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The Last President

Hanson helped Gloversville become a city

February 22, 2009
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

The last president of the trustees of the village called Gloversville also was the first mayor when it became a city John. J. Hanson.

Before it became a city, the village north of Johnstown was called Stump City, according to the city's Web site.

When it became an incorporated village in 1853, the name was changed to Gloversville due to the glove trade being established. In that year, the population was 1,318. Gloversville came together from three settlements: in the west, McNab Mills or the Mills Settlement, north of the city was the Kingsboro settlement and the third was called the Settlement on the Hill or Throopville. These settlements grew inward to the four corners that became the hub of the city.

Article Photos

John J. Hanson as seen in a sketch from the 1878 “Illustrated History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties” by F.W. Beers.

On March 19, 1890, Gloversville was incorporated as a city. The last village Board of Trustees president became the first mayor of the city. Since John J. Hanson, Gloversville has had 31 mayors starting with the first elected mayor, Ashley DeLos Baker, who served from 1890 to 1891.

Fulton County Historian Peter Betz said historic records suggest Hanson was less a politician than a serious public servant.

"When called on, he served," Betz said. "But he was apparently quite content to operate his business interests in Gloversville and let others guide the new city forward. Although he was the last village president, I cannot find that he made any effort to place himself in a position to become the first mayor."

Gloversville Historian James Morrison said Hanson was born in Tribes Hill.

According to F.W. Beers' "History of Montgomery and Fulton Counties," Hanson was a descendent of the first settler of Tribes Hill, Nicholas Hanson, who came there from Albany about 1715.

Morrison said Hanson came to Gloversville around 1853 and apprenticed at the tin and sheet metal company, H.G. & J. Phelps.

"He moved to Johnstown working his trade and after a year he moved to Albany," Morrison said. "After a year, he returned to Gloversville and started a tin and sheet iron manufacturing business for himself at the establishment of his former employer."

According to the directories for Gloversville in the 1888 and 1893, he had "a stove etc. store on 8 Church St and a hardware store [1893] on 12 Church St."

"For about 20 years, he was a member of the Holy Cross Commandry, Knights Templar," Morrison said. "Hanson was a staunch Democrat and in 1875, he was elected to the State Assembly from this district. In 1889, he was elected the president of the village of Gloversville."

When Gloversville was incorporated as a city in 1890, Morrison said, Hanson became its first mayor.

Betz said one of the benefits of being a city rather than a village was in having a standing fire department.

Volunteer fire departments of the time, Betz said, might lend out their ladders and have none for fighting fires when needed. Betz said competing fire companies might fight over who would fight a fire, as well.

Hanson directly experienced the ravages of fire when his business went up in flames as part of the business district fire of 1877.

He rebuilt on the site both a warehouse and new business quarters at the corner of Church and Main streets.

According to Beers, Hanson was "known for his genial good humor and unassuming benevolence."

Beers' history cites Gloversville as a "phenomenon" in city growth.

"From a hamlet of a dozen houses in 1830, with no advantage of location but the water power of a small stream, it has outgrown neighboring villages that were old when it was only fairly started."

Betz said the change from village to city brought many advantages.

"The designation as a city and the accompanying city charter paved the way for the city to establish a paid fire department," Betz said. "It also provided more prestige statewide in business and economic circles."

Morrison said Hanson was a member of the Gloversville Masonic Lodge No. 429 for about 35 years.

In 1861, John married Nancy J. Sheldon of Mayfield. Nancy was born Sept. 3, 1841 and she died on May 4, 1896. They both are buried in Section J of Prospect Hill Cemetery, Gloversville.

On March 19,1890 by combining the two villages [Kingsborough and Gloversville] the population was about 13,000, Morrison said.

In 1915 it was 22,000 and by 1950 it was 25,000, which was the highest population for Gloversville.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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