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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Lewis Beck Sebring

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 430-432 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Lewis Beck Sebring, civil engineer, has been a resident of Schenectady during all of his professional career. He was born at West Ghent, Columbia county, New York, January 23, 1868, the only son of the Rev. Elbert Nevius and Annie Tucker (Beck) Sebring, both descendants of the old Dutch stock that furnished the early colonists of New Netherland. His father was a pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church of America, and on both his father's and his mother's side of the house he has a long line of ancestors who served in the ministry of this church. His maternal great-great-grandfather was the Rev. Theodoric "Dirck" Romeyn, one of the founders of Union College. The progenitors of the Sebring line in America emigrated from the province of Drenthe, in Holland, in 1660, and settled at first in Flatbush, Long Island, whence they removed a little later to Somerset county, New Jersey, along the Raritan river. In 1795 the family moved to the town of Ovid, Seneca county, New York, and it was in this town, at the village of Lodi, that Lewis Beck Sebring's father, Elbert Nevius Sebring, was born, on September 22, 1836. The future clergyman was graduated from the Ovid Academy and entered Rutgers College, New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he completed the course in the class of 1861. Next entering the New Brunswick Seminary, he graduated therefrom in 1865 to enter the ministry of the Dutch Reformed church, to which he devoted the rest of his life. His first charge was in West Ghent, New York, where Lewis Beck Sebring was born.

The year 1660 is a memorable one in the annals of this family, for it also witnessed the immigration into America of Mr. Sebring's ancestors on his mother's side of the family. Claas Kuyper Janse Romeyn arrived in the colony of New Netherlands that twelvemonth. Two of his descendants, Lewis C. Beck, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, and his brother, Dr. Theodoric Romeyn Beck, were prominent in the early educational history of New Jersey and New York. T. Romeyn Beck was for many years principal of the Albany Boys' Academy, now a flourishing private educational institution of the capital city, while Lewis C. Beck, a graduate of Union College, studied medicine for some time after leaving college. Under Governor William Marcy he served as mineralogist of New York state and was also professor of chemistry and mineralogy in a number of colleges, among them, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, New York, Rutgers College in New Brunswick, and New York University. During his active interest in mineralogical research Dr. Beck took numerous lengthy trips through the then unsettled "far west" and left detailed diaries and accounts of these travels that are of unusual interest because of his scientific accuracy of observation and notation. As an honorary officer of the New York Militia he also witnessed in person the enactment of a number of historical events of importance in the history of the eastern United States and the Empire state. His daughter, Annie Tucker Beck, who by her marriage became the mother of Lewis Beck Sebring, was born on April 22, 1834, and died in Schenectady in 1896. It will thus be seen from the foregoing that Lewis Beck Sebring is particularly fortunate in his inheritance, which doubtless contributes much to his success in a profession where scholarship and scientific talent are prime requisites. During the first six years of his boyhood he continued to live at West Ghent, where he was born, but in 1874 the family moved to Fairfield, New Jersey, where his father held the pastorate of a rural Dutch Reformed church until 1877. Returning to New York state in that year the Sebrings lived in Prattsville, an attractive little village of the northern Catskill region, until 1880, when they moved to Middleburg, New York, not far away and there spent four more years.

While he was living in Leeds, New York, from 1884 to 1888, Lewis Beck Sebring attended the Catskill Free Academy, now known as the Catskill high school, from which he was graduated in 1887. The following year he entered Union College at Schenectady and at that time took up his residence in this city. In 1889 his life was saddened by the death of his father, but fortunately he was able to continue his college work and he graduated with his class in 1892, with the degree of Civil Engineer. For two years after completing his education Mr. Sebring maintained an office for the practice of his profession in Schenectady and in 1894 was appointed city engineer for the first time, an office that he has held three times since — in 1896-98, 1906-07 and 1918-19. In the meanwhile he has continued his professional work as a surveyor and civil engineer in private practice. As a sanitary and consulting engineer Mr. Sebring has specialized in plat development and improvement plans for such development and has to his credit the laying out of some of the best residential districts in Schenectady. Much of his work along this line has been done for the General Electric Company and for other concerns developing large areas of real estate territory.

On June 24, 1897, Mr. Sebring was married to Agnes E. Bulla, a native of Schenectady, with whom he became acquainted while attending Union College. Mrs. Sebring is a graduate of the old Union Classical Institute of this city, now the high school. Her parents were of German descent. One son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Sebring: Lewis Beck Sebring, Jr., who since his graduation from Union College in 1923, with the Bachelor of Science degree, has been employed by the Associated Press in its newspaper wire service. He was born in Schenectady in 1901 and began preparing for a journalist's career while in college, when he was actively engaged in newspaper work practically throughout his course. He is not married.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Sebring are republicans in politics and have been active in party organization work in Schenectady ever since their marriage. All of Mr. Sebring's terms of office as city enginer have been under republican administrations, while his wife has served as republican committee-woman from the ward in which she lives and also as a member of the Woman's Republican Club of the county in various capacities. They and their son are members of the Second Reformed church of Schenectady and take an active part in its work, Mr. Sebring having served several terms as a member of the church consistory. The only fraternal organization to which this busy engineer belongs is St. George's Lodge, No. 6, A. F. & A. M., of Schenectady. He has not taken a prominent part in the social life of his home city, preferring rather to devote his time to promoting the work of the Boy Scout movement, in which he has been active for several years. He has served several years as vice president of inspection and awards of the Schenectady Council, Boy Scouts of America, and as such is in charge of the council court of honor, both of which positions he still holds. He belongs, however, to the Society of Engineers of Eastern New York, the Schenectady Masonic Club, Schenectady Republican organization, Schenectady Automobile Club, the real estate board of the city and to the local Young Men's Christian Association, connections that denote quite accurately the range of his interests aside from those mentioned in more detail.

Aside from taking an active part in the work of her church and the Woman's Republican Club, Mrs. Sebring belongs to the Woman's Club of the city and during the past year served as leader of the home economics department as well as being a member of several other departments. A life-long resident of Schenectady, she is acquainted with virtually all of the older families here and has a wide circle of friends and social acquaintances.

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