Hon. Uri Gilbert
City of Troy

This biography is from Troy and Rensselaer County, New York, Volume III, by Rutherford Hayner, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., New York and Chicago, 1925. It was submitted by Debby Masterson.

HON. URI GILBERT—The name of the Hon. Uri Gilbert will ever live in Troy and Rensselaer County as one of the leading spirits in the upbuilding of that city and county. As an industrialist whose activities reacted to the benefit of his community, Mr. Gilbert had no peer during the latter half of the nineteenth century. From 1824, when he first became identified with manufacturing interests, and until his death in 1888, he was one of Troy's most prominent, loved, and respected citizens. His business ability was of unusual influence, and that he exerted prevision and foresight in building up his manufactory was evidenced by the great industrial plant which he builded in comparison with the small establishment to which he first gave his energy and efficiency. His life, viewed in perspective, was one of singular constructiveness and well-doing, and by his achievements he built for himself an enduring monument than which there is no finer—a monument of public regard and widespread respect and love.

Uri Gilbert was born at Broadalbin, Fulton County, New York, on July 10, 1809, a son of the Rev. John Darling and Susan (Thomas McLean) Gilbert, the latter a native of Savannah, Georgia, who survived her husband for seven years, dying at the age of eighty-eight years. The father, Rev. John Darling Gilbert, who was an Episcopal clergyman, was born at Reading, Connecticut, in 1782. He was ordained in Trinity Church, New York City, by Bishop Robert. He was one of the early missionaries of Central and Western New York, traveling from place to place on horseback, his headquarters being at Painted Post, where his death occurred, while engaged in his ministerial duties, in 1857. He was descended from the Hon. Jonathan and Obidiah Gilbert, two of the early settlers of Connecticut.

Uri Gilbert remained in the town of his nativity until he was fifteen years of age, meanwhile attending the public schools of Broadalbin. The year 1824 brought his advent into Troy, which city was to be the scene of his subsequent activities and achievements. Upon his removal to Troy he at once learned the trade of carriage-making, under the expert tutelage of Orsamus Eaton, and so well did he apply himself, that six years later (1830) he became a partner of Mr. Eaton's, under the firm name of Eaton & Gilbert. The business grew steadily, the plant was enlarged, and the firm received contracts to build mail coaches for the South and West. These vehicles for the United States mail contract were called "Troy Stages," and became well and widely known. For many years the firm had a monopoly in the building of omnibuses for all the large cities, and later street cars and railroad cars were built by the firm, which became known as the finest in the country. The firm built cars for all sections of the United States and South America, and their cars always held a deservedly leading place. It is interesting to note that the firm supplied the government with five hundred gun carriages during the Civil War. Mr. Eaton retired from the firm in 1862, and in 1863 Uri Gilbert's son, William E. Gilbert, was taken in as his father's partner, the firm name then becoming Uri Gilbert & Son. In 1864 Walter R. Bush was admitted to partnership, with an automatic change of firm name to Gilbert, Bush & Company. In 1867 Edward Granger Gilbert, another son, and Walter R. Bush, Jr., were likewise admitted to the firm, and in 1869 L. O. Hanson completed the firm personnel. In 1872 Mr. Hanson resigned, and on January t, 1879, the firm became the Gilbert & Bush Company. On August 25, 1882, the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Company was organized, with Uri Gilbert as president.

In addition to passenger and commercial cars, the firm manufactured private coaches, which are not only in use in the United States, but also in foreign countries. On October 28. 1852, the company's original plant on Sixth Street, Troy, was destroyed by fire. In July, 1853, the property was purchased by the Union Railroad Company, at which time the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Company moved into an extensive and commodious establishment on George and Clinton streets, Green Island, Troy, New York. The company built the first eight-wheel passenger coaches that were used on the Troy & Schenectady Railroad, and during the Civil War more than five hundred gun-carriages were manufactured for the United States Government.

In regard to the Hon. Uri Gilbert's public services, his financial activities, and his public welfare work, an editorial in the Troy "Times," under date of June 18, 1888 (the day after his death), said, in part:

Mr. Gilbert took an active part in enterprises that had for their object the advancement of the city's interests. He was one of the organizers of the Young Men's Association, and contributed largely to the success of that institution. He was president of the association in 1848. Mr. Gilbert was elected president of the Troy Savings Company upon its formation in 1854. He was a trustee of the Troy Orphan Asylum and a director of the United National Bank. Mr. Gilbert was a governor of the Marshall Infirmary and a warden of St. John's Church. He was a trustee of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Mr. Gilbert was originally a Whig, but joined the Republican party upon its organization. He was devoted to the cause of good government, and although he attended closely to the great business enterprise of which he was the head, his influence was felt in party councils, and he was an unswerving advocate of the principles of the Republican party. He was elected alderman in 1840 and represented the Third Ward in the Common Council for seven years. In 1865 he was elected mayor of the city of Troy, and in 1870 he was again elected to that office. As the chief executive of the city, as well as in all other positions which he filled, Mr. Gilbert was efficient, zealous and alive to what would best promote the welfare of the public. Whatever duty was attached to his public position, it was discharged with an eye single to the good of the community and for the advancement of the interests of the municipality.

The death of Mr. Gilbert is a public loss. He was in every respect one of Troy's most worthy and exemplary citizens. He was the moving spirit in some of the enterprises that developed Troy's interests, and he was the firm friend of public and educational institutions. In business life he made use of natural characteristics combined with mature judgment that enabled him to look ahead and see where enlargement could be made with the assurance of rich returns. He was remarkably successful in business. A man of strictest integrity in public and private life, he commanded the confidence and respect of the entire community. Mr. Gilbert lived to see his business enterprise the leading establishment of the kind in the country.

From the modest carriage shop of 1830 grew the extensive manufacturing establishment of to-day, an evidence of what keen business ability, backed by perseverance and a determination to succeed, will bring about if directed in the right channels.

Hon. Uri Gilbert was a sincere and faithful Episcopalian, and in this connection it is well to note that the carved chancel chairs in St. John's Episcopal Church, of which he was a communicant and a warden, were given by Mr. Gilbert and his wife in memory of their daughter, Josephine Louise, and their son, Edward Granger Gilbert. The beautiful chancel window of the "Resurrection" in the same church was given in memory of Hon. and Mrs. Uri Gilbert by their children. Mr. Gilbert also established St. Mark's Church on Green Island. Mr. Gilbert was a director of the United National Bank, and a member of the Troy Club, organized in 1867.

The Hon. Uri Gilbert was married, on May 23, 1832, to Frances Harriet Granger, a daughter of Josiah and Polly (Prescott) Granger, of Schenectady, New York. Frances Harriet (Granger) Gilbert's death occurred in Troy, New York, on December 6, 1889. The children of this union were: 1. Mary Ellen, born March 11, 1833, died on February 13, 1911. 2. William Loudette, born February 25, 1835, died December 11, 1836. 3. William Eaton, of whom further. 4. Frances Adelaide, born April 20, 1841, died June 27, 1903. 5. Edward Granger, of whom further. 6. Josephine Louise, born March 7, 1851, died August 25, 1876. The family home was at No. 189 Second Street, Troy, New York.

William Eaton Gilbert, third of the six children of Hon. Uri and Frances Harriet (Granger) Gilbert, and the eldest son who lived to maturity, was born in Troy, New York, January 14, 1839. His education was received in the Troy Academy, following which he entered his father's business, giving up his natural inclination to study medicine in order to help carry on the industry which his father had founded. Eventually, he rose to high executive positions in the concern, being vice-president and treasurer during Edward Granger Gilbert's incumbency as president. In 1867 he served as captain of the Washington Volunteer Steamer Company, and so able were his services that the Gilbert Hose Company of Green Island was named for him. He was closely identified with the Troy Young Men's Association, having been one of the original trustees, and president in 1868. He was also a prominent member of the Troy Club and the Troy Citizens' Corps. Throughout his life he was a constant and sincere communicant of St. John's Church, and was generally loved and esteemed by all who knew him for his humanitarian traits. He was kind-hearted, philanthropic, public-spirited, and a man of the strictest integrity—an honorable gentleman in every sense. He was married, in Middletown, Connecticut, on June 16, 1864, to Aimee E. A. Alsop, a daughter of Charles Richard and Margaret E. (Armstrong) Alsop, members of a prominent New England family. To William E. and Aimee E. A. (Alsop) Gilbert two children were born: 1. William Alsop, born March 17, 1868, at Troy, New York. 2. Chauncey McLean, born April 6, 1882, at Troy, New York. He married Marguerite Young, and has two children: i. Chauncey McLean, Jr., born May 18, 1911. ii. Charles Richard Alsop, born May 26, 1916. William Eaton Gilbert resided in Eagle Mills, near Troy, New York, during the last four years of his life. His death occurred on September 29, 1898.

Edward Granger Gilbert, fifth of the six children of Hon. Uri and Frances Harriet (Granger) Gilbert, was born in Troy, New York, on January 28, 1847. His early education was received in the Troy Academy, following which he attended boarding school at Poughkeepsie, New York. He finished his education at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and at once associated himself in business with his father. Upon the death of his father, Edward Granger Gilbert became president of the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Company, holding this important office until his death. Much of the phenomenal growth of the enterprise can be attributed to Mr. Gilbert's exceptional executive ability, his efficiency, and his untiring energy. During his life he was a foremost figure in the industrial circles of Rensselaer County. He was a member of the Troy Club, the Engineers' Club of New York City, and at one time was president of the Troy Young Men's Association. His religious affiliation was given to the Episcopal faith, and for many years he gave faithful service as vestryman of both St. John's Church of Troy, and St. Mark's Church of Green Island. Edward Granger Gilbert was married, in Troy, New York, on November 6, 1868, to Sarah Williams Plum, a daughter of the Hon. Elias (see following biography) and Mercy (Mann) Plum. To Edward Granger and Sarah Williams (Plum) Gilbert were born four children, as follows: 1. Lucetta Banks, who married James Henry Ottley, of New York City, and they have four children : i. Martha Munn, born February 24, 1901. ii. James Henry, Jr., born April 22, 1905. iii. Gilbert, born October 9, 1907. iv. Frances Elizabeth, born March 4, 1909. James Henry Ottley, Sr., died on March 3, 1922, in New York City. 2. Frances Harriet, who became the wife of Charles M. Brooks, of New York City. 3. Edward Granger, Jr., born January 3, 1875, died in Troy, New York, November 29, 1916. 4. Josephine Louise, who married Julian Gerard Buckley, of Geneseo, New York, and they have three sons : i. Julian G., Jr. ii. Charles Brooks, iii. Thomas C. T.

The death of the Hon. Uri Gilbert occurred at his summer home on Clermont Avenue, Saratoga Springs, New York, on June 17, 1888, during his seventy-ninth year, and lost to the city of Troy one of its most progressive industrialists. Hon. Uri Gilbert, twice mayor of Troy, and his two sons were three more Americans whose names are so linked with the industrial and commercial progress of their native land, that their deeds and achievements form a part of the history of these United States, and thus are eminently entitled to perpetuity.

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