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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Alton A. Walrath

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 698-699 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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As the head of the Alphonso Walrath Company of Fort Plain, Montgomery county, Alton A. Walrath is conducting the prosperous manufacturing business founded by his father half a century ago. Alphonso Walrath, the father, was born in Montgomery county, reared and educated here and in Little Falls. An inventor by profession, he was successful as a manufacturer of machinery he devised or improved and in 1872 founded the business the son now runs under his name. Among his inventions was one of the first broom sewing machines which, it is interesting to note, is still in operation in California. In collaboration with W. C. Lipe of Syracuse he invented the Lipe-Walrath "screw-feed" broom sewing machine which is today the most improved and modern piece of machinery of its kind. He manufactured the Hurl cutter with a sizer attachment — a broom making machine which he invented himself — broom sizers, braces, broom locks and lithographed broom locks, a specialty. Among the other products of his factory were trunk tin and iron, corn huskers and similar machinery. Alphonso Walrath operated his business until his death, which occurred in 1905, following which it was incorporated with his son, Alton A. Walrath at the head. Mr. Walrath was thoroughly public-spirited and took a deep interest in the affairs of his community. For a number of years he served as assemblyman from his district and was also trustee of the village. His wife, who was Mary Farley before her marriage, was also a native of this county, where she spent her life, passing away in Fort Plain in 1906.

Born on the 18th of October, 1870, Alton A. Walrath spent his boyhood in Fort Plain, where he attended the local schools. Later he became a pupil in the Clinton Liberal Institute and took his college work at Tufts College, Massachusetts. From the time he was a lad of fourteen Mr. Walrath was more or less associated with his father in the business which early attracted his interest, and when he left college he came back to Fort Plain to join the older man in his work. Since the latter's death in 1905 he has headed the concern. From his father Mr. Walrath inherited an inventor's talent as well as a well established manufacturing business. He has perfected machines for lithographing on metal that are the special feature of his factory's output today. In 1914 and 1915 Mr. Walrath erected the present fine factory building occupied by his plant. The structure, which is eighty by seventy feet in dimensions, is of modern fireproof construction and equipped with all the up-to-date facilities for handling the work efficiently. In connection with this manufacturing establishment Mr. Walrath operates a general machine shop that does a thriving business. The average force in the plant numbers fifteen people. Mr. Walrath is also a stockholder and director in the Lipe & Walrath Company of Syracuse, machinery manufacturers, whose factory is one of the largest in the city.

In June, 1901, Mr. Walrath was married to Miss Charlotte Barber, daughter of Jesse and Martha (Bevins) Barber, natives of Oneida county, both of whom are deceased. Three children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Walrath: Charlotte M., born March 22, 1903, a graduate of Vassar College; Alphonso B., born June 18, 1904, a Junior in Hamilton College; and Alton A., Jr., born May 15, 1906.

Like his father Mr. Walrath has been an active factor in the village life in ways other than commercial. He has served two terms as president of the village and for fifteen years presided over the village water board. Also he has been a trustee on the board of education and in 1919 and 1920 he represented his district at Albany as state assemblyman. Fraternally he is identified with the Masonic order and the Knights of Pythias, while his clubs are the Fort Plain Club, Fort Rensselaer Club of Canajoharie, and Little Falls Country Club. Mr. Walrath is a vestryman of the local Protestant Episcopal church and politically ranks as a republican. Always public-spirited and ready to do whatever he can to make his community a better place in which to live and work, Mr. Walrath has long been regarded as one of the substantial residents of Fort Plain and a man who can be depended upon to assume the responsibilities of leadership when the public good requires.

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