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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
John Kellogg

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[This information is from Vol. IV, pp. 76-82 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]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 John Kellogg

Portrait: John Kellogg

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As head of the house of Kelloggs & Miller of Amsterdam from 1848 to the time of his death, John Kellogg ably directed the business, inspiring and guiding its development through a period covering sixty-three years. He was in the eighty-fifth year of his age when called to his final rest on the 31st of August, 1911, his birth having occurred in West Galway, New York, on the 17th of December, 1826. His parents were Supplina and Susan A. Kellogg. The earliest home of the Kelloggs, so far as traced, is Essex county, England. The first Kellogg whose name appears on the New England records is Nathaniel, an uncle of Lieutenant Joseph Kellogg, the immigrant ancestor of the line under consideration, who was an early settler and selectman in Farmington, Connecticut, in 1651. He owned some of the most valuable parcels of land in Boston, a part of which is now covered by the Advertiser building. He removed from Boston to Hadley and was one of its proprietors. He served in the militia for thirty-five years and commanded the Hadley troops which broke the power of the Indian tribes. On his death his personal estate was inventoried at four hundred pounds. He was the father of twenty children, including John (born 1656, died about 1723) who married Sarah Moody. Their son, Joseph (born 1685, died about 1785) married Abigail Smith. Their son, Ebenezer (born 1715, date of death uncertain) married Mrs. Sarah Snow, a widow, of Norwich, Connecticut.

Seth Kellogg, of the fifth generation from the American progenitor, was the sixth child and third son of Ebenezer and Sarah (Snow) Kellogg. He was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in 1767, and died in West Galway, New York, in 1847. He married, in 1787, Naomi Parsons. Their children, Nancy and Supplina, were born in South Hadley. Seth and his family removed to West Galway, New York, about 1792. He was a carpenter. Their other children, Russell, Naomi, Joseph, Silence, Benjamin Franklin, John and James Madison, were born in West Galway.

Supplina Kellogg, sixth generation and eldest son of Seth and Naomi Kellogg, was the founder of the linseed oil business which later became Kelloggs & Miller. He was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, November 27, 1789, and died in West Galway, New York, on the 7th of February, 1848. He began the manufacture of linseed oil in West Galway, in 1824. Supplina Kellogg married, about 1812, Susan A., daughter of Dr. John Aldrich of the famous family of that name in Rhode Island. Dr. Aldrich was one of the pioneer physicians of Kingston, Rhode Island. He was a soldier of the War of 1812, was taken prisoner and sent to England, where he was confined for some time on a prison ship. His daughter, Susan, was born in Kingston, Rhode Island, in 1792, and died in West Galway, about 1870. The children of Supplina and Susan Kellogg, all born in West Galway, were: Emily (1813-1836); Lauren (1816-1822); Lauren (1824-1853), married Elizabeth Miller, was for a few years associated with his brother, John, in the oil manufacturing business, his death terminating the partnership; John, of this review; Harriet (1828), married Bernard K. Lee; Jane (1830), married John Furman Mann.

The following interesting review of the century-old business of Kelloggs & Miller was published in pamphlet form in 1924:

"About the year 1792, a sturdy young carpenter, Seth Kellogg, made his way from South Hadley in Massachusetts to a settlement in New York state which is now the village of West Galway, seven miles to the north of the present city of Amsterdam. A lad of fourteen when Cornwallis and the British army surrendered at Yorktown, Seth Kellogg grew to manhood in the years following the Revolution, years when the new-born nation of the United States was struggling to consolidate its unity and independence amidst the difficulties of the economic depression that resulted from the conflict. From the static, longsettled towns, as well as from the countryside of New England, the younger men wandered forth in the post-Revolutionary days, seeking new opportunities in life, and this migratory movement it was that brought Seth Kellogg, his wife and two children to the Mohawk valley at the close of the eighteenth century. The children were Nancy, a girl, and Supplina, a boy. The latter, born about three years before the family's departure from Massachusetts, was destined to become the founder of the linseed oil manufacturing business of Kelloggs & Miller, and whose direct descendants have conducted the business without interruption for the past one hundred years. Seven other children were born to Seth Kellogg and his wife after their settlement at West Galway but none of them was associated with their brother in this business.

"Amsterdam was not incorporated as a village until 1830, when it contained four churches, a female seminary, a bank, printing office and several manufactories with a population of two thousand and forty-four. The first church (Reformed Protestant Dutch) was formed in 1792. The first settled minister arrived in 1799. Public affairs, prior to incorporation, were conducted by a supervisor, clerk, assessors and lesser officials, elected at town meetings held annually. Industries such as grist and saw mills, iron forges and oil mills, were established under primitive conditions, but the promotion of industries interested the people to such an extent that the raising of the frame of a mill called forth all the able-bodied men for miles around. Willing hands raised the frame with pioneer enthusiasm, while the owner or contractor supplied refreshments in solid and liquid form.

"The Chuctanunda creek, flowing into the Mohawk river at Amsterdam, attracted with its offer of free power the location of mills upon its banks, and in the building of these structures Seth Kellogg plied his trade, while his son, Supplina, learned to be a wool carder and cloth dresser, following this occupation until he was thirty-five years of age. Then, in 1824, he made the decision which established the Kellogg linseed oil mill on the Chuctanunda creek at West Galway. He began modestly with a small hand mill, having a capacity of two barrels daily, which he increased to six barrels daily within a few years. This was the foundation on which was to be built the extensive linseed oil and by-products business of 1924, a development which has been due in very large measure to the late John Kellogg, son of Supplina, whose business genius directed the concern from the death of his father in 1848 to his own death in 1911. An ancient dam across the Chuctanunda and a number of buildings, some of which have all the appearances of antiquity, are all that remain of an active business center of a century ago.

"The dam at West Galway, built by Supplina Kellogg to supply water power to the original mill, is in a remarkable state of preservation, considering the manner of its construction, the water being allowed to run through a large opening on the south. The wings of the dam are embankments about two hundred feet long to the north and to the south, but the pour, or dam proper, is about fifty feet wide and constructed by laying heavy logs the full width of the stream, upon which were placed other logs about five feet apart and laid at right angles with the foundation. Then another row of long, heavy logs and a row of smaller ones at right angle and so on until the desired height was reached. Leading from the dam on the north side is a square, open flume, showing signs of age and usage. Some years previous this square flume replaced a round tube that had worn and rotted away. The old round flume carried the water that furnished the power to turn the water wheel that operated the machinery that ground the seed that made the oil in the pioneer oil mill of Supplina Kellogg, which was located below the dam on the north side of the stream. The back part of the Kellogg mill was used as a fulling mill where the farmers brought cloth, woven by their wives and daughters, to be fulled and dressed. In the upper story, bins were arranged in order to keep each customer's cloth separate, and the fields adjoining were fitted with apparatus for drying the same. Back of this building and disconnected from it was a sawmill. On the opposite side of the creek was a tannery, where hides were made into leather by the old-fashioned tedious process that took twelve months to complete. The building has been destroyed but the old vats are still pointed out, in which may yet be seen portions of the wooden frames. To the west of the tannery was a fair-sized building, still standing, and formerly used as a shoe shop. The oil, fulling and sawmills were conducted by Supplina Kellogg and the tannery and shoe shop by George Dunning.

"Across the fields to the south, but on the main road, still stands the long, low farm buildings of Mr. Kellogg and the birthplace of his sons, John and Lauren, who succeeded their father in the linseed oil business, and subsequently established the same in the village of Amsterdam. Opposite the residence of Supplina Kellogg was the home of George Dunning, and it is mentioned that between the two families such cordial relations existed that they might almost be called one household. The method of making oil in those days was crude in the extreme, but the principle of manufacture was practically the same as now; that is, the crushing of the seed and pressing the product to extract the oil. This primitive mill had but one set of stones and one press. The crushing process was accomplished by two circular stones, shaped like gristmill stones, attached to an axle, like cart wheels, and connected to a vertical shaft, which in turning gave two motions to the stones, that of their own axis and the axis of the upright shaft, and revolving on a stone-bed on which the seed was placed. This process was continued until the seed became a paste, when it was tempered with heat and water, placed in bags and subjected to great pressure by hand in order to extract the oil, which was then conducted to the rude cellar beneath and placed in barrels. The capacity of this rude mill was about one barrel a day, which was disposed of to neighboring farmers and the near-by village. It is said that a large proportion of the oil manufactured was consumed by the veteran painter of those days, Gardner Clark, the grandfather of William G. Clark of Amsterdam. The residuum, called oil cake, was allowed to accumulate until such time as a market could be found for it in some neighboring city, when it was hauled to Amsterdam and shipped to its destination by canal. Almost the first building erected by the early pioneers after building their rude log huts was a sawmill to prepare their timber for dwellings, then the grist mill to grind their grain, and afterward a fulling mill for the dressing of cloth, woven on their rude looms at home.

"When Supplina Kellogg died in 1848, his sons, Lauren and John, succeeded to the business. They had worked in the oil mill with their father, and had been reared by him to habits of industry and thrift. They were quick to perceive that the business had outgrown the possibilities of their rural location, and so, in 1850, it was removed to an old stone building in Amsterdam, which had formerly been used as a distillery. In its new location the water power of the Chuctanunda was still available, while the problems of labor created by their expanding trade were more easily solved in the growing manufacturing town, and transportation by rail and Erie canal was immediately at hand.

"Lauren Kellogg survived his father only five years. His death occurred three years after the removal to Amsterdam, in 1853, when James A. Miller, representing the heirs of Lauren, was admitted to partnership and the firm name became Kellogg & Miller. For sixty-three years John Kellogg ably directed the business, inspiring and guiding its development. Soon after the removal to Amsterdam, two stories were added to the old distillery building, the dam was repaired and the property otherwise improved. The increased product of the mill made it necessary to buy seed in larger quantities than the farmers of the vicinity could produce, although encouraged by the firm through the loan of seed to plant increased acreage. At that time Boston was the center of importation of India seed and from that city the firm was obliged to procure most of its supplies. The capacity of the mill was increased to four sets of stones for grinding the seed and the necessary presses for extracting the oil. These presses were run by hand and the work was very laborious. Soon becoming obsolete, the old machinery was replaced by modern appliances; newer methods and more adequate means for extracting the oil and treating the by-products were introduced. Additional buildings were constructed for the storage of raw material imported from India. The dam was enlarged and the water power increased fourfold.

"In 1872 there were admitted to the firm George Kellogg, son of John, and Spencer Kellogg, son of Lauren. The firm name became Kelloggs & Miller. In 1877, after but five years' membership, Spencer Kellogg sold his entire interest, holdings and rights to his cousin, George, retiring from the firm and removing from Amsterdam. In 1879 to better accommodate the constantly increasing business, a branch railroad was built, connecting the mill with the New York Central Railroad. This railroad is two miles in length. In the savings and efficiency that it has created, it is an example of John Kellogg's vision and courage. An unhappy incident of the opening of the branch was an accident to George Kellogg, whereby he lost his left arm by falling from a freight train in motion. In 1879 Lauren Kellogg, a younger brother of George, was admitted to the partnership. In 1896 James A. Miller retired from the firm. In 1911 John Kellogg died, and the surviving partners, his sons, George and Lauren, have since conducted the business.

"In the present commodious, modern factory two grandsons of Supplina Kellogg celebrate in 1924 a rounded century of business by a family and a firm. The founder of the house lived in a post-war period. He knew its difficulties and its opportunities and had the acumen to construct out of these elements a foundation upon which his son, through more than half a century of devotion, was able to erect a substantial commercial structure. In their example and success lies a prophecy, it is hoped, of the extended prosperity and usefulness of this house in the second century of its existence. Looking back over a hundred years of steady progress in the measure and methods of its business, Kelloggs & Miller look forward into the future with confidence that the coming years hold promise of new opportunities and new possibilities for growth and service."

John Kellogg made the firm of Kelloggs & Miller one of the most substantial commercial houses in New York state. Not only was he the principal factor in the success of his house, but the progress and prosperity of the city of Amsterdam were largely influenced by his character, energy, generosity and vision. Never a man of one idea or one line of effort, John Kellogg always gave his active support to everything that would make for the betterment of his community. Broad in his own views, he was always ready to concede to others that liberality of thought and deed that he demanded for himself. This was a prominent trait in his character. He aided in establishing the Amsterdam Academy and served as trustee. He served on the board of water commissioners, was president of the Farmers' National Bank, director of the Chuctanunda Gas Light Company, vice president of the Green Hill Cemetery Association, and incorporator and treasurer of the Reservoir Company that has done so much for Amsterdam industries, and a director of the Board of Trade. Mr. Kellogg was elected to represent his district in the New York state legislature and was a member of the republican state committee.

On the 11th of September, 1850, John Kellogg was married to Olive, daughter of Benjamin Davis of Galway, Saratoga county, New York. She died April 14, 1909, in her eighty-fourth year, after nearly sixty years of happy marriage, during all of which she was a worthy comrade, facing the problems of life shoulder to shoulder with her husband. She was prominent in the religious, charitable and social circles of Amsterdam. One daughter, Mrs. Howland Fish of Fulton county, did not survive her parents. Three children survive: Anna, wife of Samuel Stryker of New York and New Jersey, who has one son, S. Kellogg, born February 5, 1902; George, who is mentioned at length on another page of this work; and Lauren, a sketch of whom also appears elsewhere.

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