Henry F. Olmstead

From the Biographical Review, Volume XXXIII, located at the Durham Center Museum.
Transcribed by Celeste MacCormack.


HENRY F. OLMSTEAD, Catskill agent of the Greene County Bible Depository and a retired agent of the American Express Company, was born in Ridgefield, Fairfield County, Conn., November 22, 1813, son of Nathan and Martha (Watrous) Olmstead. His parents were both natives of that town, and his paternal grandfather, Jared Olmstead, followed farming there as long as he lived. Nathan Olmstead was a carpenter by trade, and besides following this mechanical calling he taught school many years. His death occurred in Ridgefield at the age of fifty-seven. He was a member of the Congregational church. His wife, Martha, who was a daughter of John Watrous, a farmer, was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. She died at thirty-four years of age, having been the mother of seven children.

Henry F. Olmstead is now the only survivor of his fatherís family. In his boyhood he attended the common schools of Ridgefield, and subsequently, both prior to and after completing a course at Hilton Academy, he taught school in Norwalk. Relinquishing educational work, he went to Hudson, N.Y., to learn the trade of a hatter, and worked as a journeyman there two years. In 1842 he came to Catskill, where he continued his trade on his own account for two years, and opening a retail hat store continued it for a period of nearly twenty-five years, during the latter part of the time occupying the building in which he now has an office. For fifteen years, beginning in 1851, he conducted in addition to the other the business of the local agency for the American Express Company. In 1886 the express business had become so developed in importance that he disposed of his hat business. He continued to represent the company until December, 1880, when failing health compelled him to relinquish the arduous duties of his position. As a reward for his long and faithful service the company placed him on their emeritus list, retiring him upon half-pay. Since 1881 he has transacted a real estate business, has been the local agent for foreign steamship lines, has looked after the Clark estate, and for the past five years has been the Catskill agent for the Greene County Bible Depository. In politics he was originally a Whig, and, favoring the principles of the Republican movement, he was instrumental in organizing that party in this locality. He was Civil Justice for sixteen years, and three years Police Justice, and was noted for the impartial manner in which he disposed of all cases coming under his jurisdiction.

In 1844 Mr. Olmstead was united in marriage with Lydia H. Utley, daughter of Ralph and Sarah (Huntington) Utley. He has had two children, namely: a daughter Mary Howard Olmstead, who is organist of the Presbyterian church, and who teaches music; and a son Henry F., who died aged four years.

Mr. Olmstead was formerly a member of the Sons of Temperance. For many years he has been an Elder of the Presbyterian church. He is a permanent Deacon, and was superintendent of the Sunday-school for nearly twenty years. He has outlived the majority of his business contemporaries, having participated in the development of Catskill from a small hamlet to its present size. He still has in his possession the old hand sled, built by him forty-five years ago, upon which he transported the American Express packages during the early days of that companyís existence.  


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