VALENTINE, MAJOR ALONZO B. The subject of this sketch, the son of Joel and Judith (Wells) Valentine, was born
in Bennington on the 1st day of April. in the year 1830, and at this day lives in the house in which he first saw
the light. Alonzo was the youngest of four children born of the parents above named, and the only one that grew
to man's estate. The youth of our subject was spent in the schools of the town, the Union Academy, and he also
received further instruction at Townsend, Vt., and Suffield, Conn., taking a course preparatory for college, but
relinquished this purpose, having a greater inclination for business rather than professional life. To this end
be engaged with his father in the custom woolen. mill of the latter, and became a partner on arriving at the age
of twenty-one. under the style of Joel Valentine & Son.
But about this time the wonderful stories in circulation concerning the rich gold deposits of California were creating
considerable excitement in the East, and young Valentine was brought under its influence to an extent that induced
him to journey to the other side of the continent during the year 1852. Here he remained some two years, in the
gold fields a part of the time;, and engaged in business for the other part, but decided to and did return to the
East in the early part of 1854, bringing with him several hundred dollars in gold dust, the fruits of his labor
Having returned to Bennington our subject resumed business, but changed its character somewhat by adding grain
grinding machinery to the mill, the special charge of which was taken by the young man and Zadoc Taft. But in 1856
Alonzo sold his interest to his partner, Mr. Taft, and with his young wife, whom he had married on the 28th day
of June of that year, and whose maiden name was Alma L. Park, (the sister of the late Trenor W. Park), he again
went West, this time to Wisconsin, where he acquired an interest in a timber tract, and engaged in the lumber business.
This he sold after about two years, and in 1858 Mr. Valentine returned to Bennington, purchased Mr. Taft's interest
in the grist, mill, and carried on business here until 1862, when the war being in progress he entered the service
as regimental quartermaster with the rank of lieutenant, in the Tenth Vermont Volunteer Infantry. In this capacity
Lieutenant Valentine served from the 31st of July, 1862 until the 2d day of March, 1864, and was then advanced
by President Abraham Lincoln to the position of commissary of subsistence, with the rank of captain, and assigned
to duty with the First Vermont Brigade. Again on the 28th of June, 1865, by a commission bearing the signature
of Andrew Johnson. (the former bore President Lincoln's). Captain Valentine was further advanced to the rank of
brevet-major, which promotion, as the commission recites, was "for meritorious services." Digressing
briefly here from the narrative of the events of his life, it may be stated that it was as commissary of subsistence
that Major Valentine rendered his most efficient service to the government during the war. The office was highly
important, and one connected with which were heavy responsibilities. An officer so holding was compelled to furnish
large bonds of fidelity, as there were placed with him vast quantities of army stores and supplies for safe keeping
and disposal; and although Major Valentine was a new man to this branch of service he performed its duties to the
entire satisfaction of the department, the suspicion of error or fault never being created, but every duty was
done with military and business dispatch and accuracy. Concerning Major Valentine's incumbency of this office.
Granville Benedict in his "Vermont in the Civil War," says: "Alonzo B. Valentine was without previous
experience, but possessed genuine business capacity as well as high patriotism, and proved to be an energetic and
In June, 1866 Major Valentine was mustered out of the service and returned to Bennington, and home and friends.
He then purchased from his father the mill and privilege the former had so long utilized, and changed it into a
knitting factory, and has conducted it as such to the present day. While the business of manufacturing knit goods
is perhaps the leading industry of Benning ton, the factory now operated by the Valentine Knitting Company is known
not only as one of the largest, but also as one of the best managed and most successful enterprises of the village
or locality. Of this company Major Valentine is the vice-president and active manager, and to the building up of
this vast industry has he been devoted since his return from the South in i866. Besides this he is interested in
various other enterprises of a business character, but that above mentioned is perhaps the mOst important and extensive.
Outside of his business Major Valentine has been no less conspicuous in the town, county and State in all matters
pertaining to the general welfare of each. It cannot be said that any good work ever appealed to him in vain; at
the same time his best deeds have not been done in a manner to draw attention to himself. He is not a self-seeker
in any sense, his chief aim being to be considered one of the staunch business men of the town, and to so order
his daily life as to secure the respect and esteem of his townsmen. His publicspiritedness too is undoubted, for
there has been no enterprise the object of which was for the general welfare of the people, with which he has not
been prominently associated. In the matter of the celebration of the Vermont Centennial Anniversary, the subsequent
Battle Monument Ascociation, and the project for building the monument itself, he has been not only a leading spirit,
but a safe counselor in the multitude of questions that have arisen where exceedingly good judgment and wise discrimination
were of the utmost importance. He was not only an earnest advocate of the graded school for Benning- ton, but he
stood manfully and fearlessly in the front when others wavered, and it is due to him to say that without the effort
made, by Major A. B. Valentine the village of Bennington would not have had the graded school built when it was,
and perhaps not even to this day. Major Valentine is not without enemies, but the leading men, the thoughtful business
men, the men of integrity of the town are entirely content with his course, and proud to call him their friend.
It was almost.wholly through his efforts that the Soldiers' Home was established at Bennington. and he is no.w
the active local director and chairman of the finance committee of the board of trustees of that institution. He
is the present president of the Bennington County Savings Bank. In "Grand Army" circles Major Valentine
has been equally prominent. In 1882 he was elected State Department Commander, and at that time the organizatIons
of the State numbered only about seven hundred members; but through the energy brought into the Grand Army by his
incumbency, the membership during his first year increased to fifteen hundred, and at the expiration of the second
year (Major Valentine .having been re elected in February, 1883), the latter figure was itself doubled; more than
that he greatly increased the number of posts in the State.
Naturally enough a man of his extended and popular acquaintance could not well avoid being drawn somewhat into
the field of politics, both in minor and higher offices, the indispensible public trusts required by every community.
He has never sought office, and often refused it. By it he could add nothing to his name, character, or standing
among his fellow-men. He never felt the "pride of office;" to fawn or scheme for it he is incapable,
and like the good citizen he has been ever awake to the public weal, and a close observer of public men and public
acts, and has watched the interests of the country with the closest scrutiny; and occasions are not wanting in
which his sentiments have been expressed upon the platform and through the medium of the public press. Still, private
life and his own affairs are more congenial to his tastes. Blessed with a happy family and an abundance of this
world's goods, his home is the seat of comfort, generous hospitality, and social enjoyment, and yet he is a public
man. His influence in society is great and beneficial, and his liberality in every enterprise for improvement,
and in matters relating to charity and education is munificent.
In 1886 and 1887 Major Valentine represented Bennington county in the Senate of the State, and while there he was
identified with some highly important measures, among them the bill that brought the Soldiers' Home, into existence;
also the bills relating to the Normal Schools of the State, and the permanent location of a camping ground for
the use of the National Guard of Vermont. He was especially active in securing the passage of the act entitled
"an act to provide for the study of scientific temperance in the public schools of Vermont," and the
supplementary act making the books relating thereto free to the scholar. Under the provisions of these acts Senator
Valentine was appointed by Governor Ormsbee one of the committee of three to select the textbooks to be used, and
to contract for their purchase.
After retiring from the duties of his office in the Legislature Senator Valentine has devoted his time and energies
to his personal business interests, and the several institutions with which he is associated; and at this present
holds by appointment of Govenror William P. Dillingham, the position of commissioner of agricultural manufacturing
and labor interest of the State, a position of importance and responsibility. Concerning the appointment and Major
Valentine's qualifications for its duties the Burlington Free Press says:
Governor Dillingham's appointment of Major A. B. Valentine to be commissioner,
under Act 110 of the last Legislature, to investigate the agricultural and manufacturing interest of the State,
and devise means to develop them, is well received by the press of the State. It is the duty of the commissioner
to collect authentic statistical information in regard to the agricultural interests and resources. The commissioner
is to report, if advisable, a bill to the next Legislature, embodying any action that may be necessary. Major Valentine
will employ a clerk to assist him in the statistical duties of the office.
In 1876 Major Valentine made an extended tour through Europe, and took a great interest in the condition of mill
operatives, especially in England. He has also traveled extensively on this continent and with his habits of observation
has laid up a large store of information, which will add to his qualifications for the duties of the office.
The growth of the Vermont Department of the Grand Army of the Republic was remarkable under Major Valentine's administration
as department commander in 1882 and 1883, and added to his reputation for executive ability. He was State senator
in 1884, and was the author of some important bills which became laws.
His articles on the tariff and labor question during the late campaign attracted much attention, and were extensively
copied by our State papers and prominentmetropolitan journals.
The position of commissioner of agricultural and manufacturing interests was reluctantly accepted by him, but with
his energy and executive ability there is no doubt but he will fill the position ably, and render valuable public
service in it.