In addition to playing a key personal role in the history and development of Amsterdam, NY, William Maxwell Reid became a champion of capturing and preserving that local history. He was born on June 8, 1839 on Reid Farm, which was owned by his immigrant father also named William, who had arrived in Amsterdam direct from Scotland during the summer of 1802. Reid’s dad was a prominent early citizen of this community. In addition to acquiring a large tract of land and becoming a successful farmer, the elder Reid also served as one of Amsterdam’s earliest school teachers, the librarian for this town’s first library and for many years was justice of the peace. His landholdings would eventually get sold off and be converted into the neighborhood now referred to as Reid Hill.
His son, who as an adult began referring to himself as W. Max Reid, was schooled at the Amsterdam Academy and got his first job as clerk in a dry goods store. In 1859 he married Laura MacDonald whose father was a partner in the L.C. Shuler Company, a prominent local business that manufactured burial coffins. Reid became a bookkeeper with the company and when his father-in-law passed away he took on his interests in the enterprise on behalf of his mother-in-law. When the original partnership was dissolved in 1889, it was Reid who emerged as the head of a new firm that in addition to coffins, began producing burial vaults as well. He also branched out into the funeral business, becoming one of his own best customers in the process.
Once he had firmly established himself as a member of Amsterdam’s business community, Reid took on the initiative of developing Amsterdam’s first ever Board of Trade in November of 1884 and served as its first president, a position he held for the next seventeen years. In 1885 he led the effort to develop the city of Amsterdam’s first charter. He was one of the founders of both the local YMCA and the Amsterdam City Hospital and he served as senior warden of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church.
The older he got the more interested he became in local history and his success in the business world afforded him the luxury of pursuing this interest actively during the later stages of his life. One of his signature accomplishments as a local historian was…
(This contemporary of Reid’s and another prominent figure in Amsterdam’s history was also born on June 8.)
My complete birthday post for W. Max Reid will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. On June 30, 2016, I will also once again begin distributing an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that will include the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty people whose birthdays I will recognize each month. Each newsletter will also include an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.
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