Valentine, Alonzo B. (Major)
as found in
HISTORY OF
BENNINGTON COUNTY, VT


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.

EDITED BY
LEWIS CASS ALDRICH
1889



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 and toil.

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 capable officer."

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.



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