Biography of Joel T. Headley
Orange County, NY Biographies





JOEL T. HEADLEY was horn December 30, 1813, at Walton, Delaware County, N. Y., where his father was settled for many years as the Presbyterian clergyman. Mr. Headley early determined to make his father's vocation his own, and after graduating from Union College, in 1839, he took a course in theology at the Auburn Theological Seminary.

After being ordained he was settled over a church at Stockbridge, Mass., and immediately entered with enthusiasm upon the discharge of the numerous duties inseparably connected with the sacred office. He soon found, however, that his constitution, already undermined by many years of unceasing application and incessant study, was unable to stand the further strain imposed upon it, and he was reluctantly compelled to relinquish his chosen profession, and in 1842 went to Europe.

While abroad he occasionally contributed articles to the press and periodicals, and the favorable manner in which they were received encouraged him to offer to the public his "Letters from Italy." The ratifying reception at once accorded to this work first turned his mind seriously toward literary pursuits, and soon after his return from Europe he yielded to the solicitations of his friend Horace Greeley, and became the associate editor of the New York Tribune. The confining duties necessarily connected with the duties of an editor soon became irksome to him, and at the end of a year he severed his connection with that paper and henceforth pursued the path of authorship. In 1846 "Napoleon and His Marshals" appeared, and was followed at various periods by "Washington and His Generals," "History of the War of 1812," "Life of Cromwell," "Life of Havelock," "Life of Scott and Jackson," "Sacred Mountains," "Sacred Scenes and Characters," "Sacred Heroes and Martyrs," "Headley's Miscellanys." "The Imperial Guard," "Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution," "The Great Rebellion," "Grant and Sherman," "Life of Farragtit, and Our Naval Commanders," and "History of the Great Riots," besides other works of lesser note.

Mr. Headley's literary work suffered a few year's interruption when, in 1854, he was elected to the New York assembly from the First District of Orange County, and the year following was chosen secretary of the State of New York. Mr. Headley did not lay down his busy pen until late in life, and the popular favor which was accorded him at the outset of his career never entirely left him, and all his books were remunerative.

Mr. Headlev's passionate love for nature in all her various moods led him nearly forty years ago to seek those great solitudes which the Adirondacks had at that time kept concealed from all men save the trapper or woodsman. He was so enamored of that Switzerland of America that for over thirty years he made yearly pilgrimages for health and pleasure to that beautiful region. He was probably the first tourist to visit that section, and his descriptions of its charms and health giving powers soon induced large numbers to visit it, and thus led to its becoming the great fashionable resort it is today.

For over thirty years Mr. Headley resided in Newburgh and vicinity, and always took an active interest in the historic scenes and acts with which our locality abounds. The patriotic attempts of several of our citizens to secure the preservation of that venerated building, Washington's Headquarters, received his hearty support, and for many years he was president of the trustees of the headquarters.

Believing in the importance of fixing in the minds of the people all those events which are vitally connected with the fate of our republic, he early conceived the idea of celebrating in some public manner those historic events which have made Newburgh famous in American history. To him more than any other individual is due, not only the inception, but also the successful carrying out of our centennial celebration in 1883.

Mr. Headley passed the allotted span of life, dying at Newburgh, December 30, 1897, in his eighty fourth year.

From:
The History of Orange County New York
Edited by: Russel Headley
Van Deusen and Elms, Publishers
Middletown, N. Y. 1908


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