Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Letter Home a Hundred Years Ago

Exploring the local newspapers from a hundred years ago, I came upon this letter in the Columbia Republican for June 25, 1918, written by a young man from Hudson, who was training to be a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service. The recipient was his aunt. The letter is interesting for many reasons, and so we share it here.

Tremaine McKinstry, whose full name was Augustus Tremaine McKinstry, was 26 in 1918. He was the son of George McKinstry, the second child and only son of Augustus and Ellen McKinstry, who lived in this house, which once stood at 886 Columbia Street. (It was demolished around 1910, and the Dinehart mansion was constructed in its place.)

George McKinstry, at the age of 4, appears in this picture with his older sister, Jennie.

George McKinstry was an artist, who had an art studio here in Hudson from around 1884 to 1889. Bert Geer Phillips, who with Ernest Blumenschein founded the Taos Society of Artists, studied with him. George McKinstry gave up his career as an artist and became a druggist when his father's partner in the Rossman & McKinstry drugstore died. Tremaine McKinstry followed in the family business and was also a druggist.

Tremaine's Aunt Nellie, the recipient of the letter, was three years younger than his father, and Aunt Sue, referenced at the end of the letter, was the youngest of Augustus and Ellen's four children.


  1. Love this post. And what a wonderful name - Augustus Tremaine McKinstry. A distinguished name for a distinguished family. It's a pity what has become of the old McKinstry house on McKinstry. Broken into two apartments and painted black. It used to be so lovely. Hopefully, what has been done will be undone some day.

    1. I'm not sure which house you're talking about, Cynthia, but my research indicates that George McKinstry and his family, Tremaine being his son, lived in the Queen Anne house at 83 Green Street, which suffered its own indignities. There was a fire there in the early 1990s, and the damaged parts of the house were replaced with pre-fab elements.

    2. Yes, that house is my next door neighbour. After the fire, they added a third floor, which gives it a too-vertical appearance. But isn't the black house at the top of McKinstry (across from the hospital) also an ex-McKinstry family residence? I thought that the old interior photos I have seen online came from there.

    3. My mistake. The photos I was thinking of belong to the McKinstry house which was razed. The black house is at 1 McKinstry Place and I understood that to have also been a McKinstry residence.

    4. I do not believe that 1 McKinstry Place ever belonged to a McKinstry. 95 Green Street was a McKinstry house, belonging to Susanna McKinstry and her husband, William Gray, proprietor of R. Gray's Sons furniture store.

    5. ATM appears to have married while in college. A Vermont marriage record exists for "Augustus Tremaine McKinstry" to "Helen Jane VanDyke Rohan". The marriage took place in Bennington on 04/29/1913, his parents being listed as George A. and Julia Slyter, his occupation "student", age 24, residence Philadelphia. A Helen J. McKinstry died in Cohoes on 06/18/1938.