to twelve salesmen on the road. About 1909 the company erected a modern brick structure at the corner of Main and First streets, five stories in height, the dimensions of which are one hundred by sixty-seven feet. Although he retired from the active business management about 1914, Mr. Hurd retained his interest in the establishment through the board of directors. The Hurd & Fitzgerald Shoe Company was incorporated in 1906.

Following his partial retirement from business Mr. Hurd traveled quite extensively. He made a trip to Europe and the Mediterranean countries and the Holy Land and also spent some months in Cuba and other islands. He made a tour of the western states and spent considerable time in California. His patriotism, civic interests and business found him liberal in dispensing his time, means and influence. During the World war he participated effectively in the Liberty Loan campaign. The following is an excerpt from a review of his career which appeared in The Utica Observer-Dispatch on the day of his death:

"No service which he could accomplish for his church or for his country was too great for him to attempt. Mr. Hurd was always a factor in helping the leading citizens to determine upon any city project that was under discussion or consideration. He maintained an extremely keen interest in the city and took pride in every advance made by it. He was truly a booster of the city in word and deed and took great satisfaction in seeing the city thrive. He had served as vice president of the Chamber of Commerce and for a number of years was a director in that organization. In politics he was a republican, although he never sought office… In spite of the strong call which his business made upon him for time, Mr. Hurd gave generously of his talent by serving for thirty-eight years as a director of the Young Men's Christian Association and for eleven years as the president of its board of directors. As an elder in Westminster church for nearly forty years, Mr. Hurd showed his keen interest in the affairs of that church. For years he was a leading worker in the Young People's Society in the days when from fifty to one hundred young people held a meeting every Sunday for an hour and then came in to the evening church service. For years he worked in the Sunday school as teacher and superintendent."

The Chevalier Bulletin of Westminster church, published in March, 1922, paid its compliments to Mr. Hurd as follows:

"Westminster glories in her young men who have left their threescore years and ten behind them. So youthful and forward-looking, so sprightly of step and eager for service, so full of cheer and interest in their friends are they, that one could well believe that in Westminster is to be found the 'fountain of youth', or what is infinitely better, 'the life that is life indeed'. Mr. Hurd, the friend of us all, is our youngest old man and our oldest young man. A newcomer is surprised to learn that he has been an active member and enthusiastic worker here for fifty years. The oldest member cannot think of Westminster without thinking of Mr. Hurd, for every department of the church has shared in his devoted service. A veteran in the Christian service, whose keenest regret is that limitations of the flesh prevent his being found where the fighting is heaviest and the need greatest, he is a great inspiration to his younger comrades, who are sometimes tempted to inglorious ease.

"Born in central New York, the oldest of a family of eight children, he early experienced the hardships and the joys of supporting himself and to some extent his mother. Upon the death of his father, when he was only fourteen years old, the older children found homes for a time with relatives. While living with an uncle he attended school at Belleville Academy in Jefferson county. Belleville Academy and community are justly famous for the number of great Americans who there received their training and developed the characters which equipped them to do large things. From here came governors of three states, United States senators and many others who demonstrated that the source of American greatness is to be found in its God-fearing and neighbor-loving homes and schools where its children are trained. Mr. Hurd's interest in those he sought to help was not official but real; and a person once his friend was always his friend. His friendliness is whole-hearted, and he is ever on the lookout for opportunities to be a friend. Sending flowers to the sick and friendly calls on shut-ins and those in trouble are characteristic ministries of his."

The widow of Mr. Hurd was in her maidenhood Miss Florence Campbell, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca Campbell of Long Branch, New Jersey.

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