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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
William McCleary

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 604, 607 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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For nearly fifty years the impress of the vigorous personality of the late William McCleary, manufacturer, banker and philanthropist, was felt in the Amsterdam community and throughout that whole section of the Mohawk valley, and upon his passing in 1920 the loss to the community was generally recognized, for in his generation he had done a good part in the promotion of the common and better interests of the city and community of which he had become a part when a young man and in the general activities of which he had so long proved an influential factor for good. It therefore is fitting that in this definite history of the valley in which he so long wrought, there should be carried some proper memorial to the good memory he left at his passing.

William McCleary was a native of Ireland, born in the vicinity of the city of Belfast in County Down, December 15, 1851, and was a son of Ezekiel and Sarah (Wilson) McCleary, also natives of Ireland and of Scottish stock. Ezekiel McCleary was a linen manufacturer and the son William was early trained in the "art and mystery" of that industry, before he had reached his majority, having become an expert linen manufacturer. When twenty years of age he was given his opportunity to come to America, with a view to the exercise of his vocation here and he came with proper expectation of turning his services to advantage in the linen industry in the Mohawk valley, where that trade had taken on a distinctive quality. Landing at the port of New York on April 4, 1872, Mr. McCleary made his way to Amsterdam, where by correspondence he had established a prior connection, and was given charge of the warping department of the linen manufacturing plant of the old Sanford Mills. For thirteen years he continued this connection with that plant and then, in 1886, he became associated with Samuel Wallin, John A. Howgate and David J. Crouse and set up a rug mill at Amsterdam, an industry that came to be one of large local importance and concerning which further mention is made elsewhere in this work. Mr. McCleary was made president of that concern and his vigorous executive force soon brought it well to the front in the ranks of similar industries in this country, so that the products of the McCleary-Wallin-Crouse Company became established as standards in their line and found a wide and ready market.

Mr. McCleary continued to serve as executive head of this concern until his death and thus became one of the distinctive figures in the rug trade in this country, his name also being widely known in the export trade. As his affairs in connection with his rug plant prospered Mr. McCleary took an active interest in other local promotive work and was from the beginning of his executive career one of the forceful factors in the general commercial and industrial life of the communty, early coming to be recognized as one of the effective leaders among the men of affairs in this section. For a quarter of a century he served as a member of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Amsterdam and for many years was also a director of the Farmers National Bank. He was one of the founders of the Montgomery County Trust Company and was for years one of the trustees of that sound fiduciary institution. In the general industrial affairs of the city he also took an active and helpful part and was a member of the board of directors of the Shuttleworth Brothers Carpet Manufacturing Company and of the Inman Manufacturing Company. He was one of the organizers of the Rockton Realty Company and long served as president of that concern. In church work and in the general social and cultural activities of the community Mr. McCleary was none the less an influential factor. As a member of the Second Presbyterian church he was long one of the effective factors in the promotion of that congregation's interest, a liberal contributor to its various funds, and not long before his death had borne the entire expense, amounting to something more than ten thousand dollars, of the work incident to the remodeling of the Presbyterian manse. For years he served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Amsterdam Y. M. C. A. and was a generous contributor to the necessities of that organization as well as to other social service organizations throughout the area of his philanthropic activities, and was long a member of the board of trustees of the Home for Elderly Women, in the affairs of which beneficent institution he took a warm interest. In educational and general local civic affairs Mr. McCleary also took an active and helpful part and for fifteen years served as a member of the board of education of the city of Amsterdam, for three years of that period serving as president of that body, and in this capacity did much toward the elevation of the standards of the local schools. He also had rendered service as a member of the local sewer commission and as a member of the local water board, of which latter body he was for some time the president. Mr. McCleary died on January 5, 1920, being about three weeks past sixty-eight years of age, and there was widely expressed regret throughout this section of the valley when news of his passing was announced.

Mr. McCleary was thrice married. On September 5, 1877, a little more than five years after his arrival at Amsterdam, he was united in marriage to Miss Isabella Faulds, who died in 1883, leaving a daughter, Margaret, who married David L. Dunlop, a well known citizen of Amsterdam, concerning whom further mention is made elsewhere in this work. In October, 1884, Mr. McCleary was married to Janet Faulds, his first wife's sister, who died on July 25, 1888, without issue. On August 30, 1892, Mr. McCleary was married to Miss Emily Fisher Davey, who has also passed away. They had no children.

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