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

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 714-715 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 Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Benjamin John Young, the popular proprietor of the Big Ben Theatre and the Ilion Opera House, has long been well known to the amusement seeking public of Ilion and the surrounding community. He was born in Greig, Lewis county, New York, on the 28th of January, 1870, his parents being John and Josephine (Dygert) Young. His paternal grandfather, Alexander Young, was a native of Scotland who departed this life in New York city. By trade he was a cigarmaker. His son, John Young, the father of Benjamin John Young, was also born in Scotland, but was living in Jersey City, New Jersey, when he passed away in April, 1898. He was a veteran of the Civil war and a watchmaker by trade, who devoted the latter part of his life to the construction of bird cages. In early manhood he wedded Miss Josephine Dygert, who was born in the town of German Flats, Herkimer county, New York, on the 15th of April, 1854, and is now living in Syracuse, this state, at the age of seventy years. Her father, Dennis Dygert, whose death occurred in the vicinity of Mohawk, New York, in 1863, was the proprietor of a large grocery store in Ilion, on the old Erie canal.

Benjamin John Young obtained his education as a public school pupil in Mohawk, and after putting aside his textbooks spent five years as a moulder in the employ of the Remington Agricultural Works. Subsequently he worked in the Ilion Knitting Mills, now known as the Sterling Mills, for one year, and then for a similar period was a driver on the Black river and Erie canal. He was next engaged in the trucking or carting business in Ilion on his own account for four years, after which he secured a position as screw maker with the Remington Typewriter Company, by whom he was thus employed for twenty years. It was on the 13th of April, 1912, that Mr. Young leased the Ilion Opera House, which he purchased four years later. In 1916 he erected in the same block another theatre, which he named Big Ben, conducting both this and the opera house until May 2, 1921. In the meantime, on the 2d of May, 1919, he leased the Temple Theatre, but on May 2, 1921, he sold out his interests in the three houses to William Erk. On October 6, 1924, however, in association with Frank C. Whitney, he repurchased the Big Ben Theatre and the Ilion Opera House, and also took over the unexpired lease of the Temple Theatre. Mr. Young and his partner, Frank C. Whitney, have also purchased the old Otsego street homestead of the late Philo Remington, who was the founder of the firm of E. Remington & Sons.

On the 30th of December, 1890, Mr. Young was united in marriage to Miss Theresa Helneck, who was born on February 18, 1869, her parents being John and Mary (Meltesky) Helneck, both natives of Germany. The father emigrated to the United States with his wife and children in 1879, settling in Herkimer, New York. In early manhood he was associated with the Mohawk & Herkimer Street Railroad, and later in life acted as caretaker of the Herkimer cemetery. He passed away in Ilion, while the death of his wife occurred in Herkimer. Their daughter, Mrs. Theresa (Helneck) Young, received her education in Germany. She belongs to the Royal Neighbors in Ilion and is a communicant of the Annunciation Roman Catholic church. Mr. and Mrs. Young are the parents of one daughter, Elizabeth Mary, who was born on September 12, 1893, and who in May, 1914, became the wife of Robert Pierce of Boston, Massachusetts, who is now associated in business with Benjamin J. Young, his father-in-law.

In politics Mr. Young is a stalwart democrat. Fraternally he is identified with Ilion Lodge No. 1010 of the Loyal Order of Moose, Ilion Lodge No. 1444 of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and Ilion Lodge of the Improved Order of Red Men. His favorite forms of diversion are hunting and fishing. His career is an excellent illustration of the power of industry and determination as factors in the attainment of success, and his record cannot fail to prove of interest to many of our readers, for he has gained an extensive circle of warm friends throughout the community in which he resides.

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