The Legacy of Fort Plain Inventor William Yerdon

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William YerdonA foundation named for a Fort Plain inventor and his wife, both born in the 19th century, continues to support local charitable organizations. William Yerdon was born in the town of Minden, NY in 1843. He married Sylvina “Vina” Barker in 1881.

Born in Canada, Vina Barker had studied telegraphy and came to Fort Plain in 1876 as a telegraph operator for the New York Central Railroad. She kept her job for about a year after marrying Yerdon, a businessman and Fort Plain postmaster who patented the Yerdon Double Hose Band in 1890.

Yerdon Hose BandYerdon’s band was an adjustable metal clamp that could securely join two sections of hose. Railroads, including the West Shore and New York Central locally, used the product, which was manufactured in Fort Plain.

Yerdon died in 1911 at age 63 after a two year illness, leaving his widow, son Leland, and daughter Lucille. Historian Nelson Greene wrote in 1925 that Yerdon’s heirs continued manufacturing hose bands after the inventor’s death and found new customers in the growing automobile industry, “They manufacture these bands in all sizes from those no larger than a man’s finger to bands four feet in diameter.”

Leland Yerdon was a captain in the U.S. Army in World War I and served as a chief cook in the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II. When he died at age 65 in 1954, his obituary noted that the Yerdon Hose Band Company was no longer in existence.

Lucille Yerdon attended Vassar College and lived in Fort Plain until her death on July 13, 1973. She never married and her will provided numerous donations to institutions including hospitals, the then Universalist Church in Fort Plain and Fort Plain Library. She donated the family home on River Street to the village, but the gift was refused on fears over the cost of maintenance.

A month after Lucille’s death, the press reported her will had created the William and Vina B. Yerdon Foundation. According to current foundation official David Briggs and online tax records, the foundation has contributed substantial sums of money to charitable and community organizations in the Fort Plain area ever since.

Among the donations made during 2010 for example, were contributions ranging from $6,000 to $12,000 to the Fort Plain Library, youth baseball in the village, the Ayers Animal Shelter in Sprakers and the Fort Plain Cemetery, where the Yerdons are buried.

A version of this story first appeared in the Daily Gazette.

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