Friday, July 12, 2013

Another sister for Chester: Almeda Arthur Masten

A couple of months ago I came across a bit of information that interested me. When I decided I wanted to blog about it, I realized that I had no idea where I found the tidbit. That meant I had to re-trace my cyber steps.

I quickly found a copy of the Spindle City Historic Society newsletter  from 2009. The parenthetical statement read "Masten was married to Almeda Arthur, the sister of Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president." The article in question is a quick 2 paragraph history of Cohoes Music Hall founded by James H. Masten (husband of Almeda) & William Acheson. A quick catalog search at my new job (Rensselaer Public Library) revealed a dissertation about the music hall from 2008 & a history of Cohoes by an Arthur H. Masten, both available at the Albany Public Library. I will be visiting the local history section there in the coming weeks to see if there is any information on Almeda lurking in the pages. (I'll keep an eye out for anything to do with Mary & her anti-suffrage group as well.)

Now what about the author? The one who wrote a history of Cohoes? Arthur H. Masten is the son of Almeda & James. He was a lawyer & local historian who wrote a few books. Aside from the a fore mentioned volume, Arthur also penned The Tahaws Club: 1898-1933 (1935) & The Story of the Adirondac (1923). His papers regarding these publications are in the collection of the library at the Adirondack Museum. Upon looking at the finding aid for the younger Masten's papers on the NY State archives website, there doesn't appear to be much in the way of personal documents. However, it may be a worth a trip to Blue Mountain Lake. I'll have to give them a call.

Another trip I should make is to Albany Rural Cemetery where Chester, & his wife Ellen are buried along with, you guessed it, Almeda & James Masten, as well as, Mary & James McElroy.

James H. and Almeda Arthur Masten grave stones*

As is the case with researching 19th century women (& many other time periods), primary source material can be hard to come by. Women rarely left behind evidence of business transactions unless they were widowed. Often times women are referred to by their married name in official records. In Almeda's case that would be Mrs. James H. Masten. Luckily I know her husbands name & I should be able to find her, should she be listed in a record.

I am hoping through finding records on her husband & son that it will enable me to find out more about her & the life she lived.

*Photo taken by Don & posted on Find a Grave. To view the original:


  1. Thanks! I'm finishing a history of the siblings of American presidents, and attempting to get info on 19th century women is difficult. Have you info on any other of CAA's siblings?

    1. What a great project. I know one sister died very young while the family was in Greenwich, but I have not been able to locate her grave. It is possible she was buried in Rensselaer County, adjacent to Washington County, because William Arthur was also pastor at a church near Hoosic. I'll do a bit more digging & see what I can come up with. What is your time frame?

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