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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Henry Summerfield Ninde

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 399-401 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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On Sunday, December 9, 1923, with appropriate services, the large and well equipped chapel connected with the First Methodist Episcopal church of Rome, New York, erected some years ago but recently having its interior finished, decorated and furnished, was named the Ninde Memorial Chapel; a tablet was also unveiled bearing three names, a father and his two sons: Rev. William Ward Ninde, pastor of the church in 1841 and 1842; Bishop William Xavier Ninde, pastor in 1859 and 1860; Henry Summerfield Ninde, still living (1924), a lifelong member and officebearer, also the first secretary of the Rome Young Men's Christian Association.

Henry Summerfield Ninde was born in Adams, New York, on April 16, 1835. His father, the Rev. William Ward Ninde (1809-1845), was an accredited minister of the Methodist Episcopal church, beginning his regular ministry at the age of eighteen, serving such charges as Adams, Pulaski, Oswego, Syracuse, Lowville and Rome, his life and service closing during his term as presiding elder of the Herkimer district. His mother, Mary Moore, of Lowville, New York. (1809-1876), belonged to an old New England family; her parents coming from western Massachusetts were among the early settlers of Lowville.

Henry S. Ninde's paternal grandfather was English born, came to this country when a young man and became a minister of the Protestant Episcopal church, serving in Baltimore, Annapolis, and on the Eastern Shore; his great grandfather was a vestryman in his parish in England but also one of John Wesley's local preachers. Mr. Ninde had three brothers: One died in infancy, one in early manhood, the third, Bishop W. X. Ninde, died during the first week of 1901, in his sixty-ninth year.

Henry S. Ninde's adolescent years were spent in a variety of occupations; he used to say that from the age of thirteen — when he began to earn his own living — until his marriage — just before his twenty-fifth birthday — he had had twelve different jobs: He was two years on a farm, in a printing office long enough to get the rudiments of the business, a year in his uncle's postoffice, several years as an apprentice civil engineer, a try at a market garden with a younger brother, teaching school, a drug store clerk, canvassing of different kinds, selling — or trying to — patent rights, and scattered in between at various intervals several terms at school, finishing with a year and a half at the Rome Academy. Mr. Ninde says that strange as it may seem he has found nearly every one of these various occupational experiences a stepping stone to whatever of success he has attained in life.

In the spring of 1860 Mr. Ninde was married to Miss Eliza A. Lawton, a native of the town of Verona, Oneida county, the family being of old New England stock. He is rather fond of telling that the marriage came after six years of courtship, the same being largely by correspondence. A few weeks after his marriage Mr. Ninde received an appointment as clerk in the Rome post office, was soon promoted to assistant postmaster, and held the position for twelve years, under four different administrations, and until his voluntary resignation.

In the summer of 1872 and upon the reorganization on up-to-date lines of an older Young Men's Christian Association, Mr. Ninde was elected as the first general secretary; he had never thought of such action, and the whole matter would be a venture of faith, but three days later he was at the new job which was to last for twenty years. The three outstanding features of this period he considers these: The publication for ten years of Once-a-Month, an Association paper that was always popular, that served to educate the public and to advertise the work; the securing of a building; the selecting of the Rome secretary as editor (or author) of an Association textbook — "A Hand Book of the Organization, History, and Methods of Work of the Young Men's Christian Association". It was a crown octavo of five hundred pages, was long ago out of date, but was for years the standard authority in this and other lands. Mr. Ninde used to say that he wrote it largely from his experience — and his imagination!

Early in 1892 Mr. Ninde was called to the International committee office in New York, where he entered the publication department (later Association Press), remaining there for another twenty years; his work was editing, revising and putting through the press technical and general books and other publications of the committee, including the year-book, an octavo of three hundred pages, largely rule and figure composition. In July, 1912, when in his seventy-eighth year, he was given a supernumerary relationship, doing such editorial work as could be done at home — it had never seemed expedient to move the family to New York. Mr. Ninde is now on the official retired list.

Five children reached maturity, two daughters and three sons: Both daughters are at home, one a departmental teacher in the city schools, the other an accountant. All of the sons became engineers, although two turned to teaching before middle life. The oldest, William E. Ninde, was for many years and until his death in 1921, on the faculty of Applied Science College, Syracuse University, where he was associate professor of mechanical engineering. He was author of a comprehensive work on engineering — "Design and Construction of Heat Engines", seven hundred pages. McGraw-Hill, 1920. Perhaps fifteen years ago Harvard University desired a practical man for its engineering school and George F. Ninde was selected; he is instructor in engineering sciences. Ward H., the youngest boy, a graduate in architecture from Fine Arts College, Syracuse University, was a structural steel engineer in Boston when taken ill — he died in 1917. The three boys were married: Mrs. Wm. E., a science graduate, is on the faculty of the College of Home Economics, Syracuse University; Mrs. Ward H., a fine arts graduate, is an architect. There are three grandchildren, one in Syracuse, two in Boston, all being still in school.

Henry S. Ninde joined the Methodist church when sixteen and has been an active but modest member through life. In politics he calls himself an independent republican; he cast his first vote, in 1856, for John C. Fremont for president. In 1872 he reluctantly accepted the nomination for school commissioner in the Third Oneida county district, serving the three-year term with, as he says, only the usual criticism. He has always been out and out for temperance, was active in the Good Templars, and the originator of the county lodge system. Mr. Ninde is a lover of nature; for the past forty years the family have spent the vacation season in their modest cottage camp in the Thousand Island region of the St. Lawrence. He has been a lover of the best in literature, has read widely and is a graceful writer; during his later years of leisure he has been a frequent contributor to the local daily — the Sentinel. The family home is a plain two-story house, on lower North George street, built by Mr. Ninde's mother in 1851. It then stood out in the fields — it is now in the center of the residential section of the city.

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