by Céline Daignault (June 2017)
To the right of St-Luke’s Anglican Church on Champlain Street stands this building. On it, passers-by can read ‘Forrest Figsby Memorial Hall’.
But just who was Forrest Figsby? The answer to that question lies at the very beginning of the settlement of Hemmingford
In the early 1830s, the first Figsby to arrive was Henry, one of the early settlers of Hemmingford. He built the large two story stone house located at 773 route 219 North.
Many years later, on October 7th 1882 to be exact, Henry’s son, Thomas, who runs a general store in the village, celebrates the birth of a son, Forrest. The boy is smart. The talented pupil is educated at the Hemmingford Public School and High School.
In the year 1900, Forrest’s mother dies. The loss devastates the family. To make matters worse, the store is failing and the family faces financial ruin. Thomas and young Forrest, now 18 years old, desperately want to move to the United States. But to do so, they need money. A good Samaritan, James McCanse, agrees to lend them the sum of $50.00 – an important amount at that time. So off they go, first to Detroit where Forrest’s money runs out. He is forced to pawn his watch. Then, it’s Cleveland, Ohio, where Forrest secures a job to support himself while he studies accounting.
A large firm of auditors hire him when his studies are done. The officials of that company quickly recognize Forrest’s talent and strong work ethic. He climbs the corporate ladder quickly and steadily. Eventually, he participates in the foundation of the Ernst and Ernst firm – one of the corporate ancestors of the Ernst and Young we know (now EY). He works and works, amassing great personal wealth.
Moving to Ossining, NY, he builds himself a palatial home said to have cost him over a quarter of a million dollars – a fortune at the time.
He frequently visits Hemmingford, never forgetting the kind gesture of a resident that allowed his father and him to leave Hemmingford and start his new life. He repays Mr. McCanse’s generosity by purchasing a brand new Ford automobile for him. He also donates money to individuals and gives $650 to the Hemmingford cemetery. Upon hearing of an outstanding debt owed on the new church hall at St-Luke’s, Mr. Figsby makes arrangements with then Reverend W.A. Howard to donate the $1,100.00 required to clear the debt. This gift is what he is remembered for.
Forrest Figsby died September 21, 1938 in Ossining, New York. First used on November 9, 1932, Forrest Figsby Memorial Hall continues to be the scene of various meetings, charitable gatherings and joyful receptions.
Thank you to Hemmingford Archives for giving me access to the required research material.